Solitaire - say what?

edited December 2010 in Play Advice
I didn't want want to pollute emily's Solitaire RPG challenge thread, so therefore this discussion where you can inform me. Because I'm not sure I get solitaire RPGs - or rather: how they can possibly be RPGs.

All in good spirits of course - I want to be wiser, not be in the middle of a shouting contest.

I play a lot of boardgames as well, and I also enjoy good solitaire wargames. There are only a few that are really good and worth playing IMO, but I'll name them here, perhaps it might inform you why I think what I think. OK, actually I only know of three good ones: An oldie called Raid on St Nazaire, one called Pizza-Box Football and a brand-spanking new called Labyrinth - The War on Terror. Check them out on Boardgamegeek if you like - main thing they are really different games, but you can get excited playing them even if you're on your own.

Now, story games. I find it really difficult to see how a solitaire game can provide the most important part: shared imagined space. Tell me how it could work - do you talk to yourself fx. Do you record/log what you are saying, and is the final "outcome" - story, whatever - as important, or more important, than play itself?

I don't consider adventure books ("there's a troll. If you attack it go to P34, if you run go to P12) to be roleplaying, so perhaps here's the hiccup already. To me there must be some kind of communication between at least two people.

Or am I totally xmas bonkers?

Per
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Comments

  • Per, I have all the same questions you do! I think the general idea is that, in playing the game alone, you develop a narrative as well as whatever mechanical engagement you have. Thing is, I think this is what the contest is really about, you know?

    Also - Pandemic plays well solo.
  • I would say that the idea is to start from a place where we're thinking about RPG design, and then march away from there into one-player territory.
    That is, rather than starting with a board game idea, or a card game idea, we start with "okay, RPG. Hm." And then we move in the direction OF board games and card games.

    My assumption is that stuff like How to Host a Dungeon is best classified as a solo activity that role-players will enjoy. Its subject matter places it very close to RPG content - heck, you can use the product of play afterwards as the basis for a campaign!

    I agree, though - it is kind of wonky. Design concepts like clouds-and-dice make no sense here: where's the cloud? Since only one human is interacting with the thing, there can be no narrative, no description, beyond what can firmly interlock/interact with the rules. You can extrapolate from, say, Monopoly what's "really" going on, but your ideas therein will do nothing at all to actually affect the mechanical side of play, except insofar as you might make different decisions based on that. But any "fiction" you create around Monopoly is not going to interact with reward systems at all.
  • There are quite a few supposedly group games which can in effect be solitary games played at the same time, Sorcerer and My Life with Master spring to mind, as well as my Fourpenny Touch. I'm sure there are others. There is a shared world creation but the characters often never meet in these games.

    On the boardgame side, Tales of the Arabian Nights (Z-Man in the latest edition) is another rpg like game with often no character interaction. And there are plenty of sports simulations which are single player, like Logacta (for old UK football fans like me).

    I suppose one of the issue is the Czege Principle. I know it doesn't always apply but it's a serious consideration in single player games as to how to construct adversity and then resolve it.
  • edited December 2010
    Posted By: Zac in DavisBut any "fiction" you create aroundMonopolyis not going to interact with reward systems at all.
    I think this is possibly the whole trick. Can we design monopoly so that our personal fiction will interact with its design systems?

    Or better, Pandemic, since Monopoly isn't a solo game either. Has anyone played Arkham Horror solo yet? I just bought the game a short while back and I've been meaning to try it. It's very roleplay-y in some aspects.

    (read "Monopoly" and "Pandemic" as random example names.)

    But Per is fundamentally right, so so much in RPGs rests upon the shared comunication/imagined space/fiction of the players. It's a simmilar problem with the tabletop : CRPG divide.
  • Steve,
    I get what you mean about MLWM, but you have to play it with more than one person present. Polaris is the same way - each protagonist can be firewalled away from all the others, and it's actually easier, rules-wise, to do so, but you have to have multiple people present per scene.
    In Master, after all, somebody needs to be portraying, well, the Master. And it can't be the protagonist.
    If this is an overly literal response, forgive me.
    But it is cool to notice how many games don't really demand a lot of co-ordination by the folks at the table, or at least don't make the same KIND of creative demands all at once.
  • For reference...

    http://rpgsolitairechallenge.blogspot.com/p/on-solo-rpgs.html
    RPG Solitaire ChallengeWhen talking about a role playing game, it's a bit problematic to think about playing one alone. With war games it is commonly done, not rp. How can one play a role if there is no one else there to witness and respond to it in kind? Role playing, per se, is about embodiment of character which can be embarrassing to do alone.

    But playing a role is not impossible alone. And it is not the only element of role playing games. There are many other things which make up this kind of fictional play, that are equally as integral and pleasurable. Games have been written that fulfill these desires in a way that one person could do them alone. The games written for this contest need only have one of these (or some other we've forgot) as an aim to fit the bill as an rpg.
    The elements are detailed here. But in summary they are:

    - World
    - Event
    - Character
    - Experience
  • Gregor,
    Fair point. I cannot really conceive of a way that particular details we might devise at the table could interact with a game system in some way. How can the game text exercise judgment?
    Basically, what I'm wondering is, can you give an example (even one you just made up) of a single player creating fictive content that interacts meaningfully with a solo-game's mechanics?
  • Posted By: GB SteveI suppose one of the issue is the Czege Principle. I know it doesn't always apply but it's a serious consideration in single player games as to how to construct adversity and then resolve it.
    Cross-posted earlier, so:
    Arkham Horror and Pandemic are two boardgames where it's players vs. board. I think we can take cues from that regarding setting up adversity. Random Encounter Tables in D&D are basically a variant of that. You could solo your way through the dungeon and roll for random monsters at various intervals or (fictional) triggers. Then we just have to assure the player plays "fair" against himself: here we can learn from games where only the players roll. Monsters don't roll and only have pre-set difficulties and random effects that are outside the player's power. Perhaps even "scripts" as in a videogame.

    I'm designing something like that right now, but it's a competitive multi-player game, so it wouldn't really work solo.
  • edited December 2010
    POSTVALANCHE!
    Posted By: Zac in DavisGregor,
    How can the game text exercise judgment? Basically, what I'm wondering is, can you give an example (even one you just made up) of a single player creating fictive content that interacts meaningfully with a solo-game's mechanics?
    I don't know! It was mostly a rethorical question. Can we do it?

    Off to put the thinking cap on.
  • Pardon the triple-post, but I had to get this last bit in...learning from Jason Morningstar's The Plant (and possibly The Smoke Dream, haven't read it), you can also use leading questions at crucial junctures to give the player emotional connections to game-provided content, then give him game-provided hard choices tied to that content. The emotional investment from the player's side will drive those choices

    Hypothetical example:
    1. On a random card draw, the player's character finds a photo of a person.
    2. The game asks the player what the person in the photo means to her character. The question(s) is leading, so to develop a strong connection.
    3. At a later juncture the game tells the player that as a result of a conflict, her character must leave one of her objects behind.
    4. Whether the photo is discarded or not (instead of a, say, practically much more useful object, like a swiss army knife) can be a purely fiction-driven decision. It is the player's judgement, and it depends on how strongly the player respects the fiction of course, but it can still instil a "I would never part with the photo of my dead wife." reaction.

    But Per's question still stands, I suppose.
  • Posted By: Teatainelearning from Jason Morningstar's The Plant (and possibly The Smoke Dream, haven't read it), you can also use leading questions at crucial junctures to give the player emotional connections to game-provided content, then give him game-provided hard choices tied to that content. The emotional investment from the player's side will drive those choices
    One problem with this is that your text ends up being vague, sort of foggy and weak - "That thing you did back there, with the thing you brought, something has happened and now it doesn't matter as much as it did."

    That's an extreme example, but if you are referencing player-generated content whose attributes and dimensions you can't possibly know, the language gets a little vacuous. I think this is an easy problem to overcome, but it is a problem.

    The Smoke Dream is great and sidesteps this problem nicely, I think, be making cards sort of concrete objects and deriving meaning from their interaction, rather than allowing players to author them.
  • Yeah this it bloody hard, but good for giving the old grey matter a work out.

    Apologises in advance for the ramblings, but I find a scatter gun, first thought on paper approach works well for me.

    At the moment I thinking of situations were you drive toward a goal without getting feedback on how well you are doing.
    Kind of like an army squad cut off from it's command. It has a vague idea of where it is going and what it is suppose to be doing but without the micro management and feedback needed.

    This is where I'm getting stuck.

    And then at the end (of an act/scene) have a wrap up of what you were suppose to be doing. Giving yourself bonuses/hindrances based on that going into the next scene/act.

    I was also thinking to get round the Czege Principle you could create characters/factions up front before play. Randomly selecting which part (character/faction) you will take in one scene and then randomly selecting a new part in the following scene. In this way you could fuck with your own goals without knowing it at the time.

    But I dunno, it's hard ain't it?

    Toad
  • Yay for constructive responses - thanks, warms my heart, honestly!

    I was of course also contemplating how to design such a thing - I love the use of flow charts as in Labyrinth - basically, you choose an action and the game's 'responds' according to that in an if-then manner. Works fantastic.

    Thanks for the blog link, I missed that yesterday. Will read now.
  • I suppose one of the issue is the Czege Principle. I know it doesn't always apply but it's a serious consideration in single player games as to how to construct adversity and then resolve it.
    Is adversity always a requirement for a satisfying role-playing game? I don't know - it's an honest question, but I'd like to think not.

    Also, if you watch or practice any amount of solo improvisation (or really pay attention to what's happening in good improv, period), you'll realize that it's not too hard to completely surprise yourself. There's tricks and techniques to encourage this, but they're not strictly all that necessary. The human brain is not just one monolithic thinky piece; there's a whole crowd in there fighting for attention.

    But yeah, this is a hard, interesting design challenge, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes out of it.
  • In my head, it has to do with encouraging players to daydream about play in such a manner that life is given and connections are made to what are otherwise relatively static ideas and play materials. Like, when you're a kid and you're "playing G.I. Joe" or whatever, and you decide that Snake Eyes is infiltrating the evil ninja lair, so he dresses up like an evil ninja... etc. That kind of stuff goes beyond what you're actually doing, which is sliding a hunk of plastic across a table or twirling it in the air to "make him do somersaults." Really, this is probably only describing one approach to solo roleplay, but basically I want players to project additionally imaginary content on top of the content generated by the mechanics of the game. Whether you can make that imaginary content actually matter to the outcome of play, rather than simply providing additional color and immersion... that I think is a tougher challenge, and probably involves asking the player to make judgment calls based on how the fiction works in their head.
  • What Jonathan said.
  • Jonathan,
    I'm really, really interested to hear of any solutions the contestants devise for this problem:
    Posted By: J. Waltonmake that imaginary contentactually matter to the outcome of play,
    Yikes. Impressive.
    One way to tackle the simpler version, i.e. projecting imaginary content, could be to very literally explain what is occurring "in the fiction" when a given thing happens mechanically. One weird thing about a lot of board games, card games, etc. for this purpose is that there will be these odd little permutations of the rules that don't inherently carry some sort of fictional explanation - what, exactly, is happening when I draw a card while playing Magic: the Gathering, for instance?

    Different cards suggest different answers:
    Is it adding books to my collection? (Library of Leng)
    Is it gaining new powers? (Demonic Pact)
    Is it amassing wealth? (Prosperity)

    In a game where we're trying to create a reasonably discernible fictional environment, nailing that stuff down is key. Every procedure, and permutation therein, should probably be rooted in some logical, fictional explanation, unless it's rooted in, say, how stories work.
  • I was trying to make the player-generated content emotionally resonant (by the manipulative low blow of setting up a "save your daughter" situation) in The Plant, but your investment in that emotional resonance has zero procedural impact on the outcome of the game. I think that will be a hard thing to do, and maybe the way to do it is to talk directly to the player as part of the game's procedures.
  • Here's a thought experiment which might be useful (or might not):

    Imagine you're a player in a LARP. For various good reasons, your character decides he needs to lock himself up in a closet, alone, for a few seconds.

    For those few seconds, are you still playing a LARP? Are you still roleplaying?

    What if it's for a few minutes? What if it's for a few hours?

    I would suggest that if you can roleplay while locked in a closet by yourself for a couple hours, solitaire roleplaying shouldn't pose any great difficulties.



    Cheers,
    Roger
  • Hi Roger,

    I'm arguing you can't. If you can, them simply thinking or hallucinating is roleplaying. It's not just imagining things in your own mind, it's the meeting of those imagined things with another person's imagined things. The pre-requisite for that is that these imaginings are somehow communicated. If you could do telepathy, I gues that would count.

    BUT: I agree that if you can roleplay while locked in a closet, then solitaire story gaming works. I don't know how, however.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI was trying to make the player-generated content emotionally resonant (by the manipulative low blow of setting up a "save your daughter" situation) in The Plant, but your investment in that emotional resonance has zero procedural impact on the outcome of the game. I think that will be a hard thing to do, and maybe the way to do it is to talk directly to the player as part of the game's procedures.
    This is the trick, to have that arrow pointing out of the (solo) game's fiction, and having that fictional stuff interacting with the mechanics in an interesting and possibly novel or surprising manner, and making it stick. (IMO, it's hard enough doing that in a regular multiplayer game, but that's another thing...) There's also the matter of the creativity that happens when you're throwing things back and forth with someone else, versus just noodling along by yourself. Like I said above, you can do it, but maybe it's easier to become emotionally invested in something that's a joint creation rather than something that just came out of your own imagination. I dunno.

    I think that another one of the challenges with a solo RPG design may be one of accountability. When you're sitting around the table with other people, and you say, "okay, I'm totally jumping across that gap in the rooftops to get away from the lobsterfrogmen", and as a result you have to make a roll or draw a card or trade tokens or whatever, whether you fail or succeed, you've got the other players there to hold you to it. There's no going, "well, I didn't really want to do that, let's try something else..." to break the solidity or "reality" of the effect of your decision in the fiction. It's the difference between holding a place with your finger on the last page that you went to in the Choose Your Own Adventure book so you can go back, and having someone else tell you what happens after you make the choice. Unless it's part of the game itself (which could be possibly fun and interesting), there's no take-backs.

    I do like the idea of creating elements in the fiction yourself, without really knowing how they'll be reincorporated later, and somehow bringing them back into the game later in a mechanically (and emotionally) interesting way. Something to think about, I guess.
  • Isn't the Mythic GM Emulator basically a method for solitaire RPing? If it is, and I think it probably is, then the problem's been solved. Now it's just a matter of exploring and refining.
  • Marc, accountability is an interesting issue, and one that I hadn't thought of. It reminds me, in many ways, of people forgetting to roll+harm in Apocalypse World, right? There's a counter-incentive to do it (the best that can happen is that you just take the harm, as normal) and it isn't strongly worked into the procedures of play. It forks off to the side, so it's easy to blow right by. Similarly, if I'm playing a solo RPG and fail to get away from the lobsterfrogmen, I might just draw a different card and decide that first draw "didn't count," as long as the procedures make that an obvious way to cheat.

    Like with harm, my initial intuition is that -- if you work the procedures for "failing" more tightly into the procedures for everything else, so it's not a fork off to the side -- then people won't cheat. They may not even be ABLE to cheat that way, because failing (or some other outcome that the player is not initially excited about) literally becomes "what has to happen next." Whereas, with harm, I was suggesting that "you have to roll+harm before you can take harm" and "it tells you what kind of harm to take" as possible ways to tie it more tightly in. In your lobsterfrogmen example, maybe you have to follow through with the procedures to find out what happens next in the game. Or, as in Burning Wheel, failure is also critical to make progress.
  • (I'm glad we're talking about this. )
  • Posted By: Marc MajcherI think that another one of the challenges with a solo RPG design may be one of accountability. When you're sitting around the table with other people, and you say, "okay, I'm totally jumping across that gap in the rooftops to get away from the lobsterfrogmen", and as a result you have to make a roll or draw a card or trade tokens or whatever, whether you fail or succeed, you've got the other players there to hold you to it. There's no going, "well, I didn't really want to do that, let's try something else..." to break the solidity or "reality" of the effect of your decision in the fiction. It's the difference between holding a place with your finger on the last page that you went to in the Choose Your Own Adventure book so you can go back, and having someone else tell you what happens after you make the choice. Unless it's part of the game itself (which could be possibly fun and interesting), there's no take-backs.
    Of course this makes me think about a design that would embrace "take backs" as part of regular game play. If you have a programmed element anyway, why not build that in somehow?
  • Maybe this is tangential.

    I haven't gotten The Mustang to the table yet, but I've read it several times and it's a game I'm excited about.

    I find myself caring about the characters and their potential outcomes without ever having played it with other people. In reading it over, I've imagined various interactions between the characters, how I might play any one of them or how I might play the "you" avatar. This solitary activity feels like play to me.

    It's done this for me on a single piece of paper.

    There are several things there that I'd try to keep in the forefront of my mind if I were to participate in this contest.
  • Posted By: Paul BIsn't theMythic GM Emulatorbasically a method for solitaire RPing? If it is, and I think it probably is, then the problem's been solved. Now it's just a matter of exploring and refining.
    Aren't there like, I dunno, six people besides you and me on this site who've looked at that game even?

    Maybe half that have tried it?
  • Posted By: nemomemeI find myself caring about the characters and their potential outcomes without ever having played it with other people. In reading it over, I've imagined various interactions between the characters, how I might play any one of them or how I might play the "you" avatar. This solitary activity feels like play to me.
    I think that this is important. How is actual "play" different from "sitting and thinking about characters and situation in this fiction that's grabbed me"? Is it? Does it need to be?
  • Posted By: Per FischerNow, story games. I find it really difficult to see how a solitaire game can provide the most important part: shared imagined space. Tell me how it could work - do you talk to yourself fx. Do you record/log what you are saying, and is the final "outcome" - story, whatever - as important, or more important, than play itself?

    I don't consider adventure books ("there's a troll. If you attack it go to P34, if you run go to P12) to be roleplaying, so perhaps here's the hiccup already. To me there must be some kind of communication between at least two people.

    Or am I totally xmas bonkers?

    Per
    A possible side thought related to the above:

    Is it solo if there are two particpants, but one is only semi functioning, like the author of a CYOA book? Yet not at the level of a PbP/PBeM GM?

    I actually did a bit of experimenting with something like that for a miniatures game once.

    In that case, I had an internet buddy on the other side of the planet. Barring one or the other of us suddenly winning the lottery, we probably wouldn't be able to get together to game. Also, time zone differences would make Skype gaming or similar tricky, and since the joy here was minis gaming, Skype gaming wouldn't really have made sense, being that it lacked the tactile aspects and miniatures appreciation mongering that goes on in that sort of gaming.

    Anyway, what we did was this: I sent him a bunch of links to photos of my collection of stuff, then he began generating story/situation content for it. That then led to "mission play", along with some back-and-forth blue-booking type stuff in-character.

    It was a short experiment, with mixed results.

    But here's the thing: At a certain level, it did hit that shared imaginary space thing, especially the brainstorming going into the set-up. Kinda like an author writing a CYOA adventure set-up, but geared towards me and my interests ( and toys).

    It was also a bit like a more trad PBEM/PBP set up, but with less hands on back-and-forth. The direction things seemed to be taking was more

    a) Show collection
    b) shared situation creation
    c) Hand off to the "author" participant
    d) mutual fiction creation
    e) "Player" participant engages in solo play based on above
    f) report by "player" participant of solo play
    g) start back at points a-c as appropriate and continue play

    Okay, right. So, in those particular circumstances, I'd hoped to reach a point where Player particpant was then flipping over and acting as the Author participant for the other player, or where multiple situations like this were occuring.

    This was kinda interesting because of the constraints of the mediums involved for one thing. For another, it really broke up the normal way of doing things in a way different from either a traditional rpg set up with a GM or even a GM-Full story game.

    Relating it back to this thread, it was also a bit different from a style of Create a Game, then hand it off and let them play it solo thiinking, which seems to be where this contest and thread are going.
  • Posted By: Marc MajcherPosted By: nemomemeI find myself caring about the characters and their potential outcomes without ever having played it with other people. In reading it over, I've imagined various interactions between the characters, how I might play any one of them or how I might play the "you" avatar. This solitary activity feels like play to me.
    I think that this is important. How is actual "play" different from "sitting and thinking about characters and situation in this fiction that's grabbed me"? Is it? Does it need to be?

    I agree, that's important. Could reading a book fx. be roleplaying in your mind? Not IMO - but there's some thinking to do on the differences.
  • I think "Is this roleplaying?" is not the most useful way to approach this question, and that the most useful replies in this thread have instead answered the question "what does fun solo play feel like?"

    That's what I'm going to answer.

    When I played The Plant, there were moments that were fun. Those moments were when the cards I drew impacted meaningfully and compellingly on a thing I'd previously imagined and was interested in. For example, I'd imagined some kind of unhappy relationship between the "me" character and his wife. A card I drew was something like "You remember something you failed at" (I'm hazy on the details), and it was fun to have that card spark off what I'd already imagined and fill in some details of the character in a way that I cared about.

    It was less fun when the cards didn't interact well with what I was imagining. Why does the smell of oil make me feel terrified? And now that I've come up with something, will it ever matter again?

    So I think it's a challenging thing. Maybe if you made clever use of the Forer effect you could more reliably spark off things the player has imagined, but you'd have very vague and halluncinatory fiction. The alternative is to have very concrete and simple elements, and tightly constrain the player's range of choices.
  • Another thing that hit me on the bus today: solo play is essentially GM-less play, just boiled down to work for the minimum possible number of players (i.e. 1). A lot of the same issues come up as when you are designing a GM-less game. When do you decide when X happens? Who narrates the results? What happens with there is a disagreement about the rules or about what happens?
  • edited December 2010
    Yes, I wasn't trying to suggest that reading and/or thinking about The Mustang was role-playing.

    But to the degree that role-playing is wrapped up in feeling immersed in a character or a world, it feels a bit like "play" to me. Importantly, it does it in a very brief space. There's not a whole novella of paragraphs accompanied by go-to-P34-or-go-to-P12 needed to achieve that feeling of being primed for play and caring about the characters.

    I've played The Plant and How to Host a Dungeon and taken a look at The Smoke Dream. I don't know the degree to which their creators would advance those creations as "role-playing games," much less whether I'd hold them up as those things.

    There're some interesting threads around about Fate/Spirit of the Century's character creation and Diaspora's cluster creation as play, as feeling even like role-playing, that might inform.

    I will be so happy if this contest results in several lonely fun toys all of which a consensus of the community agrees are definitely *not* role-playing games.

    At the very least I'm being sent to the basement to dig out my Dwarfstar's Barbarian Prince and play it through. :)

    edit: Oh! Oh! And Kung Fu 2100!
  • I made a solitaire rpg this fall, my first, and tried it out in two lone car-rides. Sitting there, behind the steering wheel, I indulged in a drama where my character had no idea what would hit him, and neither did I. Playing solitaire did not feel as weird as I had anticipated. I really enjoyed it, actually.

    - I played a character (role).
    - I had no idea what would happen, but took initiatives and went with the flow (play).
    - There where a simple method to it all, that compelled me during the drama (game).

    In other words; a role-playing game! ;-)
  • I have a fever, thinking too much, not coherently enough.
    Posted By: TomasHVM- I played a character (role).
    - I had no idea what would happen, but took initiatives and went with the flow (play).
    I think these two points are crucial.
    1. That you can imagine being this fictional person, pretending, playing a character, a role.
    2. Having a setting+situation+positioning for your character that is not entirely in your control or even completely outside your control.
    And then...
    3. That the actions of your character in this setting/situation, and the events in the environment are feeding into each other in a satisfying and consistent manner and outside your direct influence (otherwise it's just daydreaming).

    Also, I set a few hours apart for myself and played Arkham Horror solo for the first time earlier. The game controls all the adversity, yes, so that's handled, but it often feels random, stilted or nonsensical. No respect for any manner of "SIS", because there isn't one. I wasn't "playing my character" in any sense of the phrase, I was merely responding to mechanical incentives, making decisions based on resource management and abstract numbers. Everything else is inconsequential colour. In other words, a horrible RPG (but a good boardgame).

    But I could imagine that if you removed a lot of the arbitrary "gamey" stuff, replaced the board with a simple map and drew random event cards in a different manner you could go about pretending to be your character in a independently-moving world. Which brings me to another point: how much stuff should the player know? Should he know that there's a monster in that house there? What's in the cabinet? Beneath the bed? How do we handle the exploration?

    Something like Donjon or InSpectres could do this. (I look underneath the bed to see if there's a gun there. Roll. Success! Yes, there is a gun there.) I think it's kinda what the Mythic GM Emulator does, too. But this brings me back to what Jonathan and Marc are saying about cheating. What's stopping me from finding a game-ending-super-magical-nuclear weapon or whatever under the bed? Can we rely on mere willingness to be honestly challenged? Should solo games even be challenging?
  • Posted By: TeataineSomething like Donjon or InSpectres could do this. (I look underneath the bed to see if there's a gun there. Roll. Success! Yes, there is a gun there.) I think it's kinda what the Mythic GM Emulator does, too. But this brings me back to what Jonathan and Marc are saying about cheating. What's stopping me from finding a game-ending-super-magical-nuclear weapon or whatever under the bed? Can we rely on mere willingness to be honestly challenged? Should solo games even be challenging?
    And, if so, what sort of challenge?

    I could see there being a challenge in figuring out how a new element fits with the previously recorded/drawn/rolled stuff.

    And, hmm, cheating. Cheating. Why do we cheat at solitaire games?

    I mean, I've been known to cheat at solitaire games. What does that do for us? Can we make a method by which it becomes Not-Cheating, but still not as good as not Cheating?

    And what about video games? They've been adding cheatiness in for years to solo play! Doesn't seem to have hurt them any...
  • edited December 2010
    Yeah, cheating is a red herring. Harnessing the behavior that makes you want a do-over and making it fun and interesting is where its at.

    Related, perhaps: Cooperative boardgames are almost always set to be crazy difficult out of the box. The "do-over" here is playing again, hopefully not making the same mistakes.
  • I can see there are aspects of roleplaying you could accommodate this way. World building can be fun. Character creation likewise. Even funnier in doing it together with other people and influencing on each other's creations. You could probably have you gamist itch scratched in a solitaire rpg.
    But I'm looking for more I guess, and perhaps for something I can't get (which wouldn't be first time!)

    Is there a working link to the Mythic GM thingy?

    There's an old game called Star Smuggler - downloadable for free I think - which is described as kind of RPG-y along with what some of you have described. I don't think it is.
  • Two contradictory ideas:

    1. Tunnels & Trolls has released solo scenarios for a while now, yeah? And there are solo adventures for "Castle Ravenloft" and one that involves creating your character in the new Red Box, right? So maybe some of this stuff about "rpg = SIS" is baloney to a lot of folks. Move your piece, make some decisions, level up. Voila! An RPG! At least in the same sense as video game RPGs.

    2. Maybe the "shared" part of the SIS in solo games is the space that exists in the dialogue between the playter and the designer (the latter represented by the rules text). This could, perhaps, be related to the way people have "discussions" with religious texts, a kind of textually-mediated imaginative exploration or reflection.
  • edited December 2010
    This thread has a lot of interesting points in it, but my initial reaction is the same as Per's.

    To me, roleplaying (in our "story game" sense of the word; obviously you can walk down the street imagining yourself as Batman, but most people wouldn't say, "I played a roleplaying game on the way to work today")... anyway, to me roleplaying is the act of communicating something to another person.

    The whole thing is about interaction between people, and the creation of something beyond one person's purview. I engage in roleplaying when I communicate something to another human being in a way that allows me to interact with them.

    If I'm just sitting and not opening my mouth, I'm just an audience to someone else's story.

    If I'm just talking, and not listening and accepting input, then I'm just inventing a story, playing at being an author (is writing a book roleplaying?).

    Here's where it gets interesting, though:

    Imagine a situation like a Skype game, or, even better, a PBEM game. Not being able to see the person in front of me, I have no way of knowing that I'm playing with another live human being. If a "game" could respond to me in a way similar to the way another player does, and I cannot tell the difference, then I am truly roleplaying alone.

    Still, to me, the conscious act of communication aimed at another human being seems inextricably linked to the definition of roleplaying (the definition in my brain, that is; yours may differ).

    (Edited to add: the post above this one was cross-posted... but it seems like we're thinking along similar lines, especially the bit about asynchronous communication: an author quite arguably is communicating with the reader, even though there is a "delay" between the act of writing and the receipt of the ideas by the reader.)
  • On a more serious note, I think probably the best solo RPG would be Emily Care's own Fluffy Bunnies.
  • Oh! I just realised I sometimes play a roleplaying game in my head on the way to work. It goes like this:

    The Passenger

    Imagine that inside your head, looking out your eyes, is someone from 1890's England, or someone from ancient Rome, or from the distant future. It works well if you choose someone from a period you're somewhat familiar with. It can be a real historical figure if you like. The two of you are able to communicate telepathically, but you're in control of your body.

    Imagine the conversation between yourself and this fictional character, as you walk along your normal route. You can explain the various technologies you encounter, but it's more fun to look at the people you pass and imagine the reactions of your fictional passenger.
  • Paul, does it require the illusion of playing with another human being? If the game is responding to you in the ways that another human would -- through random-roll tables or whatever -- but it's not some PBEM bot or something else that can trick you... does that mess everything up? Are you saying that roleplaying can be a highly subjective experience, in your mind?
  • Posted By: Paul T.to me roleplayingisthe act of communicating something to another person.
    This kind of games are mostly done in dialogue with other players, yes.

    It don't have to be so. It can be done in a monologue too, and be a role-playing game. you only have to open your mind to the possibility, and play along. You may come to surprise yourself with what you can do in a solitaire game ... ;-)
  • edited December 2010
    Links for Star Smuggler
    and
    Barbarian Prince
    Both are free and downloadable.

    Tony's How to Host a Dungeon

    Gamebooks - Lone Wolf pdf edtions

    Smoke Dream

    Rogue-like games Pocket Dungeon
    and
    Raiders of the Ruin of Kanthe

    Just thought we should have these references so everyone can have a common language to talk from ;) I was aiming for a broad range of solo RPG types. I know I am missing a few, like the rpg poems

    ara

    EDIT: add links
  • Posted By: Zac in DavisGregor,
    Basically, what I'm wondering is, can you give an example (even one you just made up) of a single player creating fictive content that interacts meaningfully with a solo-game's mechanics?
    I am curious what you mean by meaningful here?


    Does the SIS have to be shared in order for a game to be a RPG. When I play roguelikes either CRPG or the pen and paper the SIS is really just an IS. Others can experience after the fact if I write it up or the game somehow records this information.

    Also when I go hiking across the wilds of New Mexico I generally navigate by place names and this is very much an IS. The IS can become a SIS when I explain to others what is going on.

    ara
  • Ara,
    I suppose by "meaningfully" I mean "at all". Fair question.
  • If you are telling a story, does someone else need to be there to listen to it?

    I fooled around with "Sweet Agatha" a solo game...if I remember correctly, I think I randomly selected four of the clues randomly, but then kept three for use in the next chapter. It didn't feel like story telling, however, until I started typing down the story I was creating a sort of a small novelette. The mere fact that I was recording it (for a potential listener) gave it some story-telling gravitas that it did not have when I was merely just connecting-the-dots in my head.

    On a more technical game mechanics level, as an exercise I started fooling around with a game system where you started with no content, and built the "components" fresh as it was needed. I don't know how much story-telling you could apply to it, but there is a small sense of this world that you are existing in and growing and changing with you.

    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/51199/epic-solitaire-notebook-adventures
  • Zac,

    Thanks for the clarification! I know what you mean. I am trying to think of some rogue-like examples. Do you mean something beyond just naming things?

    ara
  • Posted By: Paul T.Still, to me, the conscious act of communication aimed at another human being seems inextricably linked to the definition of roleplaying (the definition in my brain, that is; yours may differ).
    I think even with this definition that you can have a solitaire roleplaying game. Rather than the game taking the place of the other human being, the game mediates communication - acting as language of expression and transformation of ideas and story elements so that you are always communicating with yourself from a previous point in the game or toward a future point. The design difficulty then is to make this transformation powerful enough to make communicating with a past or future you more interesting than bypassing the communication (i.e. short circuiting the system in some manner), especially by making the past and future you's more interesting than the present you.

    - Mendel
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