Wednesday Oct 04, 2023


Table of Contents

General Advice

How much to prep?

Let’s take a look at some extremes, from there take a reference to find your own sweet spot. Remember, for everything, there are gray areas.

Low Prep (On the fly, homebrew settings)

Choose an RPG, a setting, a more or less defined plot hook, create a few characters and go. All you need is a first scene. Ideally, the first scene should be well-defined, action packed and theme-centric. The rest, is up to your characters to dice. Figure out the rest on the fly, as part of the game

– Start “playing” sooner (though some like to call prep as playing too)
– Surprise yourself more often, dealing with the unknown, start with a random event

– You might get stuck more often
– Relies more on the solo system or gm emulator (needs more often inspiration and prompts)

– Use a solo system that can answer more than just yes or no, you will need it in this mode
– Crunchy RPGs (D&D, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Shadowrun) may be easier, as you will know more precisely what they can do, and in a way will be more limited (which is good, because the adventure is already open)
– Swingy RPGs (FATE, PbtA) might be harder, as you have both the adventure very open and vaguely defined, plus characters that can technically do anything, might be too much to handle, unless you are strong with the GM mentality and, or authorship

Lots of Prep (Premade adventures or settings)

Aside from the RPG, you are playing in a well-defined setting, either premade or heavy world building before you play. Know the events of the starting location, governors, context. You may also define factions, their interests and goals, an overarching problem or impending doom situation. Your PCs are heavily enriched and in sync with the setting.

– Lots of ideas to pull from, you will have no issues in coming up with scenes and situations
– Smooth ride while playing, things will make sense, and you will more likely achieve the theme you wanted
– Can be played with simple oracles, because you will need it much less often

– High danger of never starting, too much prep, too little play.
– Needs strict meta rules, separate what YOU know from what PCs know

– Find a middle point between playing on the fly and prep, a balance works well
– Play adventures that are open-ended or don’t have a single solution
– Heavy prep works fine on combat-centric games where story doesn’t matter much. Story centric heavy prep might spoil too much for your own fun factor. This is largely subjective to the player tastes.

What happens next?

Story telling vs role playing. If you are writing a novel (or practicing, or just enjoy the writing process), it is all up to you, anything goes. Perhaps Journaling Games suit you better than Solo RPG. You can go back and forth, edit, correct, refine, look for the nice words that rhyme together, and so on.

But on this blog, me, I focus on Solo RPG, strictly to the word of playing an RPG. When you play with a group, you don’t correct or tweak things that happened in previous sessions: “Hey, can we make it so the past session, instead of driving a car, we were driving motorcycles?” NO. Technically, you can’t. It breaks immersion, consistency and the common consensus of role playing games. Group games can’t handle “if so, we would have…”, that some players could throw in, and it becomes a headache for the GM. Don’t mistake this with narrative collaboration, for example in FATE, where players can spend currency to declare it is raining, or other kind of details, past or present. Solo RPG should be one-way, things happen as your PCs experience them. Write them in stone. Again, this applies if you want to emulate an RPG experience, otherwise you can also write a novel (or in fact, do whatever you want): Authors change entire characters, locations or even religion purposes as they advance chapters, and jump back and forth (of course there are exceptions to everything, as in Brandon Sanderson vs Stephen King, but let’s stop there).

Having said that, this also applies for the “What happens next” scenario. The GM shouldn’t dictate what happens next, but rather react to what your ACTIVE PCs are trying to achieve. It is important that your PCs have well-defined goals, for such they will move and take action. In solo RPG, the same rule applies. Your PCs take action, then you figure out how the world around them reacts to them, and let the solo system, the oracle, provide you with feedback.

However, there are situations where your PCs are, for example, on a starship, and traverse a dangerous region, or your PCs are exploring some unknown ruins. In such cases, the “what happens next” question does apply, and you do need a GM to tell you what’s on the other side. You need Random Events for that, and the GM Emulator should provide them, or be capable of inspiring you with ideas.

Another common situation, will be the game fillers, when your characters go from A to B, does something happen in between? If that were up to you, it would be quite awkward. Some emulators throw random events while using its mechanics or asking questions, but that does not apply here, as you are deliberately asking what happens on your way to Mount Doom (You don’t want Frodo to deliver the ring in 10 minutes and fast-forward to that very, last scene. You need a lot of fillers between your PCs goals and now). Say, my PCs want to go to the Temple of Ilmater, which is 1 day away. What then? Well, if you are a playing a Hex Crawl, you would check for random events on your way there (usually the RPG provides that). But if you are playing a more theater of the mind style, you need some sort of prompting. You could either check a yes or no question to ask whether something happens in between or not, but what happens then? You need random events or a good emulator that can throw things at your PCs, twist your intentions, check your expectations.

Finally, even when you know exactly what your PCs want, do they get it right away? How do you define which challenges will be on their way? How or what kind of effort is needed of them? Why were they chosen and not someone else to do the job? Who exactly is going to try to stop them? Some GM Emulators rely on expectations (such as Mythic): if you are on a Witch Forest, probably there is evil sorcery, there are minions or even traps. So you can come up with any of those by yourself. Other GM Emulators (like mine, PUM), can roll Scene Prompts, that can lead you to finding NPCs, a challenge, a situation, a problem. Whatever it is, you don’t want to be in full control of the game either, so even when you have an expectation, there is a chance it isn’t quite what you thought. And this is nice in Solo RPG, you shouldn’t let yourself reign over the game: instead, ask questions to let the emulator twist them, let it ruin your plans, let it do what is called Scene Alteration check or Expectation Check. Let the solo system drive your characters into unexpected dimensions. Your PCs expect to finally meet the King in person. Do they meet him on a banquet full of food as you thought? Or assassins jump from the roof? Or you learn that the King is in fact sick, or dead. This is INCREDIBLY important in SOLO RPG. It shouldn’t be entirely up to you how the game unfolds. But ultimately, yes, you will need those expectations, to bring your PCs into things for them to do. Know the location you are in, the factions that roam the area, the dangers that might be around you, and most importantly your goals.

General advice videos

Me, Myself & Die is awesome – but my game isn’t

Remember, it is a show. Trevor indicated in an interview he does an average of 48 hours of editing before publishing. He also replays some scenes when they weren’t cool enough, and has a very, very strong narrative and voice acting power, relying very little on GM Emulators. Of course, he is amazing at generating tension, so he does delegate certain deciding factors to the emulators. The seasons 1 and 3 are amazing to reflect this, as he is using Mythic. But most of the episodes are him declaring and deciding everything that happens on each scene. His characters then are put to the challenge he expects.

In essence, yes, you can also play like that, and you can learn a lot from the show. But don’t expect your actual games to be like that, at that speed. You will have plenty of mind blocks, writer’s block, mumbling and umm moments, and scenes may not be so awesome and epic at all times. Remember, he is a professional storyteller, voice actor and has tons of GM experience. Just adjust your expectations.

It will also depend on how you track your game, if you are writing a novel as you play, forget about speed. If you are playing on your mind, it might work, but things will feel lousy and just on your head. Recording yourself and looking for a show-like game is a nice idea, even if you don’t share the product, as it will force you to speak out loud, look at a camera (or speak to a microphone) and narrate the game.

How do I setup a Solo Adventure or Campaign?

Check the above section of How much to prep. There are multiple ways to setup a solo game, depending on largely three factors:

  • The RPG System you want to use
  • The Solo System of your choice
  • The THEME you are targeting for

As defined by the RPG System

Dungeon based RPGs

Well-defined RPGs come with a mindset of their own, when it comes to preparing a game. For SOLO, it should not be much different. For example, D&D is frequently about somehow orchestrated dungeons or quests. You define a dungeon, the possible denizens, monsters. In group games, the GM knows which monsters are on which room, which treasures, traps and plot twists. In Solo, you can pretty much define the dungeon loosely, define a range of monsters and traps, but you don’t have to define exactly where or when things happen. A great source of inspiration for this kind of prep is The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, by Sly Flourish. This can be mapped to solo perfectly.

Other D&D players prefer a more on the fly configurations, for example dungeon generators, or even more zoomed in, dungeon room generators, which can also work very well, as you open door by door and then use such tools to figure things out. I am no expert on these tools, so if you know any, let me know!

Hex Crawl RPGs

What is good about these kinds of RPGs, is that they come with plenty of random tables and resources for filling in those maps. Random encounters, geography, monsters, it is all in the book. You can play these in solo mode with very little effort. Either by using the included maps, or play something like Forbidden Lands where you reveal the fog of war as you go.

I am no expert on this kind of game, but I like this video here, which is exhaustive, despite being slightly oriented towards hexcrawl games, its advice can be taken as general:

Story centric RPGs

Games that come filled in with Lore, maps, content, factions, kingdoms, cities are a beautiful challenge for the Solo player. But it isn’t as bad as it sounds. You will have plenty to pull from. Take any sections of the book, usually the lore is open-ended, has open questions, they remain vague. What if your PCs were in one of those historical moments? These are beautiful things if you like a narrative challenge, placing your PCs in situations of historical relevance, or meaningful events, is great for epic stories.

Such RPGs come with a bestiary, with factions with well-defined interests and interesting locations. Use them too. Separate what you know as a player, from what your PCs know, although the experience is better when you discover it alongside them. This is a great method to experiment, and try different RPGs and Systems. Play with the lore as you read it. Take your time through it and surprise yourself.

DM Yourself is a book that is centered toward playing RPGs that have their own premade adventures. I have not read it, as I personally prefer creating my own adventures, plots and stories, but it is quite often mentioned by D&D players.

As defined by the Solo System

The Solo System or GM Emulator shouldn’t define the kind of game you want to play. That being said, however, certain solo systems work well for certain kind of adventures and themes than others. This is largely subjective and a matter of taste, but you will notice certain solo systems use a fantasy vocabulary, or are oriented towards a specific RPG. Try different ones until you find and learn from them to the extent of chosing the best for you and your kind of game. Let’s call some mentions:

Mythic GM Emulator: It is made of three books plus +20 magazines. Mythic is quite simple, yet powerful, it has a yes or no oracle, a random events system and chaos rank that acts as a measure of the level of tension at a given moment. You also handle lists of NPCs and lists of Thread Lines, so it works really, really well when it comes to narrative focus and consistency. The Magazines focus on different kind of game themes, such as Mystery (with mystery matrix), horror games focus tables, and so on. It is however, quite an open emulator that gives precedence to your own expectations, and relies on your own game setup, scene proposal and so on. So it works better when you know exactly what kind of game you want, or when you have no issue with being a GM and having powerful authorship of your game. On top of that, you will let Chaos Rank take reign of destiny, and Mythic will twist your ideas.

Tricube Tales: Is a solo-ready RPG system, the author publishes one-page adventures that come ready to play. If you are looking for within the hour gameplay, go get these, they are perfect, focused and game centric. They come with random tables that are focused for the game you chose. Use poker cards on top of dice to have a smooth experience if you are playing on your desk.

Game Master’s Apprentice Cards: You have a generic deck, but also a fantasy deck, a scifi deck and recently Cyberpunk Deck. There are also Steampunk and Horror, among others. So these cards are fantastic for theme-centric kind of games. And they look gorgeous too. The oracles for yes and no, also come with sensorial oracles (smells, sights, feelings), and three worded inspiration oracles, among other components like names and locations. It is really a self-sufficient kind of oracle.

Indie solo systems: Since I am the author, do check my Plot unfolding machine and Scene unfolding machine. I propose a one-page printable oracle system that answers lots of kinds of questions. If you love making questions (thus, delegating more to the GM Emulator, and less to your own authorship), this is what I intend to do. I provide oracles for Intentions, reasons, activities, locations, complex situations, NPC behavior, and even things actual group GMs would do on regular games. If you like emulating a group game, this is what I intend with PUM and SUM. Other oracle systems, such as OPSE and MUNE are also simplistic oracles that answer other kind of questions. Check them out.

As defined by the Theme

You might be looking for certain experiences and elements in a game, that you want to emulate. If it is combat centric, the tools and systems mentioned above are sufficient. But what if you want to play a Mystery? Full of clues and leads, surprises and twists. What if you want to play a horror game? Jump off your chair and be in the mood. Indiana Jones kind of adventures, of figuring out the unknown. Social themes where politics, plotting, scheming, secrets matter. Let’s take a look at some, but there isn’t a clear answer, explore different things until you figure it out. I hope my mindset helps you too!

Mystery Games

Something happened, and it needs figuring out. Whatever it is, it comes in different levels of mystery. From Sherlock Holmes style, to Cthulhu, or perhaps just an open question within your epic adventure. Whatever it is, when you play without a GM, you don’t want to know the answer. So just don’t! You will need sporadic clues, unexpected leads, twists and people hiding information from your PCs.

Think of these elements and try to find something that works for that focus in mind. Avoid knowing more than your PCs know. If I am to give concrete advice and tools, check Mythic Magazine Mystery, it comes with a Mystery Matrix that you fill in as you come, connecting clues and leads and helping you know when you find the final answer. It truly works amazing. Promotion aside, my Plot unfolding machine comes with Discovery and Risk random tables, that help you answer questions such as “What do we learn from this computer?” or after you intimidated an NPC “What does he say?”. Helping you figure out what the clues are about. I haven’t seen other emulator, other than these two, that could work well here. But please prove me wrong.

Indiana Jones style

Here you want to be creative with challenges, puzzles. You want trouble. Make sure you have monsters randomizers, but also a source of ideas for traps, challenges and difficulties. This is great to stress the RPG system you are playing with.

For concrete advice, Tricube Tales Solo Rules are amazing for these kinds of games. It helps you with challenges, location tropes, and even NPC intentions. Promotion aside, Plot unfolding machine has two amazing tales for this, Challenges and Circumstances, they will inspire you with stuff for your PCs to do. Scene Prompts will tell you what’s behind the secret door your PCs just opened. Finally, one of the Mythic Magazines talks about puzzles in solo RPGs. Check it out too.

Horror games

What you want here, is to be on the mood. Very, very important. Make sure you place some tense music, lower your lights, setup artwork and dark themes in your setup. From there, your head will be full of ideas.

For concrete solutions, Game Master’s Apprentice card, the Horror Deck is truly amazing, you get the sensorial oracles to pull feelings, smells, noises and sights to pull from. You have catalysts and names, and it fits amazing. One of the Mythic Magazines also talks about horror games, but it is really meant for the narrative writing style. Where you more or less define the horror focus moments, that give you a momentum for those scary moments. Perhaps you could try combining them?

Social games

This is the hardest kind, for me at least. Doing dialogues and conversations without a GM is tricky. You have to jump ahead of your PCs and know the NPCs before they do. But don’t be fooled. Make sure what you think you know about NPCs, doesn’t mean it is truth! There are no truths here! Remember that NPC on the first scene whose intentions were nice and welcome? Well, guess what, in Scene 12, that same NPC now carries a dagger and is about to backstab you. Nothing, is real, everything is an illusion. Anything, even the GM Emulator, the oracles, can be wrong in this kind of games.

For concrete advice, I have only seen a successful approach with the Adventure Crafter, it holds plot points and seeds that are social and personal focused. It can help you set up NPC actions, intentions and situations that break, twist and take the worst out of your NPCs. Coming with a list of Characters and Plots, you will be constantly referring to them in a crossed manner. You can also play the Adventure Crafter with cards. Self-promotion aside, my Scene Unfolding Machine gives you tools to emulate NPCs, such as with opinions, talking topics, NPC behavior, and so on. Finally, a very popular NPC system matters a lot and for that UNE (Universal NPC Emulator) has little match, allowing you to create deep NPC motivations and bearings.

How to play premade adventures solo?

My answer: Check Mythic-Magazine-Volume-3 or look up DM Yourself or watch this video:

Answers from Reddit

Is it possible to play premade campaign/adventure books solo with Mythic GME? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Can I use premade modules with the mythic gm emulator? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Playing through premade adventures Solo : Solo_Roleplaying (

How can I play this or that RPG in Solo?

My answer: You can play ANY RPG if you use a generic SOLO System with oracles. Check any of these out:
Mythic Game Master Emulator
The GameMaster’s Apprentice
Tricube Tales: Solo Rules & Deck
CRGE, Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator
But of course, you can also play a specific RPG solo game. Authors like Parts per Million publish solo rules to play specific games, or if you are fortunate enough, your RPG of choice has official solo rules (such as Forbidden Lands or Twilight 2000 or Mork Borg).
If you are rather looking for an RPG to play solo, keep in mind the following:

  • Play RPGs you are already familiar with and know the rules by hearth, specially if you are learning to play without a GM. You don’t want to do rules encyclopedia while learning a GM Emulator too.
  • RPGs that come up with Random Tables and bestiary for their setting helps a lot in solo, to reduce the GMing part of making things up.
  • Play rule lightweight systems if you are not afraid of narrative control. Beware though, having to come up with stuff for your PCs, plus PCs that can do mechanically anything, plus GM emulators that can take over anything too, might cause you to get blocked very often.

Answers from Reddit

Suggestions of how to play Dungeons and Dragons solo/solitaire modes in game settings or gameplay style of Choose-Your- Own- Adventure? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Did anyone ever tried to play a Delta Green solo adventure? : Solo_Roleplaying (

How To: Star Trek Bridge Crew : Solo_Roleplaying (

Can you play Witchlight on your own? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Tips for soloing PF2E and other crunchier TTRPGs? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Got the setup but I don’t know how to start

Think of a good starting scene, jumping right into the core of your theme. Zombies? Begin with Zombies chasing your characters. On top of that, define what your character wants to achieve. A motivation. Make sure they have reasons to act, and not sit down on a tavern waiting for asteroids to fall.

If you are looking for ways of preparing an adventure, check out The Adventure Crafter and my article for creating an adventure from scratch with it. It will help you generate adventures. Or, look for random tables about Plot Hooks or Adventure Hooks. Check out random events. Another good source of preparing adventures, coming up with interesting evil factions, is Guy Sclanders’ How to be a great game master guides.

Finally, make sure you are not forever preparing your game. And don’t get lost in the perfect setup. This is by far what I have seen the most in the solo community. Players not starting the game until everything is perfect, random tables symmetrically printed, all the artwork matches the theme of the game, the VTT has all the macros to roll from every single table you imagine to need, the character sheets are in tone with the adventure, etc., etc. No. Don’t.

I mean, some of you might enjoy that process. But it can also happen that you enjoy it, for a while, for a long while. And then either never start, or start becoming frustrated because you find a certain kind of paper color you don’t have, and get stuck. If you like that part, sure thing, all yours. It is a solo RPG after all. But if in the end you want to play. Don’t wait for the perfect setup. Go for it, set the first scene, make mistakes, refine, improve.

Answers from Reddit

Tips to deal with analysis paralysis? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Help! How the heck do I start a game? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Thought I was ready but I’m stuck. : Solo_Roleplaying (

Starting difficulties : Solo_Roleplaying (

Too much possibility : Solo_Roleplaying (

Got started but then I got stuck or bored

One explanation could be related to the fact that you prepared too little. No-prep can be the tempting, but in a way, your brain will have fewer ideas to pull from. As you play, you will have to figure out the location details, look up setting factions, check for monsters, think of NPC motivations, and so on. So, first, make sure your characters have motivations and that their goal or thread lines are clear. Even if playing a sandbox, they want to achieve something. Incorporate some random tables. Make more questions. Second, prepare enough so that you are not building the universe as your characters travel, this might be too slow. Again, if you enjoy the process, by all means it is up to you, but if you complain about it being extremely slow, this might be the reason! Finally, Don’t be hard on yourself. Take a break.

Anxiety to try different systems and RPGs is also very common. You want to hop in from one system to the next, you don’t need to finish that campaign or ask for permission, or convince your GM. But in a way, remember, it is also satisfying to finish things. You will also experience the accumulation of events if you play longer, to finish, so you live the story arc and different stages of an adventure down to its conclusion. My advice, here, is to not target for year-long campaigns. Set up yourself for a game of few sessions, to arrive to a conclusion. Play to finish. This way, you will finish sooner, and you can decide from there whether you want to play the next (short) chapter, or a completely different game.

Finally, tools should be fun. If rolling dice with your hands is a thing, do it. If music is important, have it. Automation that lift housekeeping from you, such as Foundry VTT or Obsidian help a lot. Draw, do hand-writing. Whatever it is, tools are part of the experience when playing on your own. Check the setup page for more information.

Answers from Reddit

What do we do when we get stuck, or when inspiration suddenly floats away like a leaf in a storm? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Dead end in a story? : Solo_Roleplaying (

How do you prevent yourself from becoming bored of your game? : Solo_Roleplaying (

Btw, anything in Español?

Have fun!

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