USR Wednesdays: Solitaire Role Playing ― Part 1

Playing a tabletop pencil-and-paper RPG is always more fun with a group of people, but sometimes schedules don’t work out, or you just want to test a new rule or adventure you’ve written. There’s only one Rule Of Solitaire Role Playing:

Do what makes sense for whomever you’re playing as at that moment.

When you’re playing by yourself, you have to play each PC, all the NPCs and all the monsters. Obviously, since you’re both GM and players, you can’t really keep secrets — but you can do what makes sense to the characters.

For example, a fantasy adventure may indicate a secret door in the wall of the dungeon room the heroes have just entered. As GM, you know the door is there, but as the PCs, you have no idea. So, make “search” rolls, just as other players would if they were taking part in the game. Another example: you roll initiative for each side in a conflict. When the villains are taking action, they’re trying to defeat the heroes just as much as the heroes are trying to defeat them. You can even “fudge” dice rolls, if you like, but usually that’s done to keep a PC alive or keep the story on track, and when you’re GM and players, you don’t necessarily have to worry about that!

Dialogue with NPCs, developing relationships with other player characters, and investigation scenarios don’t really work in solitaire role playing, since they’re so dependent on interaction with other players in the game, at least not how they’re traditionally done. However, you can write out a sample interaction, as if you were composing a bit of game fiction, based on the personalities you’ve developed for each hero.

Combat in Solitaire Role Playing

Solitaire role playing is best-suited for detailed combat encounters, making it almost like a board game. Many games have tactics for monsters (like “use magic to enhance the villain’s defenses, then move into combat,” or “fight until slain”), but leave the combat tactics for PCs up to the players, as they should. However, when you’re both GM and players, you’ll need to have a tactic for each PC, too.

Take action!
They probably all have different tactics. At least they would in an RPG party.

Choose one combat tactic from the list for each PC in the party, or roll 1d6 two times (you’ll see what I mean below) for each when creating the characters. That tactic is the PC’s default action in combat — obviously, a “Selective” character that prefers to hang back and fire arrows at enemies from a distance won’t keep firing if there’s an orc right in his face. But at the beginning of the battle, he’ll stay toward the back of the room, instead of charging in like another hero might.

Feel free to let the tactic reflect the PC’s personality, too; an “Opportunistic” hero who hunts for treasure before fighting will probably be hard to keep in line in an open-air market.

Two characters with the same tactic might have different approaches to combat. A “Controlling” wizard who likes to cause area of effect damage might summon lightning in every battle, while a “Controlling” barbarian could cause area effect damage by moving into the middle of a horde of enemies, then swinging his sword in a circle to slay a half-dozen foes at once.

Character motivations may be different, too: two heroes may both be “Vengeful,” in an enemy’s face when delivering the final bit of damage. But one does it because he’s an assassin who needs to know his target is down, and another does it because her god calls his servants to prove their worth in warfare.

First Roll: 1 or 2

Second Roll:

  1. Ambitious: Eliminates the greatest threat first
  2. Cautious: Stays in the back of the battle and aids allies, only fighting if he must
  3. Commanding: Gives orders (which may or may not be listened to) then follows his own orders to the letter
  4. Controlling: Prefers area of effect attacks, trying to defeat as many foes as possible at one time
  5. Curious: Wants to know how things work (technology, unusual creatures, magic, etc.) and spends time investigating them for a possible advantage instead of simply taking them out of action and moving on
  6. Determined: One-on-one duelist — finishes off one enemy before moving to the next

First Roll: 3 or 4

Second Roll:

  1. Dramatic: Flashy, prefers making unique stunts to simple attacks — he might have a pile of unique gadgets he wants to try out, or likes playing pranks on his foes
  2. Efficient: Eliminates the easiest threat first
  3. Negotiating: Tries to neutralize threats without bloodshed (“talks down” foes, intimidates them, etc.)
  4. Opportunistic: Makes sure he knows where the treasure (or the door to the next room) is before getting into the fight
  5. Partnership: Finds a combat partner (animal companion, another PC, etc.) and performs a reliable, effective attack
  6. Pragmatic: Uses the environment (furniture, the natural world, vehicles, etc.) as his preferred weapons, often strikes from behind cover

First Roll: 5 or 6

Second Roll:

  1. Quick: Hit and run strikes, constantly moving and making attacks from different directions and/or against different enemies
  2. Reckless: Charges in, regardless of consequences, sometimes even before the party has made a plan
  3. Selective: Prefers to attack from a distance
  4. Slaying: Moves into the thick of battle and attacks anyone and everyone who comes near
  5. Unexpected: Does something different each time — roll once on this table before each encounter; if you roll “Unexpected” before an encounter, the character has the same combat tactic as he did in the last encounter
  6. Vengeful: Gets up close and personal with enemies to deliver a killing blow

P.S. This blog post is late because WordPress switched to a new text editor that took a while to figure out. Back on track next week.

USR Wednesdays: After-Apocalypse Auto Action

That alliterative name is probably all you need to picture this otherwise unexplored Domino Writing-style USR setting. Thank “California Love,” “Car Wars,” the opening of the trailer for “The Lego Movie 2”… oh, and the Mad Max films. So there’s one thing this setting can’t go without: vehicles.

Scott Malthouse’s “Somnium Void” rules are great for the more complex vehicles rules we want in a 4A setting (I just came up with that name!). But we’ll tweak them a bit to bring them in line with the rest of the Domino Writing-style rules. Here are their stats.

Maneuver: The target number needed to successfully perform a stunt that’s above and beyond the regular driving or flying needed to get from place to place. In a 4A setting, water is very rare; there probably aren’t any boats to pilot, and getting into space… forget it. Specialisms like Driver and Cool Under Fire are helpful here, along with the Action die.

2   Easy (dodging debris on a smooth road)
4   Medium (changing direction on a rough road)
7   Hard (pushing your car past its speed maximum without losing control)
10  Very Hard (driving smoothly through a crowded city street)
14  Nearly Impossible (jumping over a canyon)

In combat, vehicles are monsters ― literally. We’ll use the same guidelines we used for monsters to generate generic cars, trucks, and bikes.

Type Armor Hit Points Examples
Bike +1 10 Motorcycle, Urban Mini Car
Small Car +2 15 Commuter Car
Large Car +3 20 Luxury Car, Pickup Truck
Small Truck +4 25 Sport Utility Vehicle
Large Truck +5 30 Semi-truck, RV

Armor: This is the vehicle’s own armor combat bonus, added to the hero’s Action die roll if they’re hiding behind the vehicle, or driving it as they’re being shot at.

Hit Points: When a vehicle loses all its Hit Points, it’s no longer drivable. A vehicle can regain Hit Points with a successful Wits roll and time ― usually 1d6 per hour in the auto repair shop; 1 point per successful Wits roll when in the middle of a battle. Vehicles can have extra armor bolted on, but something with too many Hit Points takes a frustratingly long time to defeat: no fun in the world of the story, or in the real world.

We don't need another hero...
In the heat of the action. (image: informationweek.com)

Chases were described in an earlier post, and they’re a key part of the 4A genre. Essential, even. Grab some toy cars and stick spikes and guns and mohawks all over ’em. The chase rules are written for two “markers” to represent a Pursuer and a Target, but for this setting, don’t just use the simple straight line to show the chase. Add broken-down vehicles as obstacles, and the harsh desert sands. Let the vehicles swerve and skid, barreling toward one another on a last-chance power drive. That’s what the 4A setting is all about!

Last but not least, the best part of all, weapons. A vehicle can carry weapons with bonuses equal to the vehicle’s Armor bonus before it’s too heavy and unwieldy to move. A Small Car (+3 Armor) can have:
A roof-mounted machine gun in a turret +2 and a crossbow +1
A flamethrower +3
A spiked front bumper +1, a shotgun on the door frame +1, and a net that can deploy from the rear bumper +1
Don’t forget about gimmicky weapons like tire-puncturing blades, oil slicks, and the roof-mounted heavy metal guitar player on a bungee cord (not a weapon himself, but definitely a Specialism used in combat!)