The focus of SGAM tends to be around playing traditional role-playing games (intended for a group of players) as a single participant – usually with some sort of artificial means for compensating against the lack of players and/or GM.
For example, a person interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition uses the Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator to randomize the responses typically produced by a game master. Or, she uses the Universal NPC Emulator as a proxy for characters – maybe even as her players – as she assumes the gamemastering duties.
It should be noted, however, that there are other games out
there – many overlapping
or closely resembling the RPG category, others stemming from
roots in solitaire wargaming, board games, or card games –
that are designed, not for
a group of players, but for a single, solitary player. Or, in some
scale easily: down to one player, or up from one player (in the off chance a group of players is willing and able to join you).
That’s what this post is about: sharing some of those single-player games for your consideration, and in light of our quest here for SGAM, your appreciation.
By no means comprehensive, but most of these were collected from suggestions by members of the Lone Wolf Role-playing G+ Community.
Like those from Fighting Fantasy, Endless Quest, or Lone Wolf. More than choosing a path, you usually have character creation and game mechanics to steer the story, and often your character can persist through multiple books.
A good selection of the Lone Wolf books have been made freely available via Project Aon. And there are also several apps out there that are utilizing these free texts.
“The GameMaster’s Apprentice is a genre-and-system-neutral deck of cards that can be used as either a supplement for traditional tabletop RPGs or as a complete game engine for GM-free solo or group RPGs.”
By Larcenous Designs, there’s a base deck and several genre-specific decks, including the recent Kickstarter-backed Fantasy Deck.
Tunnels & Trolls offers many solo adventures similar to gamebooks, which utilize the T&T rules, if those are to your liking.
“… a 100+ page solo adventure for D&D Fifth Edition, set in the Forgotten Realms. This adventure has been created for individual play without a dungeon master, and is is a great way to scratch your D&D itch between regular adventures with your DM. Or, it can serve as a way for a player who cannot find a group to get a taste of the game.”
“Death Queen and the Life Stone is a solo / 1-on-1 adventure, compatible with the fifth edition fantasy SRD. It’s meant for one cleric or fighter character of 1st level. It is the first adventure in the Choose Your Destiny series of solo / 1-on-1 adventures.”
They have additional solo adventure modules planned up through 6th level.
“…a solitaire dungeon-delving game. No miniatures are needed. All you need is the book, a pencil, two six sided dice, and grid paper … choose four character types from the classic classes … and start adventuring in dungeons created by dice rolls and by your choices.”
“…a game where you, the reader, takes on the role of a Hero in the world of Arax. It is your job to fight against evil and injustice, to undertake various Quests to further the goals of good, and hopefully get some fame and loot in the bargain!”
Several quest and expansion modules are available.
“A tad pricey, but highly rated, there are 4 or 5 of these board games, each coming with a very healthy selection of miniatures, tokens, and dungeon tiles. Designed for 1 to 4 or 5 players with lots of replayability with randomly generated dungeon layouts, etc.”
A free to download board game from the 80s by Reaper Miniatures / Dwarfstar Games. They have several other similar free offerings for 1 and 2 players.
“…a solitaire game of heroic adventure in a forgotten age of barbarism and sorcery…“
“…a new concept in Adventure Gaming. No rules reading is required; the programmed event sequence lets you begin play as soon as you open the box.”
“Quill is a solo roleplaying game with a twist. Instead of hacking goblins and looting caves, you are writing letters. Rather than having attributes like strength or dexterity, characters in Quill use Penmanship, Language and Heart.”
By Trollish Delver games, several expansions are available.
Also by Trollish Delver:
“English Eerie is a storytelling game about horror in rural England. The game takes inspiration from folklore, along with the works of M.R. James, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood to help players tell their own haunted tales of the English countryside. “
“The game is designed to be played over one or a series of dark evenings by the flicker of candlelight. The player, you, will need a journal, a pen, a ten-sided die (d10), a set of tokens in two colours (beads etc) and a deck of playing cards.”
Recently [well over-]funded on Kickstarter:
“Lift curses or die trying in the first “choose-your-own-path” exploration board game. 1000+ minutes of adventure for 1 to 4 players.”
From their site:
“…entertaining tabletop games playable in two hours or less. All of our games can be played solo or same side (cooperatively) as well as head-to-head against your friends…“
They offer some free rules in addition to all of the games they sell, with all your favorite genres: fantasy, sci-fi, horror, post-apocalyptic, WWII, “All Things Zombie”, and more.
“The ENnie Award-winning Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! is designed as an introductory game that lets you start playing in less than 10 minutes … two or more friends can join your adventures, but you can also grab all the glory for yourself since it’s playable as both a solitaire and multiplayer game.”
How to Host a Dungeon is a solo game of dungeon creation where you build a dungeon through its history from the dawn of time. When you complete your game, you have a dungeon history and map suitable for a dungeon crawling role-playing game or just your own enjoyment.
“Combines dungeon crawling and hex crawling in one great package. Attempts to tackle investigation games in city locations. “
“The genre, card art, and game mechanics make for a near perfect gaming experience.”
“Diceless, online, free, usable with any genre. Like Quill and English Eerie, it is a story-telling/journal game. I have played it more than any other which makes it my personal best. It also got a lot of exposure in #SGAM2017 and I hope to see more people take advantage of it…“
There are plans to expand and improve it!
“It was like playing a war game and role playing at the same time. I cared for the lives of my men. Very replayable.”
Made by Avalon Hill (now a subsidiary of Hasbro / Wizards of the Coast), who made many solitaire games, some of which are out of print, so check out eBay.
“It allows me to scratch my roleplaying itch in a way no other solo game has so far. It is truly open to fully explore ideas (missing - for me - from games like the D&D board games, which I still like as board games) while giving me the complete story structure I was missing when trying to solo roleplay with other systems. It’s a brand new game that has already become my #1 favorite game (both solo and coop).”
“I just started playing “Untold” November 11, 2017 but the structure helps facilitate good solitaire storytelling…“
“Because of the rules…even if you are not aquainted to the universe of dr who, the rules allows you to get a great story.”
“Dungeon Scum: One of the few rpgs with a built in solo system. Much simpler (in a good way) than other solo approaches, but with enough complexity in mechanics to suggest and inspire story and character. Only thing I can imagine preferring to it is a second edition of Starport Scum (purely as a sci-if flavoured nerd) with a similar sort of frame as Dungeon Scum has around Delves. The game that has allowed me to play the campaigns I’ve always wanted to play. 10/10.”
“The afore-mentioned Starport Scum is [also] good, though the framework is looser.”
“Lightweight; relies on creative limits to provide guidance in lieu of a stream of oracle questions.”
Some Additional Commentary from the Community
“I like Scarlet Heroes Solo variant, and free form RPGing with the GMA cards. For board games: Mage Knight and Eldritch Horror are both fantastic and deep, with a lot of expansions.”
“Scarlet Heroes is arguably as good as Dungeon Scum, but offers a more old school rpg style and complexity. Using the solo rules in Scarlet Heroes for Urban/Wilderness adventures with Dungeon Scum is something I’ve been meaning to try.”
“Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror: The Card Game are worth their weight in gold for atmosphere and the stories that come up during play.”
“a shout out for MISO and Microscope, both of which are brilliant and exceptionally fun story games (though of course, MISO can be useful as a solo engine in rpgs, or a good rpg itself)”