thread: 2005-03-16 : Solo Play and Kid Play

On 2005-03-16, Tobias wrote:

Ed (and all)—

[Rambling ON]

Yeah, they're a strange duck, aren't they? And unless you go into Solo-Books or CRPG, keeping track of all that happened (if you insist on doing so, perhaps in the hope of building on it) could be a chore.

Your comment about memory is a good one, though. I've been experimenting and puzzling with some bits:

- the (fallible and flexible) memory of 1 player
- logbooking

On this, I've tried some tricks - for instance, in a game I was designing that's been mentioned on the Forge (YGAD), I had something called the Bag - which was a drawing-bag that determined success or failure, but could also yield special event stones. That's become something else (actually, a DitV variant), but from the conversations held at that time, I've retained the thought that a 'bag' might be used as some sort of memory. Another thing I've been experimenting with are memory tiles as a form of challenge to the player (a form of randomisation combined with a personally challenging mechanic). Fang Langford also wrote an interesting piece in Iron Game Chef - Simulationism (on the Forge). I'm pondering if you can't have a Code of Unaris-style 'system' that hacks a few the words in the logbook you use (randomly), as you try to keep the 'story' consistent, adding what you like, but forced to keep creative to incorporate the hacks the system throws at you.

But that's me flailing away at creating a game. Let's go back a bit to first causes.

In keeping with dispensing of theory and just talking about what happens, I'm not going to bother to see whether 1-person roleplaying is possible by definition - I'm just trying to see whether a method of play that is close to indistinguishable from it will is possible.

In the beginning, there was the player, and the player was one and all-powerful.

Without any rules, the player can dream up everything and has no limits on the story he can create. Fantasy. Not a 'game', though.

Fantasy's fun, and I used to do it a lot as a kid (still do, I'm happy to say). Mostly, though, they were little snippets that i thought were cool. Recreating something I saw on TV, adaptation of something from a book, a bit of power-fantasy for yourself in your own social circle (I often entertained myself with books and fantasy, but also wished I'd be more popular).

They were little snippets, story fragments, mostly. Why they weren't longer, I don't know. I'm not really knowledgeable on child development (no kids, no learning). Maybe the fragment was cool enough on it's own? Maybe I wasn't sophisticated enough to build elaborate structures - or it wasn't worth it to me? Perhaps it was all meaningless without something, someone, to relate it to, test it's worth (on the other hand, no-one could condemn me for my fantasy, right? I was free.)?

Now, at least, I think I need some form of challenge, either from another player, from reality (building the highest possible stack, jumping farthest, etc.), or from the game itself (solitaire, or chess against an AI could be considerd a whole game, for example).

In the solo-game, how do you build that challenge? Well, you could introduce some dice that oppose some values you write down on a paper ('character'), and see how often your character beats those rolls depending on whatever rules you write when and how to roll. You could tune that very finely to give exactly the rate of success, variance, failure, you desire. If you introduce alternative options (tactics) that may or may not lead to success, you've got yourself a game, which you can play.

If you want to call that character a 'role', you've got a 'role' playing game - but it might as well be called a 'tactical personnel choice' game. (No slurs or opinions on D&D implied, btw).

So, getting into that role, or, at least, caring about some (human) aspect of that character - or the story that develops from the rolls and free tactical choices of a large part of my creativity, would be required for me to experience it as close enough to 'roleplaying' - and thus a worthwile roleplaying experience.

Any reasons for 'caring' relating to other people (overcoming opposition, peer appreciation, etc.) disappear when you are alone. You could try to create 'another you' and simulate two agenda's at the same time. You could also make some of the tests, difficulties, be self-referential (memory?!), and thus appreciate your own creativity in overcoming opposition or your power of memory.

I'm floundering. There will be no nice conclusion to this post. Still, the process might be worth something. Just warning you in advance.

Roleplaying (with a group) can be a (masked) challenge game to me, or I can explore "what's important". (It's tempting to refer to theory here, but let's keep it this simple - this is what tickles me).

Solo challenge games exist a plenty. I'm sure there are also story-writing games (and I'd appreciate links to RPG-esque variants!). There are 1-person CRPGs. I've tried to use Universalis as a 1 person 'story building' game by faking several 'positions' and 'agendas' and seeing if the randomisation in coin expenditure would force me to be creative in ways I wouldn't have expected - but it doesn't (which is a failure in my expectations, not in Universalis).

I haven't found that solo-RPG that uses my own creativity, makes me care about the characters (they're all mine, aren't they?), challenges me, etc. I'd like to find it (even if it only fullfills some of the wishes).

Right now, I'm thinking some kind of logbooking game that hits close to home and uses a Code-of-Unaris word hacking scheme on the lines you write yourself might be something. Gotta do a lot of writing, yeah, but the physical result might be something fun to have as well. Like Fang Langford's game, encourage doodling, drawing, etc. (I've already considered a rule that pictures/drawings would be unhackable by the game (since it can only hack words in sentences), which would force me to draw a little more, which I've always wanted to do anyway). Like Fang's game, it's a game that would take on the shape of the person playing it.

[Rambling OFF]

Hope someone got something from that.


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