Fantasy Fisticuffs: Solo RP gaming exists, and it’s good!

Playing one-player games might sound impossible, but some have not only made it work, but made it great!

Let’s face it… 2020 has been wild, and while most of us have made adjustments, our hobby of gaming is one that has always been at its best when we are together.  Through Zoom, Discord, Roll20, or Tabletop Simulator we have been able to capture some of the spirit of those games we love, but for many of us, losing the analog vibe just makes the whole experience feel strange.

While the Fantasy Fisticuffs team has been fortunate enough to be hunkered down with our own built-in gaming group, we appreciate that most will have to have turned to alternative, with many coming away disappointed.

For those Lone Wolves (obscure Joe Dever reference here), there is hope.  Solo gaming is very much a thing, and we’re here to share a couple examples of the best.

Before getting to those, however, let me add this…  A surprising amount of RPGs have official and fan-made supplements with solo rules.  Everything from 5E to Traveller and everything in between has some support for “Oracles”, essentially a way of asking questions of a virtual GM, and interpreting its answer.  These vary in quality, but if you have a system you adore, it may be a viable way to run it solo.

As to games built from the ground up for solo play, here are some favorites…

Ironsworn by Shawn Tomkin:

For the shocking price of FREE, Shawn Tomkin’s Ironsworn is absolutely incredible.  Channeling the best of narrative-first RPGs, this rules-lite system adds just enough structure to keep you from feeling like you are just day-dreaming.  Built from the ground up to use the concept of Oracles as mentioned above, the system does a surprisingly robust job of helping guide your broad story ideas, and creating fully fleshed out adventures.

Mechanically the game evokes “Powered by the Apocalypse” inspired systems to allow you to describe both good and bad outcomes from the specific times it will ask you to make rolls.  Players of Dungeon World and its siblings will recognize a structure built around playbooks, which provide concrete resolution to the places your imagination and the game’s Oracles take you.

Having tested the system several times, I genuinely surprised myself with twists and turns, and each session felt like a proper game had happened, and also left me wanting more.

If you love it, be sure to consider its paid expansion “Delve” which adds great dungeon adventures, but more importantly, rewards a talented creator for his generosity and hard work.

4 Against Darkness by Andrea Sfiligoi:

If you are hungry for some proper, old-school Dungeons and Dragons, this is a system worth looking into.  Harkening back to early days for RPGs, 4 Against Darkness and its million supplements are pure dungeon-hacks taking place in your imagination, and on some graph paper.

Players map out and populate random dungeons, engage in combat, look for traps, and essentially every trope you can imagine.  Free of everything but pure adventure trappings allows the system of procedurally generated adventures to feel authentic, and dangerous.

Combat has just the right amount of tactical depth to resolve quickly and intuitively, while making different classes and gear feel diverse and relevant.  

Best of all is the aforementioned mountain of supplements ranging from new classes, to whole quest-lines, and more.  For the price of a cup of coffee you can conceivably add hours to your entertainment, and cross-compatibility means every purchase just makes your world bigger and deeper.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Mark Gottlieb

Writer, Game Designer, and owner of Fortunate Sun Studios, I have always tried to lead a life in some way built around paying back to gaming, and the gaming community. This hobby, and everyone in it, saved my life on more than a few occasions, and now I get to put my heart into helping it thrive for everyone!
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