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Author Topic: Vague Thoughts On Simulation & Solos & Stuff  (Read 1306 times)
ejh
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« on: October 22, 2002, 06:23:55 AM »

My first roleplaying game was Tunnels & Trolls (back in a time called the Nineteen Hundred and Seventies).  It had a wonderfully simple game system, especially for the time, and its glory was the solo adventures.

I've stayed addicted to simple game systems, and really enjoy things like Donjon from Clinton R Nixon and Trollbabe and Sorcerer from Ron Edwards, and many of the other games on the Forge.

Unfortunately, I don't get a gaming group together often at all, and to be honest, I've always been kind of a hermit.  Enjoying roleplaying games for the Simulationist fun of using them to create characters and explore worlds.

Is that Simulationist?  I think it is.  When I care more about the characters' existence than their stories?  But it's not the kind of simulationism that takes joy in byzantine rules structures and copious details.  I still like simple systems and high level views.  The kind of rules systems which are associated with Narrativist play.

Most of those rules wouldn't be very good in a solo setting because they depend heavily on interactivity, on one person's narrative power balancing another person's narrative power.

I guess I'm wondering if anyone knows of a simple system design that *would* be appropriate for designing Tunnels & Trolls-like solo adventures, or else would lend itself to other kinds of solo-type play, for example, the joyous random generation of animals and worlds and the design of starships in Traveller.  Those are kinds of fun you don't see that much in roleplaying games these days.

Just some vague thoughts.  Anyone else enjoy that kind of solo play and thought about  what kind of simple, elegant rules systems might be designed to encourage it?

(Hope this is the right board for this topic.  I had a hard time picking one. :)
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ejh
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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2002, 06:30:39 AM »

I see this topic has already received some attention. :)

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3929

I'll check that out before talking any more about it!
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Kester Pelagius
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2002, 07:24:08 AM »

Greetoings ejh,

And welcome to the wondrous world of The Forge.

Quote from: ejh
I guess I'm wondering if anyone knows of a simple system design that *would* be appropriate for designing Tunnels & Trolls-like solo adventures, or else would lend itself to other kinds of solo-type play, for example, the joyous random generation of animals and worlds and the design of starships in Traveller.  Those are kinds of fun you don't see that much in roleplaying games these days.



Can't think of any solo RPG authoring systems at the moment.  Doesn't mean they don't exist, just that my imp of memory has no information.

Of course the best place to find simplicity in solo game design is in gamebooks.  Don't have any used bookstores in your area that carries them you say?

Well then here's a Gambook link for you.  The files are in PDF format.  Word of caution, set your browswer to HIGH security.  Pop ups galore.  Last time I checked, which was long ago.  Great site for oldie game reviews.  That's what I use it for.  (Why are you looking at me like that?  No, really, I go there just for the articles!)

Also some of Joe Dever's books are freely available online.  Check the "game books" section of your favorite search engine web directory out for links.

A few search querries that seemed to turn up decent looking results were "solo roleplaying" and "solo gaming".  I tried a few other variations, but these looked the most promising.


Kind Regards.
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"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri
RobMuadib
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2002, 01:43:38 PM »

Quote from: ejh

Unfortunately, I don't get a gaming group together often at all, and to be honest, I've always been kind of a hermit.  Enjoying roleplaying games for the Simulationist fun of using them to create characters and explore worlds.

Is that Simulationist?  I think it is.  When I care more about the characters' existence than their stories?  But it's not the kind of simulationism that takes joy in byzantine rules structures and copious details.  I still like simple systems and high level views.  The kind of rules systems which are associated with Narrativist play.

Most of those rules wouldn't be very good in a solo setting because they depend heavily on interactivity, on one person's narrative power balancing another person's narrative power.


Hmm, you bring up some interesting questions with regard to creation/design "play", something that my own game focuses on as a prime aspect. The focus of play you mention has always been an interest of mine. But you do bring up the dichotomy.

On the one hand, you have the "design for effect" type meta-systems, with fairly simple design architectures. Something along the lines of Champions, at the heavy end of design for effect, while probably DC Heroes/Blood Of Heroes has the most streamlined Design for effect rules system. allowing you to come up with your cool blasters or whatever with minimal rules mussing, the old Advanced Marvel Super Heroes had a basic system that worked ok for this stuff too. Similar systems are ones such as the Mek creation rules in Mekton or Heavy Gear, as well as the design "systems" for Big Eyes, Small Mouth (Big Starships, Cool Robots, I believe their main gearbook is called.) Or the powers system from CORPS. Another extreme end of this design for effect design aspect was Aria, which featured a relatively simple in mechanics, but complex in detail creation system for Race/Cultures, magic, etc.

At the other end you, have detailed "Design for Cause" type systems, such as GURPS vehicles/Robots, CORPS Vehicles, Guns, Guns Guns, and the old Fire Fusion and Steel supplement for Traveller (one of the most complicated deals ever.) This represents the serious gearhead end of the spectrum, where people are dealing with the actual operations and mechanics of the systems they are modeling. This is of course the most laborious to work with, not to mention tough to design, since you have to learn all the relevant info to create it.



Quote from: ejh

I guess I'm wondering if anyone knows of a simple system design that *would* be appropriate for designing Tunnels & Trolls-like solo adventures, or else would lend itself to other kinds of solo-type play, for example, the joyous random generation of animals and worlds and the design of starships in Traveller.  Those are kinds of fun you don't see that much in roleplaying games these days.

Just some vague thoughts.  Anyone else enjoy that kind of solo play and thought about  what kind of simple, elegant rules systems might be designed to encourage it?

(Hope this is the right board for this topic.  I had a hard time picking one. :)


As I mentioned above, I enjoy that aspect of RPG play/design. Seeing your imagination given shape through the vehicle of the rules.  I would say that DC heroes or Traveller were probably the best for these situations. With the old traveller the best. in terms of simplicity combined with detail. Such design elements have certainly fallen by the wayside, in the race for more story oriented play. I still believe it is quite fun to immerse yourself in the "stuff" of another existence as well, not just the stories of another life.


As I stated, one of the design goals of my system is to encourage this type of play, though it is done cooperatively and opened up to all the players. So not just the GM gets to design the cool toys and great special effects.

My "Design Architecture" is going to elegant, but not particularly simple, it will feature several categories of "Design Frameworks" for the different elements of the gameworld, working somewhere between DC heroes streamlined sparse AP stats, the comprehensive flexible powers of Champions/Hero System, and the rich detailed design of Aria and guns, guns, guns.  So you might have Culture/Race framework, a Technology framework, a Meta-ability Framework, a Vehicle Framework, a Weapon Framework, etc. All of which will require a great deal of detail, even if handled fairly abstractly. I am shooting for verisimilitude and consistency over authentic detail and exacting design specifications, foregoing the road of Vehicles and other such design systems.

I don't know if I much answered your questions, but at least I provided some additional grist for the discussion with my survey of the "Design Architectures" out there.

HTH

Rob Muadib
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Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games
kwisatzhaderach@wildmusegames.com --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)
ejh
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2002, 06:03:41 PM »

Wow, lots of good ideas in the responses.  Cool.

I guess there are two different foci where solo "rpg" play happens --  the "solo gamebook" type play and the "design-creation" type play, where the rules provide a structure which you can play with to create fictonal entities -- characters, or other things.

The latter seems more interesting at the moment.

Aria would provide a prime example of this if it weren't completely unreadable.  Every so often, loving the *idea* of Aria, I pick up my copy and try to slog through it.  I'm usually clawing my eyeballs out before I'm a quarter of the way through the first chapter.

But a usable, playable, readable alternative to Aria?  That would be a sweet-ass game.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2002, 06:04:47 PM »

About solo gaming:

I've given a bit of though to solo play as well and I think the most important thing to remember is that solo games are a separate animal from RPGs, much like how RPGs are separate from wargaming and CRPGs (computer games). One you keep that in mind, it's easier to discuss solo gaming properly
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ejh
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2002, 06:09:13 PM »

You may think of them as a "different animal entirely" but for someone who started gaming with Tunnels & Trolls, and who played solos more than live action games for the first dozen or so years of his gaming life, they certainly fall within my definition of what an RPG is.

They may not fall within yours.  But I can't agree with your attempt to define them out of the forum like that.

Those benighted D&Ders may not have known the joys of solo play, but we enlightened T&Ters relished it.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2002, 07:22:48 PM »

I should explain. Somewhere along the way, we (or is it I) were trying to define just what, exactly, was an RPG. Among the various defining elements is the social element. RPGs are an activity that you do with other people. Even with your view on solo games, you have to admit that there is a difference in how they play, simply by having more than one person playing.

That is, solos may have most of the trappings you expect from an RPG, and you're a special case since you've said that your early experince was with solos, but what a solo actually does is take those trappings from aan RPG and, well, makes a game out of it.

I think that part of our disagreement seems to come from something in T&T (yeah, I've played that one a bit, too) namely how characters can be part of a "full" campaign, yet "run" through a solo as well. In practice, I've found this to not be the case. The T&T solos ae especially high on rewards. I've known many, many T&T GM's who disallow any solo characters into their games or who would heavily edit such character, removing level and taking away magic items. You milage may have varied, but I've know enough people where this was true.

The main thing is, it's more useful to think of solo games as a separate animal so that play can be tailored to the single player than to have an RPG "suitable for solo play" or such is my belief on the matter for the reason above.
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ejh
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« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2002, 04:31:20 AM »

I guess that makes sense -- that something very different is going on in
solo play than is going on in multiplayer+GM RPGs, and that it's very
difficult to discuss "RPGs" in general if you have to expand the term
to include a guy paging through paragraph 23D of "City of Terrors" on
his lunchbreak.

I don't think the point about solo T&T characters having different
power levels than some live T&T characters matters much, though, in the
big picture, since that's just a particular fact about game balance in a
particular game.

I'm also not totally convinced that the difference between
gamebook-style solo play and the average D&D game is greater than the
difference between the average D&D game and, say, Universalis.

Maybe this brings up a larger point -- and dammit, I wish I'd actually
written up the essays on the semiotics of roleplaying games that I was
mulling over in the late 90s...

The fact is that RPGs historically have used a variety of means to
"explore" (in Ron's sense) their "premises."  Actual play is only one of
them.  Character creation is another huge one, and as has been pointed
out, things happen in character creation that are often fairly radical
from a GNS/Stance point of view.  Creation of background by the GM is
yet another place where exploration happens.  It seems that solo play
(whether in the "adventuring" or in the "world/character creation"
sense) could easily be another.

I mean, what is the Traveller character creation system but a very spare
solo adventure?  And yet it's undeniably part of an RPG.  Why would it
cease to be part of an RPG if someone didn't play the character that was
made that way?

Of course, this is a slippery slope, and I can appreciate not wanting to
slide down it -- if you allow solo play of various kinds, why not start
considering MUDding to be an "RPG"?

But I find boundary pushing interesting and I happen to like solos, so
I'm not too worried about stretching this boundary.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2002, 11:08:19 AM »

Quote from: ejh
Of course, this is a slippery slope, and I can appreciate not wanting to
slide down it -- if you allow solo play of various kinds, why not start
considering MUDding to be an "RPG"?


My point exactly. That's the problem with breaking stuff down like this because people with disagree about all kinds of stuff. It's just more helpful to try to see the differences. Solo play does have a very different way it works from any kind of group game for the simple reason that now you have another live person who can react directly to to the other play's actions. No solo game, be it a book, solo module or what-have-you can cover every possible course of action. They usually place restrictions on the possible actions taken in some way because no matter how well written, a game book cannot improvise like a live GM.

That said, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with solos. It just means they're different. I just find it more useful to think of them as a different animal than as just another way to play an RPG. It is such a unique and clearly visible way to play, that it is worth considering on its own IMO.

But I also kind of understand where you're coming from about this. For a while there I was big on T&T and was working on my own house rules which would allow for solo play as well as mass combat. (I've since given up on this idea and I no longer have my notes, I'm afraid) So, what I'm saying is I used to believe as you do about this, but have since changed my mind. Draw your own conclusions. I leave the converting up to Uncle Ben.

Solos seem to be one of those topics that creep up here on the Forge every once in a while. You might want to do some digging in the forums to read some of those old thread a bit.
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talysman
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2002, 11:13:32 AM »

the thread has drifted kind of far from the original question, hasn't it?

Quote from: ejh

I guess I'm wondering if anyone knows of a simple system design that *would* be appropriate for designing Tunnels & Trolls-like solo adventures, or else would lend itself to other kinds of solo-type play, for example, the joyous random generation of animals and worlds and the design of starships in Traveller.  Those are kinds of fun you don't see that much in roleplaying games these days.


you mentioned Donjon, and it occurred to me that Donjon could be adapted to solo play very easily. you would write one-line descriptions of the chapters and the basic monsters that might be encountered. for the design of each dungeon level, you could use tiles from one of the random dungeon board games (Advanced Hero Quest, for example; seems a number of people have posted homemade tiles for this game on their web pages.) in addition, you would need a table or list of facts -- for when you fail rolls. you might also want a list of basic animals, effects (flame, mist, light, shadow...) and verbs, to allow for a few random monsters.

start in a room with stairs up (the escape route). assume the first room is empty. use a perception stat or something to find an exit to the room (secret door, bash down a thin wall...) if you win the roll, you get to dictate facts... if you fail, the facts are chosen randomly from the fact-table.

you would have to mess with this system to make it work smoothly and provide surprises in solo play. I may try putting something like this together; it would be good practice, since I have always planned on making some kind of almost-nethack-like random dungeon exploration game that could be played solo or with a GMless group.
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John Laviolette
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rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
ejh
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« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2002, 01:04:01 PM »

Topic drift can be fun. :)

I've got to think about this a bit and maybe play some Universalis before I can figure out where it could go from here....
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