Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ultra-minimalist, high-speed solo rpg

Wow! Twice in one day!

With some unplanned open time gracing me, I've given some more thought about my plight: that of having no time, but still wanting get some gaming in. The Nine Questions system has been a wonderful tool, but still tends to take me a long time to get through. I think I've been able to complete only one entire adventure once in a single three-hour session. Mostly, it's been piecemeal.

I've tinkered with some of the essentials of John's 9Q's several times. The structure it produces is very satisfying. I also like some of the unpredictability of Mythic GME as well. Where the 9Q's often feels like a complete film or play, Mythic can wander it's way and feel more like a novel.

Today I picked up a very free-form GM-less system I've tossed around and tweaked it, and gave it a playtest. I call it the "Chapter System", a very loose and simple set of guidelines to create a novel-like play experience generating something like a chapter...which needn't be fully conclusive, and over time, can lead to some arcs.

Chapter System

This is a simple scene framing plot constructor that creates and connects simple chapter-like arcs.
  1. Introduce an element. Use some cubes, draw a card, look at a picture. This is either benign, hostile, or completely neutral (but may pop up again later). Create a scene setup and run it.
  2. Introduce a hostile element or obstacle unrelated to point #1. Create a scene setup and run it, or, if it makes more sense, attach it to the previous scene.
  3. Introduce a twist of the elements above (substitute elements generated from previous chapters if fitting better). As always, this is a new scene, or attached to the previous one.
  4. Conclude the chapter when the protagonist either resolves the threat or reaches a critical impasse (unable to proceed until aid or escalation intervenes). As always, this can be a new scene, or attached to the events of those established before. If it ends in an impasse, it forms a cliffhanger.
Note that the order of points 1 and 2 above may be freely interchanged. A list of elements that arise out of play may be useful for future "chapters". Repeat chapters until a clear threat to a character’s personal or heroic motivation(s) arises. This could be story arc #1. The following chapters should gravitate toward a shocking twist, revelation, or betrayal and an escalation of threats, forming story arc #2. The final arc should begin when the road to resolution is visible and within grasp when it pertains to the overarching plot, and should conclude when all major threads are resolved. Freely use any random generator to create motivations of NPCs, which may be actual, or false. One may impose a 4-6 paragraph limit to the exercise of noting chapters.

Anyway, that's it. I tried a quick run through and it took about an hour to write out. While it can eventually lead to a good-length "novel", it is broken into fairly manageable bits. I'll post results later.


  1. Another great solo rules! I'm looking forward to trying it out also.