Over the last couple of years, I’ve been dipping my toe into the world of tabletop role playing games (TTRPGs), and I honestly can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover how much fun they are.
When it comes to games, I am definitely more of a board game lover. I don’t particularly like combat in video games– I find losing/dying stressful. I was worried that Dungeons and Dragons would feel like that.
Instead I discovered how fun it could be to roll dice and tell a story together. I’m so used to writing alone, it’s amazing to sit around a computer screen (sadly not a table), and hear people’s creativity flow through their characters.
And as I’ve gotten involved in the genre, I’ve seen that there’s way more to it than just the big title games. There is room for everyone and every interest in role playing games, and I love finding small creators that are creating their own worlds, experimenting with mechanics, and that have evocative and interesting artwork.
I’ve been exploring smaller zines and one category within role playing games that I really enjoy is solo games. Mostly these take the form of a journaling experience where you pretend to be the character and react to different random elements. Some of them are less games than meditation exercises and journaling prompts.
I’ve had the opportunity to start amassing quite a collection of them on itch.io after supporting some social justice bundles, and I thought it would be fun to share reviews of the games. But why would you want to play a “game” like this in the first place? Here are five reasons to try solo games!
You’re New to Role Playing Games and Want to See What It’s All About
Although solo RPGs often don’t have the same structure and mechanics of games like D&D, a lot of people have told me what actually makes them nervous about RPGs is the role play. It’s the improv and having to be a character. If this is the part that concerns you, solo games let you learn to inhabit a character, come up with creative ideas, and get a feel for world building without the social pressure of a bigger group. And also there’s less time commitment–only what you want to give to it.
You Need Some Inspiration
I like to use solo RPGs to inspire my poetry. I think of it a lot like writing prompts that let me experiment with new ideas and forms of expression. But solo RPGs can be used to inspire all sorts of creative expression. You can use it for fiction and writing inspiration, but also for visual arts to explore characters, settings, or feelings. You can let it inspire costuming for an event, reorganization of your home, or let it inspire some self-care. Whatever your medium and preferred form of expression, role play allows you to try out different ideas and decisions in a low-stakes way while providing enough structure to encourage creativity.
You Want a Chance to Journal and Reflect
Expanding on the self-care and self-awareness idea, solo RPGs allow you to consciously take time to write and reflect. Use your character to explore a problem you’re having with a friend–from the friend’s point of view. Use a world that is complex and harsh to discover your own resilience. Or use a cozy setting to give yourself a moment of calm and an opportunity to process. I really think role play can be a great way to get to know yourself and the journaling focus of most of the solo games really brings that home.
I would advise you to be really gentle with yourself though–journaling is an opportunity for growth and recognition–but can also be a lot to deal with emotionally. Check in with yourself as you play. In group sessions we talk about what makes people uncomfortable–what are lines not to cross. Solo play should be treated the same way.
Your Regular Group is Taking Too Long to Meet Between Sessions
Maybe you already play a TTRPG with a group, but life is busy and it’s hard to coordinate people’s schedules. Solo games let you role play between sessions, letting you be creative and further develop your improvisational skills. And since you can role play as whatever character you like, it can also be a way to explore the character you play regularly.
You Love Stories and Want to Create Your Own
Playing games is all about interacting with a story and an environment. If you’re a reader of this blog, it’s probably because you like stories. Books and films are great, but the story is already written and you’re inhabiting it. Games allow you a little more agency. While video games often require a degree of hand-eye coordination and specific literacies to play (ones which I sorely lack), RPGs allow you to explore new worlds, ideas, and characters with few materials and skills that readers already have–they are interactive stories but you don’t have to start writing from scratch.
Do you play RPGs? If so, what do you enjoy about them? If not, is there something that makes you hesitant to start playing?