Solo Roleplaying for The Fantasy Trip, Part III

Solo Roleplaying for The Fantasy Trip

(If you have not read Part I and Part II of this series, please do).

Now that I have established some rules for playing The Fantasy Trip solo, it’s time to put them together in an adventure. The first one I am going to go through is the classic, Death Test I.

The Adventure

What better adventure to play, really, than Death Test? It may not have been the first play-by-number adventure, but it was the first Micro-adventure published by Metagaming, way back in 1978. I thought about designing my own adventure, but Death Test just seemed right.

The biggest difference between Death Test and a home-grown adventure is that Death Test is most definitely geared towards combat, not roleplaying. That’s one thing to keep in mind. (There is even a line in Death Test II that reads “…You are not here to negotiate, idiot.”)

Another difference is the play-by-number or choose-your-adventure format. The solo rules I wrote are obviously very different than that format. That’s another thing to keep in mind.

The question is how to integrate my TFT solo rules with Death Test, while introducing enough randomness to keep things fresh and fun. The solution is to provide the map of the labyrinth, randomize the rooms and then let the Oracle and Interesting Tables introduce unexpected change.

How to Play

First, go to the Death Test I adventure. Read it through.

OK. The adventure has the same premise and starting point as the original. Now set up your characters and enter the Test…

From here, move from room to room. Play the room if it is preset. The first (Red) and last (Violet) rooms are the only preset rooms. The rest are not. For rooms that are not preset, roll 3 dice and look up the appropriate room. Follow the instructions for that room. If a room has already been played, roll again (or just choose one).

If a character wants to know some info about the room, or tries to exit, roll on the Oracle Table. Make the results fun. For example, if the result is “Yes” then the character leaves the room. If the result is “No” then he doesn’t. If the result is “Yes, But” then that character leaves, but the following one doesn’t. If the result is “No, Interesting” do something crazy, like the character does not pass, and takes a hit of electrical damage in the process. Note: After the room is cleared, characters should be able to leave freely.

After a room is cleared, roll 3d on the Oracle Table. The question being answered is “Is there anything interesting in the room?”

If the answer is not interesting, roll for Treasure and move on. If the answer is “Yes, Interesting” or “No, Interesting” roll on the Interesting Table. Come up with an idea that matches the result. Be creative. It could be a minor magic item left on the body of a previous adventurer, or a useful potion.

When you get to the exit, follow the stairs up to the testing officer’s room and score your performance.

Lastly, you don’t have to, but it is fun to write up the story of the adventure. A lot of the fun in this method is the storytelling aspect. Just writing down the events and your decisions can go a long way in going down that road, and may encourage you to write more down.

The Gory Details

OK, let’s talk. If you haven’t read the Design Notes for the adventure. Do that now.

So why play Death Test this way, and not the original way?

The drawback of this format is the lack of some surprise. The map is already laid out, so some elements of the exploration are known ahead of time. In the original, you got to explore the unknown. Another drawback is that this format relies a lot on the player writing much of the story elements when Interesting things happen. The original game had everything spelled out for you. And that was the trouble. After a few games, you knew everything.

The benefit of this format is you get some surprises back each time you play. Granted, most of the randomization comes from room placement and stats generation, but there are more rooms in the list of rooms than on the map, and the room contents get randomized more.

Another benefit–and I think this is a big one–is that the adventure has been taken out of the play-by-number format and into a more natural roleplaying game one. You are not limited to 2 or 3 options–you have a ton more flexibility in what your characters can do.

And those in a nutshell are the benefits and drawbacks of solo gaming. Unless you completely generate every aspect of an adventure with random dice rolls, you will have some foreknowledge of the adventure. The fun comes from having some fun designing the adventure, and more fun playing it.

This way of playing may not be for everyone, to be honest. I like it, though, for a couple of reasons: I don’t have anyone to play with, so I am forced to play solo, and I still get the creative fun of worldbuilding and adventure crafting like a normal GM. I still get some surprises, but I’m having fun playing. And that is what is important.

So–what do you think? Is this format worth it for an adventure like Death Test? Am I crazy or just doing it wrong? Let me know.

Oh, and I will be posting a home-grown adventure in a few weeks that is geared more towards roleplaying that just combat!

Marko ∞

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