Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Manor #1: A Review for Solo Gamers

I love zines - hand produced diy labors of love in print (I'm sorry,while I enjoy e-format only publications, where I'm from, zines are made with dead trees). In grad school, I even incorporated them into my final project for my advanced cataloging course. So, when I stumbled upon blogs talking about The Manor, produced by Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor, I hustled over and ordered a copy.

Some Recent Arrivals
Plenty of others have written up reviews (and mentioned the Umber Hulk poem), so you won't get that here. What I want to do is look at it from the perspective of a solo RPGer.

First off, there's nothing here that's really system specific, although it does lean towards "old school" fantasy. With little effort, you should be able to adapt the stats, when given, to whatever game you use - be it Labyrinth Lord, D&D B/X, USR, Risus, whatever. Ditto for his use of the silver standard.

The included micro adventure, "The Salt Pit", is essentially a dungeon crawl, um, in a salt pit for low level characters. As a discussion on SoloNexus brought up, there are a variety of ways to play a "module" solo.

I chose to play the role of GM, letting Mythic act as a player emulator, thus avoiding the problems having meta-game knowledge might cause. Mythic threw me a curve ball right away when the party (a 1st level Magic User and a 1st level Fighter) came up with a completely unexpected way to meet the objective. It didn't matter in the end. The adventure ended in a TPK - one of those deaths caused by falling damage.

It was a good time and took maybe 2 hours including rolling up my characters in B/X- and the characters missed most of the things they could explore (due to the aforementioned falling). Played this way it was an enjoyable evening's entertainment. In fact, I'm planning to send in another party since the problem still persists.

However, Mr. Shorts has done us solo gamers a favor, perhaps unintentionally.

He has shaded parts of the descriptions - the GM's portion - for each area. Also worked into the adventure, players will have foreknowledge of the general layout of the salt pit. As such, the map doesn't provide as much meta-game knowledge as it could. You could play this as a straight up solitaire crawl - without Mythic or similar - just by avoiding reading the grey sections until you do something that you think merits it.

Of course, it might not be as smooth as randomly generating the contents/encounters, but you can just add a test whether or not the GM's notes are accurate (an idea I've stolen borrowed from J.F. at SoloNexus and the above mentioned post) by using a d6:

1 Yes and ...

2-3 Yes but...

4-5 No but...

6 No and...

Fill in the blanks however you'd like and roll.

As would be expected, the random treasure table for this adventure is usable as is for solitaire play - within this adventure and others (although it is somewhat "specialized" shall we say?)

"20 Random Forest Encounters" could easily be modified for use in a solo hex crawl. Each encounter is sketched out and once again, GM info is in grey, making it easy to avoid reading too much before deciding on your actions. Here, too, I'd make use of the test for accuracy of the GM's info  if you're playing the role of PC and not GM.

Finally, I'll mention the three adventure hooks for the included NPC.

Any one of these hooks can be played as a solo adventure, but the first, "Bugbear Boots" seems to me to lend itself to this the best. "Bugbear Boots" contains little information that the player character couldn't know in advance. Using Mythic, Rory's Story Cubes or whatever you like, there's potential here for a short adventure for a low level party.

The other two will require more modification, as some of the information your character shouldn't have -although a Mythic interrupt or altered scene could make their info moot anyway.
If you have $3.50, I think this is absolutely worth picking up if you play solo. At the very least, you'll be supporting a creative effort that benefits the hobby. Even better, you  get at least two solitaire gaming sessions out of the material included.

For those who prefer e-publications, it's available now as a PDF as well for $2.50.


  1. Thanks for the great review. I'd not heard of Mythic. Sounds interesting. Glad you enjoyed it. Second Manor should be out early July.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Tim! I haven't checked it out in awhile but there's Mythic Yahoo! group that might be worth digging around if you're curious about how people are using the system. I have an example of play ( that gives a walk through of a Mythic session. Can't wait for issue 2!