Monday, March 2, 2015

Solo Role-Playing Series Part 7: Our Example Continues, but Now with Open Ended Questions

Admit it, you didn't think I'd get this post on Monday. OK, OK, depending on where you live, I didn't make it but it's still Monday where I live. as I write this. I'm counting it.

When we last left our hero, he was getting nowhere fast with a village lass, and so he had decided to return to the old man in the tavern for more info. You might choose to play these things out in more or less detail, depending on the experience you want to have. Since we're still in scene 2 of the Five Scene Model, I wanted to advance things along a little bit. 

I am using the same 1d6 system for Yes/No questions:

1 yes and
2-3 yes but
4-5 no but
6 no and

But I'll be using some oracles as well to illustrate how I might use them.

Scene  2: Continued 

Lugar heads to tavern, is the old man still there?

I roll a 2, which is a "Yes, but".

Since he's a village elder,  I immediately imagine people come to see him with problems and such and figure the 2 means he’s busy. For some unknown reason, I see him as being irritated that Lugar is back so soon.

My notes:
2 - yes but he’s busy and seems irritated that Lugar is back.

Lugar isn’t keen on being the cold shoulder and demands the old man meet with him if he wants his village protected.

This seems like an Ego vs Ego check but I also noted in my file, what kind of game is this old man playing? 

I'm suspicious, and while it might be nothing, this will serve as a reminder that there's something about this old guy that might bear investigating.

As for the Ego contest, Lugar has a d6 for Ego, but what about the old man?

Well, he’s an old man, and perhaps reflecting my hope that I will be an old man someday (I doubt I'll give out quests but you never know), i’ll just assume that makes him wiser than most. Conversely, he is probably not as strong as a younger man, meaning the d10 is not going to be in Action but it might be in Wits or Ego.

My notes:
1-3 Ego is d8
4-6 Ego is d10

4, of course

d10 = 8

I have no reason to roll my d6, i can't beat that.

My notes:

Lugar waits for the old man to finish with whatever was keeping him and he finally meets with Lugar to answer his questions.

What does the old man tell Lugar?

An open ended question!

For my first oracle, I decided I'd start with a tarot deck. Not having one handy, I went online and drew three cards for the old man's store:  Page of Wands, Justice, 8 of pentacles

In my notes, I record the story the old man tells Lugar, which I generated based on the three images:

The bandit prince was a village son - he was accused of stealing a small sum from a traveling merchant. He claimed it was a demon that had come from an old abandoned well, but no one believed him. He ran away, swearing vengence on us. Over time he raised an army of from children of the surrounding villages, trained them and himself, and turned to a life of banditry.

Lugar wants to know if there is any truth to the demon story. he asks. 

I rolled a 1, to my surprise.

1-yes and it has been our shame ever since. 

Of course, I immediately want to know does the demon still haunt the village too?
my notes look like this:

Does the demon still haunt the village?
4 - no but some of the tongue wagglers suggest that it waits for an opportune moment to strike.

Lugar is satisfied with what he has found and finds himself a big tree  on the village edge to sleep in - he's short of coin and he can keep watch at night of the village goings on and maybe even catch an early arrival by the bandits.

Scene 3:

In a 5 - room dungeon, this scene is usually some sort of resource drain. it can be a red herring but it doesn't have to be. Since i’m in the mood for some combat i’m hoping to take this scene in that direction, but i will let Rory’s cubes have the final say. 

How many dice you roll is up to you, but I like 3 dice. It's rare that one of the three results won't be usable and more often, I can use at least 2. Four just seems like too many things to work in:

I get a: Scissors cutting an envelope, a punch card thingy, and sad face

I have no idea what to do with this. 3 seconds or less and I roll again: Foot, Someone looking, Someone shouting

Immediately, I decide this must mean that Lugar awakens to shouting of some villagers and they are looking for someone or something. Notice, I gave up on the first idea, and it really did little to slow me down. 3 seconds, probably less.

I include some generic phrases in my notes, to help me set the scene in the write up, and then, like a good GM,  of course send the thing heading in Lugar's direction:

Catch him, he went that way”

“No, he’s over there!”

Lugar could hear the sound of something crashing through the tall grass, heading in his direction.

But it's dark and I'm not sure what, if anything, Lugar can see.

is he able to see anything?

Because it’s dark,  i decide to modify the die roll with a +1, which will push the response toward a No value. The best he can hope for is a "Yes, but" which seems reasonable given the context.

I rolled a 3, which becomes a 4 with the modifier.

4 - No ,but the sound is getting closer.

Lugar steadies himself on his perch into a crouch, struggling to view whatever may be approaching and preparing to pounce regardless.

The thing nears - does it approach close enough for him to jump onto it?

1 - Yes, and it passes right beneath the limb Lugar crouches  on - he can’t make out the shape exactly but can see the darkness where its body ought to be - he hurls himself at it.

This can be a skill test unopposed, since the thing doesn't seem to know he’s there, or it could be an opposed challenge since it is moving.

I like the latter as it will tell me a bit more about what I'm dealing with:.

My notes:
Lugar: d10, rolls a 10
The thing: Action = 1-2 d6, 3-4 d8, 5-6 d10, but on a 6, re roll and on 1 it’s a d10, 2-3 d12, 4-6 d16 (maybe it’s really strong - and FYI, i made this table up on the spot, just liked I'd do at a table with other people.)
6! son of a!
Followed by a 3. means it has a d12

Fortunately, the d12 comes back with a 1, so Lugar succeeds.

Lugar leaps from his hidden post and brings the thing to the ground

I still have no idea what I've encountered, so I need a way to find out. I could use a wandering monster table, or a monster builder, but I've opted to use Zero Dice:

The crossed claw remind me of X-Men’s Wolverine. Perhaps its some mutant humanoid with great claws that has come down from the mountains and while I’m not sure about the droplet, I can only assume it's probably blood. Great

I type up what I'm picturing, so that later, when i do the write up, I won't forget what I had in mind:

The creature, larger than Lugar was man-like in from, but it’s face had a twisted animal like quality about it,  it’s hands seemed to end in elongated steely claws like long spikes. Lugar could see they glistened dimly with a black wetness.

I'll just copy/paste my notes here:

Lugar: Actions + Wits: 6

wits: 1-2 d6, 3-4 d-8, 5-6
 d10, 6 of course

Creature: d12 + d10 = 8

The creature strikes at him: d12, 7
Lugar rolls his defense, he has dodge so he gets +2:6

1 pt of damage gers though, Lugar is down to 7

Lugar draws his sword and swings
wait, is he able to do so? yes, but it catches enough to void his attack this round

Next round: (rolling again is not the default in USR)

The creature attacks again: d12, 8
Lugar dodges d10+2, 4
So FOUR POINTS GET THROUGH! he’s down to 3

Lugar swings: d10+2,12!
d12 + 2 (i assume a clearly predatory creature like has some sort of bonus for sharp reflexes): 2, so 4
It takes 8 points of damage!

How many hp does it have? 

If you have read any of the Ever Expanding Dungeon, you probably know I have an entire system for maintaining surprise for hit points, but I haven't introduced that here yet. For now, let’s just do it the old fashioned way.

I roll the thing's hp: A+W: d12+ d10 = 6
The creature roars as it collapses in a bloody puddle at the barbarian’s feet.

As always the "WOOO!!!!" is in my notes.

At this point I would write the narrative up, but I'm going to stop here or I won't make my self-imposed deadline!


  1. "Because it’s dark, i decide to modify the die roll with a +1, which will push the response toward a No value. The best he can hope for is a "Yes, but" which seems reasonable given the context."

    You could roll two dice and take the highest score. Then there's a remote chance of a 'Yes, And' result.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kaptain Kobold! That would be a great thing to do do in a situation where you want to allow a near impossible odds. It could be that stroke of luck that saves the PC's bacon.

  2. Lugar got it -- whatever it is (and before Monday midnight too -- I'm also in the Pacific time zone).

    -- Jeff

    1. I have no idea what it is - which i like. Unfortunately, this week, I'm less likely to get my post up in remotely enough time. But i'm going to try!

  3. This series is a great read, thank you! I think you will someday be an old man giving out quests. Me, I will give out wooden swords telling little kids it's dangerous to go alone sending them into much peril with only a wooden sword to protect them. Dang whipper snappers!

    1. Thanks, Scott! Make sure you shake your fist at them as they leave and tell them to get off the lawn!

  4. I'm really enjoying this series. I only wish I had time to actually continue my own solo game.

    1. Thanks, Chris! I've had the most success with gaming in short periods of time (say less than 20 minutes) with using a structured approach (5-Room Dungeon, Or the 9Qs, although for the 9Qs i would often have to take only a part of each question at a time) rather than the very expansive sandbox approach I use for the EED.

  5. Just discovered this series (a link was posted on the Mythic Yahoo group). Really good - I hope you don't mind that I'm archiving it to my private wiki for future reference...

    1. Hi Redwood, thanks for commenting. Archive away! If you have any thoughts or suggestions for the series, please feel free to make them.

  6. I just came here via the Mythic link as well. This is awesome stuff. :) Thank you!

    From one of your earlier posts, you mentioned Lovecraftian horror in passing. I was wondering if you had any tips for playing it solo? On the surface it seems less suitable than some other genres. How do you create a sense of mystery? I'd appreciate any insight, as it's a personal favorite.

    1. Hi Zack,

      Thanks for stopping by and for the compliment.

      I have a post on mysteries in the queue for this series - I'll bump it up to next Monday or maybe this Friday.

      I admit I've played them less often than fantasy adventures, but I've had success each time in terms of scaring myself :D I believe there's something in common between mysteries and playing for the sake of exploration in a sandbox type environment.

      I think for Lovecraft type games, exploring the world looking for answers, and meeting unexpected strangeness for which there are none (or difficult to fathom answers) is quite possible if you are open to whatever the oracle of choice gives you (and throwing your protagonist into physical or psychological danger in the process). I'll have more in the post, and I'll encourage others to chime in.

      Thanks again!

  7. Thank you for this blog. I'm new to table top RPG & this aided me in understanding the concepts & how to play.