If you weren’t aware, some of us inadvertently spawned an official Solo-A-Module Month over at the Lone Wolf Roleplaying G+ group, giving March a thematic focus on soloing published modules, sharing tactics for doing so, and publishing actual play reports. As you may know, my first solitaire role-playing experience was an attempt to solo a module, and, while it was entertaining, it wasn’t nearly as meaningful or immersive as the free-form, emergent play I’ve experienced since.
I’d always hoped to return to module play with a better strategy for bringing it up to snuff with those emergent play sessions. I think, for many of us solo role-players, it can be a sort of Holy Grail to sit down with a classic module and a handful of dice and experience it in the same immersive way a group of players would, but in many ways that’s simply not an attainable reality. That doesn’t stop us from trying, though, and it certainly doesn’t stop us from having fun, even if it means we carve up the module and Frankenstein it back together into something nearly unrecognizable.
For that reason alone, I think modules can serve as a wonderful resource for soloists. A lot of times, while our imaginations can run wild with an idea, it can be a chore to sit down with a blank sheet of paper or computer screen and actually get that ball rolling. There are so many RPGs, settings, GM emulators, and other tools, it can be overwhelming to decide on which ones to mix and match, much less come up with a conflict for our characters to resolve.
A module brings that to the table — a problem to solve — even if you don’t follow the script, and it plants the seeds of inspiration and imagination just by attracting the desire to play it. As an added bonus, it eases other burdens in the process, often providing unique monsters, NPCs, locations, and items, and, furthermore, typically includes a fair share of random charts and other tools or generators that can be utilized for room contents, wandering monsters, treasures, and other things.
So, while it does present its own unique set of challenges to avoid “railroading” your own darn self (which hurts more than a GM doing it) and it’s impossible to attain the same dynamic of a GM’d group play, I feel like module soloing is totally a worthwhile endeavor — even if you only try it once a year. So, if you’ve been hesitating, content to sit back and read along, here’s your call to action: go #Solo-a-Module and tell someone about it!
My Black Blade Solo Play
I’ve said it before, but I think this module is “easy” to solo, in the sense that it’s not your traditional linear module, as many of the classic D&D modules can often present. The setup is randomized, several key plot points have multiple options for how they play out, and there’s a unique bestiary of foes, all lending strength to your ability as a soloist to “surprise” yourself.
As such, I feel like it’s all gone pretty swimmingly — even better than expected. I’ve generated things as I’ve went, and used Mythic on occasion to further stifle the potential for spoilers, keeping the mystery and intrigue flowing. UNE helps to lend further inflection to NPCs’ intentions, giving more meat to the story that isn’t predetermined. I hope to find more modules that present in this fashion, and I’ve even been working on a similar project myself, which hopefully will see the light of day eventually.
Given all that, I really want to try a more conventional, classic D&D module next, to see if I can use similar ideas and tactics to turn the “railroad” journey into a seat-of-the-pants road trip that still sees the same sights along the way. I have a handful of official BD&D and 1e adventures lying about my hard drive, but I’m really interested in trying out one of the original 1979 Judge’s Guild modules The Caverns of Thracia or Dark Tower, both designed by Jenelle Jaquays. Then again, there are so many TSR modules I want to experience as well — bah!… it’s always so hard to decide.
In any case, I don’t expect I’ll ever run out of RPG material to consume. Now, back to Black Blade.