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Subject: Some questions about solitaire role playing rss

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I've done a lot of role playing back in the day, mostly in White Wolf's World of Darkness (Changeling: The Dreaming, and Werewolf: The Apocalypse) and a little bit of AD&D (second edition, I believe; a few campaigns set in the Dark Sun world).

I've always like role-playing, but I have no idea what a solo RPG session would be like. The fun of RPG for me has always come from the interaction of our individual imaginations, and the development of your character through that. Since (I assume) this is mostly absent in a solo RPG, I can't quite picture what this would be like.

As a teenager I read/played a lot of the Fighting Fantasy books. In fact, I had a near complete set at the time, missing only 2 volumes (which I all gave away many years ago). Somehow, though, I've never considered these RPGs, mostly because there was very little actual role-playing involved.

I'm intrigued by this Guild, and by the idea of solo RPG, even if I don't know why/if I would consider this fun. So here are my questions:

If you are not reading a Fighting Fantasy-type book, how do you come up with the main narrative of the game? I understand there are various ways to deal with specific scenes or encounters (story cubes, tables, etc.), but how do you come up with the broader arc of the adventure itself, and how do you keep that exciting or unpredictable?

I've noticed in some of the reports on SROYT that some of you (seem to) play with multiple characters at once. Is that correct? If so, how do you role-play then--how do you then identify with "your" character in the game?

How do you actually play a solo RPG? How do you go about it? In a normal RPG you essentially tell stories (and roll dice), but how you do all do this solo? Do you write or do it all in your head or speak to yourself or...?

I am intrigued by all this. I'm curious enough to try it out one day, but don't want to invest a lot of money in it. Local charity shops often have RPG books for sale (mostly White Wolf and D&D, regularly some Warhammer, but occasionally lesser known ones too). Is there anything for which I should keep an eye out? Can you go at some of these bigger ones solo? My preference would be for something like what I have done in the past (World of Darkness, mostly), though something like Tales from the Loop looks intriguing too.
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Dave B
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My best pieces of advice are:
1. Look for solo session reports (a good place to start is the monthly SROYT lists). Also look for reports on some of the gaming blogs.
2. If you want to play a single character I can't recommend Scarlet Heroes enough! They used to have a free intro version available and hopefully still do.
3. I also would recommend Mythic Game Master Emulator and The Location Crafter.
4. It can seem overwhelming and/or unlikely to be fun at first, but if you can get into and learn how to do it it can be rewarding and fun.
5. Try not to over-think things, keep it simple to start with, get in quickly, let your imagination go, and have fun.

It also helps if you can find a genre and rules system that interests you.

Good luck!
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darkyeoman wrote:

I am intrigued by all this. I'm curious enough to try it out one day, but don't want to invest a lot of money in it. Local charity shops often have RPG books for sale (mostly White Wolf and D&D, regularly some Warhammer, but occasionally lesser known ones too). Is there anything for which I should keep an eye out? Can you go at some of these bigger ones solo? My preference would be for something like what I have done in the past (World of Darkness, mostly), though something like Tales from the Loop looks intriguing too.
With items like Mythic, The Location Crafter, Instant Game, even Rory's Story cubes, just about any RPG can become "solo." I'm currently working on a 42-year old game to go solo with (Empire of the Petal Throne) and my current time is being spent working on getting familiar with the system.

Once I'm familiar with it, then what I'll plan on doing is setting up a small "one-shot" with a particular target ending. I'll have some locations set up, some encounters set up and some NPCs. Then I'll "become" my party (not sure I'll do one or more characters) and literally write the story as it goes.

That's a little bit why I've done a number of CYOA books recently- figure out where a decision could be made, is it a person or a place, etc. so I can structure a one-shot along the same lines as a single reading of a CYOA. Then I can go back and explore the other "decision points" as other one-shot adventures.

While adventuring, I'll be improving my character- leveling up. That means some future adventures I may have higher level encounters/monsters/places/etc. to deal with.

If you want a start, Four Against Darkness is designed out of the book as a solo RPG game/system. It's PnP, but files are PDF if you want to stay electronic.

So yes, you lose the interaction between characters and the GM. You can lose some of the surprise a real GM may throw at you. But you can play just about anytime, anywhere. And switch it up. Go fantasy for a bit, then space, then old west, then underwater, etc.
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darkyeoman wrote:
If you are not reading a Fighting Fantasy-type book, how do you come up with the main narrative of the game? I understand there are various ways to deal with specific scenes or encounters (story cubes, tables, etc.), but how do you come up with the broader arc of the adventure itself, and how do you keep that exciting or unpredictable?
Whatever you use to replace the GM (Mythic GME, Story Cubes, etc.) will add a lot of excitement and unpredictability to each scene, but they all involve interpreting cues within the context of the narrative that you are slowly developing. As you play more and more individual scenes, a larger picture will start to form in your head. As that picture takes shape, your interpretations of the prompts from the GM will naturally lead you to a larger story line.

darkyeoman wrote:
I've noticed in some of the reports on SROYT that some of you (seem to) play with multiple characters at once. Is that correct? If so, how do you role-play then--how do you then identify with "your" character in the game?
You can play as just one character in most games, or you can play with several. Just a matter of taste. If you play with several it is really no different than rooting for a group of characters in a movie. If you look at my write-ups of my Tales from the Loop adventure, I am super-excited to see how my small group of 3 kids progresses in their adventures. I am not really identifying with a single character. In my Nitrate City game, I am playing a single character.

darkyeoman wrote:
How do you actually play a solo RPG? How do you go about it? In a normal RPG you essentially tell stories (and roll dice), but how you do all do this solo? Do you write or do it all in your head or speak to yourself or...?
I tend to write a lot of it down as I go, but not always. My Tales from the Loop adventures are written down with a fair amount of detail. My Hong Kong Action Theatre game is basically just a few point form notes about the scene and what happened. I know others who don't really imagine a ton of dialogue or anything, they just follow the story beats in their head.
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These primers on the subject by John Yorio are popular in my G+ group:

http://tabletopdiversions.blogspot.it/2015/01/solo-role-play...
http://tabletopdiversions.blogspot.com/2015/01/solo-role-pla...
http://tabletopdiversions.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-essential...

They cover a lot of ground.
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solorpggamer wrote:
I just finished reading through the first 7 articles John wrote as a guide for solo role playing. He hits a lot of areas I wonder about and provides some great play through examples.

Thanks for posting these links!
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family_gamer wrote:
solorpggamer wrote:
I just finished reading through the first 7 articles John wrote as a guide for solo role playing. He hits a lot of areas I wonder about and provides some great play through examples.

Thanks for posting these links!
Yes! Those were really helpful.
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Dave B
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yeah, I've been following John's blog for a while now. Always good stuff! Especially for solo rpgers.
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darkyeoman wrote:
I've done a lot of role playing back in the day, mostly in White Wolf's World of Darkness (Changeling: The Dreaming, and Werewolf: The Apocalypse) and a little bit of AD&D (second edition, I believe; a few campaigns set in the Dark Sun world).

I've always like role-playing, but I have no idea what a solo RPG session would be like. The fun of RPG for me has always come from the interaction of our individual imaginations, and the development of your character through that. Since (I assume) this is mostly absent in a solo RPG, I can't quite picture what this would be like.

As a teenager I read/played a lot of the Fighting Fantasy books. In fact, I had a near complete set at the time, missing only 2 volumes (which I all gave away many years ago). Somehow, though, I've never considered these RPGs, mostly because there was very little actual role-playing involved.

I'm intrigued by this Guild, and by the idea of solo RPG, even if I don't know why/if I would consider this fun. So here are my questions:

If you are not reading a Fighting Fantasy-type book, how do you come up with the main narrative of the game? I understand there are various ways to deal with specific scenes or encounters (story cubes, tables, etc.), but how do you come up with the broader arc of the adventure itself, and how do you keep that exciting or unpredictable?

I've noticed in some of the reports on SROYT that some of you (seem to) play with multiple characters at once. Is that correct? If so, how do you role-play then--how do you then identify with "your" character in the game?

How do you actually play a solo RPG? How do you go about it? In a normal RPG you essentially tell stories (and roll dice), but how you do all do this solo? Do you write or do it all in your head or speak to yourself or...?

I am intrigued by all this. I'm curious enough to try it out one day, but don't want to invest a lot of money in it. Local charity shops often have RPG books for sale (mostly White Wolf and D&D, regularly some Warhammer, but occasionally lesser known ones too). Is there anything for which I should keep an eye out? Can you go at some of these bigger ones solo? My preference would be for something like what I have done in the past (World of Darkness, mostly), though something like Tales from the Loop looks intriguing too.
:1: I use the GM Engine to keep things random. This can be the Mythic GM Emulator or the CRGE or something else. It always keeps me on my toes.

:2: I give archetypes to each character. For at least one game, my main character was the main character and everyone else was more or less akin to an NPC that I have control over.

:3: I write it all out and even write in the mechanics so that, when I resume writing, I can understand where I left off.
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solorpggamer wrote:
Wow!!! This blog is a serious treasure for those of us new to solo RPGs. Thanks.
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Thank you all for your responses. I've taken a close look at the Mythic GM Emulator and a briefer look at some of the other tools mentioned in this thread. There are a few things that I find still difficult, though.

First of all, I still don't quite see how you would start. In a "normal" RPG, the ST/DM/GM sets you up with an adventure, and the players have likely some sense of what kind of adventure they are on, at least relatively soon. In a solo RPG you'd have two choices (unless I am missing something), that overlap of course: 1) you decide what the adventure will be, but then you limit the amount of surprise (unless you mitigate that by dice rolls and the like); 2) you set up an "random" adventure, determined by something like dice rolls and tables, either at the start of the game, or let the adventure gradually take shape over the course of the game, from the cumulative dice rolls. My reservations, at this point, with the former would be that it limits surprise and like stifles my imagination. My reservations with the latter is that it all feels too random. The narrative of the adventure is the heart of the RPG, and I feel uncomfortable leaving that entirely to chance. The narrative in an RPG with a ST/DM/GM is obviously also flexible, as the ST/DM/GM can't anticipate everything the players will do and chose, but it is ultimately still guided by him. I suppose I don't like the idea that randomness governs so much of the game because it might not turn out to be much.

Secondly, Mythic seems to involve quite a lot of dice rolling to determine what is going to happen, how it is going to happen, how it will resolve, and so on. Though the Mythic rule book recommends not asking too many questions, it seems inevitable that you will have to do a lot of this when you play solo (or run into another problem, which I'll discuss immediately after this), since you don't have the input of any other player (or an unprepared GM). I am used to the (Classic) World of Darkness storytelling system, where rules and dice rolls are kept to a minimum, and the emphasis is on the story (much more so, I've found, than in the standard AD&D rule books). It seems very difficult to get that sort of experience with Mythic, and I fear that the constant die rolling would take me out of the world and make the whole thing too self-conscious--too much game and not enough role-playing, if that makes sense.

What bothers me more about Mythic, though, is the Fate Chart. As far as I understand it, this only works if you determine first what the likely outcome will be, and the odds are then fairly small that it will be otherwise. In other words, you still determine what will happen, and there will be little surprises. I might encounter a character that I am fairly certain is not armed, but--in a standard RPG--I might be proven entirely wrong, against all my expectations. The Fate Chart seems to make such a situation very unlikely.
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Psyga315 wrote:
This can be the Mythic GM Emulator or the CRGE or something else.
Sorry, what is CRGE?
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If you're new to this sort of playing I would highly recommend reading some session reports. Of course, it's always possible to "game the system", but if you play honestly and fairly and let your imagination some freedom you might be surprised at how much solo rpgs can surprise you. You don't need to ask tons of questions and definitely don't need to over-think it. With something like Mythic (or Story Cubes or whatever) it's good to move quickly and go with whatever comes most readily to mind. When doing something like setting the likelihood of something happening, sure, if you make it extremely likely than you're going to be surprised less often. But that's up to you to decide.

Let's take your example of whether that npc is unarmed - first step is how likely is that; if it really makes sense that the npc really unlikely to be armed, then that's okay. But Mythic can still throw a curve ball. You aren't always going to make the roll, and you may even get a change of scene or something. If you want to make it more possible that the npc has a (possibly hidden?) weapon you can set the chances as you see fit.

I think a good part of it comes down to learning how and when to ask questions. It could be that it's better to just go with the npc not being armed and dispense with asking that question, or maybe you could ask it a different way (for example, rather than asking if the npc is unarmed, ask if the npc is armed; although I'm not sure if one of those questions is better than the other). Another thing with Mythic is the chaos factor, where things might start out more predictably, but start to get less predictable as you play. Again, that's up to you to decide how that will go.

As for starting a game, it might be best to not have a preconceived idea of where things will head. Don't have it plotted out in advance. But rather, start with a "seed", which could be as simple as the old standby of meeting in a tavern and/or getting a job offer. And don't try to force it to stay on some predetermined track.

Embrace the chaos! And avoid rigidity. Really, it's about playing, letting your imagination go, and having fun. It is a different way of playing and there can be a learning curve, which is why I recommend reading some sessions (where they include both the mechanics and the "story" as it unfolds; links to some of those have already been posted around here.) You can't really judge a game just by reading the rules. You might be surprised how well it can work once you actually try it (especially after seeing how it can work as practiced by other gamers).

Of course, it's always possible that this sort of gaming doesn't work for you, but you won't know until you try. Good luck and have fun!
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Thank you for your response.

agramore wrote:

Let's take your example of whether that npc is unarmed - first step is how likely is that; if it really makes sense that the npc really unlikely to be armed, then that's okay. But Mythic can still throw a curve ball. You aren't always going to make the roll, and you may even get a change of scene or something. If you want to make it more possible that the npc has a (possibly hidden?) weapon you can set the chances as you see fit.
Reading your answer, I suddenly saw more clearly why this bothers me: the fact that I have to ask this to find out makes this less of a surprise. In a RPG with a ST/DM/GM it has happened so often that we, the players, would assume something--like that this NPC is unarmed--only to be suddenly faced with a situation we never even considered. The fact that I now would have to roll a dice for, means that I have already considered it, even if I think it unlikely. And if I don't roll a die, there is no chance the NPC will be armed.
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Well, there are the things you will think to ask, like is the npc armed or not, and there are the things that Mythic will toss at you that you hadn't thought of. Let's say you ask if the npc is armed and you get an "Exceptional no" - you might interpret that in various ways depending on how things have been going. Maybe it means the npc is not only not armed, but is helpless, or it might mean the npc is well-disposed towards you and you have a chance to get them on your side or get some kind of help from them. And "exceptional yes" might mean they actually are armed and are hostile or even attacking you on the spot. Then again, you could get a result that does something totally different. And you don't necessarily have to ask questions to get answers to all of those things. Often it's better to go with your first thought that makes sense in the moment. Like I said, don't over-think it. That's how you can get bogged down like you mentioned as a possibility.

Another key to using something like Mythic is to try to do stuff that moves things along. In other words, ask questions where the likely answer won't leave you stuck.

But we can talk about hyoptheticals all day, round and round, without getting much of anywhere.

Again, I will stress that the only way to find out if it works for you personally is to try it (preferably after reading some actual examples of other people playing this way so you have some idea of how other players make it work for them).
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1) This is totally "It Depends." The plot of each different game I've played tends to unfold based on the mechanics. Each game has it's own flow.

The closest I can offer to an answer that you're looking for though is that I don't control the narrative. I usually go the opposite way, having a random event and then asking "How could these have fit together?"

2) I play alot of the solitaire adventures that just involve one character so that I can live out his/her life. But often, even solo adventurers follow my rules about multiple characters.

While running a full party, I'm rarely role-playing. Instead, I'm the game master. I'm observing the party from an outside standpoint and watching -their- story unfold.

I'll still make decisions based on their given personalities, but I have no stakes in the game.

3) I'm a big fan of writing it all down in narrative form just because it helps me to see the events as one story. It's far too easy to focus on the mechanics and miss out on working out your brain.

Besides, it's interesting to go back and read the narrative's a year or two later. I've had some fantastic Dr Who Adventures that I'm overjoyed whenever I read again.

4) While you can play most RPGs using the GM emulation, I tend to find it dreadfully boring. The lack of structure and guidance always leads me to running around in story circles until I get bored.

I vastly prefer games with more structure, even if they limit the free-will potential.

My recommendations would be Scarlet Heroes. It's modeled on old-school D&D and it was the closest I've felt to real role-playing.

Second, check out Doctor Who: Solitaire Story Game because it's free and VERY well-done. It definitely helps if you're competent in the Dr. Who lore, but once you start playing it tells a great story.



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darkyeoman wrote:

Reading your answer, I suddenly saw more clearly why this bothers me: the fact that I have to ask this to find out makes this less of a surprise. In a RPG with a ST/DM/GM it has happened so often that we, the players, would assume something--like that this NPC is unarmed--only to be suddenly faced with a situation we never even considered. The fact that I now would have to roll a dice for, means that I have already considered it, even if I think it unlikely. And if I don't roll a die, there is no chance the NPC will be armed.
What about random tables? Flowcharts? You need to roll dice here too, but you can create those easily yourself and without end and tons of twists.

Or a deck of Tarot cards? Or a standard deck of poker cards? Each card has it's own surprise.
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darkyeoman wrote:
Psyga315 wrote:
This can be the Mythic GM Emulator or the CRGE or something else.
Sorry, what is CRGE?
I suspect the answer is "Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator".
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darkyeoman wrote:
Thank you for your response.

agramore wrote:

Let's take your example of whether that npc is unarmed - first step is how likely is that; if it really makes sense that the npc really unlikely to be armed, then that's okay. But Mythic can still throw a curve ball. You aren't always going to make the roll, and you may even get a change of scene or something. If you want to make it more possible that the npc has a (possibly hidden?) weapon you can set the chances as you see fit.
Reading your answer, I suddenly saw more clearly why this bothers me: the fact that I have to ask this to find out makes this less of a surprise. In a RPG with a ST/DM/GM it has happened so often that we, the players, would assume something--like that this NPC is unarmed--only to be suddenly faced with a situation we never even considered. The fact that I now would have to roll a dice for, means that I have already considered it, even if I think it unlikely. And if I don't roll a die, there is no chance the NPC will be armed.
Ultimately, whatever tools you use and however you approach it, playing RPGs solo involves straddling the line between GM and player to some degree. You will take inspiration from a die-roll, run with it for a bit telling the story, then at some point will ask another question and randomize it. You are still the one interpreting the vague answers, so it isn't totally random, the dice are just nudging your imagination in new directions.

If you expect it to act exactly like a human GM where you just get to be the player with no world-creation effort, you will be disappointed. If you expect it to be like playing a solo boardgame with strict rules and procedures, you will be disappointed. If you approach it as a directed storytelling experience, where you are the player and also take on some of the GM load, where you allow the dice to nudge you in new directions, then you may enjoy it.
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I've only been experimenting with this kind of play for a few months, but here's my take on your questions:


1. How do you come up with the broader arc of the adventure itself, and how do you keep that exciting or unpredictable?

Whatever tools you use should add some randomness. One thing to keep in mind is that every time you decide to consult a table or roll some dice, there's a chance that the result will be weird and will force you to scratch your head and take things in a different direction than you expected. As far as story, it's probably good to start out with a really basic seed and/or character motivatoin, but otherwise I'd say let that emerge from play. Based on a roll on a table for foes (cultists) and some story cube rolls (crescent moon), the elf in my Scarlet Heroes adventure has suddenly found himself caught up in a story involving a malicious moon cult. We're used to playing games that have pre-written stories, but that's not how reality actually works, right? As GM, once you've identified some themes, you can spin your interpretations to keep things moving along a storyline that has emerged.


2. If so, how do you role-play then--how do you then identify with "your" character in the game?

I think I prefer single PC games, but when running a squad of murder hobos, you might want to think of it more as watching a movie play out. If that's not appealing to you, then just stick with a single character. Another option is to run one character yourself, but have additional PCs actions dictated by whatever GM emulator/oracular system you're using.


3. How do you actually play a solo RPG? How do you go about it? In a normal RPG you essentially tell stories (and roll dice), but how you do all do this solo? Do you write or do it all in your head or speak to yourself or...?

I've been writing it down as I go with pen and paper. I think some people type on a computer instead, but I spend all week staring at a screen to pay the rent, so I write as I play. Whenever I want to make notes about the mechanical bits ("Is the chest trapped? Result=no"), I indent those from the main, narrative parts. I try to strike a balance in the writing, where there is just enough detail to sketch out the scene and be evocative, but not more than that. One good test is to go back and re-read your notes from the last time you played and see if they are too much or not enough.


4. Is there anything for which I should keep an eye out? Can you go at some of these bigger ones solo? My preference would be for something like what I have done in the past (World of Darkness, mostly), though something like Tales from the Loop looks intriguing too.

Go with whatever you're excited to play and/or can afford. I think a lot of people gravitate towards systems with lighter rules though. You're doing double duty playing as both GM and player, so using complex rules can really slow things down. But if that's ok with you, there's no reason not to do it. I prefer OSR-style play in general, so that's what I've been doing. That said, I snagged the Tales from the Loop book at my FLGS and am itching to give it a spin...



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Another good place to start are any of the rules from Two Hour Wargames. These are just of few and they are all designed for solo play. Legends of Araby was updated a few years ago. These are great for creating interesting stories and adventures for your player character.

Legends of Araby

Warrior Heroes: Legends

5150: Fringe Space

Lovecraft's Revenge

And a Bottle of Rum

What's great about these games is that they are all self contained. No need for Mythic, Story cubes or other generators. The game engine is primarily rolling on tables and generating results for different situations based on the main characters stats. The emphasis is creating a narrative for the main character which is you, by playing out various encounters and seeing how it affects your overall campaign. Encounters may include raiding bad guys, travel encounters, dealing with a legal system, getting robbed, defending against bad guys, rescue attempts, exploring, going on hunts, carousing, meeting NPCs, recruiting NPCs, etc.

All games by Two Hour Wargames are solo designed and easy to get into espcially the more recent rule sets.

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I have purchased several of the THW rules over the years, but have had trouble getting into them myself. Something just doesn't gel in my head. For people that can "get" them they seem like great rules/games.
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agramore wrote:
I have purchased several of the THW rules over the years, but have had trouble getting into them myself. Something just doesn't gel in my head. For people that can "get" them they seem like great rules/games.
I probably should have mentioned that the Two Hour Wargames rules released in the last year and a half have really been streamlined. A few of the mechanics that everybody seemed to have problems with like the insight, the reactions going back and forth, when to test for reactions have all been done a way with. Which I kind of liked because since it gave an unpredictable solo game.

You can go to the THW store and download the new fantasy core rules for free to try out the new mechanics. It's really easy now. Give it a shot.
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Great thread which I must have missed when it was originally posted.

I've made a number of videos which address many of these questions and which the op may find of use:

best solo adventure & RPG tools for your campaign

the mindset of the solo gm

and most recently one which demonstrates some of these principles in a session,

old school fantasy solo RPGing

I'm working on more (and there are more on my channel I haven't mentioned). The next up will be using a modern system, Silent Legions.
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