Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Adventurer: The Solo Role Playing Game - why gamebooks need something like this.

Those of you who have been keeping track of things on Facebook and Twitter already know that Shane Garvey (author of QUERP, Battlemage and the Fabled Lands RPG) and I are starting on a project called the Adventurer: The Solo Role Playing Game.  The aim of this project is to create a simple yet versatile RPG system that can be applied to gamebooks. 

I had been thinking about this for a while and had taken preliminary steps into making my own system wihch is what I told Shane over Facebook.  Then the ball started rolling. 

I think an RPG system for gamebooks is a great idea as most gamebook systems - either a simple game system just for that book or an existing RPG system - have their shortcomings.  I will explain the good and bad points of both followed by what our new system will achieve.

Using an existing RPG system in gamebooks

So what's the damage die for
wielding two ferrets?
The good thing about RPG systems is that they are extensive, very detailed and offer lots of scope for character development and enchancement.  They also have rules for almost every situation allowing people to write adventures for almost everything.  However, these systems only work well when there is a human referee there to think about players' ideas for actions and determine the consequence of them.  The referee needs a good knowledge of all the rules as well as the ability to use their knowledge of the scenario, their knowledge of the abilities of the characters and NPCs,  the temperaments of the players involved and the dynamic of the play group to come up with a reasonable consequence for that action.

So referees have to think about a lot and some of it will be on the spot.

Gamebook authors cannot do that.  They need to offer a limited set of options with predetermined consequences.  Even if we remove the ingenuity (or craziness) of the players (there's always one who comes up with some wacky of the wall scheme) who come up with an option not listed then we still have a large rules system and it will be nigh on impossible to take into account the consequences of the player using any spell or skill.  Each paragraph would have at least a dozen references for them to turn to.  The ability to cast the fly spell would render even the most dangerous fighting fantasy book harmless (thinka bout Crypt of the Sorcerer - dragon burnt my balloon?  I'll fly off with my buddies.  Need a gargantis horn?  I'll just fly up there and cut it off.  Razaak about to touch me?  I'll fly out of his reach).

Tunnels and Trolls has several solos with this problem.  Some of them get around it by not allowing magic users to play them but that's not using the whole rules system and from a flavour point of view, it does not make much sense to have all these dungeons lying around that magic can't function in.

The plus side of using an existing RPG system is that there is plenty of scope for advancement of your player and there is probably a rule to help resolve a situation.

So the problem with using an existing RPG system in a gamebook is that a gamebook is just not able to account for all of the options the player has that the system has to offer. 

Using a system designed specifically for gamebooks

The good thing about the Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf or Virtual Reality gamebook systems is that they are quick and simple.  You can create a character in under a minute and read the whole rules in under 10 minutes. 

However, the system's simplicity is also a disadvantage.  If a situation comes up in the book that is not covered by the rules then you have to stop the narrative to explain what the player has to do and what the consequences are.  for example, some situations in Lone Wolf and fighting Fantasy were resolved with the roll of a die (or picking a random number).  These rulings sometimes felt a bit arbitrary and, in the case of the Fighting Fantasy series which had multiple authors, inconsistent.  Of course, it is not their fault as they are not breaking the rules.  The problem is that there are no rules.

Advancement was also a problem.  When making a simple system, advancing the character was usually the first thing to go.  Lone Wolf and the Avenger! series let you get one skill per book but there is no rule for increasing your stats.  Fighting Fantasy had no scope for advancement as it assumes that each character only works for one book (of course, that doesn't stop people carrying characters over but they rarely increase their stats and never do so for completing a book) and so there is little continuity.  the Sorcery! series did very little to remedy this with just a few bonuses at the ends of books 1 and 3 (apparently Khare was not dangerous enough to warrant an increase to your initial scores) and no chance to learn new spells. 

What Adventurer: The Solo Role Playing Game hopes to achieve.

Shane and I want to create a system that has plenty of options for character customisation and advancement, gives them plenty of options for dealing with encounters and covers all situations so that we do not have arbitrary rules.  We also want to do this in a way that is simple and allows the narrative of the gamebook to flow unhindered with loads of instructions about dice rolling and getting over such and such a number.  I'm excited about this project as we will then have a system to create many great gamebooks from that people can play as all types of characters rather than having to create a character to fit the mechanics of the book (why can't wizards storm Firetop Mountain or how about a brother of the Crystal Star going to Helgedad?) have several ways of beating an opponent and develop their character in all kinds of ways over a series of books that don't necessarily have to fit a huge arc so they can play them in any order or just apply them to new books as they come out.

I'm looking forward to working with Shane and helping release this gem...

you can keep up with the latest news here.


  1. *So* looking forward to this. :)

  2. This is very interesting. I bet it'll be fascinating :)

  3. This is great!! Is it going to be open, like, anyone writing a gamebook is going to be able to use the system? Or will there be licensing issues?

    1. why haven't we seen this sooner, seems so obvious!

  4. Sounds really exciting!
    The best part is that your future game books will have this new rules.

    Beware that there are lot of new RPG rules-lite that encourage narrative over simulation ( many of them are free, as the wind). If you don't mind, I recomend to take a look at Lady Blackbird from John Harper. Is free and Awsome!

    Good luck in this new adventure!

    1. By the way, "Sort of Fighting Fantasy meets Dungeons and Dragons." could start some "editions war". D&D fans will start to storm your blog and ask "Which edition?", "Please, let's hope there are no minis!", "It will be Vancian Magic?" and so on...

      hehehe, just kidding!
      Best wishes!

  5. Wouldn't characther advancement make it very hard to balance a book?

    Lone Wolf should show yout his (without or wihtout the Sommer Sword)

    1. Yes, it would. Which is why Shane came up with the great idea to tailor encounters to your level range. Every time there's an encounter, you will be asked if you are levels 1-4. 5-8. 9-12 or 13-16. Each tier will have more powerful opponents. Between that and having a treasure system based on level, it is possible to make a gamebook that covers all levels.

  6. http://www.rpgsolo.com/

    This site is a type of solo role-playing tool.

  7. Where can I find the game? I have found the rulebook PDF but I cant seem to find the actual game itself. I checked adventuregamesguild.com but its just a single page with 3 RPGs offered. None of which are Adventurer: A Solo Role Playing Game. I know its 4 years later but I have been spending weeks looking for solo RPGs for months now with very little luck. This game seems perfect but i need to find the adventure for it. Please please help.

    1. I'm assuming you're Elijah based on the timing and the similarity, but if not, here's my reply:

      I'm afraid it didn't make it past the rule book. I made some stuff for it (found on my bibliography page). I guess my series Legeond of the Wayfarer is a sort of spiritual successor in the sense that it is supposed to be some open ended gamebooks that you play, but it is less about old school dungeon crawling and more about exploration of a quasi-medieval world. I could make an Old school version, however...

  8. Where can I find this game? I know its 4 years later but im very curious. Its nowhere to be found online. (as far as I know) Has the project been terminated or what? Ive spent the last couple months vigerously searching for a solo RPG that I can get into with little luck. This seems to be exactly what Ive been searching for but I still cant find the book. I have found the PDF rulebook but thats all. Please please help.

    1. I'm afraid it didn't make it past the rule book. I made some stuff for it (found on my bibliography page). I guess my series Legeond of the Wayfarer is a sort of spiritual successor in the sense that it is supposed to be some open ended gamebooks that you play, but it is less about old school dungeon crawling and more about exploration of a quasi-medieval world. I could make an Old school version, however...