Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Solo Skirmish RPG Rules notes

So Ive been working on rules again... Who doesn't? ;)

I have boiled down for the millionth time what I like in a solo skirmish and why. This is the reasoning behind my latest effort.

Simple is better than complex. Its hard to keep too much in my head when playing solo, and checking a QRS should be infrequent as possible. A system you can easily remember is key.
Suspense is important. As there is no opponent, suspense and surprises are the fun part of the game.
I would like integration with my solo roleplay efforts. This is out of left field, but solo rpg is something Ive found fascinating since I discovered it via blogs.
Keep the scope narrow. Don't try to make a game that does everything.
Narrative! I like games that are aimed at creating cool narrative over crunchy simulation.

So here's the start of what I came up with.

I was obsessed for a long time with the card draw mechanic from TRWNN, as its excellent. The problem is you need to make custom decks or translate numbers.. Too much effort.
Instead I adapted the activation system I have read is used in Victory Decision.

The player (this is solo remember) chooses one of his minis, and selects the closest unactivated enemy model. Both dice for activation, the winner activates (each mini can only activate once a turn) when all minis have acted, turn over.

On activation, a model may Perform 3 actions one at a time, from the following choices:

Get up
RPG inquiry
RPG action

This is the cool part. Rather than making a solo rpg session before and after the battle, the solo rpg mechanics can be used DURING the battle.

In one of my tests of the theory:
My squad scouted an encounter token and discovered (via Yes/no/and/but dice questions) an abandoned transport truck... Inside was a bunch of unmarked gold, which the enemy were obviously there to steal! The gold was not easily transportable and the vehicle was inoperable despite frenzied attempts to get it running, so the squad demo expert tried to booby trap the vehicle.. Which went wrong and exploded prematurely. The squad pulled out as the enemy secured the area. They would need to either come back with heavy equipment to liberate the gold (Kelly's heroes scenario maybe) or leave it to the enemy.

This was all generated on the fly with no charts or prewritten scenario, just logic and interpretation of dice.

In another game, where two agents tried to sneak up on some cultists, the rpg mechanics handled all the non combat actions perfectly, just like having a GM as suggested in old school Warhammer, amongst other vintage rule sets. The combat was exciting and narrative as well. (things didn't go well for the agents, they took out the lookout, but the cultists swarmed one of the Agents and stabbed him to death before the other could reach them and shoot them up. It was a real nail-biter.)

Each action spent on moving gives you one roll of your move die. I find random move distances really add suspense to a shootout, especially when running for cover. It works beautifully in TRWNN and also in CROM. I'm sold on it for solo games, especially using the poly dice where a slow character moves d6 and q fast one moves d10.

Opposed roll, difference in hits. Roll to save hits, remaining hits have a cumulative damage effect.

A low hits total will give you a knocked down or a few more will yield a flesh wound, hampering your rolls by -1 depending on what body area was hit.

A high unsaved hits total can take you out on the spot, or cripple you so you cant move for example.

Flesh wounds are tracked by placing red markers/counters on your character card in the relevant body zone. A wound to the arm inflicts a -1 to shoot, to the body -1 to guts rolls, etc.
At the start of your activation you must roll higher than your total number of flesh wounds to stay conscious.
This keeps record keeping relatively easy. Sure its a little bit fancy, but this game is for 5 or so models per side so detailed damage is more interesting and narrative than not having it.

Thats all for now, but I'm pretty excited about this little system.

(I should have brought some Lego micro-figs along for test games in the hotel.
1 lug= 1", and a terrain board is very easy to build in micro-scale... Hmm, wish I'd thought of this sooner.)


  1. Not jet-lagged then- brain appears to be working! I like a lot of your observations about solo gaming, and as my son will soon be leaving home, solo games will be on the menu, so keep grinding out the ideas SJ! I'm counting on you!

    1. Ths one appears to actually work, so more to come next week when I get home and have sometime off. Glad to be of service, Gunrunner!

  2. Replies
    1. Cheers Brummie, its been a while in the making :)

  3. I really like your idea of integrating the roleplaying questions into the game turn/action sequence. And I totally agree about random movement; I find it essential for my solo games.

    How do you find the different dice types treating you, as far as speed and simplicity go? I'm a big fan of using different polyhedral dice types but find when I do, especially shifting from one type to another, that it slows the game down.

  4. Thanks Pahoota, the system is feeling really good at the moment. I love the idea of generative solo rpg concepts bing applied to a skirmish game!

    The dice work great, you just have 2 of each at hand. I greatly prefer it to the buckets of d6 approach, and its very fast once you get the hang of it.

  5. You know I'm glued to this one!

    Really looking forward to the rest when you have time.

    1. Thanks TCS, it is no small way thanks to your solo efforts and the inspiration that the solo-ers on the blogosphere provide that drives this project! I will have a bunch of time next week, so I'm pumped about getting more done.

  6. Its a shame that the Throwdown cards didnt work for you after all that hard work, but this looks promising.

    1. It's all good experience. One learns more from one's failures than triumphs in my experience. I hope this one is of some interest to you when complete!

  7. Hi, Jacker. I like the way you are doing things. Some of your solo ideology is similar to mine. Situation movement, shooting, and mission specifics driven by a choice of dice can really take a cool game up to a new and extremely enjoyable level of entertainment. Slick job, Sir.

    1. Thank you Jay, much appreciated. The solo minis gamer is a rare beast, and it's always a joy to hear the thoughts of brother gamers through the internet!

  8. You know me, I've already stated "I want in..." so sign me up for some playtesting!

  9. Fantastic stuff Spacejacker, some really interesting ideas. Looking forward to seeing this develop. Love the idea of bringing RPG into the move sequence. It's something I have been playing around with for some time. I agree with your observation on the cards for the move sequence, great in principle,but has its problems. My preferred system these days is the one used in Ganesha games - simple to use, but plenty of nail-biting tension.

    1. Thanks for the support Oldschool... Consider this a blend of vintage good ideas, with a shot of radical new thinking about what narrative and wargame really mean.

  10. Verrry happy you're on the rpg skirmish game design again. I agree 100% with your ideas about solo rpgmish gaming and I hope you keep working on it until you finish it.

    1. Thank you! This is the one I've been trying to get on paper, Javier. The RPG mechanics have been a real breakthrough for me, so I'm very hopeful this will be a fun, complete project.

  11. Like them

    I presume that you set the scenario details before the game starts, so you have the basis of the RPG element? If so, then me thinks a nifty scenario generator would come in very handy and then a campaign element.

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