Blended Solo RPG (Session 1)

     What is this? Is this a game? Well, yes and no. 

    This is my first foray into solo RPGs using materials I already have at hand. I've done a lot of research into how to play RPGs solo, (and I've probably watched a few dozen YouTubers playing solo RPGs- Geek Gamers, The Bad Spot and Me, Myself and Die are my favorites so far) so I feel confident in throwing a bunch of stuff together to see what kind of story I can make. The biggest hurdle I keep going up against is the same misgiving I had when I first started playing solo tabletop games in general about this time last year. What makes playing a solo RPG better than writing a book? For me, I keep coming back to this question. Why would I write up a story in someone else's universe when I could write a book in one of my own universes and market it? 

    Well, I'm no stranger to writing in someone else's universe professionally, but so far, the answer to why I should do this kind of writing-play has been the freedom it affords (and the fun.) There's less pressure in writing these stories and following them as they unfold. I don't have to outline, don't have to strictly follow literary conventions, extensively edit or triple check everything to make sure I'm not stepping on anyone's toes, copyright-wise. I don't even have to do anything super weird or original. Heck, it can all be fan fiction (like my Aliens + Five Klicks Playthrough) if that's the vibe that I find the most fun to chase. I just have to follow what I find fun in the moment, and maybe that's enough.

    Anyway, for my first foray into solo roleplaying, I'm using Dragon Dice, Omen Quest Cards, Magic: The Gathering Cards and Story Cubes. It's a bit of a mess, honestly, but I feel like I need a lot of randomization support for my first time. I've also got copies of Table Fables and some FATE dice on hand, just in case. Some of these things might seem a little expensive (Dragon Dice go for about $1.50 per die at the moment, even used common dice) but these are all things I had laying around (some for over a decade) that weren't really getting any use, so I figured, why not give them a purpose? Heck, most of my collection of Magic Cards is from high school, but these days, you can go on Ebay and buy a box of a thousand cards for twenty bucks, making them a relatively cheap resource for creating interesting randomness in your solo game. I'm absolutely guilty of making such a purchase about five years ago.

    Am I going to use all of these things? Maybe. Hopefully. Otherwise, they'll just collect more dust. We'll see as I play through a couple of turns. My system here is absolutely ad hoc, fast and loose, and all tied together with these basic instructions: 

    The mechanics are simple. 33% chance of a day being relatively uneventful, 33% chance of meeting an NPC, 33% chance of running into an enemy. For enemies, I'll be using other Dragon Dice that I have laying around. Hopefully I don't run into an actual dragon anytime soon.

Our heroes are: 

Lysandra (Level 3: Hoplite): A grizzled old Amazonian captain and leader of the party.

Ptolema (Level 2: Visionary): Trusted confidant and old friend of Lysandra, she interprets omens and speaks with gods and spirits when it is needed.

Alekto (Level 1: Soldier): Alekto is a young Amazonian soldier who is eager to prove herself in battle.

Thyia (Level 1: Charioteer): Thyia is a young huntress absolutely devoted to the Goddess Nylea.

Our setting is the Greek-flavored Theros campaign world from Magic: The Gathering and its associated D&D Supplement, which I'll be using when I need inspiration. This party of Amazons was shipwrecked on their way to a battle, and now they are simply trying to get home. A record of play begins below:

(And now that I'm actually writing this and playing, I'm already altering the rules a little, drawing more cards than I originally had planned in order to create a more interesting story.)

    The rain falls cold across Lysandra's huddled form as she stands at the edge of the chasm and calls out to the gods of this foreign land. For three days, the storm has lashed against the armor and capes of these sisters of war, but still they push on. The memory of their trireme cracking against the rocks still haunts them, haunts them as brutally as the ghosts of all those other departed amazons who drowned while the waves swelled and the timbers of the boat burned.

    "Why are we here!?" Lysandra yells into the chasm. "Why this place!? Why now? Why at such cost!?" but there is no answer. Desperate, she looks to Ptolema, her oldest friend, looks at her like she might have the answer to these questions, but the other woman only looks grim, meets her stare evenly, patiently.

    "The gods always have a plan," she says finally, holding on to the words with an iron resolve. "We are not here by accident. We have not survived the wreck by accident. We few have a purpose. We few have been spared."

    "I will make an offering to Nylea," Thyia says suddenly, then turns away from the edge of the chasm and walks away. Lysandra says nothing, only looks back to the chasm, back to lands beyond it. 

    A purpose. A reason for all this madness.

    Ptolema reaches out and clasps a hand on her friend's armored shoulder in a gesture of solidarity.

    "We will get through this, sister."

    Instead of answering, Lysandra only sets her jaw, keeps her eyes on the lands beyond the chasm. A few paces distant, Thyia begins to sing, begins to pray and lay bits of bread out on the ground. An offering for Nylea, simple, almost profanely so, but it is something. Out here, every bit of bread might as well be worth its weight in steel.

    More, Lysandra thinks to herself, if the offering secures us any favor with the goddess of the hunt.

    As night falls, the storm wanes. Ptolema gathers what scant dry wood she can find and starts a fire for the warband to sleep around. Alekto begins to play her pipe, giving musical accompanyment to Thyia's prayers, and as the clouds part and the stars come out, so too do the radiant lights of an aurora.

    Thyia cries out when she notices the lights in the sky. "A sign!" She laughs and grabs Alekto's hands, leading her in a playful dance beside the fire. "A sign from Nylea!" 

    Ptolema only smiles silently, knowingly, as if there is some secret that only she knows. Beside her, Lysandra gently touches the silvered amulet tucked into her cloak, the traveler's amulet that was given to her by her father on the day she was made a soldier. If she was the oath-swearing type, she'd swear an oath on it to get herself and her sisters home.

    A chilly breath of wet wind rushes up from the chasm, and Lysandra pulls her cloak tighter about herself. Perhaps a promise is enough, an intent.

    "I will see the shores of home again," she says to herself, just under her breath. "I will get us home, all of us."

Taking a cue from the mechanics of games like Duelosaur Island, I put all of the Story Cubes into a sack and then randomly draw one to roll. I figure if I get anything modern looking, like an airplane, I'll just reroll.

Also, I'm using Eryssel's Fate Dice Oracle mechanics for yes/no questions.

    Dawn comes cold and grey, but Lysandra rises and rouses her sisters even while her tired joints protest the chilly weather. The embers of the fire are stomped out while Ptolema hands out the provisions, and as the amazons gather their packs, they set out east along the rim of the chasm, hoping for an easy hike to a settlement, or at least, to some place where they can find something more than their sea-soaked jerky and breads to eat.

    Silence settles as they walk, and when it finally gets the best of Alekto, she draws her pipe from her tunic and begins to play an old, familiar tune. The edges of the chasm draw away and pick up more green, and soon the amazons find themselves at the edge of a valley full of trees. Lysandra looks to Ptolema, but neither needs to say anything. They have the same hope, the same idea. The trees are thick in the valley below, and a grove or forest means the possibility of game, especially with Thyia's prayers to Nylea.

    But as they reach the bottom of the valley, they realize that it is less green with grass than green with a covering of algae over sludge. The whole area is a wetland, a stinking fen infested by pale birds that flit between trees with haunting cries. Ptolema holds her nose as they creep along the soggy edges of the quag, but Lysandra takes it upon herself to try to push into the fen, to find ways through or around it. When she starts to pale and falter, her sisters have to drag her out of the muck, helping her sit and trying to figure out why she's suddenly gotten so sick.

    "It is quag sickness," a voice says, and as the three other amazons draw their weapons, a woman steps from the trees with a smile, one hand raised in a gesture of peace. Ptolema is the first one to notice that the woman is wearing the robes of a priestess, and that she has ears almost as sharp as an elf's.

"Nylea!" Thyia shouts, and drops down to her knees before the half-elf.

"Merely a priestess," she says, gently touching the holy symbol at her neck. "But yes, I am her emissary in this valley. Visions told me that I would find you here, and that I would find you in need."

"Is there a cure for this quag sickness?" 

(Oracle:) No, but. . .

"No," the priestess replies, "But the sickness will wane in time."

"Can you show us to a safe place to rest while she recovers?" Ptolema asks.

(Oracle:) Yes, no pros, no cons.

"I can," the priestess says, then gestures. "Come, follow me. There is a sacred grove near here where the influence of Nylea can be felt strongest. The druids of the grove will be more than willing to take you in and help you recover before you set off again on your journey home."

    The four Amazons follow the priestess along the edge of the quag until the valley leads to a massive, seemingly insurmountable cliff. Fortunately, with the help of their guide, the priestess shows them a hidden series of handholds cut into the living rock and tells them that the sacred grove is at the top of the cliff, in a beautiful place where those who steward it are treated to a majestic view of the valley and all of the lands around it. Following her lead, they make their way up the side of the cliff.
    OOC: Do they make it to the top safely?
    (Oracle:) Yes, And. . .

    The journey to the top goes quickly and easily, and even sickened Lysandra makes the climb with ease. Each step feels lighter and lighter, as if they are being enlivened by the magic of the grove itself.

    As soon as they reach the top, they find themselves facing a huge and terrifying giant (Oracle:) reindeer who presents his massive antlers to them.

    OOC: Is he friendly?
    (Oracle:) Yes, But. . .

    "Easy, Barbastus," The Priestess says, reaching out to touch the massive hoof of the intimidating beast. Turning back, she looks at the Amazons one by one and gestures. "He smells the quag sickness on Lysandra. It has been spreading of late, and we suspect the Goddess Pharika's hand in it. The scent of it makes him uneasy."

    "Should I--" Lysandra starts to ask, but hesitates as the priestess smiles.

    "Come, you'll heal twice as quickly in this place as you would anywhere else. The blessings of Nylea are strongest here, and with rest, you'll be over your illness (Oracle: 4 days) before the week is out.

Continued In Session 2


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