I find that the experience is very different with solo than with group play. The stories that you end up with take on a whole different shape. You often use random elements, sure, but you really can shape it into exactly the kind of game you want.
An interview with James Sral of the Sub-Class Act Solo Podcast.
Q&A with James Sral of Sub-Class Act
What is the appeal of solo rpgs?
I actually stumbled into solo roleplaying mostly by accident. I really wanted to be able to have an actual play podcast, but I couldn't find anyone else to do one with me.
Then I found Me, Myself & Die by Trevor Duvall on YouTube and the Tale of the Manticore podcast. It was then that I thought, hmm...maybe I can do this? It won't be as good as those two, but maybe I can still make something fun.
Since then, I continue to solo play on and off-air. I find that the experience is very
different with solo than with group play. The stories that you end up with take on a
whole different shape. You often use random elements, sure, but you really can shape it into exactly the kind of game you want.
How Did Sub-Class Act come to be?
I mentioned it a little bit before, but once I knew I wanted to make the solo show, I
just picked up some random tables, a copy of Basic Fantasy Roleplaying, and the
Mythic GM emulator as my oracle and started recording.
I had no idea what I was doing (and I still feel that way sometimes).
But I've just kept going and going, often using different systems and oracles to highlight the differences. At some point, especially with the most recent season, I really started to feel like I've found some sort of a groove with it all.
How do you use rpg oracles in your solo games?
I use the oracles heavily, more than what some others seem to do, but I really like
two aspects in particular.
I really like the randomness, being genuinely surprised and forced to think on my feet.
I also really like the idea of random events or twists and turns that some oracles have. This causes the meta-narrative to advance when you least expect it, and I find that that really helps my preferred kind of fiction.
Any question that I would normally ask a GM, I ask the oracle. I also use it to generate the actions of an NPC (or event the PC occasionally) when I'm really unsure as to what they'd do.
Additionally, I make heavy use of the spark tables (such as Mythic's Action/Event tables) to give me a prompt or hint as to what's going on. This helps lessen the feeling that I'm just sitting down and writing a story.
What are your favorite rpg oracles?
What advice would you give people using rpg oracles?
Find out how you like to use it and use it that way. Some oracles come bundled with advice.
Sometimes it's better advice than others. When some say things like "Don't roll too much", I would personally just ignore that advice unless it works for you.
The big thing to remember is what makes sense in your world and in your game and base everything around that.
I used to be really bad about tracking characters and threads, but starting to write those things down has been critical in helping me get better at solo play. It's much easier to tie together those loose threads when you can easily see what they are, and doing that is what leads to the most satisfying parts of the game.
How do you use random tables in your rpg games?
I use random tables a lot, especially spark tables that can work in really any situation.
I do like to use more genre specific tables as well, especially when I want to establish a certain flavor or when I need a proper name.
Loot tables, landscape tables, dungeon tables, and similar are all super fun. You can certainly overdo these, but only when it starts to slow down the game for you.
Never feel like you have to use lots of random tables, but also don't ever feel guilty about using them either.
What are your favourite random tables?
My very favorite tables are the Action/Event tables from the Mythic GM emulator which I use constantly for so, so many things.
What advice would you give people using random tables in their rpgs?
Just pick a few tables ahead of time that you'd like to use and then stick with those for your current session. It can really slow your game down to wrangle too many books/pdfs at once.
That being said, never ever feel like you're cheating to use random tables. They're fun. They're fun for the GM and they're fun for the players if your game isn't just solo.
Which solo rpgs have surprised / impressed you the most?
Ironsworn is definitely the tops for rpgs that are designed to be played solo. It really has everything you need and it's very very well done. It's also free, but I love it so much that I have the physical copies of the main book, the Delve expansion, and the physical asset cards.
I also think that there are a few games that have worked exceedingly well paired with a separate oracle. Dominion Rules, Savage Worlds, and Dungeon World (with Perilous Wilds) have all been such a really fun time solo!
What solo rpgs would you recommend for people getting started?
I would say either Ironsworn or whatever your favorite game is paired with Mythic GM emulator.
How can people contact you?
People can feel free to email me at email@example.com.
I don't really do the social media thing anymore except Instagram for art, so this is really the best way to get a hold of me.
I also have some games on itch.io and on DriveThruRPG as well as my podcast Sub-Class Act on Anchor.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Just to say that you should give solo rpgs a shot. It can be as little or as much as you want it to be. A short session here or there or long regular sessions. There are worlds waiting to be explored, even if you can't get a group of others to visit them with you.