Interview with Simon, Podcaster of Legend of the Bones
Creator Interview Solo Gaming Interview Solo RPGs

Interview with Simon, Podcaster of Legend of the Bones

Duncan Thomson
Don't get me wrong, I love playing with my live group, but with solo I get to be selfish. I also find, that my level of otherworld immersion is far higher in solo...when I'm in full flow, the real world just melts away.

An interview with the creator of solo rpg podcast Legend of the Bones. First of a batch of new interviews on solo gaming and random tables!

Chat with Simon of Legend of the Bones

Legend of the Bones is a bi-weekly (or so) solo rpg podcast using old-school D&D with some house rules, custom tables and guest voice-actors. I first encountered a few months ago and quickly consumed season 1 (so far).

We start with gaming history, then podcast backstory, challenges and highlights, solo play and other solo podcasts. Among other things.

What was your gaming story before starting Legend of the Bones?

Like a lot of British kids growing up in the 1980s, my gateway drug were Fighting Fantasy books. I have a really clear memory of being 9 years old and going to WH Smiths (a book and magazine store in the UK). They had a display stand with these new books with the most amazing covers. There on the shelf was one called Deathtrap Dungeon, with that iconic cover image of the Bloodbeast by Iain McCaig - I had never seen anything like it before.

I have always been a very visual person, and art has been a lifelong passion; thinking back on it, it was the art in those early Fighting Fantasy books that really drew me in. I have also been incredibly lucky to meet several of the FF artists (including Iain McCaig) at the bi-annual Fighting Fantasy Fests.

A couple of years later my local Waterstones started stocking Miniatures and RPG books, and not long after a Games Workshop opened. My first proper RPG was Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1E) which still remains my favorite game.

I stopped playing RPGs in the early 1990s. I guess the main reason was because I became interested in girls, and back then, playing RPGs was a recipe for social death, but I also went to University around that time and had to make new friends, none of whom were into RPGs. It wasn't until 2018 that I came back to the hobby.

Once again, it began with Fighting Fantasy after I found my books in the loft, but soon I got the rest of my collection out. I decided to find a group to play with, so I created a Meetup group offering a monthly Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay session. Within a week, I had 6 players and we've been playing together ever since.

How did Legend of the Bones come to be?

When I came back to the hobby, I discovered a podcast called 'RolePlay Rescue'. The host, Che, would often talk about solo play and it was a concept that was completely new to me.

At that point I wasn't really interested, but after the Pandemic hit, I started hearing people talk about a podcast called Tale of the Manticore. After a while I gave it a listen, and I was immediately hooked; suddenly I understood what solo play could be.

Jon, the creator of Tale of Manticore, kept saying there was room for others to create their own hybrid solo actual play, and this piqued my interest. I think as well that I had started to feel a bit of GM burn-out with my live table; and I wanted something that was just for me.

I had produced my own music in the early noughties, and so I had reasonable knowledge of how to use a Digital Audio workstation (DAW), so I thought I would give it a go. I produced my episode 0 and sent it to Jon for some feedback; he was so encouraging and offered to have a video call for us to have a chat about it. Jon basically mentored me through getting my first few episodes ready - his generous advice was invaluable and I am so grateful for it. He and I still chat fairly regularly; we swap ideas, talk about the challenges and basically encourage each other.

What have been the challenges of creating the podcast?

Time. It's always time.

I have a full-time job, a wife, 4 kids, a house to maintain and a bunch of other interests. Each episode takes around 15 hours to create, on a 3 weeks release schedule. It's basically a second job.

At first it was probably taking 20+ hours, but over time I have refined my workflow and I now have a set of tools and shortcut which streamline the production process.

The thing which still makes the most time is the writing; I'm quite obsessive about it. I basically sit at my computer and write the narrative sections, then stop and roll the dice when the game-element kicks in. I'm trying to create an immersive experience, which is why I spend so much time getting the descriptive elements just as I want them.

What have been the highlights of creating the podcast?

Probably the sheer number of people who have listened to the show.

I'm currently up at around 70,000 downloads which to be honest has massively surpassed my expectations when I started 2 years ago. In a world where we are bombarded with content, I'm so grateful to everyone who has given my little show their time. They are the real legends.

Aside from that, the things I'm most proud of is the character development, and the worldbuilding. I've always been deeply interested in the early medieval period, and the way that the Celtic Britons, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Norse have shaped this island I called home.

I wanted something that wasn't just a generic fantasy setting, but had a sense of being grounded in real-world cultural identities. When people write to me about the show, this is something they almost always comment on. As for the characters; they kind of write themselves, and in that sense I real enjoy discovering who they are.

When I started out, I thought Beric (Fighter) would be the main focus of the emerging story, but what surprised me was that the unfolding story became much more about Laana (Cleric) and Vaylan (Mage), and specifically the relationship that develops between them; and whilst it was not something I originally intended, I have found their arc deeply satisfying.

Character Sheet of Laana, a character from Legend of the Bones

What is the appeal of solo rpgs for you?

I think the biggest thing, probably that the game is just for me. I can make it the game I want to play, and not worry about how other players may change that.

Don't get me wrong, I love playing with my live group, but with solo I get to be selfish. I also find, that my level of otherworld immersion is far higher in solo...when I'm in full flow, the real world just melts away.

Even when I'm not playing, I spend a lot of time just in my head, being in my game world; imagining the landscape, places, and people. It's pure escapism.

What advice would you give people playing solo rpgs?

Just give it a go.

At its most simple, roll up some characters, imagine a situation and start playing. I would advise choosing a system you like and is familiar to you, then start small.

Draw a map of the immediate vicinity, no more than 30-50 square miles. Put a handful of points of interest, then give your characters a motivation to go exploring.

I chose a shipwreck as my starting situation, as this meant the characters were forced into exploring. You then add more features and locations as you go, eventually expanding out the map as you need. This way the world building just sort of happens.

I would also advise recording your game in some way - this could just be writing it down, you don't need to create a podcast. Recording your sessions help you to be consistent, develop house-rules and build the world but it's also fun to see a tangible product at the end.

What rpg tools or random tables do you like to use for your games?

The most important tool for solo play is an Oracle.

An Oracle acts as GM when you need an arbitration. Most people who play solo use the Mythic GM emulator, which is amazing; if I had known about it when I started I probably would have used it, but I didn't.

I use a simple D6 Oracle which provides a 'no and', 'no', 'no but', 'yes but', 'yes', 'yes and' result to any given question.

Oracle aside, the other thing is to use lots of random tables. Personally I like to create my own as this enables me to tailor the encounters to suit my setting and I can also use the bell-curve of multiple dice to make certain encounters more likely if that makes logical sense.

I also have random tables for everything from weather to directions (wind, getting lost etc). Random tables are your friends - in fact, since starting solo, I use a lot more random tables and even the oracle with your live group, which makes GMing much more fun and exciting.

What are your next big projects that you can talk about?

I probably have another 18-24 months to run on Season 1 (providing I don't have a TPK) so that is my main focus. I have started to pull together all my world material and I plan to release my world as a playable setting at some point for anyone who would like to use it for their own games, with an aim to making it system agnostic.

I'm not sure yet whether I'll do a Season 2, I probably will, but before I would like to go back and re-record/remaster the first 15 or so episodes, as these were really me learning what I was doing, and so the quality is understandably lower than the later episodes.

Where can people find you on social media?

Twitter / X @legendbones
Instagram/Threads @LegendoftheBones
Bluesky @legendbones
Reddit @legendbones

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

It's worth saying that Legend of the Bones, and others like it are not your typical 'actual plays';

There is no table chat, no goofy humour, no-one munching pretzels on mic. It's more like listening to an audio drama - it's full on immersion in the fantasy. Unlike a play or novel where you discover how the protagonists succeed, in this procedurally generated story, you're really discovering if they succeed, and that makes it all the more exciting.

I would also like to give a shout out to a number of other similar pods which have sprung up over the past 2 years. There is a small niche scene growing in this space which is really exciting, and these are the pods, which, if you like my show are definitively worth checking out:

  • The Iron Realm (link to podcast blog) - This was the first and the gut who produces it, Abel, should be credited with creating this genre of hybrid game/story.
  • Tale of the Manticore (link to podcast blog) - The gold standard in the genre. TotM is essential listening for anyone who love ttrpgs and fantasy.
  • Stories from the First Watch (podbean link) - Another Brit doing great fantasy using the Basic Fantasy ruleset.
  • Echoes of Eschaton (link to podcast blog) - Using the Degenesis system, this is a post-apocalyptic pod with insane production quality.
  • Legends from the Fireside (link to podcast on pinecast) - Another fantasy pod where Dan, the host takes no prisoners. This guy's PC body count is brutal.
  • Swords Against Madness (link to launch blogpost) - A new show which takes the concept and puts it through a psychedelic filter to create something beautifully weird, gonzo and pulpy using the Swords and Wizardry rules.

Finishing Up

Make sure to give Legend of the Bones a listen if you haven't already. More solo-rpg related Interviews coming up!

There are many more articles on Rand Roll. Plus a Rand Roll Discord and instagram of Random Tables. I also create Generators at Chaos Gen and have a monthly random tools Newsletter.