Solo journaling RPGs, which use writing prompts to create unique stories, worlds and characters, also have a use outside of solo play.
Tabletop roleplaying games have gained so much popularity in part because they provide players the tools to create collaborative stories and stretch their creativity while still providing rules to guide the story. However, many players may not be able to join a gaming group for a variety of reasons, and some people feel more comfortable playing games on their own. While the TTRPG world mainly focuses on group-based games, there are many solo games that can also create unique stories.
In particular, solo journaling games mimic many of the conventions of TTRPGs, including randomized outcomes to events that can transform the story. Solo players can use these games as tools to spark creativity and tell their own stories–they are complete games in their own right. Solo journaling RPGs can also be useful tools to incorporate into collaborative campaigns. They can help both game masters and players flesh out and feel more connected to their tales.
What Are Solo Journaling RPGs?
Solo journaling RPGs are games in which a single player uses prompts to tell a story, create a setting or provide a snapshot of a character’s life that the player logs through journal entries. While most of these games rely on a pencil and paper, some games have been digitized and can be played on the computer.
Solo journaling RPGs randomize the prompts using dice, coins, standard playing cards, a tarot deck, or some combination of these tools. Some set out to tell a story, form a character study, or expand upon a world generated by these prompts. Because most of these games focus on writing prompts instead of set outcomes, they are repeatable. Players can generate new stories, characters and worlds with each session. Also, though some games can be longer, many of them only take 30 minutes to two hours to complete, making them an ideal choice for players who don’t have the time to devote to a long campaign.
Solo Journaling RPGs Allow Players to Stretch Their Creativity
Solo journaling RPGs provide prompts and ideas for creating unique tales in a variety of settings. They can cover many different genres and play styles, and some even echo the quests of traditional tabletop RPGs. For example, Anna Anthropy’s Princess With a Cursed Sword follows a princess’ journey to overcome her curse.
Some games are more cozy, like Eliot Silvarian’s Village Witch where players tell the story of a witch deciding where to settle down. Other games focus on the creation of new worlds and settings, ranging from wondrous to horrifying. Alone Among the Stars by Takuma Okada features a solo adventurer exploring the galaxy and discovering new and fascinating sights.
Often, solo journaling games focus on introspection, asking the player to explore their characters’ inner lives as well as deeper themes. While these games all use similar systems, their tone and purpose vary enough that anyone can find a title that suits the story they want to tell or experience.
How Solo Journaling RPGs Can Be Incorporated into Collaborative Campaigns
Solo journaling RPGs can be useful tools for larger campaigns as well. Both players and game masters can use them to create more detailed characters. Some focus specifically on creating new settings and locations, which game masters can use in their larger games. For example, Kaden Ramstack’s Alone on a Galactic Map, a hack of Alone Among the Stars, focuses on space cartography.
Many games that are not specifically focused on worldbuilding or character creation can still be used as springboards for new ideas for collaborative TTRPGs. For example, in Travis D. Hill and Lindi Farris-Hill’s The Portal at Hill House, the player must attempt to close a portal to Lovecraftian horrors. The player creates a haunted house, which they could easily use later in a larger campaign.
Overall, solo journaling RPGs are storytelling systems that can provide players with strong individual stories. They can also be incorporated as building blocks for longer tales, either written alone or created collaboratively. For players looking to try solo journaling RPGs, often the best place to start is with charity bundles, which allow players to expand their game library while also supporting good causes. For example, Itch.io is currently hosting the “TTRPGs for Trans Rights in Texas” bundle until April 4. While it does not exclusively contain solo games, the bundle includes most of the games mentioned in this article and dozens more to start anyone off on their solo journaling RPG journey.
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About The Author
Jennifer Roy (289 Articles Published)
Jennifer Roy is a children’s literature scholar and a freelance writer. She currently is focusing on writing content for CBR. She received her Ph. D. in English in 2020. A common thread of her scholarly work is a focus on the use of adaptation and particular motifs to tell and retell stories. You can find her on twitter at @jen_d_roy.