loner

another solo rpg game

View the Project on GitHub zeruhur/loner

Loner

Another Solo RPG Game

CC BY 4.0 by Roberto Bisceglie

Loner is a bare-bone freeform solo RPG designed to play with a solo character in “narrative” mode. You’ll guide your character through the story that will unravel during the game, asking closed questions to an oracle who will assume the role of Game Master. Every now and then the game will surprise you when an unexpected plot twist happens!

To play it, it is assumed that you are already familiar with the world of role-playing and solo games. Good places to get an idea are the RPG page on Wikipedia and the Lone Wolf Roleplaying subreddit.

Minimum Requirements

You will need:

Make a Character

Your protagonist (or hero if you wish) is described by some fixed traits:

Example

Zahra Nakajima Witty Street Cat. Streetwise, Nimble, Merciful.
Knife, Low O2 Supplement.
She wants to obtain unknown technology to save her planet from atmosphere collapse.
Nemesis: The Naturalist Order
Luck: 6

Everything else in the game is a “character”. The are living (the Non-Playing Characters) and inanimate characters (as vehicles and crafts). Inanimate characters do not have goal, motive or nemesis.

Example

The Century Skylark Spacecraft in bad shape. Hyperjump Drive, Camouflage Circuits, Midlife Courier.
Shields, Turrets.
Luck: 6.

Start your game

Decide on an initial scene for your adventure. Starting the game in the middle of an action scene is a good way to set events in motion. If nothing If none comes to mind, roll on each of the following questions to generate a random adventure seed.

D6 Who?
The proposer
What?
The mission
Why?
The incentive
Where?
The target
How?
The seed
Obstacle?
The complication
1 Authority Rescue Help Person Casual encounter Opposition
2 Organization Protection Fortune Group Old acquaintance Deception
3 Ally (friend, relative) Exploit Coercition Treasure Rumors Environment
4 Mentor Explore Impulse Location Capture Disguise
5 Help-seeker Escape Ambition McGuffin Mishap Time
6 Blackmailer Pursuit Revenge Confession Object (map, journal, letter) Space

Example

Who? Mentor
What? Exploit
Why? Help
Where? McGuffin
How? Rumors
Obstacle? Time
Tobias Wethern took Zahra under his wing when her parents died. That’s why she can’t say no to him now. Tobias wants Zahra to steal a datapad from the Leton Corporation’s subsidiary. He doesn’t know precisely where it is stored, but that in 24 hours it will be taken from the company’s security corps to be transferred to another location.

Keep the action in motion

A game in Loner is a succession of scenes. A scene is a unit of time in which a certain action takes place in pursuit of a certain short-term goal. In a traditional role-playing game, it is the Game Master who proposes the scene and moves the world and NPCs. In a solo role-playing game, on the other hand, the player asks questions to an Oracle (as he would to a GM) who will provide a closed answer. It is therefore necessary to formulate questions whose answer is binary (Yes, No).

You’ll need 2d6 in one color (Chance Dice), and 2d6 in another (Risk Dice).

To resolve a closed question, roll one Chance Die and one Risk Die. If the Chance Die is highest, the answer is Yes. If the Risk Die is highest, the answer is No.

Also look at the value on each die. If both are low (3 or less), add But. If both are high (4 or more), add And.

Example

You ask, “Does Zahra manage to force the hatch?” You roll one Chance Die and one Risk Die and get (5) [4]). The answer is Yes, because the Chance Die is higher. You add also And, because both rolls are 4 or higher. If the Risk Die had come up as [3], it would have been a plain Yes instead.

Advantage and Disadvantage

If circumstances or positive traits grant an advantage, add a Chance Die to the roll. Otherwise, when hindrances or negative traits cause a disadvantage, add a Risk Die. In both cases keep only the higher die of the added type when you check the roll.

Example

You ask, “Does Zahra hack the datapad?” You roll one Chance Die and two Risk Die, as Zahra does not have any advantage in hacking and the datapad is the mission goal, compromising it would cause the mission to fail. You get (4) [4] [5]. You discard the lower Risk Die [4] and keep (4) and [5]. You obtain a No and add a And since they are both 4 or higher. This hacking has gone really bad…

Harm & Luck

When you are in conflict the game is played in turns alternating between player and NPCs. When you fail your defense, reduce your current Luck according to the table below. NPCs also have a Luck trait. If you attack in any form, reduce the targets Luck according to the table below. When your Luck runs out you face mortal danger and the next attack will take you out of the conflict.

The final outcome depends on the context. Do you get caught? Are you seriously injured? You may even die if that fits the narrative.

Answer Do you get what you want? Harm
Yes, and… You get what you want, and something else. Cause 3
Yes… You get what you want. Cause 2
Yes, but… You get what you want, but at a cost. Cause 1
No, but… You don’t get what you want, but it’s not a total loss. Take 1
No… You don’t get what you were after. Take 2
No, and… You don’t get what you want, and things get worse. Take 3

Example

Zahra confronts a thug in an alley. He is “Martial Artist”, “Hand-to-Hand Combat”, “Feline” and “Short”. Zahra tries to hit him with the knife, you throw (5) (6) [4] (“Yes, And…”, causing a Luck loss of 3 to the thug). The thug throws a roundhouse kick at Zahra (roll (3) (2) [2], “Yes, but…”, causing a Luck loss of 1 to Zahra). Who will win?

Doubles and the Twist Counter

The Twist Counter is a measure of the rising tension in the narrative. At the beginning is set to 0. Every time a double throw (dice are equal) happens, add 1 to the Counter. If the Counter is below three, consider the answer as “Yes, but…”. Otherwise a Twist happens and resets the Counter.

Example

You ask if the datapad contains sensible data about Wethern’s illicit activities. You roll (4) [4]. The answers is “Yes, but…”. You add 1 to the Twist Counter. But you were already at 2 on the counter, so a twist happens! The counter resets to 0.

Determine the Twist

Roll 2d6 and consult the following Twist Table to determine what kind of twist happens.

D6 Subject Action
1 A third party Appears
2 The hero Alters the location
3 An encounter Helps the hero
4 A physical event Hinders the hero
5 An emotional event Changes the goal
6 An object Ends the scene

Interpret the two-word sentence in the context of the current scene. Twists will keep the plot and events going in unexpected ways.

Now that Zahra knows the content of the datapad, but you roll 1 and 5 on the Twist Table “A third party”, “Changes the goal”. An agent of the Leton Corporation appears before Zahra with a proposal….

Determine the mood of the next scene

At the end of the current scene, you may need to determine the general mood of the next one. In this case roll 1d6 and consult the following table:

D6 Next Scene
1-3 Dramatic scene
4-5 Quiet Scene
6 Meanwhile…

Example

Zahra accepts the proposal, you know roll for the next scene: 6, Meanwhile scene. In the following scene, Tobias Wethern hires a hit man to kill Zahra…

Sibylline Responses

The Oracle might sometimes give answers that don’t make sense in the context of the scene. Don’t be tempted to detail the answer with too many questions in sequence. Three questions should be sufficient. If you’re still stuck, try using an open-ended question to unlock yourself or interpret the answer as “Yes, But…” and move the story forward.

Open-Ended Question or Get Inspired

To answer an Open-Ended question, roll 1d6 once on each of the following tables (roll at least a verb and a noun, adjectives are optional).

Verbs 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 inject pass own divide bury borrow
2 continue learn ask multiply receive imagine
3 develop behave replace damage collect turn
4 share hand play explain improve cough
5 face expand found gather prefer belong
6 trip want miss dry employ destroy
Nouns 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 cause stage change verse thrill spot
2 front event home bag measure birth
3 prose motion trade memory chance drop
4 instrument friend talk liquid fact price
5 word morning edge room system camp
6 key income use humor statement argument
Adjectives 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 frequent faulty obscene scarce rigid long-term
2 ethereal sophisticated rightful knowledgeable astonishing ordinary
3 descriptive insidious poor proud reflective amusing
4 silky worthless fixed loose willing cold
5 quiet stormy spooky delirious innate late
6 magnificent arrogant unhealthy enormous truculent charming

Example

You ask: “Does Zahra have friends to ask for help against the hit man?”. You roll 24 and 32: multiply motion. Zahra needs to move quickly to reach Melina Reade, a hacker with contacts in the underworld who might be able to help her!

When the story ends

At the end of the adventure you may add other trait to the character. It is better that this is related to the story just ended and can be either a Skill, a Gear or a new Frailty or even a new Nemesis! You can also modify an existing trait to better represent an enhanced expertise.

Also note the list of contacts, enemies and any events, people or objects that may show up again in future adventures.

Example

Zahra secures the datapad in the hands of the authorities, framing both Wethern and the Leton Corporation. Wethern is arrested, but she has gained a powerful enemy working against the Corporation. She gains “Wannabe Hacker” to her skills. Maybe Melina can mentor her!

Credits

Recluse Engine (CC BY 4.0) by Graven Utterance and Tiny Solitary Soldier Oracle for the main resolution and scene mechanics.

Freeform Universal Roleplaying Game (CC BY 4.0) by Nathan Russell as an inspiration of the whole game and the character traits.

Harm mechanics are from 6Q System (CC BY 4.0) by Marcus Burggraf.