the wonder of role-playing games: reviews, solo rpgs, old-school & narrative games

03 Feb 2015

Guide to Playing Alone (Review)

Solo Role-playing is its own beast and while it is basically the same hobby there are some differences from normal role-playing in a group.
Cabbage Games aka “Kenny the Cabbage” recently released the Guide to Playing Alone (aff) to help you get started with solo role-playing.
The author is fairly active in the Lone Wolf G+ community so I asked for a review copy.

What do you need to know?

The product is a short 13-pages PDF which sells at USD $1.47 at Onebookshelf (aff).

Solo roleplaying is a way to roleplay when you are unable to roleplay with mates. It can’t take the place of time around the table, but solo roleplaying gives you a deep roleplaying experience, one that requires only yourself. The only excuses you’ll hear are the ones you bring.

It is meant as a guide for learning the three key elements of solo rpgs and how to start roleplaying alone.

The product

The author, Kenny, identifies 3 core elements and explains them in the book:

  1. Know Roleplaying
  2. Know Thy Self
  3. Know Thy Toolbox

The first section is about role-playing and explains the basic setup: the player and the GM. You need to be both but can outsource the GM part by using a solo engine. What is this, you ask?

The solo engine is similar to the games engine of video games, but for solo tabletop role-playing.

I would have liked a more elaborate explanation. The most common engine is the Mythic Game Master Emulator which is still the most sophisticated one out there. If you are not familiar with solo role-playing and the GME it wouldn’t hurt if there would be some explanation on what this can do for you and where it falls short. What exactly does a solo engine? Next up is Know Thyself and I found some useful insights in this section. The author refers to Bartle Types, a classification for player types in MMOs by R. Bartle. Such designations are neat tools for getting clear about what type of player you are and what you want to get out of your game. Thus they help you to get a clear vision on what you want to achieve with solo role-playing. Finally, we come to the Toolbox category. The author lists elements of tools you will need for solo role-playing. This is the meat of the show and will be most interesting for new soloists. Again, this part of the book is quite short but will get you started into the right direction.
Personally, I’m more of a spontaneous person so I found it useful to have an organized list of useful types of tools. This approach is much more coordinated than I’m used to.
However, the author mostly doesn’t mention specific tools but only broad categories like solo engines, setting books, random organizers and such.
Luckily, he mentions the Mythic GME which is a must-buy for any solo role-player anyway. He also explains a bit more about what a solo engine is. Additionally, he refers to his website which also lists some tools although they are not as extensive as the list of the G+ community (check out the sticky post).
I would have liked some more specifics in this section. The last section of the book is Getting Started. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty and begin the journey! Kenny lists four prerequisites for a game:


I was especially interested in Techniques and Logging. Techniques are always useful and logging has been a problem in the past when I first tried out solo role-playing. How do you write down your experiences without having to write a full story and still retain a roleplaying experience?
Unfortunately, the author doesn’t go into detail but refers to a blog post he made. As there is no hyperlink I tried to find the blog post but couldn’t. The website, is pretty fresh and it looks like this post isn’t up yet. It would have been helpful to get some examples on how solo role-playing really works, for example with an Actual Play.
After reading the whole book the newbie soloist has gained some insight into the topic but might be a bit stumped on how to incorporate the theory into practice.

Look & Layout

This is a minimalistic PDF with one-column layout. The artwork is sparse but good. The PDF is easy to read. Props for having electronic bookmarks, many publishers skip this.
I am really missing hyperlinks as there are some references to web links which I had to copy & paste manually.


First off, I think it’s great that Kenny did the work to put out a guide for solo role-players. It’s the first of its kind. I love that it will probably help to promote this niche in the role-playing community.
That said, as a complete guide, the Guide to Playing Alone falls short. It is more a primer to solo role-playing as it gives you some starting points. The advice is solid but a bit scarce. I really like the framework the author set up. The methodical approach is interesting and helpful, even for veterans.
For absolute beginners this is a handy product as it gets you started. I just wish that the book would go more into detail and specifics. I see a lot of potential which hasn’t been realised yet.
For people who have already played solo rpgs this is a nice addition to your collection but not a must-buy. For USD $1.47 you might want to pick it up nonetheless as it offers some advice which you might find valuable.
All in all, the Guide to Playing Alone is a good product but simply too superficial for my taste. If this would be fleshed out more extensively it could easily be an awesome resource for solo role-players and thus be even more helpful for beginners & veterans alike. Edit: Kenny answered to my review and said that he will update the product in the future after he has gathered some more feedback. Future releases will be free for all who have purchased this guide.

Guide to Playing Alone (aff) Lone Wolf G+ community Mythic Game Master Emulator (aff)