Hey, I’m a fan of wordplay, and the title of this post is a playful pun. For those who catch the nuance, great! If not, no worries – this is an inside joke for a few people.
Consider this post as a confession of my TTRPG book obsession. Better yet, see it as a roadmap for your own RPG journey. By exploring my solo games series and this post, you can gain insights and knowledge for your own introduction to RPGs.
If you haven’t yet checked out my introductory post, I highly recommend giving it a read.
Originally, the information on this page was part of my introductory post. However, as the content started to look more like a Tolstoy novel than a blog post, I decided it deserved its own dedicated space. Hence, here we are!
In many TTRPGs, the players create Backstories for their PCs. This helps to define who they are, what makes them special and stand out from any other similar PCs in the game environment, and it also helps the GM plant and use elements from these backstories as plot hooks in the game if they so desire. So here is a backstory for The Old Bard that I hope will shed some light on what this site is all about. This may be a bit long winded, so I apologize.
As I discuss in Well… that was interesting. Session 0, my introduction to TTRPGs was circa 1980. I remember walking into the bookstore and seeing the following books on the shelves and the then, 10- or 11-year-old in me was completely enthralled in what I was seeing.
I was captivated by these two things I saw. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook and the Basic Dungeons & Dragons box set. I flipped through the players handbook trying to actually understand it and realized (what I thought at the time) that it required a group of players in order to play. Least to say, I didn’t buy them that day, but like many other Dungeons and Dragons (Or D&D for short) gamers, the artwork alone and books contents captured my imagination.
However, about a couple of years later I did see that TSR had released a different RPG that piqued my interest called Star Frontiers.
Now THIS was interesting, so I picked it up and began reading how to play. I was fascinated but couldn’t seem to get a group of friends together to play. I tried to play it solo but remember being disappointed because I “knew” too much about how the story was going to unfold. That just spoied the surprise. I put it down and didn’t try to play any RPG systems again until about. 2013.
In 2013, I was discussing with my friend Brandon that I really wanted to go back and try to play Dungeons and Dragons again, that I always had an interest in it. He told me, that the state of Dungeons and Dragons (at the time in its 4th edition) was a mess and that we should try Pathfinder instead. I reluctantly agreed and picked up the Starter set and Core rulebook for the 1st edition of Pathfinder.
We tried to play the starter set, with him taking on the role of Game Master (GM for short) and my wife and I using the pre-generated Player Characters (PCs) in the box set, but it didn’t go very long, and for some reason… we just never picked that back up.
It sat on the shelf for nearly 10 years before I considered it again. I think a lot of why it didn’t stick, was what I truly wanted to learn was Dungeons and Dragons, and mostly it appeared to me this wasn’t something you could easily get into with just a quick session. (Mind you, I don’t believe that anymore)
Fast forward to the middle of 2022. It’s July. Life had gotten so chaotic evil for me, and I just needed SOME kind of escape. My music was generally my go to for escape, but my motivation for it had slumped as well. I needed SOMETHING for me to bury my head in, so my thoughts were not so clouded with everything BAD going on.
I decided, I really wanted to go back and try to get into Dungeons and Dragons one more time. That 10-year-old boy in me kept remembering how interesting it was to me then. I really wanted to learn how to play a TTRPG, and it was Dungeons and Dragons I truly wanted to try.
Oh, my goodness this gift set was gorgeous, and it contained the Players Handbook, The Dungeon Masters Guide, and The Monster Manual all in one. The Starter set also looked like an easier way to start playing so I grabbed that as well.
As I started reading more, and understanding more, it was still difficult trying to find a group of players whom I might actually play with. I had told one of my old friends, Eric, whom I knew played at one point in time, that I was interested in playing again. It had been a while since his group had played, but he would love to start up again. So I had one new group to start playing with.
I also let Brandon know that I was digging back in, and he too wanted to get a new group going but wanted to focus on Pathfinder. At this point, I had already started showing an interest in other RPG systems and felt I could probably handle learning Pathfinder as well. To be honest, it really didn’t matter to me much which game we were playing, I just wanted to play.
So now I had groups to play with, but not often enough for me. I started researching ways to play solo, so I could satisfy my craving, and quite honestly use it to exercise the rules in the systems I was playing.
Learning how to play RPG systems solo, opened a world of possibilities for me, and sometimes I’ll just spend hours crafting a tiny encounter for my PCs, filled with interesting Non Player Characters (NPC) foes and their minions to challenge them. I truly love the world building aspect of all of TTRPGs and you know what? That’s playing as well.
Everything is playing
Play is older than culture … animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.
– Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens
Play is enchanting. Play casts a spell. It is involving, and it brings you outside of
If you are getting involved with an RPG rule set in any way, you are playing.
Going through rules and thinking about what to do and downloading a pdf—
and not doing anything more than that—is not a failure. It is not a waste of time.
It is part of playing.
If you create characters but never use them in a session, that is still experiencing the RPG world. That is part of playing.
If you read rule sets but never run sessions with them, that is still experiencing the RPG world. That is part of playing.
All these things are part of the process of solo RPGing. They are part of having a solo experience.
If you roll up a world, you are playing. It doesn’t matter if you never do a skill check with a character in that world or have combat or even have an encounter.
You are still playing that world by creating it.
Everything is playing, even if it’s just trying to find a system or generating a character and moving on. One of my first attempts at solo RPGing was to work with the original Traveller (Game Designers’ Workshop, 1981) and create a starship. I made and labeled the ship’s map and used the random tables from the “Worlds and Adventures” Book 3 to imagine places the ship would go. That’s it. I never even made characters. I never sent the ship anywhere. I was playing, and it was great!
Everything is playing.
If you remember just this one point and forget all the rest you will automatically be having a richer experience in your solo sessions, and you’ll stop feeling as if what you are doing is not the “real” solo RPG experience you should be having.The Solo Game Masters Guide – Geek Gamers.
I tried not to be too long winded here, but I was anyways. So, I’ll try to wrap this up with some final thoughts.
As I started learning more on different ways to solo play, I was also starting to collect more and more books on the subject and overall, the collector in me kicked into high gear.
I loved just having the books to begin with, and decided to start collecting at least, all of the official D&D books. As I had gained enough of an understanding of RPG systems in general, I also discovered the Dune RPG, Alien RPG, and Blade Runner RPG systems, along with many others. And oh my, all the gorgeous 3rd party bestiaries, random encounter systems, etc. It is an addiction, but a fun one.
I decided to start this site, to hopefully distill some of the things I’ve learned and provide you with a wealth of information, from techniques for solo play, third party resources and more. Think of it as a form of a curriculum for you.
Lastly, you can find more details on all of the resources I have at my disposal on the Resources page here.