Life begins when you start something, and blooms when you keep doing it.
Session 1 – Humble Beginnings
After I decided to finally really dig into Dungeons & Dragons (You can read about that in My Curriculum Romance), I of course was stuck with trying to find a group of players to start playing with.
Of Dice and Men
After a discussion with a friend Eric who I knew played at some point, he decided to get his group going again, so we started playing online. Another friend of mine, Brandon, also wanted to get a Pathfinder group going and we decided to do a physical meet at his location. So that was great, two different groups with two different games I was getting involved in, and two different methods: Online and In Person. However, I wanted to “exercise” what I was learning from reading the core rules etc. and I discovered there were guides and systems that actually allowed you to play solo.
From reading a few rules, it seemed as if The Solo Adventurer’s Toolbox had really great reviews so I decided to give it a shot.
Before I go too far though, let’s take a moment to talk about things you may or need to have to play other than Dice (which I had plenty). And speaking of dice, you don’t really need physical dice, there are plenty of virtual dice rollers out there… but I prefer physical dice.
A Character or Two.
To get started in any TTRPG you need to create a character of course. Any rule system is going to give you the resources you need to build out that character. Some may use physical paper character sheets, and some may use digital sheets. For me at this time, and for this solo game, I’m using the digital character tools at DND Beyond. Regardless of your thoughts on Wizards of the Coast, and the whole Open Gaming License (OGL) debacle that has occurred recently, the fact of the matter is that right now, using their digital character sheets are free. You get five of them I believe for free. Anything more than that requires a subscription…. as of now, and that is obviously subject to change.
In my next solo game, I’m going to try to use a pure paper character sheet, but I haven’t decided 100% on that yet. For right now, it’s the quickest way for me to get going and get into the action. There are of course plenty of others to choose from.
My first solo character’s name is Morn Bardigus. He’s a human Bard. I don’t personally remember how I came up with the name, but that’s not too important and shouldn’t be for you either. Just pick something you like. It doesn’t have to be fancy. As my solo game has progressed, I also created a Half Elf Fighter named Thenelis Goltorah, and we have two sidekicks named Ulmog and Mara.
Having a full second PC allows me to learn the mechanics of a different race/species and class.
Also, using the DND Beyond digital character sheets allow me to look up and add items with ease and have the item stats etc. automatically added. As well as keeping track of my sidekicks. The list goes on. It’s a great tool IMHO.
I think one of the most crucial habits you want to pick up as you begin playing, whether that be solo or group play, is to start journaling. Just something to help keep track of your characters progress in the story and any other elements you may not have listed on your character sheet. You could use a physical notebook, a text file on your computer, a full word processor, anything. Just get into the habit of it.
My flow (at the time) was to use a physical notebook to track the following things:
- Where my character is at
- Encounter details with creatures
- Treasure obtained.
- And any other notes I felt were important.
Remember when I said my initial solo adventure started with just one PC, and he got his ass kicked by a bunch of rats in a dungeon on his first adventure? Yep, you can see that at the top of the page in that pic. It may be hard to read, I’ve mostly typed my entire life and don’t print well in my older age, but it shows the following:
2 CR 0 Monsters
2 Rats MM 335
I had utilized The Solo Adventurer’s Toolbox, which upon utilizing its Monster Encounter tables informed me that I had encountered 2 monsters with a Challenge Rating of 0.n After I rolled to determine which ones, it was 2 Rats as detailed in the Monster Manual on page. 335.
And because my character had just started out; didn’t have that many hit points; I wasn’t as up to speed on all the things I could do in combat; and lastly the luck of the dice, they damned near killed me right out of the gate.
Visualizing The Action
A lot of players may use either, or a combination of, the following things during play.
- Graph Paper
- Battle Mats with tokens or Miniatures.
- Theatre of the Mind.
I personally use a combination. I use Graph Paper when I’m just plotting out an area I have in mind and a Battle Mat when I need to visualize where my PCs, NPCs, Creatures etc. are located in combat.
The battle maps I use can be found here.
And of course, Theatre of the Mind. Sometimes you just don’t need to draw it all out, and depending on which group you may be involved in… they may rely solely on this.
However, I love the miniature aspect of playing. I like the tactile approach with moving them across the battle mat and seeing their proximity to each other. A lot of people love the hobby of painting their miniatures, but I currently don’t see myself going down that road (famous last words).
Of course, you don’t need Miniatures or Battle maps or any of it if you don’t want to. You could just drop a quarter, a dime, and a penny on the table and have each represent something. Or just rely purely on theatre of the mind.
I Almost Died
Eric and I have a weekly ritual, in which he asks me… “Well, how did you almost die last week”. This is because I probably say it all the time. I mean there’s always been SOME crazy thing that happened to me in my life the past week, it’s just become habitual.
However, in my first encounter, my PC did almost die from those two rats. In fact, he almost died a lot in the early days, that’s why I created a secondary character, as I noted earlier, to adventure with him.
So that’s what I used, and how I started my adventures in solo gaming with D&D. With my dice, battle map, and character created, I used the resources from The Solo Adventurer’s Toolbox (TSAT) to get started. Another great thing about TSAT, is that it referrers back to the official D&D resources (Specifically the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual) if you want to use those vs. the slimed down system it provides.
What was great about that for me, was I got into the habit of using the official sources mostly for wilderness, urban, dungeon building etc., and only used TSAT for the random encounter tables and other things.
However, as my library now started to grow with random encounter books; bestiaries; worldbuilding books; and my own world building techniques, etc. I literally stopped using TSAT altogether.
When I first fired up this new blog, I was originally thinking that I would generate a few posts about the timeline of my solo adventure up to where I am up to now. Then I would start with a post where I’m now switched over to using the Mythic Game Master Emulator and all of my other resources.
I have since decided that I would prefer that the next post be where I am currently, as the goal of each Session post is to literally detail the game play of each Play session; what resource I used; recommendation; etc., so that’s what we’ll do instead.
I’ll try to remember to lead off the next session post with a “quick” recap of the adventures of Morn, Thenelis and the rest of the adventuring party, as they are about to battle with an evil cultist and his followers.
In those posts, I probably won’t be going into as much detail as what I’m about to show you, but my journaling for my solo story has now turned into me preparing a settings and campaign guide for based on the adventures of my party.
Here’s a sneak peek at what that looks like.