Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Tactical Solo RPGs (Three Concepts)

Space Hulk I'm sorry, come back to me!
The box itself was fucking enormous.
So someone made this post in the RPG design subreddit today, which I have copy and pasted below:
Let's come up with some ideas for how to craft a tactically-focused RPG that an individual may play solo.
How do you get a player to feel like they have meaningful planning and execution options while still creating interesting and surprising resolutions? Tactical RPGs tend to require multiple brains working in cooperation and contest to make things interesting... Solo games tend to be theater [sic] of the mind / choose-your-own-adventure... How do we flip both those things on their head? How do you provide a tactical experience without overloading a solo-player that doesn't have a GM to bounce off of?
Rules: You don't have to design an entire system, just spitball some ideas for the concept. No real rules other than that.
...and immediately I thought of Space Hulk (pictured! above!) and how sad it makes me to think I no longer own that great big box and all the miniatures and interlocking corridors... because I spent many, MANY hours playing that game, by myself (admittedly with the rules for solo play provided in the Deathwing expansion boxed set) and I made this reply:

 I think the tactical emphasis will,as others have said, push towards board game over RPG. However, the tactical operations could be strung together within a campaign framework that would make for some really interesting emergent storytelling.

Mechanically and thematically I'd be drawn towards adapting the solo rules included in the Deathwing expansion for Games Workshop's Space Hulk, mainly because enemy AI is simply "charge and engage", with players relying on their ability to take enemies out at range. Randomness enters the fray as enemies are detected as blips, but their nature (and number) aren't revealed until eye contact is made.
Space Hulk drew heavily on the Aliens franchise so something within that vein would suit well, but I was also thinking about a special forces vs. Cthulhu cultist scenario (that's Delta Green, right?). The player manages an elite unit, playing through a sequence of procedurally generated scenarios that determine the outcome of the final showdown (they do well and they're mowing down cultists before they get to complete the summoning ritual, perform badly ; badly and they arrive in the final chamber to witness Dagon emerging from a watery portal.
Between missions they can craft, research, recruit and train (now it's starting to sound like X-Com), as well as gather procedurally generated intelligence and receive new missions/target's/objectives.
...or, you know, something like that.

It didn't stop there. Once the concept was lodged in my brain, I kept thinking of new twists...
Just thought that this style of game would also work quite well with an Attack on Titan game, again given the enemies' uncomplicated but occasionally random approach to combat.
For the record I think Attack on Titan (the anime, I have no idea about other media) is frustratingly bad, but the core concept is great (hence the frustration). Anyway, thinking about walled cities/ garrisons defending citadels naturally sent me down another avenue:
Just chipping in (again) with a concept rather than mechanics, but medieval castle under siege could work quite well: you play the seneschal, marshaling [sic, auto-correct is apparently American] resources and bolstering your watch, fending off infiltration attempts[,] all against a time limit.
So why have I just copied and pasted a few comments I made on a Reddit thread? Well, mainly as a vector through which ideas can be disseminated. As a reminder these are:

  1. SPEARHEAD Elite special forces units investigating occult practices in  the contemporary era. A tactical board game consisting of a series of combat raids, tied together with a strategic resource management/ recruitment/ troop training thread. Combat modelled after Space Hulk solo rules (Deathwing), but think of a tabletop version of X-Com meets Cthulhu/ Delta Green.
  2. TITAN GARRISON Demoralised and ill-trained cadets defend a walled city against titans, whilst trying to locate/ identify the traitor within their ranks.
  3. SENESCHAL UNDER SIEGE As a commander of the castle's defences, it is your duty to hold out long enough for your allies to break the siege. Man the battlements, boil the oil, and brace yourself for outbreaks of plague and cannibalism, this is going to get revolting.
That is all.

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