By Jordan Rocke
G’day everyone! It’s “the blog editor didn’t want to bother everyone during the holidays and now has no content for the blog queued up” time! This time, I want to talk about something that has been getting me through a lot of dead deskwarming time: Solo Journaling RPGs.
What is a Solo Journaling TTRPG?
OK, so what are they? Basically, it’s a sub-genre of TableTop Role Playing Games (like Dungeons & Dragons, etc). TTRPGs are games where you tell a story with some friends, using some external element to determine how successful you are at doing what your character wants to do. That’s normally dice, but coins, playing cards, tarot cards and other elements are slowly entering the field.
The issue with games like Dungeons & Dragons, and basically all the other big name RPG systems, is that they only function as multiplayer games. Clearly, as being an adult is scheduling hell, a lot of people hit the point where they wanted to try playing games that weren’t reliant on a group of busy people finding time and energy to play. Enter solo TTRPGs! These are a really interesting set of games, although the genre is really big, and I don’t know much about some big names in that genre. There’s games like Ironsworn that appear to basically trying to recapture the vibe of D&D but without other people. Some of these big games, like Mythic, incorporate what is called an “Oracle”, which is an automated entity that plays the role of a Dungeon Master, sometimes using AI, but mostly using dice. In all honesty, the main criticism (especially the more D&D-alike solo games) is why not just play a video game? Things like Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age or The Witcher capture a lot of the vibes of fantasy RPGs, even if the mechanics differ. I can see the appeal, of course, but it’s a niche, albeit growing, sub-genre of TTRPGs. I’m not really going to be talking about games that are trying to appeal to capture the exact same energy of traditional TTRPGs today.
Instead, let me try to sell you specifically on solo journaling RPGs! The premise is simple: you are writing an account of your experiences from the perspective of a fictional character. The normal format is that you are given a prompt, and have to write a short (or sometimes long) passage to respond to it. The line between TTRPG and creative writing exercise is a little murky, but it’s fun all the same. The specific ways these games work varies A LOT, and it’s a little difficult to actually summarise in any way that covers all solo journaling RPGs. So, let me take you through some of the games I’ve tried, and maybe you’ll see something interesting!
1. Thousand Year Old Vampire
The real breakout, crossover success of the solo journaling genre. Tim Hutchings presents a game that clearly took an incredible amount of work, and in any single playthrough you’ll only see a small chunk of it.
As the name suggests, you are a vampire who will live for an incredibly long time. The exact length of time is left pretty unclear, but think centuries at the very least. You write the journal for the full length of your life, from how you become a vampire, up until you either die or reach some sense of stability that means you can live without further adventures. The tone is on the darker side, but as with most of these games, the prompts are designed to encourage you to take the game in whatever tonal direction you want. People will die, and you will kill them, but as vampire media has shown us, that can be a lot of things to a lot of people.
Each turn, you roll an 8-sided die (a d8) and a 6-sided die (a d6), and subtract the result of the d6 from the result of the d8. Starting at the first prompt, you move that many spaces forwards or backwards. If you’re on prompt 1 and have answered it, you roll. Let’s say you get a 7 on the d8 and a 1 on the d6. That means you move 6 spaces ahead, to prompt 7. If you land on the same prompt a second time, or the rolls cancel each other out, every prompt has a second and third step, often building out the story established in the original step.
In the prompts, you may receive a variety of resources. Some of these are literal resources, objects or concepts of value or use. Others are skills, and the last category is people you meet along the way. These are all left very vague, and the specifics are up to you to specify. However, some prompts will require you to sacrifice some of these resources to keep you safe and comfortable. If you hit a run of prompts that force you to give up resources without receiving any, it’s your character burning bridges, running out of money and shelter, and realising that people are becoming aware of their tricks while their other skills deteriorate or fail to adapt to the modern world.
The main story mechanic, however, is memories. As an ancient being, memory is a problem. You can only remember so many things at one time. Although you the player write out every prompt as a journal entry, you the character only know so many things. As such, at a certain point, you run out of space for memories, and have to start selecting things to forget. The interesting storytelling quirk is that not remembering things does not mean you lose them mechanically. You might not remember a friend, a skill or the origin of a resource, but you still have access to them. Depending on how you want to play it, this can end up being a horrifying realisation of how far you have fallen from your humanity, and what you have sacrificed for eternal life, or can be more of a What We Do In The Shadows moment of finding a wish-granting genie’s lamp in the attic that you forgot about. It’s a clever way of forcing you to deal with a gap in knowledge between you and your character.
Personally, I think TYOV manages one of the best balancing acts as a game for me. The issue with some of these games is that the prompts are often written in such a way that it pushes you to tell one specific story, while others are extremely vague, and leave you with very little to actually work with. This game does not have that problem at all. It provides meaty, interesting and very evocative prompts that still manage to be broad enough to allow a decent degree of freedom. I will say the art and some wording does make it seem like the default story is set sometime in medieval Europe, but the mechanics themselves don’t force that upon you if you want to start somewhere else.
Overall, I can say that it’s easy to see why this game crossed over outside of just solo RPG circles. The design and writing are fantastic, and realistically, unless you need to check the mechanics or you get a lot of negative dice results, players just play the game from cover to cover. It’s really streamlined, and easy to lose yourself into. It’s a natural entry point into the genre.
If you want a pretty dramatic and serious game with low to moderate mechanical difficulty, this is definitely a good starting point. You can check it out here: https://timhutchings.itch.io/tyov
2. The Magical Year of a Teenage Witch
For folks who don’t play many RPGs, a relatively common trend between games is game creators taking the mechanical system from one game and reskinning and slightly adjusting it to work for a different genre of game. The most popular is probably the Powered by the Apocalypse (PBTA) system, originally taken from a post-apocalyptic game named Apocalypse World. That system has been rebranded into games about being teenagers wrestling with hormones and also being mythological monsters (Monsterhearts), a simplified version of D&D (Dungeon World), a superhero game (Masks), and a game about being Soviet women pilots bombing the Nazis during WWII (Night Witches) among dozens if not hundreds more.
Anyway, the point of this is to say that The Magical Year of a Teenage Witch by Sky Latshaw is the first fully released game to use the TYOV system, meaning the same mechanics as TYOV, but to tell a different story. And, tonally, there’s basically no overlap between Magical Year and TGOV.
In Magical Year, you play as a teenage witch, the exact age being up to you. The term “witch” is gender neutral in all the games I’ll be talking about here, as an aside. Basically, as part of your training as a fully fledged witch, you are expected to relocate somewhere for a year to focus on your studies. It’s somewhere between a gap year and a year on exchange, maybe closer to a work-study setup. You chart your character’s development, but also flesh out the community your character finds themself in. It’s such a cute slice of life game, and I am amazed that someone played TYOV and saw something like this possible within its system.
Mechanically, there are some changes. You collect characters, resources and skills like TYOV, but you also collect locations. Locations work the same as the others, just places in and around the community the character is spending their year in. You also collect powers, magical things that your character can do. In regards to writing memories, memories are sorted into 6 categories (fire, water, earth, air, light and dark) depending on the dominant emotion or tone of the event they describe. Instead of forgetting memories like in TYOV, when you collect 5 memories of one type, you make an addition to your Spellbook, ensuring that one of your powers will be kept after you finish your magical year.
The Spellbook works as a kind of speedbump, preventing you from running through the game too quickly. The Magical Year is divided into the four seasons, and to get from one season to the other, you need to have a certain number of spells in your Spellbook, which will ideally be some powers that were relevant to your adventures during that season.
Like I said before, the game is incredibly cute. Whereas TYOV was amazing at using art and graphic design to sell the vibe of dark, eerie and supernatural, Magical Year uses its own design to really sell the idea of the game being a relaxed, fun place to play around.
If chill, fun, cute adventures sound like your thing, this is the game, 100%.
Check it out here: https://swashtalk.itch.io/the-magical-year-of-a-teenage-witch
3. Tales from the Gods
So, I mentioned that The Magical Year was the only game using the 1000 Year Old Vampire system to be fully released (beyond the original, obviously) but there is actually another scheduled for release in January, and you can actually already play the free sample, which is genuinely a fully playable game in its own right.
So what is it? Tales from the Gods is the product of the Mexican games company Axo Stories, this project led by Jaime Reyes Mondragon and Alastor Guzman, the latter who has been part of the writing team for some recent D&D 5th edition material. The main premise is very similar to the original TYOV, as you play an immortal god, with each of the prompts being a myth about you told by your believers. The mechanics are very similar, much more so than Magical Year. You gain skills and meet characters, same as TYOV, but collect “relics” instead of resources.
Honestly, the game feels more like a sequel to TYOV more than a separate game, but I do really love how much the game is distinctly from a Mexican company. Mesoamerican art is throughout the book, and although the prompts are intentionally broad, some do bring to mind the impact of colonialism, or the development of pre-Columbian religion in the Americas. I’m definitely going to be interested to see how much is changed between the free version and the final version due next year, and if they make any further attempts to separate themselves from the original mechanically.
The game seems like it’s really coming together. It’s hard to recommend this over TYOV at this point, but if you feel that vampires are a bit overdone this may appeal to you more. Also, there is a version of this game you can play for free, which may sweeten the deal!
Apothecaria by Anna Blackwell goddamn ate like 2 solid weeks of my life, maybe a little more. It’s hard to know where to start here.
The premise is simple. You are a witch (again, gender neutral), specifically a potion maker. You are moving into a small town where the previous witch disappeared mysteriously. Each week you are tasked with fixing the problem of one patient by foraging in the wilderness and concocting a potion that fixes said problem. After fixing the patient up, you have free reign to explore, flesh out the town you live in, build up your humble Apothecary into a reagent growing, fully functional potion-making machine and, ultimately, solve the mystery of what happened to your predecessor.
The game wears its inspiration from video games very proudly. The core setup and mechanical loop has a lot of similarities to Stardew Valley, and the enormous list of maladies townspeople may ask you to cure is undeniably inspired by the writing from Theme Hospital.
The game is mechanically a bit more complicated than the TYOV games. Although you don’t have to keep track of skills or memories or anything, you have to keep track of the endless supplies of ingredients and reagents you gather, what potions you’re making, how much you make for each potion you brew, and how much money your character has altogether. However, that kind of adds to the appeal for me. With the TYOV games you’re moving towards a very clear end: the end of the book. It’s clear, it’s telegraphed, and it’s inevitable. With Apothecaria, the game really doesn’t have a set ending. You can stop after a year, or after you’ve determined the fate of the witch who used to work here, but those are both choices. You can go as long as you’d like. This feeling may also be in part due to the endless series of expansions, adding new mechanics, areas to explore, and ingredients (currently at 6 or 7, I think).
The actual mechanics of playing the game are quite different from TYOV too. Instead of rolling dice, everything is determined by a deck of playing cards. Want to know what illness you’re curing this week? Draw a card. Do you find the ingredient you want? Draw a card. What happens when you go into the swamp? Draw a card. If at any point you draw a joker, you get a clue towards discovering the fate of the witch who came before you.
I do really love this game. My main advice is to go in organised, and have a space physically or digitally where you can keep track of money, supplies and other tidbits. Secondly, this game doesn’t really allow you to take it too seriously. I went in after an experience more like TYOV, wanting to tell a story about a dark town filled with mystery after the previous witch disappeared without a trace and…then you have a local come in with a bad case of “Cold Feet” (chronic indecision has impacted their circulation). The writing isn’t bad, but it’s definitely more lighthearted than the moderate mechanical complexity may make you assume, so don’t go in expecting it to be grimdark.
If witchy medicine with a side of inventory management sounds like your scene, check it out here: https://blackwellwriter.itch.io/apothecaria
If Apothecaria seems a bit too slice of life, and you want a game that is more focused on the more traditional D&D style adventure, Nich Angell’s Colostle might fit the bill. The premise is simple: the world is one enormous castle (the Colostle), in which entire nations might reside in just one room. Inside this castle are creatures called Rooks, sentient stone and metal machines that prey upon people. You play as one of four classes: people who attach parts of the Rooks to their body as weapons, people who raise the young of Rooks to act as a pet, people who turn the bodies of Rooks into wearable magic helmets called Helms or people who ride vehicles made out of Rook machinery.
Using a deck of playing cards, you generate a set of events that happen chapter by chapter, moving you closer to your ultimate goal (which is decided in character creation). The game is extremely open and flexible, and definitely has a charm to it. Parts of it feel like the writing style of Magical Year tonally, but with more classical sword and sorcery adventure tropes mixed in.
Each adventure chapter is made up of 1 to 5 cards, and you are expected to kind of narratively string them together into a journal entry, with combat also being decided by the drawing of cards. The game definitely wants you to work for any combat wins. I think I died literally my first chapter in the game because I didn’t register how bad my odds were when it came to combat.
As much as I wanted to like this game, and still absolutely do like the setting and writing, the biggest issue is how directionless it feels. It feels like the game is giving you a lot of the pieces and asking you to put them together to make something. And that often works! But other times you have a string of enormous events happening in very quick succession, and it can be a struggle to narratively put them all together. The game is asking you to be a Dungeon Master in the sense you have an idea what your character’s goal is and what steps they need to take to get there while also asking you to be the Player, and roll with the punches that the deck of cards deal you. As much as having an overall goal is nice, working out how to achieve the smaller goals that would lead you there is a little difficult to manage.
However, a lot of these issues are handled by the new expansion, The Roomlands. I haven’t sat down and played it yet, but flipping through the rulebook seems to have a decent amount of content that makes me feel like they were aware of the issues, and focused on adding to the base game to make it feel like more of a game.
Anyway, if you are more interested in something akin to a solo journaling version of D&D, you can get both the base game and the expansion here: https://www.colostle.com/shop
6. Reminiscence of Decay
Jean Verne’s Reminiscence of Decay is one of the only Wretched & Alone games I’ve actually tried. Wretched & Alone is a role-playing system used by a ton of different solo journaling games, but I really haven’t played many of them yet. The system is relatively simple: each card in a deck of cards corresponds to a prompt. When you draw a card, you answer the prompt. The game ends when you draw two aces.
RoD reminds me a bit of old episodes of Fringe, X-Files or Doctor Who. The premise is that you are a member of a team sent into a rift in the universe named the Enclave, a mysterious place that has killed almost every person previously sent in to explore it. Specifically, your mission is over. Your team has almost completely been lost, and you have returned to the entrance, and activated the beacon awaiting rescue. To pass the time, you are writing out your memories of the month you spent in the strange space in your journal. Each memory you write has a chance to provide you with Integrity. Each point of Integrity makes you feel more comfortable in the Enclave, and if you reach 10 points of Integrity before the rescue team arrives (which will happen when you draw a second Ace), you will abandon humanity.
RoD is definitely one of the simpler games on this list, and feels a little more barebones. For example, Apothecaria, Colostle and Magical Year sit at around 60-70 pages long, and TYOV is a hefty 180, but RoD is just 20 pages. However, one game mechanic really roped me in: the date on which each prompt occurred is randomised. Basically, as you sit, writing your journal, the order in which memories come back to you is irregular. After you draw each prompt, you roll two dice, giving you a number between 1 and 30, indicating which day the event actually occured on. This ends up with you having a nice interaction with a character early on, and a horrific interaction later in the month, and genuinely not knowing if your character will be able to remember what caused the change before they are rescued or become one with the Enclave.
The game has a lot of clever ideas, despite being a bit shorter and mechanically less involved than most others on this list. The mechanics of the game point themselves towards telling one very specific kind of story, and honestly I’m a bit curious if it has much replay value, as I’ve only done one run. That said, if you find yourself interested in shorter, less complicated games trying to tell a more specific story, I recommend looking into more Wretched & Alone games, perhaps even the originator of the system, The Wretched by Chris Bissette. For me, I think I prefer games with a few more mechanics, mainly because relying so much on just creativity can wear you out after a while!
If you want to try telling your own out-of-order stories about the Enclave, you can check it out here: https://fantasticjean.itch.io/reminiscence-of-decay
The best way to introduce Journey by Luke Miller is that it is the exact opposite of a short, concise game attempting to tell a specific story. Instead, Journey is a game designed to be almost everything. Well, that’s not exactly fair. Journey sells itself as basically a worldbuilding tool. It’s for, among other demographics, DMs who are running their own games to try exploring and fleshing out the settings they want to play in. You play as some kind of adventurer or explorer, exploring an area of any size or scale.
The game throws you into a journey (as to be somewhat expected), in which you need to visit several “waypoints”. Waypoints are divided into Architectural, Natural, Archeological, Historical, Social and Individual. After rolling a d6 to decide which kind of waypoint you visit, you need to design it. This is definitely the hardest part of the game for me, and where it really does feel like you need to come in with a pre-decided world or setting. Picking up this game as a way to design a world from scratch just doesn’t work. The game is more a world-fleshing game than a world-building game.
Anyway, after you choose a waypoint, you draw a few cards. The number of the card indicates a question about the waypoint that you need to respond to, becoming a journal entry. Rinse and repeat for a few waypoints, and then return, writing up about your explorer’s adventure.
So I admit I struggled playing this game a bit. I really respect what it is, but I enjoy dipping my toes into a lot of settings, and when a game requests I BYO setting, I kind of struggle. That said, I feel most people who enjoy TTRPGs have a whole set of game systems that they like reading and knowing exist, but would never realistically have the time/interest/energy/friend group to pull it off if they tried to play it (this is Shadowrun and The Spire for me). Journey for me is probably in that stack of games I really respect existing, and it’s nice to know it’s out there! If you want a game that will let you explore a world you’ve build as an outsider in preparation for a D&D campaign or the like, this is perfect. Same for if you’re writing a standalone story in a particular setting! The prompts are broad enough that I wouldn’t worry about being led into writing the same kind of journal multiple times, which I think is kind of inevitable in things like RoD or Apothecaria. At the end of the day, I’m glad Journey exists, even if I didn’t get that far into a playthrough.
I really need to give Journey another crack, now I have a better idea what it actually is aiming to do. If you want to give it a go yourself, check it out here: https://graycastlepress.itch.io/journey
8. Ex Novo
The last two games on this list are going to be a little different, as both are not specifically designed as journaling games and neither are specifically designed as solo games. However, both advertise themselves as perfectly playable as 1-player games, and both work very well as journaling games.
First up is Ex Novo. Martin Nerurkar and Konstantinos Dimopoulos’s Ex Novo is a mapmaking game, where you slowly carve out the history of a small town or settlement, or even a city, over the passage of generations. There are a few other mapmaking games with similar approaches (The Quiet Year stands out in my mind, but I’m certain I’ve come across others), but what sets Ex Novo apart is it’s focus on power and the balance between the various factions in society.
I’m jumping ahead. Let’s start with the basics. In this game, you start with a blank sheet of paper and some blank cards, plus some kind of “counter” to use to show impermanent resources (I used paperclips). You use some charts and tables to work out the origins of your community (I seem to always get refugees fleeing from an oppressive Empire), and then set how big your community will ultimately be (from a village to a metropolis), and how long you will be charting the history of this community (aka turn count). In reality, how big you want to go and how long you want to go for are super flexible. Especially playing solo, I would not worry too much about locking either of these things in.
Next, you start drawing the physical geography of your map using the same charts and tables, adding things like rivers and forests, various resources, and then starting the first landmarks, man made things that are important for your community. Then, before starting the game, you get my favourite thing: the hierarchy and the factions! You first need to decide how power is handled in this society. Is it a caste system where people are assigned a place in society from birth? Is it a dictatorship? A loosely defined power structure with people taking positions of authority as needed?
Next, you have the factions. Who the factions are is completely up to you. Basically, the core thing is that these are groups of people who want different goals for society. The game gives examples like “the tyrant king” or “the council of elders”, and can also include external actors like “pirate raiders”. For me, I tend to make groups based around more specifically political ideologies, or drawn from the resources and landmarks I’ve already included in the map. I remember one game, for example, the most powerful factions were traditionalists hellbent on turning the new society into a colony of the Empire they had just escaped, while the other factions were academics and scientists dedicated to researching the new environment they found themselves in. You are informed how many factions there are, and who has power (if anyone). There could be one all-powerful faction and a tiny faction of outspoken opponents, or three factions who all have claim to popular mandate, arguing over who should be the leader.
Anyway, after setup, the rest of the game is simple: roll 3d6, and read the corresponding prompt, and do what it says. After that, you can choose to add an extra population counter to the community (to symbolise it growing). At the end of the day, the game ends either when you feel the story is over, or if you somehow manage to loose all population (which would be impressive).
My biggest complaint is that this game isn’t super easy to come back to. Almost all the other games I’ve described I just have saved as a Google doc and can jump back in whenever I want to revisit whatever monstrosity I have created. The physical components of Ex Novo make that a lot harder. Or course, I could somehow do it digitally, but the other difficulty is remembering what context each landmark has. Like, I can backread and see that there is meant to be a laboratory, but is that the dome-shaped thing near the forest, or the square thing near the ocean? I definitely recommend this as a “I have 2-4 consecutive hours to sit down undisturbed and create something”. Luckily, that describes many of my workdays, so this game works perfectly for me.
Messing with factions while also having the physical elements of geography and population to mess with makes this all feel like a really fun spin on Civilization or any other big city-building game. It’s just really damn fun, and I think it taps into the kind of stories I like to write.
For your own map-making fun, check it out here: https://sharkbombs.itch.io/ex-novo
9. The Skeletons
Jason Morningstar’s entry into singleplayer-friendly games took me by surprise. The iconic Morningstar game to me is Fiasco. Although not everyone’s cup of tea, Fiasco is a huge part of my memories of college and university, and it’s a ton of fun. However, it is one of the most social games I have ever played, and without other people pumping a ton of creativity into a game of Fiasco, you just…don’t have a game. Whereas the games on this list blur the line between creative writing exercises and RPGs, Fiasco blurred the line between RPGs and party games. There’s probably a fair argument that Fiasco has more in common with a game like Celebrity Heads or Scattergories than it does with D&D or Shadowrun or other more dice-based RPGs. My point being, I think I would expect the creator of Fiasco to make a game I could play solo about as much as I’d expect the creator of Twister to do the same thing.
Morningstar (and his company, Bully Pulpit Games) is not just known for Fiasco. I love their previously mentioned PBTA game about Soviet bomber pilots, Night Witches. However, having played that game, it also 100% relies on the group of people you’re playing it with. Playing it solo would be basically impossible, and at that point you’re more or less just playing a game inspired by the setting rather than the game itself.
Anyway, The Skeletons! The Skeletons is a game about being a skeleton, but specifically a skeleton enchanted or in some other way bound to a tomb, in which they have to protect something. The skeletons only have sentience, and memories of their previous life, during the invasion of the tomb by an outsider. The issue is that the enchantment that gives them undead life for that time also forces them to be actively attacking or repelling the invader. The game is for 1-9 players, so it can be played as one lonely skeleton isolated in a tomb where they must kill all potential company, all the way up to a full skeleton squad.
The game is played by first choosing a skeleton and designing the tomb, and then playing through three rounds of escalating threat. Round one might be invasions by bugs or dumb kids who are exploring the area, while round three may have you repelling an entire invading army, or a flood of lava coming through the rocks. Each round you choose two of the three possible threats to face, and then continue to the next round. You basically have to choose which of the threats in round three actually defeats you.
The real interesting touch is that as you dispatch the “invaders” to your tomb, you begin to answer questions about your past, and build up the character you’re playing as. Each type of skeleton has slightly different questions to answer about their life, and the specific invasion they are dealing with on that turn may tie into what exactly you remember. Each invasion happens a random amount of time from the previous one, so you may be able to remember the exact series of events that led to you being a skeleton in a tomb a few days into the role, but millennia may pass before you remember your own name.
In a way, The Skeletons is the opposite of TYOV. TYOV posited immortality as an endless series of events that were so full of excitement and adventure that memory fades, and you lose track of the things that matter. The Skeletons, however, portrays a world where immortality is so dull and eventless that memories are the most important currency you have, and drawing things from that memory is the only way to maintain a sense of humanity when little else human about the character remains.
My only critique of The Skeletons is how I’m not sure how much replayability there really is. There are three threats each round, and you have to choose two every play-through, meaning that there is only at max 50% new prompts for the invaders on a second play-through. There are, however, a total of three modules, each of which has the same total of three rounds, with three threats for each. I think with a conscious effort during setup to make the game different from previous play-throughs, there is a definite way to play significantly different games each time. I would also warn that it’s pretty grim. You are being possessed by magic to kill anything that enters your tomb, and in the first round that can be a lot of people who have wondered in by accident, more or less.
For your own spooky, scary skeleton experience, check it out here: https://bullypulpitgames.itch.io/the-skeletons.
I wish I had more of a takeaway for the end of this article where I have just thrown nine random RPGs at you, the unsuspecting reader. Solo RPGs seem like a bit of a ridiculous idea on paper, especially if you’re one of the many, many people who enjoy TTRPGs with groups. Obviously, it takes away one of the most enjoyable parts of traditional TTRPGs away: other people. I think there’s another way to look at it though.
For example, I send almost all of the (coherent) stories I write as a result of my solo TTRPG journals to my poor, patient girlfriend. I use a lot of these systems, or at least skills I’ve picked up from these systems, to write backgrounds and expanded stories for characters I’ve played in my best friend’s campaigns. The way I play solo TTRPGs almost always involves other people, even if it’s not as immediate as D&D is. It’s been 5 years of being in a different hemisphere from the people I’ve played TTRPGs with for most of my life, and it’s at least a 20 minute train ride on a network that ends before 11pm to play in person with most of my friends in Japan. I don’t see these solo games as replacements for the great chances I do get to play RPGs, but instead as a chance to practice the creative skills I will use at those opportunities, and make sure I don’t completely forget how to improv as a DM.
The other most important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, playing these games looks like work to my Japanese co-workers, and I’m going to enjoy that while it lasts, because deskwarming fucking sucks sometimes.
P.S. Shoutout to Ehime AJET President Sage for introducing me to The Skeletons. I don’t think I would’ve come across it otherwise, and I think it fits on this list perfectly.
Despite how incapable he is at trimming the fat on extremely long articles, Jordan Rocke is surprisingly the editor of this very blog. He is also a 5th year Australian JET ALT working in the sleepy town of Hojo, and is one of the current trio of Ehime PAs. In his spare time, his hobby is (shockingly) TTRPGs, as well as too many video games.