With 2023 well underway at this point, my thoughts keep returning to resolutions that I thought, at the time, were going to really stick this time. Lose a little weight (sure haven’t done that), brush up on my Spanish (a little improvement there), finish some of the projects I keep taking on (that at least has some momentum). But start working through my backlog of solo tabletop roleplaying games that I want to play? I haven’t even made a dent.
But at the very least, my lack of forward movement could at least lead to some other folks enjoying some of these awesome looking games. Here’s my list of the next ten (or more!) solo games that are on my list to check out.
What (and Why) Are Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Games?
Where multiplayer TTRPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and a litany of other names both popular and obscure involve gathering at least one or two other people to play, solo games are able to be picked up and played by a single person.
These experiences run a wide range of styles, from creative writing-focused games like my own Journey to full-blown game master emulators like Mythic that seek to offer as close to a collaborative game experience as possible for the solo player by trying to recreate the involvement of a GM through creative mechanics.
And that right there is a huge strength of solo games: because you don’t have to assemble a group or spend time setting up a campaign, you can often jump right into playing, explore some interesting places and action that you might not get to with a group, and usually walk away with some fascinating inspiration you can take with you to other games or projects (and for some games like Journey, that’s the entire point).
Essentially, if you’d like to explore something specific on your own, can’t assemble a group to play, or want to try some unique and creative mechanics, solo tabletop games are a wonderful fit.
The Ten Solo TTRPGs Next On My List To Play
Alone in the Dark, Solo Rules for Blades in the Dark
Because who knows what mischief you’ll get into all alone in Doskvol?
The world and game mechanics of the astounding Blades in the Dark by John Harper have always been a BIG draw for me, but with so much of my TTRPG time spent in my amazing campaign with my friends, we’ve not had a chance to peel off of that to jump into the gritty world of Doskvol and take on the role of scoundrels in the city streets.
Especially as I work through my podcast backlog and catch up on The Adventure Zone: Steeplechase, my sense of FOMO with this game just tends to grow over time.
That will hopefully change with Alone in the Dark, as these rules (which require you to also have the full Blades in the Dark game to make use of) give you the tools necessary to jump into this world of shadowy heists and thrilling action without a team of players around you. Definitely looking forward to getting my hands a little dirty in the streets of Duskvol with this one!
Playing as a single scoundrel, without backup, is hard. Where in your normal games there are other characters to cover your back or get you out f trouble, here you are on your own. Solo adventures are the most heroic of all. You are the hero. You will succeed or fail on your own merits.
The Cold Empty (Paid)
Investigate strange, occult happenings at a research station in Antarctica
While my solo TTRPG playstyles lean a lot more towards open-world type games that allow me to explore (usually with the intent of seeking creative inspiration for other work), more structured stories like The Cold Empty by Mark Teppo have such a great appeal.
Where a lot of tabletop roleplaying games allow you to take almost any action or direction you would like, The Cold Empty plays in a way “reminiscent of old school text-based adventure games,” a more structured experience that guides the player through the story and opens multiple possible plot lines and a variety of endings to explore.
I think some people might view this type of game as overly limiting, and if you’re only after a solo experience that mimics the sort of multiplayer action you might get from a traditional game, that makes sense! But there is so much fun in these different kinds of games, that I think you’d miss out by limiting yourself.
The storyline of occult happenings in the freezing landscape of Antarctica is just fascinating, and the ability to sink into an interactive story with more of a guide rail on what to do and where to go sound like a great time.
It’s been almost a hundred years since the first occult expedition to Antarctica. Others followed, and many of them did not make it back. Recently, a privately-owned research station has gone dark, and strange signals are being broadcast from the desolate Antarctic Plateau.
The Last Fighter 1 & 2 (Paid)
Streamlined dungeon delving mechanics built for solo play
Where The Cold Empty seeks to give a satisfying solo adventure in a more structured way and specific setting, The Last Fighter by Doppelgänger Publishing offers a more traditional dungeon crawl type of TTRPG experience, but one that they say has stripped down and modern mechanics to enable a satisfying solo experience. This set of straightforward mechanics aims to let you pick up the game now and start playing quickly.
There are two books in this series currently, and the pulpy comic style of the covers seems to set things up for a really great time.
The Last Fighter 1 sends you delving into a dangerous tomb and pits you against a powerful necromancer named Adrail, and The Last Fighter 2 tasks you with recovering a powerful magical artifact from the hands of an orcish army. Both adventures sound thrilling, and I really look forward to exploring the pared down solo mechanics that the series has assembled.
Embark on a thrilling solo gamebook adventure in the city of Brimstone, where the legendary tomb of Radux the Red, the barbarian with a thousand murders, has been discovered by the powerful conjurer Adrail. Driven by his thirst for the treasure said to be buried with Radux, Adrail opens the tomb, unleashing a horde of undead upon the once peaceful town.
Micro Chapbook RPG (Paid)
A new edition of an established solo adventuring system
I freakin’ LOVE a good sandbox fantasy adventure, with the chance to explore openly and shape the world around me. Sometimes a title will strike me as interesting just because I want to see how other publishers do it, and sometimes because it just sounds fun. Micro Chapbook RPG by Noah Patterson manages to tick both boxes for me.
This system is build specifically for fantasy adventuring (with a grimdark feel) for the solo player, and some of the mechanics that are included sound really interesting. The biggest listed mechanic included is what the author refers to as “Cascading Dungeon Search Charts” that allow you to expand any dungeon as needed to enable a satisfying narrative and exploration, which sounds like a cool mechanic even outside of solo play.
I’m not always the biggest fan of grimdark settings, but this game looks like it would be a really satisfying one to take on for my next solo adventuring session!
Micro Chapbook RPG: Basic Edition is a fantasy solo roleplaying game designed for the solo gamer (but is compatible with cooperative play and traditional play as well). Take on the role of an adventurer, delving into dungeons, killing monsters, gathering gold, and becoming the hero of the town! These basic rules are the definitive rules for the system and are all you need to play any adventure for the system.
The Mansion Incident (Pay What You Want)
A solo survival horror TTRPG experience
Horror in tabletop games is one of those genres that I’m just not very good at, and something I don’t always seek out. It can be hard to shape a horror experience as a game master, especially when all of my campaigns are online with my friends around the country.
So color me surprised when The Mansion Incident by Travis Brightfield caught my eye so solidly. The idea of playing a solo adventure with a horror theme really had never jumped out at me (get it, jumpscare, haha?), but this game seems like a really great way to give it a go.
Join an elite investigation unit and delve into the mysteries of Stepford Mansion, attempt to rescue the other members of your team, and hope you can make it out of there alive (and having had a really great time).
You aren’t sure what’s really going on in the Stepford Mansion. There are bizarre puzzles, booby-trapped rooms, hidden passages, and no end of ruthless, hungry monsters. But as part of I.R.I.S., you’ve bumped up against the inexplicable and the occult before. Mountain country is full of chthonic rituals, strange locations, and stranger beasts. There may not be anyone left alive from the helicopter, but you have to hold onto hope that your team survived. You care for each one of them. Among them are your best friend and your beloved. You won’t be leaving without them.
A unique tower defense themed solo TTRPG
I think one of the things I like most about the landscape of solo tabletop roleplaying games is the sheer variety of game types creators are playing with. BEHORO by Kai Medina is such a good example of this, seeking to create a satisfying tower defense game in the form of a solo tabletop roleplaying game.
The author credits the amazing map drawing game DELVE as both inspiration and compatible with BEHORO, and the idea of being able to expand another game and add to it is always intriguing to me. Seeing how the creator has worked in hooks between the two games and allows one to inform the action of the other is always fascinating.
But aside from that, the idea of running a tower defense game in a solo TTRPG format is really exciting, especially in a solo sense that allows you to shape the world in some fascinating ways.
You are the sovereign of the above-ground. A terrible, majestic place where your people will fight tooth and nail to make a livelihood. Your single goal is to keep them safe, while expanding out into the world to find a new way of living that runs past simple survival. Maybe one day you won’t have to combat the world for your right to emerge from the underground, and look out at the pitch-filled sky.
Ironsworn: Delve (Paid)
An ENNIE-winning expansion for the free Ironsworn RPG
Ironsworn by Shawn Tompkin is such a well-known game that is both offered freely in its core format and offers rules for solo play right out of the box, and I’m the first to admit that I’m guilty of never having picked it up. YET.
After reading more about the expansion in Ironsworn: Delve, which seeks to add a ton of content to the core Ironsworn experience, maintaining the support for solo players throughout.
You’ll need the core Ironsworn game to play Delve, but they are free to download on DriveThruRPG.
Delve appears to expand heavily on the idea of dungeons that one might explore in an Ironsworn campaign, offering a ton of content for players to jump into some perilous locations quickly and easily, whether or not they’re incorporating them into an existing Ironsworn game.
To fulfill your sworn vows, you will brave the most dangerous places of the world and face the most terrible foes. Will you escape the depths? Play to find out.
A solo RPG about the perilous journey of a sorcerer towards immortality
Liches are such a staple of fantasy fiction and TTRPGs, and for some power-hungry magic users, the temptation to explore the path towards immortality and lichdom is tempting. But how can you do that in an established game without totally flipping your adventuring party on its collective head?
Lichdom by Feral Wizard presents what seems like a really satisfying solo experience that tasks you with just that. You’ll delve into crumbling tombs and ancient cities to gather the knowledge you need to extend your life and influence past that of a mere mortal.
Using a set of tools familiar to solo tabletop roleplaying game players and some fascinating sounding mechanics including Scheming and Scrying, Mundane and Arcane Companions, Favours and Rituals, Plots and Curses, Resolve and Doom, you’ll do anything you can to find a way to keep your soul tied to this world.
Time passes inexorably. Ages come and go, empires rise and fall, knowledge is found and lost, kings are celebrated and then forgotten, war and plague ravage the lives of many while a few enjoy the most exquisite pleasures… for a time. Everybody dies. But not you; you are called to survive them all and untangle the most well hidden secrets of the cosmos, even if the price is beyond what any other mortal is willing to pay. You are called to Lichdom.
A solo RPG focused on helping a newly founded town thrive through resource management and strategy
Again, solo games offer so much diversity in form factor, mechanics, and gameplay that the entire genre is rife with interesting games. Penciltown by Andrew Backhouse is such a good example of this, and I can imagine using it as a world building tool in other campaigns or creative projects.
This print-and-play game starts you off with a single structure, which you will see grow into a whole settlement (and shrink in the face of adversity) as you guide your new town through the events that will help it either flourish or fail. You will even work to attract new citizens to your town, specializing them into roles like fighters and clerics that will help your city face new challenges.
It just puts me in mind of some other amazing games like The Quiet Year that task you with guiding a group of people through the years, though the shape of Penciltown seems to help it stand apart as something entirely its own.
Penciltown is a solo resource management and strategy game in which you help a newly-founded town to survive, grow and thrive. It’s print-and-play, and you draw and erase things as you go. It’s heavily driven by chance, and its intention is to create interesting stories.
A solo epistolary game about letters left mouldering in an abandoned postbox for weeks, months, years
There are some creators that, when they release a new game, I already know that I need to pick up a copy, even if I know it’s going to be an embarassingly long time before I get to play. Marx of Highwater is absolutely one of those creators, with some truly unique and inspiring experiences and games.
Ghostbox is a fascinating concept that reminds me somewhat of Quill where you will be writing a letter, taking on the role of one side of a conversation where you will never get a response. You’ll watch an abandoned post box age and moulder over time, experience who still comes to drop letters off, and eventually watch as the postbox and all of its contents are lost forever to time.
This game just sounds so freakin’ creative and interesting, and the description offers just enough to pique my interest but leave enough to the imagination as to what the experience will be like.
There’s a postbox in the woods near your house. It’s old, very old—maybe a hundred years or more. The paint is flaking, there’s rust in places. But you think post is still collected there, because they close postboxes that aren’t used. Don’t they? And it is still used. People keep putting their letters in there: lovers, spies, friends, humans. They still post their postcards and birthday cards and driving licences and passports. The odd person might wonder why something doesn’t get there on time, but unless everybody realises, nobody guesses: this postbox is abandoned.
With so many amazing solo tabletop games out there (and with this genre gaining some popularity and leading to even more interesting innovation in this space), it’s almost as impossible to keep up as with multiplayer TTRPGs.
Almost. Because good lord, that list is far longer and my virtual bookshelves are already groaning with the weight of gigabytes.
But with the creativity and fun these games can bring, it’s definitely worth spending some time with them to explore.