In the world of creative writing, finding fresh inspiration can be a perpetual challenge. Whether you’re a seasoned author or an aspiring writer, the creative well can sometimes run dry.
This is where solo journaling tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) come to the rescue. In this blog post, we’ll explore what solo journaling TTRPGs are and how writers can harness their power to ignite their creativity.
What Are Solo Journaling TTRPGs?
Solo journaling TTRPGs, also known as solo RPGs, are a niche within the broader world of tabletop role-playing games. Unlike traditional TTRPGs played with a group of friends (think Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and many more), solo journaling games are designed for a solitary player. These games provide a framework, often a set of rules, prompts, or a narrative structure, for players to create and explore stories on their own.
The specific subset of solo games that are generally referred to as “journaling” games tend to have more of an artistic quality to them, less the kind of dungeon delving adventure you might associate with TTRPGs at large, and more creative exercises and experiences that lead you through some pretty creative places.
Often you’ll sit with something to write in (a physical journal, word processor, etc) and explore, left with a lot of generated ideas and creative material at the end of the experience.
How Writers Can Benefit from Solo Journaling TTRPGs
While the sheer variety of solo TTRPGs means each can give a slightly different experience as a creative tool for writers, there are a few areas in which they generally make the most sense as a resource.
Solo journaling TTRPGs offer a unique opportunity to delve deep into character development. Writers can create rich, multi-dimensional characters and place them in various scenarios to see how they react. This process can help writers understand their characters on a profound level, making them more authentic and relatable in their narratives.
Some games even focus solely on the development of characters, focusing on developing them through the game’s mechanics into a more realized and inspiring part of your fictional worlds.
Writers often grapple with writer’s block when it comes to generating plot ideas. Solo journaling TTRPGs can act as a springboard for creative plot development. The game’s prompts and scenarios provide a starting point, and as the writer progresses, the story takes unexpected turns, inspiring new plot elements.
Using these kinds of games to ask “what might be next” in the action of your story can take you in directions you never thought your story would go. You might not use all of the bits of story that surface through these scenes, but there is a ton of inspiration waiting there.
Creating immersive and believable worlds is a crucial aspect of storytelling. Solo journaling TTRPGs encourage writers to build detailed settings for their narratives. By exploring and describing these settings in the game, writers can ensure that their worlds are vibrant and consistent, enhancing the reader’s experience.
Like with characters, some games (like my own solo worldbuilding game Journey) are all about the process of worldbuilding in some form.
Ex Novo guides you throug hthe evolution of a single city, Artefact has you following a powerful magical item as it’s handed down through the ages and seeing how it shapes the world around it, and Journey puts you in the shoes of an explorer in your world to look closely at the details and find new inspiration there.
Improving Narrative Flow
Writers can practice their storytelling skills through solo journaling TTRPGs. These games often require players to record their actions, thoughts, and decisions in a journal-like format. This exercise can improve a writer’s ability to craft engaging narratives with a smooth flow.
Especially with titles that seek to emulate the actions of a game master to enable solo play, like the Mythic Game Master Emulator, you’ll need to think on your toes and look at the action in your story from new angles.
Being able to knit these events and scenes together is great practice for ensuring continuity and movement in your narratives.
Overcoming Writer’s Block
Solo journaling TTRPGs are a great way to overcome writer’s block. When faced with a blank page, engaging in a game session can provide a structured, creative outlet that can help writers overcome creative hurdles and inspire fresh ideas.
Sometimes you just gotta take a break and try something different, and a quick playthrough of a solo game can give you a creative kick while taking your mind off of what’s blocking you in your work. Double points if your solo TTRPG leads you to a lightbulb moment in your work!
Popular Solo Journaling TTRPGs for Writers
There is a stunning range of solo journaling games out there, and it can be a little overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. Below is a list of some top notch games that I think are a fantastic fit for writers wanting to use TTRPGs as creative tools in their work.
A Note about DriveThruRPG
Many of these games are sold on a website called DriveThruRPG, which might be a new name for folks who aren’t already in the TTRPG community. This is one of the top websites where people can purchase these games, in both digital and physical formats, and is a trusted and safe marketplace.
You can revisit your account to download titles again later, and they have a fantastic support staff in my experience. I sell my on games on DriveThruRPG and have full faith sending my customers their way.
Okay, now on to the games!
- Journey: My own solo worldbuilding game was built with writers and game masters in mind, and is focused on letting you step into your worlds to see them from the perspective of someone moving through it. You can explore settings as large as a galaxy or as small as a single room, and leave with a Traveler’s Journal filled with new inspiration for your work.
- Mythic Game Master Emulator: This versatile system offers a range of tools for solo play, including mythic decks, to create unpredictable, exciting stories.
- Ex Novo: This city building game puts you in the role of the guardian spirit of a newly founded settlement somewhere in your world. You’ll move through four phases of the game that explore your assumptions and expectations of what you’ll learn, the space around the settlement and events of its founding, it’s growth and development over time, and where it is now.
- Artefact: This game, centered on worldbuilding through a very different lens, has you choose a legendary item in your world, whether that’s a weapon, a book, a musical instrument, or a variety of other kinds of item. You’ll then step through the mists of the ages, following your chosen item as it moves from person to person throughout time, exploring how these Keepers have used the item in legendary ways.
You can learn more about the games above (as well as eight more that I think are great options for writers) on 12 Superb Solo Worldbuilding and Roleplaying Games for Writers.
Solo journaling TTRPGs are a valuable and often overlooked resource for writers seeking to enhance their creative work, most often because people just don’t know what they are and how great of a tool they can be! They provide a structured, enjoyable way to develop characters, generate plots, and improve storytelling skills.
If you’re a writer looking to break through creative barriers and add a fresh spark to your work, consider giving solo journaling TTRPGs a try. Your next great story might just be waiting to be discovered in the pages of your journal.