NaNoWriMo is a challenging but rewarding experience for any writer. However, it’s not uncommon to hit a slump around the halfway point. Lord knows I’ve never even made it to the halfway point!
If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed by the NaNoWriMo slump, don’t despair! Solo tabletop roleplaying and journaling games can be a great way to overcome writer’s block, get your creative juices flowing again, and get a motivating boost of inspiration to finish out the month strong.
Free Introductory Solo TTRPG: Journey Lite
This article breaks down a bunch of ways solo TTRPGs can be used by the brave souls on their trek through NaNoWriMo. But there’s nothing better than trying it out for yourself (especially if it’s free)!
I’ve put together a basic version of my full game Journey called Journey Lite, a streamlined worldbuilding game that seeks to help you explore a location within your story in some new and interesting ways while being really approachable.
Even if you’ve never played a solo game like this before, Journey Lite gives a brief taste of how solo TTRPGs can put you in a new perspective on your story and help you discover new and interesting details to add to your story with nothing more than one or two six-sided dice.
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What are solo tabletop roleplaying games?
For most, the term “tabletop roleplaying game” conjures images of the iconic Dungeons & Dragons, a game that has captivated imaginations for generations. In this collaborative adventure, players craft their characters, imbuing them with unique abilities and skills, before embarking on quests guided by the game master’s storytelling prowess. D&D, much like its kin, invites players to flex their creative muscles and delve into worlds of boundless possibilities.
Solo tabletop roleplaying games, while distinct from their collaborative counterparts, share the same essence of imagination and exploration. Armed with dice, cards, and sometimes just a pen and paper, players embark on solitary adventures, guided by prompts and rules that fuel their creativity.
A plethora of solo tabletop roleplaying games cater to the desire for a full-fledged roleplaying experience, replicating that collaborative spirit through innovative strategies and tools. These games provide a framework for players to craft their own narratives, immersing themselves in captivating tales of their own devising.
Niche among the niche, solo journaling games transcend the realm of mere adventure, transforming into creative catalysts. These games encourage players to actively engage in writing, narrating their experiences as they unfold. The result is often a collection of journal pages or digital notes, brimming with personal reflections and insights gleaned from their solo adventures.
How to use solo TTRPGs to overcome the mid-NaNo slump
There are a few different ways to use solo TTRPGs to overcome the mid-NaNo slump. One way is to use them to generate new story ideas. If you’re feeling stuck with where your story is going or how it’s going to get there, try playing a solo TTRPG to see what new ideas come to you. Often these games are great at stimulating your imagination and forcing you to think of the action in your story from a new angle.
Another way to use solo TTRPGs is to explore your characters’ backstories and motivations. This can help you get to know your characters better and make them more complex and believable. You can use these games to actually play through formative moments in your character’s backstory, explore locations that are important to them, and more.
Finally, you can also use solo TTRPGs to simply have fun and let your creativity run wild. Sometimes the best way to get over writer’s block is to take a break from your novel and focus on something else for a while.
Here are a few specific tips for using solo TTRPGs to overcome the mid-NaNo slump:
- If you’re feeling stuck, try playing a solo TTRPG that is different from the genre of your novel. This can help you to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. An eldritch horror game might have just the idea to move your modern science fiction story along!
- Explore parts of your world that you might not have visited yet using worldbuilding games like Journey to gain some perspective on what’s out there and new places your story might visit.
- Take a break from your novel and play a solo TTRPG just for fun. Sometimes the best way to get over writer’s block is to let your creativity run wild.
Great Solo TTRPGs for Overcoming the NaNoWriMo Slump
The world of solo journaling games is a vast and wondrous one, filled with endless possibilities for writers seeking creative tools. While the sheer abundance of options can be daunting, fear not! For here lies a curated collection of top-notch games, specifically tailored to ignite the imaginations of writers.
A Word on DriveThruRPG
Many of these gems reside on a marketplace known as DriveThruRPG, a name that might ring unfamiliar to those new to the realm of TTRPGs. This platform serves as a one-stop shop for TTRPGs and related titles, both in their digital and physical forms. Rest assured, DriveThruRPG is a trusted and secure marketplace, where your digital treasures remain accessible for future downloads and their support team is fantastic. As a seller of my own games on DriveThruRPG, I wholeheartedly vouch for their reliability and dedication to their customers.
Mythic Game Master Emulator
The classic option to let the game drive the action
Where many games on this list tend to be more self-contained and narrative experiences, Mythic could realistically be used to let you run any typical tabletop roleplaying game without a game master, or entirely by yourself.
Rather than a guided narrative experience, Mythic uses a combination of their Fate Chart (a table of probabilities for how a question might be answered based on a few factors), some tabletop roleplaying game dice, and some other neat features to help drive the action of a scene. The whole process involves asking Mythic a question, one that can be answered clearly with a yes or no, and allowing the Fate Chart to determine the answer. You’ll have to interpret the Fate Chart result through the lens of your story and question, but you’ll likely find the guidance and randomness inspiring and useful.
It also takes the “chaos” of the action into account as a way to modify the result of your question’s answer, which can lead to some interesting and unpredictable results.
There’s enough to Mythic that it will likely get it’s own whole post here on the Graycastle Press Journal, but it all adds up to a really cool way to think through the flow of action and reaction in a scene.
The bestselling solo tabletop roleplaying and worldbuilding game
Full disclosure, this bestselling solo worldbuilding and roleplaying game was created by myself right here at Graycastle Press. So I may be a bit biased. Because I really think that Journey is special.
In Journey, you can explore the locations in your worlds in an engaging and immersive way. The setting that you explore can also be of any size and scope, from something as large as a galaxy to something as small as a single room.
This game has you select an entity within the space you want to explore and step right into their shoes. You’ll travel from place to place, imagining what the process of that travel would be like, and deeply explore interesting aspects of your destination that may never have been discovered otherwise.
The game about writing compelling, beautiful correspondence
A truly interesting and unique game, Scott Malthouse’s Quill leaves the tabletop roleplaying game tropes of mighty wizards and powerful fighters behind and sits you at a desk to write.
I know, recommending a game about writing to writers? Groundbreaking.
Where traditional adventure games often have you assume the roll of a character with skills like strength and charisma who delve into dungeons in search of gold and glory, Quill has you roll dice to see how well wield Penmanship, Language and Heart as the skills you’ll use to write the best letters you can. Roll badly and you could find yourself writing a truly horrible bit of correspondence.
The game about building immersive cities and towns
When writing and creating in your worlds and interacting with larger settlements of people, it can be helpful to feel like you more deeply understand those cities and towns. Knowing why these places are the way they are, and knowing where points of interest are located within them, can make your stories set in these places more vibrant.
Ex Novo by Martin Nerurkar and Konstantinos Dimopoulos puts you in the role of the guardian spirit of a newly founded settlement somewhere in your world. You’ll then 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.
You’ll walk away from your session of Ex Novo with a deeper understanding of this settlement, why people gathered there and brought it into being in the first place, and the events that have transpired there over the course of its history to bring it where it is today.
Oh, and you’l have a hand drawn map of your chosen settlement, too, which is wildly fulfilling to look at, admire, and iterate on as the basis for more fully formed maps.
Additional Games to Check Out
I talk a lot about solo tabletop roleplaying games on the Graycastle Press Journal, so you can check out the following articles to get some more ideas of solo games that might help invigorate your work:
- Unlocking Creative Potential: Solo Journaling TTRPGs for Writers
- The Next 10+ Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Games On My List to Play
- 12 Superb Solo Worldbuilding and Roleplaying Games for Writers
Take Inspiration from Solo TTRPGs Back to your NaNoWriMo Project!
The trials of NaNoWriMo are well documented, yet its rewards are equally profound. When inspiration falters and the creative well runs dry, fret not! Solo tabletop roleplaying and journaling games stand ready to rekindle your literary flame, banishing writer’s block to the realm of distant memories.