The World's Worst Video Game?
Some people on Twitter (I use Twitter much like an RSS Newsfeed for RolePaying) have been talking lately about Solo Dungeons and Dragons. I don't know much about SDnD, but the concept intrigues me, mostly because my gut says there is no such thing.
Now you can drop Solo D&D into Google and come up with plenty of results, so of course it exists, but is something Dungeons and Dragons just because you have a Dungeon Master's Guide in your lap? My instincts say no. You have to have another person. Dungeons & Dragons, at its core, is a social game. Without someone else playing with you, you've just stumbled into a low tech Balder's Gate.
Yet, the concept does not horrify me. I kept thinking about it, even after my initial research. I like video games. I like Dungeons and Dragons. Enough people are clearly passionate about this. It has its flaws, but maybe we can fix them? Let's take a look at what I see as the immediate issues SDnD.
It's not Social
This is of course it's most distinguishing characteristic. It's a solo game. I don't propose we change this, as then we are talking about another activity all together. However, just because something is single player, doesn't mean it can't be social.
For this matter, the internet provides the key. If one type, model, or source of content, for SDnD was popular enough then people would gather in forums there. They could compare adventures, character builds for solo running (which has to be balanced in whole new way), even compare tactics.
Some adventures could have a way to provide points, or accomplishments along the way. There could then be some kind of scoreboard, or publicly hosted character site. Even the top scores on a pinball machine have a social aspect to it.
You've got that stats for your PC. You've got the stats for the monsters. You're trusting yourself to not plan ahead and do your best to really try to kill you're PC, and not act on any knowledge you have about the stats you have in front of you that might not have been revealed to the PC or monster yet. I don't buy it. I mean, look at how long that sentence was.
I suppose the solution would to not present the whole Monster Stat block, but instead a series of what if hidden boxes. Like a spoiler box on a forum, or text that needs to be highlighted. You don't see the Will defense till you try and target it. You have a box that says 'When Bloodied' which perhaps says 'Nothing happens' when revealed, but you just don't know that the first time you play this adventure.
It makes it easier to allow yourself to stay surprised. Its still more like trying to solve a puzzle with limited outcomes. A paragraph on monster tactics will never replace a thinking, not you, DM.
The easiest way to do this is with a very linear story/dungeon. You must go this way, after you finish this, is much easier to write in this situation, because you are the DM, and you don't want to reveal the big secrets till the end.
Yet I am reminded of choose you're own adventure books. They let you make choices. My instincts tell me this could work really well in a wiki format. For door one click here, door two click here.
For places, or people, who may have changed depending on what you've done, you could use coded, tracked accomplishments. When you find the key on the skeleton lords body, a little note tells you to add #1342 to your list of accomplishments. Later, when you get to the baron's basement door there's a box of hidden information labeled 'If you have Accomplishment #1342'. The hidden text reveals that if you try this key the door opens.
Another accomplishment could be something less positive. If you fail to save the Baker's Daughter, you gain an accomplishment for that. Next time you're in the bakery there is a large box of a hidden text for that accomplishment. You find the Baker to be less friendly.