Tag Archives: Solitaire

Ashirai, Queen of Death

This is our latest cover, a piece for our first product in a new line of solo / 1-on-1 adventures.

Bob Storrar did the art and layout, and you need to see inside this, because it’s beautifully done. The guy has real talent.

So, who is she and why does she matter?

Ashirai was once a fair and beautiful queen, who turned to necromancy to secure her power. That power came at a price, as she slowly lost her famed beauty to the corrupting energy of her magic. She took to wearing a cobra hooded mask carved to resemble her as she once was, and became known as the Death Queen, a powerful ruler with legions at her command.

And then, she died, or so it was thought…

3 Stone Stories: Imagination Gaming

Get your copy of Three Stone Stories: Solo Narrative Roleplay from the Rising Phoenix Games Store, Drive Thru RPG, Open Gaming Store, or Itch.

Three Stone Stories Cover

I’ve been yearning for a game that was simple to play and didn’t need much ‘stuff’. Something that focused on the story, but didn’t require sourcebooks and rules referencing. The game I wanted would unlock the imagination, not impede it. As a bonus, I wanted the game to help me write more meaningful stories too.

Three Stone Stories Cover

I’ve been hugely inspired by solo game systems written by hobbyists like JF (The 9Q’s) and Spacejacker from Tiny Solitary Soldiers. They’ve designed rules that let solo players use their imagination to play the game, much like role-playing games gamified collaborative storytelling.

I decided to build the game I wanted, based loosely on what these other hobbyists have done. The dice would determine the direction of the story, but I decided to limit their impact to what I call challenges. The rest would be up to the player’s imagination.


Challenges are what makes a hero. The protagonist becomes the hero when he takes on the dragon, when he stands up to the tyrant, when he rescues the princess from danger. He might not succeed at first, but failure drives the hero on to greater feats of heroism.

The Dragon and the Hero by puimun
The Dragon and the Hero. © Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

To play, you describe the story, creating the world and the characters that inhabit it. Then you set a challenge for them, and let the dice decide how well they do.

Roll 3 dice. Each roll of 4+ is a success:
3 Failures: The hero fails the challenge completely. Describe how the failure advances the story.
1 Success: The hero succeeds, but a Bane is added to the story. Describe how the success advances the story and how the success or some new element also complicates things for the hero.
2 Successes: Describe how the success of the hero advances the story.
3 Successes: The hero is incredibly successful. Add a Boon to the story. Describe how the success advances the story and also sets the hero up for future success.

Why 3 Dice?
I like rolling more dice, but you could just as easily play with one die, flip coins or use some other method to decide the outcome of a challenge.


Our hero, Hypercondraclese, walks into the ancient lair of Biggus Dragonus, the dragon overlord of Peasantvillus. The challenge is simple, tell Biggus to “sod off” and leave the peasants alone.

I roll a 2, 3, and 6. Not bad. Hypercondraclese squares his shoulders and shouts up to the dragon: “Sir, would you please mind relocating your enormous rump, so as the peasants can get back to sheep farming.” Our hero has guts and the roll means he’ll succeed. But has he really? The Bane (from one success) means I add something to complicate the story. Biggus grabs Hypercondraclese around the waist in a taloned claw and beats his large, leathery wings. Before Hypercondraclese can shout “no, I get terribly air sick”, the dragon launches itself into the air.

Hypercondraclese may have succeeded in ridding Peasantvillus of the dragon, but his adventure is only starting.

Because challenges are the only time you roll dice, you don’t have to worry about a string of bad rolls derailing your story. While the climax might be a good time for a challenge like “dodge the bullet”, you can easily avoid these life or death situations in favor of challenges that add something to the story. If the hero doesn’t “rescue the girl” during this challenge, then there will be more adventure ahead, and even if he succeeds, there’s a chance that things will get more complicated.

Heroic Chronicles

Recording the story is a good idea, even if it’s a few bullet points typed out on your phone. This makes it easy to pick up the game again.

The game is a simple as that. Create, explore, challenge the hero, then repeat.

Give these rules a try and let me know what you thought, then check out Three Stone Stories Rerolled, for a preview of our upcoming rule book.

Tactics for Terrors

Welcome to part 4 in this series focused on solo and GMless infiltration games. Check out part 1, part 2 and part 3 if you missed out.


“The secret of success in battle lies often not so much in the use of one’s own strength but in the exploitation of the other side’s weaknesses.”
John Christopher, When the Tripods Came


I like those little snippets of monster tactics you sometimes find in published adventures. They give you a better idea of why the monster is in the adventure, and they provide you with a framework for making play decisions.

Monster Lair with unknown enemies.
“This should be a safe place to camp!”

In a solo game, it’s just as helpful to have a plan for the monsters, otherwise I tend to fudge their decisions in my favour. “Oh, I know I could easily kill the hero with my sneaky attack. But I’ll come out of hiding, being the brave goblin that I am. I’ll even let Hero-Man have the first swing.” If the goblin has a plan, many of my choices are made, I can focus on playing the star of the show, my optimized and much loved character with the dog eared character sheet.

I came up with the following simple strategy sheet to help me out:

Goblin Strategy Sheet

Here’s a brief description of each entry:

Role: a word to describe the monster’s tactics, such as sniper, assassin, wrestler, commander or artillery.

Morale: If the creature tends to be brave, cowardly, or something in-between.

Ease: How the monster acts when there is no threat.

Alert: What the monster does when they become aware of any danger or enemies.

Melee: What the monster does when engaged in, or within range for melee combat.

Range: What the monster does when engaged in, or within range for missile combat.

Blood: What the monster does when they have taken significant damage. You can decide what “significant damage” means, but I usually go with 50% and below of their HP as the crossover mark.


Playing, you will have some idea of how a given monster will react to your actions, eliminating some of the surprise; a problem I’d still like to solve. Furthermore, you have to play as the GM, especially during setup. But this turns setup into a game on its own; how do the goblins think? What are they fighting for? Would they rather fight from far or up close with a sharp blade? These questions bring story and tactics together, giving you a chance to add to your narrative, as discussed in part 2.

Have you tried something similar? I’d love to know what you think.  I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr Tzu:


“Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Till Later, Tell more Thrilling Tales!

Behind the Dungeon Door

This is Part 3 of the Daggers at Dusk Series. Check out part 1 and part 2 for more on playing solo infiltration games.

Last week I ventured into the Goblin Caves, had fun and got captured. Now I’m going to show you a simple system I use to make my games even more interesting. You never know what’s around the next corner, and this system is all about adding that kind of uncertainty back into the game.

What's behind the door?
What’s behind the door?

First, decide on the monsters for your map and add a couple extra. With the Goblin Caves from last week, there might be an orc or two hanging around, so I set aside two orcs with the rest of the miniatures.

We added two orcs, so we’ll set them aside with two goblins, but place everything else on the map: a goblin boss on the throne and two goblin guards to watch the prisoners.

Goblin Caves
The Goblin Caves from last week. Look carefully and you might find my blood stain on the rocky floor, urgh.

Now place counters for the unknown enemies. These counters might turn out to be the orcs or just plain goblins. They might even turn out to be nothing at all. Place one counter for each goblin/orc pair (the minis still in our pool).

Now play the game as usual. The counters move 20 feet per turn using the system I described in part 1. Since the counters are most likely to be goblins, they have the same perception scores.

If your character lays eyes on the token roll a D4 and consult the table below, replacing the token with the appropriate miniature.

(D4) Random Monster Table (MK1)
1-2: Goblin
3: Orc
4: Nothing

Once the creature has been identified, play with its regular stats. You can also use random monster tables from published sources, but building your own from the ground up keeps the game more manageable. Play around with the table to get more variety for your games, for example:

(D8) Random Monster Table (MK2)
1-2: Goblin
3: Prisoner
4: Orc
5: Dire rat
6: Goblin Boss
7: Goblin Dog or Warg
8: Goblin riding a Goblin Dog or Warg.

If you’ve played Lunatic Labyrinth then you’ve seen this system in action before. The unknown really raises the game, demanding more of you as a solo player. Scouting missions make more sense too, while intelligence gathering becomes paramount to carrying out a successful mission.

A Shadow in the Goblin Caves

Last week I told you about a simple infiltration game I played many years back. Today I’m breaking out the minis to do it again. Let’s go kill some gobbos.

For this game I used the Pathfinder Beginners Box, but you could just as easily use the full Pathfinder Role-Playing Game, Dungeons and Dragons of any vintage, or some other system.

I’ll be playing Grunni, a human sell-sword (fighter) of level 1. I’m out to rescue a friend who fell foul of goblins in the early hours of the morning. I’ve been tracking the goblins and found their cave, which I’m watching from an outcrop of rocks as the evening sets in.

Goblin Caves


In the caves are four goblins, each by a fire, and one goblin boss, who sits on a stone throne. In the prison is a wounded and bound halfling by the name of Ranna Lightleap. She’s fast asleep on the hard stone floor.
Swimming around in the lake is a gray ooze, which feeds off fishes and the waste the goblins throw into the stream. It’s important to have the odds stacked against you; two goblins may be a challenge, but with the boss and an ooze to fall foul of, I’ll have to watch my step.

My mission is to free Ranna. My secondary missions are to kill the goblin boss, kill or drive off the goblins or to reconnoitre the caves so I can come back with a stronger force armed with some knowledge. Four different objectives will give me options when goblin poop starts flying.

Because the forces I’m dealing with are goblins, I don’t want much order to their defences. I want the grunts to move at random. They’re not patrolling or on watch for danger, so they’ll use the system I defined last week.
The boss will stay put in his chair. I’ll roll for him in the same way, but he’ll only change the direction he’s facing. If a roll would mean he’s left staring at the wall, I’ll keeping him facing as he is instead. This way he’s a kind of sentry, and harder to sneak up on.
The ooze will move at random, but will stick to the river (and the lakes that he’s used to). If anyone comes within striking distance (10 foot), he’ll attack. This way he’s a manageable threat, but could cause problems if there’s fighting near the river.

Now, a little more back story, to set the mood. Ranna is a skilled ranger who has been helping me track bandits in the area. Lone travellers have gone missing recently, which is strange this close to the safety of South Fort. We’d been tracking the bandits for days, eager to claim the sizeable bounty on their heads. Then a tribe of goblins attacked us while we slept one night. I (Grunni the sell-sword) feel like I got Ranna into this mess, so I better get her out again.

I start inching my way towards the cave mouth, using boulders for cover. I can see movement within and a goblin appears at the cave exit, looking out. He turns away, so I inch out of hiding, my bow ready if he should spot me. Suddenly he turns. I don’t see his face, silhouetted by the firelight within, but I see him raise an arm to point at me. I loose my arrow, but my shot goes wide, clattering off the stone wall. He shouts something in his guttural tongue and all hell breaks loose. Another gobbo runs out, bow in hand, I fire again and drop my bow. My blade comes free of my scabbard and glints in the moon light. “So much for stealth”, I mutter as two more goblins appear. In the storm of arrows I take one in the shoulder. It’s a solid hit, but I’m not going down yet.

The fourth goblin levels his bow; a hideous creature with a baboon like face. The arrow flies straight and true, punching through my armor and flesh, sending out a black cloud of my life blood. He rolled a 20 to hit and confirms to take me to -3 health. I slump to the floor and my world goes black.

When I awake, I’m roped and lying next to Ranna.
“Good morning. I trust the rescue attempt is going well?” She smirks.

Next time I’ll be more patient.

Short, I know, but the whole game played out with the rules I’ve laid down and no GM. It was fun, challenging and I’ve since replayed the mission again, trying out a more stealthy rogue. Why not give it a try and let me know how it goes.

The next post in the series is here.

Daggers at Dusk

Did you ever play Metal Gear Solid or a similar game where it was you against a ton of bad guys? You, and you alone, had to sneak in and bring the mayhem.  There are plenty of examples out there, but two of my favorite PC games of all time are Ghost Recon and Operation Flashpoint. Both have strong stealth elements to the game that I loved. I didn’t mind taking hours to carefully play through a mission, avoiding detection and taking out the enemy, silently and one by one.


I also love special forces stories, such as Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab and Pathfinder, a book I just finished reading, by David Blakeley. Both books involve elite teams of British soldiers on missions behind enemy lines, with the odds stacked heavily against them. I’ve read loads of similar books, which you’ll find listed at the end of this post.

I think these kinds of games and stories would make great solo RPG games. They’re tense and feeling totally alone and out gunned is part of the fun. Sadly, I’ve yet to see any fantasy stuff that gives you a good taste of this. Sure, there are rogues in most fantasy RPG’s, but how often do they get to be truly sneaky? How often is everything geared towards covert operations?

When I was in high school I collected Blood Angle Space Marines and Orks for Warhammer 40,000. I didn’t get to play much, so sometimes I’d set up a small scenario and play both sides of the fight. These solo games weren’t always challenging, but as I progressed they became more interesting: “How many gretchin does it take to  bring down a Terminator Space Marine?” Or “how many turns can an Ork army survive against a cloud of vortex grenades?” And so on.

Then I came up with a great covert mission. One Space Marine Scout versus an encampment of Orks. He’d have to go in unseen and take the green bloods out silently, one at a time. I sure as hell didn’t want to control the Orks; that scout was me and I was going to do everything in my power to win through. So I built my own AI.

The “AI” was a simple set of rules. Each round I would roll a D6 for each Ork:

  1. Move North.
  2. Move East.
  3. Move South.
  4. Move West.
  5. Continue in the direction the figure is facing.
  6. Stop (Do nothing).

The simple options worked well with the grid-like Ork camp I’d set up (they must have been Freebooters). And it was easy to imagine any Ork facing a wall as having a pee or rummaging through some unseen stores. No long tables to consult, just six options that were easy to memorize.

I also added stealth rules, since 40K only had rules for hiding. My rules covered things like sneaking, hiding in shadows or long grass, silent kills (which were auto kills if you managed to sneak up behind your target) and rules for hiding bodies. Nothing complex, the only thing you needed to roll for was if you were hiding in open ground and an Ork was staring in your direction (a 5 or 6 on a D6 would mean he’d spotted you.)  Most of the rules I made up as I needed them, so I pretty much dived right in.

Ork Disguises
I have no idea who deserves credit for this, so I’m linking to where I found it. Well played to the artist.

I’ve spoken about solo games a few times on this blog, and it’s become a bit of an obsession for me. That probably all started with that game, which was a really exciting, memorable session and the most fun I had with 40K. It had everything I wanted: tension, unpredictable enemies, a need for tactics, atmosphere and fuel for my imagination. I was that scout, and I was in that camp to break those Orks once and for all. I could feel the shadows, they were my comfort. I knew the heft of my silenced pistol, it was my strength.


Recommended Reading


Pathfinder: A Special Forces Mission Behind Enemy Lines by David Blakeley

Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq by Andy McNab

Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook
Especially see the section related to the ninja. Although the facts surrounding the ninja are debatable, this book is an interesting read, especially if you’re playing an Asian campaign or a ninja character.

SoloNexus by JF
An excellent blog devoted to solo play.

Werewolf: The Story of the Nazi Resistance Movement 1944-1945 by Charles Whiting


The follow up to this post is here:

The Legend of Drizzt Boardgame

New to my collection is the Legend of Drizzt: Dungeons and Dragons Board Game, designed by Peter Lee (D&D Miniatures, Heroscape) and published by Wizards of the Coast. What originally caught my eye is that this is a game for one to five players. Yes, you can play it solo! Also, if you’ve been into role-playing for awhile you’ve probably heard of Drizzt Do’Urden, the dark elf with a conscience, and his friends, who are central to this game. I’ve got a fair collection of D&D miniatures including Drizzt, Wulfgar, Bruenor and others and this rounded out my collection with Regis and Cattie-brie along with a good bunch of themed miniatures. So the question that was on my mind when I opened the box was: “how does this game actually play?” Well, let’s find out.

Continue reading The Legend of Drizzt Boardgame

Why Do You Play?

Why  do you play games? Do you play because it’s a reason to do something with friends? Is it because you love the challenge? Maybe it’s the pure escapism?

Personally I think it’s a little bit of everything for me, but mostly it’s the escapism. Yesterday I picked up a few Marvel HeroClix figures, including Spider-Man and Iron-Man. Today I played a quick battle by myself and just enjoyed imagining the action.

Continue reading Why Do You Play?

Lunatic Labyrinth on Paizo.com

Lunatic Labyrinth, a neat little one-on-one or solo adventure for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is now available on Paizo.com. The PDF is only $3.13 and includes a re-usable maze tile set. While the adventure is set in Avernos, you can easily include the adventure in just about any fantasy setting with minimal effort.

Continue reading Lunatic Labyrinth on Paizo.com

The Cold Heart – Solo RPG Quest Part 1

These are exciting times for solo role-players, with new ideas on solo story telling being assimilated and shared all over the web. I recently played a solo RPG session of my own and here’s what happened.

The system I used is by Spacejacker of tinysolitarysoldiers. He explains the rules on his website with a play report too. Simply put you use dice to determine how the story progresses, asking questions which the dice and your creativity answer. I played using my Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures collection, Dungeon Tiles and for combat I used the Claustrophobia! rules, since I wanted to play test the combat system specifically. I’ve decided to focus on the story here rather than the mechanics, but if you want me to go into more detail on mechanics then let me know.

Continue reading The Cold Heart – Solo RPG Quest Part 1