Genuinely so excited to see someone use it in such detail, and the stuff they came up with was superb story fodder. It’s a part of their Solovember quest to play one solo rpg each day for November. Browse their site, there’s a lot of other really good stuff in there, too.
Your plane crashes onto an island. Through bloody eyes and fiery wreckage, you see what you came for – the monster you’ve prepared to hunt. Alas, you have none of your supplies or support crew. It’s just you and an island full of strange beasts and horrifying danger. Can you survive and get off this island in one piece?
My latest solo writing RPG is available on my itch.io store as a free download, or you can PWYW if you really dig it. This is a one-page game where the aim is for you to write an awesome story based on the structure and prompts I provide.
I’ve previously written/created 5 of these games and I’m absolutely enamoured with their delicate structure and robust depth of field. They are genuinely so much fun to write, just as much as I love reading those from others, and sometimes having a crack at playing them myself.
The inspiration for this really was just the words “Monster Island.” What more could stir the cockles of your creative heart than that combination of words. Monster Island might well be my Cellar Door – there’s a delight and a whole world of emotion and reaction woven into the dna of those arranged letters.
With that location layered as the base ingredient, I went about assembling 20 prompts that intrigued and delighted me for what a story might look like on an island full of monsters.
I was initially thinking of the final page of ELEKTRA #1 by Mike del Mundo and W. Haden Blackman – that whole run by these two is stellar on a storytelling level, and an Elektra level.
So from there I’m thinking KONG: SKULL ISLAND, which I just loved on a stupid level, and then even elements of PREDATOR and THE GREY, when it comes to being hunted in nature, and finally I thought about LOST. So there are monsters here, but also hints at some other stuff that you can spin in any direction – a shipwreck, an underground bunker, but no 4-toed statue, I promise.
This one was, as always, just a blast to write. Just unchecked creativity onto the page and I think some very cool stories could stem from this. Whether you commit to writing something completely, or just tinkering with this as a writing warm up each morning, or just read the one-page doc for fun, I hope this meets you where your creativity needs it today.
Escape From Isla del Mundo is a monster hunting story/game where you are stranded on an island and trying not to die at the hands of numerous monster attacks, while also trying to kill one specific monster, and then find your way safely off the island.
I also just saw it’s been 12 months since I discovered journaling rpgs – and what a wild year it’s been. I’ve bought so many, read heaps, and written a few of my own. I really love this slice of the world, creatively fulfilling and wonderfully delightful.
To keep my brain moving THIS WEEK, when it felt like it was sinking into the Bog of Eternal Stench [another name for my office after a few days of iso], I decided to do something just fun. I opened my one-page solo rpg writing game, The Lighthouse at Kindred Rocks, and I started playing it myself.
To play, I just roll two d20s and then look at the prompt table, and then started loosely mapping out what would happen in the story from those prompts.
The set up is this: my father has just died, getting me to return to my hometown of Kindred Rocks, and both bury him and take his job as the Lighthouse Keeper, because my life outside the town was shit and turning shitter anyway. So that’s the set up and start, and from there I need to figure out: how’d my father really die, and what eldritch insanity is buried in the secrets of my town?
When I sat down, I tried to consider what the solutions to these two problems might be, but that’s anathema to the whole concept. You are supposed to figure that out as you wind and wend through the prompts, so I shut my brain off on that track, rolled twice, once for each mystery, and started plotting out responses that would slowly form the story.
The first two prompts are pasted in here, and then I put my plotting beneath them.
The Father Mystery
Sitting in the park on a quiet day, you are approached by someone who knew your father. Why do they want to talk to you about something urgent?
Your father’s mistress – an old lady, runs the local inn – who tells you your father was distressed over the past week. He would come in for a pint, and then leave without staying and he wouldn’t be at home when she checked. He said something about there being something out in the woods that worried him.
The Eldritch Secrets Mystery
You visit an old tree where you once carved some initials. Memories flood back, and one sticks in your mind on this day. Who is this memory linked to?
You go to the woods, with this information, and you find a tree where you carved a high school sweetheart’s initials with your own. You were two young ladies, close friends, and she was always fending off the advances of a local bully, so you two would wander hand in hand to give him the shits. You carved your name into the tree, but a year later she would leave the town and you’d be left all alone, wishing you’d asked for more. Or did she not leave, you just drifted apart because you knew you wanted more and you did not want to ask her for it.
It’s all basic plotting/planning, not actually writing prose, but it’s a fun way to Jenga a story together, and the more prompts I wrote, the more I could tie things back in together.
Youcan‘view’thewholedocumenthere, it’s 100% a work in progress, and the kind of thing I’d want to then go back up the chain to tidy up, but I’m definitely having loose fun with it and my brain needs that. And I have to say, discovering the story as you go along, just blindly leapfrogging from one stepping stone of a set up to another, has been a whole new experience. I very much kinda love it.
If you want your own turn at the fun, paying Patrons get the Lighthouse at Kindred Rocks game in a locked post, and everyone else can download it for free here or toss me a few coins to keep the lights on around here.
This one’s about planning one last heist, on some other crim’s house, after they find something in the woods. I love the genre so it was fun to play with some of the tropes to build this d20 prompt table that would guide you through writing quite an interesting tale.
Here’s the official write up for it:
It’s time to plan a heist, a big one, and you have to beat everyone else to it. Word on the street is Ol’ Lockpin Jones found something buried out in the woods. They haven’t been seen outside their house in two weeks. Gums are moving, plans tossed around, hopes about money or treasure or…something else. You know terrible types are fixing to steal whatever it is, and Lockpin deserves it for the shit they’ve done to everyone in town, so you don’t feel bad about planning to be the first to relieve them of this strange prize so you can finally retire and get away somewhere nice.
The Heist on Foley Lane is a solo writing RPG that follows an aging criminal as they prepare one last heist…but they don’t know what this strange thing they’re stealing is.
Use the one page document to start your journal about wanting to pull off this last heist and leave town, but all the while dealing with 2 different mysteries. The prompt table will slowly guide you through weeks of everyday life alongside minor investigations and surprises, as well as interactions and opportunities to get your imagination and creativity cooking.
I was heavily inspired by a few crime stories and worlds that operate on the same plane of existence as the rest of us. Elmore Leonard’s people always feel grimy enough to probably live two towns over from us. I’m always chewing over Ed Brubaker’s work, especiaqlly his most recent RECKLESS books with Sean Phillips. I was also thinking about good dark Aussie crime like TWO HANDS and THE SQUARE and GETTIN’ SQUARE. That idea of criminal people just sitting around the suburbs trying to think their way out of problems intrigues, delights, and kinda horrifies me.
To play this game, you only need a d20, a d6, and the way and will to write out an awesome adventure.
These games are one-page pdfs, where you sit with some dice and a way to write and you slowly construct a story based around the set up and prompt table I’ve created.
This one allows you to craft a story where you explore your old home town, and discover the eldritch horror and secrets being barely kept beneath the surface. The prompt table has some really great little moments of exploration about the town, the people in it, and your own history as you slowly unravel what the hell has been bubbling under this town for so long, and why it took the life of you father recently.
I appreciate the people who have been sharing the link, and laying some coin down for this free game. Knowing these things land out there in the world is a joy, and it’s why I’ve already written the fourth entry into this collection – The Heist on Foley Lane [coming in late March].
Here’s the official info on the site:
You grew up in Kindred Rocks, building haunted memories with a smile, but left to finish your studies elsewhere and find your own life. Years later, you return to bury your father and move into the family home as you take his role as the town’s lighthouse keeper. But, alas, things in the hometown are just as strange as they ever were…
The Lighthouse at Kindred Rocks is a solo writing RPG that blends small town life with an investigation into eldritch secrets.
Use the one page document to start your journal about returning to your home town after your father’s death and then investigating 2 different mysteries. The prompt table will slowly guide you through weeks of everyday life alongside minor investigations and surprises, as well as interactions and opportunities to get your imagination and creativity cooking.
I was heavily inspired by just my aesthetic love of lighthouses, and the places that surround them. If I see a lighthouse on a trip, I’m gripped by the desire to go visit it, stare at it, see what’s around it. I can definitely draw a link between my love of eerie fiction and my childhood spent watching Australian TV icon ROUND THE TWIST, wherein a family moves to a small coastal town and lives in the lighthouse. I loved that show as a kid, and still do, because that setting just felt…boss. So I’m drawing from that deep childhood love, matched with the weird occult stylings of random stuff like: PAPER GIRLS by Cliff Chiang & Brian K Vaughan, China Mieville, FRIDAY by Marcos Martin & Ed Brubaker, maybe a little ROSEMARY’S BABY, and possibly even some of the “what is reality?” vibe of Philip K. Dick.
To play this game, you only need a d20, a d6, and the way and will to write out an awesome adventure.
This one is all about a mystical kung fu tournament where secen hidden islands send their best fighters to round robin out their talents and aggression to decide the next decade’s protector of the keys. It’s big awesome fun!
The whole thing was 100% percent inspired by my love of The Immortal Iron Fist by Aja/Fraction/Brubaker, and specifically The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven storyline. If you want fun in this tradition, you’re in the right place.
The one page pdf is free to download on the itch.io page, and I’d appreciate anyone sharing the link.
Okay, let’s go through a few things you might be thinking:
WHAT’S A SOLO WRITING ROLE PLAYING GAME?
Alright, a solo writing rpg is a “game” you can play by yourself, and by play I mean you end up writing something as you go through the game.
It’s usually a document with a set of prompts that get you to think about what your character does and what might happen along this story/journey that’s loosely laid out and then you fill in all the details – like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but each chapter isn’t written out with a choice at the end, you have to do the writing of each section, and we just help out with the choices/options of what comes next.
I’ve bought and read a whole bunch of them in the past year. Some are great, some are less great – usually it comes down to the general idea/genre/story, and then it’s the ability for the prompts to inspire creativity without being too guided, or too flat and vague.
The best ones create a chance to write a short entry every day where you follow your character through something interesting. The way I see it, if someone sat down with their notebook, pencil, and a d20 and just did one page a day, they’d come out of the process with a little stack of cool moments, ideas, pages, and their brain would be all the better for it. The world, too, if they decided to share it.
This one was created using the Second Guess System by Gamenomicon – which is utterly brilliant in construction – and inspired by their Hard Case game – a brilliant single page of construction and genre. I love that this model/structure was created, and then shared for free, and it really set my brain on fire. It’s about 5 minutes to read, and then you’re ready to go make something awesome!
WHAT’S WELCOME TO FARADAY ABOUT?
Welcome To Faraday is a suburban horror rpg where I position 3 mysteries, and you use this 1 page document to guide you through interactions and moments in your little town of Faraday to solve the mysteries, or not. I don’t provide the solutions, to be clear, you do that. All of the hard lifting is on the side of the player, I just provide the inspiration and general framework.
When thinking about this, I had the following things firmly in my mind: ‘Salem’s Lot, The ‘Burbs, Stranger Things, Suspiria, Home Sick Pilots, Kids with Bikes, and my own childhood in the 80s riding my BMX to the milk bar. This is the vibe, tone, and stuff I’m looking to also inspire.
A mash up of strange and surreal amongst the simplicity of suburban life. But the main horror element is decided by the player. I have set the mysteries, and the prompts, but you get to decide if it’s vampires, or aliens, or a sadistic megacorporation, or werewolves, or whatever you want. I wanted that flavour to be chosen by the player, but the setting and everything else is set up by me.
WHY DID YOU WRITE THIS?
I really want to teach creative writing with these, so I’ve been thinking about them a lot, studying them, and working out what I like best about them. Also, as a writer, I just love the creativity they inspire in my own brain.
I know I’m mostly writing comics, and I bang on enough about that, but I forget sometimes to mention how deeply I love writing of all kinds. I’ve written prose shorts, back up essays in comics, reviews, I edited a whole book of essays about Daredevil [it’s true], and I write a lot of D&D adventures I run at school and with my mates. As I fell further into these journaling games, it became another cog turning in my brain.
The perfect intersection between teaching these and playing these was to be creating these. The creation is just as creatively satisfying for me as playing one, and hopefully then other people get to play something new.
I am also 100% going to use this one in the coming semester’s Suburban Horror unit I’ll be teaching, so there was that motivation to create the exact tool I wanted/needed, also. That’s the reason why this exists and what pushed me the extra step to make this one specifically.
But even beyond that, I just like writing and creating stuff. This is how my brain works. So with no major script due on my desk, and a bit of time sitting at my table over a convention day, I put my brain to use on this.
I absolutely cannot wait to make more. I have some other genres and ideas I’m mentally sketching out and am dying to get to.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THIS?
You should go check the game out and download a copy.
Okay, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole, and I don’t ever want to come out. It started with this, and I wrote it for the ‘Perhaps You’d Care To Sample’ section of my newsletter:
“LOST IN THE DEEP – is a solo rpg game/booklet where you write your diary of the final dwarf lost in some mines and unable to get out. But it’s also still a game with a block tower, and 52 playing cards, and a table of events. It looks like such a cool way to lose a week. It’s got me absolutely dying to try and write a solo writing/rpg.”
But between that paragraph a few days ago, and now, I’ve fallen down a deep rabbit hole of solo, and specifically journaling/writing, role playing games.
I’ve long loved solo games. I grew up on Fighting Fantasy books, I used to read the cards out of Trivial Pursuit on my own, making a little column graph out of how many correct answers I could get out of 6, I recently fell in love with the DEEP SPACE D-6 solo board game.
Realistically, I don’t know how I’ve not fallen into this before. Considering I got into D&D over the past few years, but I acknowledge that finding time to sync up with mates and energy to get out can make it difficult, this looks like the perfect blend of a lot of these things, plus it’s just creative writing superfuel.
Okay, to explain, for those who might not know…
A solo RPG game is one where you have a little scenario and a rule set and some prompts and then you craft an adventure on your own. I like the ones where it’s specifically built for you to journal.
It’ll give you a character – like the last dwarf in a dungeon, or a trucker on a long haul ride in 1983, whatever – and then you craft their adventure, sometimes over hours or even months, using prompts found in the resource.
It’s usually like a small zine, or pdf, and you roll a die on different tables, or sometimes even draw from a 52 deck of cards, and then you write out what happens in those situations. The result is this written artefact that sounds amazing. There are also map making ones, and you can also sometimes just play them verbally, with a group even, and make it up on the fly.
But I like the writing ones, because you can really take your time, you get into your character’s head. You make something beautiful.
Naturally, I want more time so I can “play” all of them. But I also want to use them in class, so I’m thinking ahead for educational benefits. The ability to get students writing amazing prose pieces, or finding other ways to structure such stories: evidence boxes, image blended slidedecks, Flipgrid diary videos.
Some of my favourite ones I’ve found include the following scenarios: building the history of a weapon, exploring different planets on your space ship, inheriting a haunted house, living with your retired mech technology.
And, really, the sky is the limit for situations you could concoct, and ways you could explore them. To go through some of them sounds fun, to make my own sounds awesome, to take students through some sounds inspiring, to get students making their own sounds like the future.
All I can think of is taking a small notebook and dedicating it to one of these RPGs and then just building a library, or a class resource.