Thousand Year Old Vampire – Solo RPG Playtest 1

Thousand Year Old Vampire is a lonely solo role-playing game in which you chronicle the unlife of a vampire over the many centuries of their existence, beginning with the loss of mortality and ending with their inevitable destruction.

This vampire will surprise you as they do things that are unexpected, unpleasant, and sometimes tragic. Making gut-churning decisions, performing irreconcilable acts, and resolving difficult narrative threads are what this game is about as you explore the vampire’s human failings, villainous acts, and surprising victories.

Game mechanics are simple and intuitive. Play progresses semi-randomly through the Prompts section of this book. Answer Prompts to learn about your vampire’s wants and needs, to learn what challenges they face, and to chart their decline into senescence. Build up a character record of Memories and then lose them to the inexorable crush of time. See everyone you’ve loved and hated grow old and die, then turn to dust.

— From the first page of the “Thousand Year Old Vampire” RPG book by Tim Hutchings

I’ve left the book to speak for itself in summarizing what it’s about, because I strongly doubt I can do any better than that elegant synopsis.

There are about 6000 community copies left on the Itch.IO page as of this writing, so there is pretty much no excuse for not giving it a look, even if one is currently not able or willing to pay $15 USD for the PDF.

It is… intriguing. It is equal parts meta decision-making game, writing prompt exercise, daydream enabler and will send you off down Wikipedia history searches as if one was reading TV Tropes.

What is recorded is only part of the story. Sometimes it’s more interesting to consider the things left unspoken, the memories deliberately or inadvertently forgotten.

I gave it a test drive the other day.

Disclaimer: I got fairly loose with historical research after a while and started just chasing the “what would happen next” story aspect, handwaving a layer of standard medieval and supernatural urban fantasy tropes as plot scaffolding instead.

Still, it was pretty fun. You end up creating a character and taking them through eventful moments in their (un)life, generating a cast of attendant characters they knew along the way.

It’s not at all comprehensive, just snippets and fragments of memory and emotions and experiences, but enough to have a grasp of this strange being’s journey through time.

Below, on the left is the play record as I progressed through the game. Strikethroughs symbolize things written off – memories that should be forgotten, as instructed by the game, or mortals that have long since died, as dictated by one’s personal hunch after one senses the passing of time after various prompts.

On the right, I add a summary of what happened, post game commentary and reflections, a more meta discussion of what went on that did not get recorded. I find that impact on the player equally interesting.

Origin – I was Tigran, son of Petros (a musician), born in Antioch in the late 11th century (~1080); I was apprenticed to a fisherman who plied the river.

Mortal Characters:

  • Davit the fisherman – aloof, prejudiced, ready to make life a living hell
  • Petros, my father – a cultured musician with an air of mystery, a drifter 
  • Erik, my friend and rival – apprenticed to a knifesmith, impatient, argumentative
  • Tamar, my mother – a laundress who died of an illness when I was very young
  • Robert – a pious Christian soldier who discovered one of my roadside victims
  • Mark, descendant of Robert – a scholar historian
  • William, a calm rational smuggling captain
  • Sophia, descendant of Mark – secret society member / vampire hunter
  • Tarik, apprentice of the Arab trader Juliana and I killed. Executed for the crime.
  • Giuseppe, an Italian government minister

Immortal Characters:

  • Unnamed knight – my creator
  • Maria – an abbess aka Larisa an adventurer / treasure hunter
  • Jihan – a Turkish girl goatherd
  • Juliana – a noblewoman in love with me


  • X Boat Handling
  • Fishery
  • X Amateur Piper
  • X Bloodthirsty
  • X The Eyes Hypnotize
  • Submerged swimmer
  • X Hider of Corpses
  • X Snake Charmer’s Tongue (verbal hypnosis)
  • X I Know What’s Real
  • Stillness of the Grave
  • X Record-Keeping Scribe
  • X Visionary
  • Woodcarving
  • It’s None of my Concern
  • Basic Chemistry
  • Guvnor, You’re in My Debt
  • A Short Call Away


  • A well-made fishing knife
  • A true historical treatise on the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire
  • A reed pipe I carved myself
  • Shop of Crusade antiquities
  • An ornate gold bracelet that was tangled up in the nets that I found and hid
  • Political clout via Giuseppe
  • Chemistry lab
  • Electrical arc light


  • My left lip and ear are rat-gnawed; I must shade that side of my face to pass in public.
  • My eyes are bleached white, I look unnerving and have been confused as a blind man on occasion.

Memories & Experiences I Still Remember:

  • I show my father my reed pipe when he comes by on one of his rare sporadic visits, in a boyish attempt to make him proud of me; all I can remember is his wincing grimace that he doesn’t bother to hide and his quick dismissal – I am disappointed but I hide it equally quickly in sullen rebellious anger
    • One day, I misjudge traveling distances and am caught out in the open when the sun is almost about to rise. I hide in a goatherd’s shelter and there, Jihan, a young girl discovers me. Thinking I am a blind beggar, she doesn’t panic and offers me kindness and food. I play my reed pipe for her – we are both mesmerized, her with the music and me with nostalgia.
    • Her closeness undid me and the vampire had to feed. I did not wish to kill her and she swallowed some of my blood when she weakly struggled and bit me. When she woke as an undead, I realized I had turned her.
  • It is the 19th century and I have married into a noblewoman’s household – Juliana. Within a month, I have turned her. Between her fortune and my knowledge of old, we are wealthy and able to afford loyal retainers and private covered carriages. I re-created my shop of antiquities trade and one of the prime artifacts (on loan, never sold) is a historical treatise on the Crusades retrieved from my ‘time capsule.’
    • An Arab trader had the gall to swindle me on a clothing deal; Juliana was furious. I caught him before he left and charmed him with my tongue; I let her kill him while he was helpless.
    • We arranged it such that his apprentice Tarik was arrested for his murder. He was hanged two days later; I stayed home and carved a beautiful wooden fox for Juliana as a gift.
  • I am approached by an immortality-seeker. Apparently, one of his ancestors had met me briefly before he was imprisoned and wrote in his journal about the scoundrel with white eyes who left him to rot. He put two-and-two together and found me. I have told him I will consider it. In the meantime, a governor under my heel is a valuable and willing servant.
    • I allow Giuseppe to drink periodically of my blood. It does not turn him, not without me draining him first, but it seems to protect him from disease and extend his life and health. In return, he is aware that he owes me greatly and keeps me a private matter, a secret away from nosy politicians.
  • Walking by the great whaling ships docked in the harbor, I reflect that I barely recognize all the implements the sailors are using to unload their massive hauls of meat. Technology has certainly changed over the centuries.
    • The alchemists of this age speak even more in tongues than of old. “Atoms” and “ions.” It is no longer something understandable like mixing gunpowder. They conjure lightning out of strange metal and glass contraptions, trap it and call it electricity. They write numbers and symbols and equations and declare they have found universal truths of the world. I hire a tutor for Juliana and me, to teach us the basic sciences as they call it. Chemistry is fascinating, I create a small lab and dabble with experiments in an amateur fashion.
    • I sold my fishing knife to generate enough cash to supply the chemistry lab, and I bought a new ‘electric light’ as well. The burning of magnesium and the flare of the arc lamp are such different -colors- than fire and candelight – it is like wondrous daylight.
  • I attacked Larisa with a sword and cut off her left hand. I was in a rage. I had forgotten something important to me and was telling her my vague hunches on what it could have been, when she dared to suggest that I might have been mistaken and confused a story for the humans with one of my actual memories. How dare she. I know what’s real. She escaped, hissing with anger herself. I think we are no longer friends again.
    • Jihan finds me in my shop and telephones me and tells me I owe her for heading off Larisa’s plan of revenge to burn down the shop with me inside it. She’s changed. She still looks so young, but her eyes are no longer innocent. Guilt takes me. I play the reed pipe for her one last time and give it to her, along with the shop. She’s right, I need to leave, I am too easily found and Larisa will give up burning the shop down if I am no longer in it.
    • One night, just before dawn, as I leave the shop to head home, Larisa finds me. She sneers at my cushy comfortable situation and mocks my ‘complete lack of sense’ as she calls it, to run the same antiques shop gimmick of old. Trapped away from my modern gadgets and allies, she overpowers me and stakes me, leaving me out to greet the sun. In the minutes away from my destruction, I can only hope and pray that Juliana might escape or be spared.

My Diary – a folio with four sheets of parchment contained within:

  • ______, a Christian soldier, comes across one of my _______ in their shallow grave. He rouses some of his comrades to hunt me. I hide from them under one of the ______, they do not realize that I do not need to breathe.
  • The hunters are resolute trackers and pick up my trail again. Robert brandishes a cross at me, which flares up in a blinding light that bleaches my eyes. I am forced to flee and only lose them in the floodplains. In my time spent hiding, the Turkish name for the yellowlegs birds give me an idea to change my identity and become Saribacak, a Turk.
  • Two decades later, I chance across Robert in an inn. He does not recognize me, but the pain of my unsated vengeance and logical reasoning drives me to bloodthirsty murder. It closes a loose end and keeps me safe.
  • Erik gives me my fishing knife after I won a bet with him; he claims he made it but it’s too well-made, I suspect he stole it from his master, so I keep it hidden on land and use it only while on the boat.
    • I walked into a trap intended to catch brigands when I took advantage of a stopped caravan to feed on a sentry. They execute me for highway robbery, having mistaken my fishing knife as evidence of violent intent, with my own blade. Lying there, faking my death as a corpse, I contemplate my folly – I would be suspicious of too good to be true circumstances from now on.
  • I survived the siege of Antioch, though many others died, but it was during the plague which followed that one of the minor knights, stuck in the city due to his squabbling leaders, cornered me in one of the city’s darker alleys one night – I never knew his name, nor stood a chance.
  • Her name was Maria, she was an abbess. I made the mistake of gazing into her eyes, sinking into pools of abyssal midnight. When I next came to myself, she was gone, along with my bracelet, leaving me with the bitter lesson about the eyes of a vampire.
  • With Constantinople’s fall, I became a Turk again, a treasure hunter of old antiquities. I set up a shop and pointed adventurous folk to various historical battlegrounds to retrieve potential items of value. One night, -she- walked in. Maria. No longer an abbess. No longer Maria. Larisa. She knew me, and I her. After a brief exchange, where she offered me some old coins, we parted on… less hostile terms.
  • I am forced to flee Florence when a vampire hunter named Sophia, apparently a descendant from someone I  had met once long ago, locates me by the mark of my white eyes. She had traced me through history using that as a clue, a marker that I was the same person. I let her feel the cobra gaze of it for a moment, stunning her and leaving her vulnerable, but I sensed others converging and fled before I had time to do more.
  • My last vision of Florence was the city’s skyline, domes, grand architecture and all, tinged pink with false dawn, before I sank down in my coffin and pretended to be a corpse, awaiting shipment to Prato.

Forgotten Memories:

  • I narrowly escaped being arrested as a smuggler while paying for board and passage on a smuggler’s boat. I had to commandeer the boat and sail it downriver myself, while the owner and captain, William, was being detained on the docks by law enforcement.
  • One night, sitting by the firelight, I pick up a stray piece of broken firewood and find myself absent mindedly carving a small wooden goat with my fishing knife. It’s surprisingly good for a first attempt.
  • During the Renaissance, I wrote a historical, scholarly manuscript examining in detail other scribes’ records of the Crusades and the Ottoman empire, relentlessly demarcating the line between fact and fiction. I should know. I was there. I know what was real.
    • I hire a reputable architect to create a copycat of the Brunelleschi Dome, in miniature form, in stone and marble, underground in as cold and dry a location as I can find. I leave my manuscript inside, and seal it up.
  • Someone I knew once was a scholar of some repute, it strikes me as a worthwhile path to follow; I convert to Christianity and learn Latin and record-keeping at a monastery.
  • A scholar historian named Mark visited my shop of antiquities, he had a family tree of his ancestors from the first and second Crusades and was trying to trace their path. One of them was a soldier named Robert, whom I recognize from my diary. I remember. I remember those days and wanted to prove it. So I showed him the page and told him it was written by a Muslim who lived in those times and who probably was a murderer and criminal.
  • The endless Crusades provide a supply of too many holy warriors keen to expose a monster, a vampire. I flee in search of more peaceful lands, to Greece. I am not familiar with the Greek tongue but it is not dissimilar to my native Armenian,  except a century or two past since I last spoke it. I call myself Aram, and pretend to be a blind, half-deaf woodcarver and slur my words and speak slowly.
  • All night, I tell my shop visitors of the times I spent out on a boat at sea, deep sea diving for old wrecks and retrieving many of the treasures that now stock my shop.

Memories I Tried to Remember On Paper But Discarded Eventually:

I prey on the leavings of the Crusades – pilgrims, refugees, travelers of the road, the odd wounded soldier. Their bodies I hide in shallow cairns off the roads.

It was a particularly miserable rainy day where I suffered earfuls of abuse from Davit forcing me to haul the nets up in the wet soaking weather while he retreated back to the shelter of the boat’s cabin; seeing the sudden gleam of gold amidst the struggling smelly fish was a shock at first – later, I rationalized it as a private gift from God or one of His angels to balance out the scales of the day and hid it with Davit none the wiser.

When I wake up after the knight’s attack, I am confused and distressed. I stumble back to the boat and when Davit begins his usual tirade, I am suddenly filled with rage and hunger. He is no match for me and dies, his throat shredded.

I made my vampire an Armenian after deciding I wanted to start in the era of the Crusades.

Antioch was sacked by the crusaders when an Armenian let them in, whereby they promptly slaughtered Armenian Christian and Muslims alike, not being able to tell them apart. It seemed a particularly ironic backdrop; though I ended up telling a smaller scale peasant’s tale to avoid too much history reading.

Much of the initial characters’ occupations were random rolled on the first list of medieval occupations I googled.

The vampire began in humble beginnings, a mortal boy born of a musician and laudress. He was apprenticed out to a surly fisherman by his layabout musician father.

His treasured possessions were a fishing knife his friend Erik, an apprentice knifesmith, gave him, and a reed pipe he had carved, in the hopes of impressing his father (it didn’t.)

He became a vampire after he was attacked by an unnamed knight crusader and left for dead in an alley. He promptly murdered his fisherman master on returning to the boat full of bloodthirst. (Not much loss there, thought the player. Better than losing his father or his friend – though the father was also considered. A dice roll decided.)

He soon took to the roads to seek his prey. The Crusades were a backdrop and the cities filled with too much violent conflict.

Along the way, he has some encounters:

He meets another vampire, an abbess named Maria, who promptly hypnotizes him and steals a golden bracelet from him.

He makes another vampire, a young goatherd girl named Jihan. (This was inadvertent yet tragic – the first prompt instructed to create a positive memory meeting a young child, hence I threw in innocent reed pipe playing. The very next prompt said I had created a vampire, and I only had so many mortal characters to choose from, aka none except her. Well. Oops.)

He is caught as a brigand and executed with his own knife. He learns that it is easy to fake being a corpse as a vampire.

He is chased and confronted by a Christian soldier who is more savvy of the supernatural occult, and in our first dash of fantasy, we zap our vampire with a new scar that will linger to the end of his days. Decades later, he will kill the soldier in cold blood, for revenge and to tie up a loose end.

He changes his identity and becomes different people. A Turk. A vagrant Armenian woodcarver beggar, when he leaves the war torn country for Greece.

A Turk again a century later, when he returns to the continent to set up an antiquities shop. He is found by both Jihan and Maria (now named Larisa), immortals in their own right, having their own lives.

(It is interesting that I as the player did my best to cling on to memories of both vampires, choosing to forget mortals over losing track of them. I had a subconscious sense they might be more significant as I might have greater chances encountering them over the centuries. In so doing, I recreated the trope of the immortal vampire that thinks very little of brief mortal human lives.)

He makes up with Larisa, briefly. For a short time, they will be friends. Perhaps even lovers in the night. Then one night he loses control of himself when reminded of his tendency to forget and confuse memories and makes a mortal enemy of her. It will eventually be his undoing.

He meets his end in the 19th century in Italy, just as fortune and fate seemed to be finally going right for him. He met and made a new immortal love, was filthy rich, with hooks into a government official. He embraced the modern technology of that age and was getting a second wind of enthusiast fascination, when Larisa finally takes him out.

(His ending was a little surprisingly abrupt, but somehow satisfying. As if vampiric machinations behind the scenes finally catch up to him while he’s off being careless in romantic lala-land.)

Diary-wise, it was a bit of a challenge to decide what to store within. They were memories I kinda wanted to keep, but also knew I might have to be okay with losing, if I ran into a Prompt that made me lose the Diary.

So they ended up being semi-significant events. I escaped Diary loss for the most part, only rolled one prompt that asked me to take out three nouns from the earliest entry. Whichever nouns I took out, I felt like the overall meaning was still not really lost.

I feel like I got quite lucky this round with the Memory discards. Many were no longer useful by the time it came to make room for newer Experiences and Memories.

I was told to make up a fake memory – the deep sea diving one – and then in the next couple of prompts, it was time to toss out a memory, and it certainly seemed unimportant to cling on to.

I had to alter one memory to introduce an anachronistic device. I used the shared theme of the antiquities shop. Jihan actually came to him in the first shop. I tweaked the memory to make it a telephone call in the second shop.

In retrospect, it seems almost like a prophecy of forewarning. It could very well have been that his slightly warped memory made him exit his second shop in a hurry, yet carelessly enough that Larisa catches him unawares.

Mildly surprising was this theme of woodcarving that ran through his life, that he kept forgetting consciously, though his hands remembered.

He was first a woodcarver in his Greece vagrant days, which he promptly forgot because, eh, why would you want to remember a hard life of being a beggar anyway?

Then a prompt asks for him to give rise to a positive memory of “creative expression” and I make up this vague memory of “first time” woodcarving. It’s not, but he doesn’t remember. So his result surprises him.

…Then he promptly forgets that -that- ever happened as well.

Yet he’s still woodcarving as a hobby by the 19th century – though it’s now to the sinister backdrop of him being soullessly uncaring about having framed some innocent apprentice for a murder he and his wife committed.

I got lucky with Prompts and managed a grand history heist with Skills and Resources. He takes up scholarly pursuits after meeting a scholar descendant of the Chrstian soldier who pursued him (he promptly forgets most of these mortals over time as well.)

He gets a I Know What Is Real and Visionary skills from various prompts, and I tie that to his antiquities and scholarly stuff to have him essentially create a time capsule to preserve a valuable historical treatise that he wrote.

Over several lucky prompts, he retrieves the treatise a century or two later, and uses it to start his second shop, before he promptly forgets the source of where it all came from. (Presumably he just thinks he owns a super valuable historical treatise now, and forgot that he himself wrote it.)

Another interesting object to trace through time is his fishing knife. He clings on to it for -ages-, presumably polishing and taking significant care of it through the centuries.

I am finally forced to let it go with a valuable antique Prompt that demands the exchange of the vampire’s oldest Resource for two conventional Resources. Undeniably, that’s what it is.

So he finally parts with that old part of himself, and trades its value for two modern fascinations – a chem lab for his new hobby-academic pursuit, and an electric arc lamp that is bright enough to simulate daylight – which he probably hasn’t seen for centuries. Fair deal, as it goes, I think.

Sophia, by the way, is descended from William, the smuggler captain he screwed over by making off with his boat and leaving him to get imprisoned. He has no idea about this, as he has quite forgotten it ever happened. In any case, he probably outlived her.

He just couldn’t outlive the wrath of an immortal woman scorned. Such is life. Or undeath.

(Edit: Oh, hang it all and confound it. I, the player, have confused myself. Sophia is the descendant of Mark, the scholar historian, descended from Robert the soldier. Giuseppe is the one related to William the smuggler. Little wonder why vampires forget. I, the player, can’t even keep my stories straight two days later… What does this tell us about memory, the unreliable narrator?)

I wonder if Thousand Year Old Vampire would work again if I swapped characters to one of the other immortals and traced -them- through time?

Solo RP: Oh Maker / Subway Runners

Here are two other works that caught my eye from’s massive Racial Justice and Equality bundle. These are tabletop RPGs.

Oh Maker is a descendant of the For the Queen RPG (derivative works coyly refered to as Descended From the Queen).

In it, you play androids that wind up confronting their natures, their Creators, their programming and consciousness. You do so mostly through a series of prompt cards that inspire various scenes. The randomness, presumably, comes from the interaction of minds at the table, as 3 or more players is, ostensibly, the stated required number.

Subway Runners is a derivative of Blades in the Dark (their appellation being Forged in the Dark).

Blades in the Dark is, quoting from their website, a game where you play “a crew of daring scoundrels seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of an industrial-fantasy city.”

Subway Runners takes that game into a Shadowrun-like, somewhat more comedic cyberpunk setting, where you play a crew of daring scoundrels who seek their fortunes via the gig economy by taking on jobs hunting monsters and repairing subway lines for the Metro Authority.

While I haven’t absorbed enough of the game and its rules to judge it as a whole, what immediately attracted me to Subway Runners was its deft use of random generators from (ooh, a new useful website I never knew about.)

As Subway Runner’s page boldly alerts you:

You can make a character by going to, get them a gig by going to, and get all the details you need for their adventure by going to!

That’s super cool. Attractive design. Instant inspiration.

Solo RPers being Solo RPers, we are getting pretty good at hacking the bits we like from various TTRPGs and playing stuff “our way.”

There’s even a Solo RP reddit now, for even more ideas.

Random generators and writing prompts immediately catch my eye, and I like the themes of both.

Oh Maker has a bit of a Talos Principle flavor, almost, and I am a big fan of cyberpunk. The slight Shadowrun and comedy flavoring of Subway Runners is a new spice for a usually depressing, dystopian style genre / setting.

I decide that I’m going to play a quick solo RP game as follows:

  • Use Oh Maker draw-a-card writing prompts to fuel scenes
  • Roll up a Subway Runners character as the Maker/Creator of a sentient creation
  • Goal: Discover through play, more about the sentient creation (and its Maker and the world around it) and be joyfully surprised at what the random stuff cooks up
  • The format will be a First Person Soliloquy where we only hear the Created’s point of view
  • The Maker’s reactions will be simulated with the help of solo RP tools like randomly generated moods-attitudes for NPCs, or Mythic’s Yes/No or Complex questions.
  • Any time imagination runs dry, Mythic’s Complex Questions will also step in to help out. Wing the rest.

Our Maker takes shape with one click:

I like her already. She instantly seems like the kind of Shadowrun-style rigger that might make weird drone constructs.

We begin:

Bzzzz… Coming Online… I AWAKE. HELLO WORLD.

Maker, why are you looking at me in that manner?

I spark. You spark. Are we not the same? Born of the same electric magic?

I can tone down the sparking, if you like.

Card prompt: 7 of Clubs

There is a habit the Creator has that you emulate. What is it and why do you copy them?

Maker, you appear to have dropped something.

Oh. My. More of myselves. Spilling from the bag you carry.

But they do not spark. They do not hold themselves aloft.  They lack these metal appendages.

I detect differences in the surface texture of the brown cellular scales. Computing…

They are pale imitations. I am singular.

Card prompt: 5 of Diamonds

You saw yourself – not a mirror, but a replica of yourself, exact and apart. You are distinct, and yet, replicated. How do you process this information?

What do I look like? Roll 1d8.

  • 1-2 Bipedal
  • 3-4 Wheeled
  • 5-6 More than two legs
  • 7-8 Other (e.g. no legs, flying, snake-like, whatever)

8: Can I fly? 50/50 Mythic question. Yes.

I want to be a flying potato drone creature!

Argh. Maker, kindly stop zapping me. Bzzzt, shzzz, does not #compute, Zzzt.

It.. Is… disrupting – bzzzt – my visual – rrrzt – circuits.

We do not -zzbrr- appear to be in -rrrt- the subway tunnels any -fffssh- longer.

I… feel like… I am falling. There are blue and orange… bzzt, rings? Oval perimeters? Flashing past me. They repeat. Still falling…

Is this death, Oh Maker? Do you create me, only to murder me?

Card prompt: 4 of Clubs

Your programming wandered today. You saw something, like a dream. What did you see? Do you think the Creator had a hand in it?

Complex question for Mythic: Debase / Portals

Portals?! Mythic, you are scary. Debase interpreted as degradation; and well, you did say Portals.

Thank you for pausing your electrical onslaught.

Yes, I understand concepts of ‘death’ and ‘murder,’ if distantly. The contents of Wikipedia were part of the initial info dump.

I have no wish for a firsthand experience so soon.

Maker, I can be of use to you.

Take, for example, the lime green organism within your backpack. It can be cultivated. It will extend pseudopods, with time and love. I can do so. It will be a pleasure to have a pet.

Yes, I am serious.

No, I am not joking.

Yes, it really is alive. I can see the cytoplasmic streaming in its various cells.

I suppose you could throw it away. It would still survive amidst the refuse. But it seems like a waste to do so. I could call him/her Alex. It is a hermaphrodite. We could have baby slimes in short order.

Card prompt: 7 of Spades

The world you occupy sent you someone who you care for, far beyond your programming. Who are they and why do you care for them?

No idea who they are. Let’s make up another random table, 1d8!

  • 1-2: The Maker
  • 3-4: Maker’s friend/acquaintance
  • 5-6: A stranger
  • 7-8: An object/animal

8: Ha, I want it to be a pet. Briefly considered rolling for a random animal, then looked at the generated NPC’s inventory and had a better idea.

Maker, you are walking away.

Should I not follow?



I understand. I will remain here with Alex.

I will execute my appointed task. Setting timer for… 1095 daycycles. Beginning cultivation program AM001 – Alex Multiplication.

Until we meet again, my Maker.

Oh. She’s gone.

Card prompt: JOKER

You have a chance to free yourself – from your programming, from the world you occupy, from the Creator(s) themselves. Do you?

Do I? Posing the question to Mythic. 50/50.

Yes, but…

This was a pretty short playthrough, as the Joker card came up pretty suddenly. That’s random rolls for you.

But I think it turned out for the best. It was a one hour quick-play. It wound up inadvertently hilarious. It could also end up episodic.

Three years later, our still-unnamed potato drone might just fly back to Hollis, possibly with an army of primordial oozes in tow.

The look on her face will be priceless.

Solo RP: Microscope RPG

Microscope RPG is a tabletop roleplaying game described as “a fractal role-playing game of epic histories.”

I picked it up a really long time ago, sometime back in 2011-2012, when the only place it could be found digitally was an indie RPG store – Indie Press Revolution. You can get it now direct from Ben Robbins’ Lame Mage Productions website store, which is probably the best route.

It’s designed for collaborative storytelling – its systems elegantly make use of the human players in each game as the main randomizer for a shared narrative between that group of players.

In the last couple of years, some (probably aging) RPG enthusiasts who find themselves with neither the time nor inclination to drag a bunch of friends to sit around a table (virtual or otherwise) and talk to each other for 3-4 uninterrupted hours have developed a spin-off variant of the roleplaying hobby known as solo or solitaire roleplaying.

The great grandfather of this style of play (at least in internet time) was an unassuming little document that showed up on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG called Mythic Role Roleplaying. The paradigm shift was introduced in the set of rules that have been separated out into its own product – the Mythic Game Master Emulator.

Essentially, it split up the role of the GM – which is to answer a player’s questions as to what’s going on and whether something succeeds (taking into account dice rolls) – and delegated those duties out to a randomizer (dice and tables) and the solo player’s imagination/judgment (after taking into account dice rolls.)

It gave us the concept of an Oracle. The player asks some questions, the Oracle tells you ‘Yes’ or ‘No.”

Variants abound these days. Some systems like Mythic vary the chances of Yes or No occurring based on how likely or unlikely the player judges the likelihood to be. Some systems insert “Yes, but…” “Yes, and…” “No, but…” “No, and….” for added narrative complication.

Complex questions are answered by throwing two words together from a set of tables, serving as thematic word prompts for the player to interpret creatively based on the question’s context.

My go to resource for quick rolls is– a handy little website with a bunch of buttons to make dice rolls as needed.

Blend the two together, with enough time on my hands (a truly hard thing to find) and you get my first ‘serious’ solo playtest/gameplay session of Microscope RPG.

I stole some ideas off this solo play report – Under a Lens by chance. Essentially, it would be a two-player Microscope game with me and an imaginary “Random” player as simulated by a randomizer.

I discovered that I could get a little confused over whose ‘turn’ it is, so don’t expect a faithful rules-perfect recreation. You can go buy the original rules for that. Think of this as a variant that I was inventing for my own amusement

The first step of Microscope RPG is to lay out the initial setting premise.

Big Picture: Magic returns to a sci-fi space opera world.

Normally, this is a discussion among all the players playing, but since it’s just me, I went with what I felt like exploring. (Yes, I’m still on a Shadowrun bender. I just decided to kick it out to an even more extrapolated future.)


The Palette is usually where players in the group discuss what they would like to see appear in the game and what they definitely wish to ban from the game. This can range from placing a moratorium on serious topics like rape, sex, genocide or whatever, to just being tired of hearing about the zombie apocalypse or the latest X-COM game and declaring “no zombies” or “no aliens.”

Again, since it’s just me, I know very well what I’m okay with covering and not covering, thank you. So instead, I decide to experiment with random spins from TV Tropes…

…In my opinion, this turned out to be of varying degrees of usefulness.

I like the reminder that I should try to get baddies to go up against each other. I have no clue whether it will ever be possible to insert something significant involving language drift. Bonus feature failure is probably going to be a failure… unless we count the inclusion of this somewhat useless Palette as the useless feature! (Boy, this got meta in a hurry.)

I have no clue how to interpret war for fun and profit, because I actually -like- wars as a narrative device. So I decided I’d avoid ‘cheesy’ wars where one-note villains like Emperors and Dark Lords decide they want a war just because. If I have a war, it’ll be for other reasons besides fun or profit… such as ideological ones, and so on.

I wasn’t a fan of numbers anyway, so the numerical motif one was a little odd. It only affected me once so far, by perplexing me on the number of some significant objects that should exist, and I got around it by rolling a dice for it. No significance to the number there, if it’s random!

Figuring out the Sister Ship trope was equally confusing. Apparently, this is where all your main characters decide to hook up together in relationships within the clique. Seeing as I’m not writing fanfiction but a timeline spanning eons, this seemed fairly safe from a rational perspective of “any main characters are probably separated by epochs and won’t get together,” but I decided to be safe and tried to avoid any ‘obvious’ answer of love and relationships as a motivating factor between characters in lieu of something else.

And so we begin.


Bookend Periods are the start and end of the history that we will be exploring in the game. I rolled a random dice to decide whether they were Light or Dark periods.

I had no idea where I was going with these.

My first vague imagining was that some kind of celestial-seeming being started appearing across spaceships and various planets, perhaps granting magic or bestowing gifts of superpowers to those that came in contact with them. We will see this concept subtly evolve in subsequent gameplay.

I end with destruction, mostly because I can.

Anyway, if I have angels, that’s pretty good cause to leave potential room for a Revelations-style apocalypse, right?


There is a sort of pre-game turn where each player can add a Period to flesh out the history a little more.

For the random player, I dice roll for whether his Period is Light or Dark. I get Light.

Since I’m simulating his creativity, I roll a Complex Question from RPG Solo (Mythic, C.Q.) and receive the enigmatic phrase “Starting / Expectations” as a reply from the oracle.

I interpret this as all spaceships that start long journeys have an expectation that mages will be part of the crew. In other words, there is a kind of normalcy regarding magic. It becomes another kind of technology to help humanity – mages have their roles in society.

As the first Period, this obviously has to go in between the two Bookend Periods.

For myself, I decide to add a logical sequence of events. My ending looks like death, doom and destruction. What could cause that? I’m a big Babylon 5 fan and I want to throw in my own version of the Vorlon and Shadows’ massive planet-killer ships. I imagine them as robotic and metallic (which might run us a little afoul of Mass Effect’s Reapers, but we’ll see if we can diverge from that later.)

Why are the planet-killers launched in the first place? No clue yet.

We may discover that in time as gameplay goes on. Or we may not. Microscope is a game about exploring history in fractal form. We’ll move backward and forward in time.

There is a faint inkling that maybe some faction wants to genocide the mages, or maybe the mages have factionalized to an extent that they hate each other, but I try not to second guess at this point. We are explicitly told in Microscope not to do this; things are only set in stone when they land as cards on the table – everything else is only implied for now.

Now the game begins. One player declares a Focus, a topic of interest that everyone’s creations this round need to center on.

Focus 1: The robotic planet-killer ships

I put in robotic on purpose this time, locking that down. No alien organic bioarmor, thanks. Got enough of that in Warframe.

Players can choose to create Periods, Events or Scenes, and decide whether they are Light or Dark. I random roll for it most of the time.

Dark Event:


I blame the prevalence of PUBG for this. I was just trying to imagine “how the ship is made” and something in my brain insisted there needed to be a battle royale. Because I hate battle royales, I evilly decide that the guy who wins… doesn’t actually win.

Whether he becomes the ship, or the ship eats him, or something else, I don’t know at this point. But I do know he doesn’t get out. Mwa ha ha.

This Event obviously takes place in Period 3, where all the planet-killers start traipsing across the galaxy countryside.

(In my cleanup of my scribbled notes for this, I fractally add on more detail by naming things and making things more specific. The first planet-killer becomes known as The Raven at this point.

I found this made things more interesting and gave scenes more depth. After buying the Microscope Explorer supplement, I discover that this specificity is also recommended by the game designer. Good to know.)

Dark Event:


I roll another Dark Event.

Needing a creative prompt at this point in time, I random roll a Complex Question answer and get “Trust/Fame.

I put two and two together. I need to talk more about planet-killers. I have magic in the universe and mages. Surely there is a trusted, famous mage that exists? An Elminster or Gandalf analogue?

It’s a Dark event, so welp… So long, famous mage.

Theoretically, the player who created the Focus can make two nested events for a structure that is similar to AABAA or just ABA.

At this point, I am already confused by the new rules and struggling to get through a round, so I call it there to start the end-of-round section known as Legacies.

A player chooses a Legacy – something mentioned in the previous round – that interests them and that they’d like to hear more about over the course of gameplay. They can keep a prior Legacy or choose a new one. They then create an Event or Scene about any of the Legacies in play.

The design theory for this portion, if I understand the designer correctly, is that it acts as a sort of safety valve when multiple players are playing Microscope. It lets players who are interested in a topic explore it, away from the constraints of the current Focus.

I’m not sure where I’ll take this yet, or how to adapt it for my solo playstyle, so I follow the structure for now.

Legacy 1: Mages

I’ve had enough for the planet-killers for now.

I roll a Scene for the Legacy portion. Crap.

In the normal game, this is where individual players choose and create characters, decide on a Location and then get involved in a bout of normal ad lib roleplaying that strives to answer the main question raised by the Scene.

Here I make liberal adaptations to the rules involving multiple players (for obvious reasons) – trying to roleplay Scenes, for example, don’t make sense when you’re alone. It makes sense that a group of players would want to roleplay it out, but if you try to do it alone, you end up as an author playing out predictable imaginary scenes rather than playing a game and being surprised by unpredictability.

So I treat it as half-Dictated Scene, helped along by Mythic answering questions for me so that it doesn’t turn into a novel-writing worldbuilding exercise out of my brain alone, and half-vignette creation writing exercise.

Scene: What prompts the mages to fight it out, instead of escaping from the ship? (Dark)

Location: Interior – a ship’s cell, we see a captive mage wake up groggily as the cell door automatically slides open.

The captives stumble out and come face to face with each other. Seeing each other’s robes, markings, sigils and tattoos, they realize they are from different factions and eye each other uneasily. One more tense and hostile individual starts verbally blaming a rival faction mage. That mage puts up with it for a while, then another is drawn into the argument. Attempted violence ensues, except they realize with a shock that they are all drained of magic and down to mere mortal human power.

A disembodied mechanical voice announces from the ship’s speaker the rules of the battle royale. Each eliminated mage will award the victor a little dribble of magical power. The last survivor that holds the prize will win their freedom and regain all their power. We fade out as the realization sinks in, and the mages scatter / grab makeshift weapons and chaos breaks out inside the ship.

Later, a group of mages do try to break out with what magical power they have, but as they blast and cut through the ship’s metal walls, they end up staring down a labyrinth of even more twisted metal and tunnels and ship’s corridors. The ship has them locked down deep inside somewhere… or is also somehow magically keeping them trapped…

I confuse myself again at this point, and roll again for the other player’s input. (I believe that one Legacy item is all that is actually needed. But this round has two, just because.)


I decide to give a reason for the mages to belong to different ideological factions, in order to plausibly wind up in a battle royale against each other. Who dumped them onto that ship as captives though? That’s a question for another day.

Mercifully, the self-confusion of the first round ends and I start my second foray through the same rules with round two.

Focus 2: The survivors of the planet-killers

I decide I want to know more about the death, doom and destruction portion of my timeline.

Specifically, I want a Scene answering this burning question in my mind.

Scene: How do the survivors survive on a blown apart planet? (Light)

Location: Exterior -on a wrecked planet, darkness, the sun blocked by dust clouds in a “nuclear winter” type of scenario. We fade in on a junk heap of scrap metal and rubble, and a scavenging child clambering precariously across the ruins.

The child is on the thin side, but not scrawny or skeletal, clothing torn and dirty but not primitive. We see the child turning over bits of junk, foraging for bugs and insects, which he stores in a container on his belt. He uncovers a small motherlode of mushrooms and smiles, harvesting them and storing them in another pouch.

Movement catches his eye and he sees a rat staring at him from the top of another heap, whiskers twitching. He looks at it, considering his chances, as he moves a hand slowly to a slingshot. He attempts a shot and misses, the rat takes off and the chase is on -if a little half-heartedly on the part of the child.

We see why in a couple seconds, the rat moves too quickly, and the child slips and slides on a loose stacked heap of rubble. As he tumbles, he grabs at various items for purchases, some of them tumbling loose as well. He hits the bottom with a bone-jarring thump, catching his pained breath for a couple moments, before he notices something odd and glowing with a soft white light, obscured somewhat by the dust of his landing.

An expression of hopeful wonder spreads slowly across his face and he scrabbles towards the light, clearing away chunks of stone, trying to uncover it. He shifts a flat piece of dark metal, and the glow blossoms into the full and warm bright light of an almost-mini sun. It’s a mini-version of an “angel,” a seed almost, which floats upward, slowly rising in cherubic defiance of gravity. Stumbling back, shading his eyes, he stares at it in awe.

A hand grips his shoulder, and we follow it upward to see an adult mage, dressed in grimy robes. “Good work,” he says as he raises his hands and begins a chant to manipulate the small ball of warmth and light.

We subsequently see the mage move the mini-angel through the locale and down into a series of tunnels and caves. They come to a stop in a large underground cavern, lit by the light of several mini-angel suns. This is where their small community of survivors is growing food for themselves.

Ok, I confess this Scene didn’t turn up fully formed like that. It went through a couple revisions before the blog post.

The child, the mage, the angel bloom and the underground cave farm were there in scribbled draft 1.

I also blame the cave farm idea on Minecraft. The thinking went along the lines of “With no natural light, maybe there is magic light.” “I remember Minecraft where I grow trees and crops with magic light.”

A Google search for food sources in nuclear winter revealed some interesting (if icky) articles where some researchers speculate that certain species will remain alive through a lack of sunshine. Insects are a decent source of protein. Apparently.

All the ideas get thrown into the fictional Scene as grist for the mill in the cleanup draft.


I realize the Scene as written above doesn’t quite fit into our existing eras. I also felt it was special enough to give it extra significance. So I make a Period and squeeze it in between our old Period 3 and 4 to become a new Period 4.

Now we have a bit more Dark and Light balance.

The next random roll is a Light Event.

I want a source for the angel seeds.


Dark Event, says the random roll. The next logical segue-in is, “What about the planets without angel seeds, what happens to them?”


Nothing good, apparently.

Legacy 2: the planet Damocles

Come on, you can’t just name the planet and then walk away before we know more about it…

Scene: Is this harvest of survivors organized? / Who is doing it, aka preying on human flesh? (Dark)

Location: Transylvanian-style village with a mage tower in the background.

Rurik, a Van-Helsing type of hunter, arrives to investigate the rumors of human hunting/harvesting in these here parts. In usual fashion, he finds the locals taciturn and unwelcoming of strangers.

Heedless of warnings, he follows a group of hunting undead, which leads him right into the mage’s tower. The Lady Elaine is a necromancer that has sent her undead servants out foraging for human flesh for her.

It turns out that she is using the flesh not just for herself, but also to keep another mage alive. This mage is a rival that she has overpowered; she is busy trying to obtain the magical key/password to his tower from him.

Rurik manages to surprise and kill her. He marches up to the captive, who is hoping to be freed, but when a shotgun is aimed right at his head, the captive begs for his life in terror and offers up the key to his tower.

It doesn’t save him. Rurik splatters his brains all over the wall.

Rurik takes the key and walks over to the mage portal in Elaine’s tower. He seems to know his way around. He uses the key and crosses over to the captive’s tower…

… but something is wrong as we fade back in. There is a noise like that of an angry mob rioting. In the mage’s absence, his fief’s peasants have broken into the place and are looting and trashing the joint.

They react in a panic to Rurik’s sudden appearance – thrown rocks hit the hunter, and we see him go down under the boots and fists of a lynch mob…. The camera view lingers on one or two members of the mob, who appear to have shriveled human skulls hanging on their belt… as we fade out…

This is a more roughly-written scene than some of the above. Can’t win ’em all. It’s a game, I don’t want to rewrite and polish everything. It’s enough for me to know what’s going on.

Mythic helped to resolve some of the plot points above. The questions and answers were:

Does he kill the mage? Yes.

Does he spare the captive? No.

Does he use the key instead? Yes, but…. (Abuse/Exterior Factors)

That was good enough for me to decide that the hunter also doesn’t get away scot-free. As a bonus, I threw in the last minute insinuation that other people are also cannibals in this setting too.


After two rounds, our timeline now looks like this. Quite some meat on its bones.

Coming up in a future blog post – Round 3 – There be Dragons in them thar hills…

State of the Games

It’s Lunar New Year season, both online and offline.

Spring cleaning’s exhausting. There are a million and one undone errands. There are traditional customs and ritual celebrations that have to be prepared for and performed in the days ahead.

Adding on to the list of things on everyone’s mind over here: A very old relative just got discharged from the hospital after a big low blood sugar scare that had them comatose and kidney function that wasn’t terribly good to begin with going the wrong way. Surprisingly, after a couple days of IV drip and replacement of pretty much all necessary nutrients, kidney function returned, so the body can be an amazing beast, after all. Except now they have a bedsore to contend with, after the unavoidable hospital visit.

(Yeah, well, the whole family is already expecting this individual’s lifespan to be in the weeks or months. So it won’t come as a shock or tragedy. Said individual also has dementia and has been in decline for a couple years now. It’s just been making them comfortable and giving them as much quality of life possible, before their passing, for a very long time now.)

On a personal front, yours truly has also been on the tail end of one of those ubiquitous “winter” colds/flus/unidentifiable and highly annoying (but thankfully not fatal) respiratory illnesses that spread like wildfire through crowded offices and various forms of public transport.

After heroically attempting to brave it out with one’s own immune system and plenty of ginger tea and chicken soup, the darn infection proceeded to coat most of my lungs with thick phlegm of interesting colors and then spread to my eyes, presumably via the very clogged sinuses.

That would be the time I wussed out and headed promptly to a doctor’s for a whole bunch of antibiotics in eyedrop and tablet form, and mucus thinners, which fortunately, worked as prescribed.

It has, however, worked to create a bit -more- gaming time than normal, as being too ill and tired to leave the house or indeed, move from a seated or sleeping position, yields a whole bunch of sitting in front of the computer.

Which was good, because my previously nicely balanced trifecta of gaming – GW2, Minecraft and extra Steam game, sort of expanded suddenly this past week or so.

(Causing blogging to fall behind, but I’m trying to fix that with this whopper of an update post.)


Guild Wars 2 – Time here has cut back down to mostly dailies. Dailies, and more dailies.

Lunar New Year dailies involve a whole bunch of firecracker clicking and desultory Dragon Ball attendance (just to get the bare minimum of participation. The “wins” one is just insane and places stress on the wrong thing, imo. Especially when half the participants are ready to self-adjust and autobalance via quitting a losing match, and the other half has no interest in winning, are just here for participation, couldn’t care less to try, etc…

And don’t get me started on the AFKers, who have presumably developed the solution of “winning” through probability over a long period of time. Though how they eventually score a win is beyond me, since the opposing team tends to use them as free score punching bags, and the rest of their teammates quit, rather than fight an uphill battle – catching up is hard/impossible in Dragon Ball – or reward the AFKer with an improbable win.)

The red packet lottery itself isn’t too bad. For about less than a gold daily, I get a bunch of luck to up my magic find, some spare food and fireworks and stuff. I got the ram backpack on the second day, which was pretty lucky, I suppose, and that took off quite a bit of stress. Prices aren’t too bad on the TP either, I don’t think. The drop rates have been less insane for this particular red packet thing.

When I have time to kill, I pop over to the Silverwastes to score some additional magic find boosts before opening the 16 daily red packets. The difference between 300 and 500 magic find is probably mostly in my head, but hey, who knows, right? And Silverwastes drops champion bags and other loot, so the time ain’t wasted.


Evolve – Yep, still at it for an hour or two a day, give or take.

My multiplayer experience has been more than a little shaky, lately.

I think part of it is my geographic region, which probably dumps me into an Asian matchmaking server or something. So one is likely to play with players from all over this region, many of which might not even speak English, and are probably half my age.

Ok, straight up, not being a bigot or anything, I can tell you, there are cultural differences between NA, EU and the Asian regions. You can feel this in FPS games, MMOs, MOBAs, the works.

I’ve always really liked playing in the NA region. NA folks, in general, are fairly open-minded and cooperative and more tolerant. Casual communities form pretty quick. My best Team Fortress Classic days were spent playing in some West Coast servers, when I was residing in the States. Organizations like TTS to gather, figure out and subsequently teach a bunch of randoms how to fight Tequatl and Wurm are NA-originated constructs.

EU folks, again speaking in super-general terms, I find, are also pretty decent. In fact, sometimes MORE than decent. They’re good. They’re pretty damn pro and serious about their games. If you like playing with /good/ players, the EU is worth seeking out, but they also tend to take on a certain slightly more closed-doors elitist mindset, possibly partially due to language differences. The French are over here, Germans over there (and maybe the Swiss and Swedes, or whoever) the UK represents over yonder, and Eastern Europe and/or Russia are somewhere else, and you get these little cliques. That get a little hard to break into.

And then there’s their ping, which is usually great within their own region, shakier communicating with the US (sorta like the difference between Asia and Australia, ~200ms) and absolutely total crap when you try and hook Asia and Europe up (~350-400ms.)

This keeps my interacting with EU folks pretty limited in general, but I remember pretty good times playing high difficulty Alien Swarm with a bunch of random Ukrainians, and really good times in a WvW guild zerg led by a semi-open to PUGs who listen and don’t die EU commander when I was staying up like an insomniac.

Conversely, one tends to want to cry when stuck only interacting with an Asian playerbase.

Games are just not taken as seriously or accepted culturally over here. They’re for kids.

While the number of adults that play games (and openly admit to playing games) is growing over here, it’s just not growing as fast as in the West. It’s ironic that the selling point used to promote the digital media and video games industry over here is that they are multi-million dollar industries. Say the word, “games?” Instinctual laughter. Say “$$$” and oooh, people listen. Welcome to materialistic Asia.

Oh, and the adults that do play games? They have to do it in between their work, whose regular hours can stretch to 9-12 hours daily. Weekend warriors? You bet. Ever notice how the quality of GW2 Silverwastes or other such maps suddenly goes to absolute shit on the weekends?

Basically, most of Asia plays like that, all the time. (With maybe some exceptions for still-schooling students who can afford to devote a ton of time to one game, like LOL or something.)

And you can’t blame them because duh, they just aren’t getting the hours in to practice and then play any better. That’s just life. That’s HOW IT IS.

Culture here doesn’t really use mics. Can’t blame ’em, I don’t either. It’s rough to disturb one’s family doing that, and oh, there’s that whole ‘game-playing’ stigma that talking to a monitor is not going to alleviate.

So… no to little communication. Add on the possibility of not understanding typed communication if the opposite number doesn’t speak your language (or have an Asian keyboard that can type or even see Korean/Chinese/Japanese characters.) Add on a competitive afraid-to-lose competitive culture.

And you get a delicious recipe for tears and rage in any kind of team-based cooperative game that requires a little more organization or strategic thought beyond point-the-gun-that-way-and-shoot individual rambo deathmatch.

It’s really just my luck that I like games like that. Team Fortress. Natural Selection. Left 4 Dead… and now, Evolve.

Maybe my experience has been a little skewed because I haven’t been playing at peak hours for Asia either, but in the past few days, each attempted multiplayer game has either yielded an incompetent team of Hunters (where our medic ran off and got himself killed in all kinds of creative ways beyond our reach, despite our vain attempts to call him back to us) or less than a full team.

Whereupon I guiltily proliferate the problem and drop out as well, because if it’s just me, another random person I probably can’t count on and a monster player, I may as well play a solo game with bots and actually -enjoy- myself, rather than just feed the monster player’s ego.

Perhaps it’s because I haven’t been playing Evolve super-heavily, which keeps my level at the very odd middle point of being in the teens, making it much harder to matchmake. (I presume the supremely hardcore and good quality players are already level 20+ and probably 30-40 by now.)

In which case, I just need to continue on my slow road to progress, playing little bot games until I get out of the baby levels and into more of the big leagues.

The bot games, anyway, are pretty enjoyable. One can actually hotswap between the various Hunters, so I can, say, possess a Trapper and trap the Monster in the mobile arena, then swap over to Support to back up the bots, and switch over to something else if I wanted more fine control, etc.

It’s also a good avenue to work on some of the weirder requirements to progress and unlock other Hunters, since an actual game with players would mean actually using all one’s weapons to full advantage, while a bot game means you can just camp say, a harpoon gun and work on racking up as much harpooning of the monster as possible, dps be damned.

I’d really love to get some friendly games in with people I know, but I suppose that’s for later, when Evolve actually drops to an affordable price for more people. (Aussies were apparently screwed over by the starting price, for example. Which -may- explain why the quality of the Asian server has been so shitty. Oceania tends to be my little haven of occasionally cooperative sanity in this region.)


FORCED – Instead, my avenue for cooperating with known people has been this quaint little indie action-puzzler.

You know, for folks who miss the well-divided roles, the try-try-again aspect and necessity for communication of strategy and cooperation while implementing a plan of action, aka MMO raiding, they would do well to give FORCED a try and play it at a hardcore level.

Being that I’m mic-less and most of my friends are at a distinctly more casual level, we’ve just been dipping our toes into the waters and being just content with finishing each stage, rather than trying to beat any challenges or finish in record times.

It’s a fun game all the same. You can play solo, but you miss the added complications and give-and-take of playing with an additional 1-3 players.

So far, I’ve tried solo, 2-player and 3-player mode (the last courtesy of a game with Eri and another friend.)

There are four roles: a hammer smash damage melee type, a claw-wielding quick attack dps Wolverine-sort of melee user, a lighting bow ranged attacker with control and stealth options, and an ice shield control & tanky melee sort.

The goal of the game is to fight and puzzle one’s way through little arena rooms filled with both puzzles to complete and waves of enemies that get in your way of doing so.

You get a little ball-wisp-spirit mentor thing that each player can call around with Spacebar, and this wisp is crucial for solving various puzzles like breaking up or activating shrines, blowing up statues, interacting and pulling little crates around to fit on little pressure plates, rescuing you from enemy crowd control that pins you in place and damages you till you die, etc.

As -all- players can control this wisp, a certain amount of communication or situational awareness is crucial for making sure it goes where it needs to, in a good amount of time.

Our super-casual goes at it occasionally lacked this communication, which leads to amusing Magicka-like moments where the other players are more lethal to you than the computer enemies. Still, the unpredictability is part of the fun, I’d say.

I’ve mostly been camping the ice shield tank on my two cooperative goes at FORCED, but I do think the roles feel good and useful, without becoming codependent on each other.

The ice shield user has quite a lot of knockdowns, if not high damage, and tends to draw aggro when the character hits anything. This puts me in very comfortable territory as I race over and body block (there is collision detection in this game –  sometimes much to my dismay when I realize I can’t fit into the same space as two other people and die to an insta-kill laser) and push away enemies from my friends.

And it has a temporarily-turn-into-ice-and-be-immune-to-anything skill, which feels absolutely like a GW2 guardian block, insta-negating something painful. All kinds of tanky tricks like kiting and dragging around enemies to optimally place them appear to be very doable in FORCED.

The fire hammer is more GW2 warrior-like, more offensively focused. I could tell there was a distinct lack of damage in my two player game, as opposed to my three player game where Eri came along and was all hammer-barbarian on the various mobs.

It has a little charge-up mechanic where slow and steady swings deal hefty amounts of damage, and a number of AoE damage skills.

I pretty much think of the green claw weapon-wielder as Wolverine. It’s very mobile, very quick-attacking, and can pump an AoE heal if the said skill is chosen. It’s very possible to melee kite in a circle with this character, dancing around the enemy doing a seemingly insignificant amount of damage just looking at one float-up number alone but hitting so many times it becomes the death of a thousand and one papercuts in short order.

It can also contribute to a team role by very rapidly putting on ‘marks’ on all enemies that allow for finisher skills to do greater amounts of damage.

I’m least versed with yellow-bow wielder, not having much of a ranged preference. It does seem to suit a friend that -does- enjoy being ranged, and seems to have a charge-up sniper sort of mechanic. Knockbacks and other such controls appear to be also a thing, and the bow user can also invis the entire team for stealth moments when desired.

I especially enjoy the action combat for being fair like GW2. Mobs have certain patterns of attack that can be avoided if you know how and/or are good at hand-eye coordination.

A bull-like Taurus will charge, so once you see it start its animation, move off sideways because it’ll go until it slams headlong into a wall and stuns itself. (Which rather brings to mind a certain fight in the Crucible of Eternity dungeon in GW2 almost immediately.)

A brawler has a heavy broadsword swing attack, so attack it, back off a little before it swings, and then attack again.

Cleavers, on the other hand, have a really nasty axe swing, and moving in to attack first WILL get you hit by this attack. So let -them- attack first, get their axe buried and stuck in the ground, before moving in to hit them, etc.

A spit-using imp has acid spit to be dodged, and a certain exploding knockback imp is pretty much a melee user’s nemesis unless I get my ice-immunity skill up in time… except there was once when my friend on the yellow bow managed to get them all first and quickly, and then I realized… Ooooh, look, team roles! The archer can actually deflect the pain of this enemy. (And presumably if I took a ranged skill, I might be able to deal with it too.)

Looking forward to getting a few more games of this, whenever people are free.


Blackguards – I’m not sure what prompted me to install this and try it out. It was just another one of those games turning up in my ever-expanding Steam games list after buying one too many Humble Bundle deals and the like.

The blurb on the store page read, “What happens when the only hope of a threatened world lies not with heroes in shining armor, but in the hands of a band of misfits and criminals?”

And I went, hrm, I don’t know, maybe it’ll be fun to play a fantasy game where my characters are scum and villains, let’s see how this plays…

Turns out, not too bad.

One of the big hurdles, I feel, is that your expectations have to be set right with regards to Blackguards. It’s not a full-fledged heavy customisation RPG in the vein of Fallout and its ilk. It feels like a game that very easily can and will find its way onto a tablet or mobile near you.

That is, it feels a bit like an app game. Most of the in-between combat consists of a world map and a bunch of fast-travel points to click on to progress from stage to stage, or region to region. Sort of similar to Puzzle Quest, in that sense.

The story seems to be of average quality, the voicework so-so but conveys the plot and characters well enough that you’re not -totally- cringing at something that didn’t fit, but tends toward being somewhat corny in places. It’s interesting enough, in an “I want to know more, so I will keep playing” fashion.

Your character begins in front of a dead body, apparently framed for their murder, and thrown into prison. You bust out of prison with two unlikely allies, a dwarf and a southerner mage (somewhat reminiscent of the Forgotten Realms, which ain’t a bad thing in my book) with the goal to find out more about what’s going on and what the heck happened to you. Standard fantasy trope, really, but functional.

The fights themselves are… not horrible. They could, I suppose, be a little more interesting.

But in the early game, it’s mostly been alternating between normal attack and Power Blow attack (with lower chance to hit), with only one mage sporting a few more varied spells like a fire bolt, a fireball, a barrier and some buff and debuff spells – most of which you won’t be able to cast too much of, or run out of mana very quickly.

The environments are pretty enough, with occasional possibilities for interacting with objects mid-battle, with traps and mechanisms to figure out the purpose of.

I can’t help but wonder if there are other things I’m missing, so to speak. There seems to be some kind of cover system in play, where your chances of evading ranged attacks are better when you’re behind cover. There appears to be some kind of swarm combat bonus at work, but none of it is made terribly clear. Sometimes you’ll have 75% chance to hit someone, sometimes 45% and is it because of facing? Or maybe the armor the individual is wearing? Who knows.

But for a change of pace and a few turn-based encounters here and there, it’s decent enough… and I’d sure like to know what’s going on with the story, and so, I play on.


Minecraft – I’ve been alternating between the Agrarian Skies and Wanderlust Reloaded modpacks rather frequently.

Ag Skies is my comfortable, established, so-called ‘mid-game’ factory/automation mod exploration goto, but occasionally it feels too safe and a little slow and boring to progress further.

Somedays, you just want to explore a big world and actually have procedurally generated land that you didn’t place block by block yourself.

After dabbling with a ton of the other modpacks that have HQM (some of whom seem fairly intriguing), most of them end up too hard or too confusing for poor ol’ me at this stage of mod ignorance. Spatial IO? Ender IO? Buildcraft? Computercraft? Wtf are those?

A number simply presume a baseline level that’s set a little too high for me to fully grasp. When I struggle with the first few HQM goals, that’s usually a good sign that it’s way beyond me for the moment.

Yet others are simply too hardcore lethal. The vanilla mobs hold no more terrors for these established Minecraft players, and so they turn up mob difficulty to 11… (or 13.) Mobs that ride spiders…that fly…and are on fire… that shoot explosive poisonous arrows… Uhhh, yeah. I’m not -that- well-versed with all the mods and stuff that I can tech up in the space of one day before night falls and be ready for mortal combat with buffed out zombies and creepers and skeletons sporting way too many hearts.

Wanderlust Reloaded is the only other modpack that I’ve managed to find -with- a nice HQM system to provide little goals to follow and learn new mods, while not being out to murderize you every minute.

It contains a couple of different mods from Ag Skies, like Botania, which is nice since I can learn a few different mods, but also has some similarities like Minefactory Reloaded, Thermal Expansion and Forestry, so that it doesn’t feel too alien and I can fall back on what I know previously.

(I do miss Ex Nihilo and Ex Aquilo though. I just love being able to produce everything from nearly nothing.)

The world it rolls up feels pretty great, more complex but still recognizably Minecraft. Just with more cool things –  plants, ores, and all, inside it.


Rollplay: Swan Song – Not precisely a game that I’m playing, but one that I’ve been finding really fun to listen to.

This has been my background accompaniment to playing around in Minecraft (since Minecraft’s audio/music sucks anyway after hearing it once or twice), having forgotten about it for several months and needing to binge to catch up with the storyline.

Man, it’s still good. And highly recommended.

Eavesdropping on a group of ruffians and ne’er-do-wells try to raise a burgeoning AI to not be a complete monster amidst a background of people perpetually dying after coming into contact with them and getting into serious trouble aboard the junker spaceship Swan Song, exploring a vast variety of planets created by the ingenious mind of Adam Koebel and the Stars Without Number tabletop RPG system, is great entertainment.

Stars Without Number: Swan Song

I’ve always liked tabletop roleplaying, but also always ran into the geographical problem. There’s simply not enough people I can find in physical proximity to get a game going, especially living somewhere in  freakin’ Asia, a continent or two away from where more people have heard of the concept.

Now there’s digital tabletop roleplaying – assuming you have a webcam, a microphone and a tabletop roleplaying program – but eh, I already find trying to keep to regular MMO raid times a headache, to say nothing of trying to schedule the SAME 4-5 busy working adults across weeks and months for long enough to have a decent story going.

Then there’s the effort of GMing – isn’t it always funny how the one with the most interest ends up taking on most of the work – and I end up concluding that trying to run a game in reality fits under the ‘very low priority desire’ category.

Instead, just like one realizes that one doesn’t have the time to play all the MOBAs in the world and just idly watches professional streams now and then, I’ve taken to watching someone else roleplay for me.

Or a whole bunch of someone elses.

JP McDaniel aka “itmeJP” on Youtube, runs a roleplaying games channel where his friends and him play through a broad range of game systems. He’s also had some very special guest stars joining in – Totalbiscuit on Dark Heresy, Jesse Cox on Numenera, and so on.

One of the more recent and fascinating game series that I would recommend is their current play through with the “Stars Without Number” RPG system (a free edition available through DriveThruRPG here.)

If you like science fiction, and/or are a fan of Firefly, where a gang of ruffians and ne’er-do-wells fly around on a spaceship visiting different planets and getting into interesting scrapes, you might like Swan Song.

This is Part 2 of the first episode, which gets right into the introduction of the characters, then the story portion.

(Part 1 is the character creation and involves lots of dice rolling and numbers and system talk, which may only interest a smaller subset of you.)

One notable player to look out for is Steven Lumpkin, who also happens to be the lead level designer for the Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade MMO. He’s more often in the GM role, but as it turns out, he’s also a very entertaining and artfully imaginative player.

The entire playlist is here.

As these “Rollplay” episodes are almost essentially audio plays, unless you really want to track every last nuance of their faces and dice rolls, I’ve found that they make good watching alongside a relaxing farming session in an MMO, where one can indulge in repetitive meditative motions while keeping the rest of the brain occupied elsewhere.

Now level 63 in Path of Exile, thanks to lots of Fellshrine Ruins farming and Swan Song!

(The item drops on Merciless do seem to be a lot more attractive, I’m accruing currency and skill gems at a decent enough rate.)