How One Player TTRPGs Show the True Future of the Hobby
I'm not very graceful with this stuff so I'll call out now that I have my own solo TTRPG that is coming to Crowdfundr on February 1st, 2024 called Solo Martial Blues. It's a solo-play martial arts game based on my TTRPG Fight to Survive: Role-playing Martial Arts Meets Heart. You can check out Solo Martial Blues here. If you can, please sign up to subscribe to the campaign for when it launches February 1st.
So, I bit my tongue for a response to Ben Rigg's recent article that "The Golden Age of TTRPGs is Dead" until I had something more to say than what was obvious: D&D may be dead...more specifically, the recent commercial mainstream revival of D&D may be dead...and even more specifically: just the current 5e rules WotC...but that only kills the wider TTRPG industry under the conceit that D&D 5e is the industry itself, which it is not. I'm writing this today because, sparked by my own new game coming out, Solo Martial Blues, I think solo play TTRPGs is a good example to debunk the absurdity of Ben Rigg's premise.
People find fun. They can't help it. The Internet, the great communication technology bringing the whole world together into a Global Village, is ironically isolating. The industry has adapted to that isolation with solo TTRPGs, which—frankly, D&D and WotC has never had anything really to do with. The closest traditional TTRPGs come to solo games are the Fighting Fantasy books from the 80s, and a few adjacent conceptual equivalents. The last 10 years has seen an explosion in solo TTRPG books, all of them from the indie TTRPG space. This sub-genre of TTRPGs has even cultivated a few masterworks, like The Thousand Year Old Vampire and Ironsword, which will no doubt be played for years to come.
While writing Solo Martial Blues I came to realise how vast the untouched playing field is for the mechanics of solo TTRPGs. While you can trace some seeds going back to the 70s and 80s, most of the design territory is new. The way the industry is approaching solo TTRPGs is, on the whole, new and fecund. We're still exploring conventions that may take root and guide the next 10 years of mechanical trends. I got the opportunity with Solo Martial Blues to explore a diceless, promptless mechanical approach that is assuredly NOT a story-generating engine—a very different take on solo play mechanics as they stand today. It's fun to break new ground. I'm lucky to be able to do that now, before other developers have gotten there first.
The point is, exciting things are happening right now in TTRPGs. New things are happening right now. Not just in the solo design space but in the greater TTRPG space—just with the solo sub-genre it's even more obvious. TTRPGs are dead? TTRPGs have barely begun.
Radio James Games