Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Programmed Solo Adventures

 I bought a few solo system adventures from Pacesetter Games & Simulations. I have a long history with this style of solo play. The first one I purchased and played was M1: Blizzard Pass in 1983. I recalled enjoying actually getting a chance to play. I was our game group DM and I never got a chance to be a player. It was not the same of course. The most disappointing thing was that when my hero was killed entering with a new hero was not really the same. I also quickly used up the invisible ink revealing pen and never got to see everything in the adventure. When I purchased M2: Maze of the Riddling Minotaur later that same year I carefully managed the ink of the pen and completed the adventure. I recall that the Riddling Minotaur module had an amazing maze map spread over two pages.

Later I would buy MV1: Midnight on Dagger Alley (1984) that had a magic viewer. Basically, the text to be revealed could only be seen by looking through a red-tinted viewer. I still have that viewer. I do not remember much about this adventure. The ones that followed, BS1: Ghost of Lion's Castle and XS1: Lathan's Gold (both 1984) changed the format away from the hidden text. They became programmed text like pick-your-path adventure gamebooks. The last one I played was XS2: Thunderdelve Mountain (1985). I recall I could never get through Thunderdelve alive despite multiple attempts.

I have a few of the Tunnels & Trolls solo adventures and a few from some other companies and systems but none stand out.

So the other day I tried my hand at Pacesetter Games & Simulations, I1: Grave of the Green Flame. I have the fourth printing from March 2020. According to the text it was originally published in 2011. The solo system included uses the OSRIC rules.

You can roll up any AD&D 1st edition character to start. No matter who you roll up and equip, you will start naked by the side of the road ambushed by brigands. A worker for an Innkeeper finds you and brings you to the Inn. The innkeeper agrees to equip you if you will find and kill the brigands who are bad for business.

The system uses lettered and numbered encounters to move the story along. You also get snippets of the overland map in each lettered area that allows you to slowly build a map of the area. You move along a trail from area to area. The trails cross one another so there are a lot of directions you can go.

I rolled up a 1st level Half-elven fighter I named Raelin Windstriker. Raelin did okay on his first day in the woods. He found an altar in the woods that enchanted his sword, he found a potion of healing (that was key), a few fights, and he tracked down the three brigands who waylaid him in the introductory text. Raelin was blocked several times from heading south by a wall of poisonous green mist. I never figured out how to pass it until after play when I read through the entire module.

On the second day, things took a turn for the worse. Raelin returned to the Inn the night before and recovered a hit point but he was still down to half. Then he had a disastrous encounter with three lowly centipedes. After that encounter ended Raelin was down to 4 hp and actively avoiding combat. He entered a barrow despite some misgivings and found a lot of treasure and no guards. But when he left he encountered a Shadow (3+3 HD). The text suggested fight or return the treasure. Raelin was not about to return the hard-earned treasure so he fought, and quickly lost and died.

Raelin decides to fight to keep the loot

Was the adventure fun? A little.

I find that after playing a solo game using an oracle and being my own gamemaster that I have come to expect a lot more freedom. Playing programmed adventures limits your choices. Often you only have two choices and to keep it interesting the right choice sometimes does not make a lot of sense. I was repeatedly punished for being cautious. I scouted a cabin in the woods and stepped on a stick alerting the bandits inside. I checked a stream carefully before crossing twice, and both times I got hit with a Wandering monster roll. There is also, really no real ability to reuse a programmed adventure. You are going to remember the right choices to make.

It is not very expensive on DrivThru RPG so I think it is still worth the single evenings distraction of playing.

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