Reviewing All The Engines I Used In The Past

Back when I started Solo RPG Voyages, there were only a few available Engines one would normally need to play solo. There was at least five that most people pointed to, to which I made one of my very first posts a five-day marathon of playing the same game, same setting, same story, but the difference was how the Engines worked.

This was what I called the Solo Engine RPG Battle Royale Week and it was a means for me to get out of my comfort zone with the Mythic GM Emulator and try out Engines in a controlled environment so I could look exclusively at the Engines and not let any outside force like how the game plays or a plot point causing the game to drag and distract from the Engine’s overall quality.

However, as soon as I made that, I was given the request to review another solo Engine called CRGE. One month later, I find another solo RPG Engine for me to play with… and another… and another… Eventually, I wanted to do a second Solo Engine RPG Battle Royale Week, but I kept doing other things that occupied my time.

Now it’s almost impossible to pick just five Engines for a sequel. With solo gaming becoming more mainstream than ever before, more and more Engines are made to cater to various degrees of player. There’s even one author that creates Engines tailor made for certain RPG systems. What adds to this increase is how easy it is to make solo Engines.

For instance, I can take dice from the Genesys RPG system and use the symbols to interpret yes and no answers. Easy. I even made a system using the lowest numbered dice called the Coin, Tumbler, and Caltrop system or CTC for short. A coin is used for yes and no, a d3 (a tumbler) is used to see if it’s a “but”, “and”, or neither, and a d4 (a caltrop) would be a controller to see if a plot twist would be coming.

So now I have the situation of having so many Engines to try out and not enough games to pair them with. Granted, some are easy to pair, like PPM’s Engine or even cases like Ironsworn where the Engines come packed with their own games. However, it’s come to a point where it feels more pragmatic to read the Engine and make conclusions to how it plays rather than devote entire sessions to playing around with it.

Earlier, I made a review scale for RPG games based on how soloable they were, under the idea that any game can be played solo. The problem was that I had way too many variables and scored it on a ten-point rating. Worse still, it shot my own ideas and mission statement down and even made the system as a whole feel like more busywork than a two-paragraph review.

So, with this, I feel like it should be a little more restrained. Instead of numbers, I’d bring the Engine into a few categories based off ease of use, if the Engine is focused on mechanics or story (more on this later), and whether the game has a twist system. Rather than grading it, I feel like it’s more appropriate to see what sort of people would enjoy the Engines.

I’m not going to go into all the nitty gritty details like the odds of getting yes vs. no or how often you trigger an event, since that’d be edging towards reviewing and I’m only making recommendations for this list.

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The Voyager Goes On A Fantasy Trip

So, going into a journaling kick, I’m gonna play the Fantasy Trip solo engine. Now, I looked at the gaming system based off this engine and sufficed to say, I’m kinda interested. Now, I’m using the “In the Labyrinth” rule set, which expands a lot on the Fantasy Trip game.

Creating a character for this seems pretty straight forward. I have three stats, Strength, Dexterity, and IQ, to which I can spend eight points to increase. Going with a human Jack of All Trades with a 10 Strength, 10 Dexterity, and 11 IQ.

Each stat has different purposes, but if you’re familiar with OSR-style games, they’re pretty easy to understand. Strength (ST) is your health, spell slot, encumberment, and fortitude. Dexterity (DX) is your initiative, attack bonus, and reflex. IQ is your perception and willpower. However, IQ has something different, which is why I gave the remaining point to IQ. Effectively, they determine the feats and spells you acquire.

It’s a long story, but the point is that I have 11 IQ points to spend on any talent that isn’t higher than 11 IQ. Now, if seeing the ST, DX, and IQ acronyms make you think of GURPS, don’t worry. It’s not a coincidence. This system was made by Steve Jackson Games, who would later go on to make GURPS. One can even consider this the prototype of GURPS or even GURPS liter than lite.

This gives me some confidence in playing this game, as a gripe I had with some OSR games is that you don’t have any sort of choice in creating your character.

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Shane and Sinclair, Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells

SGAM 2017 had a challenge that I unfortunately didn’t undertake due to a combination of not being aware of it and not having the overall time for it. It involved using Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells’ adventure generator. This year has a variant where we use the Zero Tangent dice to randomly generate a quest, though I have done two so far.

So instead, I’m gonna just play Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. Functionally, it’s similar to the OSR-style Shifter Bots, but there’s quite a few variants. Not to mention it has a built-in adventure generator to spice up your campaign. However, I already had something in mind, so I sadly won’t be able to touch upon this, but perhaps for a later game?

And, just to further spice the game up, I’ll be taking a look at a new engine: Ursa Minor. It has a mechanic similar to CRGE’s Surge Counter or Mythic’s Chaos Factor where it increases or decreases during certain events. This is called Turmoil and it increases and decreases with set conditions. The usual “if things go without a hitch, it goes down, but if things go to pot, it goes up” schtick. However, it also changes depending on random events as well and it even changes if you critically fail or succeed on reality-bending powers like spell casting. It then plays a role in determining random events or even adding to Yes/No answers.

On paper, it seems that Turmoil is Chaos Factor and Surge Counter’s love child, hooked up on steroids. As such, I may take great pleasure in testing this. With that out of the way, we’ll begin our game with Shane Swosh and Sinclair Spears, two private eyes who have a self-employed company by the name of Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells. They have begun to offer half-priced quests due to their increasing debt to the Baron of Huldra. Recently, they had undertaken a quest to investigate the disappearances of two dwarves who had went to go explore the Ruins of Pelgar. Continue reading