Replicating the tabletop dungeon-crawling experience by yourself

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Fear_the_Booboo

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First off this is a question that get asked a lot on RPG forums, but I'm curious if the GB audience has some insights or tips on the subject. There's also no perfect answer, considering the fun of tabletop RPG is being with friends and interacting physically with the tabletop, nothing can replicate the experience 100%.

So like many people stuck at home, me and some of my friends started a tabletop rpg campaign on Roll20. While this has been super fun, my friends are much more interested in the roleplaying part of thing, so we've been more interested in playing game that facilitate that type of play (we are using the World of Darkness rules for now, but playing as human characters). This made me incredibly nostalgic for my teens where I was playing a lot of straight dungeon crawling D&D. Considering my schedule, I don't think I could manage a second regular game for now and even if I could I don't know that I would be able to find a group (to DM or be a player, I enjoy both).

Obviously there is a lot of games that try with varying degrees of success at emulating the tabletop experience on computers. I really likes both recent Divinity games, I also enjoyed Path of Exile and have the second game installed, which I'm happy to hear has a turn-based combat system (I'd rather than real time personally).

That being said those video games rightfully adapt their systems to make sense for a single player video game and even though I understand that it is the better choice, sometimes I'd love to play something with all the randomness and unfairness that tabletop can bring. The video games adaptation of Gloomhaven and Warhammer Quest seem like two good bet, even though they might not be as good as games (especially Warhammer Quest) and, as far as I understand, Gloomhaven doesn't have its campaign mode for now.

So far the best solutions I've found are single player books made using the 5e D&D Rules (I bought those), it's far from perfect but alternating this and RPG video games has been the best alternative. I've been thinking about making the plunge and buying this thing and a full blown official D&D adventure on roll20.

Is there anybody in similar situations here who have found another methods of getting their D&D fix? Any insights on any single player systems that worked for you (or didn't), any games I forgot to mention that gave you a similar feeling of tabletop adventuring? This is more of an open-ended question, I don't expect to have any perfect solution but I'm curious about your insight.

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BladeOfCreation

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Your friends are more into the roleplaying aspect and you want a good ole dungeon crawl? I think the best advice I can say is: take turns doing both.

My Pathfinder group has three campaigns running right now. But, we don't do them all simultaneously--who has the time for three sessions a week?! The same group, and three of us take turns GMing. We'll go until we get to a natural stopping point in one campaign (this is anywhere from 4-8 weeks depending on how stuff goes). Then it switches over, and the next GM runs his campaign. When my brother finishes his homebrew campaign, he's gonna start us on Starfinder. When I'm done with mine (I'm running the Emerald Spire "superdungeon"), I may look into another game (I'm thinking Shadowrun). One of our friends has been working on a 5E campaign to run for us.

This gives everyone a turn to play or GM if they want, and allows variety. You don't need to find ANOTHER group to play with. Just add some variety to the group you already have!

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Fear_the_Booboo

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@bladeofcreation: This would obviously be the perfect solution but there's a few issues.

As I said our sessions started with the quarantine, our regular schedule (I'm going back to work tomorrow on my end) won't allow for a lot of game time. We plan on continuing but on a very irregular and occasional schedule, something like a game every two months. This doesn't give us a lot of time to change game, especially that systems-heavy games like D&D can take 3+ hours just for character creation and leveling up (though that can be arranged if everyone is willing to do that on their own).

The other thing is that one of those player really does not like that type of play. Normally I'd be OK telling them to get over it and just enjoy the variety, but because our schedule is already fragile as is, and also because I enjoy the role-playing sort of games too, I'd rather let it as that for now. It's very occasional, so why force anyone to do something they don't want?

I want more than what I already have is all!!! But I know that I'm lucky to be able to run one game right now, it's the first time in a few years for me.

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BladeOfCreation

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@fear_the_booboo: Ah yeah, I get the scheduling thing. My group gets together in person maybe a couple times a year. We're spread out across a couple states (in New England, so it's not like it's THAT far, but still). I would say keep up with Roll20 and get together when you can. I absolutely LOVE a day-long session rolling real dice, eating pizza, having some drinks, etc. When my group stopped getting together in person once a month or so, we started doing shorter, weekly sessions online. It's not what anyone prefers, but it does work out for us. We actually have been able to play more consistently online than we ever did in person. Three hours on a set night a week is usually doable, while a whole day on a weekend might not be. Shorter sessions, but far more consistent.

At least for a role-playing experience, have you considered a "play-by-post" server? Apparently this sort of thing is making somewhat of a comeback with Discord servers dedicated to playing these games. I have friends who use them. My understanding is a few people will be the GMs and play can happen asynchronously if you can't be on at the same time as other players. It seems like a sort of revival of the old chat room and message board games I played on AOL back in the late 90s/early 00s.

I get wanting more! There's not enough time to play all the games or learn all the systems I'm interested in!

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Fear_the_Booboo

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@bladeofcreation: Play by post is an interesting idea that I hadn't considered. I'll look into it, thank you!

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Sombre

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My Pathfinder group has three campaigns running right now. But, we don't do them all simultaneously--who has the time for three sessions a week?!

I'm in 3 DND games a week, and I used to run one for my students. It drove me to the edge of madness

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Prince_of_Space

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Anyone interested in a solitaire pen&paper experience should check out the resources on the Solo Roleplaying subreddit. In terms of a D&D type game, I would recommend either Scarlet Heroes or Ironsworn. Scarlet Heroes is based on old-school D&D, while Ironsworn is derived from Apocalypse World. I prefer Ironsworn, but you might adapt to Scarlet Heroes more easily if you're used to D&D.

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Fear_the_Booboo

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Prince_of_Space

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@fear_the_booboo: Hey, glad I could help out. I hope this sort of thing clicks with you. It's kind of a strange pastime at first, but there's a considerable rabbit hole of products and techniques you can look into if you find it rewarding.

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Sweep

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#10 Sweep  Moderator

I haven't used it myself, but Snide posted some cool screenshots of his Tabletop Simulator setup and it looks completely rad:

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CyrusRaven

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#11  Edited By CyrusRaven  Online

@fear_the_booboo: I have recently fell back into Darkest Dungeon super hard and it's looking like I might actually beat it this time. If you haven't played DD before I would suggest this as pretty good Dungeons and Dragons single player game. Super deep systems and you can role play your characters if that is your bag. It also lends itself to short play sessions where you can just do a dungeon or two then put it down. WARNING it can be very unforgiving especially if you go in bind. Expect a lot of trial and error learning the intricacies of how all the different systems work. Hope this helps!

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Dogby

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I've been exclusively playing RPGs online for the last two years with the exception of getting some games in at conventions, so I think I can help out!

To answer the solo RPG question - here's a list I curate of every solo TTRPG game on itch.io. At present time, there are over 400 games. These range from more traditional RPG experiences like Ironsworn to journaling games and well, there's a lot in between. There's a lot of good stuff here and a lot of it is free: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZfYBDXEB1VVWY27f5LNELZk-3nBca7R1Il1OrbZ1P1M/edit#gid=796671279

I'm going to be one of "those people" and also answer: "find a different game". D&D isn't the only game out there and there are better options, ESPECIALLY if your friends are more into the roleplaying and storytelling aspects of things. I don't mean to trash D&D at all and I've played in several very long D&D campaigns on Roll20, I'm just kind of burned out on it. Like your friends, I prefer the roleplaying aspect of things too and so I tried to find games that work better in that space.

I'm in a community online that plays a lot of what are considered "story games" (most running in the Powered By The Apocalypse ruleset) and for those we just use a shared Google Sheet for character info and then we use an online diceroller for rolling dice. We usually use something like Zoom or Streamyard for video/voice chat, but you can also use Discord or whatever other option you like. Since you mentioned World of Darkness, I'd suggest checking out Urban Shadows as a good PbtA game that can very easily be run from a Google Sheet.

If you do want to stick to Roll20, there's some good storygames available on their marketplace that you can check out! A few recommendations:

1) For The Queen: This is a GM-less card-based game where you basically just take turns answering story prompts on cards. The game depicts a group escorting their queen to a foreign land, and the story prompts kind of let you just tell the story along the way. You can roleplay it out as much as possible and really flesh things out quite a bit, and a game can be started and finished in 2 hours which games being shorter or longer depending on player count.

2) Zombie World (core and deluxe): This is a Powered By The Apocalypse game that uses a deck of cards instead of dice. The gist of the game is very much like your stereotypical zombie movie - you have an enclave you need to protect, there are zombies, you're trying to survive. This one does require a GM and is better in multiple sessions as there's some work needed for character creation to create relationships and backstory for the characters and the enclave. I played in a multi-part session of ZW a couple years ago and it was one of my favorite RPG experiences ever.

3) Fall of Magic is another interesting game that tells the story of a world where magic is dying, and you (the players) have to escort the Magus to the realm where magic was born. 2-4 players and you can play one session or many. I always found this to be better as a multi-session game because I like to complete the story, but it works as a one-shot if you want to do it that way. This is a very rules-light story game and character creation is pretty simple.

Please let me know if you have any questions - getting players into online RPGs is kind of one of my favorite things!

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Fear_the_Booboo

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@cyrusraven:I didn't try Darkest Dungeon, the reputation of it being extremely difficult and its roguelike aspects put me away. I like plenty of roguelikes that I enjoy, dunno why with that one it put me off. Maybe it's because I wanna see a party evolve and as far as I know the characters in this game are not meant to stay in your party?

@dogby: This is all very helpful thank you. As I said I'm happy playing more roleplay heavy game with friends, World of Darkness has been great for that but in-between scenarios we will maybe try a single session of something else. I never tried Urban Shadows so I'll look that up.

I just said D&D because I have a dungeon crawler craving and this is the first obvious one that comes to mind, I'm definitely ready to try some other stuff.

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CyrusRaven

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#14 CyrusRaven  Online

@fear_the_booboo: That's fine figured I would just throw it out there. You are correct in the heros being disposable combine that with the fact that some people like to RP the heros and bad rolls can end up killing a favorite ( or a whole party of favorites ) it can hurt a lot. Definitely not for everyone good luck with your search though.