Being the Single Savage

As Sean has already discussed, he and I play a lot of solo games. He is the main GM and I am the main player. However, that does not mean I am off the hook. As the only player, a lot rests on my shoulders, more than if I was in a group. When the single player can pull it off, she will be richly rewarded. It is all about communicating and playing into the GM (basically, working with what they give you and redirecting it in your chosen direction). However, too often, it is hard to communicate and redirect without stopping play and saying, “Hey, I want this.” This creates a difficult track for the player to navigate, but one we can successfully do if we know what to do.

So, what can we do to make things go right? 
  • Communicate your needs and wants before game play and find a shared direction.
  • Help define the game, such as setting, characters, style, etc.
  • Be willing to take over on occasion. You may not be the GM, but sometimes you need to tell stories and involve the GM’s favorite characters.
  • Help advance the plot. When you want something to happen, it is best to take actions to make it happen. Also, when it is possible and you feel comfortable, take actions as well.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to work with what is thrown at you.
It is what makes everything work these days, and in a situation where nearly everything is based on communication, it is crucial. The first step is pre-game communication. Both parties need to make it clear what they want. If you want the same thing, that is great. If you don’t, you’ll need to compromise. And do not say, “You get to choose this time and I’ll choose next time.” One of you will not be happy with this, so it is best to figure out what both parties want. So talk things over; discuss what you want (what you must have, what you’ll give up, what you’ll tweak, etc.). If you start from a shared place, it works better.

This follows along with communication. Not only do you want to be clear what you want, you need to decide what sort of game you are playing. This needs to be a shared responsibility. True, the GM is likely to take charge, but if the GM doesn’t ask for your input (mine always has a “twenty questions” for me), then you need to make your voice heard. You both need to be clear on the type of game, what the setting is like (physical and mood), how are the characters that people this “world.” If one person is not on the same page, then any attempts later will clash, and the game will quickly deteriorate. The main goal: flesh it out as a couple.

Taking Over
A lot of players in single player games aren’t comfortable running the game. For me, I need to plan and figure things out in advance. This means I need free time to do this. Well, it’s hard enough for me to find time to write blog posts, so planning a game is out. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help. There are times when I can drop hints, details that build my character. These are often great seed ideas for the GM (if he remembers them). In my last game, I talked about my character’s past. Well, many of those issues created new storylines, and in one case, was my deus ex machine. Every little bit helps. And what’s best, you may get what you want if you leave the right clues.

Advancing the Plot
Sometimes, the story just isn’t going anywhere. If you have any idea, present it. So your GM doesn’t have a plot for tonight, think about what your character wants or needs to do and set that in motion. You may need to take over a bit, playing GM at first, but a good GM will figure out where to go and bring in the right characters in no time.

And of course, when you want something, and can choose it, do so. Don’t let the situation make you feel you have to do what the GM wants. In most solo games, there is always flexibility (my last point), so a good GM can deal with your change. If he can’t, then don’t be afraid to run things for awhile.

Be Flexible
You are not going to get what you want, but you can get close. Be willing to give up something for a night and go with the flow. Of course, going back to communication, let the GM know after the game so your concerns can be dealt with before you pick back up.

Also, be willing to let the situation take over. Let the moment play out and don’t worry about its effects. I find this the most difficult. I will get hung up on the details. Sometimes, we just have to let go. Thankfully, my GM reminds me.

What’s next? Be aware of the problems that WILL occur and be prepared to deal with them. But I’ll save that for next time.


  1. Nice post. Beautifully describes the Social Contract.

  2. So, I wa checking my e-mail and saw the notice about Jeffry's reply and thought "What the hell? I didn't write a post with that title!" Robin had told me earlier that she'd been working on the blog today, but I thought she meant her new wine and poetry blog. (I also didn't realize she meant she published something.)

    Great post, honey! You even had a numbered list and examples like a real gaming blog post instead of my crappy Batman jokes and goofy Zorro obsession. Crap! I really need to catch up here!

  3. To me, this is common sense. I use it not just in gaming but in my work. When I want to get my college students to discuss, I apply some of these same strategies.


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