Epistolary solo RPG system
A downloadable game
TIME & CYCLES
A game using the EPISTOLARY SOLO RPG SYSTEM is typically a solo-roleplaying game (with opportunities for cooperative play) that covers time in a seasonal period or in a year of time: the 52 French-suited playing cards translate nicely into the 52-week calendar year and it also translates well into a 13-week long season.
SUIT OF FAVORS
The “suit of favors” is the suit of the very first card that you draw from the deck at the beginning of a season, for the purpose of writing a diary entry. This “suit of favors” will be used to represent the theme and general direction of the following season. Players are advised to consider it when answering prompts. You must draw a new suit of favors card every 13 turns/weeks, and you start with drawing for the suit of favors at the beginning of the game as well.
Whenever a drawn card’s suit matches the player’s “suit of favors”, the player is allowed 1 journal entry influenced by that card’s prompt theme. Typically, a player can draw a card and hope to either only write a single diary entry for their turn or write a diary entry as well as a corresponding journal entry. A journal entry may not be written by itself, it always accompanies a diary entry.
A journal entry allows a player to expand the detail of events or experiences from a given week, which serves as valuable time to resolve issues, renew efforts, and develop skills. Try to see journals as opportunities for you to fill in some gaps in your weekly diary entry updates.
DIARY VS JOURNAL
Here is how this game system defines both:
DIARY – A single record (digital logs, comm. logs, a notebook, scrolls and ink, carvings, etc.) with details about events, situations, feelings, and more experienced within a week. A diary is limited to a maximum of 7 statements or sentences in length per entry. 1 diary entry = 1 week of in-game time. A given year has at least 52 diary entries and at the very least 52 statements or sentences.
JOURNAL – A single journal entry where the character explains the importance of the corresponding diary entry and explains how it will affect them in the future, or goes into detail about their own thoughts on the situation. A diary entry is usually limited to 13 statements or sentences in length. A maximum of 13 journal entries can be recorded for either a season of time or a year of time.
The first drawn card for a given week’s entry is used to mark the overall theme of the events of that week. A player is expected to begin their journal entry with the phrase associated with the drawn card’s suit (i.e. one draws a 10H, meaning that the first journal entry for that week must start with a variation of “I feel…” unless otherwise changed by a game script’s rules). Each suit has a variety of examples of jumping-off points from those important phrases—although please understand that the examples are not an exhaustive list, so go ahead and change it up as much as you’d like according to your setting and your story’s needs. Some suits may have actions that overlap with other suits, and that is fine.
- ♠--I think… (self)
- I think… [something pertaining to self—is it personal planning? meditation? relaxing? hobbies? studying? preparation? crafting? etc.]
- ♥--I feel… (others/community)
- I feel… [some sort of feeling or attitude towards someone else, or maybe you recall some feelings in the aftermath of an event, important moment, or challenge? maybe an empathetic conversation with someone? etc.]
- ♦--I have… (objects)
- I have… [some resources from foraging / new processed goods from crafting / food & drink from cooking / produce from gardening and farming / splendid clothing after purchasing it from a tailor / etc.]
- ♣--I want… (goals/tasks)
- I want… [plan and carry out tasks / work towards long-term goals / travel / practice / work / craft / cooking / help community / etc.]
Resources that the character has access to—this includes items near the character’s body, items or objects easily accessible within their personal quarters, and similar methods of storage. The resources are also noted by how accessible they are, so resources are split into two categories: INVENTORY and STORAGE.
INVENTORY – Items here are assumed to be easily accessible to the character in question, or held by the character. Anything not directly stored on a character needs to be placed in some form of container to remain easily accessible.
STORAGE – Items stored here are assumed to have some level of difficulty in retrieving them quickly. When it comes to issues of time and speed, such as in ambushes, improvisations, or surprises, consider items here almost guaranteed to be inaccessible unless at least some deal of time has passed. (Must be a reasonable amount of time for the character to access said items)
A character’s resources can vary wildly. One resource for a character may be the deed of ownership—this could be a valuable document that they are able to sell, but it is most likely the case that the character keeps the document in storage, which requires time to acquire first. Resources can also look like a dozen barrels full of coastal wine held in your character’s cellar, or it can look like acres of land that they have availability for farming, or simply a weapon or drug of choice to use.
ON SUCCESS AND FAILURE
This system is centered around stories, and the narrative of your character(s). At the moment no in-depth skill system is being made or used, and there is no detailed success/failure mechanism to this system of rules since that is not the main purpose/use of them. However, I do want to continue to update these rules, and although I am on a particularly pacifist streak of solo RPGs, I am a fan of combat in my games as well–as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story! So I am letting you know what I’ve been using during my gaming sessions using the Epistolary Solo RPG System:
roll 2D6 to determine if something is a success or failure
novice – +1
proficient – +2
expert – +4
success if 2D6 > 7
failure if 2D6 < 8
A good habit to get into, regardless of whether or not you use this makeshift success/failure sub-system, is using “I ____, and “ & “I ____, but “ type of statements to qualify your successes and failures. Keeps the narrative interesting.
- Shuffle the deck of cards, without the jokers.
- Complete a character sheet (please use a game that uses the Epistolary Solo RPG system of rules for reference) & related module/game script information
- Complete rules module checklist (prerequisite prompts)
- Establish a story arc idea prior to starting the story.
- GAME CYCLE
- draw 1 card
- check if the card is a suit of favors
- if a card with the suit of favors, remember to add a journal entry after writing the diary entry for this card
- write the actions of your character as a diary entry, based on the prompt themes represented by the card you pulled
- remember to create notes with the information of a settlement/community you visit, or when you stumble on a new character on your travels, or when you’re tasked with a mission
- update any relevant information about your character, other characters, and the world before repeating the cycle
- REPEAT CYCLE ABOVE UNTIL END CONDITIONS MET (character death, lose conditions, victory conditions, or final goals completed/failed, or you just want to end the story here)
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- 2.0 RevisionsJul 23, 2022
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