Winners of the challenge and overall favorite awards for the RPG Solitaire Challenge contest.
RPG Solitaire Challenge - Overall Favorite
Storyleaves, by Jamie Fristrom
A solitaire role playing game is an elusive thing. A game that lets someone create a story on their own, while retaining the tug and pull of a game with a game master or other players. Storyleaves gives a player the tools to sit down and craft a tale that though it springs from their creativity is surprising and takes on a life of its own. World, character and story are built out of elements decided on by the player at the beginning, and then the tale takes form through turns for the Protagonist and Antagonist in turn. The story leaves, cards with custom story elements created at the start of play, giving unexpected form to the twist and turns, decisions and actions of the characters. Jamie wrote it as a tool to break writer's block, but it has become a thing of its own. Something that anyone can use to while away a few hours and discover new worlds. I understand this game is already being refined, and I look forward to seeing what Jamie does with it. In the meantime, I heartily recommend this game as my favorite of the RPG Solitaire Challenge entries.
Winter, by Zachary Donovan
Winter is a game that chooses a character in a universal place and time: a soldier in winter, and asks you to make that person's experience part of your own. Through simple phases, chance and rotten luck it takes you through the ups and downs and possible sacrifice of being this person. This game shows the potential of rpg: not just giving you a story to amuse yourself through a cold winter afternoon, but to take part in an experience that, if you let it, can let you see the world in a different way. Not a finished game, but a step along the path to a real achievement.
Contest Favorite - Build a Better CYOA
Halflight by Graham Walmsley
Rationale: Halflight is a subtly awesome game that incorporates opportunities to draw and narrate into an otherwise “standard” CYOA format. As the title submitted that’s most ready to be published, Halflight lures the players into the game with its clear instructions and self-consciously creepy overtones. Of all the wonderful games submitted, Halflight most resembles what I think a “better CYOA” game would look like: a second-person narrative with overseeable forking paths that’s nevertheless as individual as the player going through it. I want to give this game to friends and freak them out.
Contest Favorite - Stuff in Your Domicile
Teen Witch by Avery Alder
Rationale: Teen Witch leans heavily on the ritualistic aspects of solitary role-playing; of investing an intimate space and time with robust meaning. More to the point, this ritual/game also makes good use of the candles and assorted objects we gamer types tend to have around - a perfect fit for the Challenge! The writing is straightforward, easy-to-follow, and the techniques utilized are transferable to group RPGs interested in character immersion. What else can I say, other than that Teen Witch seduced me with its Secret Beauty?
Joker Quest by Nathan Hook
I honorably mention this game after Nathan boasted to me that he wrote it in about two hours. Skeptical, I sat down to play a game of Joker Quest and found it fully engrossing. Though it doesn’t win Category Favorite on account of its limited engagement with the Stuff in Your Domicile (playing cards only?), it at least won me over with its systematization of the Hero’s Journey story arc and remains a game I would like to play again upon revision.
Contest Favorites – Pencil and Paper
Map of House, by jackson tegu
Rationale: The pencil and paper challenge was meant to provoke people into writing games simple enough that they could be played anytime, anywhere, with the simplest of implements: a piece of paper and a utensil to write on. All of the games submitted gave great new ways to do this, but two games rose above to add an additional element: a deeper experience for the player using this simple structure. Map of house by jackson tegu did so by taking the player on an adventure through their past, using an important home from childhood as the venue. This trip down memory lane can be at it's minimum a pleasant reminder of things past, and at its finest, a transformative journey that gives a player a chance to play with the past, and possibly experience closure and healing.
Beloved, by Ben Lehman
Rationale: Another elegant game, Beloved has the hallmarks of a classic. Another simple game with a psychological component, Beloved takes the search for love and turns it into an epic quest. Given the chance to find the love their dreams, the player must first construct the walls and terrors keeping them out. And to overcome them, the system uses daydreams and musings to let the obstructions sink in deeply, and to let your psyche find ways to overcome them that the conscious mind might not suggest. Then, the sucker punch that makes the game, is that when you breach those walls, your princess is in another castle. The one you find inside cannot match your high-flown desires, but then could anyone? Beloved and map of house are games that show that simplicity can be the best way to represent the most complex things: the human heart and mind.
Monster Hunter X, by David J. Rowe
There are games that seem fated to be played by endless generations of eager young minds, and if there is any mercy in the universe, Monster Hunter X will be among them. In an age when children are baffled by screens that don't respond to the touch, it is my fondest wish that the delightfully analog adventures of Monster Hunter X could be introduced to them to show them the beauty of analog. I highly recommend this game to anyone who wants to feel the innocent delight of the summer afternoons of their childhood. Or who would relish being able to walk in the shoes of a real monster hunter, or lament the loss of one not fated to be so.
Contest Favorite – Living in the Future
What's the Frequency Kenneth? by Steve Dempsey
Rationale: One of a group of games that really addressed the challenge well, What's the Frequency Kenneth? did so in a way that most captured my imagination. The game uses online news feeds to start you off, with tales of conspiracy forming the kernel around which your adventures form. Played out in simple turns that generate eminently tweetable messages, you chart the downward spiral of your secret bound initiate, weaving webs of intrigue and misadventure as the “missions” occur. Even the resolution mechanics use virtual resources. You choose words from your mission descriptions which are googled and the one that generates the most hits determines the conspirator's fate. The premise grabbed me from the start, and feels like the kind of game I would enjoy coming back to again and again. It's in an alpha form right now, with room for polish and tuning, but What's the Frequency Kenneth? is my pick from a very strong slate of games in this challenge.
Stage Names by Sage LaTorra
This challenge was full of enticing games. Stage Names took the premise in deeply and used the medium to full advantage: using blogs as the platform for play, using clips from Youtube for jumping off points, and involving the number of hits you get in the mechanics of play. It also did the best job of pushing rp beyond its normal reach—taking on the role of many different characters to communicate a story through many eyes. This is a promising game that begs for further development. It didn't get Favorite due to being quite a tall order to pursue: being able to get hits for one's performance as a character sounds intimidating! And using other people's work as a compent of one's own job is a hallmark of our era, and a strong element of the game—but is still a bit problematic for 20th century me. But aside from those quibbles, this is a strong contender that I hope receives its due.
G by David Pidgeon
G is another ambitious game that uses the ease of posting and sharing information to its advantage. The premise of this game is about living in the future: an astronaut on a station, lonely and alone, sending messages out to the stars and missing home. The subject is evocative and mapping out the space station is fun, but the task of coming up with engaging monologues is daunting, and the game could use some work to help support the player in that task. It's a great endeavor though, and I am happy to give this game honorable mention.
Contest Favorite – ARG! RPGs! (Or, The Andy Kaufman Challenge)
Stage Names, by Sage LaTorra
Rationale: The ARG! challenge is concerned with a couple of key points: creating a product of play that others can view, making a product that is in the voice of the player's character, and telling a story that's entertaining whether or not you've played the game. While many games encouraged you to build a log of your adventures, the entire way you play Stage Names is by building a such a log. While some of the wiki-based games necessarily do this as well, Sage has really tapped in to the "building a voice" part of the challenge. The whole focus of the game is sharing an artist's voice (literally or figuratively) with the world. Finally, this is a game that produces a fake person that might actually trick someone. I'd like to think if Andy Kaufman gave a shit about RPGs, and were still alive, he would appreciate that.
Contest Favorite – Unlonely Your Fun!
Sleepers, by Seth Ben-Ezra
Rationale: The criteria for the Unlonely Your Fun challenge require that you design a game that is fun to play alone, but which touches on others playing the game. It must not violate the solitaire aspect of the game, and ideally, you should have as much fun with it no matter how involved you are with other players. Seth's game fits this to a tee. All of the stuff you create in the wiki is totally yours to play with, and you can choose which elements you interact with, which allows you to have your game play affect and be affected by others, but doesn't force you to have other players or to care about them for the game to be fun. Furthermore, Seth is doing some really interesting things with how wikis can become more interactive, and the ways that we can use the structure of a wiki to squeeze out some really interesting game mechanics.
Contest Favorite – Scheherazade Challenge
The Turning Leaves, by jackson tegu
This was a particularly difficult one to judge. Since it is about the desire to play the game over and over again, the temptation is to make the winner of this challenge any game I want to play. But I forced myself to look specifically for elements of the game that tempted or rewarded you for repeated play.
With those qualifications in mind, The Turning Leaves became the strongest contender. You create a world and then explore it through the eyes of your characters. The more you explore, the more the world grows offering you more to explore. This is not the sort of game you can ever finish, just abandon. And that’s a very alluring thing. There’s always more just around the corner.
Spiders Dance, by Michael Wenman
Teen Witch, by Avery Alder
Again, I really want to name all my favorites, but I must restrict myself here to games that do interesting things in the way of encouraging you to play more. I have two here that are definitely worth looking into to see how they do it: Spiders Dance and Teen Witch.
Contest Favorite – Sharing Challenge
In Training The Templar, by Erik Battle
I feel a little guilty about this one, because I specifically requested it be submitted to this challenge. But in the end, while many of the games produced fiction, journal entries, and maps that could be shared, only one created an artifact that absolutely required no comment about its origin as a product of a game in order to enjoyed by the public at large: In Training the Templar.
Half exercise program, half excuse to exercise, In Training the Templar has the potential to create some of the best RPG byproducts available—players who live longer, healthier lives. I speak both as a publisher and someone who enjoys gaming with folks in saying nothing could make me happier.
If you haven’t checked this game out, do so. Its potential can only grow with a community of players willing to support and incite each other to greater levels. I know as soon as I get back from my vacation, I’m going to see if I can’t level up a few times myself.
G, by David Pidgeon
Stage Names, by Sage LaTorra
The qualification that the shareable product of the game should be appreciated without comment on its origin slew many entrants before they had a chance for number one in this category, which is a shame, because a lot of them have quite a bit of potential as soon as you acknowledge they come from games. Two in particular that stick out in my mind are G and Stage Names.
Contest Favorite – Challengeless Challenge
My Dark Future, by Tomas HV Morkrid
We only had one entry that really didn’t qualify for any others, so it wins this challenge by default, but don’t let that dissuade you from checking it out. My Dark Future is a game about exploring your own dark potential. And if that’s not intriguing to you, then you best move on. If, however, you wonder just how far you can go, how vile you can become, better to explore it from the safety of a solitaire RPG.
Birds of a Feather
Contestants and observers who gave feedback and encouragement to designers during the contest. Email e.chimerapi at gmail to notify us of any missed.
RPG Solitaire Favorite