Dancing with myself, or, The timing of the Oracles

One thing that was really difficult for me to learn in solo RPGs is when Oracles works. A lot has been written about how, but so little about when. Only after I understood it properly that I really found fun in solo gaming. We're not used to tell stories to ourselves, afterall.

There's a big change in the solo mindset. In it you can achieve fun as a player and as a GM. The GM-Emulator just points you the way, but you should walk it's paths in your own shoes. So the Oracles comes only when you need a path to walk on. Never to walk the path for you.That means I go with the flow most of times while solo gaming. Only when I feel it can be interesting to have Oracle voice I activate it. One of the principles that help me to notice this subtle moments is using alternating phases.

Alternating phases

I structure my sessions in alternating phases, GM and player's.At the GM phase I always force myself to speak in the third person. In other words I never say

"I find a secret staircase under the rug"

But always

"You find a secret staircase under the rug".

Even if "You", in this case, is none but myself.

That helps me a lot to see the Game inside the Roleplay when soloing TTRPG. The GM-less term is kinda wrong and should be called self-GM. It gives the idea we won't GM in solo RPGs and when we do (and we always do it) we feel like cheating.

"I should have rolled the oracle instead", you think. But to understand the timing of the GM-emulator I had to remind myself that the 

GM is a tool in the solo context

Artwork done by David Revoy
Artwork done by David Revoy

In group RPG sessions the GM is another player at the table, but that is not possible in solo RPGs. Here the GM is nothing but another tool, like the character sheet or the dice. That means you should be in command of it, and not otherwise. In other words, you should turn on the GM-Emulator only when it is needed. You don't need the GM-E for aesthetic details of your story. You just need it when (and if) these details affect the major course in a interesting way. You may be thinking about the subtle line of cheating while controling the GM in the GM's phase. To clarify it, I never surprise myself in the GM's phase. It's always the GM-E that surprises me. 

These days I'm exploring filler details without starting the GM-E. Like, the fauna and vegetation I see while walking to a nearby town, the shape of the clouds etc. These things are not essential to the story, but they are what makes RPGs cool to me. The slice-of-life details: they won't affect major narrative, but they definetely help me to feel empathy for the fiction world and NPCs.

In practical terms, when I'm soloing I enjoy the GM phase and use the Oracles only to support my imagination and not to substitute it. In the blink of an eye I change to player mode and it feels a lot like dancing with myself. 


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