There’s been a rise in solo RPGs that correlates to the general rise in interest of roleplaying games. In a solo RPG, you can play by yourself, without the need for a Gamemaster or Dungeon Master.
Yeah, you’re right. There’s a degree of flexibility with definitions required to accept that solo roleplaying is a thing. Random encounters and combat is one thing, it leans more towards roll playing, but no one says you need an audience to adopt the role of a character.
Escape the Invasion is a game that made me wonder whether a solo LARP would be possible.
LARPs are live-action roleplaying. The traditional difference is that you will have physical props to interact within a LARP. In practice, it often means costumes, staying longer in-character as you talk and listen to people directly.
Escape the Invasion is being described by others as a mashup of a board game and an escape room. Those are the ingredients we need for a LARP, right? Props and a physical presence.
In the game, there’s been an alien invasion, and your character takes refuge in some sort of bunker that’s been set up by the government. Sounds safe? Well; it all depends on whether you can trust the other survivors down there with you.
The game manifests each month as a box that comes through the post. Physical things. There’s actual prop clues, many puzzles and cyphers to solve.
It’s not a passive experience either. Your actions influence how the story pans out. If a problem in a solo RPG is that there is no DM, in Escape The Invasion, you have a team of writers.
And there’s a campaign world. In Escape the Invasion there’s a setting wider than your own adventure and one of the ways this is brought to life is by an accompanying podcast. In it, you get to listen to NPCs and what’s happening to them. This isn’t an NPC you’ll get to the meet in the game, it’s a snapshot to what’s happening elsewhere in the campaign world. It’s about flavour and atmosphere.
Just like in a LARP, there are sites where players can discuss the game and share ideas on what they think might be happening. However, unlike most RPGs, characters in Escape the Invasion have no stats, no character sheet, and are purely narrative.
Escape the Invasion is a new game from Hunt a Killer. Hunt A Killer is a similar play-by-physical-post in the murder mystery style. That game has over 60,000 active players which puts it at popular computer game level of subscribers, thrashing any previous play-by-mail RPG.
My feeling is that Escape The Invasion is as much a solo LARP as choose your own adventure books are solo RPGs. Given a suitably generous definition of what RPGs are; these games count.
I suppose the more significant question is at what rate games like this take on. As Hunt A Killer is in the tens thousands already, while Escape The Invasion has already been endorsed by Kevin Smith and has thousands of active players. I think it’s fair to say that gamified mysteries through your mailbox have found traction.
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