Privateer, Season 1: Hunk of Junk
I recently picked up and read Deborah Malmud’s Solo Game Master’s Guide (you may know her best from her YouTube Channel “Geek Gamers”.) It is an excellent look at our unique hobby and even if you watched every Geek Gamers video you’ll still learn something new (or at least understand it in a deeper way.)
One of the things it recommends when beginning a new solo game is not starting with a rule set or character creation but instead starting with “generative” (random tables, source books, etc) resources you might use. Then think about the environment and atmosphere (mood) your game will start with. (Another good look at this subject is Mythic Magazine Volume 12 or this two part series from Andrei Baltakmens: Play all the Books Part 1 & Part 2.)
I’ve never tried this approach but the reasonings provided make a lot of sense. The jist is that while having the rules for character creation can provide an easy on-ramp to getting started they often leave you at a loss for where to go next with your character. (My only counter to this rule would be “lifepath” style character creation, like Traveller, where I feel like if you really immerse yourself in the process you end up with a very vivid portrait of your character and what drives them to adventure.)
So as I sit here not-so-patiently waiting for my printed copy of 5150 New Beginnings to arrive, I thought perhaps I could kick off a game using this idea. In fact I know just the environment I would drop this character into: Wing Commander Privateer’s Gemini Sector:
Wing Commander Privateer was a video game published in 1993. It immediately appealed to me because it came out in an era of “railroaded” spaceship-themed video games. Privateer had a single story line that you could follow but you could also fly around doing independent missions and exploring the game world at your own pace. Likewise it satisfied the “Han Solo simulator” that Lucasarts never tackled in their Star Wars themed games of that era.
The nice about utilizing Privateer is that you get a complete setting: worlds, hyperspace lanes, factions, cargo, equipment, starships, etc. It is also manageable, the four quadrants are expansive enough to provide the illusion of limitless opportunities without being overwhelming (like trying to use the entirety of Traveller’s Third Imperium.)
So we’ll start off much like the game: On the agricultural planet of Helen in the Troy System. We’ll have a “hunk of junk” Tarsus scout ship which we’ve recently inherited from a family member. It is badly in need of repairs and upgrades to be viable and our character wants to make a living for themselves as an independent operator.
For now I will start off by just using “The Plan” from Zozer’s SOLO as a means to resolve scenes and move the story along until I decide what rules I want to use for the game (contenders are Stellagamma’s Quantum Starfarer with various bits of Traveller thrown in, 5150 New Beginnings whenever that arrives, the Mythic RPG, Cezar Capacle’s delightful solo-rpg-in-a-deckbox mole.mole, Four-Color Studios’ Farthest Star, or some homebrewed variant of West End Games Star Wars D6.)