A link for the first part of my review of Solo can be found here.
In this second part of my review of Solo (link to Solo on DTRPG), I’m going to start with looking at the ‘Random Tables’ section. To help build some structure and give you some inspiration in setting up your adventure, Solo provides a number of tables with random encounters and reactions. The aim is simply not to go from one roll to another, but to use this to build the storyline and string the situations together. Writing it all down is a very effective technique which you are encouraged to do, there is nothing worse than trying to remember everything you’ve done / want to do and end up forgetting it.
You get eight detailed tables which cover reactions from NPCs and locals, law levels, what happens in a situation and types of starship reactions and encounters. These are generic enough so that you can use them in almost any game and say, assign specific types of starship to whatever ‘universe’ you are playing in. This section covers pages 37 to 52, from here you move onto the different types of campaigns part of the book.
The types of campaign are broken down into ‘Travellers’, ‘Star Traders’, ‘Naval Officers’ and the most extensive, ‘Survey Scouts’. The first campaign is broken down into a checklist followed by a series of events tables with examples such as situations to immediately throw the players into, onboard passenger ship events, ship malfunctions and world encounters. These are pretty comprehensive and use the D66 format.
The next campaign format some people may recognise; the ‘Star Traders’ section is based on an older Zozer Games title of the same name, which was published for the Mongoose Traveller first edition rules. I picked up the original Star Traders book some time ago so I was able to compare like for like. From what I can make out, this has been updated for the Cepheus Engine rules set, reformatted and text updated to fit in with the rest of the Solo book. You get a nicely written example of how to write and keep track of trading – this is a game in itself. You start with the checklist with some tables to work through, including a decent set of random encounters that help to spice up the trading runs. The Star Traders book was the inspiration for Solo as many of the techniques and solutions presented in the new book were incorporated from the original.
The third section ‘Naval Officers’ describes the Interstellar Navy and Space Patrols. This could be a very useful section for developing traits whilst creating characters and adding colour to events. One of the most useful alternative rules is a simplified system for space combat. This uses a way to compare the attacker and defender based on an assessment table of armaments and defences, which gives you a single dice roll to resolve the outcome. You then get some tables to determine damage and location. This allows you to concentrate on what happens to your party, rather than getting bogged down with too much dice rolling.
The final section ‘Survey Scouts’ is the most comprehensive because it is potentially the most wide-ranging in scope. The section starts with giving you a structure with which to select your crew and a ship. You then move onto how to survey a system and how star systems are constructed, namely the different types of planets and how they are made up. There is quite a bit of information presented here so you could spend quite a bit of time building a system ready to explore. Next you have ‘Landing and Exploration’, where you are guided on how to get to the planet and some of the survey problems that you could encounter. The section rounds off with an example of play following the survey of a star system. The book finally has at the back a number of blank character, ship record, system survey, hex and subsector record sheets which can be printed out.
Going back to my original set of problems when playing a solo game, do I think that the Solo book addresses these effectively? It’s a most definite ‘yes’. No book can even think it can cover every potential situation or variation by having large numbers of tables and charts; in doing so I think such a book would be so unwieldy and daunting to use that it would never be taken off the shelf. Solo addresses this by getting the player to think and use their imagination – it takes a bit of getting used to because there is an amount of preparation to do, but its certainly worth it. The book also offers enough structure and supporting tables to be a very useful reference tool not just for solo play, but also for group play with a referee. At the same time though it does present lots of tables later in the book, it doesn’t fall down the trap of trying to be too comprehensive which is what it is trying to avoid. I found the writing style engaging and well edited, any book that provides lots of examples is a plus for me as this always reduces the amount of time getting used to a new set of rules and reduces ambiguity in its interpretation. You get various examples ranging from multi-page narratives to short paragraphs, all of which are useful. The book is light on illustrations, except for a dozen-or-so line art scenes.
Overall, I feel Solo is an essential product to buy no matter what SFRPG system you use. This isn’t just for solo play as I believe there are many tips, tricks, guidance and tables which will prove very useful for solo players and referees alike – this is a highly recommended purchase! Finally, I would like to thank Paul Elliott for very kindly sending me a copy of Solo to review.