How We Built an Exclusive Solo TTRPG System from Scratch: iXe

The Process of coming up with how the game system will work.

Today we will look into ‘How we created a solo ttrpg system’ for iXe. You can check out more about the project here.

Solo tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) are a niche but growing genre of games that allow you to create and explore your own stories without the need for a game master or other players. They are perfect for those who love to write, imagine, and play by themselves, or who have trouble finding a regular group to play with. Solo TTRPGs can range from simple journaling games to complex systems that use dice, cards, oracles, and other tools to generate events and outcomes.

We at iXe Games have always been fascinated by solo TTRPGs and wanted to create our own system that would offer a unique and satisfying experience for solo players. We wanted to design a game that would give players narrative freedom but with a few guiding mechanics when something is uncertain. Such as a roll check. We also wanted to incorporate our love for playing with cards and deck-building into our system. And we wanted to make our game accessible and adaptable for any genre and setting.

In this blogpost, we will share with you How we created a solo ttrpg system: iXe.

ixe solo ttrpg

Step 1: Identify the problem

The first step in any design process is to identify the problem that you want to solve. For us, the problem was that we felt that most solo TTRPGs were either too restrictive or too vague in their rules and mechanics. Some games had too many tables and charts to consult, which slowed down the game and limited the player’s creativity. Other games had too few rules and relied heavily on the player’s imagination, which could be overwhelming and exhausting.

We wanted to create a system that would strike a balance between structure and freedom, between randomness and control, between simplicity and depth. We wanted a system that would allow the player to create their own story without feeling lost or bored.

Step 2: Research the market

The next step was to research the existing solo TTRPGs on the market and see what they offered and what they lacked. We looked at various games such as:

  • Alone Among The Stars, a journal-based TTRPG where you travel along the galaxy and use your journal to describe what you find as you travel from planet to planet.
  • You Died, a three-act RPG with genre elements relating heavily to the soulsborne type of games, where you are an adventurer created out of the area around a giant dead king.
  • Arkham Horror: The Card Game, a card-based game set in the gothic and cosmic horror world of H.P. Lovecraft, where you play as an investigator trying to stop an elder god from entering our world.
  • Gentleman Bandit, a writing-based TTRPG where you write a poem of your life and exploits as The Gentleman Bandit before you die.

We learned a lot from our own game Witasy and Scopicity. We took reference to these games and others, such as what mechanics worked well for solo play, what genres were popular among solo players, what challenges and pitfalls solo players faced, and what feedback and reviews they received.

ixe solo ttrpg

Step 3: Define the concept

After we had done our research, we decided to define our concept for our solo TTRPG system. We wanted our system to be:

  • Writer-friendly: We wanted our system to appeal to writers who enjoy creating their own stories and characters. We wanted our system to help them generate ideas, flesh out their world, and structure their plot.
  • Narrative-focused: We wanted our system to emphasize the story over the mechanics. We wanted our system to give the player agency and choice over how their story unfolds, but also provide some guidance and direction when needed.
  • Card-based: We wanted our system to use cards as the main tool for generating events and outcomes. We wanted our system to be fun and tactile, but also strategic and dynamic.
  • Deck-building: We wanted our system to incorporate deck-building as a core mechanic. We wanted our system to allow the player to customize their own deck of cards that would represent their character’s fate, skills, abilities, items, etc.
  • Genre-neutral: We wanted our system to be adaptable for any genre and setting. We wanted our system to be flexible and modular, so that the player could create their own world.

Step 4: Prototype the system

Once we had our concept, we started to prototype our system. We used a standard 52-card deck as our base and experimented with different ways to use it. We came up with the following core mechanics:

  • The Main Deck: This is the deck of cards that represents the world and the events that happen in it. The player draws cards from this deck to generate scenes, encounters, challenges, twists, etc. The suit and rank of the card determine what kind of event occurs and how difficult or favorable it is.
  • The Fate Deck: This is the deck of cards that represents the player’s character and their fate. The player draws cards from this deck to resolve any uncertain outcome that may require them to perform checks. The suit and rank of the card determine how successful or unsuccessful they are. The player can also use cards from this deck to activate their skills, abilities, items, etc.
  • The Deck-Building: This is the process of adding and removing cards from the Fate Deck. The player starts with a basic Fate Deck of 10 cards and can modify it throughout the game by drawing cards from the Main Deck and adding them to their Fate Deck. The player can also discard cards from their Fate Deck to make room for new ones. The player can also reshuffle their Fate Deck when it runs out of cards or when they want to change their strategy.

We tested these mechanics with different genres and settings and found that they worked well for creating interesting and varied stories. We also found that they added a layer of strategy and decision-making to the game, as the player had to balance their Fate Deck and consider when to draw, play, or discard cards.

Step 5: Refine the system

After we had a working prototype, we started to refine our system. We added more features and options to make our system more robust and customizable. Some of these features are:

  • The Character Creation: This is the process of creating your own character for your solo adventure. You can choose your character’s name, background, personality, goals, etc. You can also choose your character’s archetype, which determines your starting Fate Deck and some special abilities. For example, you can choose to be a Warrior, a Mage, a Rogue, or a Custom archetype.
  • The Setting Creation: This is the process of creating your own setting for your solo adventure. You can choose your setting’s genre, theme, tone, etc. You can also choose your setting’s elements, which determine what kind of events and challenges you will face in your story. For example, you can choose to have Magic, Technology, Monsters, or Custom elements in your setting.
  • The Scene Cards: These are special cards that help you create scenes for your story. They have prompts and questions that guide you through setting up the scene, introducing characters and conflicts, developing the plot, and ending the scene. You can use these cards whenever you want to start a new scene or add more detail to an existing one.
  • The Oracle Cards: These are special cards that help you answer questions that arise during your story. They have simple yes or no answers that you can interpret according to your situation. You can use these cards whenever you want to ask a question that is not covered by the other mechanics or when you want to add some randomness or surprise to your story.

We also polished our system by writing clear and concise rules, examples, tips, and advice for solo players. We also created some sample characters and settings for players who want some inspiration or guidance.

Step 6: Publish the system

The final step was to publish our system and share it with the world. We decided to publish our system as a PDF document that players can download and print at home. We also decided to make our system free for anyone who wants to try it out.

We are very proud of our system and we hope that you will enjoy playing it as much as we did creating it. We believe that iXe is a great way to experience solo TTRPGs and unleash your creativity.

So we hope that answers your question on How we created a solo ttrpg system for iXe.

If you are interested in playing iXe, you can download it here:

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