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Vampires AND a Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Game?


The book "Thousand Year Old Vampire", a metallic red and grey d10 & d6, and a black pen

You wake up after a long rest. Just how long have you been out for? Things are not how you left it - 500 years have passed. Or maybe you remember everything. There was no rest for you; only long nights and the living nightmares that are your life. Only one thing is certain - you are a vampire.


These are just a few snippets of the possible stories you can tell in Thousand Year Old Vampire.


Let's take a step back - how'd we end up here? I love playing tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs - you probably already know that but just in case). I've had so many reasons I just can't play with others - friends are traveling, schedules don't align, or they don't like the game concept. The list goes on and on.


I went on a journey to explore solo TTRPGs because I got tired of waiting for others, and I want to share that with you. Which brings us here - I'm starting a series of posts specifically on solo games. I can't think of a better one to start with than Thousand Year Old Vampire.

 

Takeaway - Good Introduction to Solo TTRPG

  • Ideal Number of Players - solo (the author's website does mention potentially playing with multiple people, but I haven't seen rules specifically for it)

  • Materials - 1 six-sided dice, 1 ten-sided dice, something to write on (optional)

  • Where to Find - The Author's Website

  • Format - Digital and Physical

  • The Good - Vampires (duh), easy to learn, good prompts, makes you think

  • The Bad - Potentially limited replay value (stay tuned on this one though)


How to Become A Vampire

Vampire Creation

As any game starts, you have to create your character. This isn't a stats-based game though (which I love), so all that matters is the story you want to tell with your character.


The biggest thing that matters here is who was your character. To create your vampire, think about what memories and experiences they hold dear. A memory is more than remembering an event though - you have items, kills, or contacts that come along with each one. All these items together make up your creation.

photo of a journal and pen next to a donut shaped vase
Photo by Prophsee Journals on Unsplash

Journal of a Vampire

There are two ways to play: quick-play or journal. Quick-play is more in your head than journal play, but you could likely get similar experiences from each. I played with the journal experience and think it's preferable for the same reasons people keep a journal in real life. Journaling allows a stream of consciousness where it just feels like you're able to think things through more. It also makes it easier to keep in mind where you've already been from a mechanical perspective. You also have a handy little keepsake at the end to remember your character and see how they've changed.


Through rolls of the dice, you venture through prompts to show what vampire experiences you have. These experiences become memories that may also have skills, resources, and contacts you gain and use to change your story. These prompts replicate the ebb and flow of your thousand years. As in real life though, you don't remember everything. We all forget who we were 10 years ago. It seems so foreign given how much we change in that time. Now imagine 1,000 years.


It may seem like that wouldn't be a lot of prompts because years do pass and it's hard to think of conceptually, but trust me you have a lot to work with. My character ended up skipping some 500 years because just didn't wake up one day, and wow. There were still a lot of prompts I worked with AND I had to reconcile with the concept of half a life being swept away.


In the end, you die as various prompts describe the way you die. Your story comes to it's end. It's a little like in life in that some things aren't resolved. It's just the way it happens, but that doesn't detract from the experience. If anything it enhances the experience.

The Benefits of Playing the Undead

Simple to Learn

The mechanics of the game are very simple to learn. It was honestly my first solo TTRPG, and I had no problems with it. It's simple enough to learn, but there are some mechanics that keep it interesting. In particular, I think the memory mechanic on the whole makes the game.


Interesting Concepts

I love the prompts. There are things you would never expect to see there. I won't spoil them, but trust me. They lead to so many different scenarios because they are open enough for you to take them in whatever way you want that fits the story you want to tell.


Thought Provoking

This part is what really makes the game for me. A tip: when you play, take the memory mechanic seriously. Really think about how what your character remembers shapes who they are. How it impacts their choices. After all, we are a collection of memories. Do you care about who killed your family if you've forgotten who your family was and why you loved them to begin with? Do you really care about being a good person when you have nothing to hold you back? Really think about these things and you'll enjoy the game so much more.


The other part about being thought-provoking is how much the death impacts you. You know it's coming, but there's still that profound sense of loss. It's just a character you spend a few hours with, but 1,000 years is a long lifespan. You see so much about how they've changed and how they've grown. You've been with them through the best moments of their un-life and the worst. It's entirely manageable and not to the extent that a real death in life would be, but it's a slight shock for them to just be gone. When I played, I had to sit with it for a moment. Give them a moment of silence if you need to. Let the game sink in. Those emotions are one of the reasons why we tell the stories we tell.


Why Being a Vampire Can Suck (heh get it?)

Replay Value

Like all games, it's not perfect. I think the flaw is minimal though and is something all solo games experience. There are only so many prompts in the book, which may limit the number of times you can play it. However, I think the author has done a really good job of managing this. There are not one, but two sets of prompts. This in and of itself expands the replay value. The second set of prompts is also interesting in that it's not the same chronological order as the first. It's more random. I think this encourages you to potentially add your own prompts to the mix.


The other thing to keep in mind as mentioned earlier is the open-ended nature of the prompts. You are allowed to take prompts in entirely different directions - it's even encouraged! What happens in the prompts naturally changes given when and where your vampire is, how they are as a person in general, and what stage they are in their un-life. The other great thing is that it's your story. Do you want it to be different each time? You can make it different each time. Prompts are not hard and fast rules; they're prompts. Mold them as needed to tell the story.


Final Thoughts

Recommended!

Honestly, this game is a great first solo tabletop roleplaying game. It was my first and spurred my entire interest in the genre and encouraged me to keep going with it. I highly suggest giving it a shot. It's a great game with great mechanics and a beautiful book.


As mentioned before, this is the beginning of a new series of posts on solo TTRPGs. I'd love to have your engagement to make it better and actually have a dialogue on the books. After all, we all have different stories to tell, and I want to hear yours. So, have you played the game before? What are your thoughts on it? Do you have any recommended solo games you rave about?

Someone opening Anne Rice's "The Vampire Lestat" book. The book and hand of the person are bloody
Photo by Loren Cutler on Unsplash

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