Solo23 - Post-Mortem

For the past year I've participated in the #dungeon23 challenge. Instead of designing a mega-dungeon with 365 rooms, I challenged myself on playing a Ironsworn: Starforged over the same time period. After the game is before the game, so let's analyse the performance.

First off: I did go through with it, kind of. There are 365 posts, but I have to admit that I posted some the next day and put the previous day number to it. Is it cheating? I don't know. Do I care? No. The most important thing for me was that I stuck to it and finished what I started.

And I guess that is maybe the lesson for me here. More on that later.

The game of choice

I could've chosen any TTRPG to play, but I chose Ironsworn: Starforged. I was itching to play it, having played the original Ironsworn before and having liked it. It was also designed for solo-play so the amount of preparation and additional material (like oracles and stuff) was minimal so I could concentrate more on the playing aspect.

In more than one way, Starforged is an improvement to the already fantastic ruleset of Ironsworn. I recently played some in Co-Op mode again and it showed me how certain things have changed (mostly for the better).

It already starts at character generation. A simple table that helps you pick your starting paths doesn't look like much, but it is so good. It removes a bit the paralysis you have with all the assets and is a great way to introduce the game to a new player. It also gave me a headstart, since I was a bit late to the party and had to get started quickly.

Gameplay wise not much has changed. Just some small improvements and streamlining here and there. Mostly on the combat mechanics that have been simplified a bit and made more understandable. I didn't have many combats though so I might not had the full experience there.

There's a ton of new Oracles and tables which alone make for an excellent buy. You get some new mechanics in exploring unknown regions, kind of similar to a hexcrawl. It does go away from the more point-crawly approach from the previous game, although distances are not completely set in space. It is comparable to Stars Without Number, although not that extensive.

All in all these changes were good and a step in the right direction.

A negative is the sheer amount of moves. They can be quite overwhelming if you don't have a bit of experience. There's a whopping 50+ moves. Surely most of them you will use very rarely and I like that it includes tools for safe playing. But I don't know if you really had to make it a move. Even for taking breaks and ending sessions there are moves. It is a bit too much.

On top of that there's no clear line on what exactly you have to do. You just get a bunch of moves and have to figure out yourself how these work together (even though the chapter is named "Gameplay In Depth").

The biggest thing for me was, that there were no rules for delving like in Ironsworn: Delve. Yes, there are new rules and oracles for exploring Derelicts or Planets (which are really great don't get me wrong). And there are also Locations that are similar to Themes. But there's no mechanic to bind them together like in Delve. I would have liked to create a Haunted Forest Planet or an Infested Derelict. You could probably roll a dice first to decide on which table to roll, but I liked the elegant design of Domains/Themes.

Overall though I was happy with the choice. The games focuses a bit more into exploration and discovery, which made it better for a story-focused playthrough. If I had to describe all the fighting I don't think I would have gone very far. It was simple enough so I could pick it up every day, roll some dice and describe what happened.

The Good

First and foremost the challenge was probably about discipline and commitment.

I setup a small calender entry at the same time every day. Probably the first thing I did, because I knew myself to well. And it was most likely the reason why I managed to finish the challenge in the end. Consistency is key, even though it didn't always work out (work schedule and life sometimes shifted the time a bit).

It also helped a lot in getting to know the system a bit better. Although I have to say, that a bit of familiarity with the system beforehand helped a lot. I wouldn't have done it with a system that I didn't know. Especially if halfway through it turned out that it was bad. The system was also flexible enough to have some diversity in the stories I could tell. Which was a plus for sure.

Importantly it kept me writing. Even though it most likely isn't good, at least I was writing and it helped me getting a style and some experience. I think authors say this as well: Just keep writing, you can edit later. Well I couldn't, but the point still stands. You can't edit nothing.

As mentioned in the beginning, it was also an exercise for me to complete something and to stay focused on it. It wasn't always easy, but I managed. I didn't give up and that was the most important thing for me.

The Bad

First and foremost the challenge was probably about discipline and commitment.

Keeping up the schedule sometimes was a struggle. When I had a hard day or everything was stupid, it was hard to sit down and write something. I think sometimes it showed, that I did the assignment a bit haphazardly. These days were the hardest and I still have to live with them, but they were a part of the experience.

Then there were times were the time just didn't allow to write that day. So sometimes I had to "cheat" and write two posts a day and put the date of the previous one onto it. Life gets in the way. I could have skipped them (which was a valid option in the "rules"), but I wanted to have a text for every day of the year in the end.

The biggest thing however was the format and platform I've chosen to do this. Twitter is just to limiting in that regard. I knew about the limitations (mostly the length of text, I don't care about my reach or audience) but I though it could still work anyway. Boy was I wrong.

There was a chunk of the text limit that did go away just by having all the necessary hashtags and things. I could've pasted the text into a picture and post that. But I think it would've costed me more time to format everything nicely into a picture than actually writing the text, which wasn't the point in this exercise. Plus it is not really nice to search or copy from a picture (SEO and all that).

I quickly gave up on my initial plans as well, to have a short text everyday followed up by a die roll that then got resolved the next day. Just not enough space. In the end I think I found a good enough rythm but it took me some weeks to figure all out. That diminished my experience a little bit.

I still feel as well, that my contribution might not have been that grand as all the other creators. I've seen beatiful detailed map or paragraphs of text for every room they've did. All I have, was just a few lines of text and that's it.

Quo Vadis

First and foremost: I need a short break. It was kind of a relief to not have to write something for the first time in a year. Sounds a bit strange, having only written something small, but I was constantly thinking about what I was going to write during the day. So no longer having these thoughts in my mind, is a relief.

Would I do it again? No. At least not in the same way. As I said it was thinking about it every day and it also stressed me a little bit, sometimes not knowing what to write or do. I would set myself different contraints and format in the future. Giving myself more time to perhaps produce a better result out of it.

I have some ideas for the future. I still want to do actual plays or playthroughs. But they need to look differently. Maybe even add something visual to it.

It was a nice experiment. It showed me what I needed to do, to actually complete it. It gave me tools and the experience. Things I should not loose. I should continue to write, so that I can edit.