Last Updated: 5 August 2022
In 2021, someone on discord recommended that I check out solo journaling games after a mini-rant about how hard the pandemic made it to maintain TTRPG campaigns (we have four different ones on pause.) So I browsed itchio for a few options, played through my first adventure from start to finish (which resulted in a glorious loss) and fell in love with the genre. It would be fantastic to design one of my own, but for now I will share my mini-collection of games, reviews for what I have played so far, and link to archives of adventures that I am willing to share.
The basics: in most solo journaling games, you are provided with a basic premise (you're an archivist in an ancient library! what items are in your collection? you're a novice witch in a brand new town! what is your area of specialty and how will you help your neighbors! you're a changeling in the fairy world! how will you get back to the human world?) and typically role dice or draw cards (poker or tarot) that will provide you with additional prompts to inspire the direction of your narrative.
They're great if you love world building and making original characters and want a relatively contained storytelling experience that will not necessarily go on forever. While most game engines I have perused follow similar instructions, some have additional gameplay elements that proide an even more immerse and engrossing experience.
The Sealed Library
In this game, you are barricaded in a library that is currently under threat and is your mission to move as many artefacts to the catacombs to preserve their knowledge beyond the seige. Built using the Wretched and Alone model of journaling games, your character will undergo harrowing circumstances in their lonely fight for survival. It's fascinating that they recommend playing with an actual tower like Jenga blocks that you can pull to determine when the barricade has been broached. Since I don't have a set, and didn't like the digital options to simulate this, I played only using the card pulls and still had a good time. If this sounds up your alley, there are a ton of community copy files available at the time of my review so if you can't foot the $8 cost, volunteers have pitched in to make them available to you! [Archive]
The Magical Year of a Teen Witch
Inspired in part by Kiki's Delivery Service, in this game you design a teen witch who has entered their magical year - a time when their powers at their most potent - and must embark to hone their skills with the assistance of mentors and friends. It's a lovely slice-of-life game that is divided by season. The character creation process alone was so much fun that I was thoroughly invested in my character's backstory before rolling my first die. The only "downside" is that this slowed down my writing process significantly because I wanted to tell his story well haha All of the community copies have been claimed, but this $10 game is absolutely worth the purchase if you love mahou shoujo. You can follow along with my playthrough here.
The Lighthouse at the Edge of the Universe
The title provides a pretty clear central premise: this combines the seas and cosmos together in a delightfully whimiscal and charming solo mission. It's recmommended that you play the game at night before bed or when you cannot sleep to simulate the setting and mindset of the lighthouse keeper. I appreciate the clean aesthetic of the guidebook, the optional crafting component, the encouragement to set out intentional journaling time in a meditatitive fashion. Writing this post makes me want to dive back into this story, which featured an DnD OC that I made for fun but never got to play in a campaign.
The Village Witch
This game features more traditional witchcraft compared to the modern Magical Year. Using a die and playing cards, you design a witch who sets out on adventures through different towns to help them decide where to settle down. The character development process was equally enjoyable (I chose to make a water witch from a sea town) and the roster of village ideas poses a variety of promises and challenges. For example, my protagonist was initially sent to a desert town which meant they had to learn from their host and mentor how to work with water in an area of immense scarcity. I'd love to get back into this story again because I forgot how enjoyable that first session was. There also seems to be a great community behind this game and additional options for pulling in second players to your experience.
In the Library
The following are games that I have acquired through charity donation bundles and community copy pools that I haven't made time to start playing yet.
This section is to list out the games that I have been meaning to play and finish, but have on the backburner for one reason or another (aka choice paralysis because I have too many games to play lol)