I played Thousand Year Vampire for the first time last night and it was a wonderful role-playing experience…and it is a solo RPG. Needless to say, I thought that all of the characters were well made. Ha!
The rules are simple and easy to use. If you have a ten-sided die, a six-sided die, some paper, and some time, you’re all set!
Things start off by creating basic statistics for your new vampire – characters they know, the things that physically set them apart from humanity, resources to which they have access, and skills. From there it’s a matter of rolling the dice, which take you to different Prompts.
Prompts are a very basic, generalized set of instructions on what happens to your vampire in that step of their unlife. An example that I’m just making up here:
“You committed an unspeakable act, even for you, and you must atone in some way. Lose a Resource, which you give to a survivor of the act, and create them as a new Character.”
The Prompts are the magic of this system! The instructions will put your character in a general situation and tell you the boons or losses that you experienced. It is then up to you to use your imagination to fill in the blanks and create the story. You and I could get exactly the same Prompts, but create ENTIRELY different stories, our vampires would grow and become enriched in different ways, and they would take different paths through the world.
The next thing to mention is Memories. You get a limited number of them and there lies some of the major horror of your vampire’s story. It is entirely possible to grow so old and accumulate so many memories that you have forgotten your origins entirely and are left just a creature of the night. It’s easy to see how one could transform from a compassionate healer to a diabolical sadist over time, given the right Prompts and depending on what memories that they’ve retained.
It should be mentioned that the game is created to have an end – your vampire’s destruction. You either die by being unable to sacrifice various statistics of your character when prompted or by getting to a Prompt that tells you that it’s over. The Prompts that do this are near the end of the list, so you don’t have to worry about getting ten minutes into your game and suddenly you’re dead. It is an inevitability, though – the way the dice work, mathematically they will work their way upwards through the Prompt list until you get to your destruction. There is, however, an alternate set of Prompts included in the book that don’t really have “you’re dead” Prompts, but rather rely on the fact that you’ll eventually run out of statistics to sacrifice and therefore end up dead from that route.
I’d have to say that if you’re looking for a good, solo RPG game, you’ve found it in Thousand Year Old Vampire. You do need to be prepared to really exercise your imagination to build your story, be ready to experience much angst over the things that your character ends up doing and the memories that they lose, and you must also accept that you will become a monster the likes of which keep people indoors in the dark of night…