After receiving my demo copy of Don’t Play This Game for review and reading the rules, I was keen to jump into a solo TTRPG. This would be my first foray into the solo role-playing genre. I had played Fighting Fantasy books when I was younger, and I am not sure if they count.
Don’t Play This Game is a found footage solo horror RPG. In the game, you write down your player character’s story in a series of journal entries. As both GM and player, you will be deciding everything that happens to your character, as opposed to traditional RPGs where storytelling is a collaborative experience. You might be asking yourself the same question I did, “Isn’t that just writing a book?” Well, yes, it is, but there’s more to it than that.
Don’t Play This Game Rules Review
Don’t Play This Game’s rules are very light. So light, in fact, that when I finished reading the rule book, I thought I must have skipped some pages by accident. That was not the case, and the demo of the game is really simple. If you have the materials ready, you could pick this book up and be playing within 30 minutes.
So, how do you play? First, you will need a few things: a notebook, something to write with, a complete set of RPG dice, a camera, and a character sheet; or “anchor,” as the game calls it. The rule book reads from the perspective of the last person to own it. They warn you of the dangers ahead and advise you to take the game’s name to heart. The book is like the videotape from “The Ring” film franchise or one of those old, weird chain emails your grandparents would send you back in the early 2000s. You have to do what the book says within seven days, or something bad will happen. I feel like the designers intend for the setting to be our own world, but this is never written anywhere. While I didn’t try it myself, editing the prompts to make sense for a sci-fi or fantasy setting could be a lot of fun here.
The Gameplay Loop
That brings me to the actual gameplay loop of Don’t Play This Game: the prompts. After creating a character, the game will give you a series of prompts to write about what happened in the story. The full release will feature a lot more variety, but the demo version has a linear story for you to progress through.
The prompt will give you some background and ask you to expand upon it in your adventure notebook. Sometimes what happens will be determined by dice rolls. You may be asked to draw things, gain new resources for your character, or travel into the real world and collect something to put in your book. You can lose health, die, and pretty much do whatever you like as long as you follow the book’s instructions. That is the game in a nutshell, so is it good?
Do Play This Game
I was ready to hate this game after finishing the rule book. How could this be anything close to fun? Refreshingly, Don’t Play This Game is way more fun than it has any right to be. Not four sentences had been written before I realized I was immersed in the game. The first prompt is about a tragedy that has occurred in my character’s life. I rolled a wild animal attack, and wrote about how Arthur was dealing with the guilt of not heeding the book’s warning that something bad would happen if he refused to play. After witnessing the aftermath of the attack, Arthur decided to play the book’s game to prevent further tragedies from happening.
The prompts are vague enough for you to shape the narrative to your will, but also, they help keep your story moving forward. After the attack, supernatural things began to plague Arthur. He questioned his sanity, contemplated sacrificing those dear to him for safety. His ordeal playing the game, changed him as a person. He began to accept his share of the blame for his co-worker’s death, and emerged from that a new man, riddled with guilt but ready to move on. This kind of character development isn’t possible in a group RPG session.
Don’t Play This Game
Don’t Play This Game is about as niche as it can get in the RPG world. I plan to use this game as an exercise tool, for sharpening my story craft skills. If you play RPGs to min-max combat powers, this one isn’t for you.
I’ve only seen a thin slice of this game, and my curiosity is certainly piqued. I can’t speak for the completed project, but in its demo state, this game needs a lot of work. The gameplay loop is quite shallow, and I can see it getting stale fast, especially for those who do not like writing.
This might be a personal issue, but this game was not a horror experience for me. I was immersed in my story, but at no point did I ever feel scared or even nervous. Your experience may vary in this regard, but if someone said they were seeking a horror experience in an RPG, I wouldn’t point them here.
All things considered, Don’t Play This Game is an awesome, accessible story creation game and was a delight to review. Though I am new to the solo RPG scene, I would recommend this as a great entry point into the genre.
You already know if this is what you want to play. Game masters should be using systems like this, to become better story tellers. This is not for everyone, and it isn’t supposed to be, but for me, it is something every GM should try once.