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Castles and Caverns: Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Game

Parts 1 and 2 - Getting Started and Process of Play

By Tom BakerPublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 15 min read
AI-Generated Art.


I've been fascinated by roleplaying games since childhood. I remember looking longingly at the covers of early Dungeons and Dragons adventure modules in the hobby store on the military base where I grew up, and wishing I could be old enough to play such a game, to enter into a dark world of magic and sorcery, dark monsters and weird and beautiful realms; to adventure and rescue princesses, fight dragons, collect treasure, and use magic. I was hooked on the stuff--or, at least the idea of what it represented to me, a world of fantasy and fear, wonder and escape.

When I became a teenager, I began to play D&D, having been bought a boxed set of the accursed and reputedly "evil" game when I was just getting into heavy metal, horror flicks, and an entire fantasy world of dark and troubling things. I played for a while, but I had trouble getting together a group to really play as much as I wanted, to go deeper and deeper into the realm of mystery and terror, exultation, dementia, and fear.

Flash forward through the decades, and I am a reclusive old man, with few friends. But, having an internet connection, I was able to reconnect with a hobby I had long left in the dust. I was able, through the magic of AI, to relearn old game mechanics, and I learned about an entire subculture of people who played such games by themselves--as "solo" adventurers. I was suddenly hooked again, reliving my childhood, and having learned that only a rudimentary game mechanic was really necessary for roleplaying in any world (and really if you're doing a journaling game, not even so much as that) I began to explore the possibilities of producing new games with just a little bit of cybernetic help, games in ANY genre I desired to explore.

So here is Game El Numero Uno:


Getting Started

First, grab yourself a deck of playing cards.

Get out a sheet of paper, and a pencil, and let's get started.

Important: Name your character.

Come up with a name suited for a fantasy world. You can use the Book of Random Tables for this, by rolling a d100 on three separate names tables.

Character Class

AI-Generated Art

Next, pick a character class. This can be a warrior, mage, rogue, cleric, ranger, or thief. The roles are pretty self-explanatory.

A warrior is just that, a noble fighter for just causes. He should possess ideally high strength, a sword, a shield, maybe war hammers or battle axes, etc.

A mage is a spellcaster or occult magician, usually with a magic item or crystal ball, a cloak, a staff to cast spells, or a spellbook. A mage will likely have high intelligence.

A rogue is a mercenary, a maverick warrior-for-hire like a Han Solo, or Old West gunslinger. He will likely have high strength, agility, etc. He is scrappy, and tough, but might not have many weapons or very fancy ones.

A cleric is like a priest. He can pretty much repel undead and evil forces and may offer healing. He's a lot like a mage, except cannot cast spells.

A ranger is a woodsman, like Robin Hood. He will have a high agility score, and certainly a bow, crossbow, a quiver of arrows, and a dagger. He will be fleet of foot, but maybe not so strong.

A thief everyone knows, but this type of thief is a professional. Or thinks of themself that way. He or she may belong to a Thieve's Guild, but, regardless, they are scruffy characters that live by picking locks and burglarizing homes. They are useful to have on adventures as they have stealthy skills such as lockpicking. They may have high intelligence and fortitude (life as a thief can be tough!), but may not be very strong.

Four Races

Pick one of these classes. Next, choose one of the four races: human, dwarf, elf, or halfling. The first designation is human. That everyone knows.

A dwarf is a diminutive race known for its love of underground lairs and labyrinths, caverns, and tunnels, as well as being stout-hearted, aggressive, and with a love to fight. They often employ war hammers and clubs as their weapons of choice. They are strong, surly, resilient, and stubborn.

An elf is a tall, slender, enchanted being, a being of woods and forests, as well as gnolls and waters, and some aerie, high places. They have pointed ears, beautiful, graceful features, and are fleet of feet. They have an uncanny ability to mesmerize people, and interactions with them will often be tricky. Elves are very agile, and intelligent, and may have high fortitude as well.

Lastly, a halfling is the smallest humanoid of all, a pint-sized lover of home and hearth who is given to smoking, eating, and laying back. But, because of their small size and great intelligence and loyalty, they are valued by adventure parties as thieves, spies, and explorers who can get in and out of spaces too small for even dwarves to enter. They will be highly agile, and may be pretty tough customers, but, unfortunately, they will usually not be very strong.

The Four Attributes

Now that you have your name, character class, and race down, you can begin describing your character. Create a little drawing of him or her (or find an image that will do), and decide on a backstory, clothing, attitude, motivations, etc. Be as detailed as you want to be, or can be. You can get every little detail you want, or simply let the character evolve with the story or leave him or her a mystery. It's up to you. Also, you can play more than one character at a time, and if you're going solo, it might be advisable to do so. (Otherwise, if your character is killed and you want to follow the strict logic, rules, or "story" of the game, you have to create a new one, and then find a way to introduce them to the adventure. But, this is all easy enough.)

Now that you have all THAT out of the way, it's time to find your Attribute scores.

First, shuffle the deck of cards after carefully removing the face cards and placing them in a pile at the side. Write down on your paper spaces for the Four Attributes:

    • Strength ... Spades
    • Intelligence ... Diamonds
    • Dexterity ... Clubs
    • Fortitude ... Hearts

      Example: Spades are Strength, Intelligence is Diamonds, Dexterity is Clubs, Fortitude is Hearts. If you pull, for example, a 4 of Spades for Strength, your attribute score for that attribute is 4 (which, as you can see below, gets no modifier). Same as if you pulled a 6 of hearts. Your attribute score for that attribute would be six.

      Table of Modifiers

      Number | Modifier

      • 2 | -2
      • 3 | -1
      • 4 | 0
      • 5 | +1
      • 6 | +2
      • 7 | +3
      • 8 | +4
      • 9 | +5
      • 10 | +6

        That number is your modifier for a Difficulty Check, a roll against the difficulty table below.

        Difficulty Table

| Difficulty | Target Number |


  1. | Very Easy | 5 or lower
  2. | Easy | 6 - 10
  3. | Moderate | 11 - 15
  4. | Hard | 16 - 18
  5. | Very Hard | 19 or higher
  6. |Re-roll

Ask the Oracle

As the solo player, you can either decide on the difficulty level of a task or roll a 1d6 to get a random result. Then, roll a 1d20. Based on whether or not you get within the difficulty range of the task (i.e. 16-18, 19, or higher), you succeed. You add the modifier from the appropriate attribute. (For example: if the task requires intelligence, and you have a +3 modifier to your attribute, you add that modifier to your roll. So if you roll a ten, and add three, and the difficulty range is moderate, 11-12, you succeed.) If you succeed by more than half, you have a wild success. Likewise, if you miss the mark by more than half, you fail miserably.

Alternatively, you can just "Ask the Oracle" about the difficulty of a task. Roll a 1d6. If the numbers are even, the answer is yes. If the numbers are odd, the answer is no.

  • Odd numbers: 1, 3, 5
  • Even numbers: 2, 4, 6

You can ask the Oracle anything at any time during the game, as long as it's a yes/no question. Just journal the results and if you've asked something like, "Do we encounter a dangerous monster?" and the answer is "yes", roll to see what monster or NPC you encounter.

Skills and Abilities

Every character has two skills and one ability they start with. These skills and abilities should reflect their character class. For example, a fighter should have skills like swordplay and weapons mastery, or martial arts. A rogue might have very similar skills. A mage will have such skills as charm, and a thief may be adept at stealth and lockpicking. A ranger would be adept at woodland survival and archery, and a dwarf at exploring tunnels. Abilities are natural talents, such as art, calling animals, music, games and puzzles, and even psychic perception or telepathy.

Below is a table of skills/abilities for your PC to choose from. Choose two skills, and one ability, and roll 1d6 when you want to use that ability. Add the result to your attribute modifier, and if the number is equal to or greater than the Difficulty Score, then you succeed. otherwise, you fail. (And remember: succeeding by more than half is a wild success. Otherwise, it's a wild failure.)

Skills | Roll 1d6 Per Skill

  1. Archery | Proficiency in using bows and arrows with accuracy.
  2. Lockpicking | Ability to pick locks and disarm simple traps.
  3. Stealth | Skill in moving quietly and remaining unnoticed.
  4. Detect Traps | The ability to spot and identify traps in the environment.
  5. Explore Caverns | Knowledge and skill in navigating and surviving in underground environments.
  6. Woodland Survival | Proficiency in surviving and thriving in forested areas.
  7. Swimming | Skill in swimming and staying afloat in water.
  8. Jumping | Ability to leap across gaps and obstacles with agility.
  9. Making Fire | Knowledge of various methods to start and maintain fires.
  10. Diplomacy | Skill in negotiation and persuasion with others.
  11. Healing | Proficiency in basic first aid and medical knowledge.
  12. Magical Lore | Knowledge of magical beings, artifacts, and rituals.
  13. Survival | General survival skills in various environments.
  14. Riding | Ability to ride and control various mounts.
  15. Climbing | Skill in scaling walls, cliffs, and other surfaces.
  16. Crafting | Proficiency in creating items, weapons, and tools.
  17. Disguise | Skill in changing appearance to blend in or deceive.
  18. Insight | Ability to read people and situations accurately.
  19. Abilities | 1d6 Per Ability

  1. Musical Aptitude | Skill in playing musical instruments or composing music.
  2. Gamesmanship |Proficiency in playing various games and winning challenges.
  3. Archery Precision | Exceptional accuracy and skill in using bows and arrows.
  4. Telepathic Connection | Limited ability to communicate mentally with others.
  5. Swimming Proficiency | Exceptional skill in swimming and water-related activities.
  6. Wilderness Exploration | Keen sense of direction and ability to navigate in the wild.
  7. Danger Sense | Innate ability to sense imminent danger or traps.
  8. Master of Disguise | Skill in blending in with crowds and changing appearance.
  9. Quick Reflexes | Exceptionally fast reaction times in critical situations.
  10. Tracking | Ability to follow and interpret tracks left by creatures.
  11. Negotiation Skills | Expertise in diplomacy, persuasion, and conflict resolution.
  12. Camouflage | Skill in blending into the surroundings for stealth purposes.
  13. Athleticism | General physical fitness and agility in various activities.
  14. Healing Touch | Basic healing ability through touch or focused energy.
  15. Memory Recall | Exceptional memory and recall of details and information.
  16. Night Vision | Improved vision in low-light conditions.
  17. Animal Empathy | Ability to understand and communicate with animals.
  18. Leadership | Natural ability to inspire and lead others effectively.
  19. Climbing Mastery | Proficiency in scaling walls, cliffs, and structures.
  20. Empathy | Enhanced ability to understand and share others' emotions.

Great, now you have a more fully fleshed-out character. Lastly, you will need weapons and equipment. Choose from the table below, keeping in mind what your class and race are, and what each character would seem most likely to possess.

PC Weapons Table

AI-Generated Artwork
  1. Weapon Type | Damage | Range | Special Attributes
  2. Dagger | Light Blade | 1d4 | 10 ft. | Finesse
  3. Short Sword Light | Blade 1d6 - | -
  4. Sword | One-Handed 1d8 - | -
  5. Long Bow |Ranged | 1d8 |150/600 ft. |Two-Handed, Ammunition
  6. Crossbow | Ranged |1d10 | 80/320 ft. | Two-Handed, Ammunition
  7. Mace | One-Handed | 1d6 - | Bludgeoning
  8. Flail | One-Handed | 1d8 - | Flexible
  9. Club | One-Handed | 1d4 | - Simple
  10. Spear | One-Handed | 1d6 | 20/60 ft. | Thrown, Versatile
  11. War Hammer | One-Handed |1d8| Bludgeoning
  12. Sling | Ranged | 1d4| 30/120 ft.|Ammunition
  13. Pike | Two-Handed | 1d10| - Reach, Versatile
  14. Poleaxe | Two-Handed | 1d12| - Heavy, Reach, Versatile
  15. Throwing Axes | Ranged |1d6| 20/60 ft. |Thrown
  16. Throwing Stars | Ranged |1d4| 20/60 ft. |Thrown
  17. Boomerang | Ranged |1d6 | 30 ft. |Thrown, Returning
  18. Club | One-Handed | 1d4 | - Simple


"Damage" indicates the type and amount of damage dealt by the weapon. "Range" shows the weapon's effective range for ranged attacks. "Special Attributes" includes any unique features or traits associated with the weapon.

PC Equipment Table

  1. Equipment Type | AC (Armor Class)| Weight |Special Attributes
  2. Shield | Shield | +2 | 6 lbs | Requires proficiency, Bonus to AC
  3. Helm| Headgear | +1 | 3 lbs | -
  4. Jerkin | Light Armor | +1 | 8 lbs | Flexible
  5. Leather Armor |Light Armor | +2 |15 lbs | -
  6. Lockpicking Tools |Tools | 1 lb |Proficiency required, Use for lockpicking
  7. Leather Bags | Container | 1 lb |Carry and store items
  8. Rope | Tools | 5 lbs | Useful for climbing and tying knots
  9. Climbing Hooks | Tools | 2 lbs | Enhances climbing ability
  10. Flint and Steel | Tools | 0.5 lb |Used for starting fires
  11. Grappling Hook |Tools | 4 lbs | Aids in climbing and scaling surfaces
  12. Compass |Tools | 0.1 lb |Navigational aid
  13. Bedroll Camping Gear | 7 lbs | Portable bedding for resting
  14. Rations (1 day)| Consumable |1 lb | Provides sustenance for one day
  15. Waterskin | Container | 5 lbs |Holds water for hydration
  16. Torch | Light Source |1 lb| Illuminates surroundings

NOTE: The rules of Castles and Caverns are entirely flexible. Heck, you can just set the scene (out of your imagination or rolling against the random tables), put your character in the scene, and ask the Oracle for the outcome of anything, as you journal along between questions. You can throw in a random roll for a random event, or pull a card (Kings are Good Events, Queens are Rerolls, Jacks are Random Events, Aces are Catastrophes or Failures, and Jokers are Wild and Weird) and interpret the results. The choice is entirely up to you. You can play a game in the "Cinema of the Mind," skipping over things like periods, distances, whether or not the character is weighted down and could move with such speed, and whether or not they get negative modifiers and lose HP (Hit Points) for not having eaten for so many turns. OR, you can play an exacting, painstaking "Simulation GAme" where ALL of these things are carefully considered and accounted for. Keep in mind, that each PC gets one turn, and each turn is about ten minutes of game time. Thus, if you are keeping count, six turns is an hour, 144 turns in a DAY. That is if you want to keep an exacting tally of such things for the most realistic game simulation. But many will find that tedious. You can skip it or apply it as you wish.

If you are using graphing paper or a game grid (dry erase board), using miniatures, they can be moved about three grid spaces a turn. Or thirty feet. If encumbered, the table below will give some idea of how much this is reduced, if you decide to keep track of such things.

Encumbrance Level | Movement | Speed Reduction | Weight Carried

  1. Unencumbered | No reduction | Minimal gear, light armor
  2. Lightly Encumbered| -10% | Standard gear, moderate armor
  3. Moderately Encumbered | -20% | Additional equipment, heavier armor
  4. Heavily Encumbered |-30% | Lots of equipment, very heavy armor
  5. Overburdened | -50% | Excessive gear, extremely heavy armor


"Movement Speed Reduction" represents the percentage reduction in the character's base movement speed.

"Example Weight Carried" provides a general idea of the type of equipment or weight that might correspond to each encumbrance level.

Eating and Drinking

You might be thinking we've gone off the deep end a little here, focusing on every aspect of daily life. But some players, solo and otherwise, will enjoy a game that is very detailed as far as simulation. it is assumed that a PC will need to eat at least once a day (144 turns) or suffer the loss of a hit point for every day gone without eating and drinking. Thirst will add the loss of a hit point in half that time. Or, you can add a plus or minus one or two modifiers to each roll, to reflect the character's hunger or thirst. In certain situations, this might become more extreme (i.e., if the characters are trapped in a desert or some situation where food or water is unobtainable). In this case, you can either consult the Oracle as to what is appropriate. Or, simply skip over it all "Cinema of the Mind" style, and play a game focuse more on storytelling and what "feels right" rather than crunching numbers and scrupulously recording and taking inventory of every little detail. If you are a solo player, you're the GM as well as the PCs and NPCs. It's all about you. (Although, creepily enough, the Oracle sometimes seems like it answers questions just as if it were an invisible second personality playing the game right along with you!)


Now that you have a character or character ready for adventure, you can proceed to the next step of the game: Combat. (Part Three will be the Random Tables to roll against. Part Four will be a One-Shot Adventure.)


Solo Play

Solo play in "Castles and Caverns" would generally involve the following process:

Character Creation:

Start by creating your character. Choose a name, class, race, and determine your attributes using a deck of playing cards.

Flesh out your character's backstory, appearance, motivations, and any other details you find interesting or relevant.

Attributes and Modifiers:

Use the deck of playing cards to determine your attribute scores (Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, and Fortitude).

Refer to the modifier table to calculate the modifiers associated with your attribute scores.

Skills and Abilities:

Choose two skills and one ability from the provided tables based on your character's class and preferences.

Roll a 1d6 when you want to use an ability or skill and add the result to your attribute modifier.

Weapons and Equipment:

Select weapons and equipment from the provided tables, considering your character's class and race.

Setting the Scene:

Set the scene for your adventure. This can be done by creating a scenario in your imagination or using random tables provided in the rules.

Describe the environment, challenges, and potential encounters your character might face.

Difficulty Checks and Oracle:

When faced with a challenge or decision, determine the difficulty level. You can either decide on the difficulty or roll a 1d6 for a random result.

Roll a 1d20 to see if you succeed in overcoming the challenge. Add the appropriate modifier based on the attribute associated with the task.

Alternatively, use the Oracle to ask yes/no questions and guide the direction of the story.

Random Events and Encounters:

Incorporate random events or encounters by drawing cards or rolling dice. Kings might represent good events, Queens re-rolls, Jacks random events, Aces catastrophes or failures, and Jokers wild and weird occurrences.

Record Progress:

Keep a journal or record of your character's progress, decisions, and outcomes.

Note any significant events, challenges faced, and the results of your actions.

OPTIONAL: Resource Management:

Keep track of resources like food, water, and equipment.

Consider the impact of hunger and thirst on your character's well-being.

Play at Your Pace:

Play at a pace that suits you. Solo play allows for flexibility, so you can immerse yourself in the story without the constraints of a group.

Remember that these steps are flexible, and you have the freedom to adapt the process based on your preferences. The solo play experience in "Castles and Caverns" is designed to be adaptable, offering a mix of simulation and narrative-driven elements. Enjoy the adventure and let the story unfold as you explore the fantastical world.

AI-Generated Artwork

Coming Next: COMBAT!

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About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock5 months ago

    Detailed & intriguing. Well begun, Tom!

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