As obvious as this sounds, I just realised why most of my solo roleplaying games don’t grow legs and get finished: they lack a clear goal.
Catching up on some old Angry GM posts, I was bludgeoned in the face with the obviousness of the idea. Of course, obvious never is (to anyone else) and so maybe I should be kinder to myself. Here’s a quotation:
The adventure you’re building is the game. And games need goals. Goals give the players context for their decisions. If they don’t know what they’re trying to do, they can’t make useful choices and they can’t work together.The Angry GM, Angry’s Double Impossible Adventure Checklist (Apr 24, 2020)
That hit the nail on the head for me: when I am solo playing, I often face this sense of not having a clue what it is my character is trying to do. The most successful game started with a character trying to survive a police raid and escape the building, getting to a place of safety. My most recent game had the character charging into a Goblin-invaded village to recover artefacts. Those games worked because there was a clear goal.
Here’s the learning: set your character a clear, unambiguous goal up-front. Something simple works fine. Angry’s advice is to have them “verb the noun”. For example, escape the police or recover the artefact. Simple.
This simple idea has completely reinvigorated my solo roleplaying (again) because it clearly shows me how to fix the biggest problem I didn’t realise I had. Set a clear goal. Verb the noun. From that, it’s easy to imagine the opposition and run the scenario.