Four Against Darkness: A Solitaire Dungeon-Delving Pen-And-Paper Game, by Andrea Sfiligoi
There comes a time in every gamer’s life when they realize that most tabletop role playing games require other people. As my friends will attest to, I have found myself playing a wide variety of games in social situations, ranging from my childhood where I developed a love for role playing games as a way of mentally imagining myself in different places and as a different role, developing a habit of playing against type that I have continued to this day. That said, as someone who spends a fair amount of time alone, the idea of solitaire games that allow for a similar experience without requiring the marshaling of a large group of people together is appealing. If you are fond of solitiare pen and paper games and want to add role playing games to your solitaire repertoire, this book is certainly a worthwhile one, even if it does not get everything right to the level I would wish for myself. It certainly does provide for an interesting playing experience, that’s for sure, and is part of a larger series of books so it allows for some extensive gameplay if you look at it from a larger perspective.
This book is a short one at less than 100 pages and is organized in a rather rudimentary manner. The first few pages discuss the basic rules and simplifications made to this game from the sorts of games that the reader is likely more familiar with such as having monsters roll no dice to speed up the gameplay and in drastically simplifying the class system in strange ways–where Elves, Dwarves, and Haflings count as classes rather than races. A great deal of time is spent in dealing with tables involving various enemies, including minions and bosses, and dealing with leveling up and marching and fighting order. There are discussions about loot and clues as well, and a few pages that deal with traps and their consequences. The book even allows for complications with hidden treasure and the ability for monsters to give quests to the party themselves. And when you are done with this book and have a suitably advanced party of four where everyone is at level 5, this book even promises sequel bait for later books that deal with more advanced parties that one can play by oneself.
If this is a simplified game, it does at least point the way forward where someone with some grid paper, some dice, a pencil, and more free time than they know how to deal with effectively can wind their way through a fun adventure without having to gather a few friends. Basically, this game is a somewhat simple role playing game that one could play on a computer but instead one chooses to play on a Wendy’s table or one’s own dining room table. There are a great many responses that one can have to this sort of book and the realization that there are solo tabletop role playing games. One can feel overjoyed that one does not have to rustle up a lot of busy people from far flung areas to enjoy a game, or one can feel a bit sad that some of the few social activities that fantasy nerds regularly engage in can be done almost as well in familiar solitude. This isn’t the sort of work to make fun of, though, as it is written from what is likely a real need perceived by the author (and perhaps by others as well) in making the best of one’s interests even if one has no one else to share them with.