Monday, February 1, 2021

Solo Island Survival Game (Abandoned Project)

I wrote the framework for this post pre-pandemic, on the back of a napkin during jury-selection downtime. It has moldered here since then, with a short burst of additions made later that still do not come close to finishing the thing. As it's unlikely that it will ever get completed, here's the big fragmentary mess - if you feel like you can get something out of it / want to do something with it, by all means - steal this.

(This takes immense inspiration from [i.e. ripped directly from] an old cyoa image format that started on /tg/ and has been circulating ever since, plus some pointers from the board game Unearthed)

Additional commentary from me written now will be in italics.


You are stranded on an island filled with unknown dangers, haunted by a deadly nemesis. You need to find a way to survive and eventually escape (the simplest way is by defeating your nemesis.)

This is the same structure as the original cyoa(s), though given the genre those were entirely freeform in how one went about solving the problem. More like daydream simulators than full games, which is quite nice if one is not in the mood for heavy lifting.

Picking Boons

You will have your choice of a shelter, a companion, a special item, a covenant with an island faction, and lastly your nemesis. Any shelter, companion, special item, or covenant not taken will still exist in the world, but will now present a potential danger.

Also taken directly from the original layout.

Procedure of Play

Your time on the island is split up into turns of indefinite length - they are precisely as long as needed to fulfill one Action. Every turn costs 1 Food and 1 Water. All actions involve rolling 2d6 and adding any bonus or malus you might have from an item, companion, or other effect.

It's PbtA, see - this was when I was still figuring out how that system worked, and using it to simulate the limited interactions of a video game was the easiest way to grok it at the time.


  • Explore - Use this action to map out a previously-unknown node on the map.
    • 10+ Make a path and a full survey of resources
    • 7-9 Make a path, (if path already exists, make a survey), roll on the mishaps table.
    • 6-: Roll on the mishaps table. 
  • Gather Resources - Use this action to gather resources from a surveyed node on the map.
    • I never figured out precisely how I wanted to deal with resources. I think, around the time I gave up on it,  
  • Build - Use this action to spend time on a work project to improve your shelter, or to build a camp on a surveyed node.
    • 10+: The build project proceeds 1 step.
    • 7-9: The work project proceeds 1 step; roll a mishap.
    • 6-: No progress is made
  • Negotiate - Use this action when interacting with non-allied factions or individuals on the island.
    • 10+ : Success! Go up a tick on the faction's relationship tracker.
    • 7-9: You can choose to go up a tick on the relationship tracker, but this will come with a roll on the complication table.
    • 6- : The situation has devolved into hostilities.
  • Escape Hostilities - Use this action to escape from hostile factions or your nemesis.
    • 10+ : You manage to get away with no injuries.
    • 7-9: You get away, but you take a wound.
    • 6- : You cannot escape: You are now In Their Power
  • Combat Hostilities - Use this action to fight hostile factions or individuals.
    • 10+ : You are victorious. Gain the appropriate plunder.
    • 7-9: You survive. You may choose to gain plunder, but will take a wound.
    • 6- : You are overpowered. You are now In Their Power.
  • Engage with Companion - This action can be used in conjunction with another. Each companion has a number indicating how many turns must come between uses of this action. 
    • I never wrote out the results for this action, but it involved a relationship track like the Factions.
  • Engage with Nemesis - This action is used only when a Nemesis has come calling. Nemeses have individual turn timers and/or criteria dictating when they will arrive. 
    • 10+ :You successfully combat your Nemesis; gain the boon from the appropriate encounter tier. (Each Nemesis would have multiple encounters before it is defeated)
    • 7-9: You survive the encounter. You gain no boon and make no progress against them.
    • 6- : You are In Their Power

In Their Power is unique to each given party, and determines what they will do when you cannot resist. Some will kill you outright, others might just inflict status effects or block off node access, or so on.


  • Starving
  • Dehydrated
  • Injured
  • Afraid
  • Hallucinating
  • Exhausted
  • Corrupted
  • Infected
  • Poisoned

Building the Island

The island is made out of Nodes connected by routes, as a pointcrawl. There are:

  • 5 Shelter nodes - 1 will be chosen as your home base, the others will be dangerous challenges
  • 5 Faction nodes - 1 will be friendly, the rest willbe wary and guarded at best.
  • 5 Special nodes - These might contain things that can help defeat a Nemesis, or other such special boons.
  • 15 Standard nodes - These will contain assorted resource nodes for harvesting. Most will have two different resources available; those that only offer one will provide double resources.

All nodes have resources available for gathering, in varying amounts, distributions, and levels of risk.

I never figured this out as much as I wanted.


  • Food
  • Fresh Water
  • Wood
  • Stone
  • Special
  • Hide
  • Scrap
  • Eldritch


  • Fruit Grove - Wood + Food
  • Forest - Wood x2
  • Game Trail - Food + hide
  • Wreckage - Scrap x2
  • Pond - Water + Food
  • Stream - Water x2
  • Hills -Wood + Stone
  • Cave - Stone + Eldritch
  • Fishing Spot - Food x2
  • Monolith - Eldritch x2

Building Projects

None of these ever got numbers, but I have notes for earthworks, a garden, a raincatcher, signal fire, tanning rack, some freaky magical totems, bivouac, and game traps. Projects generally fall into the category of an increased defense against the dangers of the island, or a means of gathering extra resources.

The Event Rolls

Each turn, rolls will be made to see what else is going on on the island. I believe I had intended this to mirror another solo game I am fond of, Journey, where you have a number that goes up every turn, and if you roll lower on a d10 / draw a lower pips card, and event happens. This would be paired with a d4, here, or so I believe the plan was.

  • Supernatural Event
  • Individual Encounter
  • Faction Encounter
  • Nemesis Encounter

End Note

This is, like a great many of my grand and sweeping project-visions, an artifact of foppery and whim. I am unlikely to find the drive to return to it and finish it, but that's okay. I got to go to a really good Mediterranean place for lunch that day.

Should anyone reading this feel some mighty need to pick it up and finish it, by all means - it was hardly original when I started it so I certainly don't mind. Let me know if you do, though.


  1. For real I got stuffed grape leaves and mmm they were perfect.

  2. It's a cool outline for a solo game. I've never actually played a serious solo game, but your recent posts on them have made build a hankering for playing a few, and possibly even making one...

  3. an artifact of foppery and whim ... that will come handy if I ever create my own blog.

    1. Legend of the Galactic Heroes has many great quotes, and that is the best of them.