Alright friends, let's have a look at another game I enjoy playing: Thousand Year Old Vampire.
This is a particularly fun one to talk about since it's one of the few journaling games that really call to me. Partly because of the subject matter, but also because of the artistry of the book and the immersion that the author (Tim Hutchings) manages to create through the prompts. If you like this kind of game, there are tons of them on itch.io that are really cool, but I don't have enough exposure to most of them to give a solid alternative recommendation.
Back to TYOV! To quote the product page:
A solo roleplaying game of memory, loss, and vampires.
In Thousand Year Old Vampire you chronicle the many centuries of a vampire’s existence, beginning with the loss of mortality and ending with inevitable destruction. Prompt-driven play and simple resource tracking provide easy rules for exploring your character’s human failings, villainous acts, and surprising victories. Expect gut-churning decisions and irreconcilable acts.
As usual, I'll be a bit vague about the mechanics to not spoil all the surprise but be detailed enough to describe what I like about the game. This time, I'll include a memory from the Vampire I most recently created: Elsbet.
Lady Barovia isn't going to believe this! I was at the night market picking up a gift to send to Lydia, and the shopkeep tried to swindle me! Well I looked him in the eye and told him that Ezra looks down on swindlers and he just went limp and handed me the gift for free! What good fortune! <3 Elsbet
As I mentioned before, TYOV is a journaling game so you'll be playing it solo. The only things you'll need to play are 1d10, 1d6, a journal, and a pen. There are two modes of play: "Quick" mode, and "Journal" mode and I'll focus primarily on Journal mode for this post.
The core mechanic of the game is simply roll 1d10 and 1d6, subtract the d6 from the d10 and add that number to the page number you last answered a prompt, and then answer the prompt for that page. Each page has multiple prompts, so if you land on the same page more than once (as I have many times) you go down the list and answer them in sequence.
Your character "sheet" is made up of a series of traits (vampiric and skill), possessions, NPCs, and the journal itself. For each prompt, you write your entry in the voice of your vampire, and the prompt will have you make changes to your sheet. You'll add/lose your possessions, your skills, some NPCs might die, or you might pick up more NPCs in the process.
Time will pass, your vampire will age, your mortal NPCs will die, and you'll continue to gather memories for every prompt you complete.
Only, you can only have so many memories. As the game continues, you'll need to replace your old memories with new ones. Eventually, your vampire will lose touch of their past, and the things that made them who they were when they were alive. Most likely leading them to do more monstrous things. Relatedly, your vampire can also possess a Diary - which holds some memories for them, but can be lost like any other resource.
Play continues like that, answering prompts until, inevitably, your vampire will die. You narrate their demise, and close the book (literally) on their life.
What I love about the game
They gathered outside my home with torches and bonfires. After all I've done for them! How could they?! I thought we were friends! I think they would have killed me had Hope not warned me from the back door. It took a lot of Stealth but we managed to get out of there and into the mists. After wandering for ages we arrived in Darkon. Hope thought it best that I adopt an alias, so I have taken the name "Mercy". - Elsbet
Immediately - the book is gorgeous. I have both the PDF version and the physical copy, and the physical copy is a work of art. It's well worth finding a physical copy to play with, it really feels like it's a beat-up journal that the author's been writing in for a very very long time.
Past that, though - the mechanics are a really simple combination of keeping track of a few things in your narrative structure and then adjusting your character as the prompt dictates. Taking that prompt, and then weaving it into a Memory in as long a format as you wish is a really fun creative writing exercise.
The prompts also tend to build on each other within the same page number. If you land on the same page multiple times like I did, you wind up adding more detail to the previous prompt as the book twists your vampire in different directions. Even if you wind up doing the same prompts on multiple playthroughs, the story that you can tell can be wildly different and give you the opportunity to answer the same question in wildly different ways.
It's also just a nice, chill solo experience. You can make some relaxing tea, sit down and do as many prompts as you want, and make a pretty decent vampire story (or, really, you can reskin the prompts to not be about vampires) in the process.
Tips for Playing the Game
Oh Ezra. I've done it again. Lydia found me. It's been six years, but she found me. At first, I was happy. But... soon things went really bad. Lydia said she could cure me. She prayed for a long time. But it hurt. Oh how it hurt! It was over before I knew it. I'd attacked her and drank most of her blood. But! I fixed it! I stopped in time to bring her back. But when she woke up, she cursed me. She yelled and screamed and cursed me! Why was she so mad? She ran. I followed. But I couldn't find her.
There's not much I can offer here but a couple of experiences.
First off, there's no real set time you'll need to play. I've read on a couple of sites that an average game can take about 3 hours. I've spent way longer than that in journaling mode before, mostly because I write up elaborate journal entries (even if they're only about a paragraph long) and it takes me a while to scribble into a journal for each prompt. I also tend to think about the prompt for several minutes before I put pen to paper, which slows the process down. If you're playing a quick game it could probably be fairly quick, a couple of hours at most.
Second thing, while you can keep your journal in a digital format - I'd play at least one game with a real journal. It's great for the immersion and to get in the mood for the prompts. Then, after you've done that, feel free to give the digital version a shot. Everyone enjoys the writing process differently though, so like... don't force the journal thing. I think you'll love it and should try it - but if it's tedious, don't give up on the game just because you're not a fan of pen-on-paper.
Finally, if you wind up playing a bunch and keep landing on the prompts near the beginning you should do three things:
- Get new dice. Yours are cursed.
- Try jumping prompts - use a multiplier on one of your rolls to jump ahead and proceed from there.
- Use the alternative prompts in the back of the book.
There are also a few folks who have put up alternative prompts online, and you can always make your own.
Well, that's it! I don't think there's as much to say about the solo game - as it's the game you make of it. It calls to me as both a roleplayer and a writer, so it really hits the sweet spot for me in core creativity.