6 Ways to Give a Bland Solo Opponent a Personality

February 25, 2020 | Articles | 4 comments

Find out how to give a solo opponent unique characteristics to make solo plays a little more interesting.

There are many reasons why people play solo board games. Whether by necessity or choice, the experience is a unique one. However, there are times when playing against a static solo opponent can get a little bland. What to do? Read on to find out some creative ways to create a solo opponent, often with some peculiar or hilarious personality aspects!

Why Characterize a Solo Opponent?

Most of the time, I have no problem playing against a nondescript solo opponent. I focus on optimizing my actions and pulling off the victory… It doesn’t happen as regularly as I would like. But I digress! Every now and then, it’s nice to have the option to have a little fun and play against “someone else” who isn’t just a dummy player.

Be creative! One of the best parts of playing solo board games is the ability to do practically anything. I still use these methods sparingly, though it’s nice to know there are a lot of options out there. Create your own nemesis!

#1 Rory’s Story Cubes

The many sets of Rory’s Story Cubes offer up 6-sided dice with different images. Most are open to interpretation to allow unique elements to develop. They’re quite fun!

This trio of images might indicate many solo opponents:

  • The Jumper: He likes to stay one step, or hop, ahead.
  • The Narrator: She makes snide remarks each turn.
  • The Scavenger: He likes to steal every resource.

Or, combine the cubes to create a unique personality! What do you see when these images are combined? This may or may not turn into your next solo opponent.

The Pros and Cons of Rory’s Story Cubes

I love to use these dice for tabletop roleplaying games, or RPGs. There are a lot of ideas that develop from just a few rolls. Entire character designs and stories might come about. But what about for a solo opponent?

The Good

  • Creativity: The abstract nature of some of the images leaves them open to any sort of interpretation.
  • Speed: The amount of time needed to roll a few dice is negligible, and requires minimal effort.
  • Variety: Sets can be purchased with either 3 or 9 dice, and even the smaller sets provide plenty of variability.

The Bad

  • Availability: As of February 2020, some of the larger sets are difficult to find in certain regions.
  • Combination: A single story cube image usually isn’t enough to create an interesting solo opponent.
  • Vagueness: The images can be difficult to interpret at times, and this can make it tricky to make them work.

The bottom line? Rory’s Story Cubes might be a little on the abstract side for creating the personality of a solo opponent. However, their ease of use and creative potential make them a nice choice on the fly!

#2 The GMA Deck

The GameMaster’s Apprentice is a selection of themed decks with plenty of information. Although designed for RPGs, there are definitely ways to use them in this way!

Some of the aspects might indicate solo opponent traits:

  • Verb/Noun/Adjective: Develop a characteristic.
  • Senses: Give a solo opponent a signature aspect.
  • Name: Look no further for a nemesis’s title.
  • Vice: Find out how the solo opponent attacks.

This is another tool highly suited to creativity. Can you picture a solo opponent from some of these details?

The Pros and Cons of the GMA Deck

Although designed for tabletop RPGs, these cards hold a wealth of information. Just one can make a solo opponent come to life in unique ways. There are some limitations, of course, but there are also lots of opportunities!

The Good

  • Double-Sided: Every card is double-sided, which means fewer components and more possibilities.
  • Symbols: Different symbols exist on the cards, and many of these can be defined in any way.
  • Themes: There is a standard basic deck, yet several others exist to cover specific areas like fantasy and horror.

The Bad

  • Duplicates: A lot of the elements are reused across many cards, particularly the virtues and vices.
  • Numbers: Since the cards are designed for RPGs, a lot of the numerical values may not hold any meaning.
  • Text: Aside from a few small icons, the rest of each card is devoid of imagery and possibly a little bland.

In the end, The GameMaster’s Apprentice is a unique way to think up a solo opponent. The decks likely aren’t fully useful for solo board games, although the sheer number of card combinations is quite astounding!

#3 Once Upon a Time

There are a ton of possibilities with Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game. The beautiful illustrations and simple titles produce a lot of different ideas.

This set of random aspects and characters might indicate:

  • The Long-Lost Bug: Back to buzz about annoyingly.
  • The Stolen Sea Serpent: Free to wreak havoc again.
  • The Angry Goblin: Out to be terrible in general.
  • The Jealous Queen: Ready to pounce at any time.

This visual set of cards can often create very vivid characters! What sorts of solo opponents do you see?

The Pros and Cons of Once Upon a Time

There is something I love about this art style, and I sometimes pull out the cards simply to admire the illustrations! The simplicity of an image and a word can be quite powerful, though the theme can sometimes be hard to look past.

The Good

  • Categories: Aspects and characters are the most useful, but events, places, and things also exist.
  • Expansions: Several expansions are available to optionally add in specific elements like animals or fairy tales.
  • Illustrations: Art is rather subjective, yet if the style is appealing, the cards are simply beautiful.

The Bad

  • Endings: Each set includes a large number of cards that may not be suited to use for solo opponents.
  • Interrupts: A portion of the cards include an unnecessary element and are devoid of unique artwork.
  • Theme: The cards are decidedly rooted in fairy tales and fantasy, which might not mesh well with some games.

Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game is a unique set of cards that can create all sorts of solo opponents in moments. There might be better settings for the cards to be used with, but there are a lot of possibilities!

#4 The Archetype Cards

Not every tool has to be related to board games! These Archetype Cards by Caroline Myss have light and shadow attributes to create unique combinations for characters.

This pair of cards might showcase a unique personality:

  • Light Hero and Light Pioneer
  • Light Hero and Shadow Pioneer
  • Shadow Heroine and Light Pioneer
  • Shadow Heroine and Shadow Pioneer

The interpretations might not be as easy as some other tools. Still, what kind of solo opponent do you envision?

The Pros and Cons of the Archetype Cards

This set of cards provides another combination of images and text. It can be interesting to overlap the cards to create a solo opponent with a prominent light attribute, and a mostly hidden shadow attribute underneath.

The Good

  • Artistry: Each card features a colorful border and rather unique artwork that stands out.
  • Diversity: People of all sorts of backgrounds are represented, and strong female figures are prominent.
  • Dual-Purpose: A card may be used for its light or shadow attribute, and combined with another card’s attribute.

The Bad

  • Content: There are a handful of archetypes with names or descriptions that may not work for all ages.
  • Interpretation: A guidebook is needed to fully understand the meaning of each archetype.
  • Realism: The depictions and descriptions may seem a little too real and serious to use with board games.

The unique nature of the Archetype Cards means that they won’t work for everyone. All the same, they provide an interesting way to come up with a solo opponent who seems a little more realistic with different attributes!

#5 Tarot Cards

Each Tarot deck features a unique design and artistic style. This often means that a certain set will be more appealing. Go with it! Each card often showcases an individual.

Among the Victorian Fairy Tarot cards are many options:

  • Queen of Summer: Relaxed and ready to strike.
  • King of Spring: Active and prepared to plan ahead.
  • Herald of Spring: Joyful and ready to flourish.
  • Herald of Winter: Quiet and prepared for the worst.

Each illustration presents a different possibility. Who else do you see amongst this small selection of cards?

The Pros and Cons of Tarot Cards

This is another tool that is not specifically related to board games. In effect, the cards may not be suited to everyone. However, like standard decks of cards, Tarot decks are very unique and quite versatile!

The Good

  • Details: Most decks have scenes with other elements that can help develop other traits besides a personality.
  • Size: Tarot cards often come in a larger size than standard playing cards, which helps showcase the art.
  • Unique: Every deck has its own style, which makes the process of choosing one very personal and satisfying.

The Bad

  • Abstract: Even though decks may depict characters, the meaning of each card might not tie into that individual.
  • Quality: The cards are often built for shuffling, which can lead to a flimsier sort of cardstock than other decks.
  • Reusability: It can be tricky to combine cards, so the ability to use the same card for multiple purposes is limited.

Tarot cards can be a useful tool for creating a solo opponent, but this method won’t be suitable for every type of player. The connection to a deck, whether for the artwork or otherwise, can make the cards very enjoyable to use, though!

#6 Favorite Characters

Sometimes coming up with a completely new idea for a solo opponent takes up precious time. A well-known character, whether liked or not, is always a great option!

My favorite Golden Girls characters might include:

  • Blanche: Charming and overflowing with fashion.
  • Dorothy: Sharp-tongued and brimming with sass.
  • Rose: Happy and bubbling with endless stories.
  • Sophia: Plucky and teeming with knowledge.

Never forgot the hilariousness of Stan, too! What are some of your favorite characters? Would you play against them?

The Pros and Cons of Favorite Characters

The idea of looking at a solo opponent as a known entity from literature, TV, movies or elsewhere is quite appealing. It provides a way to create a custom experience without much effort, though the results might be surprising!

The Good

  • Adaptable: When a character doesn’t seem right, it’s simple to switch to another before or even during a play.
  • Known: A figure from another source is likely already fleshed out with a backstory and lots of characteristics.
  • Mood: It’s simple to choose a character to complement a game experience that’s fun, hilarious, or even serious.

The Bad

  • Complete: Although it might be possible to imagine extra personality traits, often a character is already locked in.
  • Repetitive: There isn’t necessarily room for variety, and using the same character can get old over time.
  • Theme: It can be difficult to match up a known character with the right kind of game experience or setting.

There are a lot of reasons to have a solo opponent embody a favorite character! Sometimes it can lead to laughs as the actions match up with the personality, or go off in unexpected directions during the course of play.

Continue the Conversation

After taking a look through some of the options, which method is your favorite? Do you have another way to give your solo opponents a little more personality? Perhaps most games don’t require anything along these lines, but for those times when basic nemeses just aren’t enough, developing characters can be quite rewarding! Except when they win…

4 Comments

  1. I’m currently working on a way to use a Tarot-type reading to generate NPC personalities for RPGs. But it’s a fiddly and complicated process…

    Reply
    • Sounds interesting, Roger! I’ve been meaning to use Tarot cards for solo RPG characters. I can see how it could be complicated, though. I hope it works out for you! I think I’ve come across some resources over the years that detail something like this. If you like, I can see if I remember where any of them are and share them. Perhaps that will provide a little inspiration and a way forward that isn’t too complicated. Good luck!

      Reply
      • I’d be interested, though absolutely no urgency – I already have eleventeen projects on the go and nobody will complain if this one sits for a while. I’ve been reminding myself of tarot reading protocols, but without a person there to inform the answers it all gets a bit more fiddly.

        Reply
        • Sounds good! I’ll take a look during the week and see what I come up with. Eleventeen projects are also where I’m at. Ha ha! Good luck getting some of them finished up!

          Reply

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