It's killing me.
If I had to put into words the barrier that's always in my way when I start working on Apocalypse Diaries, I don't think I could put it more succinctly than Paul Czege did over a decade ago.
"When one person is the author of both the character's adversity and its resolution, play isn't fun."
Apocalypse Diaries has always been designed as solo play, which has meant that a player weaves their own narrative, but it's not designed to tell the story of a "Mary Sue" or a "Marty Stu".
...well that's not entirely true. I don't care if the character's in Apocalypse Diaries start their lives without major problems, and with everyone desiring them and fawning over them. But this should only game make the apocalyptic fracture in the game more dramatic when all hell breaks loose.
I want players to be able to introduce things, but not know if those things will be beneficial or detrimental to them until they've been in the story for a while. I want the randomness of cards (or other effects) to shape the character's destiny as much as the written words...and mostly I want a systemic feedback loop where words and rules interconnect in a coherent way, but still leave scope for surprises.
Is it possible to circumvent the Czege Principle for an evocative solo play structure?
I must look at that RPG I downloaded a couple of weeks ago which people claimed to have an excellent "solo mode" option to it... now what was it called again?