Saturday, September 19, 2020

That time I nearly wrote a solo zine

I still want to do a solo zine that is easy/cheap to mail in physical form, but for now it's on hold awaiting inspiration. In the meantime, I once did a survey in which I asked people what they wanted in a solo adventure zine. Let's see the stats first and then I have more to say.

Survey Says

  • Sample size around 75 people.
  • Only 17.5% want it tied to a system. 45% prefer it to loosely refer to a system.
  • 55% want a unique and flavorful setting, 20% want a D&D style setting, 25% want something else (rotating, SF, etc.)
  • 52.5% want 1-2 hours of playtime material, 42.5% want 3-5.
  • 60% prefer self contained adventures, 15% want continuity, 25% don’t care.
  • PDF is preferred, about 17.5% want to be sent paper. Many asked for phone/tablet/Kindle friendly.
  • 25% want graphic content, 22.5% want it kid friendly, everyone else is in-between.


  • "Include mysteries and puzzles"
  • "Build a setting over time"
  • "Endings are cool, and rarely carried off well” 
  • And while they wasn't anything particularly quotable on this front, about 10% of the responders expressed a desire for hard or semi-hard science fiction. I feel like there is a real (and probably loyal) audience there waiting on someone.

Themes and Formats

I really think I'm waiting on something to grab me, theme-wise. My original thoughts were a) a magical realism story involving a homeless guy who, due to mental illness (or superpower, take your pick) can see into other realities. And b) a weirdo sf-fantasy setting inspired by Zothique, Barsoom, Dune, etc. I'm not sure if I have the chops to carry off either! 

Some other things to think about in my laundry list of musings:
  • Paper map and stand-up minis/counters, or more choose your own adventure style text-based with illustrations?
  • Stand-alone scenarios loosely tied together in the same world or a true ongoing adventure? If the latter, "seasons" of 12 issues or just commit and keep going?
  • Envelope size? I want to use a standard stamp. But I could probably do it with either business envelopes (2-4 tri-folded full-size pages) or with a birthday or thank you card sized envelope and a small stapled (or not) booklet. A thank you card envelope might even work with a folded one-page zine like the Pocket-Mod format.
So you can see why I this project is still on the back burner for me. I got a little overwhelmed with choices. I need one thing to "lock in" to move forward: format or theme. 

I hope some of this has proved useful to you in some form. If you are a creator thinking of making a zine, have you thought about a solo adventure zine? Seems like a good time for one!

[Edit: boy was I right. There was an explosion of solo zines around this time.]

Playing around with hand-drawing a PocketMod for solo play.