It's the end of the 19th century, out in the Wild West. You are The Drifter. You've lived a restless, violent life, but you think it's time to settle down. If only you hadn't wasted your money. $300 should be enough to get yourself a ranch, somewhere quiet. You load your pistol and saddle up your horse. $300 dollars. Any which way. Then you start your last journey.
Some time ago we were contacted by the designer of The Drifter if we were interested in playing his solitaire dice-based story game. Well, yes. I'd only played two story games before. As Legacy of Dragonhold felt a bit too much on rails, and worse, had no dice, and Barbarian Vince was a lot of fun, but again had no dice, this would be a good one to try next. So I printed the rulebook, the map, tracking sheets and tables. The game comes with a huge event book as well (180 pages), I decided to read that from the tablet for now. I rolled for my starting hex, and was off.
Gameplay is simple. You've got your physical and mental skill levels and some karma points to spend on re-rolls in combat and tests - these are based on dice rolls at the start of your adventure. Every turn you pick one action (most times it will be travel, sometimes interact or heal). Then you roll a D100 on the event table. There are over 240 encounters in the event book, and depending on your bounty (let's say your notoriety level), you will roll on a certain selection of these. So the story is a string of random adventures. This can be good, this can be bad. It depends on the roll of your dice. So, I guess I got what I wished for. I rolled the dice a lot.
When you're in luck, you may find there are other ways to win the game than by merely collecting $300. You may even find love. But the Wild West is a dangerous place. The dice rolls may determine you were cheated, caught or killed.
There are some funny things that can happen to you. Here I started to feel a little disappointed by the dice rolls. If I'd rolled a 5 I would have had such a fun story! Now I've got some money, but I need to travel on... The randomness in events can outstay its welcome as well. Turns are quick, you roll a lot. If you manage to stay alive, you'll roll the same event numbers a few times. Today I repaired a wagon three times in short succession. I only had one small quest to fulfill. That ended in disaster, but I could do a re-roll to stay alive. To get killed two turns later. This was a session of 40 minutes where not much fun happened. The randomness can lead to bad luck like that.
Combat can be good. It's turn-based and while it still starts with dice rolls, your skill gets added to your score (same for your opponent on their turn). And skills go down when you're wounded. So that feels thematic and can lead to an exciting fight.
For me the randomness of the event rolls got too much. I hope to find a story book where I find I have a little more control over my adventuring. But if you're willing to shrug it off and start over (and over) (and over), it will take a long time before you've played out all events and seen everything in this classic western setting.
The Drifter is available as payed download on DriveThruRPG.com.