What is a Solo Journaling RPG? (Plus a curated list!)

You’ve heard of Dungeons and Dragons and you’re definitely interested.

However, there may be a billion reasons why you can’t play. Maybe none of your friends are on board, or you’re shy. No matter what your reasons are, solo journaling RPGs are here to rescue you!

About Solo Journaling RPGs

A solo journaling RPG is an outline for your very own adventure, where you get to call the shots. How your game turns out is a product of the RPG blueprint you choose and your own imagination— no one else’s.

Often, the rulebooks are short zines, meaning you don’t have to pore over multiple books to learn how to play— you can get started in five minutes!

Some games are long-term and some are short-term. This means that some will be done in a single 30 minute session, while others may take months of work to complete. It’s up to you what kind you want to play!

Like more traditional group tabletop RPGs, there is often no winner and no loser. You play for the joy of creation and to see where the adventure ends up!

What You May Need:

-Notebook and pen/pencil. Most people who write solo journaling RPGs recommend going analog, but you also have the option to use a word processor or other text-based app.

-Dice. Many games use dice of varying types to add the same sense of the unexpected that accompanies a more traditional group tabletop RPG. (A random number generator will work for this too.)

-Deck of cards. Other games may use a deck of cards for random selection. Some may use tarot cards! (You can also use a random card generator found through a quick Google search.)

-Less than fifteen bucks. Most of the solo journaling RPGs I’ve come across are EXTREMELY budget-friendly. Price will be listed in my recommendations below!

Some Curated Recommendations

Here are some of the solo journaling RPGs out there that I personally want to play:

Over the Mountain

This one is the only one on this list that I have actually played and it is AMAZING. As an introduction to solo journaling RPGs, it’s a great place to start.

You play as someone in a small mountain town who has a secret. As that secret hangs over your head, you meet local people (and spirits!) of your own design and go on adventures.

This one is a lot longer than some other ones, as your goal is to fill up a notebook (whatever that means for you). Therefore, it will probably be played in multiple sessions over a span of time.

Price: Free

Strange Changeling Child

This pick is about something dear to my heart, the legend of faerie changelings and their relationship to what we now know is autism. It takes the form of an allegory, and you play as a changeling who goes through many of the same struggles that autistic people do.

Price: $8

Gender Bending Reflections

This one is a little different, in that you can use it to reach for insight on your real life. You play as yourself or a gender-bending character of your own creation and go through the highs and lows of figuring out your gender.

Price: Name Your Own

Cast a Queer Spell

In the world of this RPG, you are assigned a type of magic as soon as you are born. What happens when that’s not the type of magic you want to do? This one is another allegory that will probably prove to be very emotional for queer people.

Price: Name Your Own


Use a tarot deck to construct your adventure in this RPG, which deals with themes of found family. It only takes about an hour!

Price: Name Your Own


Play as a ghost who doesn’t remember anything about their life, and try to connect with the living family in the house that you haunt so you can finally move on.

Price: $12

Have you played a solo journaling RPG? Which one? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: The Witch’s Path by Thorn Mooney

This is by far the best book on witchcraft I have ever read.

I am one of those people that will research witchcraft endlessly. This is part of the fun for me, but it’s also not actually practicing the “craft” part of witchcraft.

Here, Thorn Mooney writes a book for ALL witches, no matter their level. In each chapter, she writes about a foundational part of witchcraft. Not in a beginner-textbook way, but in a way that will reignite your spark for that particular aspect. The chapters are sacred space, devotion, ritual/magic, personal practice, and community.

The best part is the practical exercises at the end of each chapter. They come in sets of four, aligned with the four elements. Air is for beginner witches, fire is for witches that need something quick, water is for witches looking to deepen their practice, and earth is for witches that feel like they’ve already tried everything.

I highly recommend doing the exercises— I did some highlighting in my ebook and went back to them after I was finished reading. Some of them are long, 30-day “challenges,” so you may not want to wait to do them before you finish the book.

Note: the author is Wiccan, but she makes sure that the information in her book is applicable to witches of all paths!


How To Improve Yourself

So you’ve decided your life isn’t working for you and you want to make changes.

Go to therapy.

Yes, you can go to therapy even if you’re not mentally ill. A good therapist will be able to help you in all your self-improvement endeavors and be by your side as you decide what exactly you want to improve. It’s great knowing someone is always on your team!

Set goals and intentions.

Maybe you already have ideas of what you want to improve about yourself. That’s great! Make them formal by writing them down. Give yourself half an hour and a blank sheet of paper and write down absolutely anything you can think of that you would want to improve!

If you don’t have any ideas yet, identify your goals and intentions by identifying your problems first. Maybe you don’t feel great about your appearance, or you find yourself acting like an asshole in your closest relationships. Then, brainstorm (mind map?) solutions.

To me, goals are measurable, while intentions are not. There’s a lot of focus on goals, but intentions can still be useful— by reminding you of an attitude you want to embody or something you want to prioritize that isn’t measurable, like quality time with your family.

Journal with purpose.

Journals can be a lot of things. Many people use them to simply record life events, but journaling with the express purpose of self-improvement can be a lot more useful.

You can look up daily prompts to use to reflect on themes in your life as a whole, or you can log what you did to improve yourself each day. Of course, you can mix the two. Writing about your self-improvement wins may encourage you to keep going!

Also: keep a list of your goals and intentions from the previous step IN your journal for frequent perusal.

Rethink your relationships.

Obviously, we cannot change anyone. What we can do is decide if certain relationships belong in our life or not.

If you have someone in your life that isn’t making you happy, I recommend gently talking out your problems with this person first. (You may want to journal-brainstorm what those problems are before this conversation.) Give them a chance to improve themselves and then re-evaluate.

If you’ve already tried to work things out with someone who isn’t making an effort to change, it may be time to step back.

On the other hand, YOU may be the problem in certain relationships. In that case, it is still important to have a conversation with the other person. Be honest with yourself and them about what you need to improve, and then make a genuine effort. Check in frequently about how they feel about your effort.

Take care of your physical health.

I don’t mean that you need to run a marathon. I do mean taking walks as per your ability, eating reasonably, staying hydrated, and going to the doctor if you can. You will feel better, and be better able to show up to your life’s responsibilities.

Figure out what you care about and do it.

Everyone human (and most pets too) needs to have a role to play to feel fulfilled. This could be related to a full-time career or it could be as simple as watering and taking care of your plants.

Make another brainstorming page in your journal and write down what you care about most. This doesn’t have to be extensive— maybe you only truly care about a few people, activities, or causes.

Maybe your career isn’t something you care about anymore. Do you want to change careers or do you want to keep your “day job” and do something you care about on the side? It’s up to you.

Whatever you decide you care about, make a plan for fitting it into your day.

Learn about privilege.

Part of improving yourself is improving the world around you, and learning about how you play into systems of oppression can do just that.

It can be really hurtful and hard to realize that you’ve been unintentionally harming people, but this is an exercise in empathy and de-centering your own experience. We all have blind spots.

Start small— decide to read one book about systemic oppression, or follow some social justice activists who are different from you on social media. Take up an attitude of gentle curiosity, even if you’re feeling resistant to what you read.

Expect this to be a lifetime endeavor.

To avoid overwhelming yourself when carrying out any of these steps, remind yourself that progress is incremental. This might be hard to hear, but improving yourself never really ends. You might reach a lot of your goals but you will always have something else to work on. That might be hard to hear, but it can also be really fun to keep experimenting and find what works for you!

How I Take Care of Myself Every Day (Mental Illness Self-Care for Cheap)

Here are the ways I take care of myself and work to reduce my stress every day, as someone who is in recovery with several mental illness diagnoses. Unlike many self-care ideas, most of these are completely free and the rest are cheap.

Note: This post is heavily “YMMV” (Your Mileage May Vary). Please continue to do the self-care that works for you— these are just some ideas if you’re struggling and don’t know where to start.

Wake up with time to spare.

I wake up at least two hours before I am scheduled to be anywhere. I drink coffee leisurely for at least an hour while texting friends and scrolling social media, and then do the rest of my morning tasks, like eating (see below), taking my pills (also see below), and getting dressed. I try to perform most of these tasks in the quiet of my bedroom, which has a couch to hang out on so I am not tempted to go back to sleep. The ritualized nature of my morning routine helps me immensely because:

  • The tasty coffee gives me something to look forward to when I get out of bed.
  • I do not feel rushed, frazzled, or stressed in the process of getting where I need to be.
  • I have a basic need for routine and to know in general what my day will look like when I start it, so having a morning ritual brings me a sense of comfort.

$: Coffee costs money. Alarms that help you get up on time might have a subscription fee. (I used to use one that wouldn’t stop playing the alarm unless you took a certain picture with your phone camera. Mine was set to the top of my coffee machine, so I had to get out of bed and make it to the kitchen before the alarm would shut off, but then I was all set to make my morning cup of coffee!)

Take your pills on time.

When you don’t take your pills on time, you don’t get the benefits your medications are supposed to give you— and you also invite some pretty shitty withdrawal symptoms. The severity depends on which medication you are on and how long you go without taking them, but it’s definitely noticeable. Last weekend I procrastinated getting out of bed and ended up taking my medications three hours late. I didn’t expect in that moment to spend the next eight hours back in bed with withdrawal symptoms. And to think— I used to procrastinate on taking my pills and do this to myself all the time!

$: Meds may cost money, but taking them on time does not. Set an alarm if you need to!

Go to work.

This sounds like a weird one. Going to work is self care? Yes! When the alternative is freelancing, which was terrible for my mental health, having a regular job at a regular workplace with mostly regular hours has done wonders for my stress.

Note: Not everyone is capable of working a traditional job, or at all. I am merely writing about what works for me. Absolutely no shame if your situation is different!

For me, this involves:

Getting dressed.

Leaving the house.

Taking a walk.

I walk 15 minutes to work and back on most days. (Sometimes I get a ride if the weather is awful.) If you get bored walking but you know you need the exercise, try downloading Pokemon Go. $: Free.


I am lucky to have a really good work environment, and my coworkers are my friends.

NOT constantly self-motivating.

When I freelanced from home, everything was up to me. I had to find my own clients on a regular basis as well as motivate myself to start and finish tasks. This resulted in me never getting anything done, losing promising clients, and having no money to take care of myself with.

Working in a more traditional workplace removes much of that stress. I show up, do my job, and then go home. I don’t think about it much when I’m not there. There’s also an element of body doubling with my coworkers that helps me a lot.

Making enough money that I don’t have to spend every second in a state of dread over my finances.

I now have enough money to pay rent and bills and also order Grubhub every once in a while, which is really all I need to survive (besides health insurance).

Write a little blurb about how you’re feeling.

This is how I do symptom tracking, because rating my mental health on a numerical scale doesn’t work for me.

I find that this helps me feel more in control of my life because not only am I noticing patterns that may emerge in my moods, I am tracking my long-term recovery progress.

If you’d like to know exactly what I track, check out this blog post.

$: This tip is not completely free, as I pay about $4 a month for the app I use.

Eat both protein and carbs.

Maybe you don’t struggle with eating enough calories like I do. Often, I will eat three carrots or a handful of raspberries and wonder why I’m hungry (and quickly wilting) half an hour later. Protein and carbs help you feel full longer and give you the calories your brain needs to work. Not every SINGLE meal or snack has to have both, but it’s proven to be a good thing for me to strive towards.

$: Obviously, food costs money, but peanut butter sandwiches are pretty cheap.

Get a good night’s sleep.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on sleep hygiene— I am aided at night by an antidepressant that makes me sleep super well. If you’re not getting the rest you need, I recommend having a sleep study done if that is available to you.

$: Depends on how you relax best before bed. Experiment!

What To Buy To Help Your Mental Health

There is only one thing you need to buy to improve your mental health: a notebook.

Get something that meets your needs, but isn’t so precious that you will never write in it. My personal preference is the dot-grid journals from Michael’s, which are pretty cheap, but you may find that a large spiral notebook or a sketchbook meets your needs better. It honestly doesn’t really matter.

Actually, you don’t even need to buy a notebook if you would feel more comfortable using something digital, like a notes app or a word processor. It’s up to you— just make sure you get ahold of something you can organize easily and that you will actually use regularly.

(I have experimented with both analog and digital mental health journals and am currently using both in slightly different ways!)

Here’s the key: write with purpose. Instead of a journal where you might vent for catharsis or just record the happenings of the day, zoom in on your mental health.

Here are some ideas for your mental health notebook:

  • Conduct mental health experiments and write about them. This might be my most important tip. For example, try drinking less coffee for a month and devote a page to tracking how you feel. Change up your exercise routine and write about how it affects your mental state.
  • Write scripts where you use CBT or DBT skills.
  • Take notes during therapy so you can remember what you talked about and any conclusions you came to.
  • Include your therapy homework and what you learned.
  • Track the severity of your symptoms over time. Include notes about life circumstances that may have played a part.
  • Write down mental health goals (make sure they are measurable!) and track your progress.
  • Print out and paste in mental health resources you may find on the internet, like a feelings wheel.
  • Record and fine-tune self-care routines, like an exercise plan or what to do while drinking your morning coffee to help you have a good day.
  • Include a regularly-updated list of things you love about yourself.
  • Write down quotes that motivate you! Don’t go bonkers with this— sometimes fewer is better, to ensure focus. My favorite quote to focus on is “I’m doing my best and I can do better!”
  • Track your triggers. Write down any extreme emotions you have and what caused them. You might also make a list of triggers that you already know about, maybe with a plan for avoiding them.
  • Track changes in any medication you might take and how you feel before and after.
  • Write a WRAP or a safety plan for crises. If you decide to make this part of your notebook and not a separate document, remember to keep your notebook somewhere accessible and clearly mark your WRAP/safety plan (maybe with those little sticky flags?)
  • Experiment with gratitude lists.
  • Conduct weekly or monthly reviews to help you troubleshoot.
  • Include a list of values or priorities to refer to when you make decisions.
  • Record the names of your favorite meditations (whether you’re using YouTube or an app) so that you can come back to them.
  • Check off days that you forget your medication and write about what happened.
  • Write down journal prompts that focus on mental health and then answer them.

Got any more ideas? Please leave them in the comments so others can benefit too!

How to Work on Your Mental Health

If you are struggling with mental health problems, the obvious answers are therapy and medication. But what if you need more than that? How can you work on your mental health independently?

Here are some habits and ways of thinking that I’ve found to be very helpful in my recovery. Give them a try and see what works for you!

Get in the habit of problem-solving.

Problem-solving is in itself a huge topic, but it’s one of the most important aspects of working on your mental health. How do we problem solve mental health specifically?

  1. Identify a problem. Start small! You’re not going to fix your entire life in one day.
  2. Define the problem in as much detail as possible. Journal about it (see below) or make a note in your phone, whatever works. For example: “I drink too much on the weekends because I feel lonely.”
  3. See if maybe you can find the root cause of the problem, because knowing that might help you find solutions. Delve into the past. “I started drinking in college because I felt it would help me connect with people.”
  4. Define your goals as they relate to the problem. Maybe you already have a list of goals, but you need to be specific to the situation you’ve decided to problem-solve. Working on your mental health is a larger goal, but maybe you want to “drink no more than two beers on weekend days.”
  5. Brainstorm solutions. Come up with whatever fixes you can and write them down. You never have to show anyone this, so if some of them are ridiculous, that’s okay!
  6. Experiment. Test your solutions until you find one that sticks. “If I hang out with friends somewhere other than a bar, I won’t drink as much.” Maybe you went camping…. and drank just as much. Okay, back to the drawing board! Try a different solution and see if that one works. Repeat as many times as you need to.

If you need help problem-solving, don’t be afraid to recruit a friend! Ask someone you trust if they would be willing to help problem-solve your mental health, and then ask for their continued consent each time you have something to problem-solve. Hopefully the two of you together can find fixes that stick!

Journal about your mental health.

For some people, freewriting works wonders. It doesn’t do anything for me. Instead, I journal about my symptoms (emotional and physical) and what I was thinking about each day.

Find the type of journaling that works for you and do it. Not only is it good for you in the moment, but if you make it a habit, you will have lots of data to look back on in future problem-solving endeavors!

Regularly eat reasonably healthy food.

Note: I think a lot about how we treat our bodies is fucked up, so you will NEVER see me recommend a strict diet or intentional weight loss.

Getting quality fuel for your body can make a huge difference to your mental health. However, it’s not nearly as complicated as many would make it out to be. Eat things that nourish your soul as well as your body. For more information, check out Intuitive Eating resources like this one.

I tend to not eat enough— both in frequency and amount— and I don’t fare well when I am not fed. I get dizzy and depressed. Therefore, I do have some food rules. I try to feed myself about every four hours, and strive for a variety of food groups each day. (I use the old-fashioned 90s food pyramid as a guide.) I also make sure to eat some kind of carbs with every meal, because they help you feel full longer, as well as extra protein, because I’m a shitty vegetarian and often vegetarians don’t get enough of that. Of course, I also eat fruits and vegetables whenever I feel like it. That’s it— those are my dietary guidelines!

Spend some time experimenting and see what foods nourish you the best!

Eliminate stress wherever you can.

In college, I prided myself on showing up on time to my classes 15 minutes after waking up, having skipped breakfast and any sort of self-care. That’s no way to live! Ten years later, I wake up two hours before I have to be at work. I drink coffee leisurely (my favorite part of the day) and allocate enough time afterwards to make myself a reasonably quality breakfast. This is just one way I have changed my life to eliminate extra, unnecessary stress.

Reducing stress wherever we find it will take some of the weight off our mental load. Even if the source of stress really isn’t that big a deal, lowering your overall stress levels will do wonders for your mental health.

Obviously, not every source of stress could or should be eliminated. You have to weigh the pros and cons as well as your priorities. Maybe you’ve identified that grocery shopping is a big source of stress for you, so you shell out a few extra bucks to get ingredients delivered by Instacart. That’s probably a worthwhile accommodation. On the other hand, maybe your job is also a source of stress because of the pressure of deadlines, but you also love it! I don’t recommend quitting your job, at least not before you have a better one lined up!

Learn to self-validate.

Mental health is a community effort, and often those with the “worst” mental health have been failed the most by their communities. That said, not relying on others to validate your feelings can be a great improvement.

This is one I’m still working on. I often struggle with feeling like I need other people to validate my emotions. Therefore, as soon as I have any feeling, I will text my loved ones and gauge how I should feel based on their reactions. It proves that I don’t trust myself to know how I feel and what needs to be done. Instead, I’d much rather be able to validate myself, so I am not reliant on other people to process my emotions.

For more information about self-validation, check out this link.

Make time for the things you love and build mastery at them.

Make a list of the things you love the most, and then do them. For example, maybe you’re like me and you really love to write. What kind of writing do you like to do? What subjects do you like to write about? Consider listing both a broad heading (”Writing”) as well as specifics (”writing nature poetry”). Is there anything else you need to make a part of your schedule for this to happen? (Like being out in nature?)

Building mastery is a related DBT skill that involves setting reasonable, reachable goals to build up your confidence as well as your skills. Maybe you could make a goal to write one index card a day, or just take a walk. Make sure that you congratulate yourself for each thing you accomplish!

Rest effectively.

Resting effectively can be tough. It doesn’t count as true rest if you’re laying down but you’re worrying about all the things on your mind. It might help you to have a designated Relaxation Zone— like your bed or a couch in your basement— where you turn off all your worries. Alternatively, or in addition, you could try a guided meditation to help your brain relax.

This is another one I’m working on, because I tend to hold myself to very high standards and feel like I shouldn’t be resting, even when I really need it.

Avoid mind-altering substances.

Everyone has their own opinion and their own comfort level in regards to substance use, and I’m not saying that you have to agree with me in order to truly be dedicated to healing. However, I have found that I am much happier when I am not doing substances. Substances tend to be unpredictable— you might have a good time on one day but a bad time another.

(Hint: you may want to consider replacing any substances you do with the non-inebriating forms of them. I am a big proponent of non-alcoholic beer and CBD cigarettes, and regularly use both of them when I feel like letting loose.)

Obviously, this doesn’t include prescribed medications— those are important, and you should continue to take them. If you don’t want to take them anymore, you should make a plan with your medical professional to taper safely off of them, because withdrawal can be really terrible.

For more information, check out these links:

9 Ways to Actively Take Care of Your Mental Health

Create a Plan to Take Care of Your Mental Health

On Creativity and Healing

As I have said before, freewriting doesn’t work for my mental health. Instead, I decided a few months ago that I wanted a structured journal to keep track of my moods and symptoms. (I have a separate Bullet Journal, which I use for planning, habit-tracking, and tasks, and then I have my more-recently-started “symptom” journal in a different notebook.)

I highly recommend symptom journaling so that you know where your headspace is at. Tracking your symptoms and/or moods can help you find patterns that you may otherwise miss. Our emotions (especially when we struggle with mental health) can feel gigantic and like they last forever, when in reality they change like the tides and can often be very different from day to day. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t downward or upward trends! Seeing those trends can help us do damage control (in the form of self care) or even just enjoy good moods while they last. I feel much more in control of my life when I journal briefly about my symptoms.

To do a daily symptom journal, I split two adjacent pages into three sections. Each of the six daily sections in my symptom journal has about five lines devoted to it, which allows me to elaborate a little while still keeping the entry brief enough to be useful at a glance. (I almost never run out of room.)

Things I write about daily:

  1. How I felt that day. Obviously not all my emotions are symptoms, but I write about them all in my symptom journal anyway. Giving myself a little bit of room to be descriptive allows me to record causes of my mood (“had nightmares and woke up very dissociated”) or complexities (“had some anxiety in the afternoon but felt okay for most of the day”).
  2. Any physical symptoms or problems I had. Maybe my knees hurt, I had a stomachache because I ate too much curry, or I slept badly. (Often I write that I forgot to eat. Oops!)
  3. What I did to solve/help any symptoms/problems (physical or mental) and how well my strategy worked. Maybe I took ibuprofen for my knee pain, but it didn’t really do anything. Or maybe I was depressed but I felt a little more energetic after a nap. I don’t always have anything to write in this section, but I think it’s really important to track how your experiments go!
  4. What I thought about that day. This is one of my favorite sections. It’s my chance to write about what was going on in my mind, which (to me) is always interesting! It also gives me a sense that I’m moving forward in my life. For example, maybe I thought about what to write on my blog and came to the conclusion that I should write about journaling, or maybe I thought about what to build with a certain material in Minecraft. Often, I’m thinking about recovery strategies I want to integrate into my life, and when I journal about them, I don’t lose any potentially brilliant ideas!
  5. My happiest or best moment of the day. (It doesn’t have to break through the depression barrier to be the happiest moment of the day, since it’s all relative.) Often, this will be spending time with my boyfriend.
  6. Any information my alters have told me that day. Since it’s hard to keep track of multiple people in the same brain, I have a section devoted to that. For example, [LITTLE] told me the other day he doesn’t like green beans, so as a system we’ve decided to not force ourselves to eat the green beans languishing in the freezer.

Every Sunday, I do a weekly summary for each of the sections. I draw an extra page with my usual six sections, and write about how the week went and my happiest moment!

Some other ideas you may want to try if you pick up a similar journaling habit:

-Gratitude journaling. This was not helpful for me, but many people swear by it.

-Therapy summaries. If you go to therapy, you can write quick summaries of what you talked about at your appointments. You might also record your homework for next session, if that’s something that you and your therapist have decided on.

-Rate your mood out of 10. I really struggle to rate my mood, because it feels so much more complex than a number. Maybe I had a good morning but got depressed in the evening, or I was anxious but hopeful. However, this works for a lot of people, and having quantitative data on your mood can be really helpful when dealing with mental health professionals. (You may want to use color-coding instead!)