Live vicariously through the documented exploits of a centuries-old creature of the night while browsing Twitter, thanks to one person’s diligent archival of their time with solo journaling RPG Thousand Year Old Vampire.
This particular journey through life, death and undeath has been recorded online by illustrator and designer Tim Denee and posted one image at a time to an ongoing Twitter thread. Simple language and evocative artwork make it a pleasure to read, and Denee’s habit of updating the thread in batches every few days keeps readers expectant for more. It tells the story of Othin, son of a fisherman, and his fateful encounter with something dark and lurking beneath the waves.
Denee was initially skeptical. He hadn’t tried solo RPGs before this year but was intrigued by the potential offerings from designers in this year’s Zine Quest event. Much of his past tabletop experience had centered around group play. He wasn’t sure if a solo game could hold up to that standard.
“The social element and collaborative creation in TTRPGs are such a big part of the appeal to me,” Denee told Dicebreaker in an email. “Opening [Thousand Year Old Vampire] for the first time, I felt a bit like Bastian cracking open the Neverending Story in the school attic. It really feels like you're leafing through some dusty tome of dark wonder. So despite myself, I was hooked in.”
Designed by Tim Hutchings, Thousand Year Old Vampire puts the player in the shoes of a mortal destined to receive the double-edged gift of vampirism. Immortality gives them plenty of time to chronicle their new life in a journal and then forget all about it as years turn into decades and then centuries. The game is as much about what is forgotten and lost as what the player records.
This isn’t the first game Denee has shared through social media. He picked up the dense, procedurally generated video game Dwarf Fortress in 2010 and said the many interlocking systems created a compelling story that inspired him to illustrate the goings-on of Bronzemurder Fortress in a webcomic.
“As soon as I started my game of TYOV, I felt that same buzzy energy of ‘discovering’ an emergent narrative that is unique to my playthrough, and the same drive to share that story in some way.”
Denee’s vampire, Othin, eventually travels to Europe and becomes commander of a merchant fleet, a decorated astrologist and - most recently - buried under several tons of rubble. Thousand Year Old Vampire’s story prompts can reward players with untold riches and sweep them away in the same breath. As of the time of writing (spoilers ahead for Denee’s thread, so go read right now if you haven’t) Othin has crawled out from his would-be grave to the sight of a steam locomotive spanning a bridge. This is an entirely new world for the immortal.
The highlights of the gradually told story are Denee’s illustrations. Inspired by the Beggarstaffs’ style of graphic posters from the late 18th and early 19th century, they emphasise bright colors, stark light contrasts and artistically working the typography into the image’s composition. Apparently, they’re also created on the quick.
“I knew that if I got caught up in perfectionism I would never finish the project,” Denee said. “The goal is communicating the story above everything else, not to make the perfect illustration portfolio piece.”
His Thousand Year Old Vampire run is still ongoing, though Othin has found himself in perhaps the weirdest straits yet. Denee said he has already considered jumping directly into another run that focuses on the Hedgeborn Scoundrel Edward Hardwicke, a secondary character in Othin’s life and all-around naughty guy. Catch up with the story thus far on Denee’s Twitter.