The road has a song all to its own. Press your ear against my chest and you’ll hear it. It is always with me, soaring across mountaintops and sleeping in the gutter where the small and forgotten gods live. It tangles through my hair and sits heavy in my boots. Some days that song roars through my bones louder than any storm, and other days it hums its tune so quietly that I could forget it’s even there. But I will always hold tight to it, and I’ll throw on my cloak, grab my walking stick, and set foot once more.
I trust the song. I trust the road. I trust that someday, I will arrive at a town and lay down in the grass and know that this is where I was meant to be. The road is a river that carries me home.1
And this, let me tell you, is a song worth singing and a journey worth investing in!
My friend Natalie of Charm Person Games and former co-star of Gehenna Valley (Series 1) had mentioned before our show wrapped that she had a game she really wanted to try. She said it involved animals on a journey and it was a story you told together. It reminded me of For The Honor that I played with her and had a tremendously good time. Wanderhome is that game and I enjoyed it so much I’m rapid-fire writing to get the news of it out to you!
Wanderhome is from Possum Creek Games, written by Jay Dragon, and was successfully kickstarted last summer! As Jay and team note on the kickstarter page rather eloquently: “Wanderhome is a pastoral fantasy Role-Playing Game about traveling animal-folk, the world they inhabit, and the way the seasons change.” The art is also exquisitely done, capturing the gentle fun and magic of the game. I was really excited to explore a new game, but the idea of the journey – heroic or otherwise – explored through a game that encouraged cooperative storytelling and the idea that the story would be found together was immediately appealing.
In order to achieve this Wanderhome uses the No Dice, No Masters engine developed by Avery Alder (of MonsterHearts fame) and Benjamin Rosenbaum, which was used for Dream Askew and Dream Apart. Thus, I knew we wouldn’t need a GM and all those participating would get to really play, driving an animal’s story as we traveled down the road together!
There’s some other Journey Tools that Natalie informed us of as we got started building our characters and world. These are safety tools above and beyond the normal. Let’s Do This Instead empowers you to speak up and provide an alternate path through a situation, especially if you’re not comfortable with the current one. Do We Want To? is a question for getting agreement on exploring new and potentially hazardous paths, i.e. topics that we want to ensure are okay with others. Where To Next? keeps the journey moving if we feel stuck or simply it’s time to change things up. What Do You Think? is a prompt to see how others are thinking and feeling with what’s happening in the journey. Think of it as a check in! Hold On is a way to say you or we need a break and that’s empowering during tense moments, a situation that hurt and we should review that, or even because you need water or to use the bathroom. No is a simple tool. There could be something that’s come up you didn’t think of before that you don’t want to journey toward or through. A very good example from Jay’s writing: “No, I don’t want someone to treat my character like this.” And that’s a powerful, very valid feeling to have. Finally, Wanderhome encourages the ability we all have of Walking Away. While I think we all hope our players would ask for the group to Hold On, sometimes you don’t want to keep going because you need time or the game isn’t currently in a place where you can facilitate the problem. It is okay to walk away. I really appreciate these tools framed up as part of walking the journey together.
The basic mechanics of the game are otherwise tied to gaining or using tokens. There are some basic ways of getting tokens like “give away something you hold dear” or “speak your true feelings on a subject” that all characters have. However, your playbook also determines your place in the world of Haeth and how you explore it. There are fifteen playbooks in all, noting what your care is, animal options, things you care or value or feel or think about, look options, as well as something more specific to the playbook like the 5 friends the Caretaker has hidden in the shrines they visit or say the 3 letters or packages that the Moth-Tender is traveling with for special deliveries! The playbooks also offer another way to get or give tokens. For example, the Firelight can always ask “Do you need a hand?” And if whomever they asked accepts, the Firelight gets a token. The Pilgrim on the other hand can always say “Lead the way” to someone, and if they do, they get a token.
Natalie explained also that the calendar was important for the game, namely the five seasons, their ten months, and the game mechanic behind special events. When you’re setting up your game or session, you need to know what sort of weather you’re traveling in. You can decide what month you’re in and over the course of a longer campaign, when a month begins or ends. The month helps you choose a few setting details, including a few basic traits present (and one not), as well as a few signs of the month like fluffy clouds for Tillsoil in Leap (early planting season) or waves of pollen for Bloommeadow in Bright (spring’s well sprung). There’s also a question to be asked each time a month comes around like “Do you have any grudges” for Bloommeadow and you may mark down every non-yes. Six marks (in this case tracked as flowers) and a majestic bloom happens or some other particular event like a cold leap for Tillsoil. In that case, there’s no Firetop due to how cold the weather and bad the harvest is. The majestic bloom is all about beauty and revealing hidden feelings, while also enjoy pastoral gardens and lots of flowers. They’re very sweet and evocative of fables. Of course, in Grasping you might also get The Biggest Storm in a While. It’s not all fireflies and flowers along the journey after all.
Of course you’ll also need to know the place you’re traveling to or at. But before we get there (ha, get it), you need to know who was traveling. Our band of animal friends included my Bat the Moth-Tender named Ecirane, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron named Idril as the Firelight with her firefly Fiametta, Kaii the adorable Seneca White Deer as the Exile, Henry the Veteran Crocodile, and our adorable kitten Ragamuffin named Miley. The mechanics of the game have you set up your location with three natures. Natalie rolled randomly and we had a very (got twice) comfortable and liminal place ahead of us.
It turned out there was a small farm and its bridge that over time grew to be a common stop and waypoint for travelers. A workshop there had a water wheel and windmill, powering various machinery to craft a beautiful tapestry that travelers would add to and thus it was seen as a place all great journeys should include. Our group, somewhat spurred on by Miley’s eager jumping in mud puddles and taunting of dear Henry, had thought they could stay at a nearby town but it had been damaged by the last war.
Yes, indeed, Haeth had known violence in the past but it was done, encouraging journeying once more. It was interesting too as for our game we had to choose whether we wanted some more somber notes where we explored trauma – which we chose to avoid for a first session – and magical adventurous details, which we decided to keep. That is why our workshop at the farm had some more mystical capability. It was said even a Scarecrow once walked away from the farm. Considering we arrived to find a welcoming man named Felix who later turned out to be a wizard in exile, I’m not surprised! And you know, I had a scroll of ancient and mysterious magic to deliver for him! I quickly got to mark off my package while the mud-soaked Miley was prompt to enjoy a nearby grotto for cleaning.
We all went, resting and reflecting in the beautiful place. We also got to discover that Miley had discovered the Heavenblade at the ruins of the last city, a magical blade tied to the month of Grasping. It was said to be lost after slaying the Slobbering God. Oh yes, some of the details of Wanderhome can be quite monstrous in scope, but still with an air of optimistic and grand, fabled tales. Idril’s firefly Fiametta was capable of oracular visions, and warned us of the blade’s power as well as Felix’s inability to close something as the sky went bright pink and blue. Turns out that ancient scroll was spewing flowers up in a tornado of chaotic magic. A prank for sweet Felix, but one we gladly helped him solve so that we could spend the night with flower-crown making and lots of fruit.
But there’s that blade… And an allegedly dead god… And Henry has the unnamed blade, impossibly thin and sharp, tied to the worrisome month of Devildays… What does that mean for our mud-loving, flower-weaving, wizard-turned-farmer helping friends? I’m sure something quite spectacular!
Wanderhome is available now for preorder! Preordering the soft or hardcover also gets you a copy of the PDF, which is also available on DriveThruRPG! If you want to craft your own fable with friends, take a journey of whimsy and magic, or explore sweet and sometimes difficult emotions through a cooperative story game, I highly suggest you invest in Wanderhome!
Where will we go? What will we see? We’ll have to find out together. Will you join me?
I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!
I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!