“You wield the blade that must never be drawn.”
This is the primary line in playbook for The Veteran, considered one of 15 lessons within the highly-anticipated new tabletop RPG, Wanderhome. Created by impartial designer Jay Dragon, on the floor it’s a pastoral fantasy good for adventurers who wish to dangle their furry toes within the waters of a springtime stream. But it packs a critical emotional punch, leveraging highly effective narrative instruments to discover the generational scars violence can depart on communities. It positions the drama of the Redwall sequence alongside Animal Crossing’s infinite Sunday afternoons, and shows the competence to juggle each of these vibes in a single recreation.
In Wanderhome, gamers tackle the position of sentient animal folks touring between the villages of Hæth, a world now free from its historical past of struggle and oppression. Sessions emphasize true collaborative storytelling, an orientation of play extra centered on characters defining their locations inside a world than the affect they exert over it. In different video games you degree up, collect loot, and turn into able to extra environment friendly types of dice-related violence. In Wanderhome, gamers keep away from cube altogether and as an alternative spend time describing their shared emotional journey.
In a given session, gamers may arrive at a brand new location, as itinerant animal folks are liable to migration. There they meet its hospitable inhabitants: a possum innkeeper and his baker’s dozen of kid helpers; an aged chameleon boat captain torn between rival fishing clans; the garter snake struggling to begin a profession as a cobbler.
Nobody takes turns, nor does a recreation grasp inform the group what they see. Instead, any participant can elect to work together with the surroundings or an NPC, after which different members of the group tackle role-playing these components. Creation, improvisation, satire, and mimicry aren’t reserved solely for the one individual sitting on the head of the desk, however shared by everybody equally.
Wanderhome helps everybody get a hand on the ball with descriptive tags which might be assigned to each place and individual the collaborative story introduces. They assist to offer a framework of conduct, as an alternative of creature stat blocks or decks of AI playing cards. Once battle arises, it’s most frequently settled with dialogue and never daggers.
Say the gamers arrive in Stilton, a city constructed on a bridge crossing a large, lazy river. A procession, all carrying masks, have been following them at a distance for days. One participant seeks out the mayor, prompting one other to shortly jot down their sincere and venerable traits on a card. Tapping the city’s folklore, the mayor explains these are pilgrims on a vigil, and Stilton is the second-to-last cease. The group can now examine this tradition additional — or determine to go purchase dinner as an alternative.
Players journey all through Hæth’s five-season 12 months and mark the passing of every with a significant vacation, experiencing the customs and practices wherever they find yourself residing at the moment. Each occasion offers distinctive alternatives to mirror on private development and join with their fellow vacationers. It can be straightforward to say that it seems like leveling up, however as an alternative Wanderhome makes use of these waypoints to curve the arc of the marketing campaign. Sometimes pure phenomenon or extreme climate patterns will alter the course of occasions, reminiscent of turning a harvest feast right into a grim reminder that starvation by no means lingers far.
Designer Jay Dragon hasn’t constructed this technique from the bottom up, nevertheless. These mechanics are an adaptation of Avery Alder and Benjamin Rosenbaum’s Belonging Outside Belonging engine right into a system that weaves each bucolic tableau with a way of bone-deep, enduring melancholy complicating its furry, smooth silhouette. Much of that feeling might be credited to Wanderhome’s motion financial system.
Rather than rolling cube to carry out actions, as you may do in a recreation like Dungeons & Dragons, Wanderhome depends on what it calls strikes. Weak strikes award tokens, sturdy strikes spend these tokens, and basic strikes act as narrative nudges when gamers lose focus. There’s an inventory of them, all helpfully categorized within the sourcebook, for reference. All three are deliberate decisions made by the participant, and cement the trail ahead for the group. Like all the things else in Wanderhome, strikes don’t depend on cube rolls — they’re like referred to as photographs that get made on the fly, and gamers should stay with the implications.
Many strikes are designed to place tokens in gamers’ arms, and playbooks describe distinctive skills for every class that generate tokens with just a little additional taste. For instance, The Veteran participant earns a token once they notice they’re powerless of their given state of affairs. Whether the character voices that small epiphany aloud or not, it marks a potent second in every session.
Moves virtually at all times focus inward, rewarding gamers who sacrifice one thing they cherish or bask in a second’s respite. These are egocentric acts, however not in a pejorative sense. To journey the roads between villages is to go away some place of consolation behind. Every character is looking for one thing within the land of Hæth, and these small, token moments are steps ahead on a bigger journey of understanding.
Characters can spend tokens via strikes that “ease someone’s pain, if only for a moment” or to “offer someone the chance to connect […] on a personal level.” These are methods to succeed in out to others — gamers and non-player characters — in an effort to empathize and perceive. Perhaps Aguefeather, the peddler, spent the morning brewing a uncommon tea and storing it in his thermos as a particular deal with, thereby incomes a token. Later, the group occurred upon a pair of iguana sisters hesitant to talk and stuffed with suspicion. Aguefeather’s participant introduced he would spend a token to supply his tea, warming everybody’s bellies and hearts. He then requested the pair to share their harm, in the event that they wished, and discovered of the village of former revolutionaries that solid them out within the chilly.
The result’s greater than only a easy transaction. Self-care and tending to different communities is what Wanderhome considers heroic. It’s a fantasy world past the necessity for armor class and weapon proficiencies. An total session could cling on whether or not or not the gamers can discover sufficient chairs for the feast. It feels trivial, but it surely makes room for asides that result in very private sorts of resolutions.
Other Belonging Outside Belonging video games method non-violent battle, whereas Vincent Baker’s Under Hollow Hills additionally tackles complicated relationships beneath altering circumstances. But Wanderhome does each within the service of offering a gaggle the means to interrogate the idea of violence whereas nonetheless tackling darkish and heavy materials.
A neighborhood can want extra farmers, or it could possibly be withering beneath the burden of a misplaced era. The participant is usually a frolicking Fool, liked by all. Or they could be a Veteran whose drained, calloused hand by no means strays removed from a blade they need to by no means draw.
Wanderhome is accessible now straight from the writer, Possum Creek Games. The paperback runs $45, whereas a hardcover model can also be obtainable for $60. Both include a free PDF model of the guide.
Wanderhome was reviewed with a closing PDF model supplied by Possum Creek Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.