Wanderhome is a pastoral fantasy role-playing game about traveling animal-folk, the world they inhabit, and the way the seasons change. It is a game filled with grassy fields, mossy shrines, herds of chubby bumblebees, opossums in sundresses, salamanders with suspenders, starry night skies, and the most beautiful sunsets you can imagine.
You might be a tamarin who dances with small and forgotten gods, a leporine mail carrier who relies on moths to get packages where they belong, a little lizard with a big heart and a mysterious past, or a near-endless number of other thrilling possibilities. No matter what, we’re always travelers—animal-folk who go from village to village and get to see the length and breadth of all the world of Hæth. The seasons will change as we play, and we will change with them.
A Very Different RPG: More Peaceful and Less Random [ edit ]
Wanderhome, by independent developer Jay Dragon, is very much not your typical RPG. There are no dice (or any other random element, eg. a deck of cards), there are no monsters to fight (or in fact any rules for fighting) ... and even having a GM is completely optional. In other words, if you are looking for "Dungeons and Dragons, but a little different", this is not the RPG for you.
But if you're looking for an RPG set in an idyllic, pastoral world, which feels like it was lifted from the stories of Brian Jacques (Redwall), Tove Jansson (Moomins), or Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Ponyo, etc.) ... then you'll likely find this RPG very appealing, as it was very much intended to mirror those fantasy worlds.
Similarly if you're looking for adventures that involve travel and exploration, helping others, and healing the world (but not exploring dungeons filled with traps and monsters), Wanderhome will be a welcome change of pace. Travel in particular is central to the game, as characters in the game are affected by a kind of wanderlust, which helps to progress the game.
Finally, if you're looking for a more narrative-focused game, where the players control the story by spending tokens, without having to rely on random dice rolls, then Wanderhome will really hit the spot.
Character Creation [ edit ]
Although Wanderhome is not a PbtA game, it does use the concept of "playbooks" from that system. For those not familiar with the concept, a playbook is a set of pages that essentially combine a class description and a character sheet, giving the player everything they need to play.
Playbooks in Wanderhome tend to be generic archetypes, such as Ragamuffin or Guardian, but some are slightly more specific "jobs", such as Poet, Dancer, or the more unique Moth Tender. Once a player selects a playbook, they then have to make a series of further choices, for instance about their character's personality, their appearance, or which animal form they have.
Once a player has filled out their playbook (a relatively short process), they are ready to begin, and now have everything they need to play available in front of them.
Core Mechanics [ edit ]
Wanderhome uses the “No Dice, No Masters” system, which was first used in the acclaimed games Dream Askew and Dream Apart (and also in another Jay Dragon game, Sleepaway).
In this system, instead of rolling dice to determine whether your character succeeds at an (immediate) action, the player must spend a token ... and then they succeed automatically. Tokens can also be spent to provide other benefits, such as forcing an NPC to connect with your character on a personal level.
To acquire these tokens the character can do something outside their comfort zone, add a setback for their character to the story, or they can describe a moment of beauty that their character witnesses. Since tokens form the "grease" that keep adventures moving along, players are strongly encouraged to take token-generating actions, and this in turn helps integrate the players into the setting.
After all, when you literally have to describe the beauty of a firefly on a midsummer night's eve to get a token, you spend more time appreciating such minor details ... details that might not even get mentioned in a more traditional RPG.
Since this system doesn't require any sort of GM intervention, Wanderhome can be played entirely "GM-less", with the party essentially telling a shared story as they play. The game can even be played solo, although a huge part of it revolves around connections between the characters, and so solo play isn't recommended as strongly as GM-less play is.
A Unique and Truly Anthropomorphic World [ edit ]
Wanderhome's setting-specific rules are just as unique as the rest of the game. For instance, the world of "Hæth"(Wanderhome's setting) is filled with the presence of "small gods", and the game has rules to let the characters interact with them. For instance, one way a character can spend a token is to "listen to the shared wisdom of the many small and forgotten gods" (and, in keeping with the game's communal story-telling nature, that wisdom is provided by the rest of the table).
Seasons are also a major part of the game, and their presence helps to further make the game world feel real. It also serves one of the game's larger goals, which is to provide long-term replayability. The author himself even noted (in a Reddit AMA):
I think I'm most excited for, when the small number of people who do actually play Wanderhome for years and years, realize the ways the book supports that kind of play at a really deep level. Like, that there's probably like 5K words that only come up once you've been playing the game for a very long time, and I really hope people get to explore that space and encounter the little gifts I've left there.
Whether you wind up running a campaign through many seasons, or whether you simply try Wanderhome for a one-shot change of pace, this game will offer you an experience unlike any other. As long as the lack of dungeons, combat, and even dice doesn't scare you off, Wanderhome will offer you a very unique and special RPG experience ... one that can't help but bring you into its beautiful, immersive, and anthropomorphic world.