Today I’m here to talk about Wanderhome, the wonderful and beautiful game from Possum Creek Games. During this, the darkest timeline, this game has been a therapeutic tool that keeps me going, often as a solo game on my own. I’ve written about some options for playing solo games before but today I want to talk about specific tools for Wanderhome.
Basically, there’s no need (strictly speaking) for tools to play solo Wanderhome… If you have a perfect imagination and boundless creativity. In a Wanderhome game with lots of people you can feed off their energy, play off their ideas, and listen to their storytelling to carry your own idea forward. While it’s theoretically possible to manifest your own energy in a solo game it also helps if you don’t have to come up with everything yourself and if you have some framework for tracking what happens so you aren’t struggling to keep things straight.
To start with, I find that guides and standard questions help me organize my thoughts. To avoid just spinning off into daydreams or getting distracted and losing your place, many solo games rely on a series of questions that you go through over and over to create the rhythm you need to keep going with the game. This is the solo sheet that I use for Wanderhome, or at least a version that I’ve dressed up to be prettier.
This worksheet owes a lot to the approach of You Are the Dungeon. That game, which flips the script for most RPGs, situates you as a malignant, festering dungeon that watches bands of adventurers coming in and dying in your depths. A different tone from Wanderhome to be sure but You Are the Dungeon has an excellent tool for keeping the story going. After setting up your story you have Forays when the adventurers come crashing in and Fallows when you reflect and grow and wait for more. A corruptive dungeon isn’t something I’m saying fits into Hæth (although there’s definite potential if you like) but the cycle of action, reflection, and then action again certainly fits with a Wanderhome story.
With this worksheet you can tell stories in the same way as a multiplayer Wanderhome tale. Your character interacts with a community (an Episode) and then has time between those stories to travel, reflect, or recuperate in between (a Montage). The easiest way to run this is having an episode cover your time in one village and then a montage for your travel to the next but you can also choose to have something happen and then a montage of a quiet afternoon or maybe a night looking at the stars. Just some time to reflect and relax between episodes. But what happens in those episodes? Well I suggest getting a little help with that too.
Events Inspired by Tarot Deck
You can use your favorite pile of inspiration for coming up with an interesting story but my go-to in this case is the good old Tarot Deck. If you aren’t super-familiar with Tarot card interpretations (I don’t have them memorized by any means) then you can use this excellent Quick Tarot Guide, which I found at Aurora Holtzman’s blog. I keep having to say this on here but I wouldn’t recommend using Tarot Decks to shape your life or make crucial decisions or anything. However, in terms of what’s going on in a random village in the Hæth it’s perfect. For a slightly creepier option, try the Sooth Deck from Invisible Sun.
Edit: There’s also a wonderful Wanderhome Key to the Tarot by teasugarsalt that seems custom made for this.
When you draw Tarot cards, the orientation is supposed to matter as much as the meaning. When drawn right side up the card has a standard meaning, but when drawn upside down or “reversed” the card has an inverted meaning. A card might mean friendship and community normally but when reversed it means distrust and isolation. You can skip this if you don’t want to deal with it (or you’re using the circular Sooth Deck) but it does double the possible story prompts you can have…
To use a Tarot Deck in this way, I recommend drawing just one card for the story. If you pull a handful then it’s going to feel like you’ve got so many spinning plates going and you have to watch them all. That’s the opposite of what we want for these tools. The Tarot cards provide inspiration and just the spark from one card is enough. From there, the token mechanics of Wanderhome can take over to tell a wonderful story.
Random Name Generators
Another hang up for solo gaming can be coming up with names. Rather than lay it all on your plate, I suggest using random name generators like the well-known Fantasy Name Generators lists. For kith I prefer brownie names, anthousai names, valkyrie names, and rakshasa names while for place names I stick to town names, Viking town names, and halfling town names. Obviously my recommendation for small and forgotten gods is my homemade generator which can give you names and natures.
Whether you use these generators or something else, my other piece of advice is to write stuff down ahead of time. Clicking over to a website in the middle of a game can break the little bubble of fun you’re creating so keep things altogether. Use the generators to make a list of a few dozen names for each situation and then cross them off as you use them.
Like I said, you don’t need anything more to play solo Wanderhome than the Wanderhome book. There’s no reason not to make things a little easier, though, so with these three tools I think you’ll have a more enjoyable time. The framework of the worksheet, the inspiration of the Tarot Deck, and the resource of random name generators can all remove the stress of creating and remember stories. This lets you concentrate on the fun part of playing Wanderhome, the healing part. Use these if they’re helpful and keep gaming!