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Wanderhome – Chapter One: Hilltop

Welcome back to our Wanderhome journaling adventure! I need to come up with a better title for this! Wanderhome Journey? Wanderhome Adventure? I’ll figure it out. Last time, we met our first character Simon and learned a bit about what he looks like and the items he’s carrying with him. If you missed that post, you can go HERE. Starting with this post, I will be creating a page for these posts to keep them all in one happy place. That can be found HERE if you want to bookmark it!

A quick note, Wanderhome is a tabletop RPG by Jay Dragon. You can find the book for purchase at Possum Creek Games. Any artwork I use from the game is not mine and belongs to Possum Creek Games and Jay Dragon.

Questions and Answers

Last time, I asked a couple of questions and got a couple of answers. We’ll say that Simon got these answers from family in his hometown before setting out on his journey.

What do you have to keep explaining to Simon about the world?

That not everyone he’s nice to will be nice to him, but he should be nice anyway. That not everyone he cares for will care for him, but he should care anyway. That not everyone he helps will return the favor, but he should help anyway. The most rewarding act is the one done with no expectations of reciprocity.

Side Note: This answer came from Jonathan and I absolutely adore it!

What did your style of writing teach Simon?

My style of writing taught Simon to laugh and enjoy the moments that bring joy and happiness. To not overthink and let his “Quills” down once in a while. It taught Simon that not everyone is out for themselves and sometimes you may find a surprising ally that’s really out to see you succeed.

Side Note: This came from one of my closest IRL friends, LaQuita and it means the world to me that she is always such a wonderful cheerleader and source of positivity!

Setting Up Our Journey

It’s time to see where our journey starts.

After placing the books back in his bag, Simon looked up, taking in the place around him.

To do this, I’ll be using a table in the Wanderhome book and rolling a 6-sided die on three tables to get three “Natures.” Each of these will have some rules and it will help us understand our first place.

Natures I rolled: Market, Hillock, Tavern

One thing I will mention is that in this game, players can actually take up a place or Nature and become it, describing what it does in the story. I may do this from time to time, but it will most likely look more like describing the world, so don’t worry to much about it. If I’m really stretching that part of the rules, I’ll let you know.

I went ahead and rolled on individual items for each of the natures and you can take a look at what that looks like in my journal pages, but I will try to incorporate all of it into the prose as we continue.

Info on the Hillock and Tavern Nature as well as the Tillsoil Month.
Info on the Market Nature

Everytime we begin the game, we are asked to as 4 questions. What sort of place did we just travel from? Do we feel our journey has been long? Is there somewhere we hope to go? Where is my home? I will also answer these within the prose rather than list them out. We are also starting our story in the Season of Leap in the first Month of Tillsoil. I’ve gone ahead and rolled on our table to get a feel for what this season looks like here and will incorporate into the prose.

Finally, I’ll draw a Tarot card to get a feel for this place. I pulled the Three of Cups which could not be more perfect since it stands for community, networking and coming together of old friends. It’s like the cherry on top of what I’ve been imagining this place to be like!

I am using the Wild Unknown Tarot Deck

Let’s jump in!

Chapter One: Hilltop

The place where Simon had grown up could barely be considered a village. It had a few humble homes, filled with other porcupines, most of which were family of his; uncles, grandparent, cousins several times removed. There were many villages like this all across the foothills. And while all of them had their own families and were made up of different sorts of Kin, the animal folk of the land of Haeth, they all had one thing in common: Hilltop.

Hilltop, as its name implied, was a small town located atop one of the highest foothills where Kin from the nearby villages came to trade goods, news, a hearty drink at the tavern or a bit of laughter and sometimes, if the mood was right, a dance. There were several homes around the outskirts of the town, all surrounding a bustling town square which was home to a bustling outdoor market and The Creaky Wagon, the local tavern where most Kin usually found themselves at the end of a long day, eating lilac and blackberry pies and drinking raspberry wine, locally brewed of course.

Simon took in a deep breath and let the cool Tillsoil air fill his lungs. It was the start of the year, the first month of Leap, but Hilltop was already starting to warm, the chills of Frostbite left behind. The only remnants of the previous year were a few tattered decorations left over from the New Years celebration not five nights past. Many of the multi-colored streamers had fallen to the muddy ground, where they were being trampled on by thick boots and muddy pant legs.

It was mid-morning when Simon stood from his seat on a stone pool surrounding the fountain at the center of the crowded market. The fountain itself was a sculpture of The Golden King who Lost his Heart, a local legend of a lion king, of which there were no more, who had lost his heart when his love had been killed in battle in the last war. But such things were mere stories now. Wars and battles were a thing of the past. Fluffy clouds floated lazily overhead while tiny black sprites skittered unnoticed beneath the feet of merchants and buyers alike, desperately searching for any spare coins that might fall from untended pockets or shaky paws.

“Not a day has passed and already I’ve found some,” said Simon to himself, eying the small sprites. He’d left home early that morning and arrived in Hilltop just past noon and had decided that journeys were best started with a full belly and a full night’s rest. Besides, it wasn’t as if he was in any hurry. Up until a month ago, he’d had no intention of even leaving home. That was when the dreams began. Each one the same. A fallen star would come to him as he sat on a grassy hill and whisper: “Find them with me.”

“Find who?” Simon would ask.

“The old ones of course,” the star would say, and then it would start racing down the hill. Simon would run after it, but never catch up. This dream came to him every night for a week before Simon went to his Mother’s library and began digging through books for any mention of the old ones, but he’d found nothing. Finally, he’d asked his mother directly. She was an old seasoned Porcupine. Surely she would have some answers.

“The old ones?” she asked and then peered up at the ceiling thoughtfully. “I suppose you might mean the old Gods. They’re all around us of course, but no one pays them any mind. Scholars can’t even be bothered to write about them. Probably why we don’t have any books on the matter. I suspect they could all vanish and we wouldn’t even notice.”

Simon was unsettled by this. Old Gods were often small and inobtrusive like the coin sprites of Hilltop, but they were still important, still remnants of an older world before the kin. After several more weeks of the dream haunting his sleep, Simon made up his mind. If no one was going to write about or even notice the Old Gods, then he was going to do it himself. He’d always wanted to write a book. He’d written several short stories, all of which his local family members thought were delightful. How much harder could a book be? He informed his mother that he would be leaving to travel the countryside in search of the Old Gods, chronicling them in a bound journal, in hopes of someday publishing their stories for the whole world so they wouldn’t be forgotten.

“Sounds a bit fool-hardy,” his mother had said. “But when we are young, we are meant to be a bit foolish.” And that was that. And now he was in Hilltop, ready to begin his quest. He just wasn’t sure where to go from here. This was, after all, the only town he’d ever known and even it seemed massive to him. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what else was waiting for him out there. Hopefully he’d be able to ask someone in town where the next closest place to look for the Old Gods might be, if anyone even cared to know such a thing.

He walked up to a stall selling various small metal trinkets and baubles. The stall was being browsed by a lady vole and a gentlepossum, but Simon wasn’t interested in the trinkets. He knelt down next to the stall and peaked into a small crack between the buildings behind the stall. As he suspected, there sat a cluster of Coin Sprites, all peering at him with large eyes. They were black and fuzzy with two long spidery arms, and thin fingered hands, made for grasping at spare coins. Simon fished around in his pocket and pulled out a small silver coin. The Coin Sprites’ eyes widened at the sight of it.

“You want this?” asked Simon. They peered hungrily at the coin in his paws. His mother would have told him to not throw money away, but looking at the little sprite family, he couldn’t help but feel pity for them, forced to scavenge for life amongst a world that had forgotten them. Simon placed the coin on the cobblestones in front of the crack and motioned towards it. “It’s yours.”

Cautiously, one of the sprites reached out its long spindly arms and worked its way towards the coin, keeping its large eyes trained on Simon all the time.

“It’s yours now,” said Simon. “No need to worry. I won’t hurt you.” At this, the sprite stretched out towards the coin and pulled it into its grasp. It then opened a small mouth and started to nibble on the coin. Its eyes softened, apparently happy to have its hunger satiated. Simon smiled at this. As the sprite nibbled away at the coin, the other sprites crept out of the crack and gathered around the coin, each taking small bites from around the circumference of the coin. Finding that he wasn’t in the way of any foot traffic, Simon sat down and pulled his journal from his pack, along with one of his very own quills and a bottle of ink. He then went to work sketching one of the sprites. He thought his book might be improved by having visual aids of each Old God he wrote about in order to give the reader more context. These feasting sprites would be the first, hopefully, of many.

Simon Gains a Token

In Wanderhome, the main game mechanic involves gaining and spending tokens. There are many ways to gain and spend tokens, but essentially whenever a character sacrifices something they gain a token, and whenever they shape the world, they spend a token to do so. In sacrificing a coin and taking time to observe these forgotten sprites, Simon is sacrificing something. He gains a token. These are not material, but more a metaphorical symbol of the ebb and flow of this world. I have decided to note whenever a token is spent or gained in this blog.

Within minutes, the coin had disappeared into the bellies of the sprites, at which point they promptly skittered back into the crack, the first of them waiting just a few moments while looking up at Simon expectantly for more.

“Sorry friend,” said Simon. “That’s all I can spare.” Seeming to understand, the sprite skittered off once more. Simon stood and looked around the Market at the various stalls. He still needed to find someone to ask about the next leg of his journey. The Market was filled with all sorts of smells, both delicious and foreign. Kin of all types shouted out prices back and forth, haggling over goods. At the far end, an auction was being held for prime livestock; large grasshoppers and and beetles which farmers used to till soil and cultivate their farms. To most animals, this place would have been a feast for the senses, but Simon found himself incredibly overwhelmed. He wasn’t used to being around so many kin at once and the Market felt as though it were bearing down on him.

At the opposite end of the Market, he noticed a path leading up a small hill, under an archway, to a small clearing which was home to a few stone benches. He didn’t see anyone there from where he stood so he decided to make his way to it, if only to catch his breath and get out of the crowded square for a moment. Simon had never been much good at talking with strangers, and now that he found himself surrounded by them, he discovered he was quite anxious. He made his way to the path and walked up it to find that the clearing was home to a beautiful view overlooking the sweeping valley below. In an instant, he felt his anxiety melt away as he took in a long deep breath. But his relief was only momentary.

Looking out on the valley and the horizon stretching beyond it, Simon suddenly felt microscopic. He felt like a single raindrop in a storm. He could see dozens of small farms, many of which were preparing for the sewing festival that would happen in a few days. He could see several small villages just like the one he’d come from. He could see hills and valleys and beyond those mountains and lakes and more. There was just so much of it. How could he, one single porcupine possibly hope to survive in such a vast and sweeping world? Without even thinking about it, he fell onto one of the stone benches, working to catch his breath. But he simply couldn’t calm down.

He felt his lungs tighten and his breaths shorten and before he could calm himself or count to ten, everything went dark.

“Find them with me.”

His eyes fluttered open. His vision was filled with fluffy white clouds drifting high above. He sat up on his elbows, blinking to adjust his eyesight. In front of him sat the stone bench. It seemed he’d feinted and fell off the bench. He rubbed at his head, peering around in hopes that no one had seen him do this. The only thing worse than feinting from anxiety, was doing so in front of others. He could only imagine how the Kin of this town would look at him if they saw. He was already a stranger here. He didn’t need people talking about him in whispers. “Oh did you hear about that odd porcupine who just up and feints? My word!” He could only imagine. Luckily no one was around, but as he traced his surroundings he noticed the top of the arch he’d walked through on his way up to the clearing. It was stone and covered in leafy vines which snaked their way up it, but what caught Simon’s attention was at the top of the archway. Faded words had been chiseled into the stone, and though the stone was chipped and weathered, he could just make out the words carved there.

“Here is where the star fell. Here is where she told her stories. Here is where the Old Gods were born.” And beneath these words was the carved image of a bright star.

Simon’s eyes rolled back into his head and he feinted once more.

Wrap-Up

And that is where we’ll stop for this post! I am having so much fun using this system to craft this story!!! I am so curious to hear what your thoughts on these posts are since they are not just full-on story, but a bit of mechanics and brainstorming as well. I’ve never done anything like this before so your feedback is super welcome! I’m also curious how you feel about the length of this post. Too long? Too short? Let me know!

Potentially add to the story by answering one or both of these Questions:

With a Market and a Tavern in town, what, if anything, should Simon make sure to grab before he sets out on his journey? Let me know in the comments!

What sort of animal runs the local Tavern?

3 replies »

  1. I love it! I really like the incorporation of mechanics and story as it gives us a look into how the story is being crafted. I think the length of the post is fine. I would say a weasel or fox is somewhere in the market. I think their cunning and sly behaviors are great for running a shop and haggling prices. I would want Simon to purchase a blanket, some food and maybe a die (to use when he has to make a difficult choice like which path to take, although he could flip a coin to do this 😂). Can’t wait for the next post!

  2. A Hare runs the tavern, he is cheerful, friendly and sturdy. His family has run the tavern for a couple of generations now and he truly enjoys his work there. Occasionally he is overcome by a feeling of wanderlust that he satisfies by listening to the stories of any travellers passing through (and if they don’t have any from where they’ve been, their plans on where to go next would suffice), if the story is good enough it might earrn it’s teller a free drink or meal.

  3. Love this! You should talk to Possum Creek about an official partnership in creating these stories to promote the game, like D&D books. I think the format is great and the length is just right.

    I think that, since a tavern is also called a “watering hole,” the proprietor should be an aquatic animal: frog, duck… a snake could add some tension and maybe even a lesson.

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