Author – Adam Baffoni (@CritSuccess_)
Where to Buy – https://adambaffoni.itch.io/journey-home
As long as we’ve had a fantasy genre, we’ve had stories involving portal fantasy. For those unfamiliar with the term…oh who am I kidding. You’re reading a solo TTRPG review blog. You know what portal fantasy is.
But on the outside chance you don’t (or won’t admit to yourself that you do in a desperate attempt to cling to the tattered shreds of your coolness), portal fantasy involves a character travelling to another world unfamiliar to them and trying desperately to get back home. Think Wizard of Oz. Alice in Wonderland. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. Classics, all.
There’s a lot of tired tropes in portal fantasy and yet, regardless of the clichés, there’s something universally appealing to these stories that calls to the escapist in all of us. Adam Baffoni’s solo journaling game, Journey Home, is essentially a portal fantasy generator that provides all the tools you need to create your very own otherworldly adventure. And it is lovely.
In Journey Home, Baffoni provides a concise pre-adventure questionnaire that helps players define their character and the very basic nature of where they are and how they got there. After this, it’s just a matter of rolling on a few tables to determine the length of time since the last scene, the overall mood, and the primary event in the current scene. Once all these things have been determined, players have everything they need to begin telling a portal fantasy of their very own.
I used this engine to tell two weeks’ worth of not-so-solo bedtime stories to my five and eight-year-old children. Or rather, we used it to tell each other bedtime stories and it was a wonderful experience. I’ll skip the fine details, but the kids decided they were jumping in puddles on a hiking trail and one of the puddles didn’t have a bottom. They ended up being sucked deeper and deeper into the cold water until they popped up in a strange pink lake surrounded by dragons! They eventually did get home but not until they saved an ancient candy kingdom, became wiz-knights (I tried to talk them into using the less pee-sounding “swordmage” for their title instead but they would not be deterred), and convinced their dragon friends to keep the portal open so they could visit each other often.
I was worried that the game would not be enough to sustain a longer story given that there are only 12 events listed on the random event table but my concerns were entirely unfounded. The events are loosely defined enough that rolling the same number several times didn’t take away from our enjoyment of the game at all. If you find repeating the same event hampers your fun, the author states you’re fully empowered to treat the table as a menu and choose whichever option you’d like.
Journey Home is an extremely simple, streamlined way to tell robust and familiar stories. Whether you’re by yourself or with a couple precocious kids, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. Also, does anyone read the weird little semi-hidden jokes I put in these disclaimers? If so, please tweet at my cohost Richard (@androtaz08) and just tell him a random fact about your favorite animal. Don’t give him any context as to why you’re saying this. Thank you.