RPG Tax Review: Jacob S. Kellog’s Journey Away

What is it?

Journey Away is a light, non-challenge-based fantasy RPG by Jacob S. Kellog. In it, you play a group of friends from a small village exploring a world where magic recently appeared. The PDF is available from DriveThruRPG, with a POD option.

Why did I buy it?

The tone is similar to Ryuutama, which I love. I was curious what a non-challenge-based system looks like. I wanted to support a new designer who is interested in making nonviolent games.

First impressions

The book was shorter than I expected. The system is very light, and I think the game as a whole is targeted to groups who enjoy supported freeform. That’s a play style where the group mostly roleplays freely, but want a system to dip into for inspiration or when stalled.

The mechanical part of character creation involves writing down a list of character traits and assigning them die sizes based on how important they are to the character. Like Fate Aspects, traits should be things that could either help or hurt depending on the situation. Traits are grouped into five categories to aid player brainstorming, but there’s no mechanical difference between them. The game recommends you come up with at least two traits in each category (persona, tendencies, experience, and quirks) for a total of ten. I think this system will work best if you already have a good idea of the character you want to play.

The non-challenge-based system has you gather a dice pool from traits that may provide advantages in the situation. The GM gathers a dice pool of traits that may provide complications, with extra dice if there are other circumstances. Each pool is rolled, then players arrange the dice into pairs with one die from each pool. If the higher die is from the player’s pool, the pair counts as a “boon.” If the higher die is from the GM’s pool, it’s a “complication.” The players to the left and right of the main player then narrate the good things that happened based on the count of boons, and the bad things that happened based on the count of complications. Assembling the dice pools helps everyone get a concrete picture of what’s going on in the scene, and the possible outcomes are complex. The system could be fiddly if it were being rolled often, but it looks like it’s intended to be used maybe once a scene. There’s a couple of pages of advice on narrating, with reminders that rolling is about “what interesting things happen?” rather than success or failure.

The last quarter of the book goes into detail on the setting. There’s a map of the region the characters are from, with sections sketching out the sub-regions. Each section calls out one interesting fact about that region.  This is the part of the book I wish were more developed, because all those region facts spark great scenario ideas.

Overall, this is a game targeted at a niche audience, which I am not part of, but which I think will love it. I think more setting detail could broaden the appeal of the product–I want to know more about the world of Adhara!

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