Lonely House by Michelle Belanger

Michelle Belanger is an occult expert and author of more than thirty books on paranormal topics. You probably know Michelle best from appearances on A&E’s Paranormal State and the Travel Channel’s Portals to Hell. In addition, Michelle also creates tabletop games.

Michelle’s Ouila Board Scramble is a lot of fun (and a great tool for any horror themed rpg), Midnight’s Kiss is a solid gothic rpg, and I also have read Michelle’s work on World of Darkness: Ghost Hunters. All to say, Michelle does solid work in the gaming community, in case you weren’t aware.

Michelle’s latest is an immersive storytelling rpg, billed as “a solo game of collaborative fiction”, called Lonely House. It is a storytelling game, which tend to be really hit or miss with me (usually miss), but right out of the proverbial gate I could tell Lonely House was something special.

The author explains at the start, “This is a story collaboratively written by me and you. It is a story about family, and the way the past can haunt us. It is a story about relationships, even when we don’t recall everything about who we were. And it is a story about a house that is also a memory, and together we will determine what that means.”

Inside you’ll find a compelling narrative, reminiscent of a Shirley Jackson story, in which you are led forward, slowly, meticulously through a suspenseful potboiler.Through creative writing and a journal mechanic, this truly feels like collaborative storytelling, nudged along by the narrator, with a compelling accounting and intriguing choices and side quests.

I found it positively enchanting. I recognize this game will not be for everyone, and more’s the pity. It should be. I can envision an entire series of these sort of spun yarns. I commented earlier on how I felt Lonely House was “something special”. I stand by those words, wholeheartedly, and hope that there are more of these adventures from Michelle in the future.

Lonely House works because it is not a “choose-your-own-adventure” in the traditional sense. For me, it works because it is well written, asks the right questions, and is beautifully structured, but, in the sense that it is a “collaboration”, the player’s narrative voice is the dominant vehicle through their journal entries.

I would love to see this experiment played out with multiple characters. And while I think other genres are manageable, it feels like gothic horror is where it would continue to be most at home.

A spectacular game and one I wholeheartedly endorse.

Lonely House was received as an ARC pdf. I will post a link once the product is available for purchase.

Bob Freeman
writing from the
haunted hinterlands
for Bordermen Games

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