Do you guys know the term “portal fantasy?” I only recently realized it was a genre with a proper name. Narnia might be the most famous example. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is another. So is Avatar if you turn your head and squint a bit. Whatever example you pick, the underlying premise is always the same: the protagonist moves between worlds, traveling by means of a convenient plot device (read: a portal).

Now I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I didn’t get into the wonderful world of TTRPGs because I love calculating THAC0. Sure the mechanics are captivating once you’ve played for a while, but it’s the basic fantasy of the hobby that pulled me in. This isn’t just a sword and sorcery themed version of Risk. This is a game where YOU are the hero of your own adventure! There’s a reason that they put that stuff on the cover. Underlying the game is the larger promise that you will find passage into another world. You’ll take the hero’s journey, cross the stream into Faerie, and maybe even make like Persephone and grab a pomegranate seed hall pass for the return trip.

The longer you play though, the harder it is to get that feeling. The sense of jamais-vu recedes, and you’re left to wonder why the magic has become mundane.

But then it happens. Pawing through the neglected corners of some manky second-hand store, poking out from the bottom of a milk crate filled to bursting with Queen’s Greatest Hits LPs, you see the the corner of a box. It might be bright red. It might be magenta. It might even (dare ye dream?) be white. But no matter what the color, it’s the sensation that really matters. There in your trembling hand lies Charlie’s golden ticket. Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Bastian’s grain of sand. It’s your passage back to the promised fantasy. In that moment, you are your character. You’ve found magic treasure hidden away in some lightless cavern, and all the old feelings of discovery come rushing back again.

There’s a reason that you see so many “Look what I found!” posts strewn across the internet, complete with unboxing videos and detail-obsessed photography. These aren’t gamers happy to have found a deal. They’re lost wanderers who, at long last, found their way back across the planes. They’ve made it back to the Land of Adventure, and that’s always worth celebrating.

So let’s hear it, guys. For today’s discussion, tell us about your best Salvation Army find. What long-lost book from yesteryear beckoned you from a garage sale table or swap meet bin? Share all your lost relics and recovered treasures down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.