Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Vagabonds of Dyfed: PbtA OSR?
I just wanted to comment on an OSR/PbtA Kickstarter I saw: Vagabonds of Dyfed. The Kickstarter is actually structured fairly well: one tier ($10) gives a PDF and an at-cost code for a print copy via OneBookShelf, so I don't have anything to complain about there. Also the company, Sigil Stone Publishing, has created some great products in the past, like Belly of the Beast. They even offer their current draft of the rules, which is what I'm going to be commenting on.
After a brief read through of the rules, I don't think that this is a true PbtA RPG. It uses a tag system similar to City of Mist, and does use the Apocalypse World-derived 2d6 failure/partial success/success system. It doesn't have any playbooks, which is IMO the hallmark of a PbtA RPG: codified actions for a game that set the theme of the setting. Playbooks are also one of the best things about * World hacks because they let players play without ever looking at the rule book. Of course, they aren't the end all be all of what a * World hack is. As the creator of Apocalypse World, Vincent Baker, states, "Is Apocalypse World an inspiration for your game? Enough so that you want to call your game PbtA? Did you follow Meg's and [Vincent]'s policy wrt publishing it? Then cool, your game is Powered by the Apocalypse."
So, this Kickstarter is Powered by the Apocalypse, but in my opinion, it loses the good stuff about PbtA games in trying to adapt the OSR to PbtA.
Here's an example of some moves I wrote for a more traditionally PbtA old school game:
Find traps: When you are travelling cautiously down a dungeon hallway without a direct enemy threat, roll +Dex:
6-: Your attempts to find and disarm the trap fail, activating the trap instantly.
7-9: You find the trap but cannot disarm it. You may be able to avoid its effects though.
10-12: You successfully find and disarm the trap, but there could still be more.
13+: You manage to set off a chain reaction, where each trap springs another trap, leaving them all harmless as far as you know.
Assault: When you try to attack a monster or enemy with a melee weapon, roll +Str:
6-: Your attempt fails and the monster gets a free attack against you.
7-9: You hit any creature with an Armor Class of 16 or below but they get a +1 bonus to their next attack against you.
10-12: You hit any creature with an Armor Class of 20 or below.
13+: You hit your target and deal two points of damage.
Spell casting: When you try to cast a spell under stress or in combat, roll +Intelligence:
6-: The spell escapes your brain and destroys your carefully cultivated neural pathways as it does so. You take two points of Willpower damage and must meditate for one day in order to recapture the spell.
7-9: You manage to cast the spell, but the toll of doing so deals one Willpower damage to you as the spell interacts with the target in incomprehensible ways.
10-12: You cast the spell successfully but are drained by the effort.
13+: The spell is willing to co-operate with you and all effects of the spell are doubled for this casting.
For my PbtA OSR game, hit points would ideally be divided into three categories, Willpower, Grit, and Fortitude, and don't increase with level. For example, a Magic-User would have five Willpower, four Grit, and three Fortitude, while a Thief would have five Grit, four Willpower, and three Fortitude. This could reduce the need for a save system, as mental or reflex-based attacks just drain Willpower or Grit respectively. Enemy hit points could be one pool and equal to their hit dice in the source material.
I do seem to have a lot of ideas for a much more old school Dungeon World-esque game, maybe I'll try to write some playbooks...
In summation, I think the Kickstarter is well done and I expect them to make a great looking product, but mechanically, it doesn't do what it says it will for me, or at least the current rules don't.