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Vagabonds of Dyfed

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An unholy union between the OSR and PbtA. A modern take on fantasy rpgs compatible with the classics.

Vagabonds of Dyfed is designed to emulate old-school rpgs with streamlined mechanics. It focuses on “traditional” emergent storytelling and fictional positioning, while leveraging a cut-down Powered by the Apocalypse mechanic.

Vagabonds picks the pockets of greater games: World of Dungeons, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Barbarians of Lemuria, Blades in the Dark, City of Mist, the Black Hack and the White Hack, and of course Moldvay’s venerable Basic.

  • Less swingy and random than most d20 games

  • Easy rules for tactics, clever approaches, and problem solving

  • Players roll everything (usually)

  • A single roll for attack and damage (which scales)

The game is (mostly) mechanically compatible with OSR retroclones, but benefits from a non-binary PbtA style system.

  • A single PbtA “move” core: 2d6 + mod, tiered results

  • Player-generated traits instead of playbooks or attributes

  • High character lethality (low HP, old school damage)

  • Strong GM authority (permissions, GM adjudication)

Basically, we set out to make World of Dungeons on steroids and came pretty close.

Character Sheet

Table of Contents

Quick Reference (by David Schirduan)

How Is It (Not) OSR?

The GM principles and methods are written to:

  • Present situations, not plots

  • Challenge both the player and the character

  • Discard any notion of fairness or balance

  • Remain an impartial judge and referee; an objective observer

  • Reveal the world through immersive play -- things aren’t collaboratively built by the group; it favors verisimilitude

  • Maintain GM authority

The game is built to be as close to compatible to 0e and B/X (Moldvay style) as possible.

  • HP and damage align with B/X, WoDu, and LotFP

  • PC power level and growth curve is similar to Basic, only 6 levels (most abilities grant tools, not numerical power)

  • Healing is difficult and can be time consuming; some injuries are permanent

  • Spells demand sacrifice and can yield unintended consequences

While 2d6 + mod isn’t compatible with B/X AC and attack rolls, this isn’t the first OSR game to eschew such mechanics (Maze Rats, Barbarians of Lemuria, Black Hack). Since the roll is based more on what the character can accomplish as opposed to the nature of the challenge, it plays more like the White Hack and many other OSR saving throw systems (Labyrinth Lord, etc).

Even though you can ignore a monster or a challenge’s attack and AC, there are mechanics for tweaking especially difficult tasks or enemies. There’s a thorough section on converting and creating monsters from old school games (with many must-have monster statblocks included) making it easy to adjust as necessary.

Module Flexibility and Incorporation

Most OSR modules, adventures, spells, and monsters are ready to pick up and play as is. Converting the few things that don’t perfectly align is trivial and can be done on the fly. Grabbing your favorite adventure from LotFP, DCC, LL, or Basic takes almost no additional prep.

Character Creation

One of the biggest departures from the OSR is the way characters are created; less random and more flexible than most old school games. The closest OSR analog is Barbarians of Lemuria or White Hack, but chargen is solidly in the “new school” camp.

Each player defines a few traits that describe the character (their approach, their background, etc) and when those traits are relevant they gain a bonus to their roll. Additionally characters have lineages (elf, dwarf, etc) and special abilities, spells, and so forth.  

Random Tables?

Other than those associated with magical mutations or traveling through the harsh wilderness, Vagabonds doesn’t have many random tables. We feel that there is an endless supply of those already out there; Vagabonds is trying to streamline the systems at play, not provide a lot of additional flavor or content.

What OSR Games is it most similar to?

It plays like a combination of White Hack, Maze Rats, and Basic.

How is it (Not) PbtA?

The game’s presented in a barebones, compact way. It can be hard for those used to other PbtA games to pick it up and run it like Dungeon World or Fellowship. Much of the advice and GM material found in other PbtA games is absent here; and that’s by design.

Vagabonds is meant to be as light and dense as possible; while there’s little to no advice, GM moves, or spelled out agendas, there are dozens of examples and principles to follow. We feel that the spirit of the game will come naturally to those through its play.

No playbooks?

Well, sort of. There are several character “archetypes” in the back of the book which function very similarly to playbooks. However character creation is a lot like World of Dungeons mixed with City of Mist — a combination of free form traits and player selected abilities.

Basically there’s a system in place for “building your own playbook,” not unlike early versions of Blades in the Dark or Uncharted Worlds. If you’ve played Freeform Universal, RISUS, or Fate, it won’t be unfamiliar.

Only one move?

The core is limited to a single move; basically Defy Danger. Most of the time the GM can make a ruling or interpretation and move on. However, there are tons of additional moves in the form of techniques.

Techniques are structured like PbtA moves but fill the role of spells, feats, or special abilities from other fantasy rpgs. All of these techniques conform to genre conventions (fantasy skullduggery), but since they’re not bundled into playbooks you’re able to mix and match til your heart’s content. This allows you to maintain the PbtA principle of sticking to the theme of the game without restricting you to a confined playbook structure. It’s admittedly more burdensome on the player (you can use the Archetypes all the way through level 6 if you wish) but the added customization is half the fun.

So like Dungeon World? Freebooters on the Frontier?

While related, it’s pretty dissimilar to those games. There’s much less meta-collaboration or player agency. Some might call Vagabonds primarily “actor stance” as opposed to “author stance;” the game encourages a clear distinction between GM authority and player input.

Dungeon World is of course a huge source of inspiration (it is what gave rise to World of Dungeons in the first place) but many of its rules have been discarded in favor of simpler, older, harsher ones. Likewise, it plays very differently due to the single-roll attack + damage, lack of playbooks, and shallower overall power curve.

What Else Is in the Book?

Check out the table of contents, or review the list below:

  • Examples: tons of examples, some for practically every rule or subsystem in the game.

  • Plan and Prep rolls: speed up play if you don’t have time to plan every detail and stow every torch

  • Tool kits: packets of semi-abstracted gear and items

  • Travel turns: track and trigger random dungeon or wilderness encounters

  • Hirelings: allies, mercenaries, even warhounds

  • Easy but interesting equipment rules: equipment functions like a combination of tags and techniques, sometimes granting permissions or bonuses, other times entire abilities or spells

  • Magic: various interpretations of how magic can work in your game (techniques only? Traits permissible? Anyone?)

  • Downtime scenes: cribbed and simplified from Blades in the Dark, but works surprisingly well in this context

  • Decays and hazards: weather, poisons, spell-mutations, and looming threats

  • Premade archetypes: want to get started playing in five minutes? Grab an archetype and start slayin’

Book Format

The game comes in two formats:

  • A digital-only, single-column PDF great for phones or smaller screens
  • A print, black and white, two-column square layout

When you buy the game you get the PDF of both versions in case you prefer the wider, two column format. Likewise, when you buy the print version you get all PDF formats. Finally, note that even though DT lists the game as "color" the interior of the book is printed in black and white; color printing is the only way we can get the higher quality paper. 

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (4)
Discussions (8)
Customer avatar
John G December 16, 2018 7:04 am UTC
Digging this game. I don't buy a lot of hardcopy books, but this will be one -- great job, Ben, you've managed to trim away all the fiddly and overwrought bits of PbtA while honing the spirit and awesome core mechanic.

A question -- do folks recommend the softcover or hardcover? Happy with what you have, quality-wise?
Customer avatar
Ben D December 18, 2018 12:03 am UTC
Hey thanks John!

(Not a consumer, obviously, but can weigh in on the different versions of print). The interior is completely identical -- paper, print quality, saturation, etc. So the only difference is the outer wrap: softcover is a bit easier to slip into a pack or folder, but it's easier to beat up accidentally. I find that all DT bindings are a bit "sticky" since they use a glue-based perfect binding instead of sewn.

This means that either way, if you're using the book a lot at the table, it's going to eventually come apart. Because of that I generally recommend the softcover for in-person groups, because it's less expensive and easier to replace if you do have one fall apart.

However, if you're more of a collector or are very gentle with your books, the hardcover FEELS better. If that makes sense.
Customer avatar
Nicholas C July 15, 2018 2:13 pm UTC
I don't seem able to leave a review, but a couple of comments

- this is an excellent game
- but you absolutely need the quick reference sheet linked in the publisher's comments above - it contains rules details that aren't in the rulebook itself
- some text can be slightly misleading at first glance due to the use of "they" and "their" instead of he/she. I'm all for non-gender determinative text, but in some instances here it can be a bit confusing
Customer avatar
Ben D July 16, 2018 3:00 pm UTC
Hey thanks Nicholas! Yeah they changed the review process, not sure what is allowed and not allowed anymore. Could you clarify what rules are missing between the reference? The rules quick reference was written by David Schirduan referring only to the text itself; so I'm a bit confused!

Your note about using singular "they" is spot-on, it can be a bit confusing. I tried to limit the example text to only having a single character that way it'd be easy to reference, but when there's a single character and a group of NPCs (such as describing Shorjahl and the group of soldiers at the fort) it's hard to follow.

Thanks again!
Customer avatar
Nicholas C July 21, 2018 9:36 pm UTC
I am away from home for a week or so, but from what I recall, the core rule book doesn’t specifically mention that the game is player facing - ie all rolls made by the players.

There is also reference on the fast play sheet to (again from memory) cinematic combat option - but this term isn’t in the main rules.

I think from my knowledge of PBTA, that cinematic rolls the combat exchange into a single roll, rather than a separate roll by the player to hit, then another to defend, which seems to be the standard approach.

If this is right then I guess in the cinematic option you would sum up all the applicable traits etc, whereas in the attack/defend option the traits would be split according to which action (attack or defend) they principally affected?
Customer avatar
Ben D July 25, 2018 3:11 pm UTC
You're right, it doesn't explicitly say that the GM never rolls -- however there are no rules for the GM to roll (other than method 1 for monster damage).

The "cinematic combat" option is an invention by David through his interpretation of the rules and discussion with me, but was developed after the game was already published and not a term that I use in the text. However, I think it is a fair representation of that kind of one-roll-expedited combat.

As to how to run it: yes basically you make the task roll of "do we win the combat?" (or exchange if you prefer multiple rolls of combat), and you'd treat it like any other task -- sum all applicable traits, roll, and interpret results.

So you could easily make a 5-7 turn combat into one roll, and if the player rolled a 6- then they very well might die.
Customer avatar
Jason D June 25, 2018 1:02 am UTC
Any chance we can get a blank character sheet to download? - thanks.
Customer avatar
Ben D June 25, 2018 3:16 pm UTC
Hi! It's linked in the description of the product, right above the headline "How is it (Not) OSR?" It should also be included in your download of the PDF.

Just in case though, here's a link:
Customer avatar
Yochai G June 10, 2018 12:15 am UTC
I can't seem to leave a review either. So here goes:
There are a couple of things that have always bugged me about PbtA games, and I don't consider myself a particularly good OSR referee. I'm not a huge WoDu fan. This seems to take much of what I like from both the indie rpg community and OSR, and mash them together.

However, what I like about VoD after reading the rules:
* PbtA dice rolling is something I like, especially as an improv-heavy GM
* The OSR philosophy (heavy on the "GM is the adjudicator" / rulings, not rules, brutal, zero to hero, player skill over character skill, etc)
* Not having attributes and instead just using trait tags (strong, brutal, magical adept etc) to add bonuses (aptitude)
* Rolling once for an attack and its damage (you tak the lowest die and add the aptitude)
* Building your own class/trope (which I know some OSR games do) seems super easy (though perhaps limited at the moment)
* XP for kills, social interactions,...See more
Customer avatar
Ben D June 12, 2018 3:56 pm UTC
Thanks so much! Lame that we can't leave reviews, but oh well. Appreciate your support.
Customer avatar
Brett M June 03, 2018 3:12 pm UTC
Holy crap. I'm not kidding when I say that Vagabonds of Dyfed is the first and only RPG I have ever read cover to cover. I LOVE this game. I ordered a hard copy and intend to try the game out as soon as possible.

This is pretty much the perfect product. I couldn't even find any errors in my reading. I just have exactly two pieces of advice: Have an "Under the Hood" for making new lineages, and also for making new techniques. I'm sure it's pretty straight forward, but knowing the theory behind making these elements would be useful.

Otherwise, amazing job! This beautifully merges my two favorite communities and I can't wait to see how if plays.
Customer avatar
Brett M June 03, 2018 3:28 pm UTC
how *it plays
Customer avatar
Ben D June 03, 2018 8:02 pm UTC
That's so kind of you to say! Don't forget to leave a review, every rating and review really helps the game get noticed.
Customer avatar
Brett M June 03, 2018 11:05 pm UTC
I had been writing it while I read the book. Just put it up!
Customer avatar
May 30, 2018 9:32 pm UTC
I will be buying this as soon as I have disposable income in my budget. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this incredibly detailed and helpful summary of the game and the system. Even if I hadn't been planning to buy it after missing the kickstarter, this thorough description of the game and its intent would have sold me on it.
Customer avatar
Ben D June 01, 2018 10:45 pm UTC
Hey thanks! I'm very glad that this page was as helpful as intended.
Customer avatar
Georg M May 30, 2018 7:42 am UTC
Since I'm a publisher, I can't review this game. Let me tell you that this game deserves all the praise. It is very concise, which is something I admire since I don't have too much time to spare. It uses the weighted approach of PbtA (bell curved propability) and distinctions between miss, success with consequences, success and critical; but it also has bits of OSR that are super intriguing. I liked Tiny Dungeons for its Trait system; but Vagabonds does something similar with its Techniques. All around, I can't recommend this enough.

Also, I dig that I was able to quickly add Michtim support for Vagabonds using a combination of Traits from the Beastkin and Smallfolk Lineages. I can't decide on which Techniques to pick, because they are all so gorgeous, and well. Just try it out, it is really a cool game. Basically allowing you to build your own classes.
Customer avatar
Ben D June 01, 2018 10:45 pm UTC
Thanks Georg, that's very kind of you!
Customer avatar
Yochai G June 08, 2018 7:36 pm UTC
Is that why I can't review it, either? I can't seem to review anything, now.
Customer avatar
Georg M June 15, 2018 4:25 pm UTC
yes. there were publishers who downvoted their competition. I’m basically the opposite, I’m calling out to buy other designer’s games! but alas, that’s how it’s now
Customer avatar
Brett M May 29, 2018 10:05 pm UTC
Looks like a really cool game! I'll ask here like I did with The Sword, The Crown, and The Unspeakable Power. Any chance you could remove the Watermark from the PDF if you're indifferent towards having it? I totally understand if you'd rather not. Most PbtA games don't have watermarks, which is a major component of why I love them and buy them.
Customer avatar
Ben D May 29, 2018 11:58 pm UTC
Hi Brett! We have "no watermark" checked; I believe that "watermarked pdf" is just the verbiage used by DT even if there's no watermark.

If you buy it and there's a watermark, please let me know. I'll reach out to DT in the mean time.
Customer avatar
Brett M June 01, 2018 1:01 pm UTC
Thanks for letting me know. Almost done reading through the PDF. You folks have something really special here
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