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WYRD by Disaster Tourism
Back when Disaster Tourism was writing WYRD, I got an early look at it and was able to playtest it. I found it to be a fun little system to run some solo combat, if a bit unforgiving! But I didn’t read it all that carefully or consider much of how it could be hacked (I do have a small hack/addendum to WYRD that’s been long in the works, I hope to wrap it up at some point).
So today I decided to read through WYRD a little more carefully. A few notes: 1) K at Disaster Tourism put this out with the intention of it being a lite framework to be hacked and added onto, so I wanted to keep that in mind on this re-read; 2) I believe the WYRD framework was the first step in developing what will be the Disaster Tourism “house system,” GUILD. I will put a link to the GUILD kickstarter at the bottom of this post; 3) I am also going to write a post about The Profane WYRD, a rules and content supplement for this by Copper State Games, which I plan to post shortly after this.
WYRD is a three-stat game in the tradition of osr/nsr dungeon games, albeit very pared down, sparse even. In WYRD, your “attributes” are called Skills, of which you have three: Vigor (constitution), Mind (intelligence), and Power (strength). Roll 1d3 down the line for them. These skills then affect secondary character traits: Vigor to Vitality, or HP; Power to encumbrance; and Mind to spell slots. These character traits get to the heart of what WYRD is about: fighting, casting spells, and carrying your equipment. It’s a dungeon crawler. Put on some armor, pick up a sword, and go into a tomb and kill the enemy and get their gold. That’s what WYRD tells me it is… at first glance, but more on that later.
After skills you get to weapons, spells, and armor. Weapons are categorized by size, which determines their damage and encumbrance slots they take up. Each size is given suggestions as to what the weapon could be—which I like quite a bit. It’s very easy to imagine whatever sort of weapon you want as long as it fits in. Most of the time you get “dagger” or “long sword” in d&d but here you just get small, medium, large. Want a kukri or a cutlass? Just assign it a size, no more fiddling. Of course you can do this in d&d, but in those games things like weapon types are often far more prescriptive. Also weapons have exploding damage die (capped at one time).
Spells operate in the same way, i.e. by category. They’re broken out into healing spells, Misc. use (utility), and then small→medium→large for damage. There’s a small rule for scaling up spells as well.
Armor categories are a little more concrete; they’re named rather than general categories. You have a cloak, leather, chain, and plate, and then a shield; they differ in their Modifier, encumbrance, and what Protection they offer. Protection is straight up damage reduction so the more armor you have the less likely you are to die. However, armor is also more likely to make you get hit because of its bulky nature, which is the purpose of the Modifier. A small touch I like is that for someone going for more of a spellcaster character the cloak gives you some more spell damage, and for the thief characters leather gives you a small weapon category bonus.
I won’t go too far into the combat rules, but as with the rest of the game it’s super light. Players roll against enemy HD; if they roll under, they deal damage to the enemy. On a tie or roll over the enemy deals damage. For spellcasting if you win the roll you cast immediately, if you lose you cast next round but take damage. If you get to 0 vitality you pass out and wind up in town; below that, you instantly die. Enemies have categories that determine their hit die, damage, and how much loot they drop. There are three categories, flavored however you like; e.g. Normal could be a soldier, Boss could be a captain, and Great Boss could be a commander.
The last little bit of rules we see are advancement and some reputation/worldbuilding! When you bring gold back, you can spend 10 gold to increase a skill by 1. Every time you increase a skill, roll 1d6 to increase your renown or disdain. This is the most interesting part of the WYRD framework. On a 1-2 you increase Renown, which means you gain a better reputation in the world you inhabit. You’re looked upon as more of a hero and might be asked for help. On a 5-6 you increase Disdain, which means you are viewed as unsavory and might be sought after for quests of a more dubious nature. 3-4 sees no change, giving it some nice balance.
You can use this system to not only introduce particular types of adventures, but flavor specific towns and communities towards or against characters. You can be Renowned in one area and Disdained in another if you choose. You can also apply this to factions if you desire, being popular with one group and despised by another. It’s a flexible and fun system to play around with. Renown and Disdain are counted separately, and whichever is higher is more likely to influence how you’re viewed in the world and what adventures you are offered. When one or the other reaches 5, you can retire your character or follow the path of a hero or scoundrel as long as you have that character.
WYRD says it’s for 1-3 players. I played it solo by drawing up a small two-room dungeon and going through combat. I imagine it would work much the same with a GM and a few players. My only complaint is the character creation and resolution mechanics being dependent on the d3. I prefer something like a straight d6 but that’s mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to do something like count 4, 5, and 6 as 1, 2, and 3 or whatever.
In terms of hackability, the ultra-lite framework leaves a lot up to the GM to adjudicate anything more than simple hack-n-slash or spell-slinging. There are no skill checks, no dungeon procedures, no measurement of time or space, light, simple items, or much else. That’s not a drawback, it’s a feature of the system. If you don’t want to homebrew a system from scratch this is a good place to start; there’s nothing standing in the way of implementing procedures or subsystems that fit your table’s style. For solo games, it’s simple to incorporate oracles or random tables for dungeon generation. There is no set genre tone so the game is variable in that regard as well.
The Renown/Disdain system is really what sets this apart for me. It takes character advancement and gives it a tangible effect on the world. For solo play it can give you an indication on how to move forward; for group play it can inform the world and give it life for your players. The retirement mechanic in particular is cool and has given me some ideas as to how to introduce new player characters or how to integrate old player characters as skill-trainers or quest-givers.
In terms of the print product, the entire game could fit on one page, but the public domain art and layout work is really solid and well-done. As I said above there isn’t much of a genre tone beyond basic sword-and-sorcery but the design of the product is cohesive and appealing.
My re-read of WYRD has really sparked my interest in this game and the possibilities it has, and makes me very excited for the upcoming release of GUILD as well as revisiting my work-in-progress of my WYRD hack, FLWR (a supplement about magical flower-folk and community building in a harsh, post-apocalyptic environment).
Below is the link to the GUILD kickstarter. The cover art will be by one of my favorite artists and the designer of my own logo, Tony Jaguar. The intro adventure is by Gabe of Copper State Games (who also authored The Profane WYRD which I will showcase shortly). It has a few days left and is rapidly approaching the stretch goal, which is an adventure supplement with adventures written by some great people including Amanda P., Meatcastle Gameware, Dice Maven, Stella, and Luke Gearing. Check it out and back it!
Find Disaster Tourism here: https://disastertourism.games/ and on Twitter @dtrpgs