From the Basement: Tales from the Floating Vagabond

From the Basement: Tales from the Floating Vagabond
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floating-vagabond-coverSam the Bartender: Okay, you’re facing a small horde of Disgustingly Cute Furry Things and behind them are a handful of space NAZIs who seem to be driving the DCFT directly at you.
Rufus: Hey Guys! I’m not really seeing a choice here: I think we’re going to have to get through the DCFTs to get to the space NAZIs.
Callista: [Draws a sword]. Right!
Hairy: Aw, but they’re so cute…
Callista: Exactly. Sam, I’m going to cut my way through these critters to get at the space NAZIs.
Bartender: Give me Swing Nasty Pointy Thing roll. They’re all in one big pack, so make it a d6–you can’t swing without hitting at least one.
Callista: Actually, I’ve got Swing Nasty Pointy Thing With Panache. [Rolls d6] 3.
Bartender: You take down several of them with one swipe of your sword.
Callista: Did it do it With Panache?
Bartender: Give me a Look Good At All Times roll, d10.

Tales from the Floating Vagabond is an out-of-print Avalon Hill game that bills itself as a “Ludicrous Adventure in a Universe Whose Natural Laws Are Out To Lunch.” It’s also a pretty good description of the game. In what other game can your character have skills like Mess With Dangerous Goop, Chase Cars, or Make Wiseass Remark? Where else can you fire a Don’t Point That Thing At My Planet-sized gun or use a Guttern Exten-Do-Spear or a Weedeater (yes, the stats for it are in the book. It’s a classified as a Long Nasty Pointy Thing weapon).

In addition to the usual skills and stats, every character  in Floating Vagabond has the chance to get a Schtick. The rules describe a Schtick as “something a character does or causes to happen around him that is designed to add to the comedic content of the game.” Each Schtick has a major effect and may have a minor effect. The major effect is something that can actually help a player, while the minor effect is primarily for comedic purposes. Schticks range from the Schwarzenegger Effect that allows the PC to ignore wound penalties and effects (as long as no one sees him get any kind of first aid) to the John Doe Effect that causes people to mistake the character for someone else they know.

The mechanics of Floating Vagabond are simple: the GM (called the “Bartender”) assigns a difficulty to the task at hand and tells the character to roll a die that corresponds to that difficulty level. The higher the difficulty, the more sides the die has. For example: a Pitifully Easy task requires a d4, while a Nigh Impossible task requires a d100. The player (called a “Patron”) then compares the resulting number to his skill level. If the number is lower than the skill level, he succeeds. Otherwise, he fails. Combat works different from skill mechanics, but is equally easy.

Tales from the Floating Vagabond is a great game for those nights when you don’t have enough players for your usual game. Characters can be created very quickly, or players (excuse me: Patrons) can use one of the sample characters given in the book. The book also contains a short adventure: “Excedrin Headache #186,000.” Avalon Hill also published a supplement (Bar Wars) and a couple of modules for the game.

Heck, the Patrons could even translate their regular characters into Floating Vagabond characters. This game takes the “You’re sitting in a bar” cliched adventure start and makes it the basis for the game. The Floating Vagabond itself is trans-dimensional bar and most adventures in this game start from there. The Floating Vagabond’s owner installed a Random Dimensional Portal Generator on the door of the establishment. Which  means people can go through the door of a bar or tavern in their own dimension and end up in the The Floating Vagabond.

As I mentioned above, TF2V has been out of print for many years now, but it’s currently available from DriveThruRPG.com, as are the supplement Bar Wars and two modules: The Reich Stuff and Hypercad 54, Where Are You? If you act really quickly (before 8 March 2010), you can get all the TF2V items they carry at a substantial discount in honor of GMs Day.

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