Well that sun is setting and summer is almost over. Time to be hitting that old dusty trail, summer campaigns are winding down and it’s time to plan ahead for those colder months. Amid the constant barrage of technological and magical based systems, beyond the call of the supernatural, falling somewhat further than those sci-fi campaigns, lies a much overlooked genre of gameplay that deserves it day; the western. Now why a western, you may ask? Maybe sometimes you just need to ride a horse and shoot a gun in the privacy of your own home, or maybe you have a hankerin’ for frontier justice, or maybe you’re just tired of the day to day mundanity of dealing with zombie /cyborg elves wielding level 8 rings of freezing and chainsaws. What ever your reasons are for wanting to try something a little different with a touch of dysentery and saddle sores, here are some the more interesting options going into your fall campaigns.
BOOT HILL- TSR
So while not the greatest western game, it might have been the first fairly decent one. This was TSR’s third game ever published and was the partial brainchild of Gary Gygax. In terms of gaming at the time Boot Hill was fairly progressive, using 2D10’s to resolve gameplay. The game itself was popular enough for TSR to issue 3 editions, however there were some issues concerning character development and the lack of actual role-playing within the game environment. The game focused primarily upon its brutal gun-fighting system, where combats were often resolved in a 1-shot scenario, leaving players high and dry very quickly in campaigns. I get where they were going with it though, gunplay in the old west was high stakes and not for the reckless. So maybe this isn’t for everyone based upon the personality types of those I play with.
ACES & EIGHTS- KENZER & COMPANY
Aces and Eights won Origins RPG of the year in 2009, focusing primary upon being a more in-depth and immersive experience into the old west than universal ‘insert genre here’ game systems… and you can buy laudanum in-game. Kenzer & Co. promised a more substantial western role-playing experience as their system was designed from the ground up and rooted in well-developed modules. Did I mention laudanum in-game is .29¢? Actions have consequences in Aces & Eights, if you just shot down everyone in the street, your future plans of being a cattle baron might not pan out. Likewise if you never shoot for greatness you might end up shoveling the livery for the rest of your days. Be aware, Aces & Eights was developed for a long-term campaign commitment (so think about how much laudanum you will need).
DUST DEVILS- Matt Snyder (independent)
So I think this one by far is the most interesting in terms of thematically based system mechanics. While not a ‘card’ game, it uses poker as the key mechanic to resolve the majority of outcomes within the game. This game is more akin to FIASCO, than what I would describe as a typical rpg. Like FIASCO, Dust Devils is somewhat GMless, while players within the various scenes can control outcome based upon the comparison of cards within their hands, it is the player with the highest card that round that both narrates and decides how the scene unfolds for the character. Matt Snyder issued a new edition in 2007 Dust Devils Revenged, with an expanded rules description.
Well saddle-up cowpokes! Get along little doggie! There are tons of western role-playing systems out there, as well as a bunch of universal systems, such as GURPS, that will feed your hankerin’ for frontier life. So polish up those 6 shooters, put on your chaps, and have a rootin’, tootin’ western explosion of fun this fall.
About Ryan: So I try to read about 50 comics a week, depending on my ability to pay the power bill. I try to read as much new and independent works as my tried and trusted favorites, and I’ve been doing this for years. Thus, I can roughly say that I am pretty decent at comicology, however I hold no formal degree. Luckily, degrees are no substitute for common sense and that’s how I got this gig.
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