Running up Boot Hill
In a briefly relevant title that will be forgotten in the fullness of time, I’m trying to decide what pieces and parts my Wild West book really needs. We’re going to start with a comparison of some previous wild west RPGs, find commonalities, and then cut it back until we have the essence of a cowboy shoot ’em up game. The table might be useless compared to the narrative breakdowns below it.
|Item||Boot Hill 3||Sidewinder||Legends of |
The Old West
|OGL Wild West||GURPS Old West||Western Hero|
|Year Published||1990||2002, 2006||2004||2004||2020||2021|
|Characters||x||D20 Modern||D20 Modern|
|5 Attributes||x||6 Attributes||6 Attributes|
|Classes||N/A||10 level Base|
|Skills & Weapons||x||X+Feats||X+Feats|
|Feats & Talents||D20 Modern||D20 Modern|
|Vocation||Talent Trees||Talent Trees|
|Types of Shots||x|
|Weapons and Combat||x|
|Wounds & Location Tables||x|
|Shooting at Mounted Characters||x||Rules of the West|
|Animals in Combat||x||Wildlife|
|Explosives & Safe Cracking||x|
|Dynamite & Nitroglycerine||x|
|The Old West – Timeline||x||X States Join|
|Cavalry Indians NPCs||x||Plain Folk|
|Bravery, Greed, Reactions||x|
|NPC Tables, short stat blocks||x|
|Sample NPCs Random Quirks||Plain Folk|
|Sample NPCs Random Names||Plain Folk|
|Native Tribes & Character Gen||N/A||Native Americans|
|Historic Gunfighters||x||Rogue’s Gallery|
|Fictional Gunfighters TV & Movies||x|
|The Western Campaign||x|
|Vigilantes & Posses||x|
|Loot & Rewards||x|
|Intoxication & Gambling||x|
|The Cost of Living||3 pages||Outfitting|
|Map & Movement||x|
|Field Glasses & Telescopes||x|
|Encounters – Random Tables||x|
|Fictional Town and Campaign notes||x||Towns +buildings|
|Tales of Discontinuity||x|
|Other adventure seeds||x|
|Adventures – more like scenarios||x|
|5 modules from previous editions||x|
|OK Corral Map||x|
|Tables of modifiers||x|
|Character Record Sheet||x|
|Saturday night special?||1960s|
Boot Hill 3rd Edition
Boot Hill didn’t have what we’d call an equipment section, there were prices under the cost of living for some things, but not really starting character equipment. We’re going to have an equipment section.
Boot Hill had a Gunfighting section that covered rifles and pistols, while the fistfighting covered grappling, knives, shotguns, dynamite other explosives opening safes, and cannons. We’re going to have one combat and game mechanics section to explain how most of the rules work.
Rations were under the cost of living and as a separate item under the campaign section while the survival skill covered what happened if you ran out of rations.
The game had way too many skills, 57 work skills, and 5 weapon skills. We’re going to cut that down to a respectable number. A lot of the skills they had would be different flavors of Craft or Profession, others would fall under the Social skills.
Sidewinder and Sidewinder Recoiled – 2002, 2006
This book is still based on D20 Modern and uses Action Points. Character creation, skills, and feats take up one hundred pages. The Equipment chapter goes on for 30 pages. There are 35 pages of advanced classes, game design has moved on from advanced and prestige classes to base classes with archetypes or subclasses or feat-based stealing of class features instead of multiclassing. This prevents dipping into front-loaded classes and prevents waiting for multiple levels to play the character concept you wanted to play from the start. 30 pages on combat, 30 pages on travel, environment, and diseases, 20 pages on animals, and 5 pages on NPCs. Sidewinder Recoiled is just barely longer than the Cow Town Creator.
The Old West – 2004
Among other things The Old West had Saturday Night Specials, that revolver didn’t exist until the 1960s and though there were cheap crappy guns during the Old Western period they had their own names and nicknames.
OGL Wild West – 2004
Fully based on D20 Modern which used the D&D 3.0 rules as a base, Mongoose gives us a 16-page equipment section with real prices, not Wealth Checks. Page 109 gives us a basic reputation system. Page 111 gives us sample businesses, the skills they require to operate, the basic wealth category of the owner, and complications they might be having problems with. Mongoose gives us chase rules, drinking and gambling, guns, and concealed weapons. The combat section is basically as normal D20 Modern or D&D 3.0 except with a hit location table on page 127. There is a called shot table on page 141, then reloading, mounted combat, and vehicle combat. There’s a four-page section on Luck points and their use. There is a section on horse types with horse appropriate feats including a random table of feats they might have and some stat blocks. Wildlife including swarms. Mongoose gives us 3 pages of sample town-style (Cow Town, Established, Fur trapping, Mining, Rail, Settlement) building lists along with descriptions of the owner’s occupation (smiths, dentist, hotel, stores) as well as some very basic prices. Sample NPCs, rules for making native American characters, and sample NPCs, historical NPCs, and adventure seeds. A section on Games Mastering in the old west is fourteen pages. Glossary of slang. Shootouts. Adventuring including cattle drives with rules. Wanted Dead or Alive. Reference tables. Index. Character Sheets, OGL.
Their flavor text Trail Town I assume is supposed to match up with the table for Cow Town, their flavor text for Mining Town says that other industry-based towns might spring up around things like trapping and buffalo hunting. They follow up with a table for Buffalo and Trapping but the idea of industry-based towns is similar to the one I had for resource extraction towns which included timber cutting camps and whatever lumber mill town downriver they supported. The Hudson Bay company sends its regards to all the trapping towns out there. River and Harbor towns would like to borrow Rail town’s mojo as transportation hubs, steamers were a big deal until the transcontinental railroad was completed, not even stage coaches, 6 miles per hour with frequent breaks, could compete against steamers. I have combined the tables from the book into one table, my alphabetical order is consistent, unlike the original text.
I know we need a one-room schoolhouse, according to this we also need a corral, a restaurant, and maybe a hardware store. The uncommon buildings weren’t forbidden, just less common. I might change my own tables to their common and uncommon method instead of a linear rule based on town size.
Other noteworthy books in the genre
Knuckleduster Cowtown Creator – 2002
This 278-page book was written for Deadlands and FUDGE games, it includes lots of building types you might see in a western town as well as some sample layouts. While the Mongoose OGL Wild West book has a nice seven pages on the subject, it’s not a dedicated book. Parts of this book are OGL open content created for Deadlands D20. As this book is still available on Amazon for the cover price, I’d have to make substantive improvements to compete with my own. Their Firearms guide is out of stock/print and super expensive, it might be a worthier book for replacement.
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