Monday, September 3, 2012

The West That Never Was

That video about sums it up.

So, the other day, I happened to see a Fistful of Rupees (also see Part 2 and Part 3), and it got me to thinking about the intersection of fantasy and the Western.  The two are pretty similar (most American Westerns are just reskinned samurai movies, anyway), in that they typically follow the exploits of a single person or a small group seeking justice.  Or money.  Or both.  There are small borderland towns amidst a large wilderness.  And particularly in the modern deconstruction of the Western, mystical and mysterious elements are common.

Sounds like D&D to me.

The following is meant for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and assumes a fictional American West keeping in line with Raggi's fictional early modern Europe.  You might keep the same geography as America, or you might make a fake one — personally, I was thinking Dogs in the Vineyard or octaNe with just an endless West that never was.  Or Dark Tower, if you prefer. Whatever the case, here's some stuff.


Assume the standard seven classes.  Fighters and specialists are the same.  Clerics might be from a religious order, or they might be the local padre.  Magic-Users might be weird shamans, or Satan-worshippers, or the old crone who lives on the hill and gives love potions to people who remind her of her dead husband.  Demihuman classes either represent demihumans that came over from Europe, or Injuns native to the Americas.  If you pick the latter option, assume adventuring Injuns are typically either exiles or questers seeking glory and mystical knowledge.  A notable number of adventuring Injuns are either Contraries or Two-Spirits.  Injuns come from three broad clans (or societies, or sects, or whatever):
  • Elves become Fire Shamans, battle shamans who fight as well as study magic.  Depending upon the whims of the Referee, Spirit Warriors may have access to the Cleric spell list in place of or in addition to the regular Magic-User spell list.  They otherwise retain all Elf characteristics.
  • Dwarves become Stone Warriors, fierce warriors who are known for their connection to the earth and their legendary toughness.  A fair number of Stone Warriors are also Contraries.
  • Halflings become Coyote-People, mystical tricksters who fulfill archetypal roles among their tribes.  Rather than great battle training, Coyote-People focus more on getting out of trouble and avoiding danger.

All skills still start at a 1 in 6 chance, modified by statistics and class options.  At the Referee's option, two new skills may be added:
  • Quick-Draw: If a character rolls under his or her quick-draw skill, he or she may draw a small weapon (such as a knife or pistol) and use it in the same round.  Quick-Draw benefits from the character's Dexterity modifier.
  • Speed-Load: In a round, a character can load two bullets, plus a number of extra bullets equal to his or her Speed-Load skill.  So, most characters can load three bullets in a round.  This skill works the same for revolver bullets, rifle bullets, shotgun shells, and Gatling gun rounds.
Money and Equipment

Money is as found in the Rules book, although coins are less common because newly-minted currency (typically bank notes) is found back East.  Copper, silver, and gold coins are occasionally found among old Indian and Spanish hordes, however.  In settlements, the following denominations become more common:
  • Copper pieces are more commonly copper bits, retaining the same weight and size as other copper coins.
  • Silver pieces are more commonly found as greenbacks, bank notes printed on green-tinted fabric.  Supposedly, each greenback represents a silver piece in the treasury, but who knows if that's true.  Ten copper bits equal one greenback.
  • Gold pieces are relatively unchanged.  Occasionally, some prospector will come into a settlement with gold nuggets, and the government back East will mint gold eagles, but the gold pieces out West are frequently still bits of Spanish treasure.  And even older pieces...
Equipment is mostly unchanged; armor and classic weapons are typically rarer, but some blacksmiths still make it to keep in practice, and some hombres just feel more comfortable out in the West with a heavy leather duster or chainmail (armor is still sometimes found in treasure hordes, too).  There are a couple of new pieces of equipment, as well.

Item Cost, City Cost, Rural Damage Shots Short Medium Long
Revolver 25 sp 25 sp d10 6 50' 300' 600'
Rifle 35 sp 25 sp d12 5 100' 500' 1000'
Shotgun* 45 sp 35 sp 3d6/1d6 2 50' 100'
Gatling Gun** 1500 sp d12 100 1000' 2000' 3000'

*Shotguns decrease a d6 of damage for each range increment. So, it deals 3d6 at 0'-50' and 1d6 at 51'-100'.

**A character using a Gatling Gun can make up to three attacks per round. Gatling Guns can only be fired while mounted; if carried, they are considered oversized equipment.

Guns ignore armor, typically rendering the average opponent at a measly 11-13 AC.  Cover is important.  Bullets are typically 2cp apiece for whatever gun.

In addition, characters might purchase speed-load cylinders.  A speed-load cylinder costs 5sp; characters can pre-load these cylinders with 6 bullets, allowing them to reload a revolver in one round with a loaded speed-load cylinder.

Cattle Punk Tech

Cattle Punk is the fusion of fanciful, steampunk technology and classic cowboy aesthetic.  If the Referee wishes to include this stuff, the Referee may:

  • A) Make a new class; we'll call it the "Artificer" or the "Mad Scientist" or whatever.  We recommend reskinning the Magic-User; keep the level progression, hit points, attacks, and saves, but lose the spells.  Mad Scientists, however, gain a "Science" skill that progresses as demihuman skills (starts at 2 in 6; increases to 3 in 6 at level 4, 4 in 6 at level 7, 5 in 6 at level 10, and 6 in 6 at level 13); this skill encompasses Architecture, Bushcraft, and Tinker.  Mad Scientists can make magical devices (I recommend using the rules for magical research from Labyrinth Lord, although the Referee might decrease development times and costs because the Mad Scientists do this as their schtick).  
  • B) Specialists can make magical items if they have an Intelligence of 13 or higher, and either Architecture, Bushcraft, or Tinker at 6 in 6.  Specialists with Architecture can make giant vehicles and bases — warships, airships, secret volcano lairs, and the like.  Specialists with Bushcraft can modify life through crossbreeding and Frankenstein techniques, making new creatures and monsters in this fashion.  Specialists with Tinker can make traditional armor, gadgets, and weapons.
  • C) Just modify Grease Monkeys and take it from there.
If super-scientists exist, there are probably limited supplies of "magic items" on the market; if you've got the bucks, tinkerers make good stuff.  You probably won't find anything with more than a +1 enhancement bonus, and that will cost thousands of dollars.  (A +1 anything probably runs about $20,000.)

Magic armor might be able to take gunfire, or it might not.  It's all up to that Referee bastard.


  1. Neat idea!

    I'd say you could just as easily say most samurai movies are reskinned Westerns.

    1. True. I was specifically thinking of A Fistful of Dollars and The Magnificent Seven.

      (I'd also include Star Wars with its free-wheeling samurai/fantasy/science fiction/western/sword-and-sorcery mash-up style.)

    2. Yeah, there's definitely an exchange going on there: several Westerns are chanbara re-dos and several chanbara films are Western re-dos.

  2. I just want to watch movies like this and Knights of Cydonia.

    1. How is it that I was unaware of Knights of Cydonia until now?

  3. I love this... I really love this.


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