Game for some intense Western fun?

edited July 2011 in Story Games
I want to run a Western game that takes it's inspiration from Deadwood, Open Range, Elmore Leonard's Last Stand at Sabre River, and Robert Parker's Appaloosa and Resolution.

What this specifically means to me:
  1. shades of gray morality, PCs are flawed
  2. getting shot is lethal. Folks die, you could be one of them...which leads to
  3. a decent incentive to avoid rootin' tootin' gunplay both in the fiction and mechanically
  4. but recognizes that shootin' dudes can be fun, and will likely occur so lets make sure it's not a drag, just that it comes with consequences.
  5. a nice web of relationships
  6. and some flags, beliefs, aspects, whatever you want to call 'em.
I like Dust Devils, but it is a little too lite for what I have in mind. I have a hard time seeing it support a ~8 session game.
Maybe a WestNoir kind of take on Technoir, maybe...
I've seen Sean Nittner's Deadwood Apocalypse hack and while I am loving getting to know AW, I can't quite put my finger on why this isn't what I want either.

One option I'm considering is taking Boot Hill 3rd and bolting on bits from other games.

So, any ideas?

Comments

  • In my opinion, the best game for this is still Dogs in the Vineyard.
  • I'd use Burning Wheel straight, with Lifepath modification. Think some people over at the BW forums started creating lifepaths for this.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonIn my opinion, the best game for this is stillDogs in the Vineyard.
    Clarification:
    I don't want Dogs. I want a variety of townsfolk struggling with the themes of civilization vs. wilderness, free-grazers vs. ranchers, organized civil gov't vs law of the gun.
  • Posted By: agonyI'd use Burning Wheel straight, with Lifepath modification. Think some people over at the BW forums started creating lifepaths for this.
    From what I've seen BW is too 'crunchy' for my tastes. But mayhap it's tim eto reconsider.
  • How can you not have that in Dogs? I must not quite get it. You can give the characters whatever traits you want.
  • edited July 2011
    So Dogs, agents of the establishment, right? Absolute moral authority, right? I don't want that.
  • While it can be a bit crunchy, I've kinda liked Gunslingers and Gamblers from FJGaming. Character creation and the mechanics are actually pretty simple, and I really like their damage system (and it is pretty deadly, let me tell you), but it lacks any narrative innovations like flags, motivations, etc. Still, it'd hack very easily. I've played their pirate version of the game fairly extensively, and enjoyed the heck out of it.

    Also, I believe vulpinoid has something westerny...
    Haven't tried it, myself, but it is based off FUBAR, which is based off Ghost/Echo, which is based off Otherkind...well, you catch my drift, reckon?
  • Sure, yeah, but neither of those are baked into the rules of the game, just the premise. Change the premise and the rules still work. But if you're already set against it, then sure, do something else.
  • What you are saying, to me, sounds like PTA. I see the Issues, I see character arcs, I see a campaign of your preferred length. Does that make sense?
  • Posted By: MountZionRyanI likeDust Devils, but it is a little too lite for what I have in mind. I have a hard time seeing it support a ~8 session game.
    Actually, 8 is just about exactly right for a full game of Dust Devils, so long as you pace the escalation perhaps just a bit slower. Certainly with a 4-5 person group I never got to fully immolate everyone in the crucible of their Devil because I only ever played the game in 3-4 session bursts.
    Posted By: J. WaltonSure, yeah, but neither of those are baked into the rules of the game, just the premise. Change the premise and the rules still work. But if you're already set against it, then sure, do something else.
    I don't think I quite agree. The lack of a "normal" skill system relies a lot on the Dogs setup in which townsfolk come rushing up to tell everyone their problems, the town generation rules that have a very specific set of sins against the faith, and so on. Actually the sin progression in town generation turns very problematic once you try to take it out of the premise of the game. I've seen a lot of attempts fall flat.
  • Have ya looked at the Shadow of Yesterday?
    I find Bringing Down the Pain a bit confusing, but it's got a bunch of really neat things going on.
    Oh, and it's free!
    Free's always good... well, usually.
  • Posted By: Nathan H.Have ya looked at the Shadow of Yesterday?
    I find Bringing Down the Pain a bit confusing, but it's got a bunch of really neat things going on.
    Oh, and it's free!
    Free's always good... well, usually.
    I have Solar System and have been looking for an excuse to use it...hmm.
  • TSoY/Solar System sure isn't "gritty", though!

    Dogs can totally work "out of context", I think. The conflict mechanic is pretty generic, so long as escalation as a concept makes sense.

    No need to keep Town Creation and all that stuff... although you'll certainly need to replace it with something else.
  • edited July 2011
    Yeah, Dust Devils is exactly right for this. I wanted the exact same things you did, and DD as my second Forge game delivered in spades over several dozen sessions in 2003-2005. The game can easily end in 1-2 sessions, but that's only if your players do not understand the folding rules - love them and use them, and you'll find that the campaign takes about 4-8 sessions, depending on the number of players.

    Dust Devils is also clearly superior to Dogs in the Vineyard for exactly the reason Ryan mentions: it encourages demographical play and social issues that are not religious and private in nature. You can't do spaghetti western without Marxist awareness. In this regard DitV is not really the ultimate western game people sometimes make it out to be.

    Solar System does a fine western, but it's not going to have the gut-wrenching punch Dust Devils has - SS is going to be '50s heroic western, pretty much, or it's going to be Deadwood-long, with low lethality and slowly boiling issues. Dust Devils is the most lethal Forge game ever, pretty much; it's the only game where you go into that gunfight and you sweat bullets because the game is so f***ing unfair that it's really going to leave your character dead both in positioning (lying on the ground) and mechanically (zeroed in an attribute), all for one lousy gunfight you could've avoided. No mercy at all, no staying power and a brutal death spiral - lose one conflict, and you're going to be the kicking bag for everybody until you get better, if you do.

    If I was crazy and didn't want Dust Devils, one of the top five Forge games ever, then I guess I'd do this in Primetime Adventures. Only with experienced players, though, as you'll need one of those if a PC bites the dust in the first episode and the player has to play his character in flashbacks and such for the rest of the season.
  • I'd suggest Dust Devils too, had you not already discounted it. Solar System would work well, based on my own experience. Here's the set of Secrets and Keys and Abilities we ginned up for a game set in the Klondike in 1898. Some of that might be useful if you want a mid-century western hack. You could easily focus the Keys on the issues you want to confront in play.
  • Going on multiple recommendations, I will take another look at Dust Devils. I have run it for our group before, but as a one-nighter.

    Jason, thanks for the Klondike 1898 info.
  • edited July 2011
    I would take another look at The Rustbelt, mostly because my definition of "fun" in RPGs is "angst ridden rollercoaster to each PC's personal version of Hell".

    I took some notes when I read the game. But I can't recall any specifics right now, except for thinking that it would make a good game for dark Westerns.
  • There was talk of a wild west Apocalypse World hack...
  • Posted By: stupidgremlinAlso, I believe vulpinoid has somethingwesterny...
    Haven't tried it, myself, but it is based off FUBAR, which is based off Ghost/Echo, which is based off Otherkind...well, you catch my drift, reckon?
    Thanks stupidgremlin, High Plains FUBAR was designed to fulfil a lot of these goals. Where grittiness is important to the game, morality is a dusty grey and gunshot can be very dangerous.

    It seemed to have achieved these goals in the playtests, but it'd be great to find out if someone else had the same play experience.
  • Yeah, I enjoyed FUBAR (though haven't had anyone to play it with), and I'll pick up High Plains at some point soon.
    I have a great fondness for western games, though they so often disappoint. I think I've downloaded maybe...three or four from RPGnow in the past year? All of them were kind of dull (one of which was seriously just not worth anyone's time).
  • edited July 2011
    I think Dust Devils has two play modes:

    * short, deadly, one-session, full-speed-on-Devils-and-harm style (which is probably historically the most common)
    * fold the fuck out of things rather frequently (which is how you get to a slow burn multi-session game)

    Also: from my experiences in play, it seems that Dust Devils does not provide a granular task resolution, nor does it resolve harmless conflicts; any conflict intrinsically can cause harm and character change, which is why one should pick conflicts wisely.

    Is the above a fair assessment? I'd appreciate feedback from Eero and JDCorley (as someone who's loved Dust Devils from a ways back), on this thread or a spinoff.
  • Yeah, Dust Devils does tend to fall into those modes. It has a reputation as a one-shot, which is understandable, as that's what it was needed for mostly when it was first published. Also, because the implications of the folding rules were often glossed over in practical play.

    You resolve granular tasks as free narration in Dust Devils. For non-lethal conflicts you need to realize that the player responsible for the lethality is the one who is playing the cards: if you're not willing to go lethal on your opponent, then don't play a lethal hand. At our table it's not an uncommon play to see your cards and then try to talk your opponent into playing the "highest pair" rather than the best hand you can compile, all so as to limit the harm. The uncertainty about whether your opponent really will limit himself to a pair is part of the bluffing, and inside the fiction it's a rude surprise for your character when the opponent you thought was in it just for the laughs draws a knife. It's the game with the mostest when it comes to players having an ability to show restraint and chivalry in the face of a conflict system that couples your degree of violence directly to your ability to win a conflict; only the violent will win, or those willing to threaten violence. That's what "conflict" means in DD, there's no way to be Gandhi and use force at the same time.

    For harmless conflicts you need to use the pre-conflict procedure: a harmless conflict is one where one player backs down in the face of imminent violence, either refusing to draw a hand or folding when they see their cards. It's still a conflict in rpg theory terms when a character gets his way because another player decides that going into a draw about it is not worthwhile for now.
  • Eero's got a good summary of it, but I would add that the number of players at the table is really important too. You can't just rush 5 people straight into their Devil in a single session and have it be satisfying at all. When I did a one-shot, I barely got 2 people there. With my aforementioned 3-4 session games, I could get, quite comfortably, 3-4 players to a satisfying explosive meltdown at some point. The Devil in Dust Devils is super duper personal. The player sitting next to you probably doesn't have a lot to say about how it goes.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyEero's got a good summary of it, but I would add that the number of players at the table is really important too. You can't just rush 5 people straight into their Devil in a single session and have it be satisfying at all. When I did a one-shot, I barely got 2 people there. With my aforementioned 3-4 session games, I could get, quite comfortably, 3-4 players to a satisfying explosive meltdown at some point. The Devil in Dust Devils is super duper personal. The player sitting next to you probably doesn't have a lot to say about how it goes.
    How do you handle a player getting to his End before the final session is over? Does he play an NPC, is his character out of the spotlight but still played?
  • Normally the latter, though sometimes I have them take up an NPC. There is support in DD for choosing a new Devil, so what I try to do is have them pick out what the new Devil would be if we were going to do another full game, and we set up situations in order to show how that comes about.
  • Totally out of topic, but once I had the idea of running a Silent Hill game with Dust Devils.
  • Posted By: MountZionRyanSo Dogs, agents of the establishment, right? Absolute moral authority, right? I don't want that.
    Maybe this should go in another thread, I don't want to push Dogs here if you already excluded it... but what you described isn't dogs in the vineyard!

    The Dogs are not "Paladins". You are not playing God, saying to the player "God smile on you". The dogs are, as explicitly is written in the rule book, young and naive well-meaning people that can do right or make mistakes. Their is only a matter of faith in a god that maybe doesn't even exist (and you as GM are forbidden to play God in any way or give any proof of his existence)

    I am saying this not only to explain a set of mistaken assumption about dogs, but to express some doubt about the kind of game you want. What I wrote before is the way every "story now" game is played, in a way or the other: so I have some doubt about proposing other story now games like Dust Devis, PTA, etc. It would be useful to know how much experience do you have with these games, and the kind of experience you are looking for (OK, you talked about the setting: but what the players - non the characters - should do in this setting?)

    Returning to dogs: the underlying conflict that is the point of playing the game is the one between the individual and society. One of the principal themes of western movies. Don't be blinded by the presence of a faith, it's not a game of paladins, it goes straight to the core of what a western really is.

    Dust Devils is similar, but the conflict is between society and violence.. Still a western theme.
  • Posted By: Moreno R.It would be useful to know how much experience do you have with these games
    Why?
  • edited July 2011
    Posted By: Moreno R.Returning to dogs: the underlying conflict that is the point of playing the game is the one between the individual and society. One of the principal themes of western movies. Don't be blinded by the presence of a faith, it's not a game of paladins, it goes straight to the core of what a western really is.
    I agree with this in part. But in practice, the society identified in the game is a very specific faith, with a very particular litany of sins that forms the basis for town creation.

    It is a lot harder than it looks to come up with a new set of sins for a new, different society for town creation (which also guides the GM's escalation as much as the bidding rules do) without attaching it to some form of faith. I mean, I'm sure people have done it, but most versions I've seen (Jedi and so on) end up making a new religion when one gets right down to it. It is not interests that conflict in a Dogs game, but values, as established in a religion.

    I guess you could throw out town creation and the sin hierarchy and just use the bidding system? But I am really leery of that, because of the strong guidance that those two tools provide for what the GM does.
  • Some "sins" and "values" are very very universal, however.

    For instance, you don't need to define a religion or a set of values if you're talking about incest, murder, adultery, etc. Chances are the judgements will come down no matter what.

    Still, the Dogs conflict system is pretty solid, and a different kind of game could be wrapped around it fairly easily, I'm sure. I would hesitate to do so if you've never *played* Dogs, however.
  • Well, yes, but town creation, especially the progression from false doctrine to murder is very specific to the setting.

    Adultery doesn't necessarily lead to robbery and murder except in a very tightly portrayed moral system.
  • edited July 2011
    Posted By: Cedric PPosted By: Moreno R.It would be useful to know how much experience do you have with these games
    Why?
    Don't you think it's a necessary information, before giving advice?
    Posted By: JDCorleyPosted By: Moreno R.Returning to dogs: the underlying conflict that is the point of playing the game is the one between the individual and society. One of the principal themes of western movies. Don't be blinded by the presence of a faith, it's not a game of paladins, it goes straight to the core of what a western really is.
    I agree with this in part. But in practice, the society identified in the game is a very specific faith, with a very particular litany of sins that forms the basis for town creation.

    It is a lot harder than it looks to come up with a new set of sins for a new, different society for town creation
    I wasn't talking about changing the sin ladder. The Dog's native society is a big part of what put that specific theme into the spotlight. And the western genre never required the setting to be the "historical" frontier.
  • Sure, but not all Westerns are about conflicts of values, or about the conflict of those particular values. Many are just conflicts of interest.
  • Is Dust Devils (or the revised, "Revenged" edition) still available? I can't find it on the 'net. My FLGS has a copy of the old edition, but it seems pricy at $30.
  • Posted By: Hans c-oIs Dust Devils (or the revised, "Revenged" edition) still available? I can't find it on the 'net. My FLGS has a copy of the old edition, but it seems pricy at $30.
    Matt stopped selling it for awhile but I thought he brought it back after re-evaluating his publishing goals. It used to be on IPR but it's gone now.
  • It's $10 for the PDF here.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyIt's $10 for the PDFhere.
    That doesn't have the "Revenged" tag. Anyone know if it contains the udpates?
  • I wrote a one-page existential western rpg, or at least tried to - it's free:

    Jung Guns
  • Hrm, so only the PDF?
  • Posted By: agonyPosted By: JDCorleyIt's $10 for the PDFhere.
    That doesn't have the "Revenged" tag. Anyone know if it contains the udpates?

    This is the newer/revenged edition: You can tell by the date (2006), and the fact that the rules hacks (RONIN, etc) are contained in the book (from the table of contents).

    RONIN: While an interesting choice (re "honor" etc), the Edo period of Japan in which most "Japanese-westerns" (all those movies that were remade into Westerns) take place, is served far better by the core rules than the Ronin hack, I have found.
  • I just bought from the link JD provided, and the file is called "Dust_Devils_Revenged.pdf". Quite enough of a confirmation of Andy's words, I'd say.
  • I had this idea to write a playset in order to use Gangbusters with Fiasco. Then I thought, hey, there's already a western playset in the Fiasco book, and I've got an old Boot Hill rulebook in the garage...

    Haven't tried it yet, but I can't imagine you could go too wrong doing something like that.
  • edited July 2011
    Posted By: Moreno R.Maybe this should go in another thread, I don't want to push Dogs here if you already excluded it... but what you described isn't dogs in the vineyard!

    No?
    You are one of God’s Watchdogs, a young man or woman called to service in the Faith. Your duty is to travel between the Faith’s isolated congregations — its branches — and hold the Faith together. You’ll face danger, sin, betrayal; you’ll represent God’s mercy to the sinner and God’s justice to the downtrodden; you’ll root evil out and balance the line between divine and secular law.
    Dogs in the Vineyard page 21
    Sounds like agents of the Establishment to me.
    When your character is acting to preserve the faith of a branch, he or she can take whatever steps are necessary, and no one can justly complain. Your character acts on behalf of the King of Life; if anyone has a problem, they can take it up with Him.
    Dogs in the Vineyard page 44
    Does this mean that your character can’t sin?
    No. But it does mean that no one’s in a position to judge your character’s actions but you yourself.

    Dogs in the Vineyard page 454
    Sounds like absolute moral authority to me.
    I am not equating absolute moral authority with black and white morality. I am not saying a Dog has an easy time choosing the right path in executing his duties

    If I were going to run a game of Gunslingers before the Fall of Gilead, I would totally use DitV. But this is not the game I want to run.

    And so, I find this rather insulting:
    Posted By: Moreno R.
    I am saying this not only to explain a set of mistaken assumption about dogs, but to express some doubt about the kind of game you want.
    How well do you know me to know "about the kind of game I want?"
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