Dead in the West - a storytelling-heavy Tabletop RPG set in the Mythic Old West

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The DEAD IN THE WEST Kickstarter is live here!

Hi everyone! The good folks over at RPGPub told me to get in touch with you all, and that my game might be up your alley.


DEAD IN THE WEST
is a tabletop roleplaying game set in a Mythologised Old West setting.Think old Cowboy Movies and Pulp Novels - the kinds of tall tales ofdaring feats and larger-than-life figures that could only exist inthat particular blend of history and fantasy. In Deadin the West,setting out on an adventure should feel like you're modern-dayscribes, stitching out part of the tapestry that is the Great American Mythology.

In DEAD IN THE WEST, emphasis is placed on innovation, clever thinking and the empowerment of both the players and the Game Master. The character creation system is designed as such so that by the time you've played a couple games, no two characters will feel the same. The design philosophy behind DEAD IN THE WEST is "there are no classes in DEAD IN THE WEST, only players, and every player is different".

Dead in the West has had a great first couple days, having already made 25% of it's goal!

CLICK HERE FOR THE KICKSTARER


This player individuality is accomplished in part by the unique and fun levelling system. Rather than simply progressing down a tree, characters earn unique and kooky abilities based on what they actually do in the world. Say you're a pacifist who likes using whips - you may earn the ability to swat weapons out of your enemies hands, ending combat before it starts. Maybe you insist on cooking meals for the party, despite not knowing anything about cooking. Well, you might just earn the ability to make a "mystery stew", where you roll a d100 to determine what weird effects it will have on your reluctant guinea pigs.

The game also has an incredibly fun "Quickdraw" mechanic. When a player is suspicious of an NPC, they can yell "Quickdraw!" to force that NPC into an Old West-style quickfire shootout. This gives the GM a chance to think of fun little ticks and quirks for NPCs, and encourages players to look out for them. Sometimes a fella is just reaching for a match, though - I've definitely had players with itchy trigger fingers that have paid for their eagerness.

I could prattle on and on here - I'm ecstatic about the system, and really couldn't be more excited to be bringing this fun, fresh and unique storytelling tool to as many people as possible.

The Kickstarter is updated frequently! Check out the updates there for some pages and a Character Creation rundown (more to come soon!)

Please feel free to ask me any questions there or here, however

I will be involved in a Q&A on the RPGnet irc channel on Wednesday the 11th of April at 7:30 Central!

Thank you for checking out this post - if you think my game looks neat, please tell your friends or give it a share!

Comments

  • Are there any actual play reports on this somewhere?
  • Interesting! I love the art and the enthusiasm, and the "Quickdraw" sounds exciting (although I wonder how it actually works to highlight NPC quirks, for instance). The premise is a good one, too.

    The "all the characters are unique!" pitch, however, worries me a little. There are so many games out there that already succeed in this regard that it makes wonder if the designer(s)/writer(s) are unaware of what's happening in the field.

    I'd also love to hear more - if there are any reports, interviews, downloads, samples, or anything of that sort.
  • edited March 2018
    Paul_T said:

    The "all the characters are unique!" pitch, however, worries me a little. There are so many games out there that already succeed in this regard that it makes wonder if the designer(s)/writer(s) are unaware of what's happening in the field.

    I definitely agree with Paul here. Don’t use this in the pitch; it just makes it sound like you’re uniformed, inexperienced, and that your game won’t be very original or innovative; especially, if that’s what you’re leading with and seem excited about, and think differentiates your game from others.

    All the other ways you describe your game are way more interesting and this just detracts from it. Please don’t take this as discouragement; the rest of your description makes the game sound pretty cool! I wouldn’t mind hearing about the mechanics in more detail if you have a few minutes to go into them. Anyway, congratulations on the Kickstarter! I’ll check it out. :smile:

  • Hi guys!

    Thanks for the advice - I can see what you mean about that. For what it's worth, I genuinely haven't played a game that uses a similar system to Dead in the West that makes characters feel so different.

    The closest I can think of is perhaps the Fate system, wherein you can create your own stunts. However, in that instance the stunts are more getting flat bonuses if you meet certain conditions, whereas in Dead in the West the things that differentiate characters are far more active.

    I play a lot of games and tend to support a lot on Kickstarter - but maybe you're totally right and games that have done similar things had flown under my radar.

    Considering the campaign is launched, I can't exactly walk it back or anything now. For what it's worth though, I think the individuality players have had in my game does still stand up, and it was hugely fun to see how wildly different each player became.

    If you guys have any more advice or any questions for me, please let me know!

  • So what you mean is, each PC has unique action scene stunts/combat maneuvers? That might be an unusual feature, indeed, depending on execution.

    As usual, I'm more interested in scenario structure and preparation. You say there's a GM role, so - what does a GM do before the game, and what do they do during the game?
  • For character individuality: if you highlight HOW and in WHAT WAYS the characters are unique, that would be a much more interesting pitch for me! (Assuming that it really does stand out from other games, of course.) Maybe an example of how that turns into interesting content in play, too, for illustration.

    Rafu's question is good! I'd like to hear more about that, too.
  • Okay so, character's first;

    An example of how Character development influences story. One player I had loved double-crossing NPC's. He had discovered that something that tended to work for small towns is trying to play to what everyone wanted him to be - little towns in the West were often in need of tough strangers to do their dirty work for them.

    Because of this, I gave him an ability I deemed "The Heel Turn". This meant whenever he met an NPC, he could decide what his demeanour was rather than have them react to it (In DitW, "Demeanour" is a stat sort of like Alignment. It's how people view you upon first meeting, but you don't have to act that way. So this character could now appear to an NPC as either a Lawman or Ruffian depending on how he wanted to present himself). This made the character like Sanjuro, something the player enjoyed and made his double-crossing all the easier, except it came with a caveat;

    If two NPCs met who both viewed this character a different way, his cover would be immediately blown and the two characters would sour on him/realise they'd been played.

    No other character had this Ability, and this player only had it because of how they had chosen to act previously. The player chose to employ it in a tough situation - the town was losing faith in their Sheriff's department, and a local gang of outlaws wanted to essentially give up their outlawing days and replace them. The town was essentially split on the topic - some hated the local law enforcement enough to try anything, others never wanted to be ruled by banditos.

    This player, however, was Lawman to some and Bandito to others. He played both sides for information while the town prepared for the worst. The Sheriff was injured and in a hospital, and bandito's rolled into town with this player at the front of the posse, essentially with the aim to calm anyone down if they got rowdy.

    There was a problem, however; as the Sheriff trusted this player, he told his doctor to deliver a message to him. The doctor, he had appeared to as Lawful, not thinking he would ever see him again. So when the doctor ran up with a message for him, things quickly went south, and a deadly and tense game of diplomacy had to play out as this player got stuck between the town and the banditos, stalling for time as the rest of the party went about their own business.

    This was an incredibly fun and tense situation that only played out the way it did because of how that player's Ability interacted with the world, and he only had that Ability because of how he had chosen to play his character previously.

    On to the role of the GM;

    The GM in DitW is essentially, for lack of a better word, the Storyteller. The GM should think of each session or campaign as a piece of American Folklore to be passed down throughout time. I find thinking about their role this way gives the game a sense of heightened reality - things are always a bit tall, a bit exciting and a bit larger-than-life.

    The GM's role pre-game/campaign is to essentially craft a "Legend". What this means is the GM comes up with a kind of tall-tale that might have survived the test of time. This is entirely up to the GM, of course, but there's a template for creating a Legend. It essentially involves crafting set-pieces and moments that are daring and unbelievable and, importantly, add to an individual character's "lore".

    Though it's somewhat complicated to get into here, essentially it can be thought of as the Character's being Legendary figures whose deeds are being compiled by the GM. Each further test and scenario they're given further develops their character and grants them even more unique, legendary abilities. The GM's role as crafter ties in directly with the player's role as a legend.

    I hope that made sense - the Rulebook itself will feature a long chapter on how to plan a campaign in this exact manner and with this role for the GM. In addition to the games I've GM'd, I've let other people take the reigns during playtesting and whenever they've seen the system they've laughed and told me how cool it was.

    I'd be lying if I said it didn't need a little work, though. I want the game to always feel unique and fresh, and having the GM only fufil one unique role might hamper that.
  • edited March 2018
    Removed as unseen post answers my question.
  • How I interpret it is that without the mechanic that was tailor made for the bandido/lawful PC, the fiction wouldn't have been the same. It influences the player choices in virtually more ways than Aspects or Keys do.
    In many RPGs this kind of drawbacks (being denounced as a double face liar) is the result of on the spot refereeing. It is here made permanent and specific to the character. Which could be a problem in case of a GM's girlfriend scenario.
  • Infranaut said:

    Because of this, I gave him an ability I deemed "The Heel Turn". This meant whenever he met an NPC, he could decide what his demeanour was rather than have them react to it

    You say "I gave him"... Who actually crafts unique abilities, and how?
    • Who: is it something the GM one-handedly decides, "judging" from the player's character's in-fiction behavior? Or has the player got additional out-of-character input into it? Do player and GM brainstorm it together? Can a player submit a request for a special ability to the GM?
    • How: is there a long list of pre-made special abilities to pick from? Are there templates to make into finished special abilities by filling in a few details? Something else? Or has the GM (or player) got to design special abilities from scratch?
    Infranaut said:

    (In DitW, "Demeanour" is a stat sort of like Alignment. It's how people view you upon first meeting, but you don't have to act that way.

    This is an interesting mechanical detail! How do you normally establish Demeanour with no special abilities involved? GM decides when first detailing NPC, rolls on a random table, ...?
    Infranaut said:

    The GM in DitW is essentially, for lack of a better word, the Storyteller.

    Pardon my snark, but... Do you mean that in the old Vampire: the Masquerade handbook sense that the GM can and perhaps would decide everything and the other players are essentially in for a theme park ride? I'm sorry that won't do it for me anymore - I'm way too old and jaded, I suppose.
    Infranaut said:

    The GM should think of each session or campaign as a piece of American Folklore to be passed down throughout time. I find thinking about their role this way gives the game a sense of heightened reality - things are always a bit tall, a bit exciting and a bit larger-than-life.
    [...]
    Though it's somewhat complicated to get into here, essentially it can be thought of as the Character's being Legendary figures whose deeds are being compiled by the GM. Each further test and scenario they're given further develops their character and grants them even more unique, legendary abilities. The GM's role as crafter ties in directly with the player's role as a legend.

    This is interesting in that it tells me a lot about the expected tone and feel of the game, but it doesn't really clarify how it's actually played.
    Infranaut said:

    The GM's role pre-game/campaign is to essentially craft a "Legend". What this means is the GM comes up with a kind of tall-tale that might have survived the test of time. This is entirely up to the GM, of course, but there's a template for creating a Legend. It essentially involves crafting set-pieces and moments that are daring and unbelievable and, importantly, add to an individual character's "lore".

    This is the sort of details that actually interest me. "Legend" as a piece of jargon. Got it. Template - for GM prep. Got it. Set-pieces: one of the units of content to be filled into the template.
  • Yes, any more detail would be appreciated, like addressing Rafu’s questions. As well as addressing whether the game is task or stake resolution based or Move based like in PbtA games or something else? Do the players have any role in helping the GM in crafting and telling the story or does only the GM tell the story with characters exclusively adding to it only through playing their characters? I think that some of us are on the fence and this would help us to make our decision about whether to back the game. Thanks :)
  • Hey all! Sorry, I was away for a few days in Amsterdam (in which time we passed 1/3rd of the way there!)

    On Abilities;

    There are a large number of Abilities included in the rulebook with suggested criteria on how to gain them. For instance, if you have a character who's trying to learn how to use a whip and is also playing as a pacifist, then they meet the criteria to unlock an ability that allows them to use their whip to disarm foes in Quickdraw scenarios.

    Dead in the West encourages GMs to create/come up with their own Abilities, however. The Rulebook will include a step-by-step guide on creating Abilities; what player behaviour to look out for, how to balance party Abilities and how to craft things that are fun. Abilities should always tie into the character themself, and be a logical evolution of their past/how they've been behaving.

    When the GM tells the player "I'm giving you this Ability", they tell said player their rationale. I.e, you acted this way in this situation, which said a lot about your character, so I'm giving you this. The player has a chance to suggest tweaks or say they don't think that Ability feels right. When this happens (or before, if the GM wants), the GM asks the player what they think the three biggest/most important/most emblematic things their character did between levels. This makes the process more collaborative.

    The thing is, after playing 30 games with more than 20 people, this has only happened once. In my experience, players love gaining unique Abilities that speak to how they've played.

    Demeanour is chosen at character creation, but the GM can choose to alter a character's Demeanour if they deem enough has changed over the course of the game.

    And re: Vampire, no. What I meant is that the GM should think of themselves as a Scribe or kind of Otherworldly narrator in the story. Characters are an enormous part of DitW, so railroading would kind of go against the feeling of the game. The Player's interact with the story mainly through their characters in-session. However, in character creation and between sessions the theme of the game is very much "it's a big world, talk to your GM about things to expand upon it and further mythologise your character".

    The set-pieces, etc can absolutely be rejected by the players if they choose to run away/do something else. In DitW though, a character's history and decisions are important, and a part of their character. Running away/doing whatever isn't a neutral decision, but an active one. Every choice a player makes gets added to their Legend.

    The GM essentially says, in a game session/series of sessions, "this is a Legendary event your character is going to encounter", but everything else is up to the players. Each character themself, by the end of their life, should be a semi-mythical figure.
  • Thank you for putting up with all these - at times admittedly provocative, potentially annoying - questions. I think I've made a mental picture where you're coming from.

    I wish you the best of luck with your crowdfunding! It looks like you're making sensible design decisions based on actual play experience.
    OTOH, I also suspect you've mostly experienced a certain style and subset of role-playing games (arguably the most widespread). I hope you'll keep hanging around here, join the discussion and get sucked into a rabbit hole of unlimited possibilities.
  • edited April 2018
    For example, the game carries on between sessions. It's something we elder people can't do anymore. And it's yielding a big chunk of the rules to the social contract, guidelines and all.
  • I’d like to know more about the game setting, and what Western works you’re interested in emulating. The Wild West is a fun and fascinating setting, but the Great American Myth, as you describe it, covers over a lot of really questionable history. I’m curious as to how your game deals with this and what you’ve built into the system to keep it fun for everyone who might pick up the game.
  • This is a difficult topic to tackle and one I've spent a lot of time thinking about. I wanted my players to have a good time, and the setting is, explicitly, a kind of heightened-reality romanticised old west rather than a historical one. It really isn't my place to impose limitations on the fun players can have fun by constantly bringing up their characters ethnicity, sexuality, gender etc all the time - that's not the reason anybody is there. My friendgroup is predominantly nonwhite and when we played, this was always something we understood - that said, I know that having an official book is different from just playing with people you like. I also don't really want the game to be pretending that the Old West wasn't an incredibly cruel, racist and unfair place at the very beating heart of which was a struggle over institutionalised dehumanisation. When it comes to actually playing the game, however, my personal stance is that it's always better to make people feel comfortable and have a good time.

    I want to address this in the Rulebook, though ultimately the game itself is just a series of mechanics. The "setting" is again explicitely malleable (and most of the westerns I've been inspired by take place in a sort of nebulous "post civil war" nowhere). If you want to play a game that way, it's at the discretion of the GM, though I think they're shouldering an incredible responsibility not to be an asshole to their players in that case.

    Please appreciate my struggle as a white british nerd to properly address this.
  • Hey everybody! Dead in the West is entering it's final 48 hours on Kickstarter! If you haven't yet, check out the project and see whatcha think!

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1367347179/dead-in-the-west-a-tabletop-rpg-set-in-the-mythic?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=dead in the west
  • What is the HOODOO number, I can't stop thinking about it?!
  • It's a secret! (You'll have to back the project to find out :P )
  • if people are confused what I’m talking about:

    What is HOODOO?

    Well, I’m afraid that’s a secret.When creating a character, ever player rolls 1d10. They make mental note of this number and tell their GM, but they do NOT write it down. The player is not allowed to tell other players what their HOODOO roll was - if they do, they must immediately re-reoll their HOODOO, only telling the GM the result.HOODOO is a strange stat, and I’m afraid it really isn’t my place top disclose what it does - such things aren’t discussed in civil conversation, yes? Keep your voice down.If you’re GM, you get to know all about HOODOO, but if you’re a player it’s probably best to put such things out of your mind…
  • We're funded! Thanks so much everyone!
  • Congratulations Infranaut!
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