I've always enjoyed Wild West RP settings, and so I'm going to adapt the 4E system for a few just-for-fun sessions with me and my friends. I've been impressed with the quality of constructive feedback I've seen in these forums, so I'm posting it here to hopefully get a conversation going! PS, if there is already a good thread on this (I couldn't find one) please let me know!
The first challenge in a Wild West adaptation is making gun combat, which always happens at a range, exciting. I like 4E's emphasis on tactics and movement, and when everyone uses a ranged weapon that's diluted. So I need to throw in some kind of system that rewards tactical thinking and makes encounters fun.
We'll flesh that out fully in a later post, but it's good to keep in mind from the beginning because it's the #1 thing to think about when designing the system. With that in mind, I've tentatively adapted the roles to better suit ranged combat.
Gunslinger- Your typical bad***** cowboy, powers use any gun at relatively close range. Focuses on keeping enemies pinned down behind their cover while giving their allies support to move into position. "Fastest gun in the West". 4E analog-defender/controller Sniper- A patient character who says little and only needs one bullet to get the job done. Best weapon is rifle. "Could shoot a fly off a horse's behind at 100 paces". 4E analog-striker Sheriff- Needs a better name. Coordinates allies, granting bonuses and allowing the use of healing surges. 4E analog-leader
Keep in mind these are the roles, not necessarily the classes that will fill them.
OK, now for my ideas on guns. There are 3 basic types, each with its own advantages and each associated with a fighting style. Here they are so far, comment on balance.
Revolver +2 1d8 10/20 Off hand, quickdraw Shotgun +2 2d6 5/10 High crit, Kickback Rifle +3 1d10 15/30
Revolvers are the staple of gunslingers. They hold 6 shots, do moderate damage at moderate range, and can be dual-wielded. They can be drawn as a free action. They are most effectively used by characters who want to be in the thick of the fight, dicking and weaving behind cover while keeping a constant hail of bullets flying in the other direction. Shotguns are intimidating and wounding weapons, but are mostly useful at close range. They hold only 2 rounds, so characters are advised to make their shots count. A variety of custom ammunition from buckshot (brutal 1) to Birdshot (2d4 dmg, +1 attack) makes the shotgun a versatile weapon. Shotguns are heavy weapons with a lot of kick, so wielders may substitute their Constitution for their Dex score with powers that list Shotgun in the Weapon entry. It is best used by characters who advance under their friends covering fire until they can end the fight quickly and brutally. Rifles have exceptional range and accuracy. In the hands of a skilled marksman, a rifle supporting from the rear can be a major headache for the enemies. They are also effective mid-range weapons due to their high accuracy, and are favored by some gunslingers.
What I'm going for here is game balance and fun, not realism by a long shot. I realize that giving a shotgun a range of 10 squares is sort of silly, but it helps compress battle to reasonable distances (I want the normal range of gunfights to be no more than 8 squares avg.). I am working on the 3 starter classes right now, I'll post them soon. Hopefully there are other Wild West fans out there who can give me some feedback!
I've begun to post my Wild West classes! If you are interested, please visit and PEACH! Thank you. Gunfighter, a defender class (only to level 5 for now) Sharpshooter, a striker class (only to level 5 for now) Tactician, a leader class (only to level 1 for now)
I see the biggest challenge to this system being how to create effective defenders against ranged attackers. Most of the defender attributes, like marking and combat challenge, are really only effective in melee. I am using the 4e system to update MCWOD, but since that still features lots of melee, it isn't really a problem for me. I'd be interested to see how you solve that.
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With regards to making gun fights tactically interesting, and giving defenders a role. Combat will usually involve advancing to cover positions that are advantageous, essentially trying to pin down enemies while moving to flanking positions or to effective range for abilities.
To that end, I'm making the following new rules for cover.
Firearms generally target Ref instead of AC, since they penetrate most materials easily. This allows characters to opt out of wearing armor with little combat penalty, and I'll make some feats and powers that conditionally raise Ref to differentiate between classes.
Standing behind a common cover feature: barrel, crate, boulder, pillar and the like, grants +2 Ref automatically. Crouching behind it, a move action, makes it superior cover (+5 Ref).
Thus you can fire (standard) and crouch (move) in the same turn, giving you +5 Ref and an attack. If you use an action to actually move during a turn, you have the choice of either crouching once you get there standard used as a move action) for superior cover or taking a shot (standard) but only getting the +2 Ref that round.
Firearms have an optimal short range, and beyond that suffer a -4 instead of the normal -2 to hit penalty. Most powers are usable only within the firearm's optimal range, beyond that you use ranged basic attacks.
Height is also important: a character grants combat advantage to enemies that have a significant elevation (1 story or more) compared to them.
The Gunslinger (defender) marks targets by taking a shot at them, just like a fighter (assuming they are within optimal range). A marked target suffers -2 to hit against targets other than the Gunslinger. Additionally, if they move the Gunslinger gets a ranged basic attack against them.
Is this enough of a defender role, or should it be strengthened? Any comments?
Are you going to do anything with Races or Power Sources? Depending on how realistic you're going for, Race could instead be background, such as Townsperson, Frontiersman, Indian, etc. Power Sources, again depending on how realistic you're going, could have Magic or something (there really aren't any other power sources in most Wild West stories, actually.).
I'm going to go through the martial power sources first, but I am planning to have some alternate power sources. Wilderness tribes could have a Nature power source, there could be some kind of black magic or "voodoo" power source, and definitely a divine power source. I really like the archetype of an amoral gunslinger who wraps all of his actions in a literal, Old Testament understanding of the Bible- "the Wicked will be punished, and I've never met anyone that was truly innocent." Like d20 modern and other modern day RPG's, I also want to include demons and horror elements that are "behind the veil", in other words most people are ignorant or only dimly aware of the supernatural world lurking in the shadows.
I think I'll actually try introducing different races into the Wild West. I like the West as a theme, not necessarily a historical setting. The important thematic elements can all be preserved and still have some high fantasy elements like dragonfolk, dwarves, and magic weapons (a la the Colt in Supernatural). I do want to avoid high magic and steampunk, and have a more gritty, folklorish feel for supernatural occurences in the setting. Wizards for the most part won't exist, but the PCs might encounter people who have made a pact with a devil for money, fame, or romance.
My influences in this are of course any good Western, especially Tombstone and A Fistfull of Dollars. Firefly is a good example of superimposing Western elements, mood, and theme on an unexpected setting. I like Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker saga as an example of combining American historical and folklore elements with fantasy. Feel free to post your own favorite Western Influences, maybe I'll take a cue from one of them.
Another cue you could take from could be Steven King's "Dark Tower" series it literally is a western, dark-fantasy novel series.
In the story, Roland is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet it bears striking similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West, as well as bearing magical powers and the relics of a highly advanced, but long vanished, society. Roland's quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland's world is said to have "moved on," and indeed it appears to be coming apart at the seams — mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish from the face of the earth without a trace, time does not flow in an orderly fashion; even the sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland's motives, goals, and his age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries.
I mostly watch a lot of John Wayne movies with my grandma, who's in love with him. Sometimes Clint Eastwood. My main wild west story inspirations are the anime Trigun, and the comic series Jonah Hex. Trigun is technically sci-fi, taking place on a planet which is basically a giant desert. Not only are gunslingers common, they almost always have a weird gimmick; for instance, the main character won't kill anyone, and is also the best gunman alive, there's the preacher/bounty hunter (my favorite Western archetype) who carries a cross that has pistols in one arm, ammo in the other, a rifle in the bottom, and a rocket launcher on the top. Etc.
Jonah Hex, for those who haven't had the pleasure, is a very good comic series, published variously by DC comics and their Vertigo imprint; the titular character is the most feared bounty hunter in the west; a former Confederate soldier, slight supernatural bent (although his Vertigo line had him fighting zombies, spirit-folk, etc.), mostly raised by Indians, who later melted half his face, hates God, plans to make good with the devil by sending as many evil souls to Hell as he can. No mercy for the wicked (in one issue, he delivers smallpox medicine to a man who had killed a tribe of indians, including a little girl; after he hands him the medicine, he shoots it out of his hand and leaves him to die). Very good. Some kind of reputation feat/score/whatever might be needed. All the really good gunmen/outlaws are always known far and wide.
I love the idea of fantasy races existing in a supernatural western setting. I would suggest staying away from Eladrin though; a little too high-magic. To go along with the setting, each race should have a slang term for it, that's offensive (i.e. Injun, chink...you know what I mean...)
Note: If you want a funny western video series, go to www.channel101.com and look up The Fastest Samurai in the West. It tells the story of Chinky Lee, and his quest to find his sister. Along the way, he fights vampires. Explicit langauge, but funny as hell.
Good point, Trigun is definitely a source of inspiration for preserving the tone of the Wild West while completely changing the details and reality of the campaign world. Thinking about it, the preacher/bounty hunter guy is probably where I got the idea for the religious gunman, too.
I like the idea of having a handful of legendary gunmen known far and wide; they (especially some sort of organization to do with them) would make good fodder for the higher levels of the campaign without necessarily having to resort to magical badguys.
Ditching the Eladrin is a good idea, though you could reflavor the ability if you wanted to preserve them. I haven't taken a look at individual races yet, though I like the idea of changing many of them to reflect more accurately Western stereotypes. Just off the top of my head:
Elves = Native Americans, natives who are fighting against the encroachment of "civilization" and are generally hunted by the other races. Some elves have been semi-assimilated into civilized Western society as workers and religious converts. Dragonborn would be a good fit for this niche as well.
Dwarves = Workers from south of the border. They have different accents, different customs, and are generally treated as second class citizens, but they are hard workers and total bad*****es when the occasion calls for it.
Halflings = Like the Chinese were, halflings are strangers in a strange land who are accepted even less than other second-class races out there. Because of their small stature they are physically dominated by the other races and tend to hold jobs building railroads and other dangerous occupations. They are heirs to an ancient and proud culture, and some find success as local merchants and frontier doctors.
Dragonborn = After the recent war, many of the Dragonborn who were previously held in bondage moved from their old plantations to the wide open lands out west. They are usually prevented from owning land, but some find good work as ranch hands (doing the toughest jobs) and sharecroppers working for a landlord.
Tiefling = As an aristocratic class in the "old world", tieflings are rarely seen on the frontier. Those that do find their way out there are resented immediately, but seem to have a preternatural talent for insinuating themselves into positions of power. Tieflings are especially well represented in the railroad companies, and tend to have few compunctions about what they are willing to do to amass wealth and power.
Obviously these racial backgrounds are pretty rooted in American folklore; you could change historical events like the civil war and the Mexican border and still get what you're looking for, but I typed these up quickly. What do you think?