Fantasy post-apocalypse western? Part 2

I posted recently about spaghetti westerns, chanbara, and Red Dead Redemption 2, and I came up with a list of what I called themes, but could be considered aspects or something else I guess. In this post, I’m going to think about how to take those themes, and how I’d implement them into a Dungeons and Dragons game, by breaking them down into what element of game structure they impact and how they impact it. I want all these to translate in grippiness, a term I misremembered from Dogs in the Vineyard, but which I think is honestly self evident and I like. You want these elements to be potential levers that pull the player characters out into the world and dangerous or complicated situations. I won’t detail the world or the procedures here, I’m figuring out what they need to be. I’ll do that next.

Blood on the Moon

The World

  • The landscape is a character that is out to kill you.
  • There are outposts, and the further west you go, the less industrialised and more isolated they become.
  • There are saloons in most outposts, and they feature music, romance, gambling, drinking and brawling.
  • Law is disorganised and unofficial the further west you go, organised, aggressive and allied with capital the further east you go. Lawmen believe in justice dispensed through the court, gaol and the noose.
  • Lawless believe in justice dispensed through retribution and through duels.

Non-player Characters

  • Non-player characters have a personal sense of honour that often conflicts with duty to an employer, patron, government or family.
  • Non-player characters will kill for gold, revenge or politics, if they can.
  • Homesteaders are desperate, kind, and mistrustful. They often seek liberation from oppression.
  • Fossickers are desperate, gullible, and untrustworthy. They often seek assistance in their endeavours.
  • Lawmen are desperate, broken, and noble. They often provide contracts to the player characters for bounties.
  • Rivals are desperate, protective of their gangs, and spiteful. They often seek revenge for past misdeeds or invasion on their turf.
  • Minions are desperate, callous, and believers in their baron’s cause. They often report on the player characters to lawmen or barons.
  • Barons are comfortable and vengeful. They steal land, livelihood or labour from hard-working folk. They may be captains of industry, matriarchs of successful fossicking families, corrupt authorities, or fallen religious figures. They often seek retribution on the player characters.

The gang and the player characters

  • The gang is home, family, and necessary for survival. The camp is safe until it is discovered by a foe.
  • The gang has as many non-combatants as combatants, and all have relationships with each other. People can join the gang, and leave it.
  • The gang needs supplies and money, and forays out from camp require supplies.
  • Gang business includes confidence jobs, robberies, jailbreaks, lending and collecting debts, collecting bounties, and fossicking for riches.
  • Gang members are uninterested in or unable to engage with civil society
  • The gang would prefer to settle down in one place, but is driven on by mistrusting locals and accumulating heat
  • The player characters contribute to the gang’s finances and to assist the other gang members in their contributions.

Luckily, most of this is world-building. I can just write most of this stuff, tell the players to pretend they’re Wild West outlaws but in dungeons and dragons, but I’ll need special systems for some of these things:

Gang Generator

A gang and camp generator. We need pre-existing relationships, tensions, and roles, one for each gang member including PCs, although more can develop.

Camp Events

The gang must change, interact, create opportunities and bring challenges regularly.

So, take all our previously generated relationships, tensions, plus an events column, and we make a spark table from them. Each session a new event occurs.

Alternatively, a crew sheet cribbed from Blades in the Dark or more likely a variant like Songs from the Dusk. But I’m not sure I want to upgrade or invest in my camp? Is this worth developing?

Supply, heat and gold

The gang needs supply and gold , which should be abstract, it’s easier that way. I’d run it like Errant does (I’d probably play in Errant, it has a few subsystems like duelling that are useful), just supply and gold go into and come out of a central pool.

Heat is a currency like supply and gold. You get it when you’re caught doing things the locals don’t like. When you get too much, the law are after you, which may or not be a big deal depending on how far west you are. Individuals have heat, the gang has the total of everyone’s heat. You can pay off heat in a region if you can persuade the local authority.

Moving camp

I don’t see why it has to be any more complicated than “move out of the region, into a clear hex”.

The Saloon

The saloon, is more challenging, actually, because I’ve always struggled to make these situations interesting and they’re important. So, lets say that a saloon is always where you go to find jobs. There’s a job list there, and when you check the job list, you also carouse. Carousing can result in positive results, negative results, and you get to talk to the person who gives you the job. If you don’t like it, you continue carousing, this time at a disadvantage, and so on and so forth. Mechanise both the saloon and the carousing, and whether players wish to play out the saloon or not, the saloon is a key part of gameplay.

I think that’s enough for today. I don’t know what the world looks like, and most of this is simply world-building and not mechanics-building, which honestly, I didn’t expect. It’s gratifying, because it means that maybe I’m going to do a little world-building on this blog soon. I don’t enjoy writing lore, so it’ll be fun to try to write out a vibes-based fantasy wild-west. Next I’ll look into the procedures.

Idle Cartulary,

7th December 2022

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