Sunday, May 8, 2011

Western RPGs (Weird and Otherwise)

First up is Roberson Games' Weird West which, at the time of this writing, seems to be battling with Cthonian Stars as RPGNow's top-selling product. Which could be because it's priced at $1, in addition to the somewhat niche genre positioning -- not just a Western RPG, but a Weird Western RPG. Hopefully good for games involving strangeness and horror in the Wild West.

Or even Science Fiction and comedy ala Brisco County, Jr. and the original Wild Wild West TV show.

I'm not really sure about the quality, so will have to do a bit of review reading and scouring the web for any reviews or website previews on the content.

The cover art is of interest, but not enough to make me jump yet. Game mechanisms seem to be on the light side, if the game description is to be believed.

Western City is of interest to me primarily because it's published by RedBrick, who has taken on RPG properties like Fading Suns, Earthdawn, and Blue Planet; all of which have my interest as well. Hoping that their taste in quality settings is sustained here.

Wild West Cinema caught my attention because it's quite obviously an RPG focused on a non-historical western setting, and one geared towards replicating the setting and feel of the spaghetti western. This is of particular interest as well, because -- in my youth -- I was quite taken not only by American Westerns and these spaghetti westerns, but also by local Philippine westerns -- hats, guns, and horses in places that seem to include both jungle scenery and deserts for their backdrops. One of my first published short stories, "Gunsaddled", was essentially a weird western set in a Philippine-inspired setting.

I'd be remiss in my duties if didn't mention the ultra-mega-mega-weird-western RPG in the industry: Deadlands. I've never picked it up before for a somewhat superficial reason: I didn't feel the art matched my view of a western, no matter how weird. It always seemed a bit stylized, and not gritty enough. Perhaps this is because of my personal tastes and views on western art (that until I began writing this paragraph, I didn't know I had).

Or perhaps because it felt like it might be too weird for my tastes?

Now, however, it's time to take a look at the the offering squarely to see what it has to offer.

The RPG Gunslingers and Gamblers is one that I did purchase, and it's chock full of western historical and genre source material, lots of excellent (and I think public domain) western art that all seem to be paintings.

As an aside, this is my preferred aesthetic for western art, in addition to the semi-realistic art for the comic the 6th Gun, and the Tim Bradstreet approach to some characters in Shadowrun -- so this may color my appreciation quite a bit.
It also reminded me of another RPG whose name escapes me now -- and I'm not sure why. It had a fantastic gunslinging mechanic: to-hit + hit location + initiative all in one roll. Name escapes me now, alas -- it was back in high school that I played it, so it was probably lost in the mess of RPGs that came out in the 80s. I think it was called Desperados.

From Gold Rush Games, who made one of the definitive feudal Japan RPGs (the award-winning Sengoku), came Gunslingers: Wild West Action. As a fan of Sengoku and the City of San Angelo, I'm eager to see the rich source material and playable setting that I've come to expect from them.

From Mongoose, OGL Wild West has piqued my curiosity, but the price point is holding me back.

Last but not least, Simon Washbourne's Go Fer Yer Gun! is also on the potential reading list. At $2.50 and inspired by the SIEGE engine of Castles & Crusades, it's a steal!

I'm sure there a plenty of other books out there -- but all these ones appear to have electronic versions on RPGnow. Given my preference now for ebooks and online purchase (and instant gratification), they're the priority.

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