Corey Ryan Walden from The Fiendish Almanach has released a playtest document for his Wild West RPG a while ago.
I am proud to announce the Alpha Playtest of Tombstone! Tombstone: Role-Playing In The Wild West, is a rules-lite system, inspired by a combination of TSR’s Boot Hill, and B/X D&D. I have attempted at all times to keep the rules as simple as possible, while providing multiple options for the Judge (Game Master).
System: Tombstone Alpha Playtest
Solo Engine: The 9Qs
Random Idea Generator: Zero Dice
Setting & Premise: Wild West
Heroic Motivation: Gunslingers from the Wild West that want to protect their frontier town, Slingshot.
Edna Storm, female Gambler
“I want to do exciting things and have the upper hand.”
H: 6, D: 11, G: +0, B +0, P: +2, I: +1, W: 11, S: 40 ft., FD: 2
(Health, Defense, Gunslinging, Brawling, Personality, Investigation, Willpower, Speed, Fortune Dice)
Possessions: Rigged playing cards, pistol (1d6 damage), cape, hat, trousers, shirt, boots, $6.50
Outrageous Fortune: There is no denying it: you are lucky. You have two Fortune Dice. The Gambler is the only Background that can use two Fortune Dice simultaneously though they do not have to.
Mason Riggs, male Soldier
“I have sworn to protect the weak and I will put my experience as a soldier to good use.”
H: 6, D: 12, G: +2, B +1, P: +0, I: +0, W: 10, S: 40 ft., FD: 1
Fortune Dice: 1 Possessions: Shotgun (2d6/1d6 damage), two six-shooters (1d6 damage each), knife (1d6 damage), hat, shirt, trousers, $2.
Military Resolve: If you fail any Bravery Test you may re-roll it once per combat. Take the higher of the two rolls.
Patrick Powatan, male Folk Hero
“I want to show my deadbeat father that I can amount to something.”
H: 7, D: 11, G: +2, B +0, P: +1, I: +0, W: 10, S: 40 ft., FD: 1
Possessions: two pistols (1d6 damage each), bowie knife (1d6 damage), hat, trousers, shirt, boots, $3.
Bountiful Rewards: When making a convincing speech and/or a successful Personality check you may garner a higher reward for a job. Add an extra 25% onto the amount of money you would normally receive. This only applies to your reward, not any of your companions’ rewards. An ill-conceived speech or failed check may result in the normal paid fee rather than the Bountiful Reward.
Threats inherent in the setting
The Carson Gang: a band of murder hobos who steal things and cause trouble
Sheriff Richard Hardin: a corrupt “man of the law”
Ezra Durant’s Enclave: a fanatical religious cult just outside of Slingshot
I just came up with them randomly.
Q1. What looming hostility inherent within the setting unexpectedly comes into conflict with the heroic motivation, threatening to worsen over time?
An enemy takes aggressive action against the heroes + an enemy takes aggressive action against unsuspecting victims.
The Carson Gang has threatened to poison the local river if they don’t get new weapons from Slingshot.
The mayor, Ralph De Garza, has given the heroes a load of weapons which they should deliver to an old mine. If they can take out the gang, they should do so but they shouldn’t risk contamination of the river.
- Heroes arrive at the mine where a young and nervous lad awaits them
- Edna looks around to see if she can spot other gang members (TN 10+, success): there are some guys hidden behind rocks on the surrounding hills
- Mason tackles the lad (roll of 5 vs. D 12, failure) but the others take cover in the mine and shoot at the hidden gang members
- Edna aims carefully and wounds one of the backup goons heavily, Patrick misses his shot
- the lad tries a sweeping maneuver, then rolls back to stand up
- in the shooting match, Patrick and Edna are mortally wounded, but Mason manages to knock out the lad
- they can kill the shooters
- Patrick loads up the unconscious lad and Edna (grievously injured) up the mule cart, Patrick can still ride his horse
- the dead have $4, two boxes of ammunition and two rifles; the lad has an ampule, $2 and a box of bullets for his six-shooter
- the old mine is a dead end, the heroes return home to Slingshot
Wow, combat is really deadly in Tombstone.
Q2. What unusual event occurs soon afterward?
Days later, one of the cultists of Ezra Durant’s Enclave has self-immolated and destroyed one of the buildings with a great spectacle. Are the cultists a danger to Slingshot and its population who regard the Enclave with suspicion?
- PCs arrive at the enclosed compound of Ezra Durant’s Enclave
- they can’t convince the two guards to let them speak with Ezra (Personality test: 7 vs. 10, failure)
- heroes wait till the night, disguise themselves (need to leave the weapons behind) and sneak into the compound
- in the ruins of the burned building they find:
- there are remains of prisoner chains and bullets, there are several points of origin for the fire, so it’s unlikely that one person has self-immolated, this looks like some people were executed and it was covered up by the fire
- they sneak into the main house (roll Investigation 11 with assist vs. TN 10, success) and manage to snatch a young girl who they can overpower (Brrawl 12 vs. TN 5, success)
- the girl tells them that Ezra punishes people with imprisonment but she doesn’t believe that he will torch them
- she points them towards a guy Lloyd who often has problems with Ezra (Personality 12+2 vs. TN 10, success)
- PCs kidnap Lloyd and bring him out of the Enclave to ask him questions
- they find out that LLoyd was one of the prison guards and his cigarette was one of the points of origins for the fire (Personality 9 vs. TN 5, success)
- however, he is surprised to get to know that there were several points of origins and about the story of self-immolation
- PCs decide to bring Lloyd to the sheriff but tell him that he’s probably not the culprit (or at least not the only one)
After some more investigation, it becomes clear that Ezra wanted to get rid of some of the prisoners. He tried to cover up with the self-immolation story claiming “freedom of religion” and thus declining the sheriff’s authority to investigate. Unfortunately, Lloyd’s statement make it clear that there was a crime.
Note: In the middle of my investigation shenanigans I discovered that the scene didn’t include a combat like suggested by the setup. Well, whatever.
Q3. What elements of the results of Q1a or b and Q2 suddenly get twisted together in a surprising manner, increasing the danger to the heroic motivation?
The sheriff turns his back on the town and uses the ampule which the PCs found on the gang member to poison the well. He has cast his lot with the Carson Gang!
The PCs have found out that there is a saloon in a nearby town that the gang frequents sometimes. So they hang out there, waiting for the Carson goons to show up.
- (Bravery test for the gang, roll of 6, nothing happens, Initiative goes to the heroes in the first round)
- Edna shoots one of the thugs right into the heart, Patrick wounds one who is finished off by a round out of Patrick’s shotgun
- the gang members retaliate, Edna throws one of the bar stools at them
- while they evade, Patrick’s shotgun blasts one of them out of his socks
- the remaining gangster gives up and agrees to lead them to the gangster’s hideout
The PCs can overwhelm the ex-sheriff and bring him to Slingshot so he can stand trial.
Originally there are more questions (it’s called The 9Qs, after all!) but I felt that the conclusion to Q3 was pretty good and I had enough opportunities to playtest the Tombstone ruleset.
The rules are very simple and straightforward. The author included two methods for char generation, one is “Quick Play characters” which I used. This process is very fast and uses archetypes (like the Indian Brave, the Gambler or the Soldier) which ensure a bit of niche protection.
The basic roll of 3d6 is a neat departure from the standard d20 and balances around an average (check anydice.com for dice probabilities). As promised by the author in his introduction, the game plays quite fast and combat is very deadly.
Some rules are a bit vague as a nod towards old-school-gaming. For example, when the characters wanted to sneak around, I immediately looked for an ability that fit. But characters don’t really have an agility stat or something similar (they have Gunslinging)). Thus, an action like sneaking would be resolved by rolling the basic success test of 3d6 but without any modifiers (differently from when you use Investigation or one of the other abilities). You can also handle that differently as the Judge, it’s up to you.
The same goes for rules like assisting other characters, it’s the Judge’s task to decide if that grants a bonus or not, there are no hard and fast rules.
The Playtest draft also includes an example town (it’s not Slingshot which I used here) and some plot hooks as well as some adversaries.
The game uses classes (archetypes) but also a simple skill system (see the example characters above). You level up in tiers (called Grit) and then can choose to appoint skill points more or less freely and also gain new special abilities.
All in all, I really like the content. Personally, I would like to see Weird Science included and maybe that will come in a supplement. The Holy-Roller leans into this direction as he can heal and later on can make use of prophecies. At the moment, Tombstone is more or less a pseudo-historic setting though.
While I certainly like the minimalist approach to rules, I can imagine that some people would like to have more guidance. This game is admittedly for folks who are familiar with old-school games and who like to make their own rulings.
Check out the draft if you’re interested! In my opinion, this game shows promise.