Paranormal Cowpuncher: Session 0 pt. 1
Over at Burbania Posts I mentioned that I have been super-busy and not quite getting things done here at the web page. I am trying to change that. Another place where I am not participating quite as fully these days is in my favorite pastime of tabletop (or "pen and paper") roleplaying games (RPG's). At church and in public I tend to refer to this hobby as "Dungeons and Dragons" but gamers know that is just the tip of the iceberg. Last year I had a number of games going. I had a clergy game, a game of former youth groupers (now in college) and one for my son and a friend of his who lives far away in Texas. For the last few months I have had none. I am the Game Master (GM) for all of them so prep time is essential. I hope to get back to them once I have the time. However, I still want to play.
This is the reason for yet another heading on this web page. I am working back in by turning to my family. Over the summer my middle son ran a game for us based on the old-school "B/X" D&D rules. If you don't know what that means don't worry about it. It was the kind of D&D I played when I was a child in the '80's. Now I am working on a game to run for me, my wife, our at-home son, and the other boys when they are back for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am calling it "Paranormal Cowboy" and stealing rules from a variety of locations to make it work.
What follows (in this post and in future posts) are thoughts, rules tweaks, and other things that someone other than me might find interesting...
THE BASE GAME:
So my first challenge in this exercise was to find a base system to use as a foundation for the various other rules that will flesh out the experience. For this I turned to the second RPG I ever played. Boot Hill (second edition) was an early attempt to expand the hobby out from sword and sorcery motifs and into other areas of potential interest. Perhaps obviously it is a cowboy game. Gunfighters square off on the main streets and back alleys of movie-styled western towns. When I was a kid I loved it. It was perfect for single-session (one-shot) adventures where one can skip straight to the climactic moment in the second reel when everything comes to a head and somebody fails to leave town alive. My friends and I could roll up ridiculously powerful gunslingers in moments and then just as quickly get shot down in the proverbial blaze of glory. So when I was considering what kind of game I wanted to play on game night at the house, I naturally thought of this one.
What I am taking from this game are the basic character generation and combat systems. Both use percentile dice--two 10-sided dice (d10's), one representing the "10's place" and one the "1's place"--that give us numbers from 1-100. those dice are then compared to a chart that will help determine bonuses for gunfighting. Speed, Accuracy (shoot and throw), Bravery, Strength, and starting Experience are all determined with this role. Bonuses and penalties are then applied to determine chances to hit, etc.
The attacks are also made with percentile dice and there are all kinds of modifiers to them. Is the target running or standing? Are they behind some sport of barrier or are they standing in the middle of the street like Gary Cooper in that movie? After the initial roll to see if the attack succeeds, there is another percentile roll to see where a successful hit lands. Body parts are designated and then a third roll tells us whether it was just a flesh wound or...terminal. That part was always a bit sobering. In old school games--unlike today--your character could die fairly quickly. Literally a single shot could have them measured for a coffin.
This is important, actually. In real life, I am not a big fan of guns. the potential for instant death adds a little "reality" in the game. No matter how heroic or strong you are, a bullet can kill you. It also encourages the players to think of fighting as their second or third means of solving many problems. They put time into their characters, after all, and they would like to keep them.
Finally, in another nice twist, it might look like you were hit (a successful attack roll) but if the determined location is covered--say you were shot in the leg but you are standing behind a feed trough--then you weren't shot at all. This means lots of ducking and dodging, using the landscape to the player's advantage. Players have to think a bit before acting. Of course they are probably fighting zombies and zombies don't care...
Sure, it is number-crunchy, but that is part of what makes it fun! Also fun are the very high risks your character can take. I will not provide details about the mechanics. I do provide a link below to a place where you can buy a very reasonable PDF.
OK, there are many weaknesses. It requires math. The grappling rules could be better. hand-to-hand combat rules are non-existent. There are no magic rules and no cthulian creatures (I said this was paranormal, right?) but the largest system problem is...well...
There is no way to sugarcoat this...There are actually no rules for roleplaying (RP) or exploration in this RPG...other than gambling...I guess...
One of the best parts of this kind of game is that we all get the chance to play (as in acting out) a character. This character needs to be in a convincing world. When I was playing Boot Hill in middle school I really looked forward to the chance to be someone other than myself. It s a big appeal to the game to this day. Back then, though, we were dependent on our fellow players to be good improvisers and on the game master to be comfortable keeping the story rolling by arbitrating disputes between players and giving them all the chance to influence the world and the many non-player characters (NPC's) that lived in it. That is a tall order for a bunch of twelve year-olds! So many games ended in so many tears...
Even at my advanced age I feel like a little dice rolling for exploration and social interactions helps to distinguish the characters from each other and to ease roleplaying. For this I used a different system that I will talk about in the next installment. I will also start to talk a bit about the world we are building and how our first session went. First, though, I need to show you how to get a copy of Boot Hill, right? I mean...y'all want to play it now...
The Link of the Week:
So the link of the week this week is perhaps the link of forever, namely drivethruRPG. Hunt around in there and you will find 2nd edition Boot Hill. You will also find 1st and 3rd edition. 3rd edition reputedly has RP and exploration rules. Maybe you want to do that. I will not. I am sure it is a great game, but I didn't GM it when I was 12...
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A few years ago my intern and I began a D&D game for our church youth group. I wanted to get back into Tabletop Roleplaying games that I had played extensively as a kid and then off and on (eventually with my own kids) over the years. Anyway, fast-forward to now, I am gaming a lot and have become interested in the spiritual dimensions of the game as well as it's ability to spark the imagination about this world and other worlds.