By Clinton R. Nixon
Fantasy adventure and Wild West stories have been linked since their beginnings. Both celebrate the lone hero or group of heroes vanquishing their challengers. Both are usually set past the edge of civilization on a frontier full of unknown dangers. Both have no place for the weak, who are weeded out by blade, monster, or bullet. Both have a phallic symbol as their iconic expressions of power: a giant sword or a giant pistol.
The Magnificent Seven, one of the great Western films, was based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which has a classic plot reproduced in many fantasy role-playing adventures: a village under attack hires seven masterless fighters to defend them against bandits. Other Western films like Pale Rider and High Plains Drifter contain supernatural themes echoed in fantasy adventure stories.
As an avid fantasy role-player and Western movie lover, I’ve stolen movie plots plenty of times and shoehorned them into my FRPGs. I enjoy seeing deserts, horses, and border towns right next to swords, dragons, and sorcerers. In 2011, Pelgrane Press and I are bringing that experience to you with Owl Hoot Trail.
Owl Hoot Trail is a game where you can play an upright lawman bringing justice, a dastardly scoundrel robbing a bank, a feral scout on the trail of an owlbear, a mysterious mentalist looking into the darkness of an alien mind, or a gunslinger ready to take on any threat, be it man, beast, or undead. It’s set in a mythic version of the Wild West, and can as easily be seen as the future of a classic fantasy setting or the fantastic version of the historical American West.
The rules are simple and familiar if you’ve played classic fantasy RPGs, but they’ve got cowboy grit. Bullets can kill as easily as a dragon’s claws, and traveling unprepared in the desert is as dangerous as any dungeon. One of my own favorite rules from the current text:
Self-surgery: If a character has to remove a bullet from themselves, they’ll need a knife, whiskey, and fire to cauterize the wound. Roll GRIT + Learning versus DC 20 to pull out the bullet. If failed, pass out for 1d6 turns and keep bleeding.
Currently, Owl Hoot Trail is in the last stages of writing and should go into playtesting in early 2011. I’ve had a hell of a time playing it so far, and look forward to sharing more of it in coming Page XX’s. Until then, happy trails!