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D&D 3E
genre fiction ported to D&D 
30th-Mar-2009 01:34 pm
my gaming group has been playing in a really successful dnd campaign based in Freeport. i feel like the pirates/swashbuckling story works really well in dnd. we've had a really good time playing the game.

i was thinking about how that might work with a wild west type game. i know there's a deadlands d20 thing out there but i'm not interested in that. i'm more interested in a way to play dnd, to include all or most of the elements of dnd, so that it still feels like dnd, in the wild west, the same way the freeport setting does for pirates.

the thing is, there are so many things about wild west stories that just wouldn't work in a traditional dnd setting. why have a gunfight when you can cast lightning bolt? why use a longsword when you have a sixgun? how do creatures like dragons and griffons fit into a wild west setting?

somehow none of those things felt out of place in the freeport game we played but i'm not so sure about the wild west. i've been thinking it over and i have some ideas but i'd like to hear what you all think, and if you've ever seen it done effectively.
30th-Mar-2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
Huh. I haven't played much

Some things that occur to me:
1. A frontier setting, where there isn't much beyond town-wide organizations and/or nomadic tribes, unless things go really south and someone needs to call in the cavalry that Back East has stationed in a fort in case of Major Problems. If you're a fan of the Eberron style magepunk, any of that magic hasn't made it out to where your characters are now, and an unscrupulous character with a lot of power (or money to hire people) could end up being about the same thing as the evil baron of Medieval Fantasyland, even if his title is just 'Boss X of Y Ranch'. I'd also say keeping it local is a good idea -- give your characters a home base and a bunch of NPCs that they care about. (And, hey, plot hooks!)

2. A concept of face. A lot of the Westerns I've heard of it was a shootout at noon not only to get someone killed, but to show the townsfolk who was in charge by publicly taking care of it. So magic might be seen as cheating in something like this, unless your opponent agrees to make it a mage duel. (Not that the bad guys, or even the 'good guys' might be above cheating.)

(I'd almost want to suggest Firefly, even though it's a Science Fiction TV show, if only because it shows the 'normal' Western trappings used in a setting that isn't typical*)

* Though plenty of people have done the whole space colonization = western expansion that it's practically a cliche.
30th-Mar-2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
First sentence was supposed to be 'haven't played much in the way of Western D&D, but here's some brainstorming'.
30th-Mar-2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
I was also going to mention Firefly as a genre mash up that sounds ridiculous (space western?!) but is actually pretty awesome.
30th-Mar-2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Don't include guns, you don't need them. They sound important, but you've listed two replacements for them already, wands and traditional weapons. A gunslinger can become a spellslinger, or failing that a crossbow crackshot.

D&D and westerns contrast in a few ways. D&D assumes, "This place is old, somebody built things here long ago" while the western says "This place is new, nobody's built here yet." Just give yourself a vanished or semi-vanished civilization from long ago and you can have ancient ruins and dungeons on an unexplored(by modern humans and folk) frontier. Eberron does this in Xen'Drik with the fallen giant civilization.

Fitting creatures in, takes a little work, but remember that not all D&D creatures will live in the same climate. In a western, the wild is inhospitable desert or rolling plains. Griffons may be mounts, or the equivalent of flying buffalo. Dragons fill the role of evil rail baron as easily as a humanoid villain.
30th-Mar-2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
"Why have a gunfight when you can cast lightning bolt?"

One: Magic isn't as commonplace and bears greater consequence in a pseudo-western setting than in a typical fantasy setting.

Two: A Peacemaker has six rounds. At best a mage has half that number of lightning bolts.

"Why use a longsword when you have a sixgun?"

Firearms can jam or misfire. Plus, ammo is limited.

"How do creatures like dragons and griffons fit into a wild west setting?"

They don't, really, unless you make them extremely rare.

In all honesty, the D&D engine is more or less for the heroic fantasy style of RPG. For wild or wierd west, you're better served by using d20 Modern with some slight variations. Bear in mind that the system shock rule in d20 (Make a Fort Save if you take more damage than your Con score or you're Dying), is a great equalizer, especially given that magic is much more limited.
30th-Mar-2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what you mean considering if you're talking about playing D&D, why not play D&D, but it seems that if you want to play Wild West d20, there is Sidewinder and Sidewinder Recoiled, published, I think, by Green Ronin. That is more purely western, with monsters and magic removed.

But, if you wanted to instead play western flavored D&D, or Sci-Fi, for that matter, you could get inspiration for blending genres from two movies produced by Full Moon Pictures in the 90s called Oblivion and Oblivion 2: Lash's Revenge or something like that. Those films depicted a western flavored planet with a cybernetic sheriff, George Takei as a drunken dentist, an alien "Black Bart" named Redeye, and deserts crawling with gigantic three-tailed scorpions.

But, what if the wands in your western flavored campaign were actually six-shooters, and each charge was placed in the rounds put into the six-shooter? What if, rather than each wand having different powers as they do in D&D, each empowered charge was actually delivered in the bullets loaded into the weapon? Perhaps you have wizards who use six-shooters instead of wands? Maybe the rounds are also infused with touch spells? That way, you could deliver a touch spell from a distance by shooting the bullet at your target?

What if magic worked like western technology? And maybe the average Joe rides horses, but the really bad dudes ride dragons?

Maybe it boils down to magic being delivered with Wild West motifs, then? So, your lightning bolt REQUIRES a six-shooter to fire. You can think of ways to bring about the flavor and still make it D&D, I think. You might be able to tell some interesting stories if you turn the flavor of the game sideways a little.
30th-Mar-2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
If you want to see where magic and wild west meet look at tall tales, native mythology, that sort of stuff. Just like standard d&d is based on the myths and magic of medieval europe.
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