Pathfinder 2E Gothic Western (a Weird West setting)

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I've been publishing Starfinder supplements and modules over the past 5 years, and began working on a setting for it updating my published Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG), however, before I started developing content for Starfinder, I had been working on a Weird West setting I called Gothic Western. Well suddenly inspired, I've decided to pull it off the shelf, dust it off and return to development, however it began as a PF1 setting, but since I'm finally back at it, I'll need to convert it to PF2. I'm also considering creating this game system agnostically, and making it compatible for PF and 5e, and other systems.

How Gothic Western stands apart from other weird west settings is that it includes legends of Americana, realworld heroes and villains as NPCs, and both Masonic conspiracy theory and Cthulhuesque horror. It was developed to be humanocentric, however. Also rather than using an analog version, Gothic Western is the US and the world in 1879+, utilizing real world events to incorporate into the horror stories. I don't have to reinvent history, rather overlap it with some alternate history based on the setting specifics - otherwise it's treated as real 19th century Earth.

The Knights Templar possessed a treasury of powerful artifacts, like the arc of the covenant, they wanted to keep out of the wrong hands, so they they hid them away in North America before Columbus, in places like Oak Island, hidden caves in New Mexico, etc. As the West is being settled, the risk of items being discovered, is forcing Masonic Knights Templar, a kind of paladin, must recover them, move and hide them again (perhaps Antarctica). Cults of Mayhem largely based in Europe seek these items for their own devious agendas. So there's a struggle. The government deals with the diplomatic issues and tries to keep things secret from the general public, with Pinkertons, Texas Rangers and ultimately the US cavalry to take care of conflicts.

Artifacts (essentially most magic items) confer Taint to those who possess and use them, as well as encountering Cthulhuesque monstrosities. Enough Taint and you start to transform into a monstrous being. Eventually, you'll be hunted by Pinkertons and Texas Rangers and be listed on a registry, eventually sent to a prison or executed. Even the good guys risk Taint. "Unclean" is a term that also refers to Taint. Taint comes in tiers of 5, with increments of 10 points of Taint at each tier, each confer affects, once you cross into the next tier, you cannot possess less taint than you've acquired at tier crossings. At end of 5, you're a monster, an NPC that must be destroyed. Templar have protections against Taint, but still acquire it, though have rituals to lower Taint, before tier crossings. Only Templar have these spells and abilities.

Had a full 1st level module for it, but would need to be updated to PF2, if I chose to pursue that project, called Unclean Brand. 1st level PCs are hired to recover stolen cattle and bring rustlers to justice. What they don't know a cult of mayhem has hired the rustlers, and have branded an unclean sigil onto the stolen cattle that transforms them into monsters intended to be random encounters released into the wild.

Also created a powerful artifact that an entire campaign could be built around.

I'm including an 1880's news sheet with every module, and after reviewing the already written module (still needs to be updated to PF2), I decided I needed some visual content, so I created a news sheet for it, intended to be B/W laser printed, double-sided on tabloid size sheet (11 x 17).

While the adventure doesn't actually take place in Tombstone, it does start just west of town, so obviously Tombstone is the closest city with a newspaper that fits the module, so might as well use it as the local city and newspaper. Even though the date of the module, setting and newspaper is 1879, technically the Tombstone Epitaph wasn't founded until 1881, nor was it this nicely laid out, rather looking a bit more primitive, but using this for creative license. I'm designing as a template to create all my newspaper sheet samples, same fonts, number of and width of columns, etc.

The first story at the top although the 'main story' is a non story for the adventure, I happened to have the stock illustration of the train so decided that's what I'll make that story about. However, on the backside of this sheet, once I design the regional map for the module, I'll label it Southern Pacific Railroad Proposal Map, and mark the proposed rail line down the middle of it. In reality I don't need the railroad data, as the map completely encompasses the region where the module takes place - it's an excuse to use that map. The second story on bottom left is about the actual module, the third story describes a possible encounter in the module as a heads up. The fourth story, though a 'fluff story' to a Masonic Knights Templar the description of the aristocrat and his cane tells him this is an agent of the Order of Oblivion (a European cult of mayhem; the bad guys) and the person who hired the rustlers in the adventure. Oh, and the ad at the bottom, I thought someone in the adventure party might want to purchase a camera (while an older style camera, it had remarkable resolution even by today's standards, so make a good investigator's camera). On the backside beneath the map, I'll fill it with period ads.

How's it look? I just made it last night.


tombstone epitaph.jpg
 
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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I mentioned having created a power artifact, though it was written up by Jonathan Newell, one of the author/designers that originally worked on the project. This artifact would serve as the McGuffin to be destroyed that an entire Adventure Path could be built around. Of course resolving the need to acquire the cards of deck, wouldn't be the only activity in a given adventure, likely it may be a side quest, while engaging in full module trying to resolve other abominations to troubleshoot. The cards are scattered across the United States, Mexico, Europe and Middle East, so involve expeditions by rail overland, by steam ship over the ocean visiting half the known world to resolve.

Here's the Artifact:

appendix-7-artifact.jpg
 


Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
rises from the deeps, called by ancient magics

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees?

Ooo. Yeah? This seems like a lot of fun! I'm actually looking at doing something loosely similar... High Fantasy Western. Less "America and the Real World", though. More "General Americana in a different fantasy-centric world"
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
rises from the deeps, called by ancient magics

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees?

Ooo. Yeah? This seems like a lot of fun! I'm actually looking at doing something loosely similar... High Fantasy Western. Less "America and the Real World", though. More "General Americana in a different fantasy-centric world"
Nothing wrong with that.

I'd say it's most common is to either create an analog Earth with big changes like the US and Mexico didn't go war, and earthquake ripped southern California and dropped it into the sea, or completely ficticious place barely resembling America, but featuring wilderness, forests, plains, mountains, desert, and allowing for Native scout who are actually elven and not human natives. Nothing wrong with that.

I thought I'd go the other way, use the 19th century Earth as is, history as is, and real world celebrities to interact with, then shoehorning in magic use, Cthulhu horror, Masonic conspiracy theory. The setting doesn't intend to replicate 19th century social norms and prejudices, that reality isn't necessary for the setting. I want it to feel somewhat familiar like what we imagine the 19th century to be, but twisted in eldritch horror. Just trying to invent a different wheel...
 
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Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
If I might make a suggestion? Play "The Secret World". Or just read everything you can about it.

While it's not set in the 1800s, it's got some -great- material that gives a sideways eye to history. Particularly the Illuminati and their use of biblical imagery and classical artwork to hide secrets.

It could be obliquely useful in thinking of new ways to represent secret societies and conspiracy theories. The fact that C'thulhu is in it certainly doesn't hurt, either!
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
If I might make a suggestion? Play "The Secret World". Or just read everything you can about it.

While it's not set in the 1800s, it's got some -great- material that gives a sideways eye to history. Particularly the Illuminati and their use of biblical imagery and classical artwork to hide secrets.

It could be obliquely useful in thinking of new ways to represent secret societies and conspiracy theories. The fact that C'thulhu is in it certainly doesn't hurt, either!
Without knowing "The Secret World", your concept makes me think of the movie Ninth Gate, where (if memory serves) there were six books printed and each featured six art plates with unique illustrations that when separated from the books combined with the other five correct plates could be used to "pass into the Ninth Gate", however there were six correct plates, each in a different book and the other plates were incorrect - something different in the illustration making it unusuable for the ritual. So the task was finding all six books and removing the six correct plates to complete the ritual. This also makes me think of the Numerologists that read the original Torah, where the letters of the words are exactly placed in a grid horizontally and vertically, allowing you to read secret messages vertically, diagonally in addition to the standard reading it horizontally, all with further hidden knowledge, only readable if you know how to do it.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
In the game I'm referencing, you are awakened to the true world by a bee. You choose one of three secret societies to be a member of.

Illuminati: Based in New York City. Focus on enriching themselves and hoarding knowledge of the world.
Templars: Based in London. Focus on fighting back the darkness and preserving the world as it stands.
Dragon: Based in Seoul. Focus on understanding the nature of chaos and disorder to manipulate variables.

You then pass through Agartha in the Hollow World to travel to Maine, there the Zombie Apocalypse has begun because Viking Draugr were guarding a magical sword in the Atlantic Ocean recovered by fishermen at sea.

You learn that the small town you're in was long an Illuminati stronghold, and there are codes and mysteries hidden in every building, the sewer, and the safe-houses scattered across the area. Toss in a tarot card psychic who one day stopped faking it and started seeing the truth, a Stephen King stand-in whose stories all become real, and a questline where the only solution is to die in the game so your ghost can interact with other ghosts, and a cult of hippies focused on the 'coming dawn'...

It's pretty wild. Later it moves on to Egypt to explore the idea of rotating Ages of the world where technological and magical advancement reaches a tipping point before someone, or something, hits the reset button and how close we are to that point... Then there's Transylvania fighting against Vampires alongside Fae beings. And Tokyo is in trouble for the endgame...

It's wildly insane but really fun. And the initial areas are so compelling that every 3-4 years I wind up going back to it -just- to play through Maine.

Doesn't hurt that Jeffrey Combs voice acts the Dean of the local College: Innsmouth.
 
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Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter

(They upgraded the graphics in 2018 I think... but I can't find an appropriate Montag video from later than 2013. I'll keep looking!_

EDIT Found one.
 

GamerforHire

Explorer
You are my hero. I have been wanting to run a Weird West campaign for a while, though I also want it to incorporate a world-wide scope, like a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vibe with Victorian Brits, envious French and German imperialists and scientists, and decadent Ottoman functionaries concealing their mysterious empire. I love the idea of the fake newspaper issues as a way of keeping the rest of the world present in the campaign background.
 

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