Rootin’ Tootin’ Old-School Shootin’: A Review of Dead in the West

Dead in the West is grounded in the traditions of John Ford-esque westerns.

I grew up on the stories of Louis L’Amour, spaghetti westerns, and videogames like the Red Dead series and Gun (does anyone remember Gun? It was pretty good), but I haven’t played too many western themed TTRPG’s. The few that do exist tend to lean more towards the ‘weird west’ and eschew the classical western genre. Dead in the West (DitW) by Will Donelson is an exception.

DitW.jpg
DitW’s design is much more grounded in the traditions of John Ford-esque westerns. You want quick draws? It has quick draws. You want good-ole frontier know-how? That’s a central mechanic. You want horses? Horses you get. It’s a game more about general stores and cattle rustlers than floating castles and marauding hordes.

As to the mechanics of the game: well, that is going to be a sticking point for some. There is a tendency in modern game design to streamline the various checks and attributes that a player might call upon to achieve some result, but Dead in the West recalls older design principles that veteran gamers will be a little more familiar with. There was a time in the TTRPG industry that might be considered a sort of ‘wild west’ in design. Games would throw multiple systems into individual games, each meant to emulate some distinct aspect of the world the designer was trying to invoke and DitW follows this philosophy. Even the simple act of determining your cowpoke’s (adorable) core abilities is made up of disparate methods and many members of the hobby might be frustrated by the variances. For example, to determine your three main Facets, you follow the fairly standard system of rolling 4d6, dropping the lowest number, and adding the rest together; repeat for each. However, for your three Scrappin’ abilities, you roll 4d6, drop the lowest, then assign one die to each. That seems fine, except the point of both methods is to derive a modifier somewhere between -2 to +4, so it’s unclear why there are two different methods.

I realize that most designers do not have access to the same dedicated fan base or professional pool of respondents that more established companies have access to. That being said, DitW could have benefited from a little more investment in playtesting and editing. There is certainly a lot of creativity at work and some interesting design choices that deserve exploration. Fun can certainly be had with Dead in the West, if you are up for putting in a little leg work. If you want to give it a shot (pun intended) then you can pick it up at https://deadinthewest.gumroad.com or listen to a playthrough run by Donelson himself on the podcast RPG Roulette. Good luck Cowpoke.
 

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Sorry, a little disclaimer about History of Northamerican Western. This was territory of Mexico until the 1846-48 war, and the California Gold Rush started in 1848, but in before gold had been found in March 9, 1842, at Rancho San Francisco. Th newspaper editor John O'Sullivan is generally credited with coining the term "manifest destiny" in 1845.

* Is there space for the steampunk? for example giant mechanic spiders.

 

Vincent55

Adventurer
i have 5 or more other role-play books that i can do this with, so what makes this one stand out? But may check it out to see what is up with it.
 

sithholocron

Villager
Well Partner, you haven't convinced me to leave the weird west with yer promises of frontier adventuring that can easily be done with a poker deck, some good old gumption and a sidewinder of violence against the forces of evil.
 

'Cowpoke'? Why do so many designers think its authentic for a western to sound like like a hillbilly?

People of the period, as evidenced by documents, diaries, letters, and newsprint, tended to have better usage of English than today. Most of the leading lights of the Old West, the real movers and shakers, were graduates of what are now Ivy League schools or West Point.
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Sorry, a little disclaimer about History of Northamerican Western. This was territory of Mexico until the 1846-48 war, and the California Gold Rush started in 1848, but in before gold had been found in March 9, 1842, at Rancho San Francisco. Th newspaper editor John O'Sullivan is generally credited with coining the term "manifest destiny" in 1845.

* Is there space for the steampunk? for example giant mechanic spiders.


Dejalo al español a recordarnos de la historia del imperio español en america del norte. Pues, podemos hablar sobre el viaje de Cabeza de Vaca, pero debemos empezar con el fin del Virreinato de Nueva España, o sea la Guerra de Independencia de México, desde 1810 hasta 1821.

¡No se si hubieron arañas mecánicas, pero espero que si!
 

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