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So You've Decided to Run a "Western" Game. What Kind?

Which genre(s) of Western RPG would you consider running as a campaign?

  • Classical Western

    Votes: 21 34.4%
  • Acid Western

    Votes: 1 1.6%
  • Comedy Western

    Votes: 4 6.6%
  • Contemporary/Neo-Western

    Votes: 4 6.6%
  • Electric Western

    Votes: 1 1.6%
  • Epic Western

    Votes: 13 21.3%
  • Fantasy Western

    Votes: 26 42.6%
  • Horror Western

    Votes: 31 50.8%
  • Revisionist Western

    Votes: 12 19.7%
  • Science Western

    Votes: 7 11.5%
  • Space Western

    Votes: 21 34.4%
  • Weird Western

    Votes: 28 45.9%
  • Wuxia Western

    Votes: 10 16.4%
  • Other

    Votes: 9 14.8%
  • None of the Above

    Votes: 4 6.6%

  • Total voters


My precious terrible idea was that the game took place in a spiral galaxy. One arm of the galaxy was ruled by the PHB+1 Empire, one arm of the galaxy was ruled by the OA+1 Empire, and the game takes place in the arm between them, about a century after most of the colonies overthrew their imperial governors-- with that middle spiral arm being the (more or less) full monty, "let's get weird" D&D full of disputed borders and unchecked threats.

I don't know how to salvage it.
That sounds a bit like Traveller's Pirates of Drinax Campaign.

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Druid of the Invisible Hand
I’d love to help if I can…

The level of spacefaring is clearly more advanced than you’d seein Soace:1889 or even Spelljammer. This sounds a bit more like Dragonstar.

I have Dragonstar, and it's an influence, but I never took a liking to the "instantaneous transport" concept. Or the "fuelled exclusively by double-digit spellcasters" concept. In Galactic Dragons, aetherships are propelled by enchanted turbines that are fuelled by an alchemical mixture-- much lower-level spellcasters to build the engines, and can be fuelled or operated by mundane experts.

They're faster-than-light, but since I don't even remotely understand the math, they have to maintain a certain distance from large gravity wells before accelerating to FTL or else... squish.

How “western” do you want to go? How “D&D”? Visuals?

Technology level is WWI, give or take, with faster-than-light steam dirigibles. Planetside transportation is mostly horse (or "horse") and railway, though biplanes have been adopted into military doctrine.

The PHB Empire is inspired by Napoleonic France and Victorian England. The Emperor is the Head of State, but not the head of the Church; the Church is the official State religion that everyone belongs to and everyone tithes to, but its official policy toward the religious practices (and divine magic) of "less advanced peoples" is one of pitying tolerance unless there's a threat to public safety. Legitimate arcane magic is taught at State-sanctioned and Church-sanctified Academies, with unlicensed magic being a civil offense and heretical magic (like diabolism or necromancy) being a hanging offense. Carrying weapons openly, except for a knight's sword, is a criminal offense, and only knights and dwarves are allowed to wear metal armor in public.

  • Basically, this is your core races, minus halflings, and your core humanoids and smaller giants, minus hogoblin and ogre mage. Clerics (and similar) belong to a specific Order within the Church that sets their Domains, Wizards are specialists in one of the Eight Schools of Philosophy.

The OA Empire is largely based on Rokugan, minus the Clans, and the "mythical China" of wuxia novels and movies. There are two official State religions, and everyone is a member of both of them; the Emperor is the official Head of the Church for one, and merely a very important sacred figure in the other. (The Emperor can invest Clerics with divine power, or take it away, but only in person; they only have political authority over Shugenja.) Arcane and divine magic are taught by exclusive schools, and are largely unregulated except for public hazards. Soldiers are equipped with ashigaru armor and rifles, while bearing swords is a privilege of the nobility.

  • Humans, obviously, plus various yokai and hobgoblins and ogre mages. Clerics of the Emperor choose any two Domains from the Emperor's list, Wizards specialize in one of the five elements. Shugenja and Shamans exist.

Frontier Space, then, is the Wild West proper-- colonial Africa and the Americas in various states of decolonization ranging from "CROATOAN" to the Antebellum South. Indigenous styles vary, but colonial fashion tends to be a blend of PHB and OA styles. Pretty much everyone carries a six-shooter, and people who consider themselves tough carry a large knife or a smallsword. Every kind of magic is catch as catch can, though summoning demons and animating the dead will still generally catch you a bullet. Planets are less hospitable, with less pleasant climates and larger, deadlier monsters.

  • Humans are native here, like they are everywhere else. Except for planar/planetouched races, this is where all of the "weird races" come from. All of the classes and traditions of the two Empires are represented here, but Wizards and Clerics are rarer, even among colonials.
Most of the game takes place in Frontier Space, the contested area between the two Empires-- they do not like each other, but are prevented by military logistics from direct conflict. More or less, they can each project force to the near side of the Frontier but not to the middle.


Druid of the Invisible Hand
OK. so where’s your problem? What’s giving you fits?

Largely writing a game about colonialism that is, more or less, from the perspective of the colonizers; the standard objection to Western fiction, except I think I've highlighted it in a way that makes it much worse. And then... taking the insensitive cultural mishmash that is Oriental Adventures and representing that as a colonial power.

I just don't think it would be received well, and... if it could be done well, I'm not sure I'm the person capable of doing it.


Staff member
Culturally, you might be happier with Rokugan (the D20 version of L5R) than OA. But the thing is, you’ve got a pair of big empires squared off against each other with a contested zone between them. Things WILL be ugly at times.

I mean, imagine the regions where Persia and Greece butted heads. Or where Rome and Carthage grappled with each other. Some people will be rabidly pro one side or the other. Some will be very…mercenary in attitude and flexible of morality. Some will just want peace & quiet.


Doors and Corners
Voted Comedy, Horror, Fantasy Western which describes my Deadlands game fairly well...

Actually it describes just about ALL of my gaming campaigns if I replace "Western" with just about any other genre. My D&D-type games tend to be Comedy, Horror fantasy.

My sci-fi games tend to devolve into Comedy, Horror, Fantasy... etc. where Magic is replaced with Psionics...

I might be predictable!

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