Campaign Musing: Sword and Sorcery Western

Posted: February 8, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Roleplaying Games

I’ll admit that I have an unhealthy love for Westerns.  That said, I also have a guilty pleasure of delighting in Sword and Sorcery novels.  So, I figured, why not merge the two into a campaign concept and see what comes out?

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Let’s start off with the Wild West assumption that technology has moved on to allow firearms.  Swords are still fairly common, but revolvers are becoming increasingly favored by many individuals. That said, bows still remain a viable ranged weapon for other cultures.

Magic exists, but is a rare and fickle thing, taking the form of dangerous bargains with powerful Spirits by crazed shamans. Enchanted weapons are extremely rare, as they are forged from Meteoric Ore, material that is beyond the purview of the Spirits of this world and is therefore immune to their powers.  This makes bullets made of Meteoric Ore very valuable as they can render any and all magical defenses useless.

Law is nonexistent in this land, and each settlement has a Sheriff that enforces whatever passes for the law that the community agrees to.  These Sheriffs are often good-hearted, but there are others who rule their respective communities by force.

The lack of extensive trade routes and difficulty sustaining large communities makes traders and adventurers into particularly important members of society.  News only travels when merchant caravans roll into town, and barter makes up for most trade.  Gold and silver nuggets are the closest thing to legal tender, and are measured by weight.

The world itself is a sun-blasted desert with just enough water to scratch a living off a meager harvest.  The lack of arable land makes it difficult for people to actually field large armies, except in the few rare civilizations blessed with fertile land and a reliable source of water.  This makes such settlements into decadent locations where the Rich get to have their way, leaving the poor to eke out a living however they can.

Religion exists in the setting, in the form of a Church of gunslinger-priests who emulate the founder of their order by his “Good Works” which often involve traveling to remote settlements to bring the word of the lord along with holy gunfire upon those found wanting.  Their pristine white dusters carry the mark of the divine flame that inspired him to undertake his crusade against evil.

Countless threats roam the deserts between these settlements.  From giant wolves to hungry ghosts and other stranger beings.  Roaming packs of abhuman monstrosities fall upon the settlements and merchant caravans in vicious raids.

This is a mere sketch of the setting, but I can definitely see it working. Whether the player characters are a roving band of gunslinger-priests sent to stop a demonic ritual being conducted high on top of a desert plateau during a full moon, or roving mercenaries that sell their swords and bullets to the highest bidder, the setting seems to be fairly flexible.  I can throw weird magic, weird science, the undead, demons and the occasional army at the players and they won’t feel that it doesn’t belong one bit.

Interestingly, I’d actually use Fantasy Craft for this.  The Deadeye class seems like a great fit, while the other classes will be well suited towards the adventuring / survival angle of the game as well.

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Comments
  1. ShadowAcid says:

    Sounds awesome. I’d definitely play in a world like that. But I’ve always been a sucker for genre mash-ups, which is why I like Shadowrun so much.

    You might like the Far West rpg that’s coming out soon (http://intothefarwest.com/). It’s western and wuxia, but sounds like it’s up your ally.

    • Hi ShadowAcid!

      I’ve heard of Far West before, but I wasn’t able to make it to the Kickstarter. I’ll keep an eye out on what they come up with… it’s certainly worth looking into as an inspiration.

  2. Have you read the Jerusalem Man series by David Gemmell? It’s pretty close to your concept — a mix of Western, postapocalyptic, and daaaark fantasy. Might provide some good inspirations.

  3. Zakharov says:

    I ran a game for a few years in a setting I called “Westfallen”, which, for lack of a better term, was a Fantasy\Sci-fi Post Apocalyptic Western.

    An alien entity crashed onto a planet, which started to corrupt the flora, fauna and very landscape it’s self. The growing threat caused the collapse of civilization, and as it progressed eastward, more and more cities fell. Eventually, many years later, the Westfallen started to recede westwards.

    Ambient alien energy manipulated by users as magic? Check.
    Rare high tech artifacts that managed to remain working after the impact? Check.
    Vast, barren lands where justice isn’t easy to find? Check.

    My players loved it. Maybe I should work on it again.

    • Hey Zak! Awesome setting, I’d definitely like to hear more about your Westfallen setting. My preferences tend to keep the post-apocalyptic angle to be a little bit more in the background, as to keep my players guessing as to whether or not the S&S/W game is actually an alternate history.

  4. Hikkikomori says:

    Gun & Sorcery, ftw!

  5. I would be tempted to fold some of the ideas from Dogs in the Vineyard into part of this. But sounds like great fun.

    Can I run an evangelist cleric-bard with a magical guitar?

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