Monday, June 17, 2019

Caverns & Cowboys

This is an idea for a game I've had for a long time now. And apparently I discussed it mostly on G+ instead of here on the blog. I did a search of the posts here, and only found a few mentions of it.

So what is Caverns & Cowboys? Not hard to guess. It's a Western themed game, but also a fantasy dungeon crawling game. Or that was the original idea. I'd thought maybe run it with a combination of Go Fer Yer Gun (or later Tall Tales RPG) mixed with Labyrinth Lord/Classic D&D.

I even made this map as a bit of a trial at a Wild West setting that isn't part of our real world. Did I share this map before? Maybe. I know I shared it on G+ a few years ago (the image file shows I made it in 2017).
Anyway, I let the idea go for along time. Now I'm back on it. Only not using a D&D style OSR game.

A few weeks ago, I started adapting the Star Frontiers rules for a fantasy Western.

Why Star Frontiers? Well, for one thing it's a skill/level based system rather than a class/level based one. The skill system allows more flexibility to create characters that cover lots of different archetypes.

In SF, and in C&C (this iteration of it anyway), you gain a handful of XP each game session, and a few more when you complete an adventure. Then you can spend them to improve your character's base ability scores and skill levels. You can add new skills easily just by spending a few XP if you want, or you can save up to level up your existing skills.

SF has Military, Technological, and Psycho-Social skill areas. I have Interaction, Combat, and Magic skill areas. Yes, instead of Vancian magic, I'm going with magic as a skill. The spells are your subskills, and you have a limited number of spell points to use to cast spells. Gaining levels in the magic skills increases the potency of the spells but not the cost. There aren't really many flashy spells like lightning bolt or fireball, though. I tried to go with 19th century thematic magic types.

Interaction skills run the gamut from cowboy to lawman to doctor to engineer to criminal. I've got the most skills here (although Combat skills have quite a few as well). And while SF makes Military skills the cheapest to learn/advance, I've made Interaction skills the cheapest.

I've also converted a lot of monsters. I took the list from Holmes Basic. I removed a few (for IP or thematic reasons), and added some more (for thematic reasons).

I just need to get the rules for awarding XP and for placing treasure/monetary rewards written up, and I'll be ready to start play testing it.


  1. Huh. I've never thought of this (adopting the Star Frontiers system to a different genre). Huh.

    Not that *I* have to think of *everything* mind you; it's just not every morning I wake up to a new concept out of left field like this.

    Very interesting idea. Are you using a % system with the "spell subskills" to see if they are successful? I would think this genre would have a lot fewer combat skills than SF, being limited to projectile, melee, and...what...archaic missile? Or are you breaking it down more specifically?

    I'd think converting monsters (even a short list like Holmes) to SF would be a pretty beefy task. I don't envy you that...of course, once you do, you'd have a list of "aliens" easily popped into a SF game (if you decide to run regular SF in the future).

    Yeah, interesting idea.
    : )

  2. I decided to break down projectile weapons into Archery (bows, crossbows, & slings since they didn't fit anywhere else), Pistols, Long Arms (smooth bore and rifled), and Scatterguns (shotguns plus the Gatling gun since again it needed somewhere to go). Oh, and an Artillery skill for cannons that isn't dependent on ability scores.

    For spells, yes, each Magic skill has four or five "spell" subskills, each with a percent chance of success. Each magical skill is keyed to one of the mental ability scores. Spell points per day are the matching ability score divided by 10.

    Converting the monsters wasn't that hard. I did simplify some special abilities/defenses. And I left out descriptions because I doubt newbies will get a game like this, and if they do, well, there's Google to help them along. So just stat blocks for monsters. Some may need some adjustments, but the heavy lifting is done on that front.

  3. I enjoyed our first playtest (and I am not normally interested in the Wild West). It is interesting that the world is not the 19th century with occult secrets, but rather a low-fantasy world that has developed 19th technology.