Category Archives: Adventure Sketch

Starfinder Roleplaying Game Monster Design Notes–Really Wild West Bestiary: Grizzly Boar

One of the great things about the Starfinder Roleplaying Game is that designing new monsters and NPCs is fast an easy. Most of the math is taken care of for you, allowing GMs to focus on cool ideas to make threats interesting, instead of having to bend over backwards making sure their core game stats are appropriate for threats of a given level.

That also gives people creating new settings for the game, like my Really Wild West setting hack, opportunities to present creatures in a new way. Rather than just offer a monster, it’s possible to write template grafts in such a way that a GM can adapt a few simple monster rules to create a version of a monster for any CR. A GM need not try to shoehorn the perfect creature concept into an encounter of an inappropriate level. Instead the monster concept can be presented in such a way that the GM can quickly and easily use it at any CR.

I’m going to provide some examples on how to do that, while at the same time talking a bit abut what makes good monsters, walking GMs through the monster creation process, and presenting some brand-new monsters perfect for the Really Wild West (but usable to fill the wildernesses of any Starfinder Roleplaying Game world’s wilderness).

We’ll start with the Grizzly Boar

Grizzly Boar

GRIZZLY BOAR

A Grizzly Boar is a monstrous alpha predator roaming the deep woods and mountains of North America, with a range that is densest along the southeastern coast of the US, the eastern US/Mexico border, and on the whole west coast of North America. With a tusked, porcine head, massive furred body and huge claws, grizzly boars are territorial omnivores that do not fear humans and that will challenge wyverns, wolf packs, and even dragons of their size. When wounded, a grizzly boar will stalk whatever it perceives as a threat for hundreds of miles, until it becomes enraged enough to move in for a kill. Their coloration runs from dark brown in temperate zones to white in the far north, and similar, smaller species of tusk-bears can be found in northern and eastern Europe.

Building and Defining a Monster

Every Starfinder monster is built on one of three arrays presented in Starfinder Alien Archive—combatant, expert, or spellcaster. These arrays give the base values for a creature based on CR, ensuring they are an appropriate typical challenge for an average 4-person group of PCs of that level. In most cases the first decision a GM needs to make is what array to use for a given creature. Since the grizzly boar is described as a dangerous predator, but not listed as having any noteworthy magic abilities, it’s best represented with the combatant array. The template graft for the monster thus lists the combatant array as “required,” so a GM knows that grizzly boars are always build as combat-focused creatures.

After determining the array, a GM needs to know a creature’s type, since this impacts adjustments to the stats of the array and determined what keyword abilities affect the creature. A grizzly boar could be a magical beast, but again given that it seems to basically be a hybrid of boars and big bears, just making it an animal seems more appropriate. Again this is noted in the template graft. That means that when building a grizzly boar, the GM knows it gets all the things listed with the animal creature type graft presented in in Starfinder Alien Archive—low-light vision, Int modifier of -4 or -5, and a +2 increase to Fort and Ref saving throws.

While the combatant array will tell the GM what the grizzly boars top 3 ability score modifiers are for any given CR, those could be put anywhere. Since grizzly boars are strong, tough, and cunning, those modifiers should be put into Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom (in order from highest to lowest). That information also goes into the template graft. A GM can generally leave all the other ability score modifiers at +0, though if at higher CRs a +1 or +2 is desired for one of the remaining ability scores, that’s fine too.

All combatants gain between one and four special abilities, depending on their CR. These are the things that set a monster apart from other creatures of the same CR and type, and are the abilities that PCs are most likely to remember after facing a given monster. To make the grizzly boar template graft work for a grizzly boar of any CR, four special abilities are listed in order of priority, 1-4. If making a CR 1/3, ½, or 1 grizzly boar, it gains only the first listed ability (brute), while a CR 2-CR 11 grizzle boar also gains the second listed ability (gore). Additionally, since all of those options are passive and the grizzly boar is supposed to be among the tougher threats a group might face at its CR, and it has no ranged attacks, a single bonus special ability is listed (ferocity, a universal creature rules from Starfinder Alien Archive), which all grizzle boars receive regardless of CR.

Finally, all monsters built on the combatant array gain one master skill and two good skills, which are listed in the array. Creatures are assumed to gain Perception as a good skill, so it isn’t listed. For consistency sake, a few other notes are given, including the size of a grizzly boar based on it’s CR. These don’t have much impact on its stat block (though it does impact space and reach), but it helps a GM know that lower-CR grizzly boars are young cubs, runts, or from smaller species.

So, the final template graft looks like this:

GRIZZLY BOAR TEMPLATE GRAFT
Required Array: Combatant
Required Type: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: Small (CR 1/3-CR 1), Medium (CR 2-CR 4), Large (CR 5-CR 11), or Huge (CR 12+)
Speed: 30 feet (Small and Medium), 40 feet (Large and Huge)
Ability Score Modifiers: Strength, Constitution, Wisdom
Special Abilities: 1-Brute (adjustment special ability, see Starfinder Alien Archive). 2-Gore (as the nuar racial trait). 3-Grab (claw). 4-Extra hit points (adjustment special ability, see Starfinder Alien Archive). Bonus-Ferocity.
Skills: Master– Athletics; Good-Intimidate, Survival
Attacks: Melee (tusk or claw), no ranged.

To make this monster, a GM just takes the combatant array for the desired CR of the end monster, adjusts the numbers as noted for the animal type, and enters those values in a stat block as directed by the template graft. If an ability just changes numbers (such as brute and extra hit points), the GM makes those changes, but doesn’t need to list those abilities in the state block (since, once the changes are made, the GM doesn’t need to be reminded of those abilities during combat, unlike something like gore, which impacts choices the GM makes). Here’s what a CR 6 Grizzly Boar looks like, for example.

GRIZZLY BOAR          CR 6          [COMBATANT]
XP 2,400 each
N Large Animal
Init +0 Senses low-light vision; Perception +13
DEFENSE     HP 90
EAC 18; KAC 20
Fort +10; Ref +10; Will +5
Defensive Abilities ferocity
OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft.
Melee tusk or claw +13 (3d4+13 P or S)
Space 10 feet; Reach 10 feet
Offensive Abilities gore
STATISTICS
Str +5; Dex +0; Con +3; Int -4; Wis +2; Cha +0
Skills Athletics +18, Intimidate +13, Survival +13
Languages none
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Ferocity (Ex) When a grizzly boar is brought to 0 Hit Points, it can fight on for 1 more round. It can act normally until the end of its next turn; if it has 0 HP at that point, it dies. If it would lose further Hit Points before this, it ceases to be able to act and dies.
Gore (Ex) A grizzly boar can charge without taking the normal charge penalties to the attack roll or its AC.

If the GM needs a group of 4 smaller, lower-level grizzly boars, it’s the work of 2-3 minutes to write up a new stat block to represent a pack of cubs or a herd of wild tusk-bears. If the GM wants to truly challenge a group of 6th level PCs with a massive grizzly boar threat, writing up a CR 9 version is just as fast and easy. Rather than just a single monster at a single CR, the grizzly boar template graft makes this creature a threat usable at any level.

In the coming weeks, we’ll present at least a couple more examples for creatures using the Expert and Spellcaster arrays, while filling out the Really Wild West Bestiary entries.

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Really Wild West Bestiary: Gulchers

Of course you can use any creatures from the Starfinder Alien Archive as threats in a Really Wild West campaign, but in most cases you’ll want to reflavor them to something more appropriate for it’s 1891 aesthetic and technology level.

It’s useful to dream up brand-new threats as well of course, to get foes hat are unique to the dangerous world of pulp theosophy and super-science that is Really Wild West. Here is a very RWW-themed undead, which may be encountered alone or in mass numbers as dictated by the plot. If you want to make different of higher-CR gulchers, just take any undead and replace one of its offensive powers with bad off, add false life, lower its EAC by 2 and raise its KAC by 1.

GULCHER (CR 1)
XP
400
NE Medium undead
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5
DEFENSE
HP
24
EAC 9; KAC 14
Fort +3; Ref +3; Will +3; DR 3/magic; Immunities undead immunities
OFFENSE
Speed
30 ft.
Melee pitchfork (or other tool) +8 (1d6+5 P; critical: bad off) or
Ranged revolver +6 (1d6+1 P)
Special Attacks bad off (DC 11)
STATISTICS
Str
+4; Dex +2; Con —; Int +0; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Athletics +10
Other Abilities unliving
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Bad Off (Su)
A gulcher is imbued with the bad times that lead to its sorry state, and can sometimes inflict its bad luck and sad-sack existence on those it hurts. Any attack from a glucher that scores a critical hit causes the target to feel down and out, gaining the sickened condition for 24 hours, or until the target receives a morale bonus (to anything) or is the recipient of a Diplomacy check to improve their attitude.
A gulcher can also attempt to inflict its bad off ability on a creature as a standard action, creaming in contagious misery. Used this way the ability is sense-dependent and the target can negate it with a successful DC 11 Will save.
A DC 11 Mysticism check can identity the nature of a creature being bad off, and reveal the circumstances that negate this effect. Bad off is a curse effect.

False Life (Ex)
A gulcher that doesn’t realize its own true nature is not affected by spells or abilities that only target undead.
ECOLOGY
Environment
any
Organization solitary, pair, posse (3–12), or settlement (13+)

Gulchers are undead that appear to be gaunt, dirty, badly-tended humans, often dressed in patched and worn prairie clothing, though they can also have the appearance of drovers, gunfolk, miners, merchants, gunfolk, and native people can also become gulchers. Most have sallow skin, yellowed, crooked teeth, stringy hair, and sullen or bloodshot eyes. A few appear jaundiced.

Gulchers are most often normal people who went through a time of despair, tribulation, hunger, and pestilence, and died. But they didn’t notice. Things had been so bad, for so long, that dying would be a relief, and gulchers just don’t expect anything to get better.

As long as a gulcher is unaware it has become an undead, it goes about the dreary and colorless motions of living a life. It eats, if food is available, lies in bed and doesn’t realize it never sleeps, sucks down duststorms and doesn’t realize it should choke. In this state, the gulcher isn’t affected by powers that only effect undead, but it also isn’t immune to fear and emotion effects, and takes the penalties for being shaken at all times (though this is more a dreary lack of verve than true fear).

All this changes if the gulcher is made aware of its state. The easiest way to do this is to deal piercing or slashing damage to it – gulchers have thick, black blood and realize the horrible truth of their state if they see their own tarlike vitae. Evidence of their lifeless existence, lack of food, lack of sleep, and so on, can also be used to convince a gulcher it is no longer living with a DC 15 Diplomacy check. Once it knows that even the peace of the grave is denied it, a gulcher is slowly consumed with a desire to make everyone and everything as pained and hopeless as its own existence.

It’s not unknown for entire towns to become gulchers, often during thunderdusts, droughts, and locust plagues. Sometimes one or two take the gray journey, and their desire to cause misery slowly kill off everyone else in town. Othertimes a real bad situation takes out near everyone most all at once. And sometimes, a drakul, ghul, black spirit, or other bigtime black hat decided to take over a town as a base of operation, and intentionally nurses the despair that causes god-fearin’ folk to become the things other folk fear.

In very rare cases, gulchers perform a useful service, such as toiling at a mostly-played out mine that would be pointless for living creatures to port the food and water needed to operate, operating rickety barges on distant rivers with little traffic, or slowly clearing stones from areas that might, in a few decades, be worthwhile farmlands. Of course, these gulchers are also likely to be angered by the sight of anyone doing better than they, and may drown passengers, or dump scorpions into their sleeping blankets.

Setting/Writing Prompt: Lok

The Geigamorphs can become anything, and turn anything into more of their kind, and mix with anything. No one knows where they came from, but they are destroying the world.
But every once in a rare while, when two Geigamorphs meet, the attack one another. And if one dies at another’s hand, it always turns into a weapon. No one knows why, and what random is entirely random.
That weapon never changes, and it can kill Geigamorphs, though not easily. But it can only be wielded by someone it locks onto… and that’s a one-in-a-few-million chance, apparently also at random.
And when it does? That person gains vast strength, endurance, resilience, and speed. And? Their physical form never changes again for more than a split second. If wounded, they heal. If they eat, it just goes away. If they were groggy when they were locked? They’re groggy forever.
You get a lock weapon near enough someone who it can lock onto, it’ll pull them to it.
So the last lines of defense send “loks,” people set in a single physical state forever, into zones with lots of Geigamorphs to find more lock weapons. then they take those to population zones, to lock them to someone.
And that person’s life changes forever… but their body never changes again.
They’re a Lok.
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Really Wild West Science Agents (For Starfinder)

Science Agents

The room smelled strongly of sulfur, with scorch marks covering one wall and the adjacent floor and roof. Something had clearly exploded, driving fragments of wood away from the burned wall and scattering shattered glass, torn pages, and bent metal implements across the small space.

Rosa Abascal crouched near what appeared to be the origin of the detonation, careful to keep only the soles of her feet in contact with the ground, and dragged one gloved finger through the residue. It was dry, but still bright red and shiny, the color of blood.

“You see Agent Abascal?” The agitated man behind her was obviously nervous, but Rosa had found Americans were often nervous around her. Honestly, most men were nervous around her. An inevitable consequence of her badge and gun. But he sounded sincerely frightened, and has not tried to move closer to her, even when she turned her back on him. It was a risk she could only take because she trusted her partner to react faster than any fat businessman, though she also had her other hand close enough to the knife in her boot to handle any aggression herself if necessary.

But the American wasn’t moving any further into the room than the doorway, and he nearly vomited out his loud concerns.

“You smell it, don’t you Agent? Brimstone! And with these strange books and idols and runes? Satanists have infiltrated my mine, and summoned demons! I’d have called a marshal, but…”
But, thought Rosa, this close to the border we’d arrive faster. Or he had hoped we’d fail to notice something.

The room darkened slightly, and Rosa turned to see her partner, Agent Garza, stepping past the nervous American. She raised her fingertip, to let Garza see the mix of residual blasting powder and powdered stellar metals. He grunted, and nodded past the door to the scrublands beyond.

“Looks like a small group kept their horses in a nearby arroyo until recently.” Garza spoke in Esperanto, as was his habit. The Científicos’s rules on the use of the new hopefully universal lingua franca weren’t official yet, but Garza always liked to be just ahead of the rules.

“But the horses were scattered a day or two ago, and only one set of hoofprints are deep enough to have had a rider,” Garza finished.

Rosa nodded. She had kept one eye on the American, and not only did she not think he understood Esperanto, she was pretty sure he didn’t realize it wasn’t Spanish. That meant he was unlikely to give anything away with a reaction to Agent Garza’s report, but Rosa was fairly sure he didn’t know anything he wasn’t saying. His fear at the thought of demons seemed as genuine as it was unwarranted.

Rosa stood, and showed the American her fingertip, though she knew he was unlikely to grasp the relevance.

“Not demons, señor. Demolitions. Whoever stayed here was experimenting with a mix of stellar ores and explosives. Cavorite, most likely, or potentially even red mercury.”

The American looked confused, and then relieved. Rosa took out a small hand kerchief, and thoroughly cleaned her glove’s fingertip.

“So… there’s nothing to worry about!” The American seemed pleased. “You can return to your side of the border and…”

Agent Garza interrupted, speaking in English.

“No, sir. There’s no sign of planar visitors, but that’s far from saying there’s no danger. Such metals are rare and expensive. For someone to have had enough to leave this much residue, “he gestured to the scorchmarks covering half the cabin’s interior “almost certainly means he found a Martian fighting machine, or possibly an embankment machine, and scavenged from it.:

Rosa nodded, and she folded her kerchief, and laid it on the broken remains of the room’s table.

“If there’s more such metal, whoever experimented here might salvage enough for a bomb that could threaten a town or small city. Or, worse, there might be canisters of black smoke, or dormant red weed. It’s crucial we find the machine before anything left with it is activated or unleashed.”

“But…” the Amercian paused. “If the trail leads further into Texan territory… “

Rosa was already headed to her horse.

“If there’s a significant threat to the region as a whole, science agents are empowered by our government to operate wherever necessary.”

Her glove’s fingertip burst into flame, and the fire quickly began to spread to the ruined table. The cabin was on a patch of bare dirt, and bordered on three sides by rock. The flames would eliminate the cabin and any residues, and spread no farther.

In a world where weird science and theosophic magic are real, of course positivism cannot deny the existence of strange powers. What it CAN insist on is a rigorous testing of such powers and an analysis of how they function. In the Really Wild West, it has become crucially important for governments and major agencies to be able to tell the mysterious from the mystic, and the revolutionary from the disastrous. Among those with the best track record and reputation for such needs are the science agents of the Mexican Porfiriate.

Science Agent Archetype

Science agents are special federal law officers who work directly for the Científicos, the government council of scientist ministers and directors who are guiding Mexico into a new age of rationalism and modernity. They act as investigators, law keepers, trackers, spies, troubleshooters, and paramilitary advisers. They are respected as one of the great peacekeeping forces in North America, on par with the Canadian Mounties, Dread Templars, Justicers, Pinketons,Texas Rangers, and U.S. Martials.

Most science agents train at the Hall of Science in Mexico City, though it is also possible for a science agent to take a single deputy cadet and train them, with either method taking between 1 and 4 years depending on the cadet’s aptitude and previous education. All science agents must swear to apply the scientific method over intuition or superstition, and to protect Mexico in specific, and humanity, rational thought, and science in general. There is no other official requirement, and the Porfiriate’s insistence on promotion and decision-making based on evidence-based investigation has lead to a series of standards cadets must meet that do not include any gender, religion, age, or level of formal education. Anyone who can pass the strenuous entrance exams, which focus on logical thought (but not specific previous knowledge of any scientific principles), determination, and basic physical ability, may attempt to become a science agent. Roughly 1 in 5 cadets finish the course, but that number includes equal numbers of men, women, urbanites, and rural citizens.

Science agents are often given great latitude to track down potential threats, and often operate outside of Mexico. There legal authority to do so is questionable at best, but their strong reputation causes most honest folks to give the silver-eagle badges of the science agents some leeway as long as they aren’t committing crimes themselves.

Alternate Class Features

Scientific Method (Ex): At 2nd level, a science agent has learned enough about how theosophy, Martian technology, psychic phenomenon, planar creatures, and advanced science work to be able to examine an area and determine if anything in it is magical. This functions as detect magic, except it is an extraordinary ability. Additionally, a number of times per day equal to the science agent’s key ability score bonus, she can attempt to identify an item’s function as the identify spell, but as an extraordinary ability and using a character level check in place of a Mysticism or Engineering check. A science agent also gains a +2 bonus to AC and saving throws against attacks and effects from a specific object she successfully identified.

At this level a science agent also learns Esperanto and either English or French.

Keen Observer (Ex): At 4th level a science agent may choose from one of two abilities. The first is an insight bonus equal to half her character level to checks with any two of the following skills: Diplomacy, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival. If either selected skill is not a class skill, it becomes a class skill. If the science agent has a feat that grants an insight bonus to either of these skills, she may retrain that feat immediately, or at the beginning of any future level, for a feat she meets the prerequisites for at 4th level.

Alternatively, the science agent may choose to gain blindsense (sound) with a range of 30 feet and blindsense (scent) with a range of 10 feet.

The choices made with this ability cannot be changed.

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Really Wild West Index

Since it looks like I’m going to be working on Really Wild West campaign and setting hack for Starfinder on and off for the foreseeable future, in order to keep it usable I’m creating (and will maintain as new articles are written) an Index that lists and organizes the existing articles.

SETTING ARTICLES
These are descriptive of the setting, though they may include rules elements.

Really Wild West
>Read This First. 🙂
The year is 1891. The place is somewhere in North or South America, generally far from established law. In 1890, the War of the Worlds happened. That’s over, but wow has tech taken a leap forward.
This is a Weird West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, with theosophy (magic), fantasy and sci-fi races, guns, and strangely advanced technology. Includes tips on how to hack the Starfinder Roleplaying Game rules to better suit the Weird West genre, as well as some feats unique to the setting.

Putting the “Steam” and “Punk” in Really Wild West
>I quite intentionally don’t describe RWW as a “steampunk” setting, but is it one? What is steampunk, anyway? A think piece about a popular genre and this setting’s place in it… or outside of it.

Starfinder Species in Really Wild West
Shirren, lashunta, vesk… where are these new species from in a game about an 1891 Weird West? We start by looking at androids.
Part 2
Kasatha and lashunta.
Part 3
Shirren, vesk, and ysoki.

Badlands City
>A city built by Hell and ruled by devils… and one of the safest places in the West.
Badlands Resident Theme
>A theme for people from Badlands City
Dread Templar Archetype
>Badlands City produces devil-trained officers of the law who focus on punishment and vengeance.

Easterner Theme
>Is your character from back East? Then this is your theme.

The Mexican Porfiriate and the Technopolitan Theme
>Mexico is a rising technological superpower, governed by war heroes and scientists. Includes the Technopolitan theme.
Science Agents
>Short fiction and an archetype for Mexico’s famed peacekeepers of rationality.

Plot Hooks and Inspirational Media
> Want to know what kinds of adventures Really Weird West characters may have? Here’s a list of 20 plot hooks and a list of inspiration media that helped set the tone for the setting.

RULE ARTICLES
These are primarily about rules, though they are designed specifically for Really Weird West.

Gunslinger
>Anyone can use a small arm. Gunsligners are legendary with them.
More Gunslinger Abilities
>A companion piece to the Gunslinger.

Dare Feats
>
For the characters are are at their best, when the situation is at its worst.

Key Ability Scores and Resolve
>Really Wild West is a cruel setting with pulpy characters. That takes a tweak of some core rules to support properly.

Theosophy and Psychic Powers
>While spells and magic are an established part of the 1891 of the Really Wild West, it’s also possible to gain psychic powers such as clouding minds and psychometry through the Practicing Psychic feat.

Renown and Gear
> Rules for using character renown to buy higher-level gear, allowing money rewards to remain the same regardless of character level.

Dragon Guns
>Weapons that throw fire onto your foes have their origins in China and are 1,000 years old.

Lightning Guns
>One of the more common energy weapons available in the Really Wild West.

Shotguns
>Shotguns in Really Wild West work a little different than the big blast weapons of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Gizmoes
>The setting doesn’t use armor upgrade rules, but all that cool equipment is still available, in the form of gizmos!

Mounted Combat
>Horses are more common than self-powered vehicles in the Really Wild West.

Technology and Equipment
>What is there, what’s the background for advanced tech in the 1890s, and some more Wild West themed gear.

Scorchers
>In the real-world 1890s, “scorchers”–bicycle riders (male and female) who sat-forward on the diamond-frame bikes–were considered a social menace.
In the Really Wild West, scorchers hold a different place in society.

BESTIARY
A (so far very short) list of Starfinder Roleplaying Game-compatible monsters to popular your Really Wild West adventures!

Grizzly Boar
>Massive alpha predators of North America. This article also gives some guidelines on how to create monsters in general for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

Gulchers
>These poor folks died in the harsh conditions of the frontier. They just don’t know it.

Rattle-Cat
>Venomous ambush-predator common to North America, as well as an article discussing how to best utilize the Expert array when creating monsters for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game.

PATREON
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Really Weird West: Renown and Gear (for Starfinder)

The bell on the front door chimed, causing Gunner to look up, a smile leaping to his face out of habit. It froze midway to his lips, as he saw the figure slowly walking into his store. It was a short, broad woman, her antennae drooping with fatigue and dust covering her long coat and short-brimmed hat. The dust clung to her face as well, the delicate patterns common to a lashunta lost in the swirls of grime caked on her skin. The left side of her coat was dark, from the ribs down, and a ragged hole suggested the stain had a violent origin.

“May… may I help you?”

The visitor was rough, but Gunner sensed no threat from her. Not towards himself, in any case. But he kept one hand under his counter, near his shotgun. Just in case.

The woman moved slowly, but with purpose, crossing the room to his counter with firm steps. When she spoke her voice was as dusty as her clothes, but also filled with iron.

“I need a gun.”

She slapped a single golden credit on his countertop. A century-piece, sure, but not much for the price of a gun.

“Well…,” Gunner tried to think if anyone in town had an old derringer or wrack-piece they might part with for so little. It was often easiest to avoid trouble by seeing to its needs so it moved along on its own.

She nodded once, as if she could read his mind. And, a lashunta? Maybe she could.

“Cannibal Kid and his cult comin’ in on the noon train. I mean to meet them. I’d be obliged if I could do it with iron in my hand.”

Gunner felt all color drain from his face. Sometimes the Cannibals’ cult just got off a train and left town. Sometimes, they got… hungry…

“You… you going to face Cannibal on your own, miss?”

She shook her head. once.

“Got a posse. Good folks. Swedish rune-man. A gambler who hasn’t used all his luck, yet. And some crazy professor. But I can’t back their play as well with a fist as a gun. But I will, if I have to.

Gunner paused. Cannibal Kid’s loons had been a growing problem for years. And no one knew for sure if Cannibal had really been responsible for the destruction of the town of Pecan Prarie… but that was the best guess.

Gunner’d had family in Pecan Prarie.

Many people had gone after the Cannibal Kid, and ended up joining him for dinner. But there was something about this lashunta woman. Even covered in dirt and clearly hurt, her eyes were bright, and Gunner instinctively trusted her skills. With the right weapon, maybe she could end Cannibal, once and for all.

He reached under the counter, ignoring his own shotgun, and brought out a lacquered box. Opening it, he spun it to face the lashunta, revealing the gleaming, 4-barreled heavy pistol within. The name “Lewiston” was engraved on one barrel, and “Custom” on the one below it. Eight .454 rounds were nearly packed beside the pistol, each in their own satin-lined niche.

“Will this do, ma’am?”

The lashunta’s already bright-eyes nearly glowed as she reached out a hand and lifted the pistol from the box. The handle fit her hand even better than her own glove, and the expertise with which she checked the hammer, released the barrel-catch, and loaded all four barrels before snapping it shut left Gunner feeling he’d made a good investment.

“This will do just fine, mister. Just fine.”

Gunner slid the gold credit off the countertop. But if he heard good news about events at the noon train, he doubted he’d ever spend it.

Renown is an alternate equipment economy specifically for use with the Really Weird West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, though it *could* be adapted to other campaign settings. The idea is to alter the way PCs, pricing, and the world work in such a way as to keep an economy that feels more reserved, without seriously altering the ultimate balance of the game. Instead of all equipment being bought and sold exclusively for credits, higher-level gear requires renown, in keeping with the theme of famous gunslingers and frontier heroes of the Really Wild West.

As a recap, we’ve also looked at rules for mounted combat and shotguns, presented Badlands City and the Badlands Citizen theme, and presented a list of adventure seeds and inspirational media. While the really Wild West setting hack isn’t complete, there’s certainly enough material for it for a GM to build a campaign around it, if desired.

Renown

When using the Renown system, money by itself is used only to buy 1st and 2nd level equipment, which includes nearly all “mundane” gear such as rope, shovels, lanterns, and the vast majority of the worlds pistols. Even “extraordinary” 1st and 2nd level equipment, like an azimuth heat ray rifle (Really Weird West’s equivalent of a laser) is bought with normal credits. Such items can be sold for 50% of their value in credits.

Wealth per encounter, in credits and 1st and 2nd level items, never exceeds CR 2 values. If you face and kill a CR 7 Prairie Dragon… you get treasure, in credits and 1st and 2nd level gear, equal to a CR 2 encounter.

However, all characters also have Renown, which can be used to acquire items of 3rd level and higher, which are considered legendary items.

Renown is the measure of the character’s mystic legends. Some of that is normal reputation, and some of it is their impact on the Akashic record, the theosophic concept of a complete compendium of all events, thoughts, actions and intent to have ever happened… even if no one is aware of it. The Akashic record is recorded in the weft of the Ethereal Plane, and as characters perform actions, their impact on it grows. As a natural consequence of that impact, the characters end up with legendary gear, items that also have a greater impact on the Akashic record and naturally gravitate toward agents of importance and change who can get the most out of their extremely high quality.

When calculating rewards for an encounter, the difference between the normal wealth per encounter for CR 3 and higher encounters, and the maximum CR 2 rewards given out under the Renown system, is a character’s gain in Renown. Fighting off six Texas Tick Twisters may not earn you any credits or reward, but you gain Renown even if no one knows you did it, as it has an impact on the supernatural fore of the Akashic Record, which pulls legendary items toward you.

Legendary items aren’t common, and no amount of money guarantees you can buy one. These are the objects that have their own stories and rumors, and collectors and master craftsmen can spend lifetimes hunting down just one such item. These are things like a Lewiston Custom Original, one of the 12 original 4-barrel pistols built by hand by master gunsmith Ezrah Lewiston and equipped with tiny screws and pins to allow it to be customized by every user for perfect balance. While the mass-produced Lewsiton 4-barrel is based on the twelve Custom Originals, it lacks the exacting standards and precision of its legendary progenitors.

If you wish to buy a legendary item, you can cover the first 1,000 of its cost in credits, but the rest you must spend in Renown. In general such items are not for sale commonly, but the same power that causes Legendary items to be available only to those with enough Renown tend to put such items in the path of their destined users. A character can choose to buy one Legendary item, with an item level no greater than their character level +2, each time they arrive at a new settlement. The character’s player decides in advance which item they want, and normally it is available if they have the renown to cover it.

When making gear of 3rd level or higher, you must cover the first 1,000 credits of cost in money (high quality raw materials and precision instruments aren’t cheap, after all), but the rest of the item’s cost you may choose to cover in Renown. In this case you are imbuing such items with a bit of your own legend.

Parting with a legendary item restores some of the Renown used to acquire it… but not much. If you give away or sell a legendary item, you regain 10% of its Renown value to add back to your total. For example, if you sell one of the rare Lewiston Custom Original 4-barrel pistols, you regain 550 Renown, 10% of the 5,500 Renown required to acquire such a rare and storied pistol. If you sell a legendary item you can expect to be paid 750 + (1d6 x 100) credits by a collector or a major figure (senators, rail barons, Black Hand dons, bandit generals, high society types, and so on) or their agents. Such things generally then disappear from the world of adventuring, to live in a glass case or on the hip of someone who’s never in any real danger.

Legendary items have prices listed with an “r,” to indicate that all but 1,000 of the price must be paid with Renown.

This system does require a GM to add some flavor to 3rd level and higher gear, to set legendary items apart from 1st and 2nd level gear, but that’s not too difficult (and, honestly, players may be allowed to suggest backstories of the legendary gear they acquire, since it is part of their own Really Weird West legend once they get it). For some examples of how legendary versions of gear might be presented differently than 1st and 2nd level mundane gear, here are some pistols reskinned to fit the Really Weird West.

WEAPON LVL PRICE DAM RANGE CRIT LOAD BULK SPECIAL
Lewiston 4-Barrel 1 260 1d6+2 P 30 ft. 4 rounds L
Ajax Revolver 1 260 1d6 30 ft. 6 rounds L +1 to attack rolls
Lewiston Original Custom 7 5,500 r 2d6+4 60 ft. 4 rounds L
Statesman Revolver 7 5,500 r 2d6 60 ft. 6 rounds L +1 to attack rolls
Lewiston Trainkiller 10 18,200 r 3d6+6P 60 ft. 4 rounds L
Kingmaker Revolver 10 18,200 r 3d6 60 ft. 6 rounds L +1 to attack rolls

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Really Weird West: Plot Hooks and Inspirational Media

Since there’s certainly no full published adventure support for the Really Weird West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, I thought it might be useful to both provide some adventure seeds, and provide a list of inspirational media. That said, a GM interested in running a Really Weird West campaign need not feel like every adventure needs to be custom-crafted from scratch. Most adventures appropriate to the Starfinder Roleplaying Game can be reskinned to run in Really Weird West (with space stations becoming port towns, starships becoming zepplins, hyperspace travel becoming riverboat or airship travel, other planets being other states and/or islands, and so on). Similarly, adapting adventures designed for related fantasy RPGs is easy by changing lost dungeons into lost mines or ancient civilization cities, and adding guns to most foes.

But if you do want to create your own adventures, or add introductions, side-quests, and major revisions to existing adventures, the adventure seeds below and inspirational media lists that follow should provide numerous appropriate jumping-off points.

Adventure Seeds

1. You come across a dead, masked Texas Ranger, with a gunbelt full of silver bullets. He was clearly mauled by a giant wolf. This leads to an adventure tracking down a group of werewolf bandits.

2. A madman named Robur, operating in unincorporated territories, has nearly completed the Death Cloud, an airship with a rebuilt Martian heat ray so powerful it can destroy an entire city in a single shot. He’d see an entire army coming and wipe them out, but a small group might be able to sneak past his defenses and blow up the Death Cloud from within.

3. Someone has been stealing hegesistrati (a “hegesistratus” being a gearjack prosthetic), knocking out veterans of the War of the Worlds and ripping the most advanced gearjack technology from their bodies. At the same time, rumor is a new mad genius will sell you gearjack armor cheap…

4. A dragon is terrorizing the small town of Walnut Grove. It’s smart enough not to appear when the cavalry is around, and no one has found its lair, somewhere in the badlands…

5. The PC with the best pistol attack bonus receives a letter. The infamous killer and quickdraw artist Doc Valentine has heard people claim the PC is better with a pistol than valentine, and is coming to town on the noonday train tomorrow to call the PC out to a shootout.

6. The PCs order new gear from a major town, to arrive by train. The train is hit by bandits, and their gear stolen.

7. An unscrupulous lawyer has stolen the designs for a local ally genius’s rainmaking machine, which will save entire counties of farmers from a serious drought. He has a head start, but the PCs know he’ll be on a moving train for a specific leg of his journey, so if they can just rob the train and get the design back…

8. A young man in strange clothes claims to be a time traveler, and he needs to find his elder friend and repair his time machine before he does major damage to the timeline…

9. There’s a new addictive drug in the territory, premade black cigarettes called Coffin Nails. If the gang pushing it isn’t stopped, they may gain enough power to challenge the US government.

10. One Martian tripod, alone in the desert, is still active.

11. The Mole People are kidnapping singers, for some reason, and some of the singers that have taken are important high society folks that need to be rescued from their underground kingdom.

12. Someone has desecrated a Civil War battlefield, and the dead from both sides are rising up to punish the living until the desecration is made right.

13. There’s something in The Mist.

14. The lost city of El Dorado offers vast treasures… if you can survive the traps, guardian constructs, rival explorers, and Olmec lizardfolk who have taken over.

15. The Hatfields have turned to necromancy. The McCoys have turned to diabolry. Everyone else has turned and run.

(Though in fairness, I have been informed “We McCoys would never turn to diabolry. Unstable alchemical explosives, maybe. Ninjitsu, probably. Mentally unstable deities that are still good-natured even if they cause far more problems than they should, definitely. Gigantic robots that can flatten a town without noticing, oh you bet we will.”)

16. The Illuminati hid a vast treasure in a long-abandoned mine, and a series of obscure clues will allow the PCs to get to it before a cult that wishes to use it to summon an ancient, elder god.

17. It’s snowing in the desert, and only one person has the cold-weather gear everyone needs survive. And he’s selling it at a huge mark-up. And whenever he runs out, white wolves bring him more.

18. A mad military genius has built a rolling fortress, and plans to use it to destroy a group he dislikes, be that a native tribe, a pioneer town, or the PCs’ base of operation.

19. Characters with advanced melee combat skills are being kidnapped and forced to fight in a tournament of Bullfighters, who face off against minotaurs in a labyrinth arena.

20. A villager from a small, unarmed town begs the PCs to come protect them from bandits. The bandits number in the hundreds, and the villagers can only pay in food and a place to stay, but without the PCs help, the village will be driven to the brink of starvation.

Inspirational Media
Taking a broad view of “Weird West” as a setting to include any strongly-Western setting (even if located somewhere other than the American Old West) that adds elements of the supernatural, or advanced technology (steampunk or not), or visitors (from monsters to aliens to time travelers), there’s a lot of media that can act as inspirations to create your own adventures, characters, and themes. I’ve excluded things that transport Western plots and sensibilities into other settings (so no Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers or Dark Tower or Firefly, all of which might well also spark ideas), not because they are in any way inferior, but because they tend to be better known and I wanted to keep this list manageable.

It’s worth noting that while these are great sources of Weird West inspiration… that doesn’t mean they’re great as forms of entertainment. Many are quite good, but some are truly awful. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth skimming through (or reading summaries of them) if you can’t sit through them the regular way, in order to get inspired to riff new ideas and characters and plots from the bad stories. Myself, I sometimes fin terrible books and movies are actually better sources of inspiration, as when they do something really dumb I find myself thinking “It would have been cooler if they’d done X,” and whatever X is, that’s my new, cool idea.

It’s also worth noting that nearly any western, fantasy, or cyberpunk plot can be easily adapted to a Really Wild West campaign. It’s easy to add some half-orcs to a bandit gang, have long-dead sorcerers wear black cowboy hats, and turn megacorporations into railways and cattle barons. If that doesn’t feel natural to you, try describing the driving force of a plot as generically as possible. The Fellowship of the Ring can simplify to “a local boy is convinced my a mysterious wanderer to take something dangerous to the big city for advice, then decides to throw it into a volcano which requires him and friends to pass through an abandoned mine, all while hunted by the original owner’s forces and elite generals.” One you have it reduced to that level, it’s easy to replace the local boy, mysterious wanderer, something dangerous, big city, and abandoned mine to seem more Weird Western. So if a pioneer has to take a Crimson Spike, which turns any railway into demon-summoning railroad line, to New Holt City where the Elven Preservation Society convinces him that to keep it from senator “Boss” Morghul he must take it through the old Brimstone Double-Y Mine to a volcano hidden in the Rockies… THAT’s Weird West.

COMICS
Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities, publisher Dark Horse Books
Black Jack Ketchum, publisher Image Comics
Bouncer: The One-Armed Gunslinger, publisher Humanoids, Inc.
East of West, publisher Image Comics
High Moon, publisher Super Genius
Iron West, publisher Image Comics
Jonah Hex, publisher DC Comics
The Justice Riders, publisher DC Comics
Kingaway West, publisher Dark Horse Books
Lazarus Lane (El Diablo), publisher DC Comics
Magic Wind, publisher Epicenter Comics (English language publisher)
Pretty Deadly, publisher Image Comics
The Sixth Gun, publisher Oni Press
Trailblazer, publisher Image Comics
Zagor, publisher Epicenter Comics (English language publisher)

BOOKS
Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel, author Paul Guinan
Boneshaker, author Cherie Priest
The Buntline Special and sequels, author Mike Resnick
Dead In The West, author Joe R Lansdale
Dead Man’s Hand, anthology, ed. by John Joseph Adams
Dead Man’s Hand: Five Tales of the Weird West, author Nancy Collins
The Dead Remember and other “Weird West” stories, author Robert E. Howard
Deadman’s Road, author Joe R Lansdale
Devil’s Tower and Devil’s Engine, author Mark Sumner.
The Encyclopedia Of Weird Westerns, author Paul Green
FRANK READE: Adventures in the Age of Invention, authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett
The Golgotha Series, author R.S. Belcher.
The Hexslinger Series, author Gemma Files
Karen Memory, author Elizabeth Bear
Low Moon, anthology, ed. David A. Riley
“Mad Amos” stories, author Alan Dean Foster
A Road Paved In Iron, author Don Corcoran
The Shadow series, author Lila Bowen
Shadow on the Sun, author author Richard Matheson
Stagecoach Mary, author Jess Nevins
Straight Outta Tombstone, anthology, ed. By David Boop
The Sundowners Series, author James Swallow
Tales of the Far West short story collection, authors Gareth Skarka, Matt Forbeck, and others
Vermillion, author Molly Tanzer
Wax and Wayne series, author Brandon Sanderson
Zepplins West, author Joe R Lansdale

GAMES
Deadlands Classic, published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Deadlands Reloaded, published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Devil’s Gulch, for BRP, published by Chaosium
Down Dark Trails, for Call of Cthulhu, published by Chaosium
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, for Red Dead Redemption, published by Rockstar Games
Shadows of Brimstone, published by Flying Frog Games
Sixguns and Sorcery, for Castle Falkenstein, published by R. Talsorian
Werewolf: The Wild West, published by White Wolf Publishing

MOVIES
Back to the Future Part III, directed by Robert Zemeckis
Billy the Kid vs Dracula, directed by William Beaudine
Blood Moon, directed by Jeremy Wooding
Blood Rayne II Deliverance, directed by William Beaudine
Bone Tomahawk, directed by S. Craig Zahler
Bunraku, directed by Guy Moshe
The Burrowers, directed by J.T. Petty
Cowboys & Aliens, directed by Jon Favreau
Curse of the Undead, directed by Edward Dein
Dead Man, directed by Jim Jarmusch
El Charro de las Calaveras, directed by Alfredo Salazar
From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter, directed by P.J. Pesce
Gallowwalkers, directed by Andrew Goth
Ghost Brigade aka The Killing Box, directed by George Hickenlooper
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, directed by Grant Harvey
The Good the Bad the Weird, directed by Kim Jee-woon
High Plains Invaders, directed by K. T. Donaldson
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, directed by William Beaudine
Jonah Hex, directed by Jimmy Hayward
High Planes Drifter, directed by Clint Eastwood
Ned Kelley, directed by Gregor Jordan
Pale Rider, directed by Clint Eastwood
The Phantom Empire (1935 serial), directed by Otto Brower and Breezy Easton
Purgatory, directed by Uli Edel
Ravenous, directed by Antonia Bird
Red Sun, directed by Terence Young
Sukiyaki Western Django, directed by Takashi Miike
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, directed by S.S. Wilson
Undead or Alive, directed by Glasgow Phillips
The Valley of Gwangi, directed by James O’Connolly
The Warrior’s Way, directed by Sngmoo Lee
The White Buffalo, directed by J. Lee Thompson
Wild Wild West, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

TELEVISION
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse
Kung Fu, created by Herman Miller and Ed Spielman
The Lazarus Man, created by Dick Beebe, Colleen O’Dwyer, and Michael Ogiens
Legend, created by Bill Dial and Michael Piller
Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, created by Ryan Brown and Bob Carrau
The Wild Wild West, created by Michael Garrison

Patreon
And, of course, the really Wild West setting is an example of weird west, and it’s made available by the supports of my Patreon! If you’re a fan, please consider offering a few dollars a month for support!

Space Politics

One of the things more industrialized settings sometimes do for an rpg campaign is open up new avenues of adventure. While there is nothing at all wrong with tuning an abandoned mall into a dungeon, or a wrecked spaceship into a haunted house, or treating an alien progenator as a dragon in its layer, sometimes it’s fun to play with new possibilities as well.

And if you have a setting with multiple homeworlds drawing together in a confederation with representative officials from different worlds, each with its own method of selecting said officials, that means politics.

While in some games PCs might actually be candidates, and some system of determining who wins an election might be useful as a subsystem, the idea of political action adventures can be introduced without going nearly that far. Much as you don’t need a subsystem on fighting epidemics in order to rush antidotes to a plague-ridden city and don’t need rules on the impact of an alpha predator on an ecology not designed for it to hunt down the bullette destroying a forest, you can do a lot with politics as a motivator without ever getting into voting, caucuses, poll taxes, or even issues.

As with many RPG-related adventure ideas, you can borrow heavily from fiction for inspiration. While these are by no means an exhaustive list of movies with politics-driven action plots, and it’s certainly not a commentary on the quality of any of these movies, they are things that a good GM should be able to easily borrow from to throw some political adventure into a modern or science-fiction campaign. All of these have at least some elements where it’s easy to envision PCs of any level getting involved, either accidentally, as catspaws, or as a politically appropriate measured response. While it might be important in some cases to downgrade the action from centering around a chief executive to simply a minor representative who’ll cast a decisive vote on something, the core ideas are still easily lifted.

And obviously, I leaned towards those movies with cool ideas and set-pieces over those with believable politics.

Air Force One
Argo
Bridge of Spies
Dreamscape
Enemy of the State
Escape from New York
Fatherland
Godzilla: Resurgence
The Hunger Games tilogy
In the Line of Fire
The Kingdom
The Manchurian Candidate
Munich
Olympus Has Fallen
The Pelican Brief
The Purge: Election Year

Speaking of Politics

Well only sort of. But politicians need supporters… and so do I! I have a Patreon, where I have set up pledge levels to explain how much you’ll actually be charged (within a few cents) even under Patreon’s weird new pricing scheme. Check it out!

Minotaur Mafia Mash-Up

This grew from the causal thought “What two ideas have I not seen jammed together before?” with the answer being “Minotaur mafia.”
So:

The Bulls of Mingul

When the enslaved people of Mingul prayed for salvation from the scorpionfolk masters, or at least escape from the vast labyrinthine cave complexes the scorpionfolk build as their temple cities, at first no gods answered. The envenomed deity of the scorpionfolk was too dangerous to other gods, her poison able to slay even deities.

But in time the field mother and the sly trickster decided to risk their existence to help the enslaved peoples. They took cattle, who were under the aegis of the field mother, and turned them into something else using the tricksters bag of secrets. Tall now, and powerful, and unable to be confused to lost by the most complex maze, the “Bulls of Mingul” waged war on the scorpionfolk. The minotaurs, as they came to be known, worked with the enslaved people to free Mingul, drive the scorpionfolk into hiding, and build new cities above the vast cavern-cities the scorpionfolk one ruled.

But when the war ended, and the enslaved people were freed, the minotaurs had no further purpose. They had no history of agriculture as a people, no legends of their own, no traditions to call upon. They knew only pathfinding and war. And so they demanded the people give them food and goods, in return for protections. The people were willing to pay an army, but not to trade one set of masters for another. The minotaurs fragmented into great herds of criminals, one controlling each of the mazes beneath the cities of Mingul.

All crime in Mingul is controlled, one way or another, by a Herd Lord. Law and Order have grown in power, but none but a minotaur can move safely through the ancient scorpionfolk tunnels beneath ever city. Thus the minotaur criminals have a secure stronghold, and ways to move unseen through every city. Some become guards of course, and can lead peacekeepers through the dark depths, but their number are few, and those who track down their own kind too often are often found slain, their bull head severed and replaced with that of a pig. Meanwhile criminals of other races often take the “sign of the bull,” a horn-shaped brand, declaring their loyalty to one or another Herd Lord.
The Herd Lords still protect Mingul from outside threats, and see the good and money they demand as their just due. Most Mingul cities and citizens see it as easier to allow the Herds to control and monitor crime, and accept the occasional theft or beating as the cost of freedom and having a vast force securing the underground zones of their land from attacks by drow or other subterranean threats.

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Wacky Idea Wednesday 01

A Joker/Riddle-esque villain named “Hitting Yourself.”

Obviously he commits crimes that force his victim to commit self-harm.

But mostly, he’s just waiting for a local authority to gravely intone to the prime vigilante (a member of Knightwatch, whatever):

“You *must* stop Hitting Yourself.”