Category Archives: Anachronistic Adventurers

Starfaring Species in Really Wild West (part 3 and finale)

This is the third and final part of a series of articles looking at how to contextualize the starfaring species of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game into the world of the Really Wild West, a setting hack that uses the science-fantasy rpg for a campaign with magic, monsters, and weird science in an alternate Earth in 1891.

When looking at the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species for things I can use to tie them to a fantasy-science-fiction-pulp version of the real world, sometimes I have gone with cultural or game ability elements… and sometimes I have leaned on fantasy versions of biology, as is the case with shirren, vesk, and ysoki.

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Shirren

Shirren are big bugs, which means they should have evolved someplace that supports larger arthropods. The largest land-dwelling arthropod currently in existence on Earth is the coconut crab, which is found on islands in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Assuming they originated in the same regions in the timeline of the Really Wild West, shirren would have built their own island cultures (perhaps in conjunction with other species, perhaps not), and spread in Ancient times as trade blossomed throughout the Indian Ocean. This takes our ancient shirren to China, Egypt, India, Java, Somalia, and southeastern Europe. While they would have spread worldwide from there, I assume those regions along old trade routes going through the Indian Ocean still have the largest, most integrated populations of shirren. That gives me guidance on what cultures they might be drawn from, and what traditions they could have, without claiming something small-minded like “Arabs are shirren” (which erases real Arabs and eliminates numerous cultural advancements, historical figures, and real-world ethnicities from being part of RWW, and is also pretty structurally racist).

Vesk

Australia leads the world in reptile biodiversity, so that’s where I am having my vesk evolve. That has vesk populations being tightly concentrated in Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding islands. I’m guessing I’ll need to add a frontier wars or “Lizardman War” (as the colonial powers call it) between the British Empire and various vesk groups at some point, and chances are the vesk lost. But by now, they’re at least partially integrated, and some will have travelled throughout the British Empire, despite suffering a fair amount of racism. While vesk likely have a lot of native culture that impacts their fashion, those that travel abroad are likely to adopt Western clothing sensibilities when in western nations, including the Really Wild West.

Note that this is a change from my original thoughts on vesk, which was to make them the product of Doctor Moreau’s anthropomorphization of animals. I can hold on to that idea for more minor species (as I add them), but it ended up feeling too limited for a “core” species, and had some connotations I wasn’t comfortable with.

Ysoki

In the real world, rodents are populous on every continent except Antarctica. They date to the Paleocene on the supercontinent of Laurasia, spread across landmasses, crossed oceans, and pretty well got everywhere (even Australia) on their own, without human intervention.

So as much as I am tying most starfaring species to specific region of the Really Wild West? Ysoki are everywhere.

And they got there first.

With cheek pouches as built-in bags (allowing them to carry goods—even water—long distances before the invention of sacks or gourd-bottles), bonuses to Stealth and Survival, and darkvision? Ysoki were the main competition with humanity for global domination. Much as there were Neanderthals and other cousins to homo sapiens sapiens who didn’t make it, there were multiple lines of ysoki through the ages, though none of this is well understood in the RWW year of 1891.

In general, every culture has a ysoki element to it. There are sure to be exceptions—Egyptian cat-worshipers may not have taken to ysoki citizens, some ysoki clans likely existed in regions without significant human presence.

But the core assumption in Really Wild West is that ysoki are everywhere from the most remote, paleolithic cultures, to the suit-wearing bankers of New York.

Speaking of context!

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Starfinder Species in Really Wild West (Part 2)

We went over why it’s worthwhile to consider where the species from the Starfinder Roleplaying Game have major population centers in the world of Really Wild West (and why we won’t be using them as stand-ins to replace the humans of any real-world culture) in the first post in this series, where we also looked at the RWW take on androids. We continue our look at this idea with the kasatha and lashunta. It’s worth repeating that these touchstones are designed as one set of options, not absolute rules. Just as humans from differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds can be found on every continent, so too can our new sentient, sapient species be found in every culture of the Really Wild West.

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Kasatha

Since one of the big defining traits of kasatha is that they have 4 arms, there’s an obvious temptation to have kasatha be linked to Hinduism, because of the prevalence of multiarmed deities in Hindu. However, Hinduism is a massive, modern religion with tens of millions of worshipers, in which things like what a deity carries in each arm can be important, and about which I am not an expert.

Looking to tie the multiarmed aspect to something less crucial than gods, Greek mythology has numerous multiarmed humanoids such as the Gegenees, and Hecatonchires. Though these are presented as giants, that just also gives me a place for Shobads. And there’s lots of ancient and closer-to-18901 history involving Greeks that is fascinating and interesting, which can help serve as context for kasatha players.

So if the Greek empires were all mix of human and kasatha, by the modern era of Really Wild West that can be expected to have large populations throughout Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. Greek ships were visiting the Americas by the early 1600s, and a significant Greek community developed in New Orleans during the 1850s. By the 1890 there were tens of thousands of Greeks in North America alone, many of them from the Ottoman Empire.

Lashunta

One of the defining traits of lashunta is their telepathy, which makes placing them in the world a bit tricky, because what westerns think of as telepathy doesn’t really have any notable real-world equivalents, even in theory or fiction, prior to the 1800s, which is too late to form a culture from that is well established by 1891. However, the Japanese idea of ishin-denshin (literally “”what the mind thinks, the heart transmits”) certainly seems similar to telepathy. That idea seems to have developed in China where it has links to traditions of Zen Buddhism.

So, having lashunta have developed in Asia, with strong populations in places where Zen Buddhism is prevalent (China, Japan, Korean, Vietnam) gives cultural texture to how the actual power of telepathy in Really Wild West might have been viewed in varying real-world cultures. It’s important to note that lashunta don’t replace any of those real-world cultures or the religious and philosophical advancements they created. But it does give context for how to view a fictional species in a historic framework. And all those nations have rich histories that include massive exploration, trade, and diplomacy as well as immigration which can place an Asian-origin lashunta anywhere in the world a player wants to be from (even before allowing for lashunta families who may have migrated from those nations centuries ago).

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Starfinder Species in Really Wild West

When running a Really Wild West game, which takes Starfinder Roleplaying Game concepts and sets them in a weird west version of the real world in 1891, one of the questions that can come up is where the nonhuman species come from. Given how much cultures and nations and lone people can interact, overlap, and move around, any individual character can obviously be from anywhere—in real-world history it’s easy to find Japanese expatriates in Manila and Mexico in the early 1600s, so ethnicity, nationality, and geography aren’t always as linked as typical examples of each might suggest.

But a question remains of where the most common cultures and ethnicities of various nonhuman species are found. It’s a bad idea to replace entire real-world ethnic groups with nonhumans, since that erases the possibilities of real-world options and may tell a player that their actual ancestry isn’t important enough to keep, but if we are presenting a world where dozens (or even hundreds) of species are sharing the planet, it makes sense to consider where our fictional species fit reasonable well with real-world culture, and key those as major cultural and population centers for kasatha and lashutna and others.

This is especially important for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species. It’s easy to place dwarves, elves, gnomes, haflings, half-elves, and half-orcs in the European areas that inspired them and that lots of fantasy and modern games have drawn from to build fictional cultures for them. You can assume they all overlap with humanity 100%, or make the major population centers line up with the countries you think make interesting matches—perhaps dwarves are German and elves are French. Or perhaps dwarves are French, elves are Germanic, and gnomes Russian or Scandinavian, and orcs Spanish. There’s enough fiction and game material with those races to make it easy to build or match cultures to serve as backgrounds for them.

But there’s not nearly as much material to draw on for androids (especially as Really Wild West envisions them), vesk, or ysoki, and even less for kasatha and lashunta. Since the Really Wild West is set in an alternate version of the real world, if I want to place these new species somewhere I need to either think of places where I can add them to the existing populations, or add new places. I could slap a few new small continents—Atlantis. Lemuria, and Mu come to mind—in the middle of oceans to give me new space for new cultures if I wanted to, but that’d take a lot more effort than I am looking to do just to create some cultural touchstones.

It seems perfectly reasonable in a campaign setting that adds multiple new sapient, sentient species to a fantasy version of the real world to have those species be tied primarily to specific regions or cultures, so that is the approach I took here. That leaves the question of where to place each of these species primary population centers, and for that I looked at each in turn to determine what core feature or concept helps define each and how those can be integrated into existing real-world regions.

I used real-world art references for the art order representing clothing and styles for these new species. That’s not to suggest that all of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species come from only these regions or look like the characters below, but it’s a baseline to give GM and players something to draw from.

Over the next few posts I’ll give some details where each of these new species is being centered in the world of Really Wild West, and why, beginning with the androids.

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Android

Androids in the Really Wild West (far left) are visually and culturally notably different from androids in standard Starfinder Roelplaying Game campaigns. Given the 1890s aesthetic of the RWW, androids are presented as old-school robots, closer to Metropolis than Blade Runner. They could never pass for human. They function with the same rules, but the definition of android in this campaign is closer to “humanlike in form” than “machine that passed for human.”

Complex machines claiming to be automatons and clockworks did exist in the era, perhaps the most famous of which is the chess-playing automaton created in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen of the Hapsburg Empire, who usefully for our purposes also created a speaking machine. While von Kempelen’s chess-playing machine was not a true automaton (it hid a chess player in its integral cabinet), that looks a fine origin for our manlike machines. If the first automatons were created in 1770 in the Hapsburg empire, they can easily have spread to be much farther and wider by 1891. The Austro-Hungarian Empire that formed out of the Austrian Empire that followed the Hapsburg Empire is a European melting pot, and numerous immigrants from that region moved to  New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago early in the 1800s, and then were part of the century.

We can assume that older androids are from the Austria and Hungary regions, and newer ones likely constructed in the big cities of New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. At some point some form of Turing Test has developed, and androids have won recognition as “people” in the United States, Mexico, and most industrialized nations of the world. But they lack strong family roots, and are often looking for opportunities to make a life for themselves.

We’ll address the kasatha, lashunta, shirren, vesk, and ysoki soon!

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More Gunslinger Abilities (for Starfinder)

To add on to yesterday’s gunslinger abilities, here are some drawn from a gunslinger archetype (one of which requires you take the Gunslinger Feat to access… at least for now). These work for normal Starfinder Roleplaying Game campaigns, or the Really Wild West setting hack.

While I’ll release full rules for these as an actual product, for now note that whether you use the archetype or feat to access these, you can only select abilities with two different possessive title forms. In other words if you take a “Gunslinger’s X” and “Ace Shooter’s X” abilities, you can’t also take an ability titled “Blatherskite’s X” (as there will be many more possessively titled abilities in the final product).

New Gunslinger Abilities:

Ace Shooter’s Resolve (Ex): [3rd level] As long as you have at least 1 Resolve Point, you can make a ranged attack as a standard action and ignore the effects of concealment (though not total concealment) and cover (other than total cover) against that shot.

Ace Shooter’s Vigilance (Ex): [7th Level] As long as you have at least 1 Resolve Point, your ranged attacks to not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Ace Shooter’s Pinning Shot (Ex): [15th level] When firing a small arm, longarm, or heavy weapon that uses darts or arrows (such as a crossbolter) you can make 1 attack as a full action to give the weapon the entangling special weapon property.

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Really Wild West Gunslinger (for Starfinder)

So, of COURSE, the Really Wild West has to have gunslingers, and since RWW is a setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, that means I need gunslingers for that game… at least up to 10th level (RWW’s current cap).
That said, a big part of the fantasy gunslinger class is that it gives access to firearms, and makes them less-terrible and less-unreliable choices. Since small arms, longarms, and sniper rifles aren’t terrible choices and are easy to gain access and proficiency with, there’s no need for a class that takes up a lot of its abilities fixing those fantasy-rules-related issues. Also, RWW is the kind of setting where a mechanic, mystic, or even solarian could all be gunslingers, so why restrict the concept to just one class?
I’m working on a longer version of the Starfaring Gunslinger rules that will cover some archetypes and go to 20th, but that’s likely to actually be a full product. This is a preview.

There are two ways to get gunslinger abilities: the gunslinger archetype, and the gunslinger feat. You can use both, if you wish.

Gunslinger Archetype
You are more than proficient with guns, you are focused on them to a degree most gun users can neither duplicate nor understand.
Special: You must be proficient with small arms, longarms, or sniper rifles to take this archetype.
Gunslinger Ability: At 2nd, 4th, and 6th level you may choose to take gunslinger abilities as alternate class features (using the normal archetype rules).
If you make this choice more than once, each time after the first that you make it you gain two gunslinger abilities, rather than one. (Thus if you selected this option at all three level, you’d have five total gunslinger abilities.)

Gunslinger Feat
You are a master of slinging guns.
Prerequisites: Proficiency with small arms.
Benefit: Select one gunslinger ability.
Special: You can select this feat more than once. Each time, you select a new gunslinger ability of your character level or less.

Gunslinger Abilities
Regardless of how you gain your gunslinger abilities (feat or archetype), you can only select a gunslinger ability of your level of less. Unless it specifies otherwise, you can’t select a gunslinger ability more than once.

Gunslinger’s Dodge (Ex): [1st Level] You gain an uncanny knack for getting out of the way of ranged attacks. Once per day when a ranged attack is made against you, you can move 5 feet as a reaction; doing so grants you a +2 bonus to AC against the triggering attack. This movement is not a guarded step. Alternatively, you can drop prone to gain a +4 bonus to AC against the triggering attack.
Once you use this ability, you cannot use it again until you spend 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points taking a 10-minute break, or regain your daily abilities. You can also use this even when it is expended by spending 1 Resolve Point.

Gunslinger Initiative (Ex): [3rd Level] As long as you have at least 1 Resolve Point, you gain the following benefits. First, you gains a +2 bonus on initiative checks. Furthermore, if you have the Quick Draw feat, your hands are free and unrestrained, and the small arm is not hidden, you can draw a single firearm as part of your initiative check.

Gunslinger Specialization (Ex): [3rd Level] When you take the attack of full attack action with a small arm, without using any class feature or feat that increases attack rolls or damage, you add damage equal to 1-1/2 your level to damage done with small arms (instead of Weapons Specialization’s normal bonus for small arms of half your level).

Pistol-Whip (Ex): [3rd Level] You can use your small arm, longarm, or sniper weapon as a melee weapon. Select a bludgeoning basic melee weapon with an item level lower than your ranged weapon. Treat your ranged weapon as this melee weapon for purposes of threatening spaces, making attacks of opportunity, and dealing damage, but grant it the knockdown critical hit effect (replacing any critical hit effect it normally has). When used in this way, the weapon still benefits from any weapon fusions it has that would apply to an unpowered bludgeoning melee weapon.

Utility Shot (Ex): [3rd Level] If you have at least 1 Resolve Point, you can perform all of the following utility shots. Each utility shot can be applied to any single attack with a ranged weapon, but you must declare the utility shot you are using before firing the shot.
Blast Lock: You make an attack roll against a lock within the first range increment of your ranged weapon. A Diminutive lock usually has AC 15, and larger locks have a lower AC. The lock gains a bonus to its AC equal to its item level. Hold portal grants a +5 bonus to the AC of a lock against this attack. On a hit, the lock is destroyed, and the object can be opened as if it were unlocked. On a miss, the lock is undamaged. It can still be unlocked by successfully performing this deed, by using the Computers or Engineer skills.
Scoot Unattended Object: You make an attack roll against a Tiny or smaller unattended object within the first range increment of your ranged weapon. For this purpose, a Tiny unattended object has an AC of 5, a Diminutive unattended object has an AC of 7, and a Fine unattended object has an AC of 11. On a hit, you do not damage the object with the shot, but can move it up to 15 feet farther away from the shot’s origin.
Stop Bleeding: You expend one usage of a ranged weapon and then press the hot barrel (or hot energy vent, or power cable, or some other part of the weapon that heats when it uses energy or fires) against yourself or an adjacent creature to staunch a bleeding wound. This ends a single bleed condition affecting the creature. You can do this in place of an attack (as a standard action, or part of a full action allowing multiple attacks).

Dead Shot (Ex): [7th Level] As a full action, you can expend 1 Resolve Point to make a single ranged attack, rolling your attack twice and using the better of the two results. This functions with Gunslinger Specialization and can be combined with the full action to aim and fire a sniper weapon, but does not work with any other class feature or feat that increases attack rolls or damage.

Startling Shot (Ex): [7th Level] If you have at least 1 Resolve Point left, when you successfully use covering fire or harrying fire against a creature, you also cause it to be flat-footed for 1 round.

Targeting (Ex): [7th Level] As a full action, you can make a single ranged weapon attack and choose part of the target’s body to aim at. If you hit, you inflict the following effects depending on the part of the body aimed at. If a creature does not have one of the listed body locations, the GM can determine if it has an equivalent body part or not [and may require a Perception or Life Sciences check (DC 15 +1-1/2 target’s CR) for you to know and recognize such an equivalent]. Creatures immune to critical hits or critical hit effects are immune to this ability.
Once you use this ability, you cannot use it again until you spend 1 Resolve Point to regain Stamina Points taking a 10-minute break, or regain your daily abilities. You can also use this even when it is expended by spending 1 Resolve Point.
Arms: On a hit, the target takes no damage from the hit but drops one held item of the your choice that it can drop, even if the item is wielded with two hands.
Head: On a hit, the target is damaged normally, and is also confused for 1 round. This is a mind-affecting effect.
Legs: On a hit, the target is damaged normally and knocked prone. Creatures that have four or more legs or that are immune to trip attacks are immune to this effect.
Torso: Targeting the torso causes any critical hit effect your weapon possesses to be triggered on an attack roll of 18 or better (the die shows an 18, 19, or 20) that hits the target’s AC, even though an 18 or 19 is not a critical hit.
Wings: On a hit, the target is damaged normally, and must make a Fly check (DC 15 + 1-1/2 your base attack bonus) or fall 20 ft.

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Dare Feats in the Really Wild West (for Starfinder)

The Really Wild West (a Weird West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game) is all about daring heroes who face terrifying odds, survive on sheer grit and gumptions, and fight their way back from apparently impossible situations. Of course the heroes game mechanics of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game take care of a lot of that theme, but some heroes are just better at rising to the challenge when they should normally be on their last legs. To help players who want to build heroes who are the linchpin of avoiding disaster when all hope seems lost, the Really Wild West has Dare Feats.

Dare Feats

Dare feats only become active when you run out of Resolve Points, and go back to being inactive when you regain any Resolve Points. Each also has a method for restoring Resolve Points, which also causes the feat to be inactive (until and unless you run out of Resolve again).Dare feats don’t have prerequisites—they can be taken by any character from the plucky young librarian searching for a stolen tome in the rough frontier, to the grizzled veteran of the War of the Worlds who has seen too much horror to be shaken when things go south.

In addition to their listed effects, all characters with Dare feats gain a +1 bonus to saves against fear effects for each Dare feat they possess when they are out of Resolve Points.

Frantically Nimble (Dare)
When the chips are down, you gain a surge of evasiveness.
Benefit: While this dare is active, you gain a +1 bonus to AC. You regain 1 Resolve Point when you are attacked and missed in three consecutive rounds by a significant enemy (the attacks need not come from the same enemy) without being hit in any of those rounds.

Out for Blood (Dare)
You can fight like a cornered rat.
Benefit: While this dare is active, if your attack has a critical hit effect, your attack roll is a natural 19 (a “19” shows on the die), and you meet or exceed your target’s AC, your attack applies its critical hit effect (though it does not do double damage as a critical hit normally does). If you score a normal critical hit against a significant enemy, you regain one Resolve Point.

Run Like Hell (Dare)
When the going gets tough, you can really get going.
Benefit: While this dare is active, your speed increases by 10 feet, you are not flat-footed when taking the run action, and you can take the run action even through difficult terrain or when you can’t see where you are going. You regain 1 Resolve Point if a significant enemy takes an attack of opportunity provoked by you moving out of a threatening space, and the attack misses.

Vigilante Shooter (Dare)
You’ll jump through hell to turn the tides of a bas situation.
Benefit: While this dare is active, you gain the evasion class feature. If you already have this class feature, while this dare is active you roll twice when making any Reflex saving throw and take the higher result. You regain 1 Resolve Point when you succeed at a Reflex saving throw forced by a significant enemy while using this dare.

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Gizmos in Really Wild West (for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game)

Gizmos
Since no one is expected to wear armor in the Really Wild West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, “armor upgrades” aren’t really part of the setting. However, everything that functions as an armor upgrade in the core rules is still available- it just exists in the form of an advanced speculative principles device that builds off stellar alloys, theosophic imbuement techniques, compression gears, heat-ray crystal capacitors, vril, or some other weird science from ancient ruins, Martian wrecks, lost civilizations, or mad scientists.

These are commonly know as “gizmos.”

Gizmos are most common among people who operate on the fringes of society, be they adventurers, bandits, mad scientists, or peacekeepers who have to deal with all those other categories. Gizmos often have a very steampunk aesthetic, with bronze a common material (thanks to its theosophic and anti-corrosion properties), leather straps, buckles, and some nice detail work.

Anyone can use a single gizmo, but it takes skill to use more than one gizmo at a time, or to even have more than one rigged properly to be used simultaneously. You can have ready (and in use at one time) one gizmo, plus one for every kind of armor you are proficient with (the main use of armor proficiency in Really Wild West), plus one additional gizmo per 3 character levels. Armor upgrades that take two armor upgrade slots count as two gizmos for this limit once translated into the RWW. Rigging up a gizmo for use, or putting one way, takes 6 rounds.

Here are the Really Wild West gizmo names and descriptions for Starfinder Roleplaying Game armor upgrades. Each gizmo functions the same way as the armor upgrade it is modeled after (listed in parenthesis), except as noted in each description below.

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Aetheric Shields (Force Fields)
Aetheric shields are tiny aetheric generators retooled to work in reverse—rather than taking aetheric currents from the ethereal plane and turning them into electricity, they take electricity and turn them into an aetheric flow that surrounds and (modestly) protects the wearer. The power crystal of an aetheric shield turns the color of the force field it emulates.

Amazing Martian Fighting Shield (titan shield)
This is just one example of the names people use when they take a plate of stellar alloy from a Martian fighting machine, and add straps, and turn it into a shield. It’s big and heavy, so if you use it, you can’t do anything else with that arm.

Babbage Scope (targeting computer)
A Babbage scope takes readings through numerous small lenses, tracks information through a small built-in brass Babbage analytical engine, and predicts where partially concealed targets most likely are.

Crystal Goggles (Infrared Sensors)
The same crystal technology that makes Martian heat rays possible can be turned into red-lenses goggles, that allow you to see heat. Among the most common of gizmos, since you can make several from a smashed Trip’s heat rays.

DaVinci Wings (Jetpacks)
It turns out with energized cavorite (an antigravity metal that can have its gravity- neutralizing properties boosted with an electrical current) and compression gears, some of DaVinci’s designs for powered flight can function.

Dragonhide Duster (thermal capacitor)
While killing true dragons is rarely both practical and moral, drakes and other draconic creatures can be a serious threat in the frontier, and once slain their hides easily take to theosophic infusion to become clothing that stays warm, but never gets hot.

Doctor Cavor’s Resplendent Repellent Field (deflective reinforcement)
Dr. Cavor, the woman who created Cavorite and who has had the most success with Martial technology involving stellar alloys, has built just a few of these prototype devices, that normally take the form of a large metal gauntlet with several crystals and dials. It can push anything away, rather than just alter gravity as most Cavorite devices do.

Float Pack (force pack)
Though it is extremely rare for one of the few Martian flying machines to have one of it’s floater units removed while still functional, when that task is accomplished, a spectacular backpack-style device that allows amazing flight can be crafted from it.

Gas Mask (filtered rebreather)
The threat of Martian Black Smoke forced every nation of the Earth to seek better ways to protect against airborne poisons. Since Really Wild West doesn’t use armor like the core rules do, this gas mask can be considered to work for 5 weeks (though you can break that down into 35 periods of 24 1-hour increments), and then need significant cleaning and refurbishment (costing 10 credits per hour restored). It only applies to inhaled diseases and poisons, though the same cost could be applied to a Diving Helmet and Suit.

Gun Carriage (Automated Loader)
Of use only to wearers of Iron Soldier suits or Tripods (powered armor), a gun carriage is a system of complex clockwork systems that can eject casings and ammo belts, and reload new ones.

Huckster’s Sheath (quick-release sheath)
A spring-loaded sheath designed to be kept up the sleeve, and often considered a sign of low moral character.

Hush Coat (sonic dampener)
This short, leather jacket has gear-shaped metal studs arranged unevenly along its surface, and a dial control at the wrist. It uses a small aetheric generator and retuned Martian heat-ray crystals to creates sounds that perfectly muffle sounds made by the wearer.

Iron Hercules (load lifter)
The Iron Hercules ™ is a compressed air pistol-driven exoframe powered by an aetheric generator to increase your carrying capacity. Also called a “pocket mule” when built and sold by dastards who don’t have the right to the patent.

Jack’s Spring-Heels (jump jets)
Compressed pneumatic pistols running along the calf (and anchored to protective knee braces) drive down, sending you up (or forward). One of the most popular gizmos first designed by Professor “Gentleman Jack” Jersey.

Leyden Gears (backup generator)
These reverse-engineered compression gears are strapped to the arms or legs (or both), and turn your movement into electricity to recharge a battery. It can be connected to a battery belt.

Radium Belt (radiation buffer)
Designed from devices created by Mdm Curie, radium belts protect you from the “poison metals” called radioactive by learned types.

Storm Grommets (electrostatic field)
Storm grommets are small metal rings that can be attached on outwear, with each grommet connected by a high-conductivity wire to a capacitor battery, allowing you to both absorb electrical damage and create an electrical field that shocks anyone that touches you.

Temporal Adjustor (haste circuit)
Only pocket-watches created by famed punctualist Phileas Fogg are capable to being imbued theosophically with the concept of “saving time” that is so powerful, it actually allows the user to temporarily slow all the rest of the universe.

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Really Wild West Dragon Guns (For the Starfinder Rolplaying Game)

In the Really Wild West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, flame guns have been the most common form of energy-weapon for decades, and have a history going back centuries in the Quin Dynasty of China. While the great stability of government and vast, settled agrarian economy of the Qing and previous Ming Dynasty could have led to a great divide between the advanced of science and technology between China and European and American nations, the greater number of theosophic traditions in China (which, truthfully, significantly predate and are the origin of later western theosophy) and number of spiritual threats, from oni to dragons to kaiju, ensured that even with fewer conflict and greater stability, the constant need for innovation kept China on pace during the 1700s and 1800s. Further, victory over European powers in the Opium War, coupled with a strong global demand for Chinese silks and other goods and the looming threat of a Sino-Japanese War has kept the Qing government strongly invested in military technology, and placed their agents, allied merchants, and envoys in most major cities around the world—many carrying advanced flame weapons for self-defense.

The first flame-projecting weapons were double-piston pump naphtha flamethrowers used in 919 AD in China, known as pen huo qi or “spray fire devices.” There were generally large and slow-operating, deployed on wheeled carts, but their benefit against enemies lacking energy weaponry is not to be dismissed, and while some supernatural threats are immune to fire, those that are not are often more easily burned than stabbed or shot by projectiles. The pen hou qi were replaced by smaller and smaller units, until the modern single-person portable flamethrower was developed by famed statesman, general, and Confucian scholar Zeng Guofan in the mid-1800s. Flame pistols and flame rifles drew the attention of numerous other world militaries, but were generally seen as oddities too volatile for field use until the War of the Worlds, when flamethrowers proved to be among the cheapest and most reliable mass-produced energy weapons. Germany has done the best job creating their own designs for modern flame weapons, but their models remain behind the Chinese dragon guns.

In North American, numerous forms of flamethrowers were rushed into production to equip military units in the War of the Worlds… and were then suddenly no longer in significant demand when the Martians died unexpectedly on their own. These surplus guns, mostly local reproductions of German designs, can generally be bought on civilian markets in larger cities. Even more often, flame weapons are often found in the hands of communities with large Chinese immigrant populations, often in camps of near-slave labor imported for building and expanding railroads (which remain a major priority for most North American governments fearing a second Martian invasion and unable to move troops and vehicles quickly across their sprawling continent) and in major cities with trade ties, especially on the West Coast. Many small Chinese weaponworks shops have popped up to supply their superior designs of flame weapons, sometimes only to those of Chinese decent, but in other cases to anyone with the credits to pay for one in advance.

RealWildWest-DragonPistol with Text 72dpi

Table Small arms
One-Handed Weapons
Level   Price        Damage        Range    Critical             Capacity          Usage    Bulk  Special

Flame

Flammenpistole
1          90             1d3 F            30 ft.      Burn 1d6        20 petrol        5             L        —

Haoxian dragon pistol
2          450           1d4 F            20 ft.      Burn 1d4        20 petrol        4             L        Line, unwieldy

Flammenschwert
3          1,100*     1d6 F            30 ft.      Burn 1d6        20 petrol        5             L        —

Chaofeng dragon pistol
4          1,850*     1d6 F            20 ft.      Burn 1d6        20 petrol        4             L        Line, unwieldy

Suanmi dragon pistol
5          2,700*     2d4 F            20 ft.      Burn 2d4        20 petrol        4             L        Line, unwieldy

Yu dragon pistol
6          4,000*     2d4 F            30 ft.      Burn 2d4        40 petrol        4             L        Line, unwieldy

Zhayu dragon pistol
8          9,000*     2d6 F            20 ft.      Burn 2d4        40 petrol        4             L        Line, unwieldy

Yazhai dragon pistol
9          13,000*   2d6 F            30 ft.      Burn 2d6        40 petrol        4             L        Line, unwieldy

Zhurong god pistol
10        17,500*   2d8 F            30 ft.      Burn 2d6        40 petrol        4             L        Line, unwieldy

*Only 1,000 of this price can be covered in credits. The rest of the price must be covered using renown, as covered in the rules for Renown and Gear.

Table Longarms
Two-Handed Weapons
Level   Price        Damage        Range    Critical             Capacity          Usage    Bulk     Special

Flame

Flammengewehr
1          110           1d3 F            50 ft.      Burn 1d6        20 petrol        4             1        —

Haoxian dragon rifle
2          750           1d4 F            40 ft.      Burn 1d4        20 petrol        5             1        Line, unwieldy

Flammenlanze
3          1,300*     1d6 F            50 ft.      Burn 1d6        20 petrol        4             1        —

Chaofeng dragon rifle
4          1,900*     1d6 F            40 ft.      Burn 1d6        20 petrol        5             1        Line, unwieldy

Suanmi dragon rifle
5          2,800*     2d4 F            40 ft.      Burn 2d4        20 petrol        5             1        Line, unwieldy

Yu dragon rifle
6          4,100*     2d4 F            50 ft.      Burn 2d4        40 petrol        5             1        Line, unwieldy

Zhayu dragon rifle
8          9,100*     2d6 F            40 ft.      Burn 2d4        40 petrol        5             1        Line, unwieldy

Yazhai dragon rifle
9          13,150*   2d6 F            50 ft.      Burn 2d6        40 petrol        5             1        Line, unwieldy

Zhurong god rifle
10               17,800*     2d8 F          50 ft.           Burn 2d6   40 petrol   5                  1                  Line, unwieldy

Table Heavy Weapons
Two-Handed Weapons
Level   Price        Damage        Range    Critical             Capacity     Usage         Bulk            Special

Flame

Flammenkanone
1          110           1d3 F            15 ft.      Burn 1d6        20 petrol        5             2        Line

Haoxian dragon canon
2          750           1d4 F            20 ft.      Burn 1d4        20 petrol        10          2        Blast, unwieldy

Flammewaffe
3          1,300*     1d6 F            20 ft.      Burn 1d6        30 petrol        5             2        Line

Chaofeng dragon canon
4          1,900*     1d6 F            20 ft.      Burn 1d6        30 petrol        10          2        Blast, unwieldy

Suanmi dragon canon
5          2,800*     2d4 F            20 ft.      Burn 2d4        40 petrol        10          2        Blast, unwieldy

Yu dragon canon
6          4,100*     2d4 F            30 ft.      Burn 2d4        50 petrol        10          2        Blast, unwieldy

Zhayu dragon canon
8          9,100*     2d6 F            30 ft.      Burn 2d4        60 petrol        10          2        Blast, unwieldy

Yazhai dragon canon
9          13,150*   2d6 F            40 ft.      Burn 2d6        60 petrol        10          2        Blast, unwieldy

Zhurong god canon
10               17,800*     2d8 F          30 ft.           Burn 2d6   60 petrol   5                  10               2                  Blast, unwieldy

Also on Patreon!
Since my patrons make things like this possible, I like to post any extra thoughts I have outside of the core of an article over on my Patreon page, for their enjoyment. That material may get made public eventually, but it starts as patron-exclusive. In this case, I talked a little bit about what lead me to make the worldbuilding choices I did for flame weapons in Really Wild West, totally aside from any game mechanical considerations. I you want to support my blog writing and get some exclusive access to my notions, go check it out!

Really Wild West Lightning Guns (For the Starfinder Roleplaying Game)

In the Really Wild West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, lightning guns were experimented with by numerous inventors and scientists throughout the mid- and late 1800s, but the technology for focusing and directing electricity beyond a wire lead was consistently lacking for purposes of a practical weapon. The advancement of theosophy, though seen as the study of the spiritual and supernatural, proved to be the major breakthrough in lightning weaponry. Theosophy proved that inanimate objects could have the impression of events, thoughts, or even natural phenomena permanently infused into them. This lead to the idea of having the event of a lightning strike infused into a focusing orb, which could then ‘convince” electricity built up within a device to fire outward in a (roughly) predictably way. While many inventors sought to find the best material and theosophic infusion for practical lighting guns, it was the Menlo park workshop of Thomas Edison that ultimately created the “Menlo Storm” standard of “recording” the event of a lightning strike into a focusing orb and using that to store and focus electricity as part of a weapon.

Even with the Menlo Storm standard, early lightning guns were heavy, expensive, and not particularly superior to traditional firearms. However, many of those drawbacks became irrelevant when the Martian tripods attacked and turned out to be almost entirely immune to most kinetic attacks. Short of artillery, only energy weapons had any notable effect on tripods and the Martians other weapons of war. Suddenly it didn’t matter how limited lightning guns were, they were the go-to weapon for anti-tripod forces.

As is often the case when war breaks out, the technology used to fight quickly improved. German-born inventor Charles Proteus Steinmetz made numerous adjustments to lighting weapon technology, though his name remains not nearly as well-known as that of Edison. Steinmetz’s battery and coupling technology were quickly retrofit to nearly all lightning gun designs, and his own weapon designs were in field trials when the Tripods came crashing down worldwide, and the need for such specialty crafted high-end weapons ended. Westinghouse created a few commercial models based on Steinmetz’s designs, but simplified for mass production, though these remain less popular than the Menlo Park models. Steinmetz’s various field prototypes remain the most powerful lightning guns in existence, but they are exceedingly difficult to find.

RealWildWest-LightningPistol with Text 72dpi

Table: Small Arms

One-Handed Weapons

Level   Price        Damage        Range    Critical             Capacity          Usage    Bulk

Shock

Spark gun, Westinghouse light
1          250           1d4 E            30 ft.      Arc 1                20 charges     4             L

Lightning pistol, Menlo arc
2          750           1d6 E            40 ft.      Arc 2                20 charges     5             L

Spark gun, Westinghouse heavy
3          1,400*     1d6 E            40 ft.      Arc 1d4           20 charges     4             L

Lightning pistol, Menlo storm
4          2,100*     1d6 E            50 ft.      Arc 1d6           40 charges     5             L

Lightning pistol, Menlo custom
5          3,000*     1d4+1d3 E   50 ft.      Arc 1d6           40 charges     5             L

Proteus pistol, Perun
6          4,200*     1d8 E            60 ft.      Arc 1d6           40 charges     5             L

Proteus pistol, Zeus
8          9,300*     1d10 E          60 ft.      Arc 1d6           40 charges     5             L

Proteus pistol, Ukko
9          13,250*   2d6 E            60 ft.      Arc 1d8           40 charges     5             L

Proteus pistol, Thor
10        18,000*   3d4 E            60 ft.      Arc 2d6           40 charges     5             L

*Only 1,000 of this price can be covered in credits. The rest of the price must be covered using renown, as covered in the rules for Renown and Gear.

Table: Longarms

Two-Handed Weapons
Level   Price        Damage        Range    Critical             Capacity          Usage    Bulk

Shock

Spark rifle, Westinghouse light
1          275           1d6 E            40 ft.      Arc 1                20 charges     4             1

Lightning rifle, Menlo arc
2          800           1d8 E            50 ft.      Arc 2                20 charges     5             1

Spark rifle, Westinghouse heavy
3          1,500*     1d8 E            50 ft.      Arc 1d4           20 charges     4             1

Lightning rifle, Menlo storm
4          2,200*     1d8 E            60 ft.      Arc 1d6           40 charges     5             1

Lightning rifle, Menlo custom
5          3,300*     1d10 E          60 ft.      Arc 1d6           40 charges     5             1

Proteus rifle, Perun
6          4,600*     1d12 E          60 ft.      Arc 1d6           40 charges     5             1

Proteus rifle, Zeus
8          9,900*     1d12 E          60 ft.      Arc 1d6           80 charges     5             1

Proteus rifle, Ukko
9          14,250*   2d6 E            60 ft.      Arc 2d4           80 charges     5             1

Proteus rifle, Thor
10        19,000*   3d4 E            60 ft.      Arc 2d6           80 charges     5             1

Table: Heavy Weapons

Two-Handed Weapons
Level   Price        Damage        Range    Capacity     Usage         Bulk            Special

Shock

Spark canon, Westinghouse light
1          275           1d6 E            40 ft.      20 charges     4             2        explode (5 ft.), unwealdy

Lightning canon, Menlo arc
2          800           1d8 E            50 ft.      20 charges     5             2        explode (5 ft.), unwealdy

Spark canon, Westinghouse heavy
3          1,500*     1d8 E            50 ft.      20 charges     4             2        explode (5 ft.), unwealdy

Lightning canon, Menlo storm
4          2,200*     1d8 E            60 ft.      40 charges     5             2        explode (10 ft.), unwealdy

Lightning canon, Menlo custom
5          3,300*     1d10 E          60 ft.      40 charges     5             2        explode (10 ft.), unwealdy

Proteus canon, Perun
6          4,600*     1d12 E          60 ft.     40 charges     5             2        explode (10 ft.), unwealdy

Proteus canon, Zeus
8          9,900*     1d12 E          60 ft.      80 charges     5             2        explode (10 ft.), unwealdy

Proteus canon, Ukko
9          14,250*   2d6 E            60 ft.      80 charges     5             2        explode (15 ft.), unwealdy

Proteus canon, Thor
10        19,000*   3d4 E            60 ft.      80 charges     5             2        explode (15 ft.), unwealdy

Over on Patreon!
My patrons are why I am able to produce posts like this, so occasionally when I’m done with an article, I write a bit more just for them. In this case, I discuss a little about how the item level system impact weapon design, and how I accounted for that in this list of 30 Really Wild West lighting guns. For just a few bucks a month, you can check it out!

Putting the “Steam” and “Punk” in Really Wild West

I haven’t referred to the Really Wild West setting as “steampunk,” because to me it’s a distinct Fantasy Weird West genre, rather than a “true” steampunk setting. Of course, steampunk is as much an aesthetic as a literary genre (certainly true now, regardless of its origins), and part of my issue with calling RWW steampunk is that I am going much more for a western aesthetic than a steampunk one. I’d also want to parse out the distinctions between steampunk, gearpunk, cogpunk, diselpunk, pulp, weird west, fantasy, and a bunch of other things related to speculative fiction settings of the late 1800s before I was comfortable referring to (or marketing) my setting as “steampunk.”

But, there certainly is going to be significant overlap between people who are interested in Really Wild West, weird west, and those who are interested in steampunk. And, ultimately, I suspect the weird west, pulp, and steampunk genres are very much like La Belle Époque, the Gilded Age and the Victorian Era—they aren’t the same, and it’s hard to pin down exactly what is unique to each and what is shared, but there’s certainly a lot of intersection.

Classically, one element of steampunk is that steam-engine level technology is capable of much more advanced devices than in the real world, allowing more modern devices to exist in larger, bulkier, brass-rivet covered steam versions. I’m not depending much on steam as the main technology of Really Wild West, because my setting advances electricity and magic as much as it makes steam more efficient. There are some things common to steampunk stories in RWW, such as Babbages (or “difference engines”) that are gear-driven computers (that can communicate over the Babbage-Bell Grid, creating a kind of primitive internet), and massive airships acting as floating cruisers and battleships, but in most cases those are using an imaginary technology developed from the inclusion of a form of advanced theosophy (magic) in the setting, or reverse-engineered from Martian tech after the War of the Worlds, rather than super-efficient steam. Steam engines exist, but RWW isn’t the steam age anymore. Aetheric engines are more important than steam turbines.

On the other hand, the “punk” elements of steampunk, as a social movement, make sense for my Really Weird West setting. Not all steampunk settings borrow the “punk” part of cyberpunk, but I think it’s worth remembering as a spine of the body that includes so many related and overlapping ideas. Much of the “punk” part of cyberpunk is about wanting to live free of mainstream society’s constraints and refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of social expectations. That certainly borrows from the punk musical and cultural movements of the real world 1970s and 1980s, but in cyberpunk, that rejection is often frames in terms of the collapse of the benefits of society and, with cybernetics and AIs commonplace, asking what it even means to be human.

Some steampunk settings have their own versions of this punk-ness, while others just focus on the dashing heroes of society, whether they are the champions of wealth and aristocracy you’d expect to be promoted by society itself, or plucky underdogs of low station who rise to fame and power… and then generally become not only accepted parts of mainstream society but also proof that anyone of sufficient quality can succeed by bootstrapping, and thus a backhanded claim that the rules of society should be respected because they include opportunity to improve yourself if you are properly deserving. I find this to be especially true of steampunk set in or based on the 1800s US.

However, the imaginary 1891 of Really Wild West is a time of rapid societal change, whether that’s the impact of Reconstruction and the Progressive Era of the United States, the turn toward science and rationality of the Porfiriate of Mexico, or the removal of Otto Von Bismark from power in Germany. On top of those real-world social pressures, the setting of Really Weird West is dealing with the cognitive impact of magic being codified as real by the Theosophic Society over the past generation and proof of alien life (and both its technological superiority and desire to kill us) in the War of the Worlds just a year earlier. While polite society in major urban centers is trying to pretend nothing has changed, in their hearts people know better. Literature, science, music, poetry, and acceptable social behavior have all changed, and many people are actively rejecting its rules which, to be fair, are based on those of the real world at the time and thus include a lot of objectively terrible racism, sexism, classism, and bigotry.

In the frontier lands, that change is even more pronounced. Where lawlessness is more common, society has less power to enforce both its good and its bad dictates. Sure, lawless lands often include a lot of robbery, fraud, assault, and murder, but they also have weaker social codes insisting everyone fall in line with societal expectations. Not no social codes of course—each town, business, cattle barony, and gang can have its own society requirements no less strict and merciless than those of “Back East.” But while that means people can’t automatically be free of bigotry and racism, it also means they don’t have to go as far to get away from it. Given how dangerous it is to live outside of town that might be a short trip into a shallow grave, but the option exists.

That very danger also means that people who refuse to follow the norms of society, but who have a particular set of skills, can find more than one place that will accept them at least as long as there’s a problem they can fix. It’s no coincidence that this sounds like the plot of numerous classic Westerns, but it’s also the plot of numerous cyberpunk stories. In many ways the gunslinger is the original “punk” character concept… and before that the samurai, and local hero highwayman, and some Greek heroes. Punk heroes, as independent experts who thrive outside the system, can exist in the largest numbers in campaign settings where society has a weakened grip. In cyberpunk this is often because corporations have grown to be so powerful that they can challenge the government-controlled legally defined societies, and virtual reality is competing with meatspace, and the gaps between those factors are shadowy realms where expertise is more important than adherence to societal standards. In a Western, Really Wild West included, there’s a similar conflict between the expansive, technocratic societies and the less mechanized and more sparsely-spaced aboriginal societies as well as the rapid expansion of new forms of transformation and communication into areas with vast untamed stretch of exploitable natural resources. RWW, of course, adds magic, an alien invasion, and weird science to the mix to create even more instability, and larger shadows where the punk character concept comfortably fits.

If Really Wild West promotes the idea that exceptional people can rise above their stations and become heroes, it must acknowledge that doing so often means bucking the systemic oppression directed at numerous minorities. Certainly, if a group would rather not deal with such real-world issues, and the players would have more fun playing whatever they want without considering how people from a world based on the heavily-flawed real world of 1891 would react to them, they can do that. But asking a group to all agree not to take the expected real-world biases and bigotry too far may be more than everyone can handle, so there are also explicit notes within the campaign where any character background is explicitly appropriate. Specifically, even in the small amount of material written so far, the Dread Templars and Science Agents are both groups that accept anyone with the skills of a player character, and both are respected and established part of the campaign world. Being a punk who is part of a group may be a tad counter-intuitive, but it’s not really any different than imagining a cyberpunk hacker as part of a real-world collective like Anonymous.

All that said, I’m not likely to begin calling Really Wild West “steampunk,” but I won’t tell anyone else who does that they’re wrong. 😊

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