Gateway: A microsupplement for the Guns of Tarnation microsetting.
Most Guns of Tarnation campaigns are likely to begin in Gateway, the enormous mega-metropolis that is the capital of the lands controlled by the Duke, lord of the Cattle Barons who control much of the Fertile Land (and who have pressed their reach ever westward into the Lands of Tarnation). Gateway is the only true city easily accessed from the Lands of Tarnation, and while large towns and other settlements can be found further west, they lack Gateway’s resources, economy, population, and security from external threats (though the internal threats of Gateway can be quite severe).
Gateway is so big (the third largest city on the continent) that instead of a single settlement stat block, each of its 12 districts (each with its own population exceeding 25,000) receives a stat block to represent that slice of the larger city.
Gate District (largest district in Gateway)
Corruption +4; Crime +4; Economy +6; Law +3; Lore +5; Society +7
Qualities Academic, Prosperous, Rumormongering Citizens, Strategic Location, Tourist Attraction
Government District Council (half appointed by adjoining Cattle Barons, half appointed by the Duke – lord of the Cattle Barons)
Population 55,000 (29,000 humans; 7,500 halflings; 5,500 dwarves; 4,500 half-orcs; 2,500 elves; 2,000 half-elves; 1,000 gnomes; 3,000 other)
Miss Mattie Puma, Owner & Proprietor of the Great Gate Hotel (white hat female half-orc witch 4)
El Grande the Wyvern Wrestler (brown hat male human brawler 4)
James “Diamond Slim” Rubillard, head of the Gambler’s Guild (black hat male half-elf bard 5)
Lady Isabeaux DeCroix, Council Woman & Fortune Teller (brown hat female halfling psychic 5)
Doctor Jefferies, Chaos Genius & Local Legend (white hat male human alchemist [spagyric devices] 6)
One-Shot Sharon, bounty hunter (black hat female elf gunslinger 6)
Base Value 25,600 gp; Purchase Limit 150,000 gp; Spellcasting 4th
Minor Items all available; Medium Items 4d4; Major Items 3d4
Gateway is the largest New World city west of the Hellroar River, which is generally seen as the border between the Mountain Lands (to the east) and the Lands of Tarnation (to the west). Gateway sits right on the western bank, smack in the center of the Hellroar’s more-than-2,500 mile run from the Bearclaw Dominion in the north (which still owes at least grudging fealty to the Union of Kingdoms in the Old World, across the Atlas Ocean to the east) to the Gulf of Teotaxa to the South. It is also the location of the Great Gate, which keeps any ANASAZI and CREATURES of TARNATION (see Guns of Tarnation) from being able to cross the Hellroar River except through the Gate itself.
East of Gateway is a strip of territory known as the Fertile lands, running between the Hellroar River and the the Mountain Lands, which are themselves main border between the Lands of Tarnation and the Civilized Coast further east on the Atlas Ocean. The Mountain Lands still have a fair number of CRITTERS and ROUGH TERRAIN (see Guns of Tarnation), making Mountain Folk a hearty group less tender and unprepared than those from the Civilized Coast, but few of those threats are as strange or powerful at those found in the Lands of Tarnation. Folk from the Fertile Lands also have to deal with things coming out of the Mountain Lands, but much less often than Mountain Folk do.
Because of the vast opportunity seen in the Lands of Tarnation, many explorers, scholars, criminals, adventurers, gunslingers, cheats, and heroes travel from the lands east of Gateway, including lands of the Old World across the Atlas Ocean, to join groups headed through the Great Gate from which Gateway takes its name and into the Lands of Tarnation. Many travel with Landsteaders, hoping to help a caravan of common folk carve out a place to live in areas of Tarnation that have already seen some pacification. Others hire out as enforcers for cattle barons carving out grazing lands, mine operators seeking to avoid objections to constant explosions and perhaps poison streams, or the two Great Railroads locked in an epic battle to see which can cross the lands of Tarnation first to claim the Duke’s promised prize of control of a Gateway district. And some newcomers have no idea what opportunity they’ll find in Gateway, but simply hope for some chance to trade skill with a gun, spell, or magic sword for passage to some area of Tarnation where money can be made and fame earned.
In addition to the Great Gate, the Gate District contains the terminus of rail lines from the east, the beginning of the two competing railroads headed out west, the second largest market in the city (surpassed only by the Wheelwatch Market, in the South River District), numerous banks, outfitters, company headquarters, accommodations from rich hotels to fleabag cot-lined tents, entertainment houses, bath houses, pesh houses, casinos, restaurants, and the Council Building where all city and district business is officially handled (though a fair amount is pre-decided in bath houses, and private mansions in the Enclave District).
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Just got back from seeing The Magnificent Seven (2016). I enjoyed it a lot, and it’s my favorite western of recent years. That said, I don’t think it’ll be considered a timeless masterpiece.
But I don’t NEED a western to be a timeless masterpiece. That’s too high a bar for me to set for success, and on its own terms I thought this was a solid movie. This general plot is one of my favorite stories, and I am happy to see any competent new take on it, even if it doesn’t surpass the originals.
In my rankings of heptaheroic tales, I place this firmly behind Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven (1960), but above Battle Beyond the Stars, Samurai 7 (the cyberpunk anime), The Magnificent Seven (1998 tv show), any of the sequels to the 1960 movie, and The Seven Magnificent Gladiators.
Nearly any heptaheroic makes me want to play an RPG, and I suspect that’s because it’s a story of disparate heroes gathering against overwhelming odds to protect the innocent and downtrodden. By killing people. It maps very well to classic RPG tropes and can often be easily supported by a wide range of rpg systems.
It also makes me want to do more stuff with Guns of Tarnation, for the same reason.
In a binary digit-based rating system, I give it a thumbs up.
Gulchers are a form of undead for the Guns of Tarnation Microsetting. You can use this description for any appropriate undead, most likely ghouls, ghasts, and minor vampires.
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, than 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 doesn’t detect as a black hat and 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 it’s 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.
I’m running a major membership drive to the Rogue Genius Games Facebook page. I challenged folks that if we got to 600 likes (from 540) by Nov 1, I’d make a pdf free forever, and post a 600-or-so word microsetting.
It took all of two days for us to pass 600, and we’re now at more than 650. If we hit 700 by Nov 1, I’ll do another free pdf and a 700-or-so-word microsetting.
For those of you not on Facebook, here is the (slightly more than) 600-word Microsetting: Guns of Tarnation!
Guns of Tarnation
A microsetting (for now, anyway) for the Pathfinder RPG rules. This is designed as a Magic Old West, so that’s how the GM should run the campaign. Winchesters & Runeblades. Magnificent Seven Wizards. The Lone 5th Level Ranger. You get the idea.
As The Duke, lord of Cattle Barons, opens up the Gateway to the West all types of adventurers -Spellpokes, Swordslingers, Native Folk, Tenderpriests, Drovers, Riflebearers, and Snake Oil Salesmen – must try to carve out settlements from Tarnation, the land of fertile plains and grasslands where no civilized folk ever lived before. But given the Weirdnesses found there, newcomers often declare:
“What in TARNATION!?”
*The campaign uses the Guns Everywhere rules for firearms. This means firearms are simple weapons.
>>If a character has simple weapon proficiency and would also receive any firearm proficiency as a class feature, it instead gains weapon mastery (as the fighter class feature) with the same firearms.
*There is no multiclassing. It’s a simple world, with simple roles. Besides with the Advanced Class Guide and all the Talented Classes from Rogue Genius Games, you’ll manage just fine.
*Ability scores are point-buy. Fighters and rogues get 27 points. Gunslingers get 25. Paladins and summoners get 21. Everyone else gets 23.
*There is no alignment. All alignment restrictions are removed, no alignment is detected. However, chaos, evil, good, and law remain as descriptors for spells and subtypes for monsters.
*There are “hats.” Everyone must select if their character is a White Hat, Black Hat, or Brown Hat. While PCs are free to act however they like, the GM should have 90% of White Hats be good guys, 90% of Black Hats be bad guys, and 90% of everything else be Brown Hats.
>>Treat White Hats as good and lawful for purposes of how they are affected by spells that specifically affect a good or lawful creature differently than other creatures. This has no impact on the character’s behavior, and is not revealed by divinations.
>>Black Hats follow the same rules, but for chaotic and evil.
>>Brown Hats follow the same rules, but for neutral.
*For abilities like ranger favorite enemies and the bane feature, there are only the following categories: ANASAZI (all outsiders), CRITTERS (animals, magical beasts, and vermin), FOLKS (all humanoids, but pick a hat color each time it is selected), CREATURES of TARNATION (aberrations, constructs, dragons, oozes, and undead), and ROUGH TERRAIN (elementals, fey, and plants).
*Every character gains Plot Immunity Armor. This acts as an armor bonus to AC, but represents attacks just not hitting you because you are the hero. It does not stack with normal armor bonuses. Your Plot Immunity Armor is equal to your class level, +1 for each form of armor proficiency (light, medium, heavy, shields, tower shields) you have
*The campaign is designed to run from 2nd to 6th level. You can stop playing at 6th, or use some variant of the E6 rules commonly available.
*There is no required wealth by level. You may never get any treasure at all. Play for the fun of playing. That said, to keep you balanced with creatures of your CR, you do gain “legend,” special bonuses for being the strong-jawed heroes of the setting:
>>At 2nd level, you gain either a +1 enhancement bonus to all weapon/unarmed/natural attacks, or two bonus feats you meet the prerequisites for.
>>At 3rd level you gain a +1 resistance bonus to all saves and a +1 to one ability score of your choice. (This is in addition to the ability score increase you’ll get at 4th, like normal).
>>At 4th level you gain a +1 deflection bonus to AC.
>>5th level is the same as 3rd level. If you already had an enhancement bonus and you select it again, you either end up with a +2 enhancement bonus or you add a +1 special weapon quality that applies to all attacks it can be applied to.
>>6th level is the same as 3rd level. You can increase the same ability score, or a different one.