Town Creation for Lawmen v Outlaws

Here are some simple rules to create a town for Lawmen v Outlaws (or any other wild west roleplaying game) collaboratively. The advantage of creating the setting collaboratively is that you start off with a setting the players are already familiar with, interested in and connected by virtue of being co-creators. Also, it cuts down on the GM’s prep and that can’t be bad. The full, free rules for Lawmen v Outlaws can be downloaded here: https://ukrpdc.wordpress.com/2018/12/30/lawmen-v-outlaws/

The following Lawmen v Outlaws town, Badger’s Bluff, was created using a Google Jamboard with the group playing over the Internet, as one has to do these days, The virtual Post-Its work pretty well for this excercise from a practical point of view, though it’s not extactly pretty.

For reference, the light blue area is the town, the yellow circles locations outside town.

Rules:

  1. Each person in turn picks a location (including the GM)
  2. Two locations should be in town, one location out of town
  3. For each location create a Tag – a short descriptor
  4. One of the Tags should be a personal connection (including working at, owning or being friends with the owner)

The end result is not a list of all the locations of the town, just some of the more important ones.

Badgers Bluff Map

For inspiration, some typical wild west locactions include:

Town Locations
Assay / Claims Office (implies mines)
Bank
Barber Shop / Bathhouse
Blacksmith
Boarding House
Boot Hill
Cafe
Church / School
Cigar Shop
Corral
County Courthouse (larger town)
Dance Hall / Theatre
Doctor / Dentist
General Store (or other)
Gunsmith
Hotel
Jeweller / Watchmaker
Laundry
Lawyer
Livery / Stable
Newspaper
Opium Den
Photographic Studio
Post Office
Railroad Station (implies railway)
Restaurant
Saloon (often more than one)
Sheriff’s Office & Jail
Stables
Telegraph Office
Undertaker

Out of town locations
Farm
Ferry station
Fort
Lumber camp
Mill
Mine
Native encampment
Natural feature (mountain, river, etc…)
Open range
Prison
Ranch
Roadhouse / Way station
Trapper cabin


More than just rules?

Some games just give you a cool world and rules to resolve actions within it. Like a large box of generic Lego, how exactly they are to be used is left to the GM and the players.  Other games are more structured. The game might  provide clear guidance regarding what the player characters are expected to do, instructions on how and when to transition between scenes, a default framework for how adventures unfold or even subsystems to manage and track longer term goals.  

Looking at the games released as Polar Blues Press, I can see I flip-flopped a fair bit on this issue.

Of these games, Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands clearly has the most complete structure of play of the lot. Bounty hunting, as a core activity, provides a clear role for the party and a built in framework for inserting adventure hooks. The gradual deterioration of players’ equipment, the vehicle upgrades and Mad Max roadwar encounters provide an additional framework with alternate goals and rewards for play. And the way these two frameworks interact is significant.

I was pleased with the design but from watching other GMs run Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wasteland and odd bits of feedback, these frameworks largely seemed to get ignored. Most GMs seemed happy with the action resolution rules, but in practice already had their own way of running games. They didn’t need or want the extra layer.

So when it came to Cyberblues City I changed my approach. Initially I just provided the bare bones action resolution rules. There were a few suggested concepts for the party, but no hard and fast instructions about what the characters do in the game. It was very much a box of Lego kind of game.

That might have been the end of the story, but a year or so later, I came up with a setting idea for Cyberblues City. It was a gonzo future London ruled by a cyborg queen Victoria. This could have been packaged as an expansion for Cyberblues City; making it clear it was a possible setting for the game rather than the setting. But, in a free PDF,  it seemed to make little sense to split the rulebook from the setting, so I bundled them together in Cyberblues City Deluxe. To this day, I still don’t know if that was the right call. It makes the product both better and worse at the same time. At least the illustrations are better in the new edition and it is still the funniest thing I’ve ever written.

The point being, Cyberblues City really has no inbuilt framework for play at all. That makes it bit harder to just pick up and play, even for me. To run it I need to sit back, come up with a fresh premise and some sort of adventure all by myself.

Which leads us to Lawmen v Outlaws. I wanted to do a Western. At first I found it a bit daunting because it is such a broad genre. The key for me was to narrow it down to stories of lawmen chasing outlaws and of outlaws evading lawmen.That instantly provided a clear answer to the question “What do the characters do in this game?”.

I still didn’t have much of a framework for how Lawmen v Outlaw adventures were meant to unfold. I tinkered with some town creation rules to support play, but that wasn’t going anywhere (though I may revisit it). 

In the end I landed a very ridiculously simple formula around which to structure lawmen style adventures. And it all hinged on these two  simple sentences.

“It was an ordinary day like any other when…” followed by  “Turns out that…”

What this captures is the simple universal truth of a lawman adventure – there is a status quo and then something happens to disrupt it. Thus the initial call to action is set.

The “Turns out that…” part is a reminder that what is introduced in the call to action, isn’t the whole story. There needs to be a twist or complication otherwise all one is left with is a very short and predictable adventure. 

There is more to Lawmen v Outlaws adventure framework of course. All this illustrates is that , flimsy as it is, this is still a functional framework which, for the time being at least, seems like a happy halfway house between the comprehensive structure of play in Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands and the absence of any such thing in Cyberblues City, especially in the context of rule light, pick up and play style of games.

Fudge – Expanded Situational Roll

One of the GM tools in Fudge is the Situational Roll. This a way to randomly determine aspects of a situation that aren’t based on any character or haven’t been already established by the fiction like “Is it raining?” or “Is there a gas station nearby?”. It all there in the Fudge SRD if anyone is interest.

The following expands on the concept, taking into account the of the event likelihood of the event while still leaving it to chance. After all. the odds to the question “Is it raining?” being “yes” might vary depending if the setting is Seattle or Dubai.

The way this is done is by arranging a set of probabilities as if they were Fudge ranks as in the table below.

Virtually
Impossible
(0)

Unlikely

(1)

Doubtful

(2)

Possible

(3)

Plausible

(4)

Likely

(5)

Almost
Certain
(6)

To make a situational roll, make a quick judgement on the base likelihood, roll 4dF and the result to the chosen likelihood. If the result is Possible or better (Green) the answer is “yes”, otherwise it is “no”.

So for instance, if a player asked “Is there a gas station nearby?”, the GM might mike an initial judgement that it is Doubtful. The GM roll 4dF and gets +1 which is enough to turn Doubtful into Possible. The player character is in luck!

Some Polar Figures

Some Polar Numbers

As a fun end of year exercise I collated the all-time download figures from this site of the various Polar Blues Press products

The totals look something like this:

Complete Systems
Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands   2911
Cyberblues City   1591
Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands   318
Lawmen v Outlaws   97

Adventures
Cyberblues City – Going the Distance   135
Cyberblues City – A Very Cyber Christmas   119
BHAW – The Ballad of Bad Bob Mcklusky   75
BHAW – Night of the Atomic Snowmen   124

Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands is way ahead in downloads, partly because it was based on Fate which is always popular but also because it’s been out longer. The numbers for Cyberblues City aren’t too bad either for a Fudge based game; I suspect the review at http://www.thefreerpgblog.com/2016/02/mellow-cyberblues-city-by-polar-blues.html helped. Lawmen v Outlaw hasn’t got a lot of traction, which is a shame because I think it’s a really good design. The figures for Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands are a bit misleading because the game the game predates this site by a couple of decades. It remains the game of mine that mostly frequently quoted on gaming forums, but it still nice to see people keep discovering it.

The purpose of posting this is help any hobbyist game designer to get a feel of what can be achieved without much fuss or fanfare. The thing to consider is that if these were commercial games rather than free pdfs, the actual number of copies in circulation would be just a tiny fraction. There is no way I woulud have sold nearly 3000 copies of BHAW, for small publishers, games sales into the 100s are considered a success. As such there is clearly a trade-off between reaching many more gamers with your creations and trying to make get a return for your efforts. I am happy with my choice, but it’s a very personal choice to make.

And while I’m, I’ll leave you with one of the illustrations from Lawmen v Outlaws.

Lawmen v Outlaws

Merry Christmas from Polar Blues Press.

Lawmen v Outlaws

cover Free to download  >>  Lawmen v Outlaws

Lawmen v Outlaws is a simple Western themed roleplaying game about… erm… lawmen and outlaws. The game uses a variant of the Fudge roleplaying system, designed to be easy to learn and fast in play. New rules including the Minion Machine and Complex Tests will help you create interesting and varied challenges with little or no advance preparation. Adventure seeds for both lawmen and outlaws are also included. These things combined make Lawmen V Outlaw ideally suited for pick-up games.

 

sample character

Cyberblues City Deluxe

Cyberblues City Deluxe is out! It is the same simple and fast, Fudge-based game but now with an whole new off-the-wall, London-based setting and so, so much new, full-colour artwork. And it is still absolutely free. Click on the link or image below to download.

>> Download Cyberblues City

Cyberblues City cover

And here is quick gallery of some on the new artwork.
cyborg queenThe Cyborg Queen Victoria Perpetua waves to the crowds from Buckingham palace.

A security patrol

lobster peopleLobster People on the prowl

arrestA Tax Inspector robot arresting an anarchist

BHAW – The Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky

The Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky is a free adventure for Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands. The Bounty Hunters are on the trail of a notorious cattle rustler but in the Atomic Wastelands things are never quite that simple.

The adventure is presented in a non-linear fashion as a collection of Clues, Locations and Complications for the GM to assemble as he or she sees fit.

>  Download the Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky today!

More free stuff from Polar Blues Press here: https://ukrpdc.wordpress.com/category/polar-blues-press/

Polar Blues Press Downloads

A collection of free games and adventures to download from Polar Blues Press. More product specific information can be found at https://ukrpdc.wordpress.com/category/polar-blues-press/.

Full Games

>  Lawmen v Outlaws (Fudge)
Cyberblues City Deluxe (Fudge)
Bounty Hunters of the Atomic (Fate)
Mutant Bikers of the Atomic Wastelands (Fudge)

Adventures For Cyberblues City

>  Going The Distance
A Very Cyber Christmas

 Adventures for BHAW

Night of the Atomic Snowmen
> The Ballad of Bad Bob McKlusky

The Bounty Hunters are Two

It’s an anniversary that matters only to me, but today marks two years since I released Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands.

I’ve not done much with BHAW in this past year as I’ve been occupied with Cyberblues City, however I can share an interesting statistic: the number of downloads of the game in its second year match almost exactly those for the first year. Roughly speaking as BHAW is approaching the 1000 download mark and I can see there about 500 last year and 500 this year; one or two each day, every day over two years.

If BHAW weren’t entirely free, I’d be feeling rather smug.

This consistency does surprise me. I would have expected the game’s downloads would have run out of steam by now, especially as I’m not really out there actively promoting it.

There are two things I can point as having boosted interest in the BHAW. The first, earlier this year, was the Mad Max movie. I posted about that before. I found it quite amusing that the spike in download matched the film release so closely.

The other was getting my games listed on E. Chris Garrison’s The Compendium of Free Role Playing Games (http://sillyhatbooks.com/about/games/). This site has been going since 1994 and has clearly quite a following. So much so that it has quickly supplanted RPGNet as the main source of referrals for BHAW.

I suspect it doesn’t hurt that BHAW as awarded the “Cool Game” icon on The Compendium of Free Role Playing Games, which puts the Bounty Hunters on the same category as Ars Magica, GURPS Lite and the current (basic) edition of D&D!