<Note: This is still a draft, just making it public for my group>
I got this idea while reading through the Supernatural rulebook, and the initial idea was “Supernatural in the Old West” Of course, there are many other directions that this kind of campaign could go in, but that is my core idea.
This kind of campaign would focus on a group of characters, travelling from town to town, hunting ghosts, vampires, and various and sundry supernatural critters.
Elements to Include
The towns that the characters will travel to will normally be small, and out of touch with the rest of the world, relying on periodic coaches passing through for news.
This will both help and hinder the characters. It will be a lot easier to convince the town that they are a travelling judge, or a government agent, when the locals cannot just phone their superiors to check. On the other hand, it also means that it will be a lot harder for the characters to get help, or to do research.
Another aspect of the communication means that by the time the characters hear about something going on, it might already be weeks or months later, and they may arrive to find that the situation has gotten completely out of control.
Of course, the characters will spend a lot of time travelling, which can be an adventure in itself, as they cross unforgiving deserts, deal with bandits and Native Americans, as well as other things that live in the wilderness, far from populated places.
Rather than riding across the west, the characters travel by train, in a specially modified carriage, that acts as lab, library and living quarters, and which they attach to any train that is going their way. It might even be modified in such a way that it can be take off the tracks, and hitched to a team of horses, in order to reach those places away from the railroads. It would give the characters a base of operations, as well as a place to get things done, but it will attract attention, perhaps unwanted.
The characters for this would be monster hunters of some sort, and there are a couple of types of characters that could fit in easily into the campaign, although any character you could find in the old west could fit in.
- Gunslinger, gambler, scientist, gentleman, criminal, occultist, bounty hunter, miner, native american, reporter, government agent
A large part of this campaign would be monster-of-the-week type scenarios, but to keep thing interesting, there should be an overarching big bad that pops its head up every now and then.
When the settlers travelled to the “new” world from Europe, other things came with them, possibly for the same reasons. The vampires, werewolves and demons of European folklore could have followed their people, hoping for a new land, or perhaps an easier population to control, due to the lawless state of the frontier.
Of course, there is no reason why the imported evils would have to be limited to European folklore. The African slaves were collected without any regard for their differences, and some non-human beings could have been easily brought across. The enemy could also be a benevolent entity, driven to do horrible things by the conditions its people enured.
Finally, a lot of the work on the rail roads was done by the Chinese, who also have a rich mythology of spirits and creatures, what could they have brought across?
Of course, the Native Americans have spirits, demons and creatures of their own, with many reach mythologies on the continent. Some of these creatures will be mean and evil, while others may be unhappy with the new settlers.
Another type of story could involve some sort of creature which is finally freed from its prison, since the settlers drove off the people who were keeping it under control. Perhaps once there is nobody left to preform the ritual, the thing under the hill is set free to haunt the land once again.
For a change of pace, make the enemies be normal human beings, with no supernatural involvements. This would be useful if you want to run a classical western story. This would give you a chance to involve outlaws, cattle barons and other staples of the western genre.
The obvious system for a weird west game would be Deadlands, but I think the feel of the Deadlands setting is a bit more Gonzo than what I am going for here.
For a much different experience, hacking Dogs in the Vineyard could be an idea, but once again, this errs too much in the other direction, since it would lead to an emphasis on moral decision. An interesting game, to be sure, but not what I have in mind.
Since Supernatural was an inspiration for this, it should be possible to hack the system for this game. From my reading, very few changes are necessary. I am not very familiar with the system, having only read through the rulebook, and I have never played it, or any of the other Cortex games.
If I were to go with a familiar system, I would chose something like the World of Darkness, or possibly Unisystem, since I think that either one of them could work for this.
Of course, I would consider FATE as well, since I have been dying to try it.
If I ever get players together for this, I guess the system would really depend on what they felt like.