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Ghostowns & Gunsmoke

From:  Crucifiction Games
Reviewed by:  Ron McClung

Ghostowns & Gunsmoke is a new Roleplaying Game Expansion from Crucifiction Games.

Some time ago, I reviewed Horror Rules, which is an outstanding product.  Since then, Crucifiction Games has released several expansions, one of which is Ghostowns & Gunsmoke (G&G) – their western horror setting book.  It is available in both PDF and softback book.

From page #1:
“Welcome to the Wild Wild Wicked West – Free Pine Box Fittings Every Thursday”

Assuming  you are familiar with Horror Rules (which you would have to be to play this game), G&G brings to the game new Character Types, new Western Skills, new Special Traits, new rules for Western Mayhem, new Western Bad Guys, new Western Weapons and Gear, Ghostown & Gunsmoke Character Sheets, background and source material, and a complete Ghostowns & Gunsmoke adventure, “A Fistful of Livers.”

Part One of G&G covers the additions it brings to Horror Rules.  The new Character Types include City Slicker, Doc, Gunslinger and Indian.  They each have their own unique character powers like the Gunslinger’s Dead Eye and the Doc’s Patching Holes. Character skills include some new skills as well as skills from the core book that are renamed “to sound more Old Westy.”  Of the skills, several are new, including Bows n’ Arrows, and Cowboy.  Some name changes include Hackin’ n’ Whackin’ (Melee Weapons), Shootin’ (Gun), and Sawbones (Medicine.)

G&G also adds a new set of Special Traits.  These include Deathwish, Gamblin’ Man, and No Speak’um English.  Like in the core rule book, these are used to spice up the character and give them more depth.  New Weapons & Equipment covers the obvious – guns, ammo and stuff for the Wild West setting.  This is a fairly comprehensive list, giving the players enough to work with.

G&G also brings something new to the game of Horror Rules.  Now a player can Take a Gamble, using a special set of rules presented in G&G.  These are used at a point when a player wants to take a gamble.  Any situation is applicable – attempting a task without a skill in it, trying something risky with an NPC, or trying something heroic. When the player wishes to use this option, he must state that he wants to “take a gamble that…” and state the gamble he is going to take.  For example, the player may say “I’m taking a gamble that there’s a back door to this saloon…”

The key part of any gamble is the Wager. Wagers can be any in-game commodity from weapons and gear to health, Grip, Second Thought Points or even character powers.  Once the wager is agreed upon between the GM and the player, then comes the moment of truth – Laying Down Your Cards.  The player makes a roll against his Gamblin’ skill.  If the player succeeds, he keeps his wager and succeeds at the task in question.  Otherwise, he loses the wager or he can Double Down – try again against his skill only by doubling his wager.  This in my mind, is brilliant.  It is a very cool and fun mechanic.

Another interesting mechanic is the good old-fashioned classic Wild West Quickdraw.  Players may find themselves in a situation similar to the classic Western face-off.  In this case, the game provides a quick and easy way to perform them in-game.  It gets quite comical when two Gunslingers with the Dead Eye power face off.  One option to determine who goes first in that case is whoever calls Deadeye out first wins the draw.

Setting the Scene is a short section on the Western setting, with a few historical references as well as few facts of life about the West in that time.  There is not a lot of detail but enough to give you an idea.  This game is not about historical accuracy and reenactment, it’s about having fun.  One area I think they did well in is the sensitive area of Native Americans and their role in the old West.

“During the Wild West era, Native Americans were largely misunderstood, mistreated, mistrusted and generally given the shaft. While we can’t be proud of how we treated our brothers, we can’t overlook or sanitize it either. Native Americans played an integral role in the settling of the West, and to fully embrace this epic time without including them would be a disservice.”

It shows guts that they did not sanitize it and kept it real.

This section also gets into the superstitions and supernatural of the West, a little.  It introduces a short description of the Society for Supernatural Inquiry, a group that can serve as an enemy or a ally to the players in their G&G adventures.

The Ruleskeeper section, like the core book, supplies the Ruleskeeper with all he needs to “scare the pants off people.”  The Ruleskeeper is reminded that the Old West was a violent and dangerous place and to make sure the players know it.  It sets the scene of a gritty and dark place that most everyone should be familiar with through movies or books, and then asks the Ruleskeeper to throw in the creepy and strange, the alien and weird.  It also encourages the use of player cards for a game a poker or blackjack if the adventure calls for it, to set the mood.  It also gives you general guidelines as to how to create a good Western Horror adventure, reminding the reader that they don’t have to know Old West history to have a good adventure.

At the end there are three creatures supplied (the haunting Buffalo Spirit, psychopathic Coyote Jack, and undead Miner 49er), and an adventure called A Fistful of Livers.  This adventure opens in a small town in Core Butte, Wyoming, where something dark and sinister is taking place.  It is a fun little introduction to the game of Horror Rules and the G&G setting.

The layout is fairly basic and nothing to go crazy about, but it is well written and a fun read.  The art is on par with the rest of the Horror Rules line, which is basic black and white sketches.  The art is better than some but not as good as most.  However, you are not buying this for the art, you are buying this for the fun.

In conclusion, I enjoyed Horror Rules because if its simplicity, its focus on ease of play and fun, and its general fun nature.  Ghostowns & Gunsmoke is not any different.  Old West cheesy horror is as much fun if not more than modern cheesy horror.  One of the things I like most about this and their other supplements is that it is very entertaining to read, especially from a gamer point of view.  These guys have a fun and goofy sense of humor.  It is a great expansion to a great game.

For more details on Crucifiction Games and their new Roleplaying Game Expansion “Ghostowns & Gunsmoke” check them out at their website http://www.crucifictiongames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Ghostowns & Gunsmoke
From: Crucifiction Games
Type of Game: Roleplaying Game Expansion
Authors: Chris Weedin, Kelly Staymates, Christopher Staymates
Editor: Kimberly Weedin
Artwork: Chris Caprile
Number of Pages: 68
Game Components Included: 68 page PDF or softback book
Game Components Not Included: Horror Rules Core book
Retail Price: $ 6.00 (US)
Website: www.crucifictiongames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung
Date: 9/5/2008

Horror Rules

From: Crucifiction Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Horror Rules is a new Role Playing Game Core book from Crucifiction Games.

Cheesy horror came to mind when I saw Horror Rules. Something with Bruce Campbell (early years) or some Scream Queen was all that I could think about. There are two ways to run a good horror game and I think they are equally fun. There is the serious and brooding game with mood lighting, candles and occasional spookie sound effects. These are fun in one-nighters, simply because the mood can’t be kept more than one or two nights, and are good with the right people. The other kind is good for one night when you don’t have anything else to do and you want to goof around and run around like Scooby Doo. Horror Rules is like the latter.

From the Front cover: “A complete (and completely different) Horror Comedy RPG”

It is a well-written, good spirited game geared towards fast and fun play. Its simplicity is pretty apparent upon opening the book, but the simplicity is part of its character. The character classes are general archetypes like Action, Con, Propellerhead and VIP. Each has a list of Occupations for the players to choose from, and a Character Power. There are a total of 6 Character classes or character types. As you can tell by the titles, each is tongue-and-cheek with a little sense of humor thrown in.

The powers are representative of his humorous approach, giving each player an interesting ability that is quite characteristic of the Type. For instance, the Con has the Character Power Looking out for Number One which gives the Con the ability to bail out of a bad situation only to reappear later somewhere else of the player’s choosing. By regular RPG standards, some of these powers are pretty powerful, but for this game, it adds to the humor. However, the character can only use this power once per game. The skill system is another example of its simplicity and ease of play. There are eleven total skills, but the GM (or Rules Keeper) can make up more. The player has total flexibility as to what to spend his skill points on, and there is a maximum 4 level limit to all skills in the game.

Aside from the simplicity adding to its character, the system adds in Luck Points, which turns any failure to a success, and Second Thought points. A character doesn’t get a lot of Second Thought – at most two at character generation time – and they are used when a player is really unsure of his next action. He simply spends the point and asks the GM if he has second thoughts about his next action. The GM must answer truthfully. I found that interesting and despite its simplicity, I can see how that can be fun for the GM and the player.

Finally, in character generation, the character can spend the “Point” on anything they want within a list of options – for example increase an ability score (Vital Statistic), more skills points, more Luck Points – OR the player can buy one Special Trait from the list of them. Each has an advantage but also a drawback. Most are pretty straight forward and common, but they add just enough spice to the character to make him interesting. The system is, of course, real simple. A d10 role vs. Helping Vital plus Skill level. The player must roll equal to or under the Target number. Simple, quick and easy to remember.

From the back cover: “You’ll Die Laughing”

The Combat system is just as simple as everything else, relying on a d10 vs. Target Number. Each character gets multiple attacks in the 5 second round, using the Coordination ability (plus the weapon’s rate of attack modifiers) to determine number of attacks. Because the roll is a one die roll, the combat system is easy flowing, and simple. I admire this. It accomplishes exactly what the authors intended. It can be brutal for the bad guys, because Critical Hits can out-right kill some if the rolls are right. I like this because I’ve always thought that Zombies should go down a lot easier than they do in a lot of systems. For player characters, it hurts elsewhere – in the Vital Statistics. Otherwise, damage is taken from Health Scores.

Supernatural abilities are represented either through the Special Trait Partially Psychic or through Faith. Again, this is fairly simplistic but leaves the GM a lot of room to create broader options with very little work. Also, within these pages are rules on Grip, the equivalent of the classic sanity rating. No horror game is complete without some kind of measure of mental stability in horrific situations. Once again, it is simple, easy to remember and very flexible. This includes options for Panic Reactions and totally losing your Grip, which gets into Meltdowns and going Off the Deep End. Many of these results are listed in tables, but not to worry, there is a quick reference sheet in the back that lists them all and can be photocopied.

The game also includes a short and simple list of modern weapons and vehicles.

The Rulekeeper section completes the second half of the book, starting out with a simple advisory on how to run good horror. A precious gem in this section, however, is a section about Plot Flaws. It encourages Plot Flaws, because it keeps the feel of cheesy comedic horror. It encourages Rulekeepeers, when players say “hey wait a minute, didn’t you say….”, to respond “Yea, don’t you think that’s a bit odd…?” I had a good laugh about that.

Another outstandingly original and yet again simple attribute is something called Stupid Thing Points. These points are earned by players when they do something their “Player’s Intuition” says they shouldn’t do. It promotes situations that are inherent to horror games but players aren’t willing to go through because they know the GM is out to get them. Along with this is something called Plot Pushers. These are major events within the game that drive the core plot and are usually harrowing encounters that harm or maim a character. The interesting thing is that at a point when the players feel like they are at a dead-end, THEY can call for a Plot Pushers. This is a case when a Rulekeeper can say “They asked for it” and really give it to them. The reward, if they survive, is more Stupid Thing Points and a big clue in the plot. This gives incredible power to the players. I love it.

The last few chapters cover adventuring, creating monsters, some sample monsters and a short adventure. There are some very inspiring guidelines for the types of games that can be run in Horror Rules. The book itself is well put together, with fine penciled art throughout. The theme and feel of the book is definitely a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The nice thing is that there is not extra fluff. For a book that is 100 pages, you’d expect to feel shorted. But you are not. It simply doesn’t have all that extra fluff that a reader has to read through.

As a final note, I’d like to make a comment on the authors and their publishing company. I consider myself a Christian and a gamer, and it’s nice to know that their are other Christian gamers out there that are just as passionate about gaming and having fun at it as I am. I was honored to write this review of their fine product.

In conclusion, I have to say that I was very impressed with Horror Rules and at the first opportunity I want to run it. One thing I get out of reading their work is that the authors are passionate about gaming. Their want to have fun is quite evident throughout this book. This is a very fun game, and I look forward to trying it out.

Horror Rules
From: Crucifiction Games
Type of Game: Roleplaying Game
Authors: Chris Weedin, Kelly Staymates, Christopher Staymates
Retail Price: $7.99 (US)
Website: www.crucifictiongames.com