[RPG] What role-playing games best emulate a non-thestical Old West setting?


I am interested in running an American Old West RPG/campaign that doesn't rely on fantasy/mystical or sci-fi/steampunk elements. What system do you recommend, and why do you think it captures a more historical Old West appeal, especially when compared with other systems?

Best Answer

For some reason a lot of the Western RPGs out there have a lot of mystical junk mixed in, Deadlands being the coolest of the lot. You can always "file off the magic" but if you are looking to use published products without fooling around, you definitely want a Western RPG tuned for that.

I own two of those. The first is Boot Hill, the original Western RPG published by TSR back in the day. It's non-supernatural in origin, and had five adventures published, but it's crufty in that 1970s RPG kind of way and hard to find.

The second and my favorite is Aces & Eights, a currently supported game from Kenzer & Co., the guys who do Hackmaster. In 2009 it took Origins RPG of the Year and the silver Best RPG ENNie. I really like it - it's a 400-page faux leather bound book sporting an in-depth shooting system (uses a transparency "shot clock" overlay, lots of detail).

Besides having a lot of in-depth genre appropriate skills (Telegraph operation), flaws (Fourflusher), and gear (Bottle of Laudanum - 29 cents), it has chapters with rulesets for cattle drives, prospecting, and trials. This is brilliant and makes it a lot better for a Western RPG than "insert generic system here."

It has no supernatural, but it is a slight alternate history. I'm not really even sure why, it's not alternate history in the usual "add Nazis!" sense, just that the Civil War stalemated and some stuff like that.