I am going run a Western Campaign for my friends and need Advice.


Advice


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So this is a Weird West sort of thing on Earth in the Pathfinder Setting. Magic is a thing, but it is viewed the same way as it would have been back then. I plan for it to at first be standard Western, slowly leading up to the Weird part. The only big hiccup in this is my players of course, but that is to be expected. Primarily open world. I have a few encounter ideas outlined.

A silver mine town in at the bottom a gorge that is ran by Vampires.
Hunting an animal, that is more then a mere animal.
Alien encounters over a local farm.
A swamp ran by a trapped Fairy Lord.
Bigfoot.
Bandits that got their hands on some magic gear
An undead gunslinger out for revenge.
An undead gunslinger cursed to walk the earth until someone can beat him in a shoot out or a drink off.
Supernatural murderer on a train.

Any suggestions or critiques of any sort are welcome.


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I'm really not familiar with American folklore, but I know there's settings all about this kind of thing - the Deadlands setting for Savage Worlds for one. Looking up them might be most productive.

A couple of ideas anyway.

Some odd religious type comes into town, offering free healing (and maybe other magic) for those who will listen to their teachings. Some suspect that the mystic is just scoping out the town for bandits or is otherwise a bad sort, and the suspicious people aren't going to wait for proof. Save the mystic or stand back as bad things happen to them?

A snake-oil salesman comes to town. Then there's an odd noise from his wagon one night, and the following morning the salesman and his wagon is gone, leaving odd tracks in the dust. Something snakelike is on the loose in town...


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Bounty hunters, wanted posters, and rewards.

Railroads being built. Maybe a contest between man and machine. Possibly a hand-cart almost being lost in some quicksand.

Jail-breaks that involve pulling barred windows out the walls with ropes or chains.

Bundles of TNT.

Lone wolves trying to be left alone. Lone wolves running from the law. People running from their past, in general. Groups/cults seeking somewhere they won't be prosecuted. Groups/cults trying to rid the land of other groups/cults.

Literal wars between the people native to the land versus the people invading the land. Literal wars between nations trying to claim the land.

Lots of Indiana Jones dungeon crawl/grave robber stuff available in mines. Running through tunnels with giant rocks rolling behind you, or mudslide from a collapsed mine, or whatever.


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Giant, steam-powered, robotic spider that shoots fireballs.

Airship jousting.

I am picturing a mixture of the Trigun anime, Blazing Saddles, Wild Wild West, 1000 ways to die in the West, the Borderlands video games, and Fievel Goes West...


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As for the Undead Gunslinger... do yourself a favor and listen to the song Rolland the Headless Thompson Gunner.


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Suggestion for theme of one of your towns: Magic-tech Steampunk

Rather than magic being shunned, have it be welcomed in Magictechtown! Imagine, water faucets plumbed to the town well with permanent Purify Food/Water and Control Water spells that purify and pump the water! Washing Machines & Dishwashers with permanent Prestidigitation spells !

All other towns: "those gawl-darned witches in Magictechtown are meddlin' w' powers that ought not te be meddled with!" *shakes a stick*


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I am here for you, my friend. First of all, I love the setting, but I'll need specific questions. Those ideas are all fine, what you do is what makes the difference.

My suggestion is find a Western-based RPG adventure and just convert it to Pathfinder. For example, Bigfoot is in the third Bestiary. You just use those stats instead of the other system.

Use Automatic Bonus Progression (Pathfinder Unchained) to replace the need for +1 enhancement items and will drastically reduce the need for magic in the campaign.

I am currently running S-T-F-I-R (spelled backward to avoid google search) converted to Pathfinder using this method.

Grab a copy of Horrors of the Wierd West from the Deadlands 3.5 version. Also, you might find an adventure that you can convert from Deadlands 3.5.

Why do I say convert an existing adventure? Because it is a ton of work to build a setting and then build an entire adventure. It is much easier to take something pre-written and just change what you don't like and add the stuff like Bigfoot that you want to see.

For campaign books, I would recommend grabbing Pure Steam for Pathfinder 1e. It is probably the closest thing to a western type setting for the Pathfinder game.

Sovereign Court

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Super/Rogue Genius games have a book called ‘anachronistic adventures’ which lets turn-of-the-century-Earth characters play in PF.
That should be worth a look.


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There was this horror short-story, the title and author of which, I've entirely forgotten about.

It concerns a man searching for his missing sister; she sent some postcard indicating her last location- a train station where there were lots of unexplained disappearances. The man suspects some serial killer with access to a mystery train is involved.

Said train shows up, man thinks he spotted his missing sister inside- only it turns out that it's some kind of zombie-like simulacrum of her. It nearly strangles him when he accidentally cuts the interior seat cushion causing the simulacrum to melt away.

It ends up that the train itself is somehow alive and it can send out zombie-simulacrums of all those it devoured. The man finally makes it to the engine car where its' brain is and before the brain can grow enough teeth to stop the man, he blows it up with dynamite.

So some kind of unique train mimic with an ability to create zombie-simulacrums/teeth within the train interior?


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GeraintElberion wrote:

Super/Rogue Genius games have a book called ‘anachronistic adventures’ which lets turn-of-the-century-Earth characters play in PF.

That should be worth a look.

That's exactly what is needed, but it's currently off the market as RGG sold the property. The Modern Path 2.0 works as well.


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The horror story above reminded me of another. It was about worm like creatures killing townsfolk and the outlying farms. I don't remember it but it was set in the old west and rather well done for a horror. As bad as it was. Cowboys and Aliens might work as well. It actually had like several subplots unexplored you could work with.
Something to bear in mind is this is an old west theme guns are going to be common. A gun against touch AC can quickly overshadpw the two weapon brute tank. Despite what movies and TV potray not everyone was a gunslinger and carried a gun. Most actual cowboys carried a rifle for hunting and chasing off predators. The revolver was against things like snake or scorpions in boots. Shooting the rope if the fell off the horse.
I love the Wild West theme and have tried to get into others doing it so good luck


PFRPGrognard wrote:
GeraintElberion wrote:

Super/Rogue Genius games have a book called ‘anachronistic adventures’ which lets turn-of-the-century-Earth characters play in PF.

That should be worth a look.
That's exactly what is needed, but it's currently off the market as RGG sold the property. The Modern Path 2.0 works as well.

Didn't know about RGG selling off Anachronistic Adventures; no wonder it was so darned hard to find an existing pdf link for it [got mine from a 2017 RGG bundle].


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Derek Dalton wrote:
Something to bear in mind is this is an old west theme guns are going to be common. A gun against touch AC can quickly overshadpw the two weapon brute tank.

Another way around this is to have your players understand this and play accodingly.

I remember a post (which I sadly can't find) by someone who had run a western campaign. As soon as initiative was rolled everyone would run for COVER and ready actions. There were a lot of stand-offs and combat could be very deadly, but it captured the feel of a western and they reportedly had a lot of fun. I'll see if I can find the post (and the post-er) for you.

Otherwise you could look at builds from the Iron Gods adventure path, as they deal with the same problems.


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Let me start by saying thank you all for the number of replies, this is way more advice then I could have hoped for and I will definitely take all of it into consideration. That being said, a main theme I had hoped to include into this campaign was the a sense of mystery and to a small degree fear, as magic and the supernatural is generally seen a superstition. It was this mind set I was using when setting the outline for the encounters in my earlier post. The problem is that I gave my players rather loose guidelines for their characters, so now I have to rethink how the encounters could unfold. Examples of what my players are considering are, a Diminutive Fey Witch with a monkey familiar, and a Jiangshi Vampire Monk. Any ideas on how I can keep a sense of mystery while allowing the players to keep going with their character concepts?


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So you need a reason for this group of weird misfits to be present? If they start in a travelling circus or similar that might help. If you need a way for magic to be utterly mysterious and distrusted even by the PCs then you need a different system, Call of Cthulhu (which could definitely work for this time period) or something. Not PF. Reading Horror Adventures might help but wouldn't be enough IMO.


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Snake Oil Sailsmen wrote:
Let me start by saying thank you all for the number of replies, this is way more advice then I could have hoped for and I will definitely take all of it into consideration. That being said, a main theme I had hoped to include into this campaign was the a sense of mystery and to a small degree fear, as magic and the supernatural is generally seen a superstition. It was this mind set I was using when setting the outline for the encounters in my earlier post. The problem is that I gave my players rather loose guidelines for their characters, so now I have to rethink how the encounters could unfold. Examples of what my players are considering are, a Diminutive Fey Witch with a monkey familiar, and a Jiangshi Vampire Monk. Any ideas on how I can keep a sense of mystery while allowing the players to keep going with their character concepts?

If your still set on Pathfinder out of either mechanical or some other preference, those characters can work, but it'll be a bit more challenging. For the vampire, pull a page from the World of Darkness books, and have the character be newly turned, unaware of how, and having to learn about their abilities as they play. The fey is trickier, as the assumption is that the character was born to the race. However, can be a newly initiated witch. The familiar may have just shown up yesterday.

However you role play it, other magics can be mysterious just because they are foreign. Western theme generally (always?) implies the American West of the 1800's. The magic, creatures, and lore of literally anywhere else coming to the "New World" is unknown and therefore mysterious. Basically, limit what their knowlege Arcana and Planes lets them know, and explain, that just because one's character is magical, doesn't mean they know a thing about the magics of the wider world.

You can embrace the melting pot idea of America. Have each more magical type character come from a background where they think they, or their type/race, are the only magical things out there. Brace for the surprise when they are disabused of that notion. Unlike many games where common backstories can be useful, this crew should come together from diverse backgrounds. Which does mean you'll have the challenge of story telling the fromation of the group in session one. If that's to difficult to wrangle, their's nothing wrong with doing the whole "You look trustworthy, join us!" bit. Let the better storytelling unfold after you get the thing going.


Heh, izzit too late to walk them back to making just humans? ;p

Just outta curiosity, what was yer guidelines for character creation?

PS. if'n they've got their hearts set upon keeping the fey witch and vampire monk, mebbe you could change the focus of your western campaign to where they're the equivalent to the Men In Black [movie/comic versions] for protecting ordinary folks from the supernatural mixed in with a bit of DC's Creature Commandos [for those unfamiliar with the concept, think Universal horror movie monster archetypes versus the Nazis in WW2]. ;)


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avr wrote:

I'm really not familiar with American folklore, but I know there's settings all about this kind of thing - the Deadlands setting for Savage Worlds for one. Looking up them might be most productive.

A couple of ideas anyway.

Some odd religious type comes into town, offering free healing (and maybe other magic) for those who will listen to their teachings. Some suspect that the mystic is just scoping out the town for bandits or is otherwise a bad sort, and the suspicious people aren't going to wait for proof. Save the mystic or stand back as bad things happen to them?

A snake-oil salesman comes to town. Then there's an odd noise from his wagon one night, and the following morning the salesman and his wagon is gone, leaving odd tracks in the dust. Something snakelike is on the loose in town...

Deadlands is the American Wild West tropes all rolled up into one game.

And is arguably a better system for this setting.


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Today is a good day to... halp wrote:
Just outta curiosity, what was yer guidelines for character creation?

There is some back ground context reasons for why, but this is what I told them.

"1. You run your character idea past everyone first to make sure the group is ok with it
2. What ever supernatural nonsense you play as, must be able to BLEND IN!
3. Make sure your characters are able to mesh with each other. I do not want to deal with characters dancing around each other trying to avoid smashing into each other
4. No Lichs, Graveknights, or Mummy Lords at start. You want one of those templates you earn it in game
5. No Pail Vector at start. You want that you make it in game
6. Unless the group is ok with you playing from the future or from some technically advanced realm, do not get any bright ideas about revolutionizing the West in a week. Inventing new stuff will take time, months of it. Nothing was invented and implement in a few days
7. If you want any weapons that are not in the books I have access to, you either get the book that does or homebrew it
8. All homebrew must be agreed upon be the group and if is based off something, links must be given."


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Snake Oil Sailsmen wrote:
Today is a good day to... halp wrote:
Just outta curiosity, what was yer guidelines for character creation?

There is some back ground context reasons for why, but this is what I told them.

"{. . .}
4. No Lichs, Graveknights, or Mummy Lords at start. You want one of those templates you earn it in game
5. No Pail Vector at start. You want that you make it in game
{. . .}"

Now that I'd like to see. Except what's Pail Vector?


Snake Oil Sailsmen wrote:

There is some back ground context reasons for why, but this is what I told them.

"1. You run your character idea past everyone first to make sure the group is ok with it
2. What ever supernatural nonsense you play as, must be able to BLEND IN!
3. Make sure your characters are able to mesh with each other. I do not want to deal with characters dancing around each other trying to avoid smashing into each other
4. No Lichs, Graveknights, or Mummy Lords at start. You want one of those templates you earn it in game
5. No Pail Vector at start. You want that you make it in game
6. Unless the group is ok with you playing from the future or from some technically advanced realm, do not get any bright ideas about revolutionizing the West in a week. Inventing new stuff will take time, months of it. Nothing was invented and implement in a few days
7. If you want any weapons that are not in the books I have access to, you either get the book that does or homebrew it
8. All homebrew must be agreed upon be the group and if is based off something, links must be given."

Hmm, I guessin' dat at the time, yer idea of players discovering how deep the "supernatural" rabbit-hole goes wasn't quite as percolated yet? mebbe with the supernatural version of the MIB's, some could take the Will Smith roles while others get the Tommy Lee Jones roles; neither has any real idea of how far down the supernatural stuff really gets.

PS. With the number 4 part, yer players ain't gonna join up with Cthulhu [or the supernatural BBEG equivalent in dat western campaign], are they? ;p


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UnArcaneElection wrote:
Now that I'd like to see. Except what's Pail Vector?

Pail Vector is a magical disease that can be carried in powder form. When exposed to this disease you gain the Pallid Vector template from Villain Codex p.g 68. The big advantage to having the Pallid Vector template is that if you die while being infected with the disease/template, you rise as an undead, with what type of undead depending on your HD.


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Today is a good day to... halp wrote:
PS. With the number 4 part, yer players ain't gonna join up with Cthulhu [or the supernatural BBEG equivalent in dat western campaign], are they? ;p

I completely forgot about Cthulha. I do not know if they will want to join the BBEG in the Western, but I would not put it past them. As things currently stand my BBEG will be a Familial Lich (p.g 251 of Horror Adventures) that runs a business.


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^Now I've got this vision of going into a Universal Mining Company General Store and ringing the bell for service, and the one who comes out saying "Can I help ya find sumthin?" is this skeletal figure with assorted tumors visible within, wearing a cowboy hat and spurred boots, and smoking a cigarette . . . .


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My two big encounters I have to prepare at the moment. The first is a silver mining town at the bottom of a gorge that is ran by half a dozen vampires. The leader of the group is the owner of the mine and the mayor of the town. He became a vampire when he was betrayed and murdered in the silver mine by a business partner. Do to the nature of his death he and the vampires he made have DR magic/copper because he was killed with a copper knife while in a silver mine. The other vampires hold the position of sheriff, deputy, banker, doctor, mine forman, and saloon keeper. The human population knows something is not quite right, but they do not know the truth. The whole town carries an under current of unease as they go about their day to day lives.

How does this sound over all?


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The little mining town at the bottom of the gorge is the perfect spot for vampires because sunlight never reaches the bottom of the valley due to a large stone butte that blocks the high noon sun... keeping the entrance to the silver mine, and the little town surrounding it, in perpetual shade.

This provides a plot device for the players to exploit... blow up the butte, let the sunlight reach the town... could even get clever positioning mirriors to get natural sunlight into the mines.


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^Worse yet, if you aren't VERY careful about how you blow up the butte, the debris will end up burying the town. And even if you get past that hurdle, the oppressive summer daytime heat in other parts of the canyon should make clear that if the shade is removed from the town, it may be impossible for most people to work during the summer mid-day and afternoon.


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How is this for an intro?

You approach the town, even in the middle of the day the town is covered in a layer of twilight. The Town of Raven's Shadow. It is easy to see why it is called that now. The butte stretching over head looks like a Raven swooping down as if to pluck the town itself from the canyon floor. Entering the town you are struck with an odd sensation, unease.
(Roll perception) As you look around you notice that the townsfolk seem nervous, if not outright timid, glancing at you before quickly looking away.

(Sheriff's description) Even in a town covered in shadow, the Shariff looks white as a sheet, and gaunt as the ill.
(Roll sense motive) in spite of how he looks, he gives off the air of a man that could go a dozen to one and win.


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Snake Oil Sailsmen wrote:
The other vampires hold the position of sheriff, deputy, banker, doctor, mine forman, and saloon keeper. The human population knows something is not quite right, but they do not know the truth. The whole town carries an under current of unease as they go about their day to day lives.

Heh, wonder if'n the saloon-keeper's gonna keep an extra couple of spigots on tap- just for the human members of the party... ;)

Otherwise, the intro you've posted seems fine, Snake Oil Sailsmen, even with the Sheriff typo. ;p

PS. Photo taken from this blog-post, as a FYI.


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Raven's Shadow, huh? I like it.

Thematically fitting would be a Raven Master Ranger, level 7-8, probably. Their Raven companion literally takes on a silvery appearance. Lol.

If you had said Raven Master Ranger be a Grippli, the frog could ride the Raven. And, the Grippli FCB for Ranger gives it a swim speed if selected 8 times... having a racial swim speed removes the weakness vampires have for running water. And vampire frogs are hilarious.

It's a 2' tall, 30lb frog... in a cowboy hat and duster/trenchcoat... riding a big, silver Raven. And the frog is a vampire. Lol.

Could reskin the Grippli as a desert toad, or whatever. Give it the Jumper and Glider alternative racial features since swamp stuff is useless in the desert. Then have the Grippli Vampire jump off its Raven companion to attack from above, silently gliding in for the kill.


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VoodistMonk wrote:

Raven's Shadow, huh? I like it.

Thematically fitting would be a Raven Master Ranger, level 7-8, probably. Their Raven companion literally takes on a silvery appearance. Lol.

If you had said Raven Master Ranger be a Grippli, the frog could ride the Raven. And, the Grippli FCB for Ranger gives it a swim speed if selected 8 times... having a racial swim speed removes the weakness vampires have for running water. And vampire frogs are hilarious.

It's a 2' tall, 30lb frog... in a cowboy hat and duster/trenchcoat... riding a big, silver Raven. And the frog is a vampire. Lol.

Could reskin the Grippli as a desert toad, or whatever. Give it the Jumper and Glider alternative racial features since swamp stuff is useless in the desert. Then have the Grippli Vampire jump off its Raven companion to attack from above, silently gliding in for the kill.

I like the template, but I am trying to keep any races that cannot pass as human to a very limited number, that being said, if you are ok with it, I am so saving that idea for another campaign. Vampire frog riding a raven is gold.


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So the Big Bad Evil Guy of the campaign is a Familial Lich from Horror Adventures p.g. 251, the basic description is as follows

Familial Lich
A familial lich does not have a physical body or standard
phylactery. Instead, it possesses its own kin.

I was thinking of having this character be the boss of a transportation business (not sure what type), I was thinking Psychic for class, the BBEG has used their business as a way to set "emergency fall backs" (spread the family links) around the West. At the moment, I have no idea how to set up the conflict with players.


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Snake Oil Sailsmen wrote:

{. . .}

I was thinking of having this character be the boss of a transportation business (not sure what type), I was thinking Psychic for class, the BBEG has used their business as a way to set "emergency fall backs" (spread the family links) around the West. At the moment, I have no idea how to set up the conflict with players.

Robber Baron, preferably Railroad Boss (and if you can work in owning mines and/or a major bank, all the better).

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