When Dave and I recorded answers to these questions for our podcast I flippantly said that my perfect games was the one we have written and are looking into publishing. But it’s not so flippant, in creating Tales of the Old West (still possibly a working title), Dave and I really have made the game we want to play – even where the game each of us wanted to play might differ.
So why is Tales of the Old West a perfect game for me?
Firstly it is not about supernatural creatures. For a long long time I have resented how RPGs create some sort of evil “other” as an antagonist. I have always much preferred games where the “evil” is in competing human (or whatever you are playing) agendas. I like my roleplaying to be people vs. people. I don’t want my game to be Cowboys vs. Vampires, or Cowboys vs. Zombies, or Aliens or Werewolves.
Of course one of the reasons why Old West style games create supernatural antagonists is because in the actual history of the west the antagonists were white folk, moving Native Americans on, or killing them, and claiming their land in the name of Manifest Destiny. We are not looking to re-create this with our game, but we don’t want to ignore it either. So our game is about people seeking, and coming to conflict over, opportunity. The antagonists are the environment, capital, and other people.
Our original intention has been to to create a Hex Crawl system to emulate long journeys like the Oregon trail or the cattle drive in Lonesome Dove, but we soon realised that we were most inspired by the development of the town in Deadwood, and especially the resentment of the “civilisation” that comes with development. The Capital mechanic tries to represent that dichotomy – what seems a tool to abstract cash in larger transactions and offer PCs a sort of “credit rating” can work against the PCs too, when a robber baron NPC arrives to buy the characters out of their farm (or whatever) to make way for his railway.
The other thing we want to do is show the diversity of the west. We have two methods of character generation, a quick archetype based system and a more rewarding life-path style random generator, both systems attempt to represent the diverse backgrounds of the people who worked in the west.
Have we got all this right? To be honest, only some of our patrons have seen it so far. You can too if your join our Patreon at Stationary or Privileged level. I doubt it is the perfect game. But right now, it is my perfect game.