With all the excitement over the release of 13th Age, it might be easy to overlook another excellent new release from Pelgrane Press, the Western RPG Owl Hoot Trail. It is a digest-sized RPG that is about 136 pages long. The first 63 pages are the rules, and the remainder of the book are scenarios and tables.
The game uses a very rules light implementation of the d20 system. The game includes the standard fantasy races with slight name changes which help to Westernize them (so to speak) for the genre being played. Thankfully, these fantasy races are not used as substitutes for minorities or specific real world ethnic groups, as they are in Wolsung and Victoriana. Native peoples and people of color are not disproportionately orcs or goblinoid races. Yea, fantasy races in the "real world" done right! Of course, you could entirely ditch the non-humanoid races if you wanted to, but the way they are presented makes them interesting and relevant to the setting.
You choose one of two origins:
- A greenhorn is from back in "civilized" lands, and has a higher Learning skill
- A native is someone who was born out West, either in a tribe or a small community, and has a higher Wilderness score
Character classes include: Gunslinger, Marshal (who has healing powers when sharing booze), Ruffian (a dirty fighter), Scoundrel (cheats and swindlers), Scout, Gadgeteer, Mentalist, Preacher, and Shaman. The Gadgeteer has science-based wondrous abilities, and the Mentalist, Preacher, and Shaman all have magical abilities.
There are three Ability Scores:
- Grit - which makes you rough and tough
- Draw - which makes you quick and ready
- Wits - which makes you awake and sharp
There are five Skills: Amity, Learning, Toughness, Wile, and Wilderness.
There are rules for gambling and for gunfight duels.
The setting is mostly up to you. You can dial up the Weird Westerness or dial it down and keep things pretty gritty. There is a small section on foes and monsters, including some D&D old reliables reskinned a bit for a Western fantasy setting. Any GM worth her salt will be able to adapt easily the monsters from any d20/OSR game for Owl Hoot Trail. The statblocks are short and sweet.
This game will appeal to OSR folks who miss games like Boot Hill, as well as indie gamers who like Pelgrane's quality products and are willing to try new things.
Since coming back from South Dakota, I have been thinking about running a Western game. I am itching to try this game out.