Genre-bending I — Exploring the Wild West within TFT

“Oh, the places you’ll go!”

– Dr. Seuss

Maybe it is from staying home for the past few months, but we have been thinking lately about visiting new worlds. Maybe not in airplanes, but in games. Going back to the strange tables in Dungeon Master’s Guide about converting D&D characters to Boot Hill or the GURPS Basic Set cover with all the different, we’ve always been interested in the idea of mixing up genres and bringing players to new worlds to explore.

This could quite easily turn into a complex rules discussion (and GURPS gives you all that complexity and more), but what if you could do it with rules as light and flexible as the Fantasy Trip? Let’s take a look at how this might turn out, in the Old West for example.


Go West

If you are transporting existing characters for a single adventure, presumably the story aspects of ‘fish out of water’ would be more important than rules specifics, but you would want the town Marshall to be more than a knight in a 10-gallon hat. The biggest differences between the West and most fantasy worlds are societal and technological. In this era, mankind has gotten much better at organizing itself and killing one another. On the frontier, most of the Talents from TFT would be direct crossovers, from Alertness to Weapons Expertise, without any modifications. Some Talents will have improved with technology, such as Physickers familiar with modern equipment heal 1 additional hit and the Guns skill would be broken into separate talents for pistols and long arms.

Magic may not be practiced in this world, or might not even work. Native wizards may be extremely rare, or natives may even be incapable of learning magic. This kind of flavor choice is best made by individual GMs. The same is true for races. Who’s to say there aren’t goblin lawyers in the Wild West or gargoyle train-robbers in the mountain passes. But it might be quite difficult for members of fantastic races to get by in a western town that resembles our own past.

Most new skills talents would be mundane. Jobs like bartender, cowhand, railroad-man, miner, telegraph operator, and barber would be 1 point. Tailor, clerk, entertainer, journalist, photographer, assayer, and skilled occupations would be 2 points, and professional careers like lawyer, banker, or politician would be 3 points. Gambler is a 2-point mundane skill, but to cheat would require Pickpocket (ITL, p.38) to master the sleight of hand of card-palming and other tricks.

Many social skills — from Diplomacy to Courtly Graces to even Sex Appeal — are based on the norms of a society, and might not translate seamlessly between worlds. The GM should consider adding modifications (up to 1d) to figures attempting such talents in a world not their own.

Technology would have created new skills like Gunsmith (IQ10, 1 point), Artillerist (IQ10, 2 points), and Machinist (IQ11, 2 points). Advanced societal structure would bring about Financiers (IQ12, 2 points), Lawyers (IQ12, 2 points), and Bureaucrats (IQ10, 1 point). All this additional paperwork would lead some to master Research (IQ11, 1 point) to be able to unearth important information.

This more complex society would also lead to a lot more recognized Authority (IQ9, 2 points) from community leaders, military commanders, and important personages. Lesser authority, known as Affiliation, (IQ8, 1 point) can be gained by having being associated with a powerful group like the Masons or a local bandit gang.

Gearing up

Technology is very different from the time of typical TFT heroes and this Wild West. Trains crisscross the landscape and paddlewheel ply the rivers. Telegraphs send messages with the speed of magic, and great machines handle work from hauling ore out of mines to cleaning cotton. Most of these inventions shouldn’t affect gameplay, but they would be sources of wonder and amazement for characters who have arrived from out of time.

War has changed too, and the new means of destruction are wide and varied. While most of these changes are on the battlefield, some have trickled down to the populace — especially on the frontier. Armor only deflects half their AD value against firearms or modern explosives. Most westerners rarely wear any beyond leathers, and might be at a loss if transported to a fantastic realm. Explosives and artillery do damage in the entire megahex where they land, and half damage (3/DX to avoid) in the surrounding megahexes.

Holdout pistol (Derringer)1d+183Requires Pistol Talent, range as Thrown weapon.
Revolver (Colt Peacemaker)2d6-2 910Requires Pistol, range as Thrown weapon.
Rifle (Winchester .44) 2d6 1020Requires Long arms, range as Missile weapon.
Musket (Kentucky Rifle)3d6 105Requires Long arms, range as Missile weapon. Fires every 3rd round.
Shotgun (Remington)3d6 1215Requires Long arms, range as Thrown weapon. Pellets strike 3 hexes, each die resolves vs. AD separately. front
Cannon6d6*- -3000Requires Engineer, crew of 3. Fires every 10 rounds
Nitroglycerin3d6*- -2Requires Explosives. Explodes in hand on 18, fails to go off on 17.
Dynamite5d6*- - 1Requires Explosives. Explodes in hand on 18, fails to go off on 17.
* Explosives damage all figures within their megahex, and those in surrounding megahex must make 3/DX test or take half damage.

Note that money is handled quite differently than most fantasy realms that have little understanding of bank drafts or paper currency. Even the metal value of western coins is far less than their stated value.

Most adventures in the wild west will probably focus on how the figures arrived in this strange world and how they are to get home. Perhaps a malfunctioning Gate sent them through time or a strange Mnoren artifact pulled them into an alternate dimension. Or perhaps a wizard built such a device to gain powerful weapons to use in their world. Or another villain traveled to this place to escape justice, and the heroes could join forces with a bounty hunter to retrieve them. A big part of these adventures would be to showcase the strange environment and interacting with even stranger people. A mighty orc warrior would definitely enjoy a saloon brawl, or an elven archer breaking all the rules of a shootout by bringing their longbow. You might not want to permanently strand your players in Dusty Gulch, New Mexico, but would definitely make for a few truly unique sessions.

Would you ever try this with the players at your table? Are there other genres that you would like to see explored? Let us know in the comments.



  1. I HAVE tried this in other games — decades ago. And, I worked up rules for modern weapons in TFT in the mid-80s (though they long since have disappeared into the ether). I also play Dark City Games’ wild west games, which are basically modified TFT and enjoy them immensely. Also, there are a couple of different rules sets out there, from back before SJG reacquired the rights to TFT that converted TFT into wild west or star travelling genres.

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