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“You wanna shoot me, Marshal? You ain’t fast enough, and my posse has a pyromaniac gadgeteer who’s already aiming at ya. You ain’t got the grit. You want me, I’ll be traveling the owl-hoot trail.” – Calabash Twigg, orcish outlaw, part-time bounty hunter and a very bad man To ride the owl-hoot trail: to take up as an outlaw. – American Old West idiom Owl Hoot Trail is a gritty Clint Eastwood western, set in a hostile fantasy world where half’in gunslingers ride out with shee scouts and hill folk preachers to escape the law, where mentalists cheat you at poker and gadgeteers build gizmos to keep undead off the range. Shee and half’ins and hill folk might exist in this world, but bullets hurt – hard. And there’s a whole range of monsters roaming the lonesome prairie, just waiting for a tasty morsel like you to cross their path. Half rules book, half adventure, Owl Hoot Trail showcases the adventure They Rode To Perdition, a multi-part mystery and starting campaign setting that’s centered on the little town of Perdition. With as close to an epic storyline as you’ll find in a western setting, the PCs can change Perdition for […]

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By Kevin Kulp

Owl Hoot Trail is a fantasy steampunk Western game (reviewed here and here) published by Pelgrane in 2013. Clinton R. Nixon wrote the core of the game that Matt Breen and I developed. Our aim wasn’t to make a Western-flavored fantasy game that felt like D&D with spurs; it was to make a game just as deadly and cinematic as your favorite Clint Eastwood movie, except with giant steampunk monstrosities, gun-slinging Orcs, Dwarvish prospectors, and blandly smiling grifters who demolish you in a hand of poker while they chat secretly with each other in Elvish. If we ended up with female halfling marshals gunning down owlbear rustlers at high noon, we were hitting our design goals.

We hit our design goals.

It’s been a while since we’ve revisited the game here at See Page XX, so here’s a few alternate ways to play alongside some great game hooks for doing so.

Low Magic, High Grit

Someone says “fantasy heroes” and you squint suspiciously; you want your western game stripped down and all human, maybe with some supernatural weirdness to confound the players. Can do!

Keep the Mechanics, Change Out the Appearance

Keep the game mechanics for all the character races, but toss the appearances and cultural hooks (if any.) Pick a half’in, for instance, and you still get +1 to DRAW, Amity and Defense – without having to be small or have hairy feet. The players can describe their character’s appearance however they wish, and use the mechanics from any race that fits their character concept.

Think Twice About Supernatural Character Classes

If you want to cleave closer to classic Western tales, limit how much steampunk, spirits, mind control and word of the Almighty makes it into your game. You’ll want to keep the classes Gunslinger, Marshal, Ruffian, and Scout. Take a close look at Gadgeteer, Mentalist, Preacher, and Shaman. I love those classes and consider them incredibly fun to play, but they break the mold of the traditional Old West.

You might pick and choose as well, keeping some classes and eliminating others – or keeping the abilities in a class while describing them differently. Perhaps a Mentalist is a huckster or incredibly persuasive singing cowboy. Perhaps a Preacher’s abilities (some of them, at least) have incredibly mundane and non-supernatural explanations. Keep what you love, jettison the rest.

Make the Foes Match Your Tone

You probably don’t want the characters attacked by a chupacabra or giant ants if you want a classic western! Or maybe you do. Hey, I’m not judging. What we recommend is that you save time by using pre-written monster stats and just reskin them to look like whatever or whoever you want. Instead of goblins, you have feral children. Instead of a hellhound, you have a vicious trained attack dog.

Or better yet, introduce a small amount of horror or fantasy into your game by carefully picking and choosing non-human foes. The Marshal’s going to get a huge and unpleasant surprise the first time she tries to arrest a graverobber who turns out to be an honest-to-goodness ghoul…

Steampunk and Sorcery Extravaganza

Serious and conservative games are for weenies, you declare, and you plan to make your game sing by turning the “wahoo!” volume up as far as it can go.

Over-the Top Villains

No one likes a boring villain. No one. So make them memorable, clever, infuriating, and multi-faceted – even most of those facets just makes them more dangerous and conniving.

To do this, don’t ever have a villain with one driving goal. In the real world, few people are mono-maniacal. Sure, they may have a particular life goal (or two, or three), but they also may have families, loves, hates, and hobbies that help make them unique. Your villains can follow the same pattern. Perhaps the notoriously lethal gunslinger paints portraits of the men and women she kills, and delivers them to her victims’ families – and it’s nothing but a rumor that late at night those portraits can be heard sobbing. Or maybe the crazed steampunk inventor of clockwork monstrosities loves to knit, and sends all of his mechanical terrors out into the world with a nice little knitted shawl or bonnet. Why? Because he finds it hilarious, most likely. If there’s another reason, the characters will have to find it out.

It’s also fine to make great villains fallible, with visible weaknesses and flaws. That’s usually a much better choice than making a “perfect” villain; your players are going to want a handle on the bad guys to manipulate or goad them, and that’s most fun when they can detect a villain’s ego, pomposity, pride, or fear. Players feel justifiably clever when they spot their enemy’s obsession and then lure that enemy into a trap by preying on the knowledge.

Embrace the Weirdness

Cackling inventors drive giant clockwork spiders across the llano, stalking intelligent prey; a punchcard-driven sheriff metes out clockwork justice in a small town where even the worst ruffians call themselves his friend; and some miscreant is adding robotics to the local livestock, turning bison into steam-powered weapons platforms. Those cows and sheep aren’t actually going to combine into one hideous robotic cow-sheep amalgam that’s a 30’ tall baaing, mooing, clanking menace, are they? Well, yes, they probably are. Somebody should probably get right on stopping that. And by “somebody,” I mean “your players.”

If you love the idea of the weird west and want to differentiate this game from a traditional western, turn the knob up to 11 and embrace the unusual nature of the setting. Look at the four more unusual character classes and consider basing something interesting around them. To focus on Shamans, create a town (or even the entire Old West) where spirits are known by everyone to walk the earth and can be summoned, manipulated, allied with.. and feared. Not only are there nature spirits, the Rotting Marshal commands undead vampires and zombies from her corpse ranch out in the blasted deserts. If you’re going to carve out a space for civilization, you may want to start by eliminating the threat of your own dead kin betraying you.

For Preachers, consider a setting where there’s an apocalyptic battle going on between heaven and hell, and it’s being played out through the unknowing inhabitants of a small corner of the Old West, with only a few Preachers in on the secret. Hidden angels and demons walk amongst us, and every conflict symbolizes the fate for a portion of humanity. In this setting, when the Preacher tells you she’s a servant of the Almighty, there’s a damn good chance she’s speaking literally.

For Mentalists, think about mind control, con men, and controlling people through their information and emotions. You may picture a vast Shee conspiracy of mind-controlled lawmen across the Old West, an autocratic secret government just begging to be shattered by brave and independent heroes… unless, of course, the shee buy them off or kill them off first. Or you might imagine newsprint that quite literally changes the emotions of anyone who reads it, allowing a secret manipulator to turn whole towns into spies and secret soldiers, without the locals ever guessing how they’re being manipulated.

And for Gadgeteers, grab every steampunk trope you can think of and don’t limit yourself only to powers and inventions that are available to the player characters. Perhaps a massive metal, steam-powered spire is rising out of the prairie, and its only when the supernatural drill pierces a hidden cave system that the heroes decide to intervene. Perhaps clockwork knights are riding mechanical bison across the land, spreading word of the coming of a terrible new Iron Warlord. You can even mix genres: cowboys versus Far East robots or battle-suits in a roving, glorious battle to control the West.

Tying It Together

Whatever approach you decide to take, ask your players what they like best about the setting, and focus on that. Some people might love the clothing, inventions and trappings of steampunk. Others might be in love with the stark brutality and heroism of a classic western. There’s no wrong answers here, but you want to make sure you’re giving your players the mix of roleplaying, action and danger they crave.

That brings up a good point. We’re not going to say that Owl Hoot Trail has a high mortality rate among heroes, but you can fill up Boot Hill nice and quickly if you’re incautious. That’s not a bad thing. Just let your players know so that they set their expectations accordingly, and use the rules for Hardened characters on page 9.

We recommend you use Owl Hoot Trail for short series of 3-5 games, just like an arc in your favorite television show. The game runs beautifully with this structure, allowing you to end sessions on cliff-hangers and raise the tension until the heroes are able to resolve the dilemma (or die trying) in the final session.

And however you use the game? Don’t pull punches. Make your villains worthy of the title. Have an amazing time. And give the players hell.

 

by Clinton Dreisbach

“The Box” is an adventure for Owl Hoot Trail meant to be run over one session. It is a good introduction to the game and is suitable for one-shots, but can work as the beginning of a campaign.

The structure is a little unusual in that the adventure is about two groups of humans, one ostensibly on the side of the law and the other a gang of criminals, and the players can play either group of individuals. The criminals are fully generated characters, and so they work well in a situation where you want pre-generated characters. There are stats and information for the guards, as the GM will need them if the players are playing the criminals, but if the players are playing the guards, it’s recommended they make their own characters.

The characters are available in two forms: one at first level and the other at second or third level. When being played as PCs, the characters should be first level. If they are GM characters, played as antagonists, they should be at the higher level, in order to make it challenging for the players. The criminals are mostly 2nd level as antagonists; the guards are all 3rd level as antagonists. It’s hard to be the bad guys.

The Setup

Our guards have been hired by Mr. Eliza C. Althouse to guard a package from Ten Sleeps to Sweetwater, via the train. This package is a long black trunk with metal straps over it and a lock. There are very small holes drilled around the sides of the trunk. It weighs at least 200 pounds, probably 300. It is being delivered to a Mr. John Chisum, who owns a travelling circus. It contains an owlbear cub and is ensorcelled to keep said cub tranquil.

The safe car on the train, the Night Queen, contains a safe with thousands of dollars worth of jewels and coins, as well as the deed to 20,000 acres of land outside Inferno Falls in the Northern Territories. The safe car has two railway guards assigned to it, and Althouse’s guards have been allowed by Red Nails Railways to accompany them.

The Night Queen will stop at a small town, Eden, to take on water and passengers. This is where the adventure begins. Only one of the Red Nails guards will return from the stop; the other’s been paid off.

Smiley Browne’s gang of criminals are waiting at Eden for the Night Queen. Baron Horn, who is probably a vampire and is definitely a powerful frightening man, has employed them to steal that deed to 20,000 acres of underground oil lakes outside Inferno Falls. His definition of employment is unpleasant. Browne’s gang will get money for sure if they do it; they will be hunted and killed for sport by Horn’s servants if they fail. To be clear, they don’t know what’s in Althouse’s package and they ain’t there for it, although they are likely to take whatever they can get.

Browne’s plan, which you can ignore if the players are playing his gang, is to get what they want and then take over the locomotive, unhooking it to escape. If cornered, Tallaluh will jam the boiler’s safety valve or someone will shoot the water tank, causing the firebox to overheat, which will send the train into a frenzied pace, either making it eventually explode or go off the rails. Horn’s told them to get to Stop Over, a town with no law to speak of, where he will send a servant for the deed.

If the guards do make it to Sweetwater with Althouse’s package and it is unopened, Chisum will give them $1000 to split. If it has been opened, they’ll be lucky to make it off the train alive.

Cast of Characters

Smiley’s Gang

“Smiley” Addison Browne, human scoundrel

“Why, hello there, missus. Smiley at your service.”

GRIT 0, DRAW 1, WITS 2

Level 1

Wile +5, others +3

HP 10, Melee +1/1d6 (bowie knife), Missile +2/1d6 (pistol, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 13

Backstab for +5 damage

Level 3

Wile +7, others +5

HP 18, Melee +3/1d6 (bowie knife), Missile +4/1d6 (pistol, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 14, MDef 15

Backstab for +7 damage

Tallulah Warren, human gadgeteer

“Cover your ears, boys. It’s about to get loud.”

GRIT 0, DRAW 0, WITS 3

Level 1

Learning +5, others +2

HP 10, Melee +1/d3 (punch/kick), Missile +1/1d6+2 (rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +4, Def 11, MDef 14

Powers: Sonic Shield (+4 Def/1 hour), Ear Bleeder (1d4+1 damage), Floating Wave (float 100 pounds)

Level 2

Learning +6, others +3

HP 14, Melee +2/d3 (punch/kick), Missile +2/1d6+2 (rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +5, Def 12, MDef 15

Powers: Sonic Shield (+4 Def/2 hours), Ear Bleeder (1d4+1 damage), Fatal Vibrations (touch/2d6 damage), Floating Wave (float 200 pounds)

Black Barrow, dwarf ruffian

“Hrmph.”

GRIT 4, DRAW 1, WITS -1

Level 1

Toughness +5, others +1

HP 14, Melee +5/d8+4 (axe), Missile +2/3d6/2d4/1d6 (shotgun, 1 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 10

Dirty fighting (d6+4 damage), enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 1 round)

Level 2

Toughness +6, others +2

HP 18, Melee +6/d8+4 (axe), Missile +3/3d6/2d4/1d6 (shotgun, 1 shot, range 0-1), Def 13, MDef 11

Dirty fighting (d6+4 damage), enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 2 rounds)

Wolf LaRue, walking wolf scout

“…​” Smiley: “Wolf here, she doesn’t talk much.”

GRIT 2, DRAW 1, WITS 1

Level 1

Wilderness +5, others +1

HP 12, Bowie knife +3/1d6+2, Missile +2/1d6+1 (pistol, 5 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 12

+1 to missile attacks at range >= 1, +3 to hear/smell

Level 2

Wilderness 6, others +2

HP 16, Bowie knife +4/1d6+2, Missile +3/1d6+1 (pistol, 5 shot, range 0-1), Def 13, MDef 13

+1 to missile attacks at range 1, +3 to hear/smell

Seven Clever Serpents, shee gunslinger

“I didn’t pay for a first class ticket to be ignored, human.”

GRIT 1, DRAW 2, WITS 1

Level 1

Wilderness +2, Toughness +3, Wile +2, others +1

HP 11, Melee +2/1d4 (knife), Missile +3/1d6+2 (2 x .38-cal, range 0-1, 5 shot), Def 13, MDef 12

Shoot twice at -2 each, +1 damage with all guns

Level 2

Wilderness +3, Toughness +4, Wile +3, others +2

HP 15, Melee +3/1d8 (sword), Missile +4/2d6+1 (2 x .45-cal, mithril inlay, range 0-2, 5 shot), Def 14, MDef 13

Shoot twice at -2 each, +1 damage with all guns

The Guards

Rex Whatley, human ruffian

“I ain’t afraid to get my hands dirty if I got to.”

GRIT 2, DRAW 1, WITS 0

Level 1

Toughness +5, others +2

HP 12, Melee +3/d6+2 (anything), Missile +2/2d4 (.41-cal, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 11

Enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 1 round)

Level 3

Toughness +7, others +4

HP 20, Melee +5/d8+2 (anything), Missile +4/2d4 (.41-cal, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 14, MDef 13

Enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 3 rounds)

Whisper Grey, human gunslinger

“iprefertoletmyshotgundothetalking.” “What’s that?” BOOM

GRIT 0, DRAW 2, WITS 1

Level 1

Toughness +4, Wile +3, others +2

HP 10, Melee +1/d3 (punch), Missile +3/see below, Def 13, MDef 12

Shoot twice at -2 each, +1 damage with all guns

Shotgun: 3d6+1/2d4+1/1d6+1 damage at range 0/1/2, range 0-1, single shot

.38-cal revolver: 1d6+2 damage, range 0-1, 5 shot

Level 3

Toughness +6, Wile +5, others +4

HP 18, Melee +3/d6 (bowie knife), Missile +5/see below, Def 15, MDef 14

Shoot twice at -2 each, +2 damage with all guns

Hellhound Shotgun: 3d6+2/2d6+2/1d6+2 damage at range 0/1/2, range 0-1, double-barrelled, can fire both for +1d6 damage

Twin .38-cal revolvers, blued finish: 1d6+3 damage, range 0-1, 5 shot

Cecil “Goblin” Steele, half’in mentalist

“Cecil Steele, sir! They call me the Goblin, but as you can see, I’ve a pleasant face and becoming air.”

GRIT -1, DRAW 2, WITS 3

-2 to all damage from performing tricks

Level 1

Amity +2, Wile +4, others +1

HP 9, Melee +0/d3 (punch), Missile +3/d4+1 (.22-cal, range 0, 7 shot), Power +4, Def 14, MDef 14

Common Tricks: Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Prestidigitation

1st Rank Tricks: Hypnotism, Silent Illusion, Disguise Self

Level 3

Amity +4, Wile +6, others +3 \ HP 17, Melee +2/d4 (knife), Missile +5/d4+1 (.22-cal, range 0, 7 shot), Power +6, Def 16, MDef 16

Common Tricks: Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Prestidigitation

1st Rank Tricks: Hypnotism, Silent Illusion, Disguise Self, Sleep

2nd Rank Tricks: Mirror Image

“Ugly” Francis Swordsmith, orc marshal

“What town’s going to have an orc marshal? Lawman for hire’s the life for me.”

GRIT 2, DRAW 0, WITS 2

Hardy 1

Level 1

Toughness +3, Amity +3, Wile -1, others +1

HP 12, Melee +3/d8+2 (longsword), Missile +2/d6 (.32-cal, range 0-1, 6 shot, explodes on a 1), Def 12, MDef 14

Detect if a soul’s up to no good within range 1 at will

Heal a body up to 2 HP per day by sharing a drink

Level 3

Toughness +5, Amity +5, Wile +1, others +3

HP 20, Melee +5/d10+2 (widowmaker), Missile +4/2d6+2 (.50-cal, range 0-2, 5 shot), Def 15, MDef 17

Detect if a soul’s up to no good within range 1 at will

Heal a body up to 6 HP per day by sharing a drink

Smokey Fearslayer, hill folk preacher

“By the names of the Lords of Light, we will pierce this darkness!”

GRIT 2, DRAW 0, WITS 2

+3 to spot underground traps and dangers

-2 to all damage from performing prayers

Level 1

Toughness +2, Amity +4, others +1

HP 12, Melee +3/d6+2 (axe handle), Missile +1/d6+3 (.38-cal rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +3, Def 11, MDef 13

Rebuke (+3 vs MDef, d6 damage, range 0-1, no cover)

1st Rank Prayers: Armor of God, Inspire

Level 3

Toughness +4, Amity +6, others +3

HP 20, Melee +5/d6+2 (axe handle), Missile +3/d6+3 (.38-cal rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +5, Def 13, MDef 15

Rebuke (+5 vs MDef, d6 damage, range 0-1, no cover)

1st Rank Prayers: Armor of God, Inspire, Divine Favor

2nd Rank Prayers: Choose Me

Others

Owlbear Cub

Lvl 4, GRIT 3, DRAW 2, WITS 2, HP 28, Def 16, MDef 16. Claw +7 (d6+3) with followup claw +7, or Howl of Lament +6 (all intelligent creatures within earshot are saddened and trailin’ for two rounds. All wild creatures who hear it come to see.)

Red Nails Railway Guard

Lvl 1, GRIT 2, DRAW 1, WITS 0, HP 12, Def 12, MDef 11. Shoot +2/d6+1 (pistol, range 0-1), club +3/d6+2.

Conductor

Lvl 3, GRIT 1, DRAW 1, WITS 1, HP 21, Def 14, MDef 14. Shoot +4/3d6 (shotgun, range 0-1), knife +4/d6+1.

The Train

The Night Queen is a steam-powered express passenger train. It is the jewel in the Red Nails Railways fleet. It rides the railway between The Old Towers back East and Silver City in the West, a 75-hour trip. The fare is $8 for coach class and $35 for first class. The portion of the trip in this adventure, Ten Sleeps to Sweetwater, is 28 hours.

Cars in Order

  1. Locomotive
  2. Tender
  • The Night Queen has a 90-ton locomotive with a 6-foot-diameter boiler, the biggest one ever built. It is a Grand Dweomer Class locomotive designed under the direction of Thelonious Steelfire and built by the Steelfire Clan. It is too heavy for many rail bridges unassisted, so it has a levitation system designed by C. M. Archon, which reduces its effective weight to 60 tons. (Note that the train does not levitate: its weight is reduced by the upward pressure of the levitation system.) The tender generally carries 10 tons of coal and 30 tons (about 7200 gallons) of water.
  • The locomotive has a crew of three: the _engineer_, who controls the locomotive’s stopping, starting, and speed; the _fireman_, who maintains the fire and regulates steam pressure; and the porter, who assists the fireman in monitoring water levels and managing the fire. A second crew rides onboard (the engineer and fireman in first class and the porter in coach) and they switch out in 12-hour shifts.
  1. Mail Car
  • The mail car is what it sounds like: a car full of mail. It has no assigned crew and is normally locked, but the fireman or porter unlock it, deliver mail to the post office, and take new mail at each stop.
  1. The Box
  • “The Box” is the Night Queen’s luggage car, but it’s not like most luggage cars that you might see. Prospectors, adventurers, and other folks with valuables travel on the Night Queen and the Red Nails Railway Company wants to make sure their valuables arrive safely. This car has reinforced steel walls with a lead lace built in to make scrying harder. The doors on each end lock from the inside and the rear door (passenger-facing) has two slots, one at eye-level, and one at waist-level with a built-in table to transfer goods. There is a side door for loading and unloading at railway stations, but it is locked from the outside and the engineer has the key. There is also a small roof vent.
  • Inside the Box, there is a large combination safe, as well as racks for luggage. Two double-barrelled shotguns are kept loaded for use by the Box crew. Normally, the Box is staffed by two railway guards, but on this journey, the guards will be joined by Althouse’s hires.
  1. Coach (absolute rabble)
  2. Coach
  3. Coach
  • There are three coach cars behind the Box. These cars have benches and no beds. There is a walkway down the middle of the car with benches on both sides, and a washroom with an outhouse-style toilet at the end of each car. This washroom is shared between men and women, although the second and third coach cars tend to segregate themselves by sex. People do sleep on the benches.
  • The first coach car is full of absolute rabble. Being so close to the front of the train, it is sooty, dirty, and loud, and not much sleeping happens there. Pickup games of poker and drinking are the most common pursuits in the first coach car.
  1. Tavern Lounge Car
  2. Dome Buffet Car
  • The lounge car and buffet car are where the coach passengers and first class passengers meet. The lounge car has dark walls and curtains and keeps the light low. There is a bar in this car, and tables and booths to relax in. The railway company has paid employees working as poker dealers. The games aboard the Night Queen have become so famous that decks of cards are sometimes referred to as “railroad Bibles.”
  • The buffet car isn’t a buffet in the modern sense of the term. It’s a brighter car with a counter that you can buy sandwiches and snacks at. There’s no warm food; passengers are expected to get off at stops to buy hot meals. The buffet car has a dome on top with a second story you can access via stairs. The dome has large glass windows to look out on the views.
  1. First Class Sleeper
  2. First Class Sleeper
  • These are your classic sleeper cars with beds that fold-down from the walls. The car is broken up into compartments with thick curtains to close off each compartment. There are shared washrooms at the end of the car, one for women and one for men.
  1. Observation Car
  • The observation car is the analog of the first coach for the first-class set. This car has chairs and tables to relax at and you can often find people relaxing, debating, or reading here. The walls have large class windows on both sides and along the back wall, providing the best views on the train.

New Rules

New Race: Walking Wolf

Every once in a while, a wolf ends up in a two-legs body, normally human. Sometimes, that wolf was cursed; sometimes, they were just born that way. There’s even stories that say if a wolf looks it its killer’s eyes right before it passes, it can switch bodies. Whatever happens, you end up with a wild creature walking around.

Walking wolves are usually scouts, ruffians, or shamans, but they look like members of other races and can be whatever they want.

Walking wolves gain a +1 to DRAW, and a +1 to Wilderness. Their noses and ears are way more sensitive than humans, and they gain a +3 bonus to hear or smell something, usually danger.

Marshall

The Everwayan points out that 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.”

Further along is mentioned “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.”

To read the full review, click here.

Goblin cowboys

Handouts

  • Matthew Breen has designed a lovely one-page character sheet for Owl Hoot Trail – download it here.
  • Download the two-page extended character sheet from the rulebook here.
  • Download the three Perdition map handouts from the rulebook here.

Adventures

  • The Box is a one-shot adventure by Clinton Dreisbach – read it here.

Articles and Resources

  • Kevin Kulp details a few alternate modes of play, along with some great game hooks for them, here.
  • There are more playable races by Paul Stefko here.

Gadgeteer
User Baz King on the UK Roleplayer forums says that Owl Hoot Trail makes him want to tear up all his notes. He continues,

“The system in OHT is simple and light, but with all the buttons that OGL games press. On a quick read though, I’m impressed and want to know more.”

Read the full review and replies here.

Co-Designer of Owl Hoot Trail Clinton runs a game of the finished Owl Hoot Trail on google hangout with Jason Morningstar, Andy Kakowski and Bert Isola.

Gambling group

by Kevin Kulp

 

My first mistake was in thinking Owl Hoot Trail was D&D with guns. I was just starting to develop and polish Clinton R. Nixon’s remarkable, streamlined game of old western fantasy, and I thought I was on well-trodden and familiar ground. I set up a sample encounter, one which I expected would make an easy and light-hearted introduction to the system. I took 15 minutes to stat up a party of four PCs and took the encounter for a test drive. If everything went as planned, this introductory romp would be the first gunfight that introduced people to Owl Hoot Trail. Piece of cake, right?

Ten minutes and three rounds of combat later, two of my PCs had been shot dead and another was twitching on the ground, gut-shot and unconscious. Three of the four bandits they’d just met were happily riding away up the trail, uninjured and whooping and waving their hats as they escaped. It was not, one might say, a romp for the good guys.

And really, that’s appropriate. “To ride the owl hoot trail” is an old western aphorism meaning “to take up the life of a bandit.” I quickly realized that the feel of this game wasn’t D&D with guns; this was a gritty Clint Eastwood western with fantasy and steampunk. Shee and half’ins and hill folk might exist in this world, but bullets hurt. It’s a lesson I carried with me through the development process.

I love the result. Owl Hoot Trail has five races: humans, shee, greenskins, hill folk, and half’ins. It uses iconic western archetypes for classes: gunslingers, marshals, ruffians, scoundrels, and scouts. There are four classes with special powers as well: gadgeteers, mentalists, preachers and shamans. We leaned heavily on the side of flavor and theme; a preacher can literally use her faith to rebuke a wrongdoer into stunned repentance, a gadgeteer can activate his crank-operated electroprod, ruffians get a bonus for smashing whisky bottles over their foes’ heads, and gunslingers are particularly good at facing down an opponent on a dusty street at high noon for a life-or-death duel.

PCs aren’t the only ones with local flavor. There are a lot of monsters out there on the lonesome prairie, and it’s a fair bet that you taste better than their normal fare. Dog-gobblers head after children after they clear out the local watch dogs. Harpies are vulture-like scavengers who choose to make their own carrion by corrupting fresh water, and then following travelers across the desert who then die of thirst. Ogres have been known to singlehandedly wield Gatling guns, and the haunting cry of the owlbear may sing you into the arms of death.

Owl Hoot Trail is half rules book, half adventure. Pages 65-128 showcase the adventure They Rode To Perdition, a multi-part mystery and starting campaign setting that’s centered on the little town of Perdition. The adventure is designed to be as non-linear as possible; antagonists and allies all have their own goals and time tables, and how (or if) the heroes upset those plans determines how the adventure goes. With as close to an epic storyline as you’ll find in a western setting, the PCs can change Perdition for good with their actions. Let’s just hope they like it when they’re done; ‘Ole One-Eye’s Saloon has particularly good drinks, and it’d just be a shame to burn it down by mistake.

Owl Hoot Trail, by Clinton R. Nixon and Kevin Kulp, is a 136-page, 6″x9″ book that sells for $19.95 US, now available in the store.