August 12, 2011

The Boot Hill Sessions

For those who don't know, Boot Hill is an older RPG with strong focus on the "Old West".  Gunfights, Gambling, Brawling, and all that jazz.  Wikipedia says "Boot Hill is a western role-playing game designed by Brian Blume and Gary Gygax. First published in 1975, Boot Hill was TSR's third role-playing game, not long after Dungeons and Dragons and Empire of the Petal Throne."
Honestly, I never cared much for westerns, but that didn't stop me from playing Boot Hill.  I like to try out new game systems and see how all the fiddly bits work together.  I've never even had a chance to peek at these rule books before, and you never know when you'll find some rule or table that you'll want to carry over into other games.  Also, when you have a chance to play at Jeff Rients' table, you take it.  I'm not too proud to admit that he's a better GM than I am.  His games are always a blast.

    I've been a player for four sessions of Boot Hill.  I think that my character (Wild James Riley) has been involved in five or six gunfights now, and has managed to survive all of them.  PC death is a constant threat.  Experienced characters are somewhat faster and more accurate then inexperienced ones, but they are all equally fragile.  A character's max Strength (hit points) is determined at creation and doesn't ever increase, most characters seem to have between 10 and 20.  Every single gunshot has a decent chance to kill.  Most guns can shoot up to 3 times per round.  Most characters have between a 60% to 80% chance to hit, -10% for each shot after the first.  If you hit you make another percentage roll to determine the hit location.  Cover helps, always use cover.  A third percentage roll determines severity (each location has a different severity table).  Gunshot damage is either 3, 7, or Dead.  Oh, and if you win the fight but take wounds in the head or chest there is a chance that you'll die anyway from infection/organ failure some days later.  It's pretty hard core.  I'm rather enjoying it.

    The rules and systems seem to have a lot of moving parts, but they all fit together rather neatly.  Play is a lot smoother than I had imagined.  At first I thought that all those percentage rolls would make combat drag out too much, but I find that I'm rather fond of it all.  Most gunfights are over in only a few rounds, so the extra rolls don't seem like a hassle.  Besides, knowing exactly where I hit the poor bastard makes my mental picture of the gunfight a lot more vivid.  The brawling chart is pretty cool.  I still need to try some gambling to see how that works.  I was hoping to see how mounted combat worked, but Jeff says we are ignoring those rules.  I trust his judgement, the overall FPM (Fun Per Minute) is probably higher without using them but I'm still curious how it works.

    The one set of rules that I know I would tweak are the intoxication rules.  I like the end results, but getting there is a pain.  Basically, taking shots of whiskey will lower some basic attributes (speed and... accuracy?) while raising others (bravery and strength), this changes the associated rows of bonuses, then you have to tally the columns again see what your new weapon modifiers are.  That's a lot of scribbling and looking at charts for a temporary effect.

    Grod knows, Jeff doesn't need my help... but this is how I'd house rule intoxication for Boot Hill.

    GM determines level of intoxication, or a d10 is rolled.

    (1) - Bent an Elbow, Had a Snort of Liquid Courage
    +5% Accuracy thanks to calm nerves and a steady hand

    (2,3,4) - Tonsils Varnished, Loaded
    -1 Weapon Speed, +1 Strength, -5% Accuracy

    (5,6,7) - Soaked, Drunk
    -2 Weapon Speed, +2 Strength, -10% Accuracy

    (8,9) - Full as a Tick
    -3 Weapon Speed, Normal Strength, Variable Accuracy (GM rolls percentage each round to determine your new base accuracy)

    (10) - Drunk as a Boiled Owl
    -5 Weapon Speed, -3 Strength (easier to incapacitate/knockout), -50% Accuracy ("Whoa there, fella!  Just put the gun down.")

    So, there you have it.  I did a little research to come up with 1800s slang for drunkenness.  Did you know that "Drunk as a skunk" didn't get popular until the 20th century?  I was surprised, I thought it was older.  Luckily the "boiled owl" version was in use, and is hilarious.

    I'm mainly just sharing this in case anyone else wants to run Boot Hill with alternate rules for drunkenness.  I'm still debating whether I should show this to Jeff or not.  The next session of Boot Hill is our last.  We're moving on to a different game after that, so it's unlikely that we'll use the intoxication rules again anyhow.  Besides, there are more important things to focus on.  I still have three personal goals that I want my character to accomplish.

    1. Get into a fist fight over a card game (or a lady).
    2. Negotiate a pause in the middle of a shootout so that women and children can run to safety.
    3. Use the phrase "Hotter than a whorehouse on nickel night".

    Wish me luck.


    1. "I'm still debating whether I should show this to Jeff or not."

      You're in my blogroll, dude.

    2. Well, that debate is settled then. Thanks for stopping by.

    3. Looks good to me.

      you really should add this to your list:

      4. Blow up something cool with dynamite.

      A safe, a bank, a bridge...

    4. Good call!

      We are based in a mining town, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find.

    5. Those terms are hilarious, makes me wonder what the pseudo-medieval equivalents would be.