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A Weird Wild West: Weird Frontiers Reviewed

Samantha shares her thoughts on the Weird Frontiers corebook

Weird Frontiers (Stiff Whiskers Press)Game Title: Weird Frontiers Core Rulebook

Publisher: Stiff Whiskers Press

Writers: David Baity with additional writing by Brandon Goeringer, Bob Brinkman, Brendan LaSalle, Jeffrey Scifert, Keith Nelson, Bjorn Nelson, Michael Bolam, Bruce Cunnington, Julian Hayley, Keith Garrett, Claytonian JP, Gilbert Isla, Scott Andrew McKinley, Timothy Deschene, Scott Swift, Jon Hook, Lee Neilson, John Watson, Dwayne Boothe, Diogo Nogueira, J. Rhodes-Gloor, Peter C. Spahn, Steven Bean, Forrest Aguirre, Daniel Bishop, Danny Prescott, Michael Harrington, Jason Hobbs, and Anne Hunter

Artists: Diogo Nogueira, Angga Augustiya, Marcin S, Christopher Torres, Todd McGowan, Simon Todd, Brooke Penrose, Adam Slivka, Zohn Dyer, Jared Blando, Peter Mullen, Danny Prescott, Aaron Robinson, David Hoskins, David Coppoletti, Hamad Alnajjar, Fred Dailey, Shyloh Wideman, Tom Williams, San Julian, Bradley McDevitt, and Michael Clarke

Year: 2021

Genre: Weird west roleplaying game rulebook

Pages: 906

MSRP: $30.00 in PDF at DriveThruRPG

Weird Frontiers begins with a tale filled with lore, evil, and ritualistic elements. The tale is offered as an alternate ending to the 1865 Civil War, in which a legendary Elder God named Nyarlathotep frees his brethren from dimensional exile. To accomplish such a feat a grimoire called Necronomicon would be utilized. The grimoire was filled with rituals to call forth great tragedy in which “The Seven Days of Night” would be brought upon the Mexican desert to terminate their imprisonment and bring an end to the living.

The cult of Elder Gods would be interrupted and met with a group of Texas Rangers in union with the present-day Knight Templar. The cult would inevitably be slaughtered amid the ritualistic ceremony. Fortunately for the cult, the Necronomicon would survive, and scattered pages would be summoned to parts of the Earth.

Although the ceremony had failed, many entities such as “The Taint” had slipped though the dimensional crack. As a result, ancient ley lines pulsating with energy would be awakened by the Earth to ward off The Taint’s sickness. The energy given off by the ley lines would bestow supernatural abilities upon the citizenry. You as a hero are set to fight off the sickness and evil that arose during The Seven Days of Night and heal a wounded country torn apart during bloody unrest.

During your adventurous quest of defeating ancient evil, magic items such as gun magic, scrolls, potions, and reliquaries will be utilized along with your supernatural abilities. Like any adventure game, the usage of a beneficial action will be consequential as any character included in certain class systems that wield spells will be subject to using temporary Personality points. Class systems include Bedlamites, Calaveras, Gamblers, Weird Frontiers Art #1 (Stiff Whiskers Press)Gunslingers, the Hellbilly, Luchadores, Mountebanks, Mystic Monks, Occultists, Revelators, Sin Eaters, and the TommyKnocker.

Materials for Weird Frontiers consists of a standard deck of playing cards including Jokers, poker chips, and a set of Zocci dice. Other materials needed would be character sheets, and lastly the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (optional) to access bonus spells and other items.

Hit points are generated for each class with a designated Hit Die. Designated Hit Dies will produce hit points beginning with the 1st level and can be modified when rolled by Stamina modifier. To note, regardless of negative modifiers characters will obtain at least one hit point. Characters will retain any zero-level hit points after the 1st level is achieved; if a judge should skip the standard funnel, the 1d4 Hit Die will be in play and you must include additional hit points rolled at the 1st level.

A predetermined Crit die will be in effect in the beginning at the first level for every class. Higher crit dies are typicallyt reserved for Combat classes, while a lower die will be used for non-combative classes. A crit die is rolled when a critical hit is scored during an attack (natural 20) and can be further modified with the positive or negative Luck modifier. Any zero-level characters will begin using a d6 as the operative crit die.

Like a crit die, each class begins with a predetermined die at the 1st level. Higher fumble dies will be in play for characters that choose to avoid combat, while combat oriented characters will start with a lower die. It is suggested to use the designated fumble die in regulation with a positive or negative Luck modifier before utilizing the Fumble chart. All zero-level characters will begin using a d14 as the fumbling die.

Any 1st level character will have the option of choosing any two weapons that will be counted as “signature weapons.” Signature weapons can utilized without penalty while any non-signature weapons will result in a -2 penalty to attack and initiative checks. Exotic weapons are limited to those of the Mystic Monks and Sin-Eater character classes. New signature weapons can be added at ebery odd level.

Weird Frontiers Art #2 (Stiff Whiskers Press)If a character should choose to switch out a signature weapon, the player must make that known before the next game session and use the weapons with attached penalties for the session. Once the character adapts to the new weight and specialties of the desired weapon, only then will the penalty be removed.

Players will begin with assigning a path (Righteous and Damned) to their character. These paths will determine motivations as a characters’ moral compass is observed. Select character classes will have path restrictions listed.

Nicknames and monikers are established through experience. Characters can retain a nickname for various experiences up to the 6th level. By the level, the character would be considered legends of the frontier and would have to pick a title fitting with the status that was earned.

Characters are graced with supernatural abilities and using them will come at a price. The consequence of using special abilities is represented by using temporary Personality points. The Spent Personality points will refill after resting (8 hours). When these points are spent, it is recommended to record the amount spent beside their Personality score.

It is encouraged to record which class abilities can be modified by Luck, as a character’s current Luck modifier can be applied to certain abilities or skills.

To start combat, before the first round, check to see if any character is facing an obstacle that would warrant a Grit check. Any character that suffers no loss of action because of a failed Grit check will then roll for initiative to decide the order of action within a round of combat. Any player with multiple characters will roll once, only counting the highest initiative modifier.

After the initiative is decided, characters and enemies will act in order of initiative from highest to lowest. Attacks can be made by rolling a d20 and adding relevant modifiers.

Combat is split into rounds of only 10 seconds each, and one turn is 10 rounds. Any activities occurring outside of combat will have a turn that lasts for 10 minutes.

Movement is usually restricted to only 40 feet per round. However, a judge can reduce the amount of movement for a character if the weight carried exceeds the normal rate. Movement can also be restricted to a “marching order” during encounters with narrow lanes.

Weird Frontiers Art #3 (Stiff Whiskers Press)Before any act of combat ensues, the judge will determine if any character is surprised or too frightened to act. A judge may give characters advanced notice of any traps or ambushes with an opposed ability check. Any character attempting a surprise will roll a 1d20 with an additional Agility modifier against the opponents 1d20 in addition to an intelligence modifier. After determining surprise, the judge will decide whether to call for a Grit check before any new encounter. Initiative rolls are determined by rolling a d20 in addition to any Agility modifier.

During combat, players can take one action using the action die. Activities may take multiple rounds to complete. If this should happen, the player would make the roll on the final round of the task.

Melee attacks take place within five feet and would utilize an Action die + Strength modifier + any additional modifiers vs. the target’s AC. Range attacks exceed five feet and would utilize the Action die + Agility modifier + any additional modifiers vs. the target’s AC.

A single action would account for any single shot or usage of double barrel weapons. This action would need an external hammer to be cocked before the trigger is pulled.

A double action is only seen in revolvers and weapons using a double action firing will need to use a single trigger action to cock the pistol and fire the weapon.

The artwork throughout the book is phenomenal! The depictions of horror mixed with the classic western breaks up the lengthy pages beautifully. The lack of colored images is not a bother, the black and white merely enhances the contours while still capturing the feeling of terror almost like an old-time film.

The story itself is very fleshed out with a whopping 906 pages to sift through. Perusing the length of the book itself is quite tedious and it should be condensed, but the narrative is charmingly recited with ample space for wiggle room for player input and development. The mix of the otherworldly supernatural and a classic western are delightfully meshed that both occult and western lovers separately could enjoy.

TGG SCORE
8.5 TGG SCORE
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Summary
While the length of Weird Frontiers can make reading through Weird Frontiers tedious, there's plenty within which makes the game standout from any number of other Lovecraftian horror games. Fans of DCC will feel right at home even with all of the rules changes you'll find in this corebook. If you're looking for a weird western RPG, this is certainly worthy of giving a hard look.
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Samantha Lightheart

Samantha is currently studying creative writing and technical writing at Saginaw Valley State University. As an avid writer and reader, Samantha enjoys board games and role playing games. She has used her storytelling abilities while exploring the adventurous realms of Savage Worlds and Dungeons & Dragons.

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