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Space Cowboys

Around 2012, when I first became deeply interested in roleplaying games, I had a deep and unfaltering urge to write one. My GM experience was limited but I had played enough that I felt confident in my ability to produce a fully fledged book. Years later, I realized I was a touch misguided back then. Today I am on my fourth (that I can count) prototype of the game I started working on all those years ago. Only after absorbing as much rules and game content as I could, DMing and writing adventures as much as I could, have I managed to put together something that I am confident in.

The Game, currently titled “Drier Deserts, Hotter Suns”, is a love letter to the space western genre. The design has hopefully been refined to make players feel like they are a part of the action. In the coming weeks I will give some insights on the game as well as some of the rules I feel contribute to my design philosophies. I will also hopefully detail the failed prototypes and timeline of the project, up until the first play test of the current rule set. So consider this the first blog post in a series detailing Drier Deserts, Hotter Suns.

DD/HS is now out on! Go download it here

Part 1: What is a Space Western?

While I could easily list off a lengthy list of space western media, I would be better off defining the genre instead. The Space Western is, at least to me, a culmination of modern fiction. The nature of our limited understanding of space means that we have no clue as to what traveling though it would actually be like, let alone how to tell interesting stories about it. So instead we pull from naval fiction and call any space-craft ships. Likewise the best analog for life on a far flung planet is the western. Of course what we have speculated gets pulled in too from science-fiction. The heroic romance of space adds the space-opera and it's baggage. War and interplanetary politics add their respective genre influences too. It should be easy to see why Space Westerns were at one point in the genres life heavily criticized, for in many ways they are not true science fiction and instead a mish-mash of genres with the setting changed. Space westerns are in many ways inherently lazy.

Laziness is not inherently bad and in many ways the space western is beautifully clever in it's ability to blend so many genres through setting alone. So clever is this that the genre almost breaks away from it's perceived "just cowboys in space" origins to include anything that involves living life audaciously on and in between planets. Star Trek and The Expanse both might have one foot in the hard sci-fi camp, but both are self admittedly space westerns too.

So to define the genre in bullet points:
  • Is set on or around planets on the further reaches of space
  • Includes in some way gun-toting action
  • Focuses on dramatic and personal plots rather than grand scientific ones
  • Potentially includes ship-to-ship combat
Why wouldn't you want to play a TRPG in this genre?!

Well there are reasons. Typically they are rules related one and not setting related. Many rule-sets have a tenancy to over complicate things with tedious rules and typically make large assumptions about the setting they are in. Ship combat can be tricky and make little sense. Combat can be slow and unevocotive. My goal for Drier Deserts, Hotter Suns is to avoid these problems and let the system stand as a guideline for space western adventures.

In part 2 I detail the design philosophy of DD/HS and give some insights on it as a game. Click here to read it!


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