Tabletop role-playing games are often an exploration of mythology. They are usually a combination of the historic and the fantastic. The Wild West in most people’s minds is a mixture of historical details and myths shown by film and television. This makes it ripe for gamers and masters of the game to play together.
Haunted west by Darker Hue Studios provides an awesome resource for fans of both the darkest truths and the craziest stories of the Western genre. The first version of the company, Harlem Unbound used the frame of the early 20th century of Call of Cthulhu to explore the Harlem Renaissance happening at the same time. Haunted west takes a similar approach by telling scary stories of people who were part of the West and who might be less well known; Black cowboys, native explorers, LGTBQ ranchers and more.
“I joke and always say,” said Chris Spivey, founder and CEO of Darker Hue Studios, “Harlem Unbound taught me how to do an RPG and Haunted west taught me about the publishing community. The knowledge I have acquired Harlem Unbound was cumulative and helped with the logistics of running a Kickstarter, working with a designer, finalizing the book with the printer, etc. It all happened on a steep learning curve with Harlem Unbound, then when the pandemic hit, it allowed me to better deal with the changing shipping and printing landscape. “
The characters are built using a life path system. Similar to Traveler, the path of life generates stories, allies and enemies to help players flesh out their paragons before the game begins. It answers important questions such as why their character went west and how the Civil War affected their lives. The main system of the book is a simple percentile called Ouroboros, but the book offers a few options.
“Systems are a fun thing,” Spivey said. “Some people think you don’t need them, others live and die because of them. For me the system is important but it is not the soul of the book. For Haunted west and all of Darker Hue Studios’ projects going forward, I wanted a modular home system that was easy to understand, flexible, and suitable for the different genres I want to create in. Going under 1d100 was my choice and is very easy to recover. For years I played with what is now called the Ouroboros system. This book has just solidified it. One of the things I saw was that a number of people wanted a [Powered by the Apocalypse] hack to Harlem Unbound and I was like, why not provide them with one to run with and that would allow me to bring another creative to the project? So that’s what we did.
The book also offers a massive history section. Finding historical games is much easier now thanks to the Internet, but Haunted west focuses on the little details and useful materials that tabletop players want. Historical information also disputes the idea that only white men made history by providing historical figures of different colors, beliefs and orientations who were there with the Earps and Jameses in the dust and the wild.
“History is at the heart of everything I do, whether it’s a Darker Hue project, a project working for another company, or even talking about games. The power of the game comes from the shared storytelling. And the real story is so often buried, stolen or ignored. So I was determined to create something that others could easily access, read, and understand how diverse the West was. Additionally, it is imperative if people are playing a character different from them, especially with a different background, that you equip them with the tools to be as successful and respectful as possible. We have a massive history section, a section talking about all the different people that make up the country, another highlighting some of the real world people, and then a chapter just about places and their pasts. I like to say, “History belongs to all of us. And so we spend time cementing the reader in this truth. So when people want to add the Weird, they can do so with a clear understanding of what was real before the undead rose up and challenge their Paragons to save the day. In my life as a gamer, I played mostly story games and these games only tell you a bit of history from a limited perspective. I want other diverse creatives to have this sandbox of truth to create their own things. We’ve done a lot of hard work to provide a platform that others can jump into. ”
The Weird Side of the Book is also a toolkit for game masters to shape their own twisted story. There is an example of a setting, of course, but there are also several magical styles, sci-fi elements and more that can be used to adapt these great tales to a specific table. These stories can be as simple as a lone ghostly horseman taking revenge on the city that unfairly executed him or a midday duel between a steampunk genius and a player who made a deal with the devil at a midnight crossroads.
“In Haunted West, it’s a massive amalgamation of different genres with a heavy dose of American mythology. There is so much to explore: aliens, supernatural, horror, dark, etc. Haunted west takes all of these possibilities and anchors them firmly in the true old west, which certainly was not an easy path to walk. So the driving force behind this game will always be the struggle for success against both weird and mundane challenges. “
Haunted west is available direct from Darker Hue Studios or wherever good hobby games are sold.