At 8 pages and $1.00 for the PDF, Stuart Roberston's Weird West Roplepalying Game Basic Rulebook doesn't get more spartan, or cheap. But for some reason the price and style seems right.
Starting off the cover is cool, but is does mirror the art for A Fistful of Dollars which at the same time I appreciate being a fan of the trilogy. The whole PDF is in black and white and for some reason this works fine I
think to give it a stark feel. The font used for the title Weird West
is just right and of course the tentacle in the title of the game is
cool however. It does have a watermark on it for your purchase. I would hope however that people don't feel the need to pirate a $1.00 PDF...
If you are looking for a ultra-light rule-set for your weird west games this is it. I can't say that enough, it takes rules light to a whole new meaning.... A PDF with 8 pages, one of them being the cover and one the opposed fighting chart in the back so game in 6 pages, that has to be some sort of record. With all this said, for an experienced role-player the rule set is probably right up their alley. Certainly with years of judging a game a GM can easily wing those areas needed. A beginner woudl be lost in this as its not developed enough for beginners.
Characters four attributes and a path to guide one's character; it can probably fit on a 3x5 index card. The game is d20 based and utilizes the d4, d6 and d12. Levels and hit points make an appearance in the form of Stamina Points.
For one's character magic and weird west abilities are all lumped together, which in the interest of spartan rules and space probably makes the most sense. There are spells like Electromancy and then skills which are treated as magic like Fastest Gun in the West. Later still is Shaolin Monk (which to me should be a skill, but its not my game). The playerr has 4 points to split amongst the attributes (Fighting, Grit, Magic and Skill), but must place at least one into Grit. Leveling is fairly simple the group deciding when to do so (usually between game sessions).
Initiative is handled with a simple mechanic: higher level characters go first. Combat is fairly straight forward using the familiar mechanic of rounds and an opposed role vs the defense. Modifiers are simple to understand with firearms ignoring armor, which is bit puzzling that armor is needed in a western... The Man with No Name in A Fistful of Dollars notwithstanding. Weapons are broken down by dice and with rifles doing the most damage at d10, the ever truty pistol d8; lowest is unarmed attacks at d2. Further a character's path (aka class) determines what type of dice they have for unarmed combat: magicians utilizing the lowest and fighters the highest. Once reduced to zero stamina points in combat death is a possibility on a roll of a d6.
Skill checks are easy to resolve with examples of typical tests appearing on page 6. Also on the final page of text are some pieces of advice for the GM and ideas on how to play.
The main criticism I have is it is not clear whether or not there is a traditional GM in the game. Only on page 6 does the word referee appear. The text seems to assume there is one previously, but its not until later that it becomes clear.
If I go too much further it will reveal the whole game as its as mentioned it's so short. Suffice to say I like the system. All in all, it looks like an interesting game. I have no major plans to run it as I'm well into the creation of my own western game, but as a source of inspiration it was worth the price. It does have the honor of being one of only three western style RPGs I read while creating my own (the other two being Boot Hill and Western City).
Lastly for my game Hurled into Eternity will probably be a supplement down the road. (NOTE: as a update: my game is under a number of revisions right now and the version that is up right now has some new changes coming making the game even better, stay tuned.