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Backwoods: Quickstart Guide & SRD


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Step into a bizarre, post-apocalyptic America with a new standalone book in the Backwards: American Gothic Horror universe.

The Backwoods Quickstart Guide & System Reference Document includes character creation rules, essential rules for gameplay, basic setting information, 4 pre-generated characters, a blank character sheet, and a one-sheet adventure. It’s 73 pages and includes monochrome versions of original art for the core rulebook.

Welcome to the Heartlands ward, the political, cultural, and economic heart of the American Lands.

Well-guarded and well-maintained roads, grand urban centers, and safe, comfortable living: this is what the Heartlands promises in these hard and desperate times. It maintains an image–a blazing beacon in a chaotic world, the pinnacle of order! It is also a lie. The dark New England forests have flourished since the cataclysmic event known as The End, and they have grown twisted and hungry. The sinister tales of creatures stalking the woods and backwoods cults are more than mere fairy tales. Every year people, even entire villages, go missing. And it is not simply the wilds which must be feared. The government institutions of the American Lands are rotting, corrupted by wealth and aristocratic privilege. Local politicians grow bolder and more ambitious. Meanwhile, isolated communities are swallowed by the woods, extremism is on the rise, and the ailing institutions of the Heartlands have little desire to recognize these problems, let alone address them. A revolution is brewing in the Heartlands, even if they refuse to admit it. 

 Backwoods is one of several books in the Backwards: American Gothic Horror tabletop roleplaying game series. In Backwoods, players explore New-England gothic themes in a post-apocalyptic America: puritanism, witches, and devils plague the small, isolated towns of the northeastern countryside as its citizens try to restore civilization. The tales of Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving, Shirley Jackson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne inspire this setting. It introduces players to the Heartlands ward of the American Lands and provides new setting information, as well as new gear, animal companions, and monsters. It also provides new character options, including new archetypes, origins & ideals, traits, and ability modules. 

For a preview of setting, content, and archetypes, download the Backwoods demo.

Built with Backbone

Backchannels uses the same original system that Backwater uses, now called the Backbone Tabletop Roleplaying system. In addition to its unique setting, Backchannels includes all of the core rules for the Backbone game system, so you do not have to purchase another book separately. However, each book has distinct options for character origins, archetypes, ideals, and items, as well as its own unique setting and characters.

The Backbone game system is original. It uses a 20-sided die for everything except damage. It is intended to be intuitive and streamlined. The foundation of this system are four basic attributes that provide both a modifier (which you add to rolls) and a goal score (which others roll against). When you attempt a skill roll against another character, you simply roll against one of their attribute goals, for example:

  • When you threaten or deceive a character you roll against its Intuition goal
  • When you hide from or sneak by a character you roll against its Vigilance goal
  • When you attack a character you roll against its Reflex goal
  • When you shove or trip a character you roll against its Build goal

Characters have both Health Points (physical stamina) and Resolve Points (mental fortitude), and they are relatively low to reflect human fragility. Combat scenarios are consequential and can move quickly as a result. One especially unique element of the system is its Health rolls and Resolve rolls. Players must try to roll under their current Health or Resolve with a d20 to avoid suffering a condition, like the Bleeding condition. The more damage or duress that a character receives, the more likely it may suffer the condition. To learn how to play, try our solitaire game. You can also check our Actual Plays.

Character sheets for the Backbone game system are form-fillable PDFs. The Backbone system also has its own GM sheet for note-taking and tracking.  Backbone also has a character sheet on Roll20; see "Roll20 Character Sheet for the Backbone Game System."

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File Size:
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File Last Updated:
October 02, 2023
This title was added to our catalog on October 03, 2023.
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