Hot Take: An entertaining, rules lite wild west rpg using the same engine as FIRETEAM
Quick and easy read
Character creation takes moments
Simple system easily grokked
Fun and fast
Thematically on point
Don't care for Specialities as these break the fourth wall
No starting adventure
Abilities are a mixed bag
No guidelines for starting gear or wealth
No open-ended mechanic so impossible rolls are just that - impossible.
No Hero/Luck/Fate Points
Ok so let's start off by saying I really enjoy Jonathan's work. He cranks out fun games I like to run.
I first became acquainted with his work via his sci-fi military rpg - FIRETEAM. He later did a cyberpunk cop rpg which I have not yet read; I believe it uses the same system as WEST.
WEST seeks to emulate the spaghetti westerns of all sorts from silly shoot 'em ups like Blazing Saddles and Cat Ballou to ultra-gritty gorefests like Tombstone and Unforgiven.
There's no setting presented, the author assumes the reader has seen at least one western so if you're expecting a deep dive into the genre you'll be disappointed. Watch Tombstone. There, research done.
The game is easy on the eyes and very brief totaling 14 pages with the cover and character sheet. I read it over lunch and because I know FIRETEAM, I pretty much know WEST.
System wise WEST is virtually identical to FIRETEAM although reskinned.
You have three statistics: Rootin governing physical stuff, Tootin mental stuff, and Shootin attacking stuff. These are rated numerically, Players spend points among these with 2 being dirt average and 4 being very good.
The author has you distribute 8 points, minimum 1 maximum 4. Personally I don't care for this arrangement, the minimum 1 is overlooked and leads to issues. I'd just as soon the stats start at 1 and the Player distributes 5 points, maximum 3 to any stat.
The character sheet is one page and has large fields, I'd love for the sheet to have a little more panache like the Deadlands character sheet especially for tracking shootin' irons and injuries.
Mechanically WEST uses dice pools targeting 5-6 so each die has a 1:3 chance of generating a Success.
My issue with the word 'Success' goes way back, I would prefer the game use the word 'Hit' to avoid confusion with Success as in a roll of 5-6 or actually succeeding in what you're attempting.
Anywho, more Successes leads to bigger results. There's no mechanic for fumbles but I'd use roll of all 1s and something bad unexpected such as weapon jams or breaks, etc.
If you attempt something hard -1 die, if easy +1 die.
As far as combat goes, there's rules for gunfights/duels. Nothing groundbreaking and seems to work well.
For regular combats, you roll Tootin' with the most Successes going first. Personally, I'd just sum the roll of the dice and skip counting Successes. With most combatants rolling 2-4 dice that means at most 4 successes with most only getting 2 leading to lots of ties. Quicker and easier to just roll and sum.
Close range +1 die, further ranges -1 die. Ranges aren't tied to weapons, just simple ranges like in GURPS.
Cover -1 die, aiming +1 die.
Combatants get 2 actions per round, some actions are 1, others 2.
I disagree wtih drawing and aiming taking 2 actions. If I wanna aim then shoot in the round that should be possible. If I wanna move and then end my turn aiming, that should also work but I risk losing Initiative the following round and my aim being interrupted. When using a scope, I allow up to 3 action spent aiming for +3D.
Drawing a rifle or carbine or other large weapon should be 2 actions.
NOTE! If you wanna avoid getting hit, (and you do!!!) you hold onto an action for a dodge or parry.
High roller wins meaning Defenders have to equal or exceed the Attacker's Shootin' Successes if they wanna avoid getting clobbered.
A few more action suggestions would be good as there's plenty of room on the page.
PCs have 10 Health, with knives inflicting 1d2 but pistols and rifles inflicting 1d6. Personally I'd have rifles inflict 2d6-2 minimum 1.
Extra Shootin' Successes inflict +1 Health per.
Combat can be nasty, at 0 Health a character dies in their Rootin score in rounds. Making a medicine roll (presumably Tootin') saves the character's bacon but they're out of the fight and pretty much helpless.
My problem here is -10 Health is no worse than 0 Health, a single success saves a downed character. I would use a Massive Damage rule, take negative Health equal to or greater than your Rootin' and your PC takes a dirt nap. Any negative Health reduces the Tootin'/medicine pool.
Combats could be theater of the mind or on a grid of some sort (I prefer hex for both WEST and FIRETEAM).
Healing is slow, buckaroos who rest regain 1 Health per day unless their Health hits 0 or below at which point healing slows to 1 Health per week.
Characters can have Specialties. I don't care for these fourth wall breaking mechanics. Basically they're real world challenges or actions the Player takes to give their PC some in-game advantage. You get 1 but can acquire others with Trail Points. Some people will love these and more power to them.
Abilities are skills granting +1 die to the action. These are a mixed bag of useful and not so useful add-ons. IMO, Abilities should be reviewed and revised as the non-combat Abilities like Perform and Cooking are rated the same as Fanning.
IMO, PCs should have a trade and playing harmonica or cooking should be background/flavor and not cost valuable resources to acquire. The language of Abilities should be tweaked to make them read more Wild Westy.
The mechanics for Abilities implies you can gain levels in them but this is unclear in the rules.
PCs gain Trail Points by defeating enemies, encounters, and completing adventures. At 100 Trail Points you level up gaining +1 Health or +1 die to a Statistic. FIRETEAM sets a hard limit of each Statistic being improved once, WEST does not. I would probably limit each Stat being improved exactly twice.
For 300 points you can acquire a Specialty or Ability which is confusing because you don't spend Trail Points, you simply keep track of them and once you hit the threshold, you get the bump to your PC. The language here should be tweaked to remove all doubt.
NPCs provides VERY basic stats for foes and critters. Personally I'd like to see a full bestiary with horses, mountain lions, desperados, school marms, etc.
Ok so beefs:
No open ended mechanic. I like my westerns to be as spaghetti as heck and that means at least one of the dice should explode. The following mechanic is suggested: Roll of 6 is one Success/Hit and reroll to see if you get more. If you wanna keep things gritty 1 die can explode (Wild West Die!). If you want things to be kooky-dukes, all dice potentially explode.
No fumble mechanic, I mentioned this above. Roll of all 1s and you suffer a setback. This is self balancing, the more dice the less likely a fumble, the fewer the more likely. Simple.
No setting, a one page town writeup would be keen. Pick a territory in the 1870s and create from whole cloth i.e. Rock Ridge.
No adventure, a one page adventure would be awesome
No variant gameplay/setting suggestions for adding weirdness like dinosaurs, zombies, mad science, or aliens into the mix.
No significant bestiary or foes, already covered but worth mentioning again.
Would like a smaller more themed character sheet.
No suggestions for starting gear, tie this to Trade/Profession and give me a list of gear so I can shop around for fancy new duds, pocket watches, mustache creams, shootin' irons, etc.
No luck/fate/hero point mechanic. Even if this isn't it's own separate economy (as is the case of FATE Core), it could be an in-reward for meritorious play. For my FIRETEAM games, 1 Hero Point = +1 die to a roll. I would call luck points Grit.
Need mounted combat mechanics for horses especially chases and shootouts while ridin'. Speaking of which, stats for different kinds of horses.
Final words: a worthwhile and enjoyable rules lite addition to the Wild West rpg genre, 3.5 stars out of 5.