A lone figure steps off the boardwalk into the street, lowering the wide brim of his hat against the wind. Shutters and doors slam as he passes, as if any of them can shut out the violence that’s to come.
The man’s spurs clink on the heels of his boots, the tail of his duster flaps and balloons behind him, offering hints of the tools of his trade. Poised like blunted horns in the holsters tied to his legs are the walnut grips of a pair of .44 pistols.
The man reaches the center of the street and hooks his coat behind the butts of his pistols.
“Alright, marshal!” he roars, elbows bent, fingers stroking the handles of his revolvers. “You called down the thunder, now come on out and catch the lightning!”
There is a whirring, hissing sound, and big shadow falls across the man in the street.
The shadow of his hat brim recedes as he cranes his neck upward, and his narrow eyes widen.
The shot echoes, a tremendous cannon crash that rattles the windows and makes the horses kick over the troughs and roll their eyes and scream all up and down the avenue.
When the dense, acrid cloud of smoke clears, a pair of smoking boots and a charred hat turning in place like a fallen penny in the middle of a dark patch of scorched ground are all that’s left of the gunman.
A clanking conglomeration of iron and steel, three times the size of a man, twirls a massive, smoking Colt revolver on its armored finger, then drops it into a holster the size of a steer on its jointed, rust spotted hip.
The metal man’s face creaks open and a grizzled looking man with grey whiskers and a star on his vest grins a yellow grin.
“Looks like you came underdressed to this occasion, Billy,” the marshal says through his cheroot….
Readers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for and recent rediscovery of tabletop roleplaying games. Well, I went and wrote one.
This is MechaWest, bringing the anime giant robot suit action of Heroic Journey Publishing’s Mecha roleplaying game system to the American Old West. Here high noon showdowns are fought in lumbering iron suits, powered by chugging boilers burning coal and wood. Cowboys race among lowing cattle in fleet footed rooster walkers, ready with lasso launchers, branding irons and barb wire clipper arms, and Indian Iron Killer Societies eschew the white man’s technology, using ingenious guerrilla tactics to bring shining blue and gold cavalry mecha crashing to their literal knees.
In the alternate history of MechaWest fighting mecha have been around since the Napoleonic Wars in the form of elegant clockwork suits of oak and tin worn by officers and gentlemen duelists, moving jerkily up and down the lines of battle with large flowing capes, and sweeping through lines of infantry with gargantuan rapiers.
But when American engineer Robert Fulton places a steam engine into an old clockwork knight the gilded age of gentlemanly dueling ends and a new era of mechanized warfare begins. The first mecha see service in the Mexican War of Independence, new iron armored suits effectively retiring the Army of Spain and their outdated clockwork mecha.
In the subsequent Mexican American war, gunsmith Samuel Colt invents a repeating fire weapon that turns each mecha into a walking battalion. Then abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass seize a squad of mecha from the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia and lead an army of free slaves into the West Virginia mountains, forming the free state of New Africa and touching off the American Civil War. When blue and gray machines clash, the conflict is catastrophic.
The harsh necessities of the post-war American West mother strange inventions, from the circling Steel Schooners of the pioneers to transforming mecha-trains that dig their own tunnels and transform to fight off robbers.
Players in MechaWest can work for a cattle baron’s outfit, piloting swift iron giants with to herd beef across hostile Native American lands, or as the Iron Killers, elite warriors who bring down the white man’s metal machines with whatever resources they can muster. Maybe riding as an Iron Ranger, splitting their time chasing Indians and bringing justice to marauding outlaws are more their bag, or perhaps dodging the law in a rattletrap mecha held together with baling wire and burning moonshine, sporting the latest illegal weaponry is more their style.
When the ‘Chinese Freemen Syndicate’ seizes the mines and railroads they worked to build en masse and fort up in their Celestial Territories with flame throwing Dragon Mecha and daring highbinder pilots, the possibilities open up even more. Do the players want to play as a band of Chinese agents in exotic, sought-after mecha? Do they want to plays as the US Cavalry, mounting punitive expeditions against marauding tribes or besieging the Celestial Territories for much needed resources?
Independent warlords, cattle barons and criminal organizations all seek to rule the frontier with steam driven iron fists. And amongst every faction pass the Gunfighters, deft pilots-for-hire, each with their own agenda.
This is the era of MechaWest…
Written by myself and Jeff Carter, and based on Chris Perrin’s core rpg system Mecha, with Wayne Humfleet and Mark Reed.
We have thirty days to reach our art and production goal. Please head over there and kick a buck.