A few weeks ago I began writing a supplment I had long planned for my GRIT & VIGOR rules concerning the “Old West”. I’d been working on the High Frontier supplement, which covers the retro-future imagined for the late 20th century (now in editing – hopefully ready soon) and was cleaning up the G&V file folders. That led me to opening a few files to see what was in them, which led to doing some organization in an “Old West” word document, which led to .. well, let’s say I’m about 50% finished with writing the supplement now, when I should have been completing other projects (i.e. NOD 36 and Gods & Legends).
One element I needed for the Old West supplement was rules for saloon fights, which I’d written up for generic Old School fantasy games a few years back (2012, to be precise). I hadn’t looked up the old post yet when I got an email mentioning that I’d left something off a table in that article, and would I please update it. Strange coincidence!
So, here are the rules as modified (just slightly) for the Old West supplement. The updated table (the first one) is suitable for the old post and use in fantasy games (or sci-fi games if you want to host a slugfest in the Mos Eisley Cantina).
A staple of western movies and television shows, especially those of a less serious nature, is the saloon fight. Sometimes it starts with an insult, or sometimes with an accidental bump, but in no time at all an epic free-for-all slugfest erupts.
Running something like this in a game is difficult because there are so many moving parts. These rules are designed to make it easier.
The first thing to determine is the size of the brawl. If you do not know how many brawlers are present, you can roll dice and consult the table below:
|D6||Fight Size||Combatants||Hit Points|
|1||Kerfuffle||6 to 10||3d6|
|2-3||Dust-up||11 to 20||6d6|
|4-5||Donnybrook||21 to 30||9d6|
Hit Points in the table above refers to the total hit points of the crowd of combatants. When the crowd’s hit points are reduced to zero, the saloon fight is over because all the non-PC combatants have either fled, are unconscious or are otherwise unable to fight.
While the fight is still happening, characters can choose one of the following actions each round:
Fight: Character jumps into the fight with feet and fists flying – he’ll take all comers
Flee: Character tries to scramble out of the fight
Hide: Character hides under a table or behind the bar
Loot: Character wades through the fight picking pockets or stealing drinks
Seek: Character wades through the fight looking for a specific target; the target could be a person or an item
The VM rolls 1d10 and checks the matrix below, cross-referencing the roll with each character’s stated action. Any time a character suffers damage, they must pass a Fortitude saving throw with a penalty equal to the damage suffered to avoid being either stunned for 1d3 rounds or knocked unconscious for 1d10 minutes. There is a 50% chance of either. A stunned character is considered to have chosen “Hide” as his action each round he is stunned.
The letter codes are as follows:
A is for “Attacked”: The character is attacked by other combatants, and can attack them back. Roll 1d6:
|1||AC 10, ATK +0, DMG 1d2|
|2||AC 11, ATK +1, DMG 1d2+1|
|3||AC 12, ATK +2, DMG 1d2+1|
|4||AC 13, ATK +3, DMG 1d2+2|
|5||AC 14, ATK +4, DMG 1d2+2|
|6||Attacked by two combatants, roll 1d4 to determine each attacker’s stats. If both attackers attack successfully, the PC must make a Reflex saving throw or be lifted and thrown. Roll 1d6 for the effect:|
Lifted and Thrown Sub-Table
|1-2||Slid down the bar for additional 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone|
|3-4||Thrown out door and into street for 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone|
|5||Thrown out window and into street for 2d4 points of damage and knocked prone|
|6||Thrown off balcony or stairs onto a table, suffering 2d6 points of damage and knocked prone; if this doesn’t make sense, re-roll|
B is for “Bystander”: The character catches sight of an innocent (or not) bystander
|1-2||Child hiding from the fight; good characters must attempt to save them by fleeing|
|3-4||Saloon girl motions you to a door; you must “Seek” to get there, and once inside consult the Saloon Girl sub-table below|
|5-6||A damsel faints, roll under Dexterity to catch her for 100 XP; you now fight with a -2 penalty to hit|
Saloon Girl Sub-Table
|1-2||Quit the fight and do some wooing and cooing (50% chance of being slipped a Mickey or simply being pick pocketed, 10% chance you are hunted down by a jealous lover afterwards) – either way, you earn XP per a 3 HD monster you dog!|
|3-4||Suckered into an ambush, roll as per “A” above, but roll 1d3+3, and you don’t get to hit back|
|5-6||Punched by the girl/guy (AC 10, attack at +1, 1d2 points of damage) – this is a surprise attack, so you don’t get to hit back|
F is or “Flying Debris”: The character is struck by flying debris; boxers can attempt a Reflex saving throw to avoid it, but all others roll 1d6:
|1-3||Hit by bottle for 1d3 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious|
|4-5||Hit by chair for 1d6 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious|
|6||Hit by a flying body for 2d4 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious; if a compatriot was thrown this round, you were hit by them|
L is for “Looting”: The character acquires some loot – roll 1d6:
|1||Acquire a single mug of beer or a shot of whiskey|
|2-3||Pick pocket check to acquire 50¢ or its equivalent|
|4||Pick pocket check to acquire $1 or its equivalent|
|5||Pick pocket check to acquire $10 or its equivalent|
|6||Pick pocket check to acquire a treasure map or some other plot device; only use this once!|
On a failed pick pockets roll, you are instead attacked – see “A” above.
M is for “Move”: The character moves 1d10 feet to-wards his chosen exit.
N is for “Nothing”: Nothing happens to you this round, nor do you get to do anything
R is for “Reach Target”: Character reaches the target they were looking for!
Break It Up!
Each round of the saloon fight there is a 5% chance that the town sheriff and his deputies (or deputized citizens) shows up to break things up. The number of deputies depends on the size of the town – use your best judgment – but they are armed with pistols and are willing to use them to restore order.
Combatants, including the player characters, are arrested unless they find a way to sneak out. If the sheriff is on his way, there is a 50% chance that some old coot yells “Sheriff’s coming!” the round before to give the combatants a chance to flee.
Bringing a Gun to a Fist Fight
Pulling a knife or gun during a fist fight is a cowardly and low-down act, and results in you being avoided by other combatants for the duration and suffering a -4 penalty to reactions in this town in the future.
Death and Dismemberment
Saloon fights should not result in PC death, because death just is not the point of these things. At 0 hit points, a character is knocked out and awakens in jail.