Wild West

Frontier 5e – Campaign Setting Overview (Part 1)

This week we have a guest post from Dale Easterling that looks at running a Wild West campaign for D&D 5e.

Part 1 | Part 2

“In the past, that is now lost forever, there was a time when the land was sacred, and the ancient ones were as one with it. A time when only the children of the great spirit were here, to light their fires in these places with no boundaries, when the forests were as thick as the fur of the winter bear, and when a warrior could walk from horizon to horizon on the backs of the buffalo. And that time when there were only simple ways, I saw with my heart the conflicts to come, and whether it would be for good or bad, there was one thing certain; there would be change.”

This is the Wild West, a land of adventure and a time of romance. Cowboys roam the plains driving cattle. Gamblers and prostitutes profit from boom towns that rise and fall nearly overnight. Salesmen peddle their wares, while lawmen try their best to keep the peace – yet it scarcely takes more than a stolen horse or bad hand of poker to put bodies in the ground.

Frontier is a homebrew campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying game, utilizing the rule set of the new Basic or 5th Edition. In this unofficial publication, you will find unique cultures, classes, backgrounds, equipment, and sample characters to create your own characters in this wild setting. While aspects of the core rules can be utilized, and some are referenced, Frontier is intended to be a stand-alone setting with its own rule set.

PUBLISHING HISTORY

For years I had tossed around the idea of running a D&D style campaign set in the Wild West. Unfortunately most of the game systems were a little complex for my liking, and even harder to explain to new players. When I discovered D&D 5th Edition, I at last had found a quick and easy – and popular – foundation for Frontier.

My first foray into D&D conversions and supplements was actually Star Wars 5e in late 2015 and its follow-up Starships Expansion. Both were incredible learning experiences, and the feedback I got from playtesters and gamers was incredible. It prompted me to finally write Frontier, my first original product in April of 2016. I went on to publish the PDF on DriveThruRPG.com, and its success has been nothing short but amazing and inspiring.

THE LAND

  • The West stretches from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, from the northern plains to the Rio Grande — more than two million square miles of the most extraordinary landscape on earth.
  • It is a land of broad rivers and vast deserts, deep canyons and impenetrable mountains, boundless prairies and endless forests, a place where huge monoliths and boiling waters rise naturally from the earth.
  • People have come to the West from every point of the compass. To the Spanish, who traveled up from Mexico, it was the North. British and French explorers arrived by coming south; the Chinese and Russians, by going east. But to the people who already lived here, it was home. It was the Americans, the last to arrive, who named it the West.
  • Cities and settlements can be found in every locale imaginable – from rolling hills to arid deserts, rocky canyons to river crossings. Anywhere there is gold to be found, riches made, and adventure sought, you will find settlers to do it.
  • In terms of technology and references, Frontier is set roughly between the years of 1860-1890 A.D in the American West.

MAGICLESS HISTORY

Because Frontier is based on history, unlike traditional Dungeons & Dragons settings, there is no magic. All of the classes and features in the setting have more practical builds – such as smiths, outlaws, and hunters.

Healing is accomplished by herbs, medicine, and bolstering morale. For this reason, doctors and medics provide a vital role as adventurers cannot simply heal one another with magic. Also for this reason, care should be taken when damage or death are possibilities. Shoot-outs and bounty hunts may seem glamorous, but can quickly land even the sharpest shooter in hot water. Impulsive and trigger-happy folks tend to have a shorter life expectancy than most – which is saying something.

CULTURES

All characters in Frontier, hero and villain alike, are human. Instead of races in the traditional RPG sense, this setting uses cultures.

THIS SECTION HAS BEEN REMOVED AND IS BEING REVIEWED BY OUR TEAM AGAINST OUR INTERNAL CONTENT GUIDELINES.

CLASSES

In the Frontier campaign setting, there are 8 unique classes from which players can choose when creating characters. These classes include the Brawler, Cowboy, Gunfighter, Healer, Hunter, Performer, Smith, and Soldier.

Because Frontier uses the Dungeons & Dragons 5e rule set, standard D&D classes would mechanically apply. Thematically, however, they would not as in Frontier there is no magic. Also, many of the D&D classes have been dismantled and reincorporated into the Frontier setting classes, so there is a probability of redundancy.

Class Description Hit Die Primary Ability Saving Throw Proficiencies Weapon Proficiencies
Brawler A hand-to-hand combatant who prefers fists to guns d10 Strength or Dexterity Strength & Dexterity Simple weapons, unarmed
Gunfighter A pistol-packing quick draw and sharpshooter d10 Dexterity and Charisma Dexterity & Charisma Pistols, rifles
Healer A wise ally able to bolster the mind, body, and soul d6 Wisdom Wisdom & Charisma Simple weapons
Horseman An expert rider and roper who excels in a group d8 Dexterity Dexterity & Wisdom Simple weapons, pistols
Hunter A scout and warrior who uses stealth and nature to survive in the wilds d8 Dexterity and Wisdom Dexterity & Constitution Simple weapons, pistols, rifles
Soldier A military-trained fighter and master of combat strategy d12 Intelligence and Charisma Intelligence & Charisma Simple and martial weapons, pistols, rifles

BRAWLER

  • Whether by choice or necessity, brawlers eschew guns and arrows for up-close combat. Many prefer the honor or skill involved in facing their enemies in person, while others have simply learned to defend themselves in close quarters.
  • Brawlers have a particular style that suits them best, which includes which weapons they prefer to use. Some prefer to use their bare hands, others a signature weapon, and still others use whatever happens to be laying around. Whatever the weapon, brawlers become so adept in its use that no one else could hope to match their skill and effectiveness with them.
  • Brawling Style include Drunkard , Martial Artist, and Rager.

GUNFIGHTER

  • Whether notorious or legendary, anonymous or infamous, those who live and die by the gun permeate every corner of the West. Some seek to make a name for themselves with their gun slinging skills, while others simply look to defend themselves and make a coin or two in the process.
  • It takes a certain kind of person to kill a man. Some enjoy the thrill of a gun fight, while others are simply doing a job. But every time they draw their trusty sidearm, a gunfighter either plans to kill or plans to die. Most of the time, it’s both.
    Gunfighter Archetypes include Drifter, Lawman, and Outlaw.

HEALER

  • The frontier is a dangerous place, and healers do their best to make things slightly less so. Whether spiritual counselors or field medics, their calling is to heal the wounded and uplift the downtrodden. Many find their mission a glorious one, while others frantically rush to mend an ever-increasing flood of wounded patients.
  • The life of a healer is not a glamorous one, by any stretch of the imagination. While tales are told around campfires of rough-riding outlaws and fearless warriors, few mention the unsung caretakers and spiritual advisors of the land. Theirs is a path of self-sacrifice, putting themselves in harm’s way and risking their health in the face of disease and inclement weather, all for the simple sake of keeping their fellow man alive. Healers do not ask for much, yet they are constantly in demand.
  • Healer Specialties include Doctor, Medicine Man, Priest, and Singer.

HORSEMAN

  • From rope-twirling ranchers to arrow-firing scouts, the horse is undoubtedly the symbol of the Wild West – and those who ride them the face. Masters of the mustangs, horsemen forge a living across some of the harshest land in the frontier.
  • Like the cattle and horses they drive, horsemen work best as a team. They can steer and corral beasts of burden better than anyone, and their speed and maneuverability make them invaluable assets in any army. Horsemen use practiced skill and unshakeable teamwork to make a living and defend their lands.
  • Horseman Breeds include Caballero, Cavalry, and Cowboy.

HUNTER

  • Hunters are masters of the ranged kill, scouts and trackers who use stealth and surprise to take out their quarry. Whether that quarry is human or animal, hunters prefer to remain unseen and use precision over brute strength or aggression.
  • To many, hunters are like ghosts that haunt the forests and plains of the frontier. They are ambushers, stalking their prey and delivering killing blows in silence. Some are guerilla soldiers, shadows who race through the trees to evade enemies.
  • Others are simply common folk who prefer to stay as far away from combat as possible. Still others are more brazen, chasing down their enemies with speed and precision.
  • Hunter Archetypes include Archer, Scout, and Trapper.

SOLDIER

  • Wandering veterans, wagon train protectors, valiant commanders, hardened mercenaries, and fearless braves – as soldiers, they all share an unparalleled mastery with weapons, and a thorough knowledge of the skills of combat. And they are well acquainted with death, both meting it out and staring it down.
  • Not every member of the city militia, the village skirmishers, or the United States Army is a soldier. Most of these troops are relatively untrained fighters with only the most basic combat knowledge. Veteran infantrymen, military officers, trained bodyguards, bounty hunters, and similar figures are fighters.
  • Soldier Archetypes include Champion, Commander, and Infantry .

NEXT TIME…

In the next installment, I’ll get into some of the unique mechanics of Frontier – including rules for drinking, gambling, new backgrounds, and more!

ABOUT THE GUEST AUTHOR

Dale Easterling has been writing for nearly two decades and gaming for one. In 2015 he converged the two, writing and adapting campaign settings, storylines, and other supplements. His work can be found at: http://fedorable1.wixsite.com/btdpress

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  • Dale Easterling

    Wow! So excited to share this, and the reception has been amazing. My first full campaign module, Dead Man’s Hand, is in development. News to come!

  • Shawn E.

    Dale, thanks for the guest post!

  • Manos Ti

    This looks really promising!!!

    Any chance we see a class overview for the Performer as well? It seems that it was missed out initially.

  • lochinvar

    This is… not really okay. Not at all. Starting with calling the “White Europeans” “Americans”, like others aren’t. I think I see what you’re trying to do here, but yeah, that first paragraph is just…a non-starter for me.

    • Shawn E.

      Hi, this is a guest post. That being as editor, I should have looked at this content harder before posting.

      I have removed the cultures section from this post.

    • lochinvar

      …without them, it actually looks pretty playable. Worst case, I guess add +2 to 2 stats.

    • WillofTheGods

      Well, I guess those White Europeans were calling themselves ‘American’ by the time of independence. And I doubt the Shawnee or Cherokee were calling themselves American at this time. But I get why you would have a problem with it. I can’t really comment as I didn’t see this section before it was removed.

    • Shawn E.

      The author decided that the cultures section, even if rewritten, wasn’t really needed. Feedback is always good.

  • I have removed the Cultures chapter entirely from the book. Thank you all for the feedback!

  • Jessterr

    Performer and Smith are listed in the chart but not described below or in the PDF. Where are these two classes?

    • The chart above is outdated. I have informed Tribality, and hopefully they will correct the discrepancy soon. Sorry for the confusion.

    • Shawn E.

      change has been made.

  • Richard Smith

    The frontier of the American West was shaped by culture clashes. Natives vs. settlers, conflict between immigrants from different nations, slaveholder vs. abolitionist, and a bunch of different hardcore religious groups… I don’t know how you could present this as a setting without material on culture, or why you’d want to. This was an insensitive time and an unforgiving place, where people tended to be ruthless to anyone they saw as a “them” instead of an “us.” Makes for great stories, with foul villains and textured protagonists, where a man with no name can find redemption or get what he deserves.
    I don’t think trying to sanitize the wild west is a good idea, at all. I didn’t see the cultures bit before it got the axe, but prior to 1789 (when the 14th amendment was passed) America was (by law) very much a nation of mostly white European immigrants, and it’s not as if everything changed overnight thereafter. The truth is that a lot of people and social institutions were pretty horrible at the time, which makes it a great RPG setting because your character can raise hell and still be the hero.
    I say leave it wild, nasty, unjust, and basically horrible. Let the players, through their actions, bring peace and justice to a place that would not otherwise have it. I get that some folks will be offended – it (like most periods of real world history) was an offensive time. That’s the point – grab a six-shooter and a bullwhip and become the change you’re looking for.

  • Shawn E.
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