Thursday, January 20, 2022

Owl Hoot Trail in the 2022 Character Creation Challenger

On day 20 of the #CharacterCreationChallenge we hit my current favorite western

I'd heard of tis game when it came out and it’s a shame it took me 9 years to actually get it. But now that I have it, it's delightful. Another game from Clinton R Nixon (responsible for The Shadows of Yesterday from earlier in the challenge), he's joined by Kevin Kulp, who wrote Timewatch, which I’ll get to later in the month. To ride the Owl Hoot Trail is western slang for being a bandit, probably due to travelling at night. 

OHT is a retroclone of Basic/Expert D&D, it has just enough of the usual 21st century modifications and borrows from 3E just enough (ascending armor classes that match the target number, some of the class mechanics) to fill in obvious gaps. It also uses the flat +1 to all actions per level that 13th age uses to cut through a lot of faffing about. 

You start by picking a race (Human, half'in, hillfolk (dwarves), orc, shee (elves)) and an origin (Greenhorns grew up in cities so +1 Learning); Natives grew up in the wilds or small outposts so +1 wilderness) before picking a class. Classes are western chromed D&D classes: Gunslingers are fighters, Marshals are paladins, Ruffians are barbarians, Scouts are rangers, Scoundrels are rogues, Preachers are clerics, Shamans are druids, with Gadgeteers and Mentalists splitting the wizard spells lists. Those spell lists are also reskinned Basic D&D spells, to the point of Horseless Freightwagon being the gadgeteers version of Floating Disk. It makes the spell lists immediately recognizable to an old school player, and I admit I laughed quite a bit at the translations. The minimalist class design also evoked Basic/Expert D&D is a very good way, while still carrying in some 3E and later designs. 

Characteristics are stripped down to three – Grit, Draw, Wits – which are more or less Str & Con, Dex & Int, and Wis & Int, with possible applications of Charisma for all three. There are only 5 skills – Amity, Learning, Toughness, Wile, and Wilderness – with a good list to show how each skill works with each characteristic to give 15-20 off the top of the head applications. Grist + Learning, for example, is medicine, while Draw + Learning is being able to quote the law or recognize clues, and Wits + Learning is knowing obscure stuff, translation, or history. It's an elegant way to keep the character minimalist while still more distinct skill wise than a basic D&D character. 

OHT doesn't bother with the 3-18 scale, instead just having the die modifiers. Each attribute runs from -1 to +4. You start with 3 points, can drop one characteristic to -1 to redistribute to another one, and most races give a +1 bonus to one characteristic and 1 skill (except humans, who have +1 on all skills, but no characteristic bonus). Your starting skills are all at your level plus a any from class or race. No points to distribute. 

The rulebook also gives some handy random name tables for NPCs, which I used to make my Orc Preacher. I love clerics, and we're familiar with my preference for strong PCs, and I wanted to see what the Orcs (the most rules complex race) and a spellcasting class looks like. 

David Elliott, nicknamed Astral for his tendency to stare at the heavens at night, is an itinerant exorcist. Some preachers wander speaking the word of god to save men's souls. David good with that, but his real calling is putting the dead back in their graves. He's not a quick fellow for people to warm to, but when a town needs help he's highly skilled at putting a posse together to find the skeletons, zombies, and maybe even vampires and showing them the light of heaven… or sending them back to hell. David will even stitch you back up afterwards, free of charge. 

He travels with his mule, Judges 15:15-17, which has been with him for a long time and is showing his years. He also carries a 10lb sledge that he'll use to earn his supper if there aren't any undead around, or to deal with them if they are. Judges carries the rest of his gear, saving the pocket holy book.

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