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Duke Bushido

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Okay, folks--

 

for the two or three of you who were watching, I have started a new thread, primarily as a courtesy to those folks who kept seeing the "Fantasy HERO" section show new posts, only to be disappointed that it was yet another update on the scanning of Western HERO-- which, if you are one of the two or three who actually cared, is going quite well.  All pages are scanned, and about sixty of them have been fully corrected.  It won't be too long before I will be able to send Jason a decent PDF of the original book, for legal dispersal as he sees fit.  Hopefully, it will be offered as inexpensively as the other 4e books.

 

When that's done, I intend (doesn't mean it will happen soon, but it will happen eventually) to give Horror HERO the same treatment, as I have a donor copy of that as well.  "Why Western first?" you might ask if you didn't grow up watching cowboy movies in the second-run theater, or throwing yourself into your chores with wild abandon with the desperate hope that you might get done in time to watch Gunsmoke after supper?  Or maybe you didn't think Chuck Conners was all that cool making machine-gun fast deadly-accurate hip shots with with custom-cut Winchester repeater?

 

Well because wether you're a western fan or not, you're a HERO gamer, and Western HERO is not just a part of HERO's history, it's an extremely important part of HERO's history.  We all know that in third edition, there were actually a number of different games all using what was essentially Champions, rubbed smooth here, chiseled a bit there, re-named or re-worked a tiny bit to give each Power, each Skill-- each Advantage and Limitation that we know today as "HERO System" a bit of genre-inspired flavor.  Most of the five Children of Champions even had additional rules or brand-new Skills or Modifiers unique to their particular title.  Then Fourth Edition-- even I, a dyed-in-the-wool 2e player-- recognize what an amazing feat Fourth Edition was.  Fourth edition took everything from everywhere-- everything found in previous editions, previous Champions-rules games, and all the previously published material, re-polished and re-chiseled and re-named and re-branded everything until it worked into one cohesive system (except EDM.  That's just a bugbear no matter what you do with it) in which everything worked with everything else.  It was incredible!  Most incredible?  It was _completely_ backwards compatible!  Change END costs back to 1/5; change Range Modifiers back to what they were (usually 1/4) and bam!  old school could use all the new stuff, too.  It was a Golden Age for HERO, and one that I confess to missing terribly.

 

But life goes on until it doesn't!  Or, as my grandfather would tell me when I felt crushed, "it either kills you or it don't.  If it didn't, you can either keep going, or waste a hell of a lot of time and effort pretending that it did."  With the combining of all the rules into one book, HERO had, perhaps unintentionally; until I meet Bruce Harlick, I'll never know for sure, created a vacuum for those folks who played those Champions-based games that were not actually Champions.  Thus, the genre book was born-- there was a need for more specificity: how do I use the rules in this kind of game?  What are the core themes that make this genre a unique environment in which to play?

 

And all that room!  Those big, vast 200-page and more books!  Not only were there notes on the genre, but details and, when appropriate, histories of the genre, typical recurring themes of the genre, example characters, suggestions for running games over-all and your favorite genre in particular.  (Oddly, the closest we ever got to Justice, Inc was Dark Champions, and frankly-- that ain't real close.)  Still, as talented people set out to write these books, they would realize that the conventions of many genres required additional rules not in the new Fourth Edition rules.  Why not?  Well, when players opened a box labeled "Espionage!," they instinctively knew what the them was-- what the conventions were, and their mindset slipped into that with ease.  The rules had been custom-tailored to keep that feel all the way from learning to play to closing a ten-year campaign.  

 

It was much harder to get that feel if you _knew_ that you were using a flavor book to recolor a set of rules for a superhero game.  How to get that genre feel?  In addition to all the above-mentioned things, writers of these books often discovered things unique to that genre-- well, perhaps "unique" is too-strong a word.  They discovered things that were taken for granted in the main rules, but that were important to the flavor of a particular setting-- adding new Characteristics is an excellent example, as is Quick Draw and Hip Shot.  So these things were added as additional rules, right there in your genre book.  New Skills, new rules, new ideas-- all designed to custom build your unique genre-themed experience.  Steve Long would again, many years later, do what Harlick had done before him, and compile everything into one vast tome.  But even then, there were genre books.

 

The 5e genre books were full of exposition, and full of examples and ideas....  But they just didn't have the same feel as the 4e books.  The tiny print, the pages crammed with information overload, the general "sameness" of each book.  In spite of all the new genre books-- most of them larger than the entire Fourth Edition!-- they simply didn't have the same feel as those old books.  At the end of the day, they were exhaustive setting books.  There were a few new things here and there-- a new modifier or two, that sort of thing.  But there was just a bit of flavor missing.  Not the fault of Mr. Long, to be sure.  It felt more like his desire to cram in as much information as he could, as much finite detail as possible, was simply...  overwhelming.  There was just too much to make for fun light reading.  To be completely fair, they are _all_ far and above what I could have done; I lack the Speed Reading and Speed Writing perks that Mr. Long is blessed with, and they perfectly suit his "Research: 23-- " Skill Rolls.  I will also say, that in spite of my less-than-love for Fantasy, Tuala Morn was probably the most perfect support book written for 5e.  (I know: it's not a genre book; I hold it up as an example because, if I remember correctly, Mr. Long wrote it, and it was wonderful.  I want it to be abundantly clear that I am _not_ criticizing the most over-worked man in the gaming industry.  He's awesome!  We just have different tastes in books.  Period.)

 

But much like my Rule Books, I want my genre books punchy and easy to read, with suggestions and ideas taking a more even portion of the book with new rules, historical information, character examples, and campaign suggestions.  A nice even mixture, leaving plenty 

 

And that is one of the reasons I wanted to track down and permanently preserve the 4e genre books.  They are, to me and many other fans of the older editions, about as perfect as a genre book can be.  Not perfect (more on that in a minute), but very close.  So why did I decide to do Western HERO first?

 

Inspiration, I suppose.  It has always been my favorite genre book; I used it for almost any genre.  Why?  Well let's face it: whether it's "cool and trendy" or not in this day of "everything should be dark and cold and we political intrigue and morose and somber themes, the western is _still_ the quintessential format for American entertainment.  We don't see it as such, but even Tom Selleck in a loud Hawaiian shirt in an Italian sportscar was a cowboy sort of character, bucking the rules, using suave and charm to achieve his goals, and living how he wanted, when he wanted.  He saved poor damsels every week from the oppression of the big ranchers  uh, powerful men who would seek to crush them.  We like the strong-willed independent-- often downright hard-headed hero who triumphs because he is brave and tough and refuses to backdown; who wins simply because he is right, and that, my friends, is justice.  We like watching Charles Bronson go out into the mean streets and take on the bad guys, man-to-man, gun to gun.  No matter what the flavor of the movie is, we still crave the westerns.

 

Second, and most importantly: Western HERO, hands-down, was the single best genre book of 4e, period.  No; not because it's a western. Frankly, that, I think, is why it was so under-circulated.  People had already moved into the "westerns are dead" mindset, refusing to accept that a large chunk of what they really enjoyed was westerns with ray guns, or westerns with talking cars.  I say that Western HERO was the best because not only did it follow the formula that I dearly love: equal mixes of important information like settings, history, tropes, and themes, combined with GMing advice, playing advice and a few new ideas thrown in that we use to this day: Quick Draw, for example. More than that, it contained what we now call "Adventure Seeds."  Sturdy ones, too.  Not the two-sentence things we call by that name, but full paragraphs for each one, helping a new GM really get a grip on the idea, and just how he can use it for his current story, and modify it for recycling later.  There is an example adventure included that has maps-- not a map or two, but MAPS!  Lots of them!  Even a few smaller topographical maps (which, if you've never actually war-gamed, are really nice to gain that feel of range, isolation, cover, etc, when the shooting starts)  There is an _entire_ train in this book!  An entire town!  And, for good measure, a smaller nearly-ghost town.

 

The story is simple, but still lots of fun, and has tailoring suggestions for keeping it more-or-less on rails for newer players, or turning it into a full-fledged campaign.  It follows nearly all the tropes of a good western book or movie without making you feel like you are being "forced" into the setting.  Seriously, folks (at least, the two of you still reading at this point), this "sample adventure" is full enough and rich enough to have been marketed as a stand-alone adventure module (do we still call them that?)!

 

And if that wasn't enough, there's a campaign setting, too.  A starter campaign, set in the real historical town of Deadwood, complete with write-ups of many, many NPCs and real historical figures from the period.

 

HERO games, under any publisher, has never produced another genre book anywhere near the caliber of this book, and for reasons I don't even understand, I very much wanted to make sure that not only would I have a permanent archive of this book (after my shock to discover my own copy had walked away), I wanted to find a way to share it with everyone who never had a chance to at least decide for themselves wether or not they wanted it.

 

And that, friends and fellow fans, is why I'm doing Western HERO first.  I've got a couple of images of "progress so far" posted in the Fantasy HERO forums, under the thread "browsing through the HERO store," if you want to take a peek at my quality goals for this and other projects.

 

I was going to do an update, but I've done quite a bit of typing at this point.  Time to get back to work!

 

 

Duke

 

 

 

EDIT LIST:

 

Edit list has been cleared in preparation for Round 2

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Talk about “information overload!” :lol:

 

Was there a Western sourcebook for 3e? I remember being obsessed with Westerns before 4e came out, and I remember doing a lot of research for a Hero campaign, and I swear I had some book I was working from. Maybe I was retro-fitting Danger International. I don’t remember anymore, but I know I had a bunch of good stats on hand. Maybe my inner Steve Long was at work. I got a copy of Western Hero recently, thinking this was the book I worked with, and I quickly realized I’d never seen the book before. I’ve looked through all the books I have (and I’ve never gotten rid of or lost any of them), but I can’t find anything even closely resembling this genre book. Any ideas where I got all my Western stats from? It wasn’t Western Hero (although I now love this book).

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It may well have been the single-best western source book ever written (remember above I mentioned how Western HERO was _almost_ the best source book ever written on the subject? 

 

I don't remember which edition it was (I own it, and will check when I'm done working on the scans tonight), but anyone--and I mean _anyone_ wanting to seriously create a relatively accurate old west campaign needs this book. 

 

I originally bought it and two other game-related source books with the intention writing a supplemental western book with more history, more lifestyle information, expanded weapons lists, various jobs and delving deeper into the tropes- even splintering into types of Western from high cinema to trapping furs in the swamps. 

 

I figured with three actual gamebooks as guides for style (keep it brief, and full of information; layout and packaging is key; include maps and pictures, etc) and my local library and the nearby college library (which was, at that time, also open to the public), I could in six to eight months create a supplement to western HERO that would really fill in the gaps. 

 

Turns out, after about two months of research and copious note-taking, that such a book was already available.  It was the third game-centric book I bought, on the recommendation of two players from a group at the college. 

 

It was written by a woman whose name I _almost_ remember, and it was written for, I _think_ third edition GURPS.  It was titled simply enough GURPS: Old West. 

 

And that, my friends, is _the_ premiere western genre book.  If your serious about gaming in a frontier-type setting, and you can only afford one source book, I would suggest that one even over Western HERO.  Ideally, you'd have both, but that GURPS one has been the standard by which I judge all source books since the day I finished reading it. 

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35 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

My 80's group used DI, JI, and Boot Hill for the fluff.  Seems to me that there was something else we used for fluff as well, but I can't recall exactly what.  

 

Brian, approximately when was that?

 

Probably 1987or so. I remember getting a book from the library on old West stuff, but just for background info. I swear there was a Hero book I was using, but maybe I was just a lot more experimental and talented back then than I remember. 

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Thanks, Chris! 

 

Yeah, my eyes finally tanked for the night (don't get old; it's bad for you!) so I quit cleaning scans just a few minutes ago and went to the book shelf before I went totally blind. :lol:

 

It was indeed for GURPS 3e and was titled GURPS OLD WEST: Roleplaying on the American Frontier. 

 

It was written by Ann Dupuis, Liz Tornabene, Lynda Manning-Schwartz, and Rob Smith. 

 

Published by Steve Jackson games in 1991.

 

If you want a western source book, I can't recommend it enough. 

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1 hour ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Talk about “information overload!” :lol:

 

 

What can I say?  The more I typed, the longer my "break" was from cleaning up scans!   Let's face it, while the end goal and the final results are awesome things, the work leading up to that is tedious beyond measure. ;)

 

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Brian Stanfield said:

It wasn’t Western Hero (although I now love this book).

 

See?  I tell everyone that it really is one of _the_ books to have if you're using the HERO system-- though likely that doesn't matter as much, now that 5 and 6 have happened.  but even then: the campaign stuff alone is totally worth a read.  It's the single best genre book HERO ever put out, and one of their finest sourcebooks overall.

 

But most people, they here "Western" and their eyes just start to glaze over, waiting for you to finish speaking so they can change the subject. :(

 

 

Seriously, though: if you can get it cheap, pick up GURPS Old West for 3e.  You can't not need a sourcebook with write-ups for jackelopes!

(I can't explain it, but since I was a kid, I love a well-constructed jackelop.  Not the "stick the horns in the ears" cop-outs, but a really well done one.  I was absolutely crushed as a child when I realized that they weren't real).

 

 

 

On another note, 

 

While taking a break the other day to follow Joe's recommendation about submitting a better-quality PDF of 2e to Jason, I took some time to try to find that thing.  Haven't found it yet (again, the bulk of my personal time I want to spend on WH until it's done),but I did find a lot of the original scans upon which that PDF was built.  I've been taking periods of time to short to do anything constructive on WH to move them from the various diskettes and minidisks upon which they were stashed and move them to a flash drive (and convert them from jpg to PNG.  I wish I had known more about that sort of thing when I first did them.  Man, do jpegs just _grow_ noise in storage?  I'm not really cleaning them up much (yet), just getting any glaring issues.  If I can't find the original PDF, I'll clean them up and compile them to make another one.

 

But (if this works; I screwed up the other day) I'd like to offer a couple samples for comparison to what was in the BOH, just so folks know _why_ I want to get a better copy out there:

 

 

2ep2_p007.png

2ep2_p005.png

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My apologies; that came out totally wrong.

 

The scan of 2e in the BOH was a decent scan.  When I say "get a better copy out there," I mean of _everything_, and by better I mean "archival quality," : something worth preserving for years and years; something from which new books could be printed.

 

I did _not_ mean to imply any insult toward any of the folks who went to the work to scan their own material so that those without any copies could now have one.  Upon re-reading my post, I realized immediately that it did not sound exactly the same to the eye as it did to the pleading in my heart.

 

I am seriously, whole-heatedly sorry if anyone took it that way.

 

 

Duke

 

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9 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

(I can't explain it, but since I was a kid, I love a well-constructed jackelop.  Not the "stick the horns in the ears" cop-outs, but a really well done one.  I was absolutely crushed as a child when I realized that they weren't real).

 

Me too. When I was a kid Dad was on the road and sent a postcard from Wyoming with a jackelope on it. I was so disappointed when I found out they weren’t real. And why the heck aren’t they showing up in every single fantasy game out there? I mean, an angry antlered jack rabbit?! Crossed with Monty Python’s killer rabbit? I mean, c’mon man!

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I've used them when coaxed to do fantasy (twice.  In my life).  I make them more a thinly forested or rocky plains herd animal.  Relatively harmless unless cornered or the herd is frightened.  Focusing more on the "elope" part seems to tickle the players when they're expecting the focus on the "jack" part. :)

 

And it's really, really hard to _not_ include them in Westerns.  Did manage to include them in an western / occult thing we were doing.  Magic creatures, don't ya know. ;)

 

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Duke, I’ve been haunting the FH boards and have watched your progress. The statement above was eloquent and covered what was great about those 4e genre books.  Also, the writing quality of the GURPS books was uneven, but pretty high quality, mostly. I would pick them up of the topic interested me.

 

But as to Westerns...

I recently got out of a Post Trauma Care/Convalescent Facility after almost two months.  I was there, recovering and getting physical therapy so I could walk again. I was put into a room with a man a couple of years older than me, who had suffered some slight brain damage, but was blessedly quiet, quiet except for his TV. He kept that thing on 24/7, on fairly loud, and on only one channel, called Heroes & Icons. Cop shows and procedurals during the mid day, Every flavor of Star Trek at night, Hercules, and Xena Warrior Princess, in the wee small hours. It was on constantly. The TV,  plus the hourly checking of vital signs messed up my sleep for a few weeks until I got used to it.  However in the early morning until 11:00am, they would run Westerns. Now I was born too late for Westerns on first run TV, except Bonanza, and a few dimly remembered episodes of Gunsmoke (which at the time I thought was too talky.). By then, TV was at the tail end of the spy craze, with that genre sliding into parody with Get Smart, and The Avengers (The one with Diana Rigg, not Chris Evans). I had watched Star Trek in first run, and Lost in Space, so I have a lot of nostalgia for late 60’s, and early 70’s TV. (Don’t get me started on cartoons). I had completely missed the heyday or the TV Western. 

 

So so lying in bed, waiting for my morning pills and breakfast to arrive, I received an education in the TV Western. Starting with Cheyenne, continuing through Maverick, both Brett and Bart, and continuing through, Have Gun-Will Travel, and Wanted:Dead or Alive with a young Steve McQueen, then Rawhide with an even younger Clint Eastwood, then wrapping up with High Chaparral. There were also occasions episodes of The Cisco Kid, which of them seemed the most antique. All of these  shows were black and white, save High Chaparrall, and explained why these had vanished from view, due to the push for color television. 

 

What I noticed and grew to appreciate was how well the shows held my attention, how clear the stakes were , and even with some of the shows having a limited premise, still managed to tell widely varied stories. They could imply an epic scope, or endless isolation with just a man, a horse, and empty scenery stretching for miles and miles. They did this on a television budget, and swapped character actors, and reused sets between the shows, and as someone that has worked in Hollywood, I appreciated how well they concealed their limitations , and how well photographed they were. It all seemed to me, as with most good television, all down to the scripts. The shows were either a half hour, or an hour, but  were tightly told. A big bonus for me, was every show had a body count. Having seen cartoons with body counts before the 1969 moral panic that spawned Action for Children’s Television, that that  ruined animated entertainment for 10 years or so, and then getting violent cop shows nerfed, or moved after 9:00 it was refreshing to see pre-boycott television telling direct stories with high stakes, and deadly consequences again. Now I see why TV in the 1950’s was dominated by the Westerns.  Most of them hold up today, aside from some dated attitudes, which I honestly don’t mind. 

 

I never really thought about Westerns during my active gaming career, by then they were considered passe’ and vanished from TV and theaters, until that lye 80’s film whose name escapes me, (Edit: yes it was Silverado) and then Lonsome Dove. Sure we

played Boot Hill, with Dynamite being the weapon of choice, but all of our group were of the same age and also missed the Western, and so had no idea of anything but the basic tropes and still had a heavy D&D  attitude  when it came to tabletop games of any sort(until Champions).So I think that the value of the book, especially the campaign and GM's advice are necessary to familiarize Hero players my age and younger, what the genre framework is, and how to keep things not only on track but within the flavor.  In short, thank you for the hard work, and I forward to picking up a copy, to sit next to my Strike  Force, and Lands of Mystery

 

 

Edited by Scott Ruggels
EDIT correcting mistakes because of iPhone touch screen typing. As well as adding the name of Silverado.

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Thank you, Scott.

 

That was well-thought-out, and insightful.  An excellent addition to the commentary on the value of the western overall.  As it comes directly from someone seeing the genre for the first time, and already well-acquainted with what has replaced it, I find it particularly poignant. 

 

For what it's worth, "Paladin" was a favorite from my youth, as was Have Gun; Will Travel (you can almost see the underpinnings of the A-Team and Knight Rider concepts in that show's story mechanics).  If you have the chance to watch a few, I'd recommend it.  Wagon Train was hit-or-miss on greatness, but was always pretty solid.  And while in recent years Louis L'amour has taken a beating in pop culture, the fact that his books _still sell_ says a lot about the appeal of basic themes of the western.

 

 

Obviously I can't just pass out copies of a GURPS book, but if I get some time, I may start writing up some conversions for things from Old West.  Does anyone know where I might start reading some Characteristics / Skill levels / damage class type conversion material for research?

 

Thanks again, Scott.

 

 

Duke

 

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41 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

Does anyone know where I might start reading some Characteristics / Skill levels / damage class type conversion material for research?

 

THIS is the work I was doing decades ago. Again, I swear I had some data I was working with, but I may have simply been extrapolating from the guns in Danger International. The equipment guide (5e and 6e are identical) may give some good information that you could extrapolate from. 

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1 hour ago, Scott Ruggels said:

by then they were considered passe’ and vanished fro mTV and theaters, until that lye 80’s film whose name escapes me

 

Maybe you’re referring to Silverado? That and Pale Rider came out in ‘85. My dad took me on our first father-son night to see Pale Rider, so it always has a soft spot in my heart. Silverado was a crazy ensemble cast, and my friends and I went to see that on our own, so it felt like the next generation got it’s own rebirth of the Western. Then of course Young Guns came out in ‘88. It seems like there were a couple of others during that time, but I can’t remember. It was only a few years later that Unforgiven happened, and then a smattering of different genre-bending Westerns in the later ‘90s and early aughts. 

 

It it seems there are always Westerns popping up. It’s never quite gone as a genre because people still imagine themselves as modern adventurers in the vast wilderness with nothing but their wits and their gun(s) to fight evil. That is a common theme in so much of our popular culture, with the Western thinly disguised or simply re-skinned to fit whatever trope. Heck, every martial arts film is a Western in spirit.  

 

Anyway, this is all to say that I’m not convinced the Western is dead as a genre. It just needs to get teased out a little bit. Hopefully this project will do some of the teasing. 

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14 minutes ago, Brian Stanfield said:

 

THIS is the work I was doing decades ago. Again, I swear I had some data I was working with, but I may have simply been extrapolating from the guns in Danger International. The equipment guide (5e and 6e are identical) may give some good information that you could extrapolate from. 

 

Some other sources from back in the day may have been the multi-system modern weapons guide (I can't remember the title) from a publisher appropriately called The Armory, the original Golden Age of Champions by Chris Cloutier, or Justice Inc.  Could one of those have been it?

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15 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

 

Some other sources from back in the day may have been the multi-system modern weapons guide (I can't remember the title) from a publisher appropriately called The Armory, the original Golden Age of Champions by Chris Cloutier, or Justice Inc.  Could one of those have been it?

 

It could have been a combination of the small arms in Justice, Inc. and Danger International. I probably did a lot more reading of other books and used what little I had available in those two books to build on. If Western Hero didn’t exist before 4e, then it wasn’t a game book I was using because the only other stuff I had was D&D. 

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46 minutes ago, Brian Stanfield said:

 

It could have been a combination of the small arms in Justice, Inc. and Danger International. I probably did a lot more reading of other books and used what little I had available in those two books to build on. If Western Hero didn’t exist before 4e, then it wasn’t a game book I was using because the only other stuff I had was D&D. 

 

This is the book I was thinking of.  It's actually called "The Armory Volume 1".  Does that look familiar?  I know it had Hero stats in it.

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Verrrrrrreerery familiar with Kevin Dockery’s The Armory  It was at the time the best Cold War and before weapons reference for gamers. Yes; it had HERO 3e stats. Man, I loved that book. It was very comprehensive; and spurred our little group to scour reloading manuals to find oddball Calibers to get to breakpoints in damage dice. Using Dockery’s formulas we figured out that 7.7mm Arisaka was 2.5D6/ compared to 2D6+1 for .30-06 (and I just happened to have a Type95 Arisaka rifle bought from a former teacher of mine). The book was fairly

well researched as far as I could tell, but it was very useful for people with limited firearm experience. 

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It's all good; I found what you're talking about. I have a friend who has been an afrtemath GM since the eighties; I remember he had that book way back when.  I'll have to see if he still has it. 

 

Thanks for the heads-up.  You don't happen to know if someone offers a pdf, would you? 

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13 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

It's all good; I found what you're talking about. I have a friend who has been an afrtemath GM since the eighties; I remember he had that book way back when.  I'll have to see if he still has it. 

 

Thanks for the heads-up.  You don't happen to know if someone offers a pdf, would you? 

 

I fixed the link above, which goes to Amazon; try it again.

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1 hour ago, Duke Bushido said:

It's all good; I found what you're talking about. I have a friend who has been an afrtemath GM since the eighties; I remember he had that book way back when.  I'll have to see if he still has it. 

 

Thanks for the heads-up.  You don't happen to know if someone offers a pdf, would you? 

 

Actually I just noticed that it's in the Bundle of Holding!

 

Edit to add:  It has pretty much all of the firearms you'd expect to see in the Western milieu.  The .44 New Model Army revolver, the Colt M1873, the Sharps rifle, the Gatling.

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