Following is an overview for Chaps & AppsTM, my treatment for a science fiction roleplaying game with Wild West elements that I created in response to Will Thrasher's "Sci-Fi Western Challenge" for the "d-Infinity Live!" weekly gaming webcast! Will and I also shot a bonus episode of the show in which we discuss his challenge and the way I addressed it. As an overlay to an existing game system, it can pretty much be played to some extent even in this vestigial state, the one conspicuous deficiency being a lack of Apps, title elements that enable upgrades to weapons and other equipment; a half dozen sample ones appear here but, like spells in a fantasy game, these can be expanded almost indefinitely.
Chaps & AppsTM
Chaps & AppsTM(C&ATM) is a science-fiction role-playing game that heavily incorporates archetypal elements from the Old West. It uses a modified version of the 5th Edition OGL system that primarily uses d4s, d8s, and d12s (and does not use d6s, d10s, or d20s at all).
C&ATM is set in a futuristic universe that has become dominated by a powerful political alliance of Asiatic powers. It is an extremely homogenized world in which human beings have largely been stripped of their individuality and which has had an aesthetic inspired by 19th century American frontier culture arbitrarily and artificially imposed upon it.
Characters in C&ATM organize themselves into adventuring parties called "posses" for purposes of engaging in all sorts of adventures, which might include salvaging derelict spacecraft, tracking down wanted criminals, and finding lost mining colonies. As characters gain experience, advance in level, and obtain more resources they not only gain more abilities, they also have the opportunity to become more individualized and break out of the limitations imposed upon them by their society.
Character Races, Classes, and Genders
Only one race is available to starting characters, the Panhuman, a genetically modified form of Human that has been given what its creators consider to be a uniform and idealized appearance, that of Caucasians of Western European origin.
Four basic player character classes exist in C&ATM, each corresponding to a different gender, and these are the Cowboy, Moll, Gunslinger, and Squint.
Cowboys are male characters who dress in a manner suggestive of their label and can hold a number of appropriate vocations, including spacecraft captain, smuggler, and bounty hunter (but never actually herding cattle, an occupation that no longer exists). Their primary attribute is Charisma and they are typically the leaders and spokesmen of player character posses. Cowboys receive 10 hit points plus Constitution bonus at 1st level and an additional 5 hit points plus Constitution bonus at each subsequent level.
Skills: Choose three skills from Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Intimidation, Perception, Operate Device* (e.g., spaceship, STEED, heavy equipment), and Persuasion.
Special: Once in between each Short Rest, a Cowboy can use its Charisma modifier instead of that for any other ability score (e.g., instead of Dexterity for a firearm attack).
Molls are female characters who pretty much dress like whores and who generally serve in that capacity to one extent or another, typically while being righteously indignant about it and aggressively pursuing a feminist agenda. They might also be skilled as school marms, bartenders, physicians, and the like. Their back stories often include being violated by villains who have killed all of their male kinfolk. Their primary attribute is Wisdom and they generally serve as moderating influences and sources of common sense. Molls receive 8 hit points plus Constitution bonus at 1st level and an additional 4 hit points plus Constitution bonus at each subsequent level.
Skills: Choose four skills from Deception, Insight, Investigation, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, and Sleight of Hand.
Gunslingers are hermaphroditic characters who at a glance appear to be rugged, handsome women, but who dress like Cowboys and also have robust sets of male genitalia. Their primary attribute is Strength and they typically serve as frontline combatants, bouncers, enforcers, prizefighters, and the like. Gunslingers receive 12 hit points plus Constitution bonus at 1st level and an additional 6 hit points plus Constitution bonus at each subsequent level.
Skills: Choose two skills from Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival.
Squints are sexless characters who are prodigies at all sorts of technical skills. They are the only sorts of player characters who do not tend to wear Western-style garb and might be dressed variously in sansabelt jumpsuits, mime or clown motley, a "Where's Waldo" outfit, or anything else appropriately incongruent. Their primary attribute is Intelligence and they typically serve as ship's engineers, research scientists, chemists, geneticists, app developers, and the like. Squints receive 6 hit points plus Constitution bonus at 1st level and an additional 3 hit points plus Constitution bonus at each subsequent level.
Skills: Choose five skills from Esoterica (occult, religion, etc.), History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Operate Device*, Perception, Programming* (for writing apps), and Science*.
All off-the-shelf gear — essentially everything available to starting characters — is designed to look like 19th century clothing, weapons, and equipment, even if it functions at modern standards. "Chaps" is a catchall term applied to all physical adventuring gear.
Because the form of available gear is completely disconnected from its desired function or the environment it is intended to be used in, it frequently malfunctions or causes characters to fail at the things they attempt. Spurs and cowboy boots make stealth on metal ship decking almost impossible, archaic housings cause weapons to be horribly inaccurate, stetsons and dusters make it difficult to move around easily in the cockpits of small spacecraft or the command chairs of larger ones, ass-less chaps leave buttocks unprotected and subject to damage, etc. This is reflected by characters initially being required to use d12s for all skill checks, ability checks, attacks, and saving throws, meaning that a disproportionate number of such attempts will fail.
All characters carry this basic piece of equipment and use it to communicate, take pictures, record audio and video, perform internet searches, serve as a GPS unit, play games, and the like. Apps can vastly expand the capabilities of a polycomcorder and allow it to be used for obtaining information of all sorts and even to serve as a short-range weapon.
Peacemaker: Basic weapon used by most characters is the M2273 "Peacemaker," an energy weapon that looks like a six-shot revolver. It has a range of 10/120, making it pretty accurate at very close ranges but much less so at greater ones, and inflicts 1d8 force damage. Each of its six chambers can have an app loaded into it that can enhance the function of the weapon (e.g., increase short range by 10 feet, change damage type to fire, increase base damage, allow user to "take 10" on attacks). Skill and/or apps can allow this weapon to be fired up to six times per turn.
Coach Gun: This energy weapon looks like a double-barreled shotgun with 18-inch-long barrels and is popular with low-level characters. It blasts energy out in a narrow cone, having a range of 10/30 and inflicting 2d8 force damage to one target within short range or 1d8 force damage to as many as two adjacent targets between short and maximum range. Skill and/or apps can allow this weapon to be fired up to twice per turn.
Buffalo Rifle: This cumbersome energy weapon looks like a heavy, single-shot rifle. It has a range of 20/240 and inflicts 2d8 force damage to a single target. Regardless of skill and/or apps, this weapon can only be fired a maximum of once per turn (but its functions can be enhanced in other ways by these things).
Derringer: This small pistol can easily be hidden in any sort of apparel, making it especially popular with Sexkittens. It has a range of 10/20 and inflicts 1d8 force damage. Skill and/or apps can allow this weapon to be fired up to twice per turn.
Apps can enhance the function of weapons, armor, and other gear. In general, the game master should allow characters to have one app per level of experience, +1 for Cowboys, +2 for Sexkittens, and +3 for Squints. A number of sample apps follow. Some have prerequisites and, in these cases, all the lower-level apps must be loaded on a device in order for the upper-level one to function.
Boost Damage: This app can be loaded onto a firearm and will increase the damage for each shot by 1d4. It can be applied any number of times to a weapon, up to the maximum it can accommodate, with each application of it boosting damage per shot by 1d4.
Both Barrels: This app can allow a Coach Gun or other weapon designed to function like a double-barreled shotgun be fired twice rather than once per round.
Convert Damage to X: This app can be loaded onto a weapon to allow the type of damage it inflicts be changed, at the user's option, from force to acid, cold, fire, lightning, necrotic, radiant, or thunder. A single app can allow conversion to a particular type of energy and multiple apps would be required for more than one to be allowed for a specific weapon.
Cure 1: This app can be used to heal 1d8 damage, plus one point per level of the device operator, to a character. A character cannot benefit from another application of any cure app until he, she, he/she, or it has had a long rest.
Cure 2 (prerequisite: Cure 1): This app can be used to heal 2d8 damage, plus one point per level of the device operator, to a character. A character cannot benefit from another application of any cure app until he, she, he/she, or it has had a long rest.
Increase Range: This app will increase the short range of a weapon by 10 feet and the extreme range of it by 20 feet. It can be applied any number of times to a weapon, up to the maximum it can accommodate, with each application of it boosting range by 10/20.
Spinfire: This app causes the cylinder of a revolver, such as a Peacemaker, to spin more quickly than it otherwise would, allowing a user to obtain one extra attack with the weapon.
Stabilize Fire: This app compensates for poor weapon design and environmental factors like motion, allowing its user to take 10 on any attacks onto which it is loaded.
Weaponize 1: This app can allow a non-weapon, such as a polycomcorder, to be used to make energy-based attacks; it can also be used to add energy damage to the physical damage inflicted by items like walking sticks, brass knuckles, or swords. Energy damage is 1d8 plus one point per level of the user and can be of any type desired (i.e., force, acid, cold, fire, lightning, necrotic, radiant, or thunder).
Weaponize 2 (prerequisite: Weaponize 1): This app functions like Weaponize 1 but allows a device to cause energy damage of 2d8 plus one point per level of the user.
Benefits of Advancement
At 1st level, characters most roll d12s for all skill checks, ability checks, attacks, and saving throws, something that can serve as a significant impediment to their overall success. At this level, however, a character has a single d4 that he, she, he/she, or it can add to any roll for success, after it is made but before its results are known, and this bonus die is regained after a short rest. Furthermore, as they advance in level, characters they learn how to offset the limitations of the shoddy, archaic-looking equipment available to them, and even to upgrade or swap it out for more effective gear.
At 2nd level, a character gains an additional d4 that he, she, he/she, or it can add to any roll, at 3rd level an additional d4 is gained, and at 4th level a character has a total of four d4s that it can use to enhance its rolls in this way.
At 5th level a character is automatically able to add a d4 to all of its d12 rolls and can instead add a d8 to a single roll, regaining this ability after a short rest. At 6th level, an additional d8 is gained, at 7th level a character has a total of three d8s that it can use to enhance its rolls in this way, and at 8th level a character has four d8s that it can use to increase its chances of success.
At 9th level a character is automatically able to add a d8 to all of its d12 rolls.
Bonus d4s and d8s cannot be added to damage rolls, only ones used to determine success or failure.
At every level divisible by four (i.e., 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th), a character can also implement a more dramatic change. Following are a list of possibilities:
* Add 2 points to any one ability score (three times maximum and not twice in a row).
* Gain a number of bonus hit points equal to the amount normally gained by level advancement (e.g., 6 for a Manchick, 5 for a Cowboy). This number is not modified by the character's Constitution bonus (one time maximum).
* Undergo Gender Reassigment Therapy (GRT) to change gender from whatever it is to male, female, hermaphroditic, or sexless.
* Undergo Genetic Regression Treatment (GRT) to become a different existing race other than Panhuman, thereby gaining advantage on all Charisma-based checks as a result of uniqueness.