Cowboy World

(This trailer is here to show you how to play Cowboy World. If you are wondering which archetype to play, just choose one of the Magnificent Seven!)

(And also because it is an awesome movie.)

Cowboy World is a Table Top Role Playing Game (RPG) based on the Apocalypse World Engine, a game system by Vincent Baker. It emulates different genres of Cowboy stories, from classic Louis L’Amour novels to the Spaghetti Western movies of Sergio Leone and zany modern Western movies like Disney’s Lone Ranger.

When you play Cowboy World, you sit around a table with friends, making up a story to see what happens. The way the story unfolds is governed by rules, and those rules insert random elements into the story by way of dice rolls.

Each participant controls part of the emerging story. The Players control one character each. (A Player Character or PC) Non Player Characters (NPC’s), and indeed the rest of the world are controlled by the Games Master. (GM)

Who wins?

Well, everybody, if the emerging story is awesome enough to remember!


Because it is fun. It is fun because stories are hard wired into the human psyche. It is fun because creativity is hard wired into the human psyche. And it is fun because friendship is hard wired into the human psyche. And when you combine stories, creativity and friendship at one table, awesomeness happens. It is like the perfect storm.

But why cowboys?

OK… Seriously… If you have to ask, then maybe you should rather be playing another game, like one about accountants doing accountant-y stuff?

Cowboy World is a hack of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World and elements of various other RPG’s, including FATE, The Burning Wheel and the Tri-Stat System. All these RPG systems can trace their lineage back to the original Dungeons and Dragons conceived way back when by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

When we started Cowboy World, we wanted a Powered by the Apocalypse game because of its narrative power and simple game mechanics. While we could have developed our own dice mechanics, we decided to stick with that of Apocalypse World because it is already a standard in the Indie RPG industry.

We did not want the playbooks. On the positive side playbooks are powerful and vivid windows into the game setting: These are the people that populate this world, and this is how they think and operate. But playbooks also add complexity to the game, and limit the game in terms of what characters can be or do. This is evidenced by the hundreds of third party playbooks that are available for Apocalypse World and Dungeon World, the two biggest PbtA games out there.

Yet we wanted to be able to create truly unique characters so that who and what the characters were made a real and meaningful mechanical impact on the game. For this we turned to the Tri-Stat system (Big Eyes Small Mouth) for the idea of Body, Mind and Soul Attributes combined with skills. To differentiate the characters even more from each other in a mechanically significant way, we stole the concept of Fate points and Aspects from the FATE Core system. You can make almost anything a Character Aspect and it will be mechanically significant in game play. Lastly we wanted the players to play their characters deliberately, with specific goals in mind, so we stole the concept of beliefs and goals from The Burning Wheel RPG system.

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