Retired Gunfighter
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Basic Information

This Western Character Trope is a Wild West-specific version of the Retired Badass. He's a gunslinger, wild west outlaw, or US Marshal who turned over a new leaf, and hung up their guns (and badge, if applicable) after killing one man too many, finding God, or getting married. Now all they want to do is live in peace, but the world just won't seem to let them. The retired gunfighter might be famous, and have a heck of a reputation. Or, he might be masquerading as a Determined Homesteader, anonymous Drifter, or Philosopher Cowboy, in which case the Villain might underestimate him until they've pushed him too far.

People pressuring the Retired Gunfighter into picking up his guns:

  • Big Bad Evil Guy - Wants to corrupt the hero, or eliminate the threat he presents.
  • The Fill-In-The-Blank Kid or The Wannabe - Wants to prove he's a faster gun, or make a name for himself.
  • Young Gun - Hero Worship, wants him to live up to his glorious reputation.
  • The Sheriff - Needs him for a posse. The Retired Gunfighter probably picks up the badge after the Sheriff is murdered in cold blood.
  • Widder Jones - Her husband was murdered by the villains, and she begs the Retired Gunfighter to bring her justice.
  • Anyone looking for Revenge on behalf of someone the Retired Gunfighter killed back when he was active.
  • Random assorted outlaws/injuns/others who just happen to kill the wrong person - typically the retiree's spouse, child or protégée.



Game and Story Use

  • A classic character archetype, but hard to handle well as a PC in a long-running RPG campaign. He's probably good enough with a gun for that to be the main focus of the character, yet his personality dictates that he try not to use those skills.
    • One option is to pre-arrange that he's forced to "put the badge back on" in the first or second session of the campaign. He can complain about how he wants to live a life of peace, but circumstance prevents it.
    • The GM could give the PC a lot of extra character points or free ranks in firearms, so being an amazingly quick draw and steady shot doesn't keep the character from having any other skills or depth. In exchange for the bonus points, the character is given some sort of terrible flaw that only manifests after he uses a gun. Sure, violence could solve this session's dilemma, but at the cost of the character become suicidal, penitent, or a binge drinker, and facing serious penalties next couple sessions as a result. That should keep the Retired Gunfighter from picking up his weapon too lightly. If the penalty is heavy enough, he might not even wear his shootin' iron till the campaign's finale, which is just about perfect.
  • A way to surprise the players, by having some seemingly minor recurring character (such as the Meek Townsman) have a shady past, and the skills to back it up.
  • Makes a good NPC mentor, a teacher and supporter with great skill, but who took a vow never to kill again. The PCs can come to them for information, but they won't get directly involved in anything that might escalate into violence.
  • For a bit of moral ambiguity, this character can also be a reformed villain - PCs attempting to bring him to justice may find they are biting off more than they can chew, whilst those seeking his help may find that he struggles to stop killing a second time…
  • For those who are triggered into a roaring rampage of revenge by a key murder, consider someone using a false flag operation to start them going.

Building This Character

In general, this character needs a lot of character points / experience points to make it believable. If they're no more badass than the other PCs, then this character concept falls flat. If your system offers bonus points for taking Flaws and Hindrances, consider maxing those out.

  • Physical Attributes are probably the most important category for most variations on the Gunslinger.
  • Some systems allow for mental traits to be used in gunfights instead. These are perfect for the gunfighter whose realized his own mortality and put a lot of thought into his role in life - the retired gunslinger is likely to be a cerebral one. The things to focus on are the stats that boost your attack rolls and your initiative.
  • Probably should keep the Social Traits low so that it's tougher to talk your way out of predicaments. The tension leaks out if you can just talk your way out of everthing - part of the fun in this trope is knowing you can win if you get ugly, but taking it on the chin anyway for moral reasons.


Special Abilities


  • The retired gunfighter who's masquerading as something else will need the skills to back up his secret identity.
    • Professional Skills, and likely a bit of Agriculture
    • Deception or even Disguise - but just a touch of it. Enough to justify that you've been hiding out, but not so much that no one can ever I.D. you. Part of the fun of this trope is when the old enemies start crawling out of the woodwork.
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