Wild West Outlaw
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Basic Information

The Western Characters version of the outlaw criminal. Typically there's a price on his head, and sometimes even a Bounty Hunter on his tail. Whether he started as one or not, he's probably become a Gunslinger. His crimes are bad enough that only the most lawless community will accept him. Outlaws typically form gangs, lead by the most charismatic outlaw, or by the fastest draw among them.

Comes in both the named variety, and the Western equivalent of Mooks. Typically a villain, but sometimes a Robin Hood or Anti Hero. A particularly Bad Ass Outlaw might become The Man They Couldnt Hang.

Outlaw Subtypes

Sources

TV Tropes Wiki

Game and Story Use

  • Outlaw gangs and posses can be used as the organizational structure or inspiration of a Quirky Miniboss Squad or Five Bad Band.
    • Or the other way around: Those tropes may provide the structure for your outlaw gang or posse.
  • The Big Bad Evil Guy of any campaign in The Wild West will almost certainly send Outlaws after the PCs. If that's not enough (and if he has resources and social status), he might escalate to send The Pinkertons after them.
    • The progression is probably: Sending The Wannabe to die while trying to scare the PCs off, then a pack of Outlaws to die while trying to bushwhack them, then the Pinkertons and a few Bounty Hunters whom the PCs will expose for their corruption, then finally The Fill-In-The-Blank Kid.
      • The boss himself is probably on hand to watch the fight with the Kid, and dies in the same scene as his best Hired Gun.
  • The term "outlaw" comes from the Old Norse. In the viking era, a person who'd committed a serious enough crime could be removed from the protection of law. Killing such a person would thus be perfectly legal. This etymology suggests interesting genre-mixing possibilities. Anyone up for a game of Cowboys and Vikings?
  • Making the party a group of outlaws (usually the Robin Hood variety, but perhaps even the villainous variety of your game likes that) is an interesting and reliable way to motivate them and keep them together. It can provide a variety of reasons for adventure (to clear my name, to make money because I can't work legitimately, because somebody is blackmailing me…) and gives the characters a reason to cooperate even if they don't get along well (honour among thieves, we only have each other, we blackmail each other…). Commonly seen as the opening episode/set up for a campaign (the characters are implicated/framed/setup for a crime and chased out of town in the first session) but can also be a background for creating characters (you are all outlaws for some reason or another - you tell me why).
  • If your Western is set in the immediate aftermath of the War Between The States, the Outlaw can drift into Dangerous Deserter territory with gangs of ex-military personnel driven westward by the end of the war and the restoration of peace and order. Confederate diehards are the most likely candidates - men fully intending to continue the war even after the CSA military proper has been forced to surrender - but both sides used raiding forces who were little better than bandits in uniforms and could well be due a reckoning from their own side. For a card carrying villain, consider a character who was already a criminal before the war and gathered a gang to go raiding in the North, nominally in aid of the Confederate war effort, whilst the raiding was good, negotiating a switch to the winning side when it became clear that the Union would be able to oppose him effectively. He and his gang then switch to raiding Confederate territory. Come the end of the war, they lack the continued excuse for raiding and may be owed a reckoning for crimes committed in the past (or, indeed, may have kept raiding after the armistice until professional soldiers were sent to get rid of them) - they then ride into the unorganised West to stay ahead of justice, probably dipping in and out of Mexico as well.

Building This Character

Level:

  • Named and known outlaws are generally mid- to high-level. Some are the epic-level characters of their setting.
  • The rest of the gang are probably low-level, possibly even Mooks.

Attributes:

  • Physical Attributes are the most important category for Outlaws in general.
  • The leader of the gang will need decent Social Traits.
  • The brains of the outfit (who may or may not be the leader) will need strong Mental Attributes. It's certainly possible for a gang to have no such great thinkers, and just rely on brute force.

Skills:

  • Intimidation is the most important skill for most Outlaws, as it keeps robberies from having to turn into bloodbaths.
  • Riding is a close second. It's the primary means of escape after pulling a job, and you need it at high enough level to vault into the saddle and evade pursuit.
  • Marksmanship is good and useful, but not as important as those first two skills. How vital it is depends on the lethality of firearms in your game system, and whether or not the game has psychology rules to keep folks from rushing into a hail of inaccurate lead.
  • Survival and/or Disguise are useful for evading the law. Either you lay low in the wilderness, or you make it hard for any witnesses to identify you.
  • Athletics, Unarmed Combat and/or Dodge round out the skills every Outlaw is likely to pick up.
  • Rope Use may be helpful for tying up victims, securing horses and treasures, etc, but it's far from mandatory.

Special Abilities

  • Quick Draw and Rapid Reload are both very useful in the Western Setting in general, but extra useful for Outlaws. In the typical bankjob or hold-up, time is very limited in a resource.

Variants

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