Stephen King attempted to craft a lasting fantasy magnum opus with The Dark Tower series, and whether that venture succeeded or failed is a matter of polarised opinion. But the story’s strong Western imagery, memorable worldbuilding and manipulation of time and space have left an impact on plenty of creators, including the designer of the currently crowdfunding tabletop RPG, We Deal in Lead.
The latest title from Colin Le Sueur - also known as By Odin’s Beard RPG online, We Deal in Lead attempts to capture the folkloric mystique and genre pulpiness of The Gunslinger in its portrayal of wandering warriors and champions of a lost civilisation. Armed with a revolver and the conviction of their order, players will venture into the wastes where the barrier between this reality and other worlds rub together and wear thin.
The mechanics underpinning the RPG, which can be played solo or with a group, derives from the OSR-inspired rules of titles such as Knave, Into the Odd and Cairn. Challenges use a roll-under target rule, and everything from combat to character creation is pared down to the essentials to prioritise actually playing the game. It also boasts some signature design around wielding the mythic revolver that give gunslingers their legendary reputations.
“The tales of the Gunslinger and the Dark Tower have lived inside my head since I first read the novels in high school,” Le Sueur wrote on a press page. “A broken world, the last gunslinger in his quest to find the meaning of existence, his motley band of fellow gunslingers. There they stayed, locked away, every so often bubbling up to the surface.”
Even if players choose to roam solo, We Deal in Lead allows them to recruit heroes from across the interconnected realities and befriend animal companions - wolves, hawks and bumblers (King’s take on raccoon dogs) are among the furry friends available. But a gunslinger is never truly alone if they remember the teachings of their chosen order and can foster steadfast bonds with its other members.
Given the, er… soft approach to connected worlds borrowed from King’s own universe, other adventures and settings built for Knave and its derivatives can be used with this game’s ruleset. This gives players access to plenty of one-off journeys or the opportunity to construct an extended campaign reaching across multiple worlds.
We Deal in Lead is Itchfunding on Itch.io, meaning development on the game will continue once certain earning thresholds are met. Le Sueur and the team on the game, including editor Vi Huntsman and illustrators Goran Gligovíc and Kim Diaz Holm, are aiming for both a physical print run and digital copy. A work-in-progress, plain-text version of the rules is available to read on We Deal in Lead’s Itch.io page.