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Wild West stealth-action video game Desperados III sneaks out a free pen-and-paper RPG

Whose western is it?

A free tabletop RPG based on Desperados III has been released, bringing the stealth-action video game series to the tabletop for the first time.

Desperados: A Pen and Paper RPG includes a light roleplaying ruleset based on this year’s third numbered instalment in the long-running PC game franchise, which dates back to 2001’s Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive. (See what our pals over on Rock Paper Shotgun thought about the video game in their recent review.)

The RPG uses three six-sided dice to resolve tests, rolled against a character’s ability score in traits such as brawn, agility and wits, which have the potential to modify rolls for a greater chance of success. A success with a double results in a ‘grand success’, giving the character an additional advantage.

Combat recreates the video game’s real-time tactical combat, with players needing to consider enemies’ fields of vision to avoid suffering automatic failures and taking damage. (The free PDF includes terrain and enemy tokens to lay out encounters and depict which way foes are facing.) The group of players can also choose to make a concerted attack, performing actions simultaneously in an attempt to wipe out all remaining opponents without taking any damage.

As well as rules for picking off large groups of foes, the Desperados pen-and-paper RPG includes rules for one-on-one duels, with the duelling player and GM secretly choosing how many rounds to wait before drawing and firing - increasing their chance of landing a shot the longer they wait, but risking the opponent shooting first.

Character classes include gunslingers, trappers and characters with the ability to use Voodoo powers, with players able to acquire experience over multiple sessions and gain more abilities during a campaign.

Alongside the core rules for the game, Desperados: A Pen and Paper RPG includes a one-shot adventure titled Desperados Don’t Forgive, following the players’ group as they confront a gang of train robbers.

The Desperados tabletop RPG can be downloaded for free over on DriveThruRPG, including everything you need to play: the core rules, character sheets and tokens. (You’ll just need to find some six-sided dice yourself.) If it whets your appetite for the video game, there’s a free demo available for Xbox and PC via Steam and GOG.

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About the Author
Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis


After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.