Desperado House Rules
By Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated March 23, 1996.
Desperado is a set of cinematic Old West skirmish rules
that doesn't even pretend to have much basis in reality. The rules are
a tad loosely written. There are, in fact, some holes in the rules you
could drive a twenty-mule-team borax freight wagon through. They
invite house rules. Still, few games are more fun - just pure,
So here are my house rules, if anyone is interested. Most of the
situations below are not covered in the rules at all. A couple
are mentioned, but I don't care for their rules. The Shootist rule
was born out of the figures I have: three of them have only one
pistol, so I wanted to give them some advantage. (We rule every
figure has a pistol and knife, regardless of what the figure shows.
So the three with shotguns also have that weapon, as do the three
with rifles. The three with two pistols have two pistols. That
left the poor lone six-gun folk at a disadvantage.)
Steffan's House Rules for Desperado:
- Changing ready weapon: if done while moving, no additional penalty.
If done while not moving, -10% as a final adjustment.
- Crawling up to a window sill to shoot in or out: add 1". You may
do this if wounded, even fatally, (see "Immobile, below) if you
roll enough movement.
- Gun jams: a natural roll of 100 when firing a gun means the gun
jams. No further bullets are expended that turn, including the
one the gun jammed on. It takes an action to unjam a gun.
- "Immobile": there are four results that immobilize you for the rest
of the game as you slowly bleed to death. This takes some fun out
of the game (especially if you get hit like that in the first ten
minutes) so we allow 2d-binary crawling movement for such folk.
(A binary die is a d6 with three faces blank - zero - and three
faces 1. Gamescience sells them, or you could toss two coins.)
So instead of being immobile the rest of the game, you have a 25%
chance of not being able to move that turn, a 50% chance of crawling
1", and a 25% chance of crawling 2". Not much, but we've had
characters crawl to a window and avenge themselves with a last
- Jumping from buildings: ends your move, take one damage roll, face
any way you want, firing okay after your damage roll. No damage
roll if you land on something soft enough to break your fall, such
as a hay wagon - or another gunslinger.
- Ladders: -1/2 movement.
- Handedness: roll d% at the beginning of the game: 01-85 = Right-handed,
86-99 = Left-handed, 100 = Ambidextrous.
- Off-Hand shooting: -1/4 % seems to work fine.
- Prone: no penalty for firing at a prone target if within 6", unless
some barrier is in between (wall beneath window sill, another body,
- Reload: may do while walking, but not searching. 2d3 bullets
reloaded per action, as a full automatic reload sounds too easy to
- Shootists: +10% initial bonus for firing pistol, but only for one gun
at a time. They start the game with only one pistol.
- Shotguns: both barrels at same chance to hit, but roll them
separately; 1d3 damage rolls per hit.
- Moderately wounded: the rules use this phrase to penalize movement
and melee, but never define it. We define it simply as someone with a
broken limb or who has over 50 damage points.
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