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, outrageous fun.

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 shot!
  • 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, etc.)
  • Reload: may do while walking, but not searching. 2d3 bullets reloaded per action, as a full automatic reload sounds too easy to us.
  • 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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