Cowboy/Samurai is a draft for an RPG I have been kicking around for a little bit now. It started as a campaign setting for 3.5, but has drifted to Pathfinder, 5e, and finally just its own rules. Ultimately I’m still fleshing out some rough details of where it should go, but I’ll share where it’s at for now.

Photo by Steve on


Large island with a central desert (think Australia). Nearby is a much smaller island chain (think Japan). Leaders of the various tribes live on each island in castles and great wealth. Fisherman villages line the shores of the big island. Interior is old west/desert.


In Cowboy Samurai, you play as a group of characters known as a Band that go on Expeditions over the course of a Campaign.

Example Characters

  1. Ronin Bonnie Two-Gun – Bonnie worked as an enforcer for the Fox clan before quitting over a disagreement with her Lord. Since then, she has wandered Australia making her living in a traveling carnival as a trick shooter. Relying on her quick mouth, or even quicker draw to get her out of trouble.
  2. Doc Waltham Brown – Waltham is a battlefield medic by trade who got his training from the Ox Clan. After retirement, he settled into the life of an old sawbones and has set up a nice little practice in Goson City.  
  3. William Armstrong-Musashi – Musashi is in good standing with his lords, the Crane Clan, and has been sent as their preeminent swordsman to round up deserters. His Crane connections are very helpful, as is his sword.
  4. Soaring Eagle – Soaring Eagle is known for her connection to the beasts of the world, and she uses this connection to bind their powers onto her allowing her to perform great feats beyond what one considers possible for a human. 
  5. Saito Earth Weaver – Saito the Earth Weaver possesses the ability to shape the elements, most effectively Earth.
  6. Henzo Kagemori “The Ghost” – Little is known about The Ghost outside of myths. If they are to be believed, he can pass through walls, kill a man in a single strike, and disappear in a blast of smoke right before your eyes. 

Example Expeditions

  • Sneak into an Imperial Compound. Bonnie can use her quick tongue to talk her way past anyone. Doc is a doctor, and can probably provide services and is rarely unwelcome. Musashi knows imperial custom and can help them blend in. Soaring Eagle can adopt eagle or rat forms to fly in, or move silently. Earth Weaver can use his magic to shift doorways into walls and get past locks. The Ghost can phase through or teleport past any obstacles.
  • Fight off a tribe of Wendigo. Bonnie can provide ranged support, while Musashi engages with his swords. Soaring Eagle can take a bear form and help form a defensive line. Doc can heal the wounded and Saito can either hurl boulders or make walls. The Ghost can dart around combat exploiting weakness.
  • Find Ancient Relics. Bonnie can gather some information about its location from the locals. Doc can brew up some potions to resist disease or whatever preparations are needed. Musashi can talk to his Clan contacts for advice, supplies, or lore about the relic. Soaring Eagle can track the relics to their location. The Ghost can get past any obstacle, and Saito can destroy anything he can’t.
  • Navigate Imperial Society. Musashi’s role is obvious. Bonnie can charm her way past her lack of actual knowledge. The Doc is a doctor and has a vast amount of knowledge on a variety of subjects which he can use to gather information. Soaring Eagle can entice nearby animals to perform acts for him or simply share information. Earth Weaver can use his powers to perform, or simply cause some destruction. Either serves as a distraction.  The Ghost can pick pocket and tail anyone who needs it.

Sometimes people don’t show up.

This is why a balanced party is key. Let’s divide our 6 person party into two groups.

  • Party 1 is a Bonnie, Musashi, and Saito. This party is obviously a combat machine, but they can use Saito’s stealth, Musashi’s culture, and Bonnie’s quick tongue to get into the castle pretty effectively. When finding relics, Bonnie and Musashi have the pre-work down, and Saito should be able to get them into anywhere they need with enough time.
  • Party 2 is Doc, Soaring Eagle, and The Ghost. In this party, Soaring Eagle takes the lead in combat with a bear form while The Ghost can play essentially the same role. Doc can still patch up the wounded, which is probably more important with less warriors. They are a little light in terms of ranged combat, but Doc carries a shotgun and The Ghost most likely has ninja stars or a blow gun. For the social aspects, Doc is the new face, using his vast amount of knowledge to make intelligent choices. Soaring Eagle actually gathers all the information by asking rats, dogs, and pets. The Ghost can provide the human interaction as a tail, thief, or assassin. As for Relic finding, the Doc may simply have heard of it, and Soaring Eagle and The Ghost are the best trackers around. Either of them should be able to navigate the hazards and Doc can make tinctures to protect against anything as needed.

Sample Expedition: In our adventure, the Fox Clan is looking for an ancient revolver, said to hold the power of a thousand suns, whatever that means. Musashi has assembled a band with the intent of stopping them from getting their hands on it. The Band must sneak into imperial society in order to view or steal the map to the item held by the Fox General in charge of locating it. From here it’s a race deep into the desert, careful to avoid the Fox General’s troops but also the tribes of Wendigo that live in this area. Once at the cave, they must navigate a series of obstacles and obtain the revolver.

Sample Campaign: The Snake Shogunate is buying up real estate all across the interior. Whole town’s worth, in fact. Those who choose not to sell find themselves harassed by outlaws and driven out. Most have put two and two together, but the other Clans don’t seem interested in stepping in to stop this. Behind the Scenes: The snake clan is building the first railroad across the continent which is expected to make it a lot easier for the Clans to police the region. Could this mean an end to their way of life?

Base System

The base system for Cowboy Samurai will look very familiar to you if you’ve played d20 games in the past. This is because the d20 system is the core for our game. That said, there are some very distinct differences designed to make play seem a lot more fast paced and cinematic. Classes still exist, but the world of Cowboy Samurai is distinctly human focused. There are no base races, and instead players choose a clan. This clan works almost like a second class, and unlocks additional abilities as you grow in power and prestige. Unless otherwise specified, please assume all d20 rules are in effect.

Making a Character

The first, almost pre-step, is to come up with a concept. You will use all the rules that follow to create a character that matches your character concept as closely as possible.

First generate ability scores. Then select a class and class abilities. Next is a clan and clan powers. Select skills as indicated by your class and clan, and lastly select equipment.

Ability Scores

  • Dexterity: Dexterity is used to measure reaction speed and fine manipulation. Dexterity is used to determine initiative and also attack rolls.
  • Intelligence: Intelligence is used to measure knowledge of the world around you. Intelligence is used to determine your modifier to skills.
  • Toughness: Toughness is used to measure durability and resistance to poisons, spells, fatigue, and the like.
  • Awareness: Awareness is used to measure your social skills, and ability to perceive the world around you.  Awareness is used for most social situations. (maybe change to Wits)

Ability Generation

All characters start with an ability score of 6 in each stat. From here, you can roll or use a point buy method. The whole group should use the same method. If you roll, roll 2d6 four times and add the result to each ability score assigned as you wish. If you use a point buy method, you have 28 stat increases to spend as you would like.


Should broadly be 5 levels long. Game should only be about that long.


The Doctor class represents the medicine man, distinguished scholar, or any other wise person devoted to the healing arts. They prepare tinctures, tonics, and potions for everyday use, and can treat injuries better than anyone else.

  • BAB – Bad
  • Fort – Good.
  • Ref – Bad
  • Will – Good



 Awesome with weapons


 Cast spells based on elemental magic


 Binds animal spirits and can talk to them.


  • Fox – Sneaky and playful
  • Dragon – Mighty and powerful
  • Phoenix – Eternal and Bright
  • Scorpion – Deceitful and direct
  • Ox – Strong and Proud
  • Snake – Sneaky and indirect.
  • Tortoise – Tough and resilient.
  • Gaijin – Clanless. Those who do not have a clan.
  • Ronin – Those who had a clan and were cast out or left.
  • Yajuu – Beast, or general term for insentient creatures.
  • Obake – Sentient being that is not human. 

*Corrected for grammar and typos 7/26/2020

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