The Knuckleduster Cowtown Creator. By Forrest Harris, Rob Lusk, Phill Web. Illustrations by Rick Harris. Published March, 2002. Softcover 250 pages. $19.95
This book is billed by it’s creators at Knuckleduster Miniatures as providing you with all the information you need to design a Western town for your next role-playing campaign, short story, or penny dreadful. Indeed it does. It packs loads of information between it’s covers and is well worth the price.
It’s primary worth comes from the detailed descriptions of various buildings you would encounter in a western town. Explored in great depth are saloons, dance halls, gambling dens, variety theater, fancy house (bordello), hotel, restaurant, bank, stores, blacksmith, barbershop, livery stable, stagecoach office, train station, telegraph office, marshal, sheriff, law office, doctor, and the town doctor’s office. Provided for each building are some historical notes, prices, names, and also a blank form to use in creating your own enterprise. In addition to exploring the different elements of a western town this book is also chock-full of floor plans, stand alone rules for gambling games, and many more lists (random encounters, character names, etc.) that are so helpful in role playing the little things of a campaign. There’s also a 16 page description of the cattle business that comes in handy for those players who don’t quite know the origin of the word “cowboy”. It’s evident that the authors did their homework–the bibliography has some good books listed on the subject.
Some parts of this manual came up short and seem to give the book a bit of an unfocused feel. It’s my opinion that the last three chapters don’t really fit with the rest of the book in that they provide generic character stats and rules for the Deadlands Campaign and integrating the Cowtown into D&D. They could have provided (even) more information about western towns in this space (42 pages!) or shortened the book a bit. There is still plenty of unexplored material that did not make it into the book. What could have been useful are techniques/plans for scratch building western structures or tips on using miniatures or drawing/using your own floor plans. Also some more regional variations on the western town theme could have been included. I know the title says “Cowtown” but for example a mining town, a logging town, an army fort/post or a sleepy Mexican village would have been a nice addition. Hopefully the information that didn’t make it into this volume might someday make it into Cowtown Creator Volume 2?