A record of the magical practices,
amazing gadgets and Dangerous Critters
That made the West Truly Wild
Table of Contents
Folks Out West
Keeper of the Dead
Stuff Needin’ Knowin’
Code of the West
Law of the West
Isaac Charles Parker
Wild Bill Hickok
Outlaws of the West
Billy the Kid
John Wesley Hardin
A Lingo of Their Own
End of Magic
Lay O’ The Land
Silver City, ID
Virginia City, NV
Kung Fu Master
Critters and Varmints
Well howdy pardner. The year is 1901 and I’m and old man now, but I’m
writing down my memories while my mind is still sharp. My name is Tin-Pan
Tom and I got a hankerin’ to set the record straight. Since just about
everyone else is making a nickle telling their view of the Wild West, I decided
to write a book about how Tin-Pan Tommy saw the west.
I was born in Texas and I lived my whole life in the thick of it. I lost a cousin
in the Alamo and my daddy got scalped by Apaches. My momma and sister
moved back East, but I stayed in the land that I love. I don’t profess to be
an expert, but I know what I saw and I’ve been readin’ too many sanitized
versions of what really was. I think people need to know about the true Wild
West. They need to know about the West before the end of magic when
people lived by a code and died by the gun in a lawless land, filled with
honor and hope, but tainted by violence and the doom of a noble people.
The Code of the West was a simple set of unwritten rules that guided men
and women on the range. It was a blend of courtesy and violence -of courtly
kindness and harsh justice- that required fair play even when committing a
reprehensible act. Persons were expected to speak the truth, to respect
another’s property and to always provide a helping hand. Those who broke
the Code became outlaws, but even the outlaws respected the Code and
when caught accepted swift and brutal retribution for their crimes.
There was magic in the Wild West. Now I’m not talking about magic in the
figurative sense, I’m referrin’ to the literal kind o’ magic. The magic that
Indian medicine men and Chinese mystics used to heal sickness and injury.
I’m talking about the kind of magic that allowed an hombre to shoot straight
for hundreds of yards while standing on the saddle of a gallopin’ horse. I’m
talkin’ about real magic -the force of mana- that was in the land and part of
every rock, tree and beast.
Every livin’ thing in the west had a spirit. Nature spirits were inside beasts
and attached to groves of trees, fields of flowers, schools of fish and swarms
of insects or forces of nature. These nature spirits were as real as you and
I. The Indians had powers letin’ them talk to these spirits. The smoky fires,
the beatin’ drums and the wild dancin’ of the Indians was for invokin’ these
spirits and bindin’ them into physical form. In the Indian Wars settlers and
soldiers faced all kinds of terrible things, but the commonest were the Indian
The Indian elementals were vengeful beings of fire, ice, electricity and earth
that destroyed whole communities. I can’t make you believe, but stop and
think: How many western towns were destroyed by fire over and over again?
How many men and women froze to death in the winter with enough supplies
to stay warm? Why were so many more people killed by lightning strikes
during times of Indian violence? The elementals controlled natural forces
and used them against the intrudin’ settlers and soldiers.
Well, if you don’t believe in elementals you’re never going to believe that
many tribes had skin walkers who could assume the form of animals or that
the Pueblo peoples could wear masks to become Kachina beings with
supernatural powers. And you’re certainly not going to believe that Chinese
mystics could use little needles to return people from the dead or Chinese
kung fu masters were capable of healing their own wounds by controllin’ their
But I think if you’ve read this far you might be interested in knowin’ the truth.
The Wild West was filled with dangers. Now I’m not just talkin’ about the
normal stuff like varmints, blizzards, mud slides, flash floods, stampedes and
sand storms. I’m talkin’ about locust swarms blottin’ out the sun, rattlers as
thick as your leg and grizzlies with claws longer than your arm. These are
the critters that people like to pretend never really existed.
You see most legends, like the Sasquatch of the high mountains or the
walkin’ dead of Boot Hill, have their roots in fact. Stranger things too, I once
saw a prickly-pear cactus throw its thorns into a man at fifty feet; another
time I saw a tumble thorn-weed shred a man before my eyes by rollin’ over
him. Most people will tell you this is nonsense, but that’s because they
weren’t there. The open range was full of mayhem causin’ monsters and
The West was also a time of progress and innovation. Significant advances
were made in science, but the presence of mana allowed some enlightened
inventors to conceive inventions that defied the so called physical laws
dictated by the magic-dead minds of Europe and clung to by America’s
academia. The gadgets these genius inventors created were mana-manipulatin’ machines that could be used by anyone with the skill to operate
them. They were often clunky lookin’ devices of wood and iron, but their
practical effectiveness left people astounded. The only problem was these
do-dads didn’t work back East where there wasn’t enough mana to power
them. In fact, as the magic faded from the West these awesome machines
became nothin’ more than non-functionin’ curiosities.
I think the hardest thing for people of this century to believe will be that some
Americans were able to learn magic just like the Indian medicine men and
the Chinese mystics. By accident of birth, lucky people would have the
Knack. The Knack bein’ that special something allowin’ a person to do magic
by manipulatin’ mana. Very few Americans had the Knack and most that did
were born out west. In fact, even among the Indians and Chinese havin’ the
Knack was considered a rare and wonderful gift.
Those of us with the Knack felt we had an obligation to protect the ordinary
people out West. The poor folk without the Knack were hard pressed to
defend themselves against the arcane monsters of the range, spirit creations
summoned by the Indians, walkin’ dead of haunted places, gadget using
criminals and outlaws havin’ the Knack. So us honorable folk with the
Knack who followed the Code of the West had lots of work to do. We
traveled the range, from boom town to ghost town, lending a helping hand
and usin’ our powers for the cause of right.
Havin’ the Knack didn’t pay the bills or put food on the table so we pursued
all sorts of occupations, just like ordinary folks. Some of us were
gunslingers, bounty hunters, law officers and soldiers. Others were doctors,
dentists, druggists and lawyers. There was a good number of driftin’
cowpokes, buffalo hunters and gamblers. I met a few preachers and faith
healers. There were even simple homesteaders hoping to raise a family and
miners prospecting for pay dirt. I even met one undertaker who provided
himself with lots of business. Heroes one and all!
In my travels across the range I met lots of people who would later become
famous or infamous. Some of them had the Knack and that’s what made
them great, but others were great because of the choices they made. I met
a nice boy named Billy whose little bid for western justice turned into the
Lincoln County War. I shared a whiskey with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday
just a few days before they fought the Clantons and McLaurys at the O.K.
Corral. I met Jesse James, pistol to pistol, and learned he was not the Robin
Hood of the West as Roosevelt claimed. I even spent some time playing
cards with Wild Bill Hickok before he met his fate at the hands of Jack
McCall in Deadwood.
The West I lived is gone and there’s a bunch of know-nothin’ Easterners
trying to rewrite the tale in sanitized verse. They can only conceive a west
with their ordinary, magic-dead minds and don’t realize what American
ingenuity, industrialized thinking and anti-magic sentiments destroyed. In
five decades the use of fossil fuels, excessive logging, strip mining,
irresponsible farming and uncontrolled urbanization destroyed flows of magic
that had existed in the land since the dawn of time. In half a century the
spirits of the natural world stopped talkin’ and the sacred powers of the
Indians ceased to be. The world I lived would become a fable and much of
the truth lost to the sanitized thinkin’ of a white man’s rational world. I miss
the magic of the west, but most of all I miss the adventure.
It is my sincere hope these pages will inspire your imagination and allow you
to experience the west as Tin-Pan Tommy knew it. Back when the West was
still wild, when magic was real and those with the Knack roamed the open
Tin-Pan Tommy 1901
Anyone can go to the library and check out a book on the American West and get a bunch of sanitized facts
and figures. What I’m providin’ here is another way to see the Wild West. The way I saw it- from the
perspective of a man with the Knack. Many of you folks might not believe, but here is my story.
I’ve always been a man of adventure and I wish I was there when the Bidwell-Bartleson wagon train crossed
the plains in 1841. Those intrepid adventurers opened the way for all of us when they became the first
emigrants on the Oregon Trail. At that time I was a young man living in Texas. I saw my daddy fight
against the Mexicans and I was happy to enlist in the United States Army when tensions began escalating
again. In 1848 we beat the Mexicans and the vast expanse of land from California to Texas became part of
the United States.
In 1849 I followed the California Trail to the gold fields, but got there too late to stake a prosperous claim.
I figured I’d travel around and see some more of this beautiful country. I got lost in the desert and almost
died of thirst. I was rescued by the Hopi Indians whose name means “gentle people”. I spent a year livin’
with them and learnin’ their ways. To me they were a strange people livin’ in houses built of mud-mortared
stone that had no doors or windows and were entered through a hole in the roof.
While livin’ among the Hopi I learned I had the Knack to use magic. Their medicine man showed me the
world of spirits and taught me how to manipulate magical energies. They brought me to their holy paces and
taught me their magical prayer. I learned to recognize Hallows, places where restorative magic coalesced
and to avoid places of dark magic, called Blights. I could not believe how much of the world was suppressed
by European philosophies. Christianity and scientific thinkin’ had so strongly denied the existence that the
people of Europe had forgotten.
As the conflicts between the Indians and Americans escalated in the southwest, I left the wise medicine man
who taught me so much and headed to the north. I traveled around working odd jobs and just livin’ on the
land. I was an intrepid adventurer travelin’ through the wide open west. I met others with the Knack and
we traded our learnin’ and shared our skills.
The West was startin’ to change in those days. The Americans and the Indians were fightin’. Land disputes,
claim jumping and random killin’ began to affect the land. The violence was causing the magic in the west
to become malevolent. The mana flaws were darkening; the Hallows were becoming Blighted.
All of us with the Knack came to the same conclusion- it was our obligation to protect the ordinary folk.
My first mission was against a snake cult. Back in the ‘50s the plains were filled with snakes and some of
them grew pretty big. This cult of snake worshipers was sacrificing settlers feeding them to the largest
snakes I never seen. After defeating the snake cult, I mostly wandered from one rip roarin’ trail town to
another, then in ‘56 I met Caleb Farther, a buffalo hunter with the Knack. I would grow to hate him more
than any man.
The buffalo ran on the plains in the thousands. I was told there used to be millions of them. The Indians
believed these beasts to be magical and the Indians claimed the killin’ of these magical beasts was one of
the things drawin’ mana from the world. One evening when my friend shot a buffalo a strange glow
appeared around the buffalo’s wound healing the injury before my eyes. The buffalo got up and the whole
herd stampeded away. I knew the Indian stories were true. The buffalo had magic and killing them was
wrong. I tried to convince my friend to stop murderin’ the magical beasts, but I saw his heart was full of
Caleb Further only cared about money, gambling and drinkin’. I realized some people with the Knack
would abuse the gift and use it to harm the world. Since that day I have met many cold blooded killers who
had the Knack.
In ‘58 the Pike’s Peak gold rush in drew me to the Colorado region where I met a Chinese emigrant named
Lung Chin. He was a Shoalin Monk and Kung Fu master. He trained me in the system of animal boxing
where I learned the tiger and the crane style. I was never able to ascend to his level of skill; he said I would
have to attend a monastery for many years.
Lung Chin had come to the Colorado Territory to help the Chinese miners who were being oppressed by a
Chinese criminal organization called the Tong. The powerful Tong Boss demanded half of everything the
Chinese miners pulled from the earth. The white authorities were not inclined to help, Lung Chin and I, with
the help of some other righteous men and women with the Knack, fought the Tong and after three months
of skirmishin’ we drove them from the area.
After helping the Chinese miners, I decided to try my hand at running cattle. I went back to Texas and
signed on as a cowhand. I learned the art of “cutting out” and how to rope a steer. The work was
challenging and there was danger aplenty to keep a man on his toes. My days were spent ropin’ and ridin’;
the nights were time of comradery eatin’ grub and talkin’ ‘round the fire. As nice as this was, at the end of
a long drive everyone wanted to go to town. The young cowpokes in our group would gallop down the
streets and shoot their pistols into the air to announce our arrival.
I was too mature for that kindda stuff. I preferred a bath, haircut and shave, then I was ready for a shot of
whiskey and a hoe-dig with a Calico Queen. Afterward I’d settle down for a game of cards in the Saloon
and spend a well-earned night bedded down on a mattress. I loved the range, but the winds of war were
blowin’ in the East and the west was gonna change very soon.
I was in my early thirties when the War Between the States started. I enlisted with the north in ‘61. Those
of us with the Knack were assigned to a special unit by a cavalry commander who recognized our unique
talents. I first saw action in Bleeding Kansas searching for William Quantrill’s raiders, but then I was
transferred to help with the fierce fightin’ in New Mexico. Some of the Indians had joined up with Johnny
Reb in the winter of ‘62 and was usin’ Indian magic against our forces. After six months of fightin’ we
drove the Confederate forces out of New Mexico.
The violence of these battles affected the magic in the Wild West. A person with the Knack could see the
flows of mana getting darker and watch the landscape become less invitin’. I didn’t really understand what
the darkening meant back then, but I’d learn later the black energy would cause all sorts of malevolent
events over the next few decades. A year later I was fighting along the lower Mississippi and ended up near
New Orleans. I fought in the battle of Vicksburg in December of 1862 and then some pencil pusher in
Washington disbanded our special unit.
I found myself back East in Pennsylvania where I fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863. I was
wounded pretty bad when a mortar shell landed close to my position. The surgeons took my arm and
threatened my leg. I needed to get back west were I could find some healing magic. I returned to Colorado
a broken man, but my old friend Lung Chin introduced me to this pretty little Chinese apothecary named
Li Sang. She used the power of my chi to regrow my amputated arm and healed my other wounds as well.
After her tender ministrations I was good as new.
I courted her for a while and we talked about marriage, but then that fool Colonel John Chivington
massacred Chief Black Kettle’s band at Sand Creek. The Cheyenne and Arapaho with Black Kettle were
mostly women and children who were seeking the protection of soldiers. In no time we was all fightin’ for
our lives against the Indians.
Eighteen sixty-five was known as the “Bloody Year on the Plain.” Red Cloud led the Sioux, Cheyenne and
a few smaller tribes in a bloody war of revenge. The settlers and soldiers held on by hunkering down and
shootin’ back. Those of us with the Knack used our own powers against the creations of the Indian medicine
men. The following year was not much better. Chief Red Cloud lured that poor fool, Captain William J.
Fetterman, over Lodge Pole Ridge where his entire command got slaughtered by the Indians. Over the next
few years we were at the mercy of the Indians.
In ‘68 Red Cloud led the Indians on attacks that burned three forts. The Indian medicine men had bound
nature spirits to their bonfires creating fire elementals. Red Cloud used the creations to beach the stockade
walls of the fortress. His braves stormed through the breaches and slaughtered the garrisons. The loss of life
was tremendous and to forestall a panic the U.S. Government claimed the forts had been empty, but those
of us livin’ there knew the truth. The Indians and their nature spirits allies were winning the war.
There was nothin’ that normal bullets could do against the vengeful elementals sent by the medicine men.
As long as the nature spirits were helping the Indians the U.S. military was powerless. There wasn’t enough
of us with the Knack to turn the tide of battle. The U.S. government made peace and the military licked
The U.S. government’s peace lasted only until gold was found in the Black Hills of Southern Dakota. The
Black Hills was a holy place to the Indians. Perhaps the holiest place in all of North America. A man with
the Knack could see the mana flows traveling through the region like streams. The timber and the ore in the
area was saturated with magic.
Despite a treaty giving the Black Hills to the Indians, miners swarmed the region and the soldiers came to
defend them. I was there when they founded the town of Deadwood right in the heart of the holy Black Hills.
In ‘75 Crazy Horse went on the warpath. They called this series of battles the Second Sioux War or Crazy
Horses’s War. Sitting Bull the great Indian medicine man was there to guide the nature spirits. His power
was awesome and he was very well respected by all Sioux and their allies.
In 1876, during a magical a ceremony, Sitting Bull foretold a great victory for the Indians so long as the
Indians promised not to adopt the ways of the white man. Sitting Bull warned his people the nature spirits
would abandon their cause of the braves looted the bodies.
The battle came when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer met the Sioux and their allies at the
Little Bighorn. Crazy Horse’s warriors, aided by the nature spirits who took on the forms of air, fire and
earth, massacred the soldiers. It was a great victory and showed how powerful the Indians and the nature
spirits could be when the worked together.
The great victory was marred when the Indians did not heed Sitting Bull’s warning and looted the bodied
of the dead soldiers. The braves dressed in the white man’s things, took their weapons and got drunk on
their whiskey. In this act, the spirits of nature saw the symbolic truth- The Indians were too corrupted by
The nature spirits saw their Indians had been seduced by the white man and would continue to drift from
their traditions even if the white man’s army was stopped. Most of the nature spirits withdrew their aid from
the Indians and resolved to go north into the wilds of Canada and Alaska.
The U.S. Army marched unhindered by the powerful elementals that had plagued them during Red Cloud’s
War a decade earlier. The soldiers seized the advantage and showed the Indians no mercy. Outnumbered
and without their spirit allies the Indians of the northern plains faced doom. Crazy Horse surrendered 1877
and was stabbed to death at Fort Robinson.
Sitting Bull fled to Canada, where he pleaded with the nature spirits for help. The nature spirits refused and
a disheartened Sitting Bull suffered in exile with members of his tribe. By the time Crazy Horse was
stabbed to death I had grown sick of the fightin’ as well and was travelin’ the Missouri River in style. I
spent some time learnin’ to gamble on the river boats. It was a lazy life of luxury, a nice respite after the
hard years of war.
A year later I even traveled back East and visited with some relatives in New Jersey. They convinced me
to stay for a spell. I worked odd jobs and dreamed about going back west. My sister and her husband didn’t
believe half of what I told them, but my stories enchanted the imagination of their children.
In the mid 1880s my itch to hit the road again had grown too strong to ignore. I headed back to the land I
loved, because I wanted to see the Wild West one more time before I died. What I saw saddened me greatly.
The wide open range was crisscrossed with roads, railroad tracks and barbed wire. There were towns
everywhere: Tombstone, Dodge City, Abilene, Wichita, Ellsworth and Virginia City. I found them all the
same, places full of beer halls, saloons and brothels, but the wild edge was gone.
The glow of magic had faded from the West. The adventure was gone. I didn’t have to shoot down one
walkin’ dead or fend off any kindda mana-usin’ beast. I learned you could only find mana-imbued ore and
timber in remote places. The amazin’ gadget inventions ceased to function and fewer and fewer persons
were born with the Knack.
The last great Indian medicine man was Wovoka. He was a Paiute and had a smouldering hatred for
Americans. Wovoka invented the Ghost Dance ritual that would cause the Indian ancestors to return from
the dead and drive the Americans from the West. Most people thought his wilds claims were only rhetoric,
but those of us with the Knack could see the power in the ritual. The Ghost Dance was the darkest ritual of
necromancy ever conceived. The ritual was like creating a raisin’ node for makin’ undead, but on a giant
If the ritual was completed mana would flow from the core of the Earth which they called the Womb of the
Sacred Mother back into the West. The Indians would channel the energy with dark thoughts of violence
and create a blighted landscape where magic was present once again. In this maelstrom of hate, the Indians
of the Ghost Dance would destroy the Americans by raising an army of undead. In their madness, they hoped
to bind the remaining nature spirits to Indian corpses all across the west. The returning ancestors of the
Indians would wrack a terrible vengeance. Every white person they killed would be added to their army.
The Indians of the Ghost Dance had drifted far from their initial beliefs. Those Indians with Wovoka sought
a revenge that would forever change the landscape of the West and maybe the world. Sitting Bull, who had
returned from exile in Canada, spoke out against the Ghost Dance and tried to prevent its dark purpose, but
his people were too lost in their hatred. They wanted revenge, but that was denied to them.
Those of us, with the Knack moved to intercede. We broke up Ghost Dances throughout the west and in
areas when we arrived too late, we used our powers to defeat the undead and repair the damage to the land.
The last true Ghost Dance ended at Wounded Knee. Colonel James Forsyth had no choice and he gave the
order for his soldiers to fire on the dancin’ Sioux. The bullets tore through the magical symbols of the Ghost
Dance and Indian blood ran into the sand.
The dark magic unraveled as a sudden blizzard arose to shroud the land in white. The bodies of the last
Ghost Dancers were frozen in grotesque forms of death for three days, until the weather cleared and the
soldiers could toss the bodies into massed graves. Now I’m not justifying the killin’ of Indian women and
children. I’m just tell’ you like it was. The Ghost Dance was a danger to this world akin to the great floods
of Noah, the fall of Rome and the European Dark Ages. If the ritual had succeeded our world could have
drown in death.
After Wounded Knee there was no magic left and the last of the nature spirits fled. I could see the Wild
West was over and would be replaced by a drab mundane existence.
Folks Out West
The west was full of interesting people, all kind and all sorts, but they generally had a few things common.
Well there are three main groups of people out west. The American people; the native people, called
Indians; and the people from China, called Celestials. As the west developed, it was very common to find
caucasians living among the native Indian people or the Chinese. The color a person’s skin or the shape of
their face did not determine person’s cultures.
Culture was determined by their way of living. In the west a person’s manner of dress and their occupation
more accurately reflected their chosen culture. There were a fair number of Indians and Chinese who joined
American society, dressing and acting just like white Americans. Caucasians who dressed like Indians or
adopted Celestial ways became part of that culture and suffered the same prejudices as their natural born
You probably figured most of the Americans were caucasian people who came from Europe and settled on
the east coast of North America, but there were also Mexicans and Africans who helped settle the Wild
Men wore overalls, flannel shirts, suspenders, bandannas, jeans, cotton shirts, frock coats, dusters and broad-brimmed hats constructed their clothing out of duck coth, wool, corduroy or cotton jeaning (denim). Women
in the cities or comfy homesteads, generally wore dresses made of calico, silk, muslin, printed cotton or wool
challis, but women who traveled the range favored the practicality of pants, shirt and overcoat.
The native people are the Indians who lived in the West since the dawn of time. Their culture lived closely
with the land, communing with the nature spirits and practicing shamanistic magic. Indians wore clothing
made of natural materials, suck as buckskin, buffalo hide and leather. They generally wore moccasins,
leggings, fringed pants and shirts and feathers.
The Celestials came from China and brought with them to the West a vast array of mystical practices,
including herbal healing, acupuncture and kung fu fighting. The Chinese wore clothing made of silk or soft
cotton. They wore robes that tied at the waist or shirts with cloth clasps. Wealthy Chinese would embroider
their clothing. Both men and women favored large round hats made of straw.
There’s two kinds to people in the world, those that got the Knack and those who don’t. The Knack allows
a person to manipulate a magical force called mana by white people. The Indians called mana by many
names dependin’ on the tribe, but all the Celestials pretty much called the mystical force chi or qi.
Havin’ the Knack is a matter of birth. You are either born with the Knack or not. Back in the Old West
only a few people out of every thousand had the Knack, now that magic is gone from the West even fewer
people are born each year with the Knack. The skill to manipulate magic is becomin’ a dying art. I know
I got the Knack. That’s how I made it through all the scraps and jams I got in. Having the ability to jump
clear of danger or plug a man heart-center dead with my shootin’ iron while riding a willy bronco has saved
me more times than I can count.
People with the Knack manipulated mana by learnin’ skills. Skills are grouped in twelve categories: ability;
ballad; compound; knowledge; fashioning; feat; glyph; poison; ritual and procedures; rune, scripts and sigils;
spells, prayers and powers (SP&Ps) and traps.
Havin’ the Knack makes you an extraordinary person (ordinary persons can’t perform magic) because you
can learn skills from all the categories, except abilities. Extraordinary people (those with the Knack) can
learn to do extraordinary feats; perform rituals and procedures; mix compounds; brew poisons; fashion items;
scribe runes, scripts and sigils; draw glyphs; and set traps. They can also learn to cast spells, prayers and
powers or learn all the knowledge commonly available to the world. They can even learn how to make
gadgets that allow ordinary folks to manipulate mana. Ordinary, mundane people can only learn to perform
ordinary feats, set traps and learn the knowledge commonly available to the world. They cannot manipulate
mana and therefore cannot use any of the extraordinary skills found in the Wild West.
All people can breath air, walk on two legs and use their hands for lots of things. These are the abilities of
a “normal” human, but when people somehow go beyond what they should normally be able to do they are
called “supernatural.” There’s a fair number of supernaturals found in the Old West. You got your kung
fu masters and crazy cultists worshipin’ snake gods, elemental forces, demons and who know what else.
There are also the Indian skin switchers takin’ on the forms of animals, the blood suckin’ Chinese vampires
and even the freaky mask wearin’ Kachina fiends. Finally, there are the dirtslingers, terrible undead who
search the west for men and women who claim to be fast guns.
All skills are learned from a teacher. Ordinary skills could be picked up just about anywhere, but learning
extraordinary skills was sometimes a little difficult. White folk had it the hardest when trying to find a
teacher who could manipulate mana, because white people with the Knack generally didn’t advertise their
abilities. Indians and Celestials on the other hand could find someone to learn from more readily. Since
magic was an accepted part of their lives people knew who could teach which skills. Sometimes a white
person had to convince a friendly Indian to teach him or pay money to a Chinese temple or even deal with
the Tong. Learnin’ magic was not easy for Americans, especially in the beginning when white folk were just
rediscovering the force of mana.
We all gotta make a livin’ and everyone out west has some kind of occupation. The listed skills represent
the “core” of the occupation and persons must know all the core skills of the occupation when they come
out West. People are not limited to only learnin’ the core skills of their occupation so they may have picked
up a few more skills. After they’ve been adventuring out west, they can pursue a different occupation or
learn more skills so long as they can find a teacher. There is no limit to the number of occupations or kinds
of skills that an extraordinary person can learn during their lives. I’m going to list the ordinary skills in
normal type face, but I’m includin’ in italic the extraordinary skills that a person needs to learn if he’s got
the Knack. Now remember ordinary folks ain’t gonna be able to do these skills.
The Americans had their own civilized way of livin’ that had a strong sentiment against the existence of
magic. The people of the time valued industrial practices and rational science. A hundred years before the
Americans started settlin’ the west, their ancestors in Europe and New England were still burning witches
and others capable of using magic at the stake in an attempt to destroy magic in favor of science and
When the flood of emigrants entered the west they brought with them a sanitized, rationale view of the world
that clashed terribly with the spiritual views of the Indians and the mystical views of the Celestials. Those
of us with the Knack attempted to bridge the gap between our peoples, but the anti-magic beliefs of the east
coast society was too deeply ingrained. As a whole the American people entered the west with a great
prejudice against the Indians and Chinese. It was this hatred that began the darkin’ of the mana flows which
lead to the ruin of magic in the west.
Bounty hunters specialize in tracking down wanted criminals. Rewards were generally offered by
governments and courts, but whether a bounty hunter worked for money or to make society a better place
was her business. A bounty hunter will go anywhere in search of her quarry. She’s not afraid to enter Indian
territory and jurisdictional lines don’t matter to her.
Feats: critical shot I, dodge I, parry I, quick shot I
Knowledge: animal handling, appraise, bandage, body combat I, climb I, crime, fatal finish, law, rumors,
swim I, throw, weapon
Buffalo hunters made their living by killin’ the bisons that roamed the great plains. In early days they used
black powder muzzle loadin’ rifles, but in the 1860's the started usin’ the Sharp’s Big Fifty. With this gun
the hunters killed so many buffalo that the carcasses littered the plains from horizon to horizon.
Feats: critical shot I, parry I, sure shot I
Knowledge: animal handling, appraise, bandage, body combat I, climb I, fatal finish, mutilate, navigate,
swim I, throw, tracking, weapons
Cowpokes worked the range rounding up the cattle and caring for the herds. In the fall the cowpoke drove
the herds to the cow towns where the steers were loaded on freight trains and brought to the feed the hungry
cities back East.
Feats: dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: animal handling, bandage, binding, body combat I, climb I, fatal finish, navigate, repair,
rumors, throw, weapons
In the west some doctors were better than others. Often the poorer doctors worked as dentists or even
barbers. There was a lack of formalized medical training and most doctors learned from others or by trial
and error. The best doctors had the Knack and could draw on the powers of magic to save a man that was
doomed to die.
Feats: willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, medicine, splint, study, swim I, surgery, throw,
The druggist deals in all kinds of herbal treatments and medicines. Some druggists were little more than
charlatan Snake Oil Salesmen, but those with the Knack could concoct some pretty amazin’ compounds and
Compounds: liquids I
Feats: willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, chemistry, climb I, medicine, splint, swim I, throw, weapon
Poisons: poisons I
Procedures: purify blood
Explorers were hired by the U.S. government, the military and private firms to scout the vast area of open
land. In the beginning explorers sought passes through the mountains and surveyed potential roads and rail
beds. In the later years they searched for mineral deposits and precious metals.
Feats: critical shot I, dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: animal handling, appraise, astronomy, bandage, climb I, fatal finish, geology, navigation, splint,
survival, swim I, throw, weapon
Faith healers claim they have the power to cure the sick and heal the injured. There’s a lot of cheats trying
to run this scam, but faith healers with the Knack can do everything they claim and more. These faith
healers learned prayers written in the bible could heal sickness and injury.
Feats: willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, medicine, spiritsense, swim I, theology, weapon
Ritual: dispel magic, node (healing), restoration
Gadgeteers are the inventors of the old west. They are able to make and use mana-manipulatin’ machines.
Most of the gadgeteers I’ve met were pretty strange folk, I guess it comes from being so smart or maybe
they’re just a little bit insane.
Abilities: at least one gadget ability
Fashioning: fashioning I
Feats: willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, climb I, electronics, gadgeteering, mechanics, repair, swim I, throw, weapon
Gamblers can be found in saloons all over the West, but they’re drawn towns flush with wealth. Generally,
these are mining boom towns or railhead cattle towns on the plains when cowboys drive in the herds. In later
years, the paddle boats of the Missouri and Mississippi became a well known places to gamble.
Feats: dodge I, willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, gambling, rumors, sleight-of-hand I, swim I,
Gunslingers were a common sight in the wild cow towns and mining camps. He prowled the west often as
a hired gun, sometimes he found work as a city marshal or even a county sheriff. As a gunslingers notoriety
grew there was always the chance that another gunslinger would seek him out.
Feats: critical shot I, dodge I, limb shot I, quick load I, quick shot I, sure shot I
Knowledge: bandage, climb I, fatal finish, repair, swim I, throw, weapon
When the U.S. government offered land for settling the homesteaders came like a flood across the open
range. Their transportation of choice was a covered Conestoga wagon pulled by a team of oxen. The
homesteader entered the Wild West hoping to find a better home for his family, he often found death or
Fashioning: fashioning I
Feats: dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: animal handling, bandage, biology, climb I, repair, splint, swim I, throw, weapon
City marshals, county sheriffs, U.S. Marshals and state rangers operated in the western territory. They were
entrusted with the almost impossible task of keeping order in this large lawless land. With only a badge,
their guns and their wits these brave men and women defended honest folk from outlaws.
Feats: critical shot I, dodge I, parry I, quick shot I, waylay I
Knowledge: animal handling, appraise, bandage, binding, climb I, crime, fatal finish, investigation, law,
swim I, weapon
Being a lawyer in the Wild West is often a thankless job. People in this lawless land make their own justice
using the gun and rope. Lawyers need to litigate carefully and have the skills to dodge the bullets of their
unhappy clients. Those barrister with the Knack have the power to manipulate people on the stand and get
them to reveal the truth.
Feats: conceal I, dodge I, willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, climb I, fatal finish, forgery, investigation, law, literature, swim I, weapon
Powers: emotion, truth
The gold and silver strikes of the West turned many men into miners. They panned for gold in the streams,
dug for silver in the earth and blasted through the rock with dynamite. Mining was hard and dangerous
Feats: dodge I, parry I, strength I
Knowledge: appraise, balance, bandage, bindings, climb I, demolitions, geology, repair, swim I, throw,
Photographers traveled the open range memorializing the West forever in black and white. Their cameras
were bulky and developing the pictures was a complicated chemical process. Photographers with the Knack
got to seeing things of the spirit world, and looking into the future. Their lenses revealed to them much more
of the world than their film captured.
Feats: dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, chemistry, climb I, fine arts, mechanics, spiritsense, swim I, weapon
Powers: banish, command spirit
Preachers brought the power of fire and brimstone to the old West. Every town had a preacher sharin’
morality and religion to a lot of folks barely survivin’. Preachers with the Knack who came west learned
there were prayers in the bible that could pack a punch when fighting a sinner.
Feats: negate I, recover I, willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, climb I, occult, spiritsense, swim I, theology, weapon
Prayers: banish, missiles (holy)
Rituals: dispel magic, divine baptism
The open range was home to many lavish estates where cattle barons ruled like medieval lords. The nobility
of the west as they were called had vast herds which they ran through Texas and then in later years into
Montana and the Dakotas.
Feats: dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: animal handling, appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, law, mathematics, rumors,
swim I, throw, weapon
Saloon operators are the bartenders, prostitutes, dealers and brewers that run the most important business in
the Wild West. Saloons were the social center of the community. Most saloons had drinking, gambling,
dancing and prostitution.
Feats: dodge I, parry I, willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, bindings, climb I, fine arts, repair, rumors, swim I, throw, weapon
Soldiers are part of the United States Army, although during the War Between the States there were some
confederate troopers in the West. As a whole the army of the West was understaffed, poorly equipped and
often ill disciplined.
Feats: critical strike I, critical shot I, dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: bandage, body combat I, climb I, fatal finish, military, repair, swim I, splint, throw, weapon,
wear armor I
In the first days of the Wild West beaver fur was in high demand, but by the end of the era the beavers were
almost gone and the days of the trapper had ended.
Feats: dodge I, parry I, pursue I, stun I
Knowledge: animal handling, appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, navigation, repair, survival,
swim I, tracking, weapon
Traps: traps I
The undertaker prepares a body for burial by making the corpse look purty. In areas where there is lots o’
killin’ the dead can up and rise, so its important to embalm the body to ensure the dead stay dead.
Undertakers with the Knack specialize in permanently getting rid of spirits who won’t rest easy.
Feats: negate I, willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, chemistry, embalm, fatal finish, forensics, occult, spiritsense,
splint, study, theology, weapon
Powers: banish, command undead, destroy undead
Rituals: dispel magic, obliteration
Newspapers were an important form of communication in the Wild West. One of the first businesses to open
in a new town was the newspaper office where the writer printed newspapers. Also popular were the writers
of dime novels who traveled the land looking to interview the personalities of the west.
Feats: dodge I, parry I, willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, climb I, fine arts, history, literature, mechanics, repair, swim I, throw,
There are many Indian cultures, each having different customs, dress and religions but all Indians shared a
close connection to the natural world and the spirits. The Indians faced great prejudice by the Americans
and struggled against them in a number of wars, which they lost. The old ones said too many young Indians
adopted the easy ways of civilization the magic of their people was lost. As the Indian way of life vanished
so did the spirits and the magic within the wilderness. As American culture and industrialization spread
across the continent the west became as magically dead as the east. White folk were sometimes allowed into
a tribe, but in the later years, more often than not, the adults were killed and orphaned children were raised
by Indian tribes.
Beast brothers (and sisters) are Indians who live close to the land in an attempt to become one with nature.
They live with animals, often running with the packs of wolves or herds of buffalo. Many beast brothers go
on to become skin switchers; some completely lose their humanity.
Feats: dodge I, elude I, parry I, pursue I
Knowledge: animal handling, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, meditate, navigate, tracking,
spiritsense, splint, swim I, weapon
Powers: command beast, speak
Rituals: call familiar, empower beast
Indian braves defend the tribes. They were most often men, but I’ve seen a few women braves as well. In
the early years they fought the white man and Mexican using knives, crudgels, tomahawks and bows with
arrows; but in the later years they began using the guns of the white man.
Feats: critical shot I, critical strike I-II, dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, body combat I, biology, climb I, fatal finish, spiritsense, swim I, throw,
Indian dream walkers explore the imaginary reaches of peoples’ dreams. They interpret the symbolism
within dreams, manipulate dream realities and communicate over long distances by sending dreams.
Feats: negate I, willpower I
Knowledge: astronomy, bandage, enigmas, meditate, occult, psychology, spiritsense, splint, weapon
Rituals: curse, dreamsending, talisman
Keeper of the Dead
The burial grounds of the Indians need to be tended carefully lest they become blights. In the magical west
bodies can rise from the dead. Some come to give guidance from the ancestors; others seek to wreak
vengeance on the living. The keeper of the dead needs to have the Knack.
Feats: negate I, parry I, willpower I
Knowledge: bandage, climb I, embalm, forensics, occult, pray, spiritsense, splint, swim I, weapon
Rituals: dispel magic, return, weapon (spiritual)
Prayers: command spirit, command undead, destroy undead, speak
Rituals: bone, undead visage
The Indian healer use herbs and other folk remedies to heal wounds and injury. Indian healers with the
Knack have the power to heal using magic.
Feats: willpower I
Knowledge: bandage, biology, medicine, meditate, spiritsense, splint, weapon
Rituals: restoration, return, spiritquest
Indian hunters gather food for the tribe. They were careful not to take more from the land then their could
Feats: dodge I, elude I, parry I, pursue I
Knowledge: animal handling, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, navigate, tracking, spiritsense, splint,
swim I, weapon
Indian scouts worked for the U.S. army. They generally adopted the white man’s ways and led the soldiers
against other tribes of Indians. Many Indians see scouts as traitors.
Feats: dodge I, parry I, pursue I
Knowledge: animal handling, appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, navigation, splint, swim I,
The spirit speaker communes with the spirits of nature. He knows the spirits of the woods, lakes and prairies.
A spirit speaker with the Knack can enable spirits to speak.
Feats: dodge I, negate I, parry I
Knowledge: animal handling, bandage, biology, climb I, meditate, occult, spiritsense, survival, swim I,
Powers: command spirit, speak
Rituals: conjure attendant spirits
Music is in the heart and minds of the Indian people. Indian song spinners learn and sing the sacred songs
of the tribe that have been passed down for generations. Song spinners with the Knack have learned to use
their voices to create magic.
Ballads: ballads I
Feats: negate I, parry I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, history, meditate, spiritsense, swim I, weapon
Rituals: dirge, festival, song and dance
Summoners work with the elements of air, earth, fire and water. Being a summoner requires the Knack.
Summoners use elemental magic to perform many functions, such as enchanting Indian weapons, protecting
important places and summonin’ nature spirits into powerful creations.
Feats: dodge I, negate I, parry I
Knowledge: bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, occult, spiritsense, swim I, weapon
Rituals: barriers, dispel magic, summon elemental, weapon (elemental)
Most Indian cultures do not have a written language and Indian tale weavers keep the oral history of the
tribe. These histories have been passed down from generation to generation. Tale weavers with the Knack
can help people regain spiritual energy.
Feats: willpower I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, history, rumors, spiritsense, swim I, weapon
Rituals: eulogy, storytelling
Indian tribal chiefs are accomplished elders who are generally elected by the people to lead the tribe because
of great deeds or wisdom.
Feats: willpower I
Knowledge: bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, spiritsense, swim I, throw, weapon
The war chief leads the braves of the tribe. He is responsible for organizing the war bands and setting the
strategies. War chiefs with the Knack can create powerful social groups related to battle.
Feats: critical shot I, critical strike I, dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, military, navigate, spiritsense, swim I, throw, weapon
Rituals: military induction
Chinese people emigrated to America for various reason both economic and political; but many were taken
through trickery or force. In America most Chinese men found jobs as laborers in the mines or on the rail
roads; most Chinese women became domestic servants, prostitutes or laundresses. Chinese people often
faced great prejudice by the Americans. Almost every western town had a Chinese shanty town on the edge
of the town. The buildings here were made of cheap wood and canvas tarps that were erected along narrow
alleyways. The smell of opium smoke mingled with the smells of boiling laundry and cooking noodles and
rice. The Chinese people brought with them to America their own special magic. Many remote parts of
China were still flush with magic. Much like the Indians of the American west the Chinese people had
learned to incorporate magic into their lifestyle.
The Chinese people brought a unique system of physical combat to America. In China monks would study
for years to achieve a mastery of their bodies that gave them to access Chi. Chi is another way of viewing
mana and allows the monks to perform incredible physical feats. Many people study these forms of brawling
combat, but only the Kung Fu masters truly excel. Sometimes the temples built in America will allow
Americans to study and become a Monk. Pursuing the occupation of a monk is the only way to become a
true Kung Fu master.
The Tong is a Chinese criminal organization that is prevalent throughout the west. The Tong controls the
opium trade. Non-Chinese are sometimes allowed to enter the Tong, but they are likely to be relegated to
the lower levels of the organization.
The apothecary deals in all kind of herbal treatments and medicines. Apothecaries with the Knack can
create magical compounds with varied uses.
Compounds: liquids I, pastes I, vials I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, chemistry, detect poison, fatal finish, splint, swim I, weapon
Poisons: poisons I
Procedures: purify blood
Many of the Chinese people labored in the mines or on the railroads. As a rule, Chinese people are hard,
loyal workers, but the often oppressive living and working conditions led to much unrest between the
laborers and management.
Feats: strength I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, climb I, fatal finish, swim I, weapon
The monks follow a path that requires great mental discipline and physical endurance. There are various
groups of monks, but most seek spiritual enlightenment or an ascension to a better state of being. Monks sit
for hours still as frozen water contemplating the essence of life. Despite all that sitting around, Chinese
monks can fight very well. I’d not want to tangle with one of them, especially one that has reached the
enlightened level of a Kung Fu master.
Feats: critical strike I, dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, body combat I, climb I, coordinate, fatal finish, spiritsense, swim
Poisoners deal in the creation of poisons for pleasure or military use. The often run the pleasure shacks
found in the shanty towns. Those dealers with the Knack are much sought after by the Tong, because they
can create various kinds of mind altering poisons.
Feats: elude I, parry I, willpower I
Knowledge: bandage, biology, chemistry, climb I, fatal finish, spiritsense, swim I, throw, weapon
Poisons: Poisons I
Calligraphers have learned the craft of Chinese character writing. Those calligraphers with the Knack know
the Chinese scripts that give protection to those who wear them.
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, climb I, literature, swim I, weapon
Scripts: Chinese Lettering I
The Tong Assassin is the stealthy solution to problems plaguing the Tong criminal organization. The Tong
assassin’s reputation in the West is well known by the Chinese. They are so feared that most Chinese will
not talk about the Tong to outsiders.
Feats: assassination I, elude I, parry I, pursue I, surprise strike I, waylay I
Knowledge: balance, bandage, body combat I, climb I, crime, fatal finish, leap, pick locks, rumors, splint,
swim I, throw, weapon
The Tong Boss runs the local criminal activity amongst the Chinese people. Small town bosses answer to
regional bosses who operate out of the larger cities. The headquarters of the Tong in North America was
commonly believed to be in San Francisco. The Tong generally operated among their own people, but each
local Tong boss was able to decide how far he could pus his endeavors into mainstream American society.
Feats: dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: appraise, bandage, biology, body combat I, climb I, crime, fatal finish, law, rumors, swim I,
The Tong trains toughs to be enforcers. They are called Hatchetmen, because they often used small axes
when they killed.
Feats: critical strike I, dodge I, parry I
Knowledge: bandage, body combat I, climb I, crime, fatal finish, rumors, swim I, throw, weapon, wear armor
Stuff Needin’ Knowin’
Well you can learn a lot from reading those fancy school books, but those sanitized pages ain’t gonna tell
you how the West really was. Those old school-marms in their tight pannies don’t want you day dreaming
about magic and being a hero. They want you to become a cog in the wheel of what they call proper society.
If you want to know the truth, you gotta read between the lines. I hope this next section is enough to give
you a head start.
Code of the West
The glorious land of the West had a Code of its own, an unwritten set of rules that was a blend of courtesy
and violence- of courtly kindness and harsh justice. The code dictated that a person’s word was his greatest
honor, his property was inviolable and hospitality was a sacrosanct obligation. Those who broke the code
were met with the contempt of their peers or worse.
Understanding this code is not too difficult. People did not lie out West, not to others and not to themselves.
If they were a murderin’ outlaw and they got caught they took their punishment. They didn’t whine and cry
and try to blame the system like criminals today. Old time outlaws faced the truth of their actions and went
stoically to the gallows.
Thievery is the quickest way to be branded an outlaw. Everyone knows that stealin’ is wrong and taking a
horse was the worse crime of all. On the frontier, thieves are often considered as bad as murderers,
sometimes its even worse. In a land where people are barely survivin’ if you take their supplies you might
be leavin’ them to a slow and painful death.
But on the other hand there’s never a need to steal for basic sustenance, because the Code of the West
required people to be hospitable. If you see some hungry hombre starvin’ on the trail, you’re obligated to
give him some of your rations. Now you ain’t required to save the world, but everyone’s gotta do just a little
bit to help their neighbor.
The Code was a little complex when it came to shootouts, stabbings and other activities Easterners might
consider unlawful. People were rowdy in the Wild West with lots of shootin’ and fightin’, but most people
didn’t pay the ruckus any heed, because people minded their own business.
In the West if one outlaw killed another outlaw, good people shrugged and called it justice. Law
enforcement officials never arrested gunslingers, gamblers or Tong enforcers for acts against their own.
These people on the edge of the law could shot and stab each other in the back alleyways and saloons, but
good people and law enforcement didn’t interfere so long as it stayed between them and didn’t bother polite
The Code of the West allowed people on the edge of the law to conduct themselves freely against people
like themselves, but exacted a terrible vengeance on those persons who accidentally or intentionally hurt
bystanders. In other words, as long as bad guys only hurt bad guys, the good citizens and law enforcement
officials looked the other way, but if their violence harmed an innocent in the community retribution is swift.
The whole community will generally rise up in arms, form a posse and find justice for the victim.
Many professional gamblers plied their occupation in communities throughout the West. They were
especially drawn to the places where perspective players had large funds with which to gamble. Mining
boom towns were the favorite location for gamblers hoping to mine the miners. Cattle towns during the
periods when cowboys were paid after driving in the herd were also very lucrative.
Gambling was extremely popular on steamboats traveling the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The boats
catered to professional gamblers providing amenities to big spenders. Games included poker, faro, roulette,
monte, whist and blackjack. Gambling also used dice and sometimes dominoes.
Professional gamblers and dealers often used tactics to give them an advantage during play. Decks were
marked by trimming the edges or rounding corners differently to identify cards. More sophisticated
gamblers made small indentations in the cards or used holdout devices to keep cards in reserve. Dice were
often shaved, weighted or magnetized so they rolled a certain way.
If you spend any time at all in the Wild West you gonna see a gunfight. I’m not taking about the kind of
bushwackin’ that happens when two people shoot it out on some back trail with no bystanders to tell the tale.
The kinda gunfight I’m takin’ about is the stuff of legends. Those gunfights that were fought using the Code
of the West and still are legendary today. Proper gunfights got rules and etiquette that was practiced by
professionals all over the west.
There is gun fighting etiquette due to the bystander and to the adversary. All professional gunslingers follow
the rules of etiquette, breaking with tradition is not tolerated. The gunslinger owed his adversary a great
deference. Breakin’ these rules of etiquette will make you a pariah. Other professional gunslingers won’t
afford you the etiquette and you’ll probably get bushwhacked from afar, smothered in your bed by some
prostitute or lynched by a mob of spectators who want to see a fair fight. Here is a list of the seven things
required for fairness and lawfulness in a professional gunfight:
(1) The professional gunslinger never shoots a man in the back. Only a yellow, coward shoots a man in
the back or surprises him when he’s not ready. Gunslingers trade on their reputation and cowards get no
respect. The west was about honor, courage and nerves of steel. The gunfight epitomized all that was noble
in the deadly duel.
(2) The professional gunslinger always makes his intentions known by a clear callin’ out. The intendin’
party generally calls the person’s name (or gets his attention with a “hey pardner”) and the taps his hostler
as the universal sign for a callin’ out. The party that has been called out can chose to accept or decline. If
he declines he acknowledges the challenger as the better gun. If the challenge is accepted, at the callin-out
the combatants will set a time for the shootin’ and decide how many guns they will use. Both men will
leave the area to prepare and runners will be sent through the town to announce the impending gunfight.
(3) The professional gunslinger never uses more guns (or bullets) than his opponent in a fair gunfight.
Most gunfighters use two six-shooters. It’s considered unsporting to use additional guns or reload during a
gunfight. If both combatants are still standing after all rounds are fired then the contest is a draw and the
gunfighters must wait another day before they can face-off again.
(4) The professional gunslinger does not go runnin’ for cover. In a stand-up gunfight you keep your ground
and move left and right, front and back, but no more than three paces in any direction. If you start runnin’
around like a jack ass, ain’t noone gonna take you seriously.
(5) Professional gunfights were public spectacles fought in front of on-lookers at appropriate times.
Gunslingers were embraced by the community and the notoriety gained by having an audience was well
worth the delay in satisfaction. Gun fights were generally scheduled at High Noon, Six of the Clock or
Sundown so that people could come and watch. Often gunslingers who denied the community the
opportunity to view the event were seen as shady characters and possibly labeled outlaws, especially if the
person killed was of honorable character.
(6) Gunslingers always ensure safety of on-lookers. Now I know this may seem silly to Easterners, but the
Code of the West requires this sensible precaution. The quickest way to have your professional gunslingin’
career ended is to hurt an innocent. People out west will tolerate a lot, but they won’t tolerate an on-looker
(7) Both winner and loser gain renown. The winner may earn the notch on his gun, but the loser has proven
his courage and is afforded a great respect for his part in the confrontation. People who treat losers poorly
often find themselves called out in a grudge match.
Every gunfight begins with a face-off in front of on-lookers. The on-looker will testify that the fight was fair
and both combatants will gain fame and notoriety. Spectators don’t want to see two chumps reloading guns
or emptying chamber after chamber at their opponent. Professional gunfighters use a maximum of two guns
and never reload. There’s an old saying, “If you can’t kill each other with twelve rounds, you’ve met your
equal.” The thirteenth round fired in a gunfight is said to be very unlucky.
The traditional starting distance for a gunfight is seven paces. If both combatants take three paces forward
they still have one pace between them. Similarly, if they both retreat three paces, they will be at the unlucky
distance of thirteen paces.
When they meet for the gunfight, neither professional pistolero will take his eyes off the other. This is called
the stare down and it separates the men from the boys. Locking eyes is a sign of strength, and often times
a man will give up during a stare down knowing that he has met his better.
Usually both duelists pull their iron at the same time. The goal is to aim centerline at your target while
moving to the left or right to avoid your opponents shot. Iron pullin’ and bullet dodgin’ are skills that every
gunslinger must develop if he means to build himself a reputation.
When the shootin’ iron clears the holster, both parties blaze away until they’re the last one standing. Don’t
believe the dime novels, most gunfights ain’t settled with one shot and expert gunslingers carry two guns.
With all the shoot’ and dodgin’ gunfights are bloody spectacles. People get lots of nicks and it’s not
uncommon for both men to take serious wounds, before the affair is settled by the final shot that brings down
the opponent. Generally, when both combatants have emptied their guns without a clear resolution the affair
is usually considered settled with both gaining honor. If the gunfight was part of a competition, the
individual causing the first wound to his opponent would be the nominal winner and advance in the
A professional gunslinger may file a notch in his gun stock for each professional gunslinger bested in a fair
gunfight with on-lookers. It is not necessary to kill your opponent, but the adversary must fall bleeding to
death and in need of medical care. All rules of etiquette must be followed. Notches are only gained in one-one-on gunfights against a profession opponent. A gunslinger cannot gain another notch for besting the same
person in later fights. Two professional gunslingers may not face off more than once a day.
People out west loved to compete and often did so using their guns. Friendly competitions often involved
target shooting. Tin soup cans stood on a waist high target such as a fence rail were often the target of
choice. Gunfighting tournaments in which combatants shot at each other were less common, but did occur.
These tournaments were open to anyone (even non-professional) and were generally fought with only one
gun. This causes less injury and allows the non-professional gunfighter to participate. All combatants agree
not to use feats that kill, but other feats are acceptable, unless specifically forbid by the competition
Notches are never earned by professional gunfighters who participate in gunfight competitions. In fact
victories in tournament competitions do not count as real “professional” victories. Tournament competitions
have rules and an organizer. They are generally not fought to the death and do not require the nerves of steel
needed in a professional gunfight. Gunslingers use tournaments to feel out their opponents, before engaging
them in a professional fight.
Law of the West
The laws of the old west generally revolved around a limited number of situations: collecting debts, crime
and property transactions.
Enforcement: Law enforcement in the Wild West had three parties. At a national level, each region had
a but-kickin’ U.S. Marshal, whose jurisdiction was limited to federal crimes. Within individual states and
territories every county had a sheriff. Finally, each town had its own marshal. Down in the southwest you
also had the mounted rangers of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. These men and women were a state wide
law enforcement agency, but the rangers traveled all over to bring men back to justice.
Courts: In the Wild West U.S. District Judges had routine areas known as circuits. These circuit-riding
Judges would arrive in town and persons would approach the judge for decisions concerning various matter.
The states and territories elected county judges and each of the towns had a Justice of the Peace who
handled matters for the town.
Vigilance Committees: These ad hoc committees were formed by local citizens to dispense unofficial
justice. Citizens who thought the law weak or slow took it on themselves to set the record straight.
Vigilante citizens organized posses to hunt down bandits and patrolled the streets. Most vigilance
committees had the tacit approval of town officials so long as they conducted themselves within the law.
Lynch Mobs: Lynch mob were rowdy bands of angry town folk who gathered together to take action against
suspected or convicted criminals. They seldom allowed the suspect to present a defense before having an
impromptu hanging. They were very different from vigilance committees.
Paid Enforcers: It was not uncommon for towns to hire individuals to protect their community against a
suspected threat. This practice was also used by wealthy land owners and businesses. Paid gunslingers
guarding herds, rail roads, store fronts and stage coach lines.
Isaac Charles Parker
Judge Parker was a tireless champion of Justice in the west. Criminals called him ‘The Hanging Judge’, but
good folks admired his devotion to swift retribution. He was a U.S. District Court Judge whose courtroom
was in Fort Smith, Arkansas. His jurisdiction included the lawless Indian Territory where rustlers,
murderers, thieves and fugitives from other jurisdictions congregated in growing large numbers.
Judge Parker supervised more than 200 U.S. Marshals far more than any other judge. The Marshals who
scoured Indian Territory for Judge Parker were unsalaried and only received milage, fees and rewards. The
job was dangerous and Marshals often traveled in groups splitting the rewards. Judge Parker opened his
court at eight o’clock in the morning six days a week and his sessions ran late into the night. To keep up
with his sentencing, the Hanging Judge had a scaffold built that could hang a dozen men at once.
Wild Bill Hickok
The most famous gunslinger of the West was born in Homer, Illinois. In 1855 an eighteen year old Hickok
drifted into Kansas. He joined the Free-State Militia just as “Bleeding Kansas” was torn by the strife of
slavery. Four years later he found himself working with Kit Carson on the Santa Fe trail, but was mauled
by a bear and convalesced in Nebraska. In 1861 Hickok, while working at the Rock Creek Pony Express
Station in Nebraska was attacked by a party of ruffians. It was his first known shoot out, but when it ended
three men were dead and Hickok was on his way to become a frontier legend.
Hickok fought with the Union during the Civil War and then became a gambler in Springfield, Missouri.
It was in Springfield that Hickok had his famous gunfight with Dave Tutt over the affections of a girl named
Susanna Moore. Hickok and Tett faced each other on the street, Tutt’s first shot went wild, but Hickok’s
kill shot took Tutt in the center of his chest.
Over the next few decades, Hickok continued a haphazard career in law enforcement. He served as sheriff
of Ellis County Kansas and then the city Marshall of Abilene, Kansas. Later he traveled with Buffalo Bills
Wild West Show.
On August 2, 1876 Hickok was shot in the back while playing poker by Jack McCall. McCall gave lots of
reasons for the killing, but the truth was that McCall was a weak willed drifter whose mind was being
controlled (literally) by Isabella a young gypsy friend of Agnes Lake.
Agnes Lake owned a performing circus that included a troupe of Gypsies. Hickok had married Agnes
shortly before leaving for Deadwood. Agnes was angry at Hickok for leaving so quickly after their wedding
and for cheating on her while in Deadwood. Agnes sent Isabella to Deadwood to kill Hickok inducing her
with an offer of partnership in the circus. Isabella seduced McCall, cast a ritual to control his mind, and then
caused him to shoot Hickok.
The most famous crime-fighting organization of the of’ west was the Pinkerton National Detective Agency
founded by Scottish emigrant and ex-Chicago police detective Allan Pinkerton. The agency initially
protected railroads, but after the Pinkertons foiled an assassination attempt on president elect Abraham
Lincoln they became heavily involved in counterespionage during the war between the states. After the war,
the Pinkertons pursued some of the most desperate gunslingers of the day including Billy the Kid, the James
Gang and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.
The logo of the Pinkerton Agency was the all-seeing eye accompanied by the motto “We never sleep.” The
agency almost always got their man, no matter how long it took; some investigations were closed only after
decades of work.
Betty Swan came out west with her father who was a U.S. Marshal. When her dad was killed she took his
badge and tracked down his killer. As the oldest child, Swan felt she had to help support her family. She
was denied a job as a U.S. Marshal on account of her sex, so she became a Bounty Hunter supporting her
mother and two younger sisters.
She wore men’s clothing, cut her hair short and had two pearl handled Colt Peacemakers. When she brought
fugitives in she kept her head down and collected her bounty. If someone noticed she was a woman and
made an off-color remark she’d fix them with her icy blue eyes and tap her holster.
Only one man was fool enough to try her speed; Swan shot him dead with one bullet through the heart. She
was so fast that the braggart’s gun never fully cleared his holster. After that, word got ‘round and no body
challenged Betty Swan.
Swan hunted outlaws for almost a decade, but after her two brothers and sister were grown she hung up her
pistols to fulfil her dream of teaching school. No one could believe the comely teacher in the one room
schoolhouse had once been one of the fastest guns in the West.
Outlaws of the West
There were shoot-outs in the dusty streets, murders in the saloons, brazen bank heists, daring train robberies
and gun fights at High Noon. Cattle rustlers, horse thieves and confidence men plied their scams, side by
side, with madmen of science who used devilish devices to steal and kill.
Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid (a.k.a. William Bonney, William Antrim, Henry McCarty) had 21 kills- one for every year
of his life, but he was not the wanton killer later writers made him out to be. He was fightin’ for a just cause.
Billy worked for John Tunstall, an honest rancher and businessmen, who was being run off his land by
wealthy- and throughly corrupt- cattle barons.
In 1878, after the cattle barons sanctioned the killing of John Tunstall, Billy and five companions killed
Sheriff Bill Brady and four other men who they believed to be involved in the assassination of Tunstall.
These events ignited what was called the Lincoln County Range War.
Lew Wallace, the Governor of New Mexico considered granting Billy a pardon, but then rescinded his offer
after Billy turned himself in. Ever wily, Billy escaped to continue his bloody feud with the cattle barons.
In 1881 Billy was gunned down in his bedroom by Pat Garret who was hiding in the darkness.
Jesse James was a callous killer whose criminal tendencies sprang from simple greed and a lingering
resentment of the North. His older brother, Frank James, was the nominal leader and the gang included the
Younger Brothers (Bob, Jim and Cole) and a few other outlaws of little fame (Charlie Pitts, Clell Miller and
The gang wantonly killed bystanders and murdered innocents on their raids. In 1873 the James-Younger
gang performed the first train robbery in the West by derailing a train in Adair, Iowa. The engineer and
several passengers were killed.
The gang met doom on September 7, 1876 when they tried to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. The
townspeople foiled the attempt with blazin’ gunfire. Most of the gang were killed during the initial shootout
or died during the flight from the posse. The Younger brothers were wounded and captured. They served
long sentences; only Jesse and Frank escaped.
Seven years later, Jesse was shot in the back by Bob Ford. Afterward, Frank James surrendered to
authorities and received a pardon. He left his life of crime behind and traveled in a Wild West Show.
John Wesley Hardin
Hardin was the killer of over 40 men- one for the offense of snoring in an adjacent hotel room. He killed
his first victim at 15 years of age because of a lost wrestling match. Hardin was a drifter for most of his life
and was well-known for his violent, seemingly uncontrollable temper. He spent 15 years in prison, but then
tried to go straight by becoming a lawyer. Hardin was shot in the back by a police officer with whom he had
Powell was a mathematician exploring cutting edge astronomical formulas. He made a trip west to examine
Indian ruins connected to his work on the celestial sphere. The Indians showed Powell the power of mana.
Powell quickly gave up his work on astronomy and turned to invention. His background in mathematics
allowed him to define certain calculation that would enable mana to provide power for various gadgets.
Powell revealed his discovery back East in 1865 and was treated with scorn by academia. He got into an
altercation with one of his detractors and murdered the man. To escape prosecution, Powell fled back West
where he began a life of crime using various gadgets.
By 1870, Powell built a criminal enterprise that supervised many groups of gadget using outlaws. His
heavily defended base was in the lava fields of southern Idaho. The base was destroy by a group of
vigilantes in 1885. Powell was never captured.
The Indians lived on the land, raising crops or providing for themselves by hunting and gathering. They were
organized by tribes and had vastly different belief systems and political structures, but they all shared a
strong connection to the spirit world and a deep commitment to nature.
Sitting Bull was a mystic, a warrior and a prophet. He communed with nature spirits and gained great
insight. He was a staunch opponent of American encroachment into the northern plains and would spend
his life fighting for his culture and his people’s right to live free.
In 1876 Sitting Bull was elected a war chief of the combined might of the Sioux and their allies who had
gathered to defend the Black Hills. To prepare for the battles, Sitting Bull under went a powerful ceremony
that would allow him visions of the future. Sitting Bull sliced each of his forearms 50 times with a sacred
knife and then performed the sun gazing dance during which he stared into the sun and danced all day as
he chanted. He received a vision showing victory over the Americans, but a warning not to adopt the ways
of the Americans or the nature spirits would withdraw their aid.
One June 25th Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and thousands of braves attacked the 7th Calvary led by Lieutenant
Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The nature spirits aided the Indians and together they destroyed the
calvary regiment and killed Custer. Despite Sitting Bull’s passionate warning not to adopt the white mans’
ways the victorious braves looted the soldier’s bodies of their uniforms and equipment. The Indians drank
whiskey and celebrated in the manner of white folk.
The nature spirits were displeased and withdrew their aid from the Indians. The Sioux could not win the war
against the Americans without spirit help. After losing a number of battles, Sitting Bull crossed the border
into Canada where he remained until he surrendered in 1881.
After his release from internment, Sitting Bull traveled with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in 1885
and then returned to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation where he was killed by Sioux police in 1890
after he spoke out against the necromantic content of the Ghost Dance religion.
Geronimo was an Apache. He was a proponent of peace for nearly ten years, but he became the voice of
vengeance when Mexican troops killed his family in 1859. He lead war parties against Mexican and
American settlers and soldiers throughout the southwest for almost two decades. In the 1860s he rode with
Mangas Coloradas and Cochise where he fought in the Battle of Apache Pass on July 15, 1862. The
Indian’s defeat convinced Geronimo that the best way to fight the Americans was to use hit and run guerilla
Throughout the 1870s Geronimo spent time on the Chiricahua and San Carlos Reservations, but he continued
to slip away on raids. The reservations were located on harsh, arid land. Finding food and water was not
easy and there was no mana in these areas to use to heal the sick. In 1885 Geronimo led a group of his
people from the reservation to seek a node where they could settle and rekindle the old ways. He was
unsuccessful and after a year of fighting Geronimo and his followers surrendered. He was taken back east
The western wars were fought by desperate men and women who struggled to maintain their way of life.
Mexicans, Mormons, Confederates and finally the Indians all fell before the hard pressed, but clearly
determined U.S. Calvary. Though suffering from disease, isolation, short rations, inadequate equipment and
low pay the soldiers and their officers achieved victory for the Unites States of America and, for better or
worse, created the West we know today. A place without magic, but having all the comforts of the industrial
Although most Civil War battles were fought east of the Mississippi, western regions had a role in the
conflict. The war started with the firing at Fort Sumter in April1861 and ended with the Confederate
surrender in April 1865.
Bloody Kansas: Kansas was the site of countless skirmishes and several small battles including the bloody
raid on Lawrence by Missouri raider William Clarke Quantrill where hundreds of civilians were murdered
and the city was burned. Quantrill’s Raiders included Frank James and Jesse James and Cole Younger.
New Mexico Campaign (1861-1862): Union and Confederate troops clashed over the southwest and control
of the gold and silver routes. The Confederate forces had some initial victories, but a victory by Union
forces at Glorieta Pass on March 26, 1862 dashed the Confederates hopes of controlling the West.
Between the years of 1840 and 1890 there were countless skirmishes and a fair number of large battles
between the Indians and the Americans.
Cayuse War (1847): A bloody attack on the Whitman Mission began the first significant conflict in the
northwest. The Cayuse blamed the Whitmans for an epidemic of measles that was killing their children.
Chief Tilokaikt and his braves slaughtered Whitman, his wife and ten others. In retaliation, a militia
attacked the Cayuse killing many innocent Indians. To protect his people, Chief Tilokaikt surrendered and
Southwestern Campaign (1864): Colonel Kit Carson attacked the Navajos and forced them to march “The
Long Walk” to a reservation in New Mexico where hundreds died. This was about the same time that the
K. S. Woolsey poisoned the Apaches by feeding them strychnine-laced pinole and the Kiowas and
Comanches made their final stand at Adobe Walls.
Red Clouds’s War (1864-1868): The Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho joined together to defend their lands
in the Powder River country of Wyoming. Major engagements included the battle of Platte Ridge (1865),
the Fetterman Massacres (1866) and the Wagon Box Fight (1867). Following the burning of three forts the
U.S. military withdrew from the area.
Crazy Horse’s War (1874-1876): Again the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho joined together to defend their
lands in the Powder River country of Wyoming and the Black Hills of Montana where gold had been
discovered. Numerous skirmishes ended in the Battle of the Little Big Horn (1876). In the months
following their victory defeat plagued the Indians. The Cheyenne surrendered after the Dull Knife Battle
(1876). Crazy Horse surrendered 1887. Sitting Bull fled to Canada.
Nez Perce War (1877): The proud Nez Perce of Idaho and Washington refused to be placed on a
reservation. The killing a few white settlers by some young braves touched off the conflict. The Nez Perce
attempted to flee to Canada in an attempt to join Sitting Bull. After a few initial victories in a year long
running battle, Chief Joseph was forced to surrender forty miles short of the Canadian Border.
As ranchers and homesteaders began to fence in the open range many conflicts arose. Perhaps the most well
known was the Lincoln County War which gave rise to the notorious legend of Billy the Kid.
Tensions between the United States and Mexico began escalating in the early 1840s due to continued
disputes between Mexico and the Republic of Texas. President James Polk declared war on Mexico in
1846. Two years of fighting resulted in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ceded to the United States
a large section of Mexican claimed land including California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
In 1857 when the Mormons refused to accept Alfred Cumming as the new governor of Utah, the U. S. Army
was sent to enforce the appointment. A series of small skirmishes were fought, but in the end Brigham
Young, the leader of the Mormons, conceded and the new governor was installed in June of 1858.
A Lingo of Their Own
Out west a lot of words got made up to explain things needin’ explaining.
Bang Juice. A term used to describe nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerin was a volatile compound that was used
in the mining industry.
Blight. An unholy place where negative mana energy collects. They often gives rise to undead, demons
and other dark creations.
Boot Hill. Every town had a Boot Hill where men who lived on the edge of the law were buried. Only good
Christians could be interred in the church cemetery so a town’s Boot Hill was the buryin’ grounds for men
who died with their boots on. They often became blights.
Breed. Term used to describe a person who is part white and part Chinese or Indian.
Bronco. A half wild horse descendant from those introduced by the early explorers.
Cairn. An Indian holy place where mana energy collected. Indian holy persons tended cairns encouraging
them to became hallow, but when conflict with white folk brought violence, prejudice and hate to the west
many cairns turned into black blights.
Calico Queen. The name given to prostitutes and saloon girls.
Chaps. A pair of leather overalls used to protect a riders legs from getting scratched by chaparral.
Chi. The mystical force that the Chinese manipulate to perform magic. Chi is essentially another name for
Chuck. Another term for food, meal or mealtime arising from the legendary chuckwagon.
Cowpoke. A man or woman who worked with cattle (the task involved prodding cattle along).
Hallow. A holy place where positive, restorative mana energies collect. It is believed that the Fountain of
Youth was actually an extremely powerful Hallow.
Henskins. A thin blanket used by cowboys.
Hog Leg. A large pistol with a long barrel and heavy grip.
Kachina. A mask wearing supernatural being that serves as a messenger and protector of the pueblo Indians.
Knack. Those havin’ the Knack can manipulate mana to perform magic. Most people don’t have the
Knack, but those who do can learn extraordinary skills.
Mana. The universal essence contained in all things that can be used to perform magic.
Maritou. An Indian word describing the nature spirits that inhabited the Wild West.
Maverick. An unbranded cow claimed by its finder.
Necktie Party. A impromptu hanging organized by citizens taking the law into their own hands.
Node. A place of neutral mana energy. Nodes can become hallows or blights depending on their use.
Regale. A drinking bout common among trappers and mountain men prior to starting an expedition.
Rodeo. The annual cattle roundup that occurred every spring.
Rustler. A cattle thief.
Shootin’ Iron. A pistol.
Smoke Tube. A black powder, muzzle-loading rifle or pistol.
Unktehi. The Sioux word for the very dangerous, primordial, fish-like creatures that fly around in the
Badlands region eating human flesh. The word translates roughly as Dread Fish.
Wayinyan. This Sioux word translates as “Thunderbirds” and described legendary creatures living in the
Black Hills that boomed thunder and shot lighting.
The Wild West was a place of magic, mystery and monsters. The presence of mana permeated the land
creatin’ a world very different from the one recorded by those writin’ our history today. The stodgy, pipe
smokin’ professors never set foot in the Wild West. They never participated in a gunfight or danced around
an Indian bonfire. You’re not gonna find the truth in a text book. Nowadays, learned people relegate the
truth about the Wild West to fiction and folk tales because our society does not wish to accept the existence
of magic. Industrialization, scientific advances and modern commercialized values put an end to mysticism.
Europe had long forgotten the power of magic. They traded mysticism for scientific theories, modern
medicine, chemical pharmacology and the comforts of industrialized livin’. In their zeal for these new
luxuries they lost sight of the truth; there is no more potent force in the world than mana for healing,
longevity and life. Mana can do almost anything!
When a world begins to industrialize and use fossil fuels less people are born with the ability to use mana.
Parts of the world not influenced by industrialization may remain magical for many years, but when heavy
industry is brought into those areas in the form of minin’, farmin’, loggin’ and so forth, they too will become
As magic fades from the world, less people will be born with the ability to use mana and magic will vanish
from most of the world. During this time only the most remote areas will have mana energy and you’ll have
a world much like the world after the end of the Wild West.
Indians and Celestials both believe that if the modern world ever reaches a point where industry ceases to
be the focal point of society, magic could make a slow resurgence in the world.
The Indians were a simple people, but they were highly advanced in their use of magic. They lived a very
comfortable and healthy lifestyle, using mana in every aspect of their lives, for healing, hunting and
spirituality. Vision quests, dances, sweat lodges, dreams and songs were their means of manipulating mana.
The Chinese brought their knowledge of magic from the mystical lands of China where they had long used
mana. Like the American west China was beginnin’ to industrialize, but there was still magic in the deeper
parts of China, those that had not been touched by the west. The Chinese called mana energy Chi and used
it to do many wondrous things, such as acupuncture, herbal healing and martial arts.
Most whites ignored magic, or even mocked its existence, but those of us with the Knack learned to value
its power. Gunslingers used mana to load, aim and fire their guns, doctors used healing magic, druggists
made arcane compounds, undertakers obliterated the spirits of vengeful beings and gadgeteers used mana
to power their machines.
Both the Indians and Chinese agreed that mana came from the heavens, from the sun, moon stars and also
from within the earth. They believed mana flowed through the universe and across the surface of the earth
and within every single living thing.
Most Indians lived as hunter-gatherers in small villages and believed that building large cities and plowing
the earth disturbed the flows of mana and hurt the earth they considered to be their Sacred Mother. A
medicine man from the Cayuse tribe of the Pacific Northwest explained the reason why he would not farm
as, “Shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s bosum?”
Many chiefs and medicine men viewed the United States government’s policy forcin’ Indians onto
reservations as an attempt to prevent their manipulation of mana. Those of us with the Knack knew the
Indians had powerful magic, but the Indians were hesitant to use their magic for war.
The U.S. government needed to move the Indians to mana-dead locations or to places where the Indians
would be forced to give up their hunter-gather lifestyle and farm the land, thus destroying the mana reserves
contained within the soil. Because of this, many Indian tribes fiercely resisted the move to reservation life
where they would become an agriculturally based society and lose their way of life that relied on the
manipulation of mana which was the one force that could defeat the Americans.
The Chinese built large cities but these cities were carefully constructed in order not to disturb the mana
which existed in the earth. Many structures in ancient China actually channeled flows of mana to promote
the magical nature of their ancient civilization.
Temples were constructed around nodes of magic using time honored principles to preserve and enhance the
vitality of these places. The great wall of China was as much a barrier to deter the incursion of barbarians
as it was intended to direct the flows of mana back into China.
The Chinese performed daily exercises and meditations to develop the mana within themselves which they
called chi. This practice promoted health and led to longevity even among ordinary persons. Illnesses were
treated by acupuncture and other manipulation of mana.
There was magic in the Wild West and the force of mana permeated all things running like unseen rivers
through the landscape. Mana collected in certain areas saturating the plants, beasts, soil, minerals and ore.
Those of us with the Knack called these places nodes, but throughout history they have been called many
things by various civilizations. In Europe they were called caerns, grounds or circles, in China they were
called vessels, meridians or channels and the Indians called them by various names translating to sacred earth
Nodes exude a neutral energy when they form, but the nature of the energy will change with their
environment. Nodes surrounded by good, wholesome activities will develop a positive demeanor, whereas
nodes that are exposed to dark thoughts or violence develop negative energies.
Positive nodes are called hallows. These nodes exude a tranquil, restorative energy that makes the world
around them seem to sparkle. People entering hallows feel a peaceful reverence. Hallows are often used
for religious buildings and cemeteries, hence the term hallowed ground.
Negative nodes are called blights. These nodes exude a spooky, pernicious energy that makes the world
seem a dark and dreadful place. The light in a blight is never bright enough and mists often collect around
plants that have withered and died. Necromancy and harmful hauntings are common in blighted areas.
There were powerful nodes in the Wild West. Most of them were holy places, called cairns by the Indians.
The cairns were carefully tended by medicine men to become hallows and were used as sacred sites for
healing, vision quests, magical ceremonies and important social gatherings. The Indians prospered by living
in the nourishing magic of their hallows.
Before the coming of the white man there was only one blight in the west located in Death Valley. This
blight was formed ages ago when two different cultures fought for control of the node. The violence of their
struggle turned the node into a blight and both cultures were consumed by decadence and decay.
The coming of the white man changed the west forever. The conflicts with the Indians and the degradation
of the Chinese, coupled with the violence of western society caused a profound transformation in the western
nodes. As the violence escalated the nodes shifted from hallows to blights. As the nodes changed, so did
the land. The mana flows traveling between the blighted nodes became dark and the landscape grew
inhospitable. The summers were hot and dry and in the winter terrible blizzards blanketed the land with
snow. Drought conditions existed, followed by floods.
The darkening of the mana flows also led to the spreading of arcane plagues and the walkin’ dead.
Countless innocents died of disease and famine, while cemeteries that were once peaceful resting places for
the physical body, became blighted nodes capable of spontaneously creating undead. The violent nature of
the land, meant there would be an increase in the amount of mana used for violent purposes. This caused
beasts living in the west to evolve into supernatural beasts that had their own mana-use capabilities.
Darwin’s theory of natural selection was clearly demonstrated as beasts adapted to their environment. The
presence of mana enhances evolution and allows mana-adapted species to develop very rapidly. In a decade
the west had changed from a beautiful landscape inhabited by a peaceful society of hunter-gatherers to a
bleak land filled with violence, greed and corruption. Often times such a condition wold lead to a terrible
world calamity, such as occurred during the European Dark Ages or the end of Atlantis. But the despite the
potential for catastrophe that existed, the American West simply went away because of the end of magic.
End of Magic
Industrial practices are the opposite in all respects to magical practices. Industry produces a useful product
by consuming energy; magical ceremonies transform materials into useful products without consuming
energy. For example, if a sword is made through an industrial process such as mundane forging and uses
mana-imbued coal or wood to create heat and mana-imbued metal as the basis for the sword the mana will
be consumed in the creation of the sword. This mundane industrial fashionin’ leaves magic-dead ash behind.
When you make a sword through a magical process, the mana within the materials is used to shape the
weapon, but mana energy is not consumed. The process does not produce the magic-dead ash. When the
weapon is completed the mana energy remains in the world and resettles to be used again and again.
Before the white man came across the Mississippi River everything in the Wild West was full of magic, but
ordinary white folk couldn’t see the magic and refused to believe Indian superstitions and folklore. The
Americans erected large scale industrialized operations throughout the west to facilitate mining, farming and
These immense undertakings consumed massive quantities of mana-imbued materials. American industry
pulled mana-imbued ore from the ground and logged the vast forests of mana-filled trees at a frightening
pace. American hunters slaughtered the most magical of animals the Buffalo in less than a decade.
American farmers plowed their fields and changed the course of rivers without carin’ about the effect on the
Mana can replenish itself, but the swift and careless removal of mana resources in the west did not allow
the mana flows to recover. In fifty years the West was as magically-dead as the East which was as
magically-dead as Europe.
The destruction of magic was a terrible thing, but more terrible would have been the cataclysmic events that
could have occurred. The violence of the west had turned the hallows to blights on such a large scale it
could have created another cataclysm such as the European Dark Ages or the end of Atlantis. But just as
the mana flows were darkening to a dangerous level the impact of industrialization was reaching its height
In the late 1870s and early 1880s the negative mana contained within the blights was being rapidly
consumed as a side effect of the industrialization. Instead of a great cataclysm the magic of the west simply
disappeared. Perhaps in time, when the world ceases to use fossil fuels and moves to a less industrialized
way of life the magic will return. Hallows will once again develop and the world will live in peace, but until
then our school books will teach young children to deny the existence of magic.
All living things have spirits. A spirit gives form to the physical body. Spirits need a body to anchor them
to this world and when the physical body dies most spirits will leave the world and go to a place between
the realms called the Void by those of us with the Knack. Christians call the place heaven (or hell), but the
Indians know it as the Happy Hunting Grounds.
The process begins after death; the body slowly decomposes and becomes unable to contain the spirit. The
spirit slips from the body and goes into the Void. This process can take a few weeks and during that time
the body may be affected by the forces of magic such as restoration or necromancy.
Almost every culture has religious practices for removin’ the spirit from the body. This process is called
embalming. Noone wants a body with a spirit lying around that’s not going to be restored to life. It’s too
easy in some places for the spark of necromancy to enter the body and spontaneously raise the corpse as an
undead. Sometimes when a person is killed in tragic circumstances or dies with a task undone the spirit
becomes trapped in this world. These spirits can become ghosts or other forms of quasi-corporeal undead.
People with the Knack generally have a stronger spirit and their spirits can stay in the world after death.
There are even certain rituals and procedures that can recreate a body around a spirit, so its kindda hard to
destroy someone with the Knack unless you have an undertaker who can obliterate the spirit.
Every human being has a sentient spirit. People look and act they way they do because of their spirit. The
spirit is a blueprint for the body and all consciousness and thought is contained in the spirit. The physical
body is nothing more than a vessel that the spirit uses to exist in the world. The Chinese and some Indians
tribes teach that the spirit is reborn through the ages. They believe there are ways to remember past lives.
Nature spirits roam through the wild lands. They have the limited sentience of an instinctually driven beast.
The commonest kind of nature spirits are those that embody beasts. They define the physical body of
ambulatory plants, animals and avians.
When the power of magic is strong in a location groups of small plants, corpses of trees, swarms of insects,
schools of fish, tiny life forms in stagnant pools of water and the lichens found on rocks formations can
potentially support nature spirits These nature spirits are anchored to the life they are associated with and
provide control over them.
Nature spirits (and very rarely sentient spirits) can also be attached to forces in nature, such as gale winds,
blizzards, flood, thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions and other catastrophic events. These spirits were once
part of living things, but were consumed by the force of nature and became trapped as part of it. Because
these spirits are attached to the force of nature they gain some control over it.
When the force of nature ceases the spirits will be freed and slip into the Void. Some of nature spirits fear
leaving the world and will look for natural forces to which they may attach themselves. These dangerous
spirits have a vested interest in maintaining the force of nature (generally a harsh weather phenomena). I’ve
led missions to destroy these kinds of dangerous nature spirits.
People can talk with nature spirits, but since plants, beasts and natural phenomena don’t have the capacities
for speech magic is needed. Some people with the Knack can enable the spirits to talk. This skill is
especially common among Indian medicine men.
Spirits have the power to instantaneously destroy their physical bodies. This is called exodus and most often
occurs after death, but can be done when alive and conscious. Exodus requires an incredible strength of will
and desire to leave a physical form, so you don’t see people turning to dust all that often. A spirit
accomplishes exodus by using their spirit energy to turn their body to dust. Such an action is injurious to the
spirit, but allows immediate escape from the form.
The Chinese have long understood the power of mana, which they call qi or chi depending on the Chinese
dialect. They see mana as the intrinsic substance or vital force behind all things in the universe. It is the
medium between and within all material substances. The studies of Chinese scholars have resulted in the
formation of Ying-Yang and the Five Element Theories. Both are excellent ways for understanding the flow
of mana in the universe.
Qigong (Chi Kung) is the art of manipulating mana (qi or chi) to promote health and well being. The
translation of qigong means “the attainment of qi”. Qigong masters were the pillars of Chinese society and
included healers, philosophers, teachers, astrologers and governmental leaders. At its heart Qigong is a
series of breathing exercises and Chi circulatin’ postures. It can be used for many purposes including healing
and the prevention of illness, the development of incredible physical prowess and the attainment of a greater
Kung fu literally means “the attainment of”, but most Americans use the term to refer to a system of combat
used by the Chinese people. This comprehensive system includes kicking, punching, joint locks and take
downs. The roots of Kung fu were found by studyin’ the movements of animals. Kung fu practitioners claim
that from the crane they learned grace and poise, from the snake they learned suppleness and precision, from
the praying mantis they learned speed and patience, from the tiger they learned tenacity and strength, from
the leopard they learned endurance and agility, from the eagle they learned to swoop and strike and from
the dragon they learned to float and flow.
Kung fu masters reach a level of martial arts training allowing them to strike like the animals they emulate.
Their hands become the embodiment of the tiger claw, eagle talon, leopard fist, snake strike, mantis hand,
crane beak and so forth. Kung fu masters have the marks of the animals which they have study permanently
imprinted through burning or tattoos on the inside of their forearms.
When magic started turnin’ dark because of the violence and greed in the Wild West there was an increase
in all sorts of hauntings. In the 1860s there was plenty of evil going on. Hostilities between the north and
the south were rising to a head. Kansas and other places were the first battlegrounds, but with the advent
of the declared war violence was everywhere.
During the War Between the States the Indians of the west launched a major offensive against the
Americans. Blood ran like rivers causing the darkening nodes to grow black. These corrupted blights
caused negative mana flows to cover the land. Those of use with the Knack could see the streaming
blackness in some places. Magic does funny things when its being corrupted by evil deeds and adverse
emotions. I’ve seen a lot of strange spectral events, but most can be grouped into a two kinds of hauntings.
Spectral Sightings: Aspirations don’t have any physical form and you can see right through them. They have
no existence in the material world and can’t hurt you. The past replays over and over again and nothin’ you
do will interrupt the flow of the narrative. Just sit back and watch, because disturbing events may make
them go away. I seen all kinds of these harmless spectral sightings including a ghostly wagon trains of
slaughter emigrants, an entire cavalry command charging into the mists of eternity and a flaming stage coach
that explodes as it reaches the center of town. They’re certainly unnerving, but they’re not goin’ hurt ya.
Reflections in the Mist: This is a peculiar kind of haunting that occurs in spooky white mists. Like spectral
sightings these haunting replay the past, but unlike the spectral sighting the past events in the mists have
solid form so they’re pretty dangerous. When a person ends up in the mists, they are actually stuck in a place
that is part the past and part present. Sometimes the landscape of the present will dominate and people can
only see parts of the past landscape if they look real hard into the mist. Other times the past landscape
almost completely supercedes the present. If you find yourself in the mist, the best way to escape is back
the way you came, if not you’ve got to ride it out. Sooner or later the reflection of events will end and you’ll
be standing in the present.
The West is littered with towns and old ranch houses standing silent and empty; most people call them Ghost
Towns. These structures once contained all the hopes and dreams of those who built them, but now they
stand as a testament to failure. The owners, gone away, dead or worse, have abandoned the structures to
weather in the sun. The aura of loss and tragedy often hangs heavy on these abandoned towns and
homesteads. Dark energies of depression, failure, want and fear will attract malevolent things or cause
reflections in the mist to occur.
Smart folks tell ya to stay outta these haunted places, but often people with the Knack gotta go and
investigate reports of some terrifying creature or undead desperado using the ruins as a base. Sometimes the
problem can be solved by a beat down with a burnin’ brand, but often things become a shoot’em up usin’
Hamlet Home, MT
Along the Oregon Trail west of Fort Laramie in Wyoming the small town of Hamlet Home grew from the
passing of missionaries, prospectors, trappers and homesteaders hoping for a better tomorrow. The dreams
of those in Hamlet Home were cut short in August of 1854 when a Sioux brave killed a cow belonging to
Mormon emigrants. Lieutenant William Grattan attempted to arrest the Indian responsible, but fighting
ensued and in the conflict the Grattan and his command were wiped out. Chief Conquering Bear and a
number of Indians were killed.
A month later the Sioux went on the warpath and a small band of braves attacked the town of Hamlet Home
just after sundown in the middle of a small festival. A brutal battle ensued, where Indians and town folk
died in a hail of bullets and arrows. The fighting became hand to hand and went from house to house. In
the end there were no victors, both sides had massacred each other and bodies lay bloating in the sun.
A trapper wandered in the town a few days later and discovered the destruction. He started burying the
bodies, but as evening fell a white mists formed around the buildings and the landscape changed. Suddenly,
violins played and the townspeople were once again dancin’, drinkin’ and makin’ merry. Moments later
the Indians attacked. The trapper ran from the town and barely escaped with his scalp.
Hamlet Home was never re-settled. The remainin’ bodies were never buried. Visitors to Hamlet Home who
dared stay after sundown sometimes faced the same terrible reflection as the trapper. Many did not escape
and their bodies were found in the morning. The deserted ghost town got a deservedly bad reputation. Most
people kept clear of the town and as the years passed the town’s location was lost to common knowledge.
Hamlet Home is somewhere in the mountains of Montana, so if ya come across a one lane ghost town realize
it may not be a good place to spend the night.
Eli’s Trading Post
When Eli opened his trading post along the Santa Fe trail in Southern Colorado his wife, Sally, was not very
enthused. Life was hard on Sally who missed the city, but she made the best of things. She kept busy
tending a garden and earned some money repairing cowpoke’s clothes.
It was on one such occurrence that Eli found Sally and a cowpoke otherwise engaged. She claimed she was
she stichin’ up his britches, but she had her skirt pulled up and it wasn’t a needle she was holding in her
hand. The cowpoke ran for his life when he saw Eli go for his ax and kill his cheating wife.
It wasn’t long until cowpokes started gettin’ killed on the Sante Fe Trail by some angry madman using an
ax. All the killings took place within fifty miles of Eli’s Trading Post. By now the story of Sally’s murder
was all over the county and the sheriff went looking for Eli.
The county sheriff found Sally’s body and Eli’s scribbled suicide note saying, “Life without Sally ain’t
worth living.” They found blood splatter on the wall, a pistol with a bloody barrel and one fired cartridge,
but they never found Eli’s body or the ax.
Every decade or so in Southern Colorado there’s a series of killings. The victims are all young men with
their head chopped in and small tears in the britches. I’m thinking that Eli may still be out there and when
he finds some sorry sap with torn britches he takes his revenge.
Items can become imbued with dark energies. All sorts of hauntings can revolve around these items.
Oftentimes holding the item will cause one to undertake certain actions, such compulsions must be dispelled.
Other times holding an item can initiate a series of visions or events. I’ve included an example of each kind
of Haunting below.
Faro was the most popular game played out west during the boom years, because of its low house percentage.
A particular table located in the Delta Saloon at Virginia City, NV became known as the infamous “suicide
table”. The faro table was brought to Nevada by its owner Black Jake who lost $70,000 one evening and
shot himself. The second owner ran the table for one disastrous night. Unable to cover his losses, he too
committed suicide (or was shot by an unhappy winner). No dealer would play this unlucky table and it was
Years later it was brought out again and that night the dealer lost $86,000 and committed suicide provin’
there are some things in the Wild West that are just unlucky. When I heard about the table I took a trip to
Virginia City to play at the table at the Delta Saloon. There were six of us with the Knack and the
unsuspectin’ dealer. In five hours of play the dealer had lost $25,000 and was bankrupt.
Those of us with the Knack had seen what was happening. We discovered the table granted everyone but
the dealer increased skill at gambling. The dealer got himself a powerful compulsion to go and kill himself.
Well, the preacher travelin’ with us saved the dealer from himself by dispelling the compulsion, but the
owner of the Delta Saloon wouldn’t let us destroy the table.
The Deadman’s Hand
Here is an example of a haunting that’s initiated by the dealing of five cards in a poker hand. When a
person is dealt the Deadman’s Hand, Aces over Eights, a spectral gunman may appear and try to shoot the
player in the back. The only way to survive is to kill this spectral assailant before he kills you!
There were some places in the Wild West where the magic had become so corrupted that a destroyed
vehicle, apparatus or contraption was capable of becoming a haunt. The machines reconstituted into a dark
physical existence. They are able to be operated, damaged and destroyed normally, but they will generally
repair or reconstitute themselves.
Many of these haunted machines are driven or operated by the same people who controlled them in life.
These people become part of the haunt and are often undead. Some of these haunted machines develop a
sentience of their own, some become almost like a living person. Oftentimes people with the Knack have
to stop these haunts from occurring. Its dangerous work but someone has to do it. Generally, some tragedy
occurs because of greed, hatred or even inattention. To undo the haunting you gotta get on the vehicle and
somehow stop whatever caused the tragedy.
The Union Pacific Railroad ran from Omaha, Nebraska to Promontory, Utah, but it was on a desolate piece
of track west of Cheyenne, Wyoming where a group of outlaws decided to pull up some track emulatin’ the
action of the James-Younger gang. Things did not go as planned. Engine 79 was barreling’ along as the
fireman fed mana-imbued coal into its boiler. The flames burned much hotter than normal, steam spewed
from seams as the pistons drove the massive that carried the train at a break-neck speed. The engineer kept
the safety valves closed and stood heavy on the deadman’s throttle. He’d been assured by a gadgeteer that
certain arcane modifications would allow his train to make the trip to Promontory, Utah in half the amount
When Engine 79 hit the section of pulled up rails it tumbled off its track and pulled the passenger cars across
the desert until they all dropped into a gulch. The engine exploded and the whole train was consumed in a
red hot mana-fire so intense only the ashes remained. The outlaws fled the scene and were later hunted
down by agents of the rail road.
Five years later, on the anniversary of the crash, a shadowy train bearing the nameplate Engine 79 picked
up passengers along the route. Assured by a solemn conductor that the train was heading to Promontory,
most passengers found their spots aboard the doomed train. Later the passengers died in a fiery crash still
believing the railroad had printed the train number wrong in the schedule, Their bodies were discovered
blackened and burned along the track outside Cheyenne in the same spot where Engine 79 had wrecked
many years before. There was no wreckage around the site, but the ground bore the indications of a massive
Reports of Engine 79 sightings continue to this day along the rails between Cheyenne, Wyoming and
Promontory, Utah. At least once a decade a rail road officials find a pile of burned bodies along the tracks
near Promontory and whisper that the ghost of Engine 79 had claimed another set of victims.
The Mississippi Belle
She was one of the grandest paddle wheel boats ever built, but on her maiden voyage the boiler exploded
killing everyone and destroying the Mississippi Belle. Rumors say the river boat company was trying to cut
costs. The young captain had the Knack and he purchased a load of mana-imbued coal to burn in the boiler.
Everyone with the Knack knows that fossil fuels containing mana burn hotter and longer than normal fuels.
Most ordinary folks can’t tell the two types of coal apart and you can buy mana-imbued coal for the same
price as normal coal.
The captain who was a part owner of the river boat company hoped the paddle wheeler would use less coal
and save his company a lot of money. He gave strict instructions to only fill the fire-box beneath the boiler
halfway. The plan seemed foolproof.
An old firemen who’d been workin’ boilers on paddle boats for years didn’t like the young captain telling
him how to stock the fire-box. The old man knew you had to fill the box full, so he did just that, despite the
captain’s orders. The Mississippi Belle exploded killing all hands and passengers.
A year later on a mist shrouded night, the Mississippi Belle pulled into a river port and took on passengers
whose burned corpses were found floating in the river the next day. Even in this modern time, the
Mississippi Belle is rumored to travel the river on dark and misty nights. People still go for trips on her
doomed decks and never return.
Dreams can sometimes be as dangerous as reality. Both the Indians and Chinese have ways of creating
dream realms that can be entered by those who are willing to do so. Once inside these dream realms the
person is at the mercy of the dream. Some dreams are pleasant, but others can be nightmarish.
Entering the dream-state requires a ritual and mana-imbued components. The Indians often used peyote or
mushrooms, while the Chinese preferred opium as the mana-imbued component. Regardless of the method,
at the conclusion of the ritual all willing recipients would fall asleep and enter the dream realm.
The rituals are not always successful, because access to a dream realm is dependant on many factors. Dream
realms are often visited because they can show truths that are not easy to see in the real world. Dreams
realms can also show potential futures and help people to determine the proper course of action. After
performing a ritual, the physical body and spirit remain in the real world, but the dreamin’ body and spirit
wake in the dream realm in the position that they fell asleep.
Dream realms are just like the physical world, but are generally limited in size. There is often only one
location and a person cannot escape from the area. Further, although dream realms parallel reality they are
full of symbolism, mist shrouded scenes, shadowy areas, colored lights, glowing auras and fantastic entities.
The dreamin’ body and spirit have the same genetics and skills. Skills work the same in the dream realm.
Sometimes people may gain or lose genetics and skills. Often, dream entities encountered in dream realms
will have strange skills that only function in the dream realm.
The commonest way to get out of a dream realm is to wake-up and that’s generally only possible when the
dream is over. Sometimes if a person is dead when the dream ends, they will be dead in the physical world
Lay O’ The Land
Well, the land out west was wild and untamed and nothin’ at all like the civilized lands of the East. There
were sage brush, greasewood and alkali lakes; towering red woods, snow covered evergreens and short
stubby mountain pines; endless seas of prairie grass and lifeless salt flats.
The wanderlust in my heart took me through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico so hot in the summer
and icy cold in the winter, the vast open prairies of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas full of wide blue
skies and swaying grass, the lava beds of central Idaho with black rocks jutting up and craters disappearing
into the pale brush, the stark badlands of western South Dakota and the virgin forests of Oregon and northern
California that had never felt the bite of a saw.
In this magical land, every living thing was capable of containing a nature spirit. Yeah pardner, I know you
don’t believe, but schools of fish, beds of flowers, and swarms of insects in the Old West could have a spirit
guiding the group. A person with the skill to sense spirits could see them; and a person with the Knack and
the right learnin’ might be able to communicate or use them.
The Pacific Northwest is composed of Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The land is characterized by mist
filled forests with sunlight streaming through the pines, beautiful lakes of placid water reflecting the sky and
humid coastal regions with daily rainfall.
The wildlife of the area is varied. Vast herds of elk, caribou and moose roam the forests. Noble eagles soar
amid cathedral cliffs and the streams are filled with salmon. Bears hunt the woods, along with mountain
lions and bobcats.
Fearsome grizzly bears are not afraid to maul a man for an easy meal. These bears become particularly
dangerous after they have tasted human flesh, because other foods lose their appeal. Man-eating grizzlies
will not hesitate to attack small groups of travelers or isolated homesteads.
The highest mountains of the pacific northwest are home to large hairy neanderthals called sasquatches. The
Indians know better than to go into their lands, but the white man will go anywhere in search of gold. The
sasquatches protect their sacred mountains by brutally killing trespassers.
Mount Rainier is the highest point in the United States. It appears as an imposing, white, snow-capped peak
rising above the land. Mount Rainier is the last home of the sasquatch; the final sacred mountain that
remains unspoiled by the white man.
Even today there are a few brutal murders each year and a couple sasquatch sightings supported by their
large footprints in the mud or snow. Most folks laugh at the legends, but the bodies tell the tale. Eventually
a group of folks with the Knack are gonna have to go up there and finish them off.
The lava fields of southwestern Idaho are broad expanses of broken black rock that jut up into the air like
sharpened, obsidian knives. The whole area is a warren of subterranean lava tubes created a millennia ago
when the region was volcanically active.
This labyrinth of underground tunnels is used as a home by all sorts of monsters, both human and otherwise,
but the commonest creature in the tunnels is the blood bat. These blood sucking beasts hunt for miles around
the flows terrorizing towns and homesteads.
The folk in this area are always hiring people with the Knack. Some of the blood bats can grow as large as
a man and only highly skilled hunters can take them down. Expeditions are often sent into the lava fields
in an attempt to kill the larger colonies; some of these groups never return.
Silver City, ID
Located in the Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho is the mining boomtown of Silver City. During
its short heyday the mines around the town produced enormous amounts of silver and gold ore. In 1863
prospectors set out from Placerville, Idaho in search of a legendary goldfield rumored to exist high up in the
Owyhees. They struggled across unexplored desert and braved Indian attacks. They ventured into the
mountainous terrain and found paydirt along a stream at an elevation of 6,000 feet.
Thousands flocked to the region and Silver City grew in a sheltered canyon. During the next few years more
than 250 mines were begun. The largest was War Eagle mine and the shaft produced $30 million worth of
ore in a decade. Silver City had its share of trouble including various claim wars, the largest between rival
factions at the Golden Chariot and Ida Elmore mines. They skirmished for days before hostilities were
halted by a calvary detachment from Fort Boise.
Other violence occurred at the hands of the Indians. The town was high enough in the mountains to be out
of Indian lands, but the constant passing of miners through the lower lands antagonized the Indians. There
were various skirmishes as the Indians tried to prevent the miners from passing. The Bannock War occurred
in 1878 and then the Indians did attack the town.
The most dangerous threat to Silver City were attacks by the sasquatch who lived high up in the Owyhee
Mountains. The leader was called Numpuh by the Indians. Nampuh killed and terrorized throughout
southern Idaho. To the whites, Numpah was called bigfoot, because his enormous feet were six inches wide
and nearly eighteen inches long. At Fort Boise, a $1,000 reward was offered for his scalp and feet. In 1868,
the sasquatch was finally slain by a man with the Knack named John Wheeler.
The Knights of the Pythias Cemetery was located some distance from the town on a powerful mana node of
holy energy. Like so many other nodes in the West, over time the violence and avarice in the surrounding
area turned the node into a blight. The cemetery became a haunted, horrible place where the dead rose up
spontaneously and came walking to seek vengeance on those who stole their claim or did other harm.
There was also a Chinese Temple in Silver City that taught certain mystic skills to those who would join the
temple or pay the price. The Tong was very active in Silver City and supervised the opium trade, but they
did not interfere with the Temple.
John Wheeler and the others with the Knack often met in the Masonic Hall
The Nez Perce and Cayuse were the major tribes of the pacific northwest. The tribes conducted spirit dances
celebrating nature and used sweat lodges to cure illness, provide protection and bring luck, They honored
Coyote, who brought meaning and spiritual authority to their world.
Coyote was a cunning trickster, a creator and transformer. He removed Evil from their homes and kept the
tribes safe. He was aided by Raccoon, Eagle, Fox, Grizzly Bear and the Swallow Sisters who were often
created as avatars by Indian holy men.
The tribes of the pacific northwest were initially a peaceful people and open to the white man’s ways. Many
wanted to learn the secrets in the black book, known as the bible, believing this to be the source of the white
Missionaries told the Indians that they must abandon hunting and fishing and take up farming. They were
told to denounce their medicine men as charlatans and warned that they were doomed if they failed to repent
When the Indians of the pacific northwest began to adopt the black book their world began to change. They
stopped using mana in their lives and relied on the white man’s faith in the black book and the words of the
priests. The nature spirits went away and many of the Indians gave up their sacred ways.
In the final decades of the 19th century, the Nez Perce having lost much of their magic were one of the last
tribes to stand against the Americans. Chief Joseph, called by his people Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-keht or
Thunder-Rolling-from-the-Mountains, led his people on the doomed cause that was to become one of the
last of the Indian wars.
The northern plains are composed of the states Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming. The land is
characterized by low rolling hills and gentle swaying grass. There were a number of places in this region
that contained large infusions of mana. Many of the Indians considered the northern plains to be the magical
heart of North America.
The howl of the huntin’ wolf is a common sound. When the winter winds blow cold on the northern plains
and when the snows cover the land in deep drifts the wolves come hunting. As the Americans killed off the
game, it was increasingly common for these hungry packs of desperate wolves to contain winter wolves.
Winter wolves were bold, mana-using alphas with shaggy, white fur coated with icicles. These mana-evolved beasts will lead their packs to attack isolated homesteads, traveling stagecoaches or small groups
Sculpted by eons of erosion into a haunting landscape of hills, canyons and gullies the desert region east of
the Black Hills is known to the Sioux as Makoshicha, or the “Badlands.”
The Sioux warned the first settlers to the area that the dreaded Unktehi dwelled in the Badlands. Those of
us with the Knack call the Unktehi, the Dread Fish. They’re not exactly fish, but they look like wide-mouthed fish with lots of teeth and spiny protrusions. They have fins and a tail and swim through the air on
currents of mana as a fish moves through water. And don’t let their beast-like look fool ya, because these
things are very smart.
Sioux legends tell the Unktehi once inhabited the primordial waters from which the earth emerged. A
millennia ago the Unktehi tried to destroy the Sioux. The Sioux medicine men appealed to the Wayinyan
to save them. The Wayinyan, or Thunderbirds as we called them, sent down blazing lighting to drive the
Unktehi back into the Badlands where they have remained since.
Only fools and desperate men travel the arid expanse of mesas and buttes that make up the Badlands. It is
not surprising that Outlaws congregated in the badlands, but what is surprising is that many of these outlaws
learn to work with the Unktehi.
The Unktehi are willing to negotiate with humans, especially those who dislike Indians. They communicate
using their minds and have various powers, including the ability to turn invisible. Oftentimes the largest
Unktehi will allow powerful outlaws to ride them and together they will terrorize the countryside. The
Unktehi will eat the victim’s flesh and the bandits will make off with the loot in a perfect symbiotic
relationship between monster and man.
The Black Hills straddle the border of South Dakota and Wyoming. The dark pine-forested bluffs rise from
the envelopin’ prairie like a mysterious island in a sea of grass. The hills are one of the oldest mountain
ranges in the world and perhaps the holiest land in all North America.
The Black Hills were a bastion of positive energy and holy magic. For untold centuries, Indians climbed
the craggy hills to commune with spirits and seek guidance from visions. Indians from all over North
America told stories of the Black Hills and the wisest of medicine men would go there to refresh their souls.
The highest of the Black Hills was a place known to white men as Harney Peak. This summit was the
nesting place of legendary creatures called the Wayinyan by the Sioux. The word translates as
The Wayinyan were revered by the Sioux. These intelligent beast-like beings boomed thunder with every
flap of their wings and flashed lightening from their eyes. The Thunderbirds brought down violent storms
and swept the plains with fierce gales. Even the boldest Indians prayed to Wayinyan in awe and tribal elders
warned all to stay away from the craggy summit.
When gold was found in the Black Hills miners swarmed over the area in search of the yellow metal. Their
greed and violence corrupted the holy essence of the Black Hills. The city of Deadwood was like a
gangrenous wound. The filth of the community spread out infecting the whole, perverting all that was good
and sacred in the Black Hills.
Dark magical energies swirled around causing all sorts of haunts and terrors, but in a short time the heavy
industrializing of the area dispersed the mana. Now the Black Hills are mostly devoid of magic, although
the blighted taint still lingers in some remote places, especially in the deeper mine shafts.
As early as 1830 Indian legends about gold brought miners to the Black Hills region. In 1868 after years
of tension the Black Hills were ceded by treaty to the Sioux. Six years later, Lieutenant Colonel George
Armstrong Custer arrived to locate a sight for the fort and a couple of prospectors found high quantities of
Miners flooded the region setting up a tent city along Deadwood Gulch. By 1876 the tent city had grown
into a backwoods metropolis containing the Grand Central Hotel and a number of restaurants. There was
a newspaper office and numerous brothels. Telegraph lines connected Deadwood to the outside world and
plans were being made to bring the railroad into Deadwood.
The lower end of the gulch was called known as Chinatown. Rough wooden shacks created narrow twisting
alleys lined by import shops, opium dens, brothels and Chinese laundries. There was even a secret Chinese
Temple built inside a large wooden warehouse.
The brutal Tong was strong in Deadwood’s Chinatown. The Tong oppressed the Chinese miners by requiring
payment to operate in Deadwood. They also owned all of the Chinese prostitutes who worked the brothels.
Their headquarters was in the heart of Deadwood’s Chinatown and had an underground warren that reached
to all points of the town.
Deadwood was a lawless town, where robberies, claim jumping, shootouts and public brawls were common
occurrences. Men made fortunes and lost them just as quick. Miners mined the earth, and unscrupulous
persons mined the miners.
The boomtown drew personalities from all over the West. Wyatt and Morgan Earp passed through as did
Calamity Jane and Sam Bass. In 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was murdered while playing cards in the Number
10 Saloon. He was shot in the back by Jack McCall.
Although the Sioux were beaten militarily during the campaigns of 1876-7, the medicine men and a few
braves continued to attack the town from the Black Hills area. Attacks by Thunderbirds were common
occurrence over the next few years. In 1879 the Indians summoned fire elementals to burn Deadwood and
four years later they called the waters to wash it away, but the miners would not leave.
The Indians of the northern plains (Blackfeet, Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Pawnee) were a highly democratic
people without hereditary classes who relied on hunting and gathering. Their primary food supply was the
bison. Most plains Indians lived a nomadic life and resided in tightly grouped shelters made of hides.
The Indians of the northern plains were deeply connected to the natural world. They revered nature spirits
and participated in ceremonial dances that celebrated the seasons. Their people journeyed on vision quests
and enjoyed the benefits of sweat lodges.
The plains tribes placed a great importance on membership in military, social and religious societies.
Leadership of the societies, as in the tribe, was vested in individuals who had won respect for their deeds.
This region of endless swaying prairie grass included southern Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and eastern
Texas. The prairies had plenty of bison and other game, such as deer and fowl. There were predators in the
grass as well, coyotes, cougars and wolves, but the commonest critters was the snake. Snakes were
everywhere in the swaying grass, slithering along the rocks, and hangin’ from trees. Most were harmless,
but the rattlesnake and cottonmouth were deadly poisonous.
You probably won’t believe this, but I’ll tell you anyway. In the prairie there were various cults worshipin’
snakes. At first, it was just a few heathen Indians tribes, but then Americans livin’ on the plains began to
These cults had all kinds of crazy ceremonies; often they danced with snakes dangling from their half-naked
bodies or walked through pits filled with poisonous snakes to prove their acceptance of the snake as life
giver. Crazy stuff!
People worshipin’ the snakes wore little bags around their necks. The bags were filled with herbs and
blessed by the snake cults and supposedly kept the wearer safe from snake attacks. Snake worship hit an all
time high around 1875, but then began to become less popular.
Some of the snakes on the plains were as big as a man. These roamed through the high grass with impunity
and often fed on field hands. Men and women with the Knack were always needed to hunt down these big
The Chisolm Trail was the most heavily traveled cattle trail. Cowpokes used the trail to drive their cattle
from the long horns’ breeding grounds in southern Texas to the railroad yards of Kansas located in the cities
of Abilene, Ellsworth, Newton, Witchita, Cadwell and Dodge.
Outlaws, rustlers, stampedes, dust storms, tornados and lightening claimed life along the trail. The path was
littered with the bones of cattle and marked by the gravestones of men who died along the way. The greatest
fear along the trail was the spectral steer, a man-eating, quasi-corporeal entity that plagued cowpokes in the
later years of the Wild West.
As the railroads penetrated deeper into Texas the cattle drive was no longer needed. The boom towns along
the Chisholm Trail, once prosperous from the cattle trade, fell on hard times. The buildings weathered in
the sun and rain; most of the people moved away and those who stayed lived in squalor and fear.
Dubbed the “Border Queen” because it sat on the border between Kansas and Oklahoma, Caldwell was
located on the fabled Chisholm Trail. Cowpokes would stop in Caldwell as they drove their herds to the
railroad stock yards in Abilene, then as the railroad depots moved closer to Ellsworth, Newton and then to
Wichita 50 miles to the north .
In 1880 the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe stretched its tracks into Cadwell and the town boomed overnight
as it became the new railhead for the cattle drives. A dozen saloons flourished and crime was commonplace.
Gunfights on the streets were seen as daily entertainment. Cadwell was a town of unrestrained violence.
In 1882 the town’s leadership, concerned about the dismal state of their community, pinned the city
marshal’s badge on Henry Brown, a two-gun terror who once road with Billy the Kid. Brown quickly tamed
Caldwell by killin’ the worst of the trouble-makers and drivin’ the rest out of town.
By 1885 the railroad’s penetration of Texas had virtually closed the Chisholm trail and Caldwell settled into
a more subdued existence. But even today the town is haunted by ghosts of the past. The baying sounds of
cattle herds still echo through the empty night. And sometimes on misty evenings spectral cowboys ride into
town shootin’ guns into the air.
The Indians of the southern plains (Arapaho, Osage, Kiowa, Comanche, Wichita) very much like their
northern counterparts; nomadic, hunter-gatherers who relied on the bison for survival. They too had
military, religious and social societies and gave leadership roles to individuals who had won respect for their
The great basin region includes southeastern California, Nevada and Utah. It’s a bleak arid landscape with
few sources of good water. The desert climate is characterized by extreme variations in daily temperature.
Freezing temperatures occur in winter, while summers are hot, dry and windy.
The arid region has sparse vegetation and its sand and gravel basins drain to central salt flats. There are
plenty of nasty critters and other varmints, but the most dangerous creatures are the scorpions. Some of the
scorpions can grow to the size of large dogs or bigger.
On the edge of the Mojave Desert is the lowest, hottest place on earth. Eons ago the valley was a powerful
node, but the node was turned to a blight when two different ancient cultures fought for control of the magic.
Both of their societies collapsed into violence and decadence and the area around the node became a bleak
In Death Valley dark energies still swirl and coalesce amid volcanic mountains of red, orange and yellow
rocks. When the sun goes down even an ordinary person can see the dark taint of negative energy glowing
and achin’ along the rocks.
Death Valley was the necromantic Heart of the West. During the last few decades of the Wild West any
corpse laying past sundown in Death Valley was sure to rise as an undead. Even today with magic mostly
gone from the west, there still is enough dark mana in the deepest parts of Death Valley to raise the dead.
If Death Valley is the Necromantic Heart of the West then the Mojave is the Desert of the Dead. Mana
flows of dark energy spilling from Death Valley ensure that areas of this desert are filled with necromantic
things. In the early years, prospectors seeking gold and silver in the low basin fought for their lives when
ever the sun slipped below the western horizon. The Indians of the great basin had special ceremonies to
keep the walkin’ dead away.
Virginia City, NV
Virginia City sat on top of the Comstock Lode, the richest silver deposit in the world, and during its heyday
the “Queen of the Comstock” was the world’s wealthiest city. It boasted banks, hotels, theaters, hurdy-gurdy
houses, wide-open gambling palaces, over a dozen breweries, half a dozen jails and much more.
Surrounding the city were enormous mine buildings. Day and night the massive mills pounded the ore into
fragments and conveyor belts carried it to pools of mercury where the gold was chemically removed from
the rock. As the years passed the desert landscape became littered with huge mounds of tailings and
poisoned by the presence of mercury. Underneath Virginia City was countless miles of mines. This
interconnected network of tunnels and shafts was so vast that miners would often get lost. The conditions
in the mines were horrendous. Temperatures sometimes reaches over 130 degrees Fahrenheit and there was
always the danger of collapse.
Virginia City had its share of violence, but the most notorious murders in Virginia City went mostly
unnoticed. During the early 1870's a labor dispute developed between miners and mine-owners. The miners
were trying to unionize to get better pay and safer working conditions. The management resisted the
miner’s efforts to organize by murder. They used dynamite to collapsed the mine passages where the miners
who instigated unionization were assigned. To kill a few, the mine managers murdered hundreds of innocent
people. The collapse was so significant that no bodies were ever recovered. The mine managers claimed
it was an accident and no one dared dispute them.
The most infamous killin’ in Virginia City was the murder of Julia Bulette a local prostitute who
commanded as much as $1000 a night. She traveled around in a lacquered carriage sporting a crest with four
aces, but was better known for her kindness to the poor and widows of miners killed in accidents. She was
found in her bed, bludgeoned and strangled to death.
By the late 1870s Virginia City’s glory began to fade. Dropping silver prices made the mines unprofitable.
The entrances to the vast network of mines were blasted closed and the dying city weathered under the sun.
Most of the people moved away, but those that remained were plagued by the haunting of the Comstock
load. The miners who had perished when mine management collapsed the tunnels had turned to undead and
the walkin’ dead had finally reached the surface to wreak their vengeance. Still to this day, undead will
burst from the shafts beneath the city and kill until they are slain. A man with the Knack, who ain’t afraid
of undead, can make a good livin’ in Virginia City.
The main Indians tribes of the great basin are the Bannock, Shashones, Paiute and the Utes. In general, the
Indians of the Great Basin were a poor people. The harsh climate made life marginal at best. The Indian
of the basin lived in simple homes, wore clothing made of fibers and ate grubs, insects and rabbits. They
had a loosely define tribal structure and a religion teaching that powerful spirits were elements of nature.
In the spring the Indians performed Round Dances by holding hands and dancing around a pole. The Round
Dance was a dance of thanksgiving and courting, but later the movements were incorporated into the
dreaded Ghost Dance.
The southwest comprises Arizona, New Mexico and much of western Texas. It’s a dry arid land, full of
towering rock pinnacles, buttes, mesas, and twisting canyons carved out of sandstone where a man could lose
himself forever. This is a harsh, unforgivin’ land where water is scarce. People who died of thirst still
wander searching for water, but they’ll settle for blood. Their desiccated faces showing bone beneath
peeling flesh and their fingers worn to claws from their desperate crawling on the sand during their last
agonizing moments of life.
Despite the lack of water, there are plenty of beasts to terrorize travelers and settlers. There is a fair share
of scorpions, coyotes and poisonous snakes, but the tarantulas of the southwest were particularly dangerous.
Giant spiders as large as a man were not uncommon in the early days of western exploration. Most spiders
in the southwest would hunt people by stalking and then pouncing, but at least one species of man-sized
spiders strung webs between trees or narrow passes.
The Grand Canyon is a deep crevasse in the desert floor, most likely the deepest in the world. Those with
the Knack will notice right away that mana seems to collect in its base. There’s more mana imbued
materials in the Canyon than anywhere in the Wild West. In fact, so great was the quantities you’ll still find
mana in the canyon today.
I guess that’s why an enclave of gadgeteers decided to build a secret city within the canyon. They called the
city Invention, Nevada. I never knew how to get there, only a few folks did and they weren’t tellin’. I heard
in its heyday the place was amazin’ with bellows blowing furnaces to heat boilers, steam pipes rising in the
air venting gases to the sky and conveyor belts carrying all sorts of items in various stages of assembly.
Invention, NV was run by a mad genius named Woodruff Wellington III. He was rumored to be a big man,
over six foot and close to three hundred pounds who always dressed in tailored suits. He had a large walrus-like mustache and hazel eyes.
At the height of the Era of Fantastic Invention (1865-1885) Wellington had more than twenty gadgeteers
working for him. Wellington sold his gadgets all over the west by using catalogue sales. Most people didn’t
believe the product descriptions. Those who did buy got frustrated when they could not easily learn to use
the gadget. Those of us with the Knack understood the gadgets would work if people took the time to
The difficulty of use and the commonplace of accidents while training caused many gadgeteers to give up
making gadgets. Wellington was not one of them. Even after magic faded from the west and all gadgets
ceased to function, Wellington continued his work. He stayed in the canyon long after everyone else left;
some say he went insane, others claim he made brilliant discoveries.
Many remote areas of the Grand Canyon still contain magic. The depth of the canyon allowed some mana
to remain untouched by the industrialization of the west. Wellington’s inventions may continue to work
even today in these remote regions. There are rumors that Invention, NV is still a viable town and
Wellington continues his work.
In the southwest vast, empty, cyclopean metropolises were built along ridge lines or into the sides of cliff
faces by a people who vanished ages ago. High above the desert floor, the cities, constructed of mud
mortared brick, contain hundreds of buildings. There were earth lodges, kivas and countless residences.
A visitor can still hear the low moans of sadness when the wind whistles through the ruins. The people are
gone, but no indication of battle or plague exists. Eastern historians were thoroughly puzzled by the sudden
disappearance, but those of us with the Knack knew the truth.
The cities were built by an ancient Indian culture known as the Anasazi. They were an agricultural people,
cultivating corn, beans, squash, amaranth and cotton. They were also skilled in weaving and pottery. Their
magic was strong, as was their faith in the spirit world.
The Anasazi mystics saw the terrible future that the coming of the Americans would bring to them. The
industry of America would tear the mana from the ground and consume its essence to build a magic-dead
world of technological convenience. The Anasazi would face disease, famine and eventual destruction.
The Anasazi mystics knew of other worlds and they still remembered the secrets of travel through portals.
Instead of fighting a battle against the Americans, a battle that could not be won, the entire Anasazi people
decided to leave Earth before the magic faded and the slaughter began.
On the appointed night, groups of the Anasazi people throughout the southwest used an ancient ritual to open
a portal to another realm and left Earth to its fate. The stone cities, some pottery shards and a few pictorial
drawing are all that remain of the great Anasazi civilization.
The first permanent building in Tombstone was erected in April of 1879 and just one year later the
population had swelled to 15,000. Eastern capital poured in and the city grew almost overnight. In
Tombstone there were over one hundred establishments licensed to dispense liquor. The most popular
saloons were the Crystal Palace, the Oriental and Hafford’s Corner. Rowdy entertainment was available
around the clock at the Bird Cage Theater, run by Joe Mignon and his wife, Big Minnie, a 230-pound blond
who often worked as the bouncer.
Tombstone suffered two terrible fires, the first in 1881 was caused by an insane inventor who was trying to
build a mana-powered excavating machine. It exploded and burned half the city. After the holocaust, he
was lynched by an angry mob and city officials looked the other way.
The next fire occurred in 1882 after a town official raped a Chinese noble woman. Wild rumors claimed
the second conflagration was caused by a fire-breathing dragon rampaging up from Chinatown in revenge
for injures done to the woman. Many witnesses claim to have seen the dragon.
Neither fire was able to slow the growth of Tombstone. As gold flowed out of the mines, people poured into
the city. Tombstone was a haven for gamblers and gunslingers. There was rampant lawlessness and bodies
were found lying in the gutter at all times of the day.
Prostitution in Tombstone was controlled by a Frenchman known as “the Count” who was rumored to be a
European Vampire by among those who had the Knack. He lived in a large house in the seedier section of
Tombstone. The first madame he brought to tombstone was Blonde Marie. Other popular “soiled doves”
of the town were Madam Moustache, Irish Mag and Crazy Horse Lil.
The most famous shoot-out in all the West took place at the O.K. Corral when the Earp brothers and Doc
Holiday faced off against the Clantons and McLaurys. The gunfight at the corral may have achieved
legendary proportion, but there was plenty of other violence.
In 1880 the city marshal, Fred White, was killed in the street. A shootout in the Crystal Place left three men
dead. A man was dragged out of the Tombstone jail and lynched by a mob from a telegraph pole in the
center of town. Many of these people ended up buried in Tombstone’s famous Boot Hill, while more
respectable citizens were laid to rest in the City Cemetery.
By the late 1880s most of the mines had played out and the city began a slow decline.
The Apache, Mohave and Pueblos Indians were the main tribes of this region. In general the Indians of this
region were well accustomed to fighting having fought the Spanish for many hundreds of years. The
Apaches of the southwest were a loosely organized tribal people who believed they could draw power from
plants, animal and celestial bodies. Their religion focused on the “Life Giver” and “White-Painted
Woman,” and her son, “Child of Water.” Many of their rites involved vision quests, smoking, singing,
chanting and prayer. The religion of the Mohaves centered on dreams and they believed success in life was
dependant on proper dreaming. Only a few people were given great dreams and this led them to become
heros that would shape the world. The pueblos lived in stone houses built along ridge lines or into the sides
of cliffs. Their religions centered around benevolent beings who lived in mountains springs and lakes, called
Kachinas. Worship was conducted in a Kiva, an underground circular structure accessed by climbing down
a ladder. Kachinas served as messengers between the pueblo people and their gods and were thought to
bring blessings such as rain, health and crops. The focal point of a Kachina was a specially painted mask
which was used in all ceremonies.
Well there was a lot of inventin’ goin’ on in the Wild West. Inventors, called gadgeteers, were inventin’
all kinds of useful little do-dads. The only problem with the inventions was that the didn’t work anywhere
outside of the west.
You see these gadgets needed readily available mana to function. Most people with the Knack store mana
within their body or use skills to manipulate mana in base materials. Gadgets on the other hand need a
certain amount of mana to exist in the world for them to function. If there is no readily available mana
source the gadgets won’t work.
At the time of the Era of Fantastic Invention the Wild West was still a magical place. There was mana
flowing and floating everywhere. Of course, when civilization came sweeping across the continental divide
mana was consumed by the practices of heavy industry. The world became mundane and the gadgets nothing
more than junk.
Makin’ gadgets is not an easy thing to do. You gotta have a genius for gadget creation (gadgeteering), the
skill for makin’ stuff in general (A fabrication skill rank equal to the normal status cost of the skill) and the
skill for using the gadget (ability, feat or procedure).
Learning how to use a gadget is perhaps the most frustrating undertaking in all life. It’s an easy thing to say
that once a gadget is made any person can learn the gadget skill to use the gadget. In my experience, most
ordinary people get frustrated and insist the gadget doesn’t work. This might be a product of their inability
to accept magic, or perhaps they’re just lazy.
Gadget skills work the same as the abilities and extraordinary skills they are designed to mimic, but they
require the character to be using the gadget when attempting the skill. Learning gadget skills are one status
cheaper (minimum one) than learnin’ extraordinary skills.
Gadget feats and gadget powers require the ordinary persons to learn rests and mana. Ordinary persons can
learn to store mana in their bodies, but they cannot use the mana without a gadget that allows the
Gadgeteers in the Wild West can make gadgets that allow ordinary people to perform the following abilities
and extraordinary skills.
Abilities: absorption, adhesion, bound, danger sense, flight, heightened sense, immovable, misdirect,
nullification, potency, regeneration, respiration <type>, servitude, spatial location, stealth, strong will,
surface stepping, tunneling, unstoppable
Feats: cleave vitals I, crush vitals I, kill shot I, negate I
Procedures: restoration, return
The Wild West was home to some pretty strange things one of them being the supernaturals. I was told by
an Indian that supernaturals have additional abilities because of subtle changes to their physical form. These
changes can occur through various processes, including a necromantic changes, religious worship and
biological mutations. They are generally permanent, but in some cases they have been removed. Not much
is known about the process.
All supernatural have the ability to manipulate mana. Ordinary people who become involved supernatural
become extraordinary whenever when they initiate the process to ascend beyond the powers of mere
humanity. However, this nature leaves the person as soon as they cease the practices.
All supernaturals must possess the negative abilities listed under their descriptions. However, the
supernaturals must develop the listed positive abilities like normal people learn skills. The negative abilities
are listed in italics.
Cultists remembered magic from the old world and they traveled to America to use the arcane energy of the
new world. As European civilization destroyed the magic on the east coast, the cultists moved westward to
harness the energy remaining there.
Many cultists settled in Kansas and the southern plains were they worshiped various snake gods. These
cultists often developed snake-like eyes or scaley skin on their bodies. Other cultists settled in the Mojave
Desert or Death Valley. These cultists had their bodies warped and shriveled by the dark magics with which
Wolves were commonly worshiped by cults on the northern plains. In the pacific northwest there were
dangerous cults worshiping the grizzly bear. Cult members often grew hair on their bodies and ate human
flesh. The strangest cults were the insect cults of the great basin which worshiped giant insects.
Cult members have no limit to the number of abilities that their dark practices can offer them. For each
ability they gain, they will gain one immoral practice or physical deformity. Cult members who pursue
power through abilities degenerate into crippled, insane persons.
Abilities: (Choose at least one positive ability and one counter balancing need or deformity) Bound, danger
sense, deformity (visible physical deformity (must have one for each ability purchased)), imbue faith
(unholy), increase body I, increase mana I, increase rest I, invulnerability (one type), need (inhuman practice
(must have one for each ability purchased)), respiration II (water), stealth.
Dirt slinger is the slang name given to a gun fighter who was shot dead during a gunfight and buried in a
blighted Boot Hill. These corpses come back to life as a supernatural undead beings. Dirtslingers have pale
faces and hoarse soft voice, but are commonly mistaken by ordinary folks as being alive.
Dirtslingers travel the West, moving from town to town, searching for gunfights. When they enter a town
they head straight to the saloon and in a gravely voice ask, “Who’s the fastest gun in your town?” A
gunfight always ensues unless the person named backs down from the fight and publically acknowledges the
dirtslinger as the fast gun.
Abilities (Additional): debility (sunlight), increase body I-II, invulnerable (normal, unholy), need (challenge
fastest gunslingers any town they enter), unaging, undead, unstable form, vulnerability (holy).
Kung Fu Master
Kung fu masters train their bodies to such a degree that they are able to develop supernatural abilities. Kung
fu masters are always monks, because this level of martial arts prowess can only be attained while studying
in a temple. Monks who complete the training will tattoo or burn the images of animals onto the skin on
the inside of their forearms. For example, Shaolin Temple monks burn a dragon on one forearm and a tiger
on the other when they lift a burnin’ urn upon completion of their trainin’.
Kung fu masters leavin’ the temple where they completed their trainin’ will generally start a new temple in
the area where they settle. These kung fu masters will be able to promote new masters provided the pupil
and the teacher are living as monks for the duration of the trainin’. Kung fu masters will rarely give up their
monk lifestyle to assume other occupations, but if they do kung fu masters retain their supernatural abilities
so long as they continue to practice their martial arts. However, kung fu masters creating secular schools
may not promote new kung fu masters in the secular school.
The creation of a kung fu master requires the inclusion and practice of the monk lifestyle by student and
teacher. There were numerous kung fu temples in the Wild West, but they were often difficult to find by
Abilities (Additional): body combat enhancement (focus, natural damage), deformity (visible physical
deformity (must have one animal drawin’ on the inside of each forearm to learn any ability), regeneration.
Skin walkers have learned to take the skin of animals. Many Indian tribes believe nature spirits grant the
ability to assume the forms of animals. Some of these tribes have a kinship with certain beasts, while others
have an entire pantheon of beast which they emulate.
The nature of a skin walker is a blending of the Indian intellect and instinctual beast. Both become one
mind sharing a singular connection and bleeding into each other. The freedom of running wild and the
power of the hunt, competes with the need for human communication. Skin-walkers always carry the pelt
of the beast which they use to effectuate their transformation.
Abilities (Additional): body combat enhancement (focus, length, natural damage), heightened sense (one
sense), hide I-II, skin switch (<Beast>).
The Kachina is a messenger between the Pueblo people and the gods. Persons becomin’ a supernatural being
representin’ the Kachina by participating in a ritual. During the ritual they are bound to the Kachina.
Whenever they wear their Kachina mask they are afforded the abilities and powers of the Kachina. There
many different kinds of Kachinas.
Abilities (Additional): Alter ego (must be wearing Kachina mask), body combat enhancement (focus, natural
damage), bound, flight, potency II-III.
Vampires are undead supernatural beings that consume the blood of the living. They have pointed canine
teeth and dress in the clothing style popular during their life.
The European vampire finds its routes in Transylvanian mythology. These beings have pale faces, but can
pass for normal humans in the shadows.
Abilities (Additional): debility (sunlight), feeding, increase body I-II, increase mana I-II, invulnerable
(normal), need (blood), potency II-III, unaging, undead, unstable form, vulnerability (holy)
Coming over to the American West from China the Kuang-shi Vampire was a dangerous fiend. Kuang-shi
vampires will generally take up residence in abandoned buildings, mine shafts or natural caves that are
located close to civilized areas. Unlike its European counterparts this vampire is easily recognized by its
pale face, protruding fangs, long nails and white or greenish-white hair.
Abilities (Additional): body combat enhancement (focus, unholy damage), debility (sunlight), feeding,
increase body I-II, invisibility, invulnerable (normal, unholy), need (blood), potency II-III, transpose, unaging,
undead, unstable form, vulnerability (holy)
Critters and Varmints
Don’t believe the history books; they only tell half the truth. So called civilized intellectuals don’t believe
in magic and they treat the monsters of the range as fables. Well it’s fine for ordinary folk to pretend that
monsters aint’ real. I’m not gonna criticize them for believing, if ignoring the monsters makes their world
seem a safer place and lets them sleep at night, but for those of us with the Knack we need to know what’s
Even if most people don’t want to talk about the strange things that once roamed the wild range, I think its
important for someone to write down the truth. The Indians teach that there will be a time when magic
returns to the world and people will have to be prepared. I don’t know how to explain it all, but I’ll tell you
what I’ve seen out on those plains.
You wouldn’t believe it but the bovines are some of the most dangerous beast out on the plains. Sometimes
when a herd gets a runnin’ a glowing light will form over the herd and jump like lighting from horn to horn.
Once I saw the lighting shoot out and strike the cowhand riding next to me dead. He had a blackened hole
in his chest and his hair stood straight up. The were also the man-eating, quasi-corporeal spectral steers that
hunted and haunted the famous Chishom Trail. In the later years of the Wild West many cowpokes refused
to ride the trail forcing the railroads to move deeper into Texas.
The desiccated dead are people who died of thirst, but arose as undead to continue their search for water.
However, most desiccated undead prefer blood to water. The undead are mostly mindless, but have a
dangerous cunning and their fingers have been worn to sharp claws. The desiccated dead are commonly
found in desert areas. The Mojave Desert and the Badlands are tow of the commonest places to find them.
In times of drought, you can find desiccated dead everywhere in the west.
The bears are nasty, not like the little brown bears back East. Once a grizzly tastes human flesh these beasts
will go to great lengths to procure a satisfactory meal.
Don’t you laugh at this one, but I swear at one time there were killer cacti in the arid regions. These plants
walked slowly on undulatin’ roots and hunted by throwin’ their thorns at their prey. They ain’t prickly about
what they choose to eat, and they’ll happily make a meal out of a person who wanders within range of their
Well pardner, you probably think I’m silly for list locusts as a problem critter, but that’s because you aint’
never seen a locust swarm. By communicatin’ with the spirits of insects the Indians often convinced them
to mass together and swarm over the white man. The largest swarm ever occurred when hundred of
summoners from many tribes combined their efforts. These locusts swarmed over who towns eating plants,
livestock and even people. A buddy a mine told me about the Minnesota territory swarm in 1874. He said,
“We began seeing strange silvery spots circling the skies. The silvery circles were millions of grasshoppers
in flight. The insects descended on the land in columns 150 miles wide and 100 miles long. Efforts to save
our crops were futile and hundred acre cornfields vanished in hours.”
Snakes are pretty common on the plains. Most people only concern themselves about the poisonous ones.
You know the rattlesnakes and the cotton mouths, but I gotta warn you there crazy cultists out there that can
summon a swarm of snakes to eat a man alive. There’s also the man-sized snakes that travel in the high
grasslands of the central plains. These snakes are often worshiped by cultists. There have even been
rumored of giant snakes, but I’ve never seen one of these myself.
I don’t like spiders, but the tarantulas out on the range grew to the size of a man. These furry monstrosities
were stalkin’ spiders. They’d carefully follow a cowpoke and then leap from a concealed place. Attacks
from these giant tarantulas were almost always fatal.
Well I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes. Tumble thorn weeds are round thorny
plants that let go of the soil when people walk too near. They roll themselves after their victims tearing flesh
with two long throne covered vines. They reduce the body to a bloody mess by rolling over and over the
body and sapping up the blood with their root systems.
These walkin’ undead come in many types skeletons and zombie are weaker ones, but there shades and
wraiths as well. In a magical place like the old west a dead body that not rightly buried or has died in some
tragic way could raise itself up in a state of undeath. Not quite livin’ and not quite dead. Undead often
inhabit places of sorrow or desolation, Places like cemeteries, ghost towns and massacre sites are to be
avoided after the sun goes down. The last point to make it the world was almost very different. The Indians
knew about raisin’ corpses to a semblance of life, but they knew the toll it could take on the world. In their
final days and they feared utter defeat from the Great Basin area came the Ghost Dance. The Indians were
gonna raise up all the dead with the awesome power of the Ghost Dance! The Indians were gonna call their
ancestors back from the graves and drive the white man to the east. But they never pulled it off, they were
too weak, too divided and brave men on both side interceded to ensure our world was not destroyed.
The Unktehi are ancient, primordial creatures that live in the Badlands. Those of us with the Knack call
them Dread Fish, but they’re not exactly fish. However, they do look like swimming fish when they fly
through the air on currents of mana. They are extremely intelligent and willing to negotiate with humans,
especially those who dislike Indians. They communicate using their minds and have various powers.
Outlaws will often work with them provide the outlaws feed them human flesh.
The Wayinyan are large birds that inhabit the highest hill within the Black Hills region. They are worshiped
by the Sioux. Those of us with the knack call them “Thunderbirds” because they shoot lightening and boom
The wolves of the wild west traveled in large packs. In the northern ranges the fearsome winter wolf could
be found. Its breath was said to be able to freeze a man solid.
Well pardners thanks for readin’. Many times I had to put my pen down and
wipe a tear from my eye as I remembered the good times and the bad. This
book took me a long time to write, but I feel the effort has cleansed my soul.
The Wild West was a time of men and women who stood tall against
adversity and became heros and legends.
Only the old timers like me remember how wild the west used to be.
Honesty, I miss hearing the howling of the winter wolves across the northern
tundra and watching the noble eagles sore within their rocky cathedrals. I
miss hearing the words of the nature spirits whispered on the wind, but most
of all I miss the potential that magic offered.
All we have are the memories of the truth and even those are fading to
fables. The civilized man is quick to dismiss magic and monsters, but those
of use who lived the truth can still testify to the wildness of the west.
The west is gone, but that shouldn’t stop you from dreamin’ about it. It was
a time of heros, where men and women with the Knack defended helpless
folk and upheld the Code of the West.