Shattering Lead in a Strange and Deadly Country: MOSAIC Strict Rules and Setting Generator for Acid Western Gaming

 Shattering Lead in a Strange and Deadly Country: MOSAIC Strict Rules and Setting Generator for Acid Western Gaming

Shattering Lead

by Wren

“War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.” — Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West

Shattering lead is an HPless MOSAIC strict combat system for simulating aspects of the old west experience, although it could be (and perhaps will be) adapted for use in any game where guns are the central component of combat. Many of its genes come from Spwack’s Finders Keepers.


STR, DEX, CHA, and ACC, or accuracy, which measures your characters aim and precision. When called on to make a stat roll, roll 1d20 + the appropriate stat. To determine stats, roll 3d6 and take the lowest.


When someone declares the intent to shoot, they are the initiator of combat, anyone with a gun who is aware of them may choose to enter the combat. Each gunner in the combat makes a DEX roll, succeeding on a result of 15+ the initiator’s DEX. If they succeed, they shoot first, if not, the initiator does, and then each other gunner shoots in the order of their DEX rolls, from highest to lowest. If people roll the same, they shoot at the same time, same goes if someone rolls exactly 15+ the initiator’s DEX. When it’s your turn to shoot, make an ACC roll to see if you hit. The difficulty of hitting depends on the range. 10 for close range, 15 for medium, and 20 for long. For very close range, a roll is not necessary. Add 5 to the difficulty if you are moving, if they are moving (unless they are moving directly towards or away from you), if you are bleeding out, or if they have partial cover. Add 10 if multiple of these apply.

If you succeed your ACC roll, roll on the hit table below.

After everyone in the combat has rolled their ACC. Non-gunners may act before the next round of bullets, then, whoever shot first may shoot again and, in the same order, each gunner makes their ACC roll so long as their gun is still loaded. Gunners may choose to move or take other actions instead of shooting. If your gun is empty, you can reload, giving everyone else the chance to act before your next turn. If multiple gunners reload in the same round, they roll DEX to see who shoots first after the reload.

Hit Table

Roll to see where you hit them. If your ACC roll was more than 5 above the DC, you choose the result.

6. Headshot, they’re dead.

4-5. Chest or vitals, they're bleeding out.

3. Crotch or thigh, they're bleeding out.

2. Arm, flip a coin to see which. That arm is lost, or needs to be amputated soon.

1. Leg, flip a coin to see which, That leg is lost, or needs to be amputated soon.

No matter where you get hit, DC 20 STR check or you're on the ground, bleeding. For arm and leg injuries the bleeding doesn't get out of hand. If you succeed the strength check, you’re still bleeding, but you remain standing and you can keep your turn in the combat. If you fail, your next turn is skipped as you languish on the ground. 

Bleeding Out

When you are bleeding out, every time you are called on, you must save STR vs. death. starting at DC 10 and increasing by 1 every subsequent roll. On your sheet, write that you are bleeding out, and make a tally next to it after every death roll, to keep track of the DC. The first save is made when the bullet lands. Another bullet (anywhere) requires another save, and an increase of the DC by one, but the player still only makes one save per turn.

If someone bandages (DC 5), wraps (DC 10), or puts pressure on (DC 15) a bleeding wound, make a CHA check. If they succeed, the bleeding stops. If they fail that object will not work, the object they tried to use gets soaked with blood and will not work, but they can try with a different object or method.

Returning from Death

 In a scene or encounter where your character dies, after the action has slowed down, you may spend XP to return from death. Spend x XP for an x/4 chance of returning from death. When you return from death, declare that it is your will to attain some goal or pursue a prominent drive of your character. Every day where your goal has not been adequately pursued requires you to roll STR vs. death, in a similar way to bleeding out. Write Undead under conditions and add a tally every time you roll to indicate the rising DC.


If you choose not to spend XP, or fail your undeath roll, then your character is permanently dead. You now take control of a lost wanderer who will soon cross paths with the other player characters.


After the bleeding stops, you're still deeply wounded, and you need medical care from a trained doctor with the right tools. Every day you don't get medical care, make a STR vs DEATH roll, like with undead or bleeding out.

Doctors will always amputate arms and legs, the bullet does too much damage to the limb to keep it. For other wounds, they stitch it up, and you're fine after a few days of recovery. But it will cost you.

To give medical care to another player untrained is DC 20 CHA check, if you fail, they have to make a death roll and increase the DC. 


If you have the chance to shoot someone, you may instead aim, allowing them to act first to give a +5 to your ACC roll to shoot them next turn, so long as you can still see them. Aiming for a second turn gives a +3, and then each turn gives an additional +1. So if you aim for two turns you get a +8 to shoot on the third turn, if you aim for 5 turns, you get a +11. 


The game assumes most armed people will be carrying revolvers, which carry 5 or 6 shots before needing to be reloaded, and don’t work at long range. But there are other types of guns as well. 


Only work at close and medium range, and only carry one shot.


Only work at close and medium range, at close range, you always hit (still roll to see if you can choose where the hit lands.)


Rifles work at all ranges, and carries 7-14 rounds.


Shoot three times per turn instead of one. May carry many rounds.

Melee Combat and Thrown Weapon Rules.

The idea of the HPless system is that guns don't do damage, they either hit or they don’t. The velocity will always be the same, and it will always be enough to cause a deadly wound or render a limb useless. Bullets in this game are death, or something close to it. 

Melee combat can thus be handled through a distinction between lethal weapons which can easily kill and take off limbs, and blunt weapons which do not do such lethal wounds, like clubs, chairs or fists.

Lethal Weapons

For lethal weapons like swords, the target may either dodge or block the attack. By choosing to block, the defender is challenging the attacker to a STR contest, and by choosing to dodge, a DEX contest. Both the attacker and defender roll the stat chosen by the defender. If the defender wins, they get a chance to attack back or flee, if the attacker wins, they roll on the hit table as if it were a gun. To block requires an object that could feasibly be used to block the attack. 

Blunt Weapons

Much the same as lethal weapons, but when the attacker hits, instead of rolling on the hit table, they give their target a bruise. Every bruise you receive above your STR modifier calls for a STR check of DC 10+ number of bruises to avoid getting knocked out, skipping your next turn. When you're down, deadly weapons kill, and blunt weapons cannot be blocked or dodged. Unarmed attacks only work if your opponent is also unarmed. 

GM note: the distinction between blunt and lethal weapons is an artificial boundary that should be played up in the game. This system is not good at those in between weapons, so include a few big deadly looking weapons, and myriad of options for just scrapping. Generally, guns are what is deadly, but if you want to have a sword in your game, make it a big, sharp one.

Thrown Weapons

Little things like rocks just bruise on an ACC roll against the target’s DEX (either contest or 10+ DEX). Knives are probably the same, but someone who's really good at throwing them and has a special set may be able to do real damage (ie roll on the table). Lethal weapons like throwing axes work like lethal weapons, but it's always a DEX contest. Thrown weapons only work at close range.

Hunger and Thirst

 Every day you don't eat, you get a point of hunger. Every day you don't drink, you get a point of thirst. Don't bother tracking these unless its relevant. At any amount of hunger, you are hungry, and subtract from STR rolls equal to your hunger. At 10 hunger, you're starving, and roll STR vs death with a DC equal to your hunger each day. At any points of thirst you are thirsty, at three points of thirst you're dying of thirst. You cannot travel, or exert yourself in any way. Each day, roll a d6 with a thirst/six chance of dying.


Generally, roll an encounter die at least once a day. An encounter die should be organized by how many guns each encounter. A roll of a 6 is a fully gunned out party, a 5 is a party with a few guns or lethal weapons, a 4 is a single gunner, possibly with unarmed companions. 3 is a large or dangerous party with only blunt weapons, or no weapons at all, and a result of 1 or 2 is a single or pair of unarmed, and most likely weak, people, generally in need. This will make it easy to design encounters. Think, how many factions even have large parties of armed combatants? Militias, lawmen, outlaw bands?


Every time you take out a prominent outlaw, kill a big monster, get paid for doing something, win a duel, etc. get a point of XP. XP can be used to attempt to return from the grave, or it can be used to give additional abilities or items, up to the DMs discretion. Here are some examples.

XP Spent

1. Random item

2. +1 to a random stat

3. Revolver

4. Shotgun or Rifle


Horses move at 4 different speeds, walk, trot, canter, gallop. To get your horse to go one speed faster or slower takes a DC 10 dex check, or DC 15 to go up or down two in the same turn. So walk to trot is DC 10, trot to gallop is DC 15. A horse trotting is always faster than a horse walking, cantering is always faster than trotting, and so forth. If you fail your check, you lose control of your horse.


To do anything not covered by these rules that requires luck or skill, make an appropriate stat roll. Generally this will be a DC 10, harder stuff is a 15 or 20.

A Strange and Deadly Country

by Screwhead

"The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way." — Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West

The Wilds, Desolate and Alien

Land Scarred by the Cartographers Pen

White Boots

  • Scenery
    • A copse of trees on a hill overlooking the steppe. Pine trees black and sharp, motionless in the amber sunlight.
    • Path through the stiff grass, tamped down and matted with dried blood.
    • The path leads to a tall pine. Old claw scars in the bark. One boot, weathered but immaculately cared for, wedged in the roots of the tree. Old blood on the white leather
    • High in the tree, the corpse of a man mauled by a beast, his clothes ruined rags but for the second white boot, strangely well preserved. In his hanging fist, the claw of bear or panther, ripped from the root.
    • Leathery skin barely holding the tatters of his body together. He climbed the tree and died there, belly down on a branch. Looking across the steppe to whatever place it was he never reached.
  • Strangers
    • None

Diamond Spiders and Angel Feathers

  • Scenery
    • The sunlight here is jaundiced, a sickly glow reflecting off the tall silver-gray grass of the steppe.
    • A trail of packed earth cuts gracefully across the landscape.
    • Bright in the unhealthy sunlight, diamonds dot the trail, pushing up through the earth, half exposed.
    • A trained eye and hand will note on further inspection that these are not diamonds; they are too light, their facets more organic than geometric
    • The gems are egg-sacs; kept close to the warmth of a body for a few days they will pulse and flex with life, each finally releasing hundreds of tiny, glittering spiders.
    • In the distance, a wooden cross stands lonely above the grass.
  • Strangers
    • A woman in a leather frock tied by her ankle to a tall cross of sun-bleached wood.  
    • Eagles nest at the top, massive and ungainly. The birds circle high above, swooping and diving gracefully through towering palaces and cathedrals of cloud. 
    • The woman lives on the egg-sacs of the diamond spiders, tearing them open with unnervingly strong teeth, many-legged larvae spilling from the corners of her mouth. 
    • The rope is thick and tarry; any attempt to untie or cut it will merely gum up the fingers or dull the blade. 
    • She wants to play knucklebones for your faith. I squandered mine, she says, and places an eagle feather at your feet. But you still have yours, and should you win, the Kingdom of Heaven will open to you like the prophets of old, and you will see paradise while you live. 
    • Should you win, she weeps, silent and bitter, and hands you the eagle feather. Hold it aloft and call on God’s couriers, she says. 
      • When and wherever you do, so long as you are yet faithful, two eagles will streak from the sky, transforming into fierce angels. Black feathers, golden eyes, golden talons. They will lift you like a child, and carry you upwards towards what once were clouds, and now are endless empty palaces of marble and courtyards of flowers whose smell alone heals and refreshes you. You may stay only one night in this place before the angels return you to earth and the halls and pillars are swept away by wind, but its memory remains a comfort always. 
    • Should you lose and forfeit your faith, the eagles circling above drop into a death-dive, stopping just short of the earth as they transform into angels. They sever the woman’s rope with golden claws, and one holds you still while the other binds your ankle with it. The woman, weeping with joy, offers them the feather, and they lift her skyward, carrying her towards the kingdom of clouds.  A feather flutters free of angel-wing, and lands at your feet.

Buffalo Hunter

  • Scenery
    • Grass gives way to sand and stone. The sun casts a crimson light on the badlands here. Shadows like pools of blood. 
    • Two sets of prints through the sand, both messy with haste. First, a buffalo, then, later, a pair of boots in pursuit. Follow them a ways, and find a few possessions; a rifle and a handful of bullets, a pair of dice, a sheriff’s badge from a town you’ve never heard of. 
    • The buffalo’s prints continue on, but the second pair changes here, from those of a man to those of an eager, hunting beast. Wolf or dog. Follow them further, and they grow wearier, until they are not prints at all, but a line dredged through the sand by some crawling creature. 
    • Follow further still. Find the corpse of a wolf. Massive, monstrous, it crawls forward feebly. Pursuing the buffalo even in death. Poison oozes from its skin where the fur is pale and patchy. Open its jaws and find the face of a dead man looking back at you, gray lips and rotted eyes. 
  • Strangers
    • None

The Butchered Saint

  • Scenery
    • A river curls through the grasslands here, water murky and yellow as the diseased sunlight that glints dully off of it. Briars thick with cobwebs throttle the grass by the lip of the bank, making approaching the water’s edge difficult.
    • Curdled black smoke pours from deep in the briars, stinking of rotted meat and gunpowder. The source is hard to spot, wrapped in thorns and spidersilk. Press inward, smoke-blind, spider-bitten, thorn-ripped, and find a revolver, smoke spilling from its muzzle like blood into water. Nothing will diminish this smoke, nor quell its stench.
  • Strangers
    • A trampled patch of briars leads down to the water’s edge. There, find one man gutting the corpse of another, grunting with exertion, blood soaked from the waist up. 
    • Where the blood drips into earth, flowers bloom, twisting up through the soil, blood red and bone white. 
    • The dead man’s smock lays in the mud beside his murderer, and the killer’s stolen horse, oblivious and alabaster, waits some yards from that. 
    • Mosquitos swarm in the air around the scene of butchery, their whine resonating in your teeth. They feast in droves, coating the corpse in teeming life. 
    • In life, the dead man was a saint. The gun that killed him is now cursed, the smoke forever marking the one who wields it as pariah. Its bullets will never miss their mark, but each life the gun takes will invariably lead to the further ruin of its wielder. 
    • The one who eats of a saint’s organs is spurned by both heaven and hell, profaned beyond imagining, yet swollen with the power of the divine. Their spirit is bound into their flesh forever, and their cursed existence can only end with its complete destruction. 
    • The mosquitos who drink of the saint’s blood now carry sainthood within them like a plague; should they infect you with it, sin will burn and sicken you like a plague of fire, and you will have no choice but to lead a life free of violence, lust, and greed. Those who live in sin will hate you instinctively, and you will have to struggle hard to avoid a martyr’s death. 


  • Scenery
    • Dunes of white dust, drowning in a fevered haze of pale sunlight. A rusted oil derrick crouches atop a dune like a demonic locust, pump ceaselessly, vomiting crude into the sand. Beside the derrick, rusted barrels, some full, some empty, form a silent congregation. 
    • Twisting up from the scrub grass around the derrick, a dead tree claws at the sky. A golden clock hangs from a golden chain looped around one of the tree's knotted fingers. 
    • Look closer. The second and minute hands keep their usual time, but the clock's markings span not a day, but eons, and a century hand inches forward constantly, working its way towards the midnight end of the world. The pump seems to keep time with the ticking of the second hand. 
    • Stay a while. Are the hands speeding up? The longer you linger, the faster they race, and the more of the earth’s lifeblood spills across its surface. A great greed is growing in you, an apocalyptic desire to bottle the oil, to hoard and keep it. Linger here, fill the barrels, and when all are full, sit below the pump itself and be baptized. Drink the oil, take its sacrament. Store it in your belly. Drink until the earth is empty, and you are full.
  • Strangers
    • None

The Long Game

  • Scenery
    • Sunlight flashes queasily off of tin shanty roofs and sets the badlands swimming with heat-sickness. 
    • Shacks dot the plain. Black against the ash-white earth. All are empty; a rusted kettle, maybe. Dust-drenched sheets. Save one. In that last last house, the nine remaining townspeople gather in a game of poker.
    • All of them are ancient, and all maimed. Senility fast approaching. Crusted rags wrapped around the stumps of arms and legs.  Saliva dribbles from mouths that can’t quite close. 
    • So long as the game continues, they cannot die. They have long run out of money to bet, so now they play for flesh, and eat their winnings to stay sane. They know their brains cannot hold fast to the rules forever. This scares them more than anything.
  • Strangers
    • None


  1. I like the way this all comes together! The mix of duel-focused mechanics, the weird writeups, the Cormac McCarthy quotes, the music embeds, the pics; all very evocative. I still have not read Blood Meridian, but I like Joe R Lansdale's style of Weird West quite a bit. I don't know if I'd want to play it now necessarily, but back in the day I had always wanted to play Deadlands Reloaded but never got around to it. Back when I lived in Colorado I had a moment where I was into the idea of westerns. I'm also playing the JRPG-ish videogame Live a Live and was going to start the Cowboy level later today or tomorrow so this was apt timing haha.

  2. Love the Blood Meridian vibes! This is some good stuff!


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