The name "Ashen West" is just a placeholder. This is the result of a bout of impromptu setting-building between me and Kyana over on Luka's discord.
Kyana: There is a lot of instrumental variations of those five but I love the songs
(selected lyrics from the songs, tied in together)
Sky is red, clouds roll in I say my prayers and close my eyes Devils are among us Black trains are coming - Let the gunshots ring.
Saker: The Church of Fire and Smoke, whose prayers turn the wheels of great machines, worshippers of terrible Angels, suppliers and consumers of the Black Powder.
The Black Powder: Found deep under the mountains, a wondrous fuel and the source of alchemical magicks. Holy medium of the church, who dig greedily and deep into old places that should be left alone.
The Flame: At the deepest point beneath the mountain, the prospectors of the Church found flame, which settled deep into their hearts till their eyes kindled like embers and their footsteps scorched the earth. And so, as foretold, Devils came to walk the mortal realms.
The Devils: They walk the soot-scorched lands, causing death and misery wherever they tread, or so saith the Church. Some say they are extraplanar demons or lost souls, others say they are the result of overuse of Black Powder. Hunted by the Gunslingers.
The Gunslingers: Hunters of Devils. Their traditional weapon of choice is the six-shooter, but other guns have been adopted by more eccentric slingers. Those who know alchemy can transmute their blood with black powder to create magic bullets. Some are affiliated with the church, others worship the Six Gun Saints (also known as the Six-Gun Saints) Some select few ride the Black Train.
The Black Train whose name is Death: Most get crushed under its wheels, but some, chosen by fate, can hitch a ride (those who are "Off the Tracks"). They can return from death and move between Stations. There is a Conductor, bound and gagged by silver chains. Do not speak to them.
Kyana: Small towns and cities, connected by thin roads; the space between them malleable and shifting like sands in the desert - what was a canyon a year ago might become a ravine or a valley in the eyes of new traveller, as old ruins grow up from the new land. People cling to each other for the sense of stability and order that the presence of other people brings, just as their paranoia grows;
Somewhere out there are horses, marked by Angels in times past, beings of dust, fire, bone and smoke, feeding on open graveyards as on pastures. It is ruin for a weak of heart to face one, but tame it and feed it your flesh and it will never leave your side even in death;
There are gold-eyed people walking through the Thin Roads of the wilderness; their nails are sharp as steel and smiles are benign but they bear no Angel's blessed scent, no stench of devils. Kin to nobody, where they come, the hungry ghosts soon follow until the town are nothing but a skeleton of living;
Open graveyards appear and fester like wounds, never acknowledged, never treated with due respect, never put to rest
Golden Fever sweeps the land, turning men into possessed beasts; their delirium grows so strong they sip the marrow of bones, trying to get the smallest modula of gold out of human blood;
Flame embraces the true believers, scorching their flesh with cures just as fire tempers the brittle steel. One who is strong in such faith, manifests miraculous brands and hears the singing of Angels
Toss a pinch of black powder into a whiskey and it will heal you better than mother's milk and taste sweeter than the lover's kiss
Walk in dead man's boots to have your steps to be as quiet as death itself;
Bleed the blood of the innocents, and roses spring from each drop;
Great machines turn and sing, raising great cities from the hard stone, build up hard border walls from soft, shifting lands, brings sacred firepits out of depths, sanctify the land with their street lines; all are to welcome Church, the bringers of prosperity and order. For the dissidents there is an exile, a silencing or a gallow tree.
When carnival comes they play melodies of the old abandoned world, which everybody remembers but only in dreams; pursued by the Church and hounded by gunslingers, those shows never stay put for any long time
Saker: The Angels of the Church: Depicted in chapels and murals as watching over the world, belching smoke and weeping molten gold. Some say that when the light is at its brightest and the smoke is at its thinnest, can see great silhouettes towering, eyes slimmering like beacons through the haze.
Kyana: One can see them fly through the night, the beautiful tailed stars, so far above that they are as small as sparkles
Saker: The Three Substances of Alchemy: The black powder from beneath the mountain, the fool's gold from the shifting riverbanks of the endless frontier, and finally, the lifeblood of man. Together, they form the Triangular Concordance of Alchemy that some call the Philosopher's Stone. And from that Concordance is birthed a wellspring of wonders and horrors, for anything is possible if you're willing to pay any price. Whether that price be in body (blood), mind (gold), or spirit (powder).
As the saying goes: "The modern world is built on powder, gold, and blood".
The Haze: Perhaps there was a time before the Haze, before the great towers of the Church that vomit flame, the machines that burn powder to transmute blood into gold. But now it is everywhere, making heads swim, making lungs clench, making everything distant as if in a dream. They say if you wander too deep into the Haze, you will end up... somewhere else. They say that the souls of those lost in the Haze become part of it. Those Gunslingers who are Off the Tracks can see the Stations hidden in the Haze, and can hail the Black Train whose name is Death.
Kyana: Moon is a false fire of devils, for they abhor the true and only flame; fear the full moonlight, as it will steal your soul and extinguish your life's fire, and Church will hunt you down for the silver in your eyes as your skin turns to shadow and soot
Under the eye of the high noon sun there can be no lies, no illusions, no deceptions - only the judgement of the Angels
Saker: Secret Orders of the Church:
The Architects: They seek the Tower, their representation of the pinnacle of evolution and the inevitable product of mechanical innovation. When mortals scale the Tower, the gates of heaven shall open, all struggles will cease, all miseries shall be wiped from the face of the earth, and humankind shall face their final destiny.
The Tower Inverted: Heretic cell of the Architects. They know the truth: the Tower floats not in the sky but lies deep below the surface of the earth. And the result of finding it is not evolution, but infinite mutation and madness. Yet they seek it anyway. Some say that they were the ones to awaken the Devils from their slumber. The boldest and most heretical say they even follow the teachings of the Worm.
The Stargazers: Those who build great observatories atop vast peaks and pinnacles to try and pierce the haze and see the stars beyond. Their attempts are fruitless. For the stars have not been seen in generations. They, like much else, have been devoured in the haze.
Kyana: Black-clad ministers are the lowest priests of the Church, bearing sacred blackpowder and a rosary of spend shells, they attend to the everyday rites and guide the faithful flock; one knows them by the symbol of five-pointed star
Saker: One day, one of the villagers ventured out into the haze and didn't come back. The other villagers counted the days until at last there was no way he could have survived. Two weeks later he emerged from the smoke, but his movements were wrong and his voice was different.
He said he had come upon a revelation: that the machinations of humankind would lead to their demise, that the angels must be slain and overthrown, and the arts of powder, gold, and blood must be forgotten, else Doom return to reclaim the world. Humanity must return to the mud and caves if they are to be saved.
For his heresy, the Evangelists of the Church sent him to the block to be beheaded, as was tradition in those parts. When they took off his head, instead of blood what spilled out of the stump were hundreds of small, white worms.
The head continued to speak of vast, blind entities writhing and devouring themselves out of sight, and laughed as it burned on the pyre. Though the Church tried to cover up the story, rumor got around. And so the Teachings of the Worm began to spread.
By six shots, six saints, and six paths, we know it to be true." -Gunslinger's saying
Kyana: Old abandoned world is all but a dream for people of last generations, but some fall into this dream and wander forgotten streets of nameless cities, grand, and twisted, and broken, and so vast that the building are closing in above and from all the sides, as if a giant shell, as if a pair of godly hands. Those people wake up, shaken and crying for the songs they no longer can remember. They often wander off into the Haze, weeping, pursuing the mirages that taunt and sing for them as they go.
Some tumbleweeds from the heart of a murdered strangers, out in the wilderness. As they grow, the cluster of roots and branches grows tight in the centre of them, becoming the effigy of a slain person, the last remainder of their humanity; catch it, powder it and smoke it to imbibe the last memories and the most dear wish of the one who is gone
Saker: Six: A holy number to the Gunslingers, who built their guns with six chambers in reverence of the six great Saints of their tradition. Five of the paths are in life, and the final, sixth path, is in death. It is said that when a Gunslinger successfully walks the five sacred paths in life, they will be chosen by the Black Train to walk the sixth on the other side. It is a practice among the truly devout Gunslingers to only load five of their six chambers, "leaving the last one for death". Old devouts play games of russian roulette, believing the dead member of the six to have been chosen by the Black Train.
Kyana: (Black-garbed ministers wear five-pointed star and empty shells as they serve the living, not the dead)
Saker: (Some of the learned and bold among heretic scholars have noted some symbolic similarities between the Black Train whose name is Death, and the Worm who devours its own tail in the dark, though they do not dare mention them out loud.)
(Some of those aforementioned learned and bold heretic scholars also theorize that an ancient civilization tried to ascend the Tower long ago, but failed and were incinerated to a one. And their ashes became the powder below the mountain. And the Devils are their souls reigniting once more. But alas, such theories never make it far without being silenced.)
Kyana: Crescentgrove is a city home of the learnt and wise, and the lake near its never dries out, even at the highest heat. The Church watches closely for the sign of dissent thought that enters or leaves the city but at the same time, shows a strange reverence and reluctance to enter the city in force
Saker: (Others posit that the Angels of the Church are the ascended former humans, who want to uplift the rest of their former kind.)
Kyana: Church presents the monolith front for the lay believers, but even with this facade ordinary people learnt to be fearful of white-clad ministers, who walk through the wilderness haze leaving burning footprints, undeterred, unfettered, unstoppable by anything as they pursue their goals; those are said to be holy executioners, given a free mandate to show cruelty and mercy as they feel fit
The folk wisdom says that spitting on a bullet before loading it to the gun brings the favour of the Saints for the shot
It is said that snakes in the wilderness knows the secret of worm tunnels, once escaping them to live in the light of the day, but only share it with those who shares their poisons and survives
As the Golden Fever grows, some affected grows with it; soon the blood is not enough and they run after meandering rivers, trying to suck them dry in a pursuit of ever-desired gold; eventually their body grow giant and malleable as if of titanic slugs; and river might dry completely if there is no one to clean the diseased thirsty filth from its shores
Say quick prayer to Fifth Saint and smear the drop of your blood onto a grave to ask the dead for a sanctuary for a night; if you heart is pure and manners are respectful, they will share their grave with you but your sleep will be undisturbed by the dangers of the wild - but if your sins are heavy or manners are deceitful, you'd never rise from your bed again
Saker: They say that at the top of the highest steeple in the greatest cathedral of the Church, there is an iron door with a lock of silver. The key to that lock is tiny, yet the burden of carrying it is so great that it bows the bearer's back so their fingers sweep the ground. Is is said that only the pure of heart can bear the key, and so keepers are born, live, and die in the steeple without any contact with the outside world. What lies behind the door is the Church's second-best kept secret.
Acolytes of the Tower Inverted posit that below that cathedral built from stone, there is an anti-cathedral carved from the stone. At the lowest point of the mirror-image anti-cathedral there is an anti-steeple, and in the anti-steeple there is another iron door with a lock of silver, an exact mirror image of the other. Only the key to this door lies forgotten, and the door is open.
Kyana: There is a night in a late autumn, when the western wind brings the cold and heavy breath of the unattainable sea, the faintest scent of salt and longing of invisible waves; there is no moon in the skies that night, false or otherwise, and the darkness is absolute. Rumoured this night is the only night in the year where a daring stranger might ride the Train Whose Name is Death and escape with their live, if only barely.
(We try to figure out a name for this thing and nerd out about Dark Souls/Bloodborne)
Kyana: Guns, like a body, is just an outer envelope for the fiery spirit
Saker: A bullet forged from molten devil chains and quenched in righteous blood binds the target
Kyana: Called "Devil's Due"
Saker: A semi-card-based combat system where at the beginning of the round you draw six cards (five if you are a truly devout Gunslinger, leaving one for death). Those are your actions, and your bullets. You spend those actions, and when you're out of bullets the enemy better be dead otherwise it automatically kills you.
Such is the way of the bloody, ashen west.
My proposed system doesn't really work against enemies that are With Gun, does it?
If enemy With Gun: Quickdraw initiative battle, one bullet at a time, first to score a hit kills the other.
(That's about where we left off!)