I found this game to be the perfect balance between the vague looseness that allows for freedom of creativity and the strict form that creates a true poetic challenge! I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity afforded by such a simple set of rules. The designers have set the tone beautifully, giving just the right amount of inspiration in the poetic pre-game blurb, and then leaving the rest to Lady Luck. As a lover of poetry and the Western genre, I am hooked!
Gentleman Bandit | Western Cantos I
A downloadable game
A solo roleplaying game exploring violence, woe, and dissociation | Part I of the Western Cantos, a poetry RPG cycle
They call you the Gentleman Bandit, because no one knows your name. They call you a monster, a villain, a dealer of death.
But they don’t know you.
Not your Heart, your Poet’s Heart filled with rage or filth or the expansiveness of True Love; not your Grieving Heart loosed over a chasm, making a sound like the sorrow of wolves as it plummets toward wet river stones, cracked bones left to bleach.
In this writing-focused RPG, you personify the eponymous Gentleman Bandit to write a 13-line poem you'll leave for the dead — and the ones who discover them. Card draws guide the content of each line; optional dice rolls add poetic devices to further shape the experience and ratchet the difficulty.
Rules for multiplayer versions — inspired by the Exquisite Corpse style of group poetry writing — are included for both in-room and online settings.
A Poker Play ruleset supports replayability with recommended fictional positions for your Bandit, each corresponding to the poker hand(s) you hold at the end of a round.
- Writing implements of your choice
- A well-shuffled deck of 54 playing cards, Jokers intact
- One six-sided die (optional)
Mobile and print PDFs included. Layout and graphic design by John Harper, creator of Lasers & Feelings, Blades in the Dark, and AGON.
In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $7 USD. You will get access to the following files:
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This game is beautifully made and a lot of fun to play! For a first foray into solo games for me, as well as poetry games (though I love writing poetry), I adored it.
Dense and flavorful, this is a game about composing a poem for a person you have just killed on the road. And also you are the kind of highwayman that people romanticize in poetry.
It's very cleanly designed, the layout is excellent, and the illustrations fit in perfectly with the subject and tone.
The bulk of the game is just writing lines of poetry, and there's an optional challenge mode that allows you to randomize restrictions like rhyme scheme and meter, but at the end of the day if you really don't want to write poetry, playing this game is probably not for you.
Reading it, however, might still be. The game is clear and direct with its rules, but whenever it gets the chance to do fluff, it unleashes with some extremely genre appropriate not-quite-verse-but-I'd-struggle-to-figure-out-what-else-to-call-it.
Gentleman Bandit is a joy to read, and also viable as a party game (although admittedly it's the kind of party where someone writes the first draft of Frankenstein.)
If you write poetry or have who friends do, or if you want some material to get you in character for your next weird west or hellfire western game, I'd encourage picking this up.
I love that you have a mobile layout for this! What a great idea, especially for portable solo games!