Want the best possible Cow Puncher, Bean Slinger, or Snake Oiler? We show you how to be prepared for the dusty old (weird) west in this best builds guide!

West Of Loathing Character Build Guide

Want the best possible Cow Puncher, Bean Slinger, or Snake Oiler? We show you how to be prepared for the dusty old (weird) west in this best builds guide!

It’s the age-old dilemma of any classic RPG fan: “What sort of character should I play on this run through? A big dumb melee bruiser? A smooth talker who gets all the dialog options? A thief picking locks and brewing potions?”. 

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All these options and more are available in West Of Loathing, with some builds more useful than others. Below we cover everything you need to know for putting together a build for any kind of play through, whether you are focused on getting achievements, unlocking secrets, or dominating in combat.

Classes and Leveling in West of Loathing

Although they sound a bit different, the three classes available during the prologue basically align with your typical fantasy RPG tropes:

  • Cow Puncher — melee combat specialist
  • Beanslinger — spell caster
  • Snake Oiler — ranged rogue/poison specialist

Picking a class doesn’t totally define your character though, as it will change in drastic ways based on options you take during the prologue and throughout the main game. 

If you want to always be flush with meat (the game’s equivalent of gold), during the prologue, tell your brother you want to get rich. If you’d instead prefer to have more experience for upgrading skills, tell him you need to get off the farm and explore.

Your starting skill is also determined by dialog with your mother in the prologue, rather than by class (see the section below for full info). For instance, The Snake Oiler doesn’t automatically start with typical rogue skills like picking locks.

By default, the game auto assigns experience points for a balanced character, spreading out your increases across all stats and skills. You can turn that option off and assign your own experience, however, especially if you want to focus on becoming a damage powerhouse or you want to upgrade skills that are useful in dialog and world map situations, like Intimdatin’ or Lock Pickin’.

Keep in mind, thought, that over the course of the game, you will find powerful melee and ranged weapons no matter which class you choose. That means you can actually make either Cow Puncher or Snake Oiler work with the other combat style if you put your points into Muscle or Moxie.

 Pickin’ a class

West Of Loathing Skills and Stats

During the prologue, you have to choose from Lock Pickin’, Foragin’ (for finding items from the landscape), or Dickerin’ (bartering) as your starting skill.

If you want to get the A Fistful Of Cutlets achievement on your first playthrough, you must pick the Dickerin’ skill. In all other cases, going with Lock Pickin’ is usually your best bet, as you can get the other two skills through books later on — and you don’t really lose out on anything (except for the achievement).

Foragin’ is less useful than you’d think, although you can get some nifty perks later on if you consistently use that skill everywhere you go. In general, you’ll get more meat and useful items by picking locks instead.

New skills corresponding to your class are learned by reading books, which are usually bought for 1,500 meat at stores. Don’t forget you have to level up those skills with experience points just like your stats. If you aren’t upgrading them, they very quickly stop being useful in combat.

 Learning new Cow Punching skills

Before picking new skills, take into account your Pardner’s abilities (see below). For instance, Bull Stomp isn’t as helpful if you have Alice as your pardner, since she already has an area of affect attack that works better. Having more AP, on the other hand, is incredibly useful if you want to use an item, cast a spell or summon a creature, and get off an attack all in one round.

On the stats front, if you are assigning your own experience, be sure to occasionally put points in the two combat stats you don’t use often (such as Moxie if you are a Cow Puncher or Muscle if you are a Bean Slinger). Those stats lower the damage you take from their corresponding attacks, but they also are needed as a fallback. Why? Because there are a handful of items, dialog options, and perks that will drastically reduce your Muscle, Mysticality, or Moxie without warning, so you may find yourself doing far less damage than you used to without a backup attack in place.

Don’t discount the effect of Grit, Gumption, and Glamour, either. While they seem not as useful immediately, they change how many levels of anger can affect you at one time — or how many food/beverage items you can consume.

Since the bonuses from those items stay in place until you sleep (which you don’t actually ever have to do), you can essentially get huge stat increases for free by getting angry or drinking lots of whiskey if your Grit and Gumption are high enough. The Snake Oiler class in particular is useful here, as you can eventually brew your own potions giving big boosts to Moxie and maximum HP.

 Anger gives a flat bonus to all stats

Picking Your Pardner 

You should think of your prologue Pardner as an extension of your character, one who can shore up your weak points. Which option you pick will have a big effect on some of West of Loathing‘s fights.

Here’s a list: 

  • Doc Alice: She can heal you and has an area attack that hits all enemies for small damage, but as she levels, this goes up to devastating levels. She only levels when fighting skeletons, and will leave you if you read all the Nex Mex books and take over the role of Necromancer late in the game.
  • Gary the Goblin: He has a single melee attack but can summon another creature to take damage. He only levels by buying or finding Shroom-Gro. Gary is a “secret” pardner that is gained by taking the quest to kill him, then learning goblin in Doc Alice’s house before attacking him.
  • Susie Cochrane: She can buff you against damage and has a ranged single attack. She only levels when fighting hell cows.
  • Crazy Pete: He deals Hot damage rather than regular physical (bypassing some damage resistance) against a single enemy and also ensures you gain more meat when searching carts. He levels up through random encounters.

Picking Your Horse

You wouldn’t think this would make an impact on your character, but which of the three weird horses you buy during the prologue actually plays a role in your character build.

Specifically, if you want the Nex Mex skills, go with the Pale Horse. While riding the Pale Horse, you will randomly find all the Nex Mex books very quickly during overland travel.

Even a Cow Puncher can benefit from these necromancer skills, since its helpful to be able to summon skeletons during combat to take damage or deal out a few extra hits each turn against large groups of enemies.

The Dark Horse instead makes it easier to flee random encounters, which isn’t that useful since you usually want encounters. But the Crazy Horse, on the other hand, is a total wild card, making random events occur more frequently.

 Want to summon spell slinging zombies? This is the horse for you.

Those are all the basics you need to know to plan out your perfect Cow Puncher, Bean Slinger, or Snake Oiler character build in West Of Loathing!

Have any other tips for us in creating the best combat powerhouse or dialog-focused characters? Let us know in the comments section below!

Need help with any other part of the game? Check out our other West Of Loathing guides:

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Ty Arthur
Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction and writing about video games. After 25 years of gaming, Ty can firmly say that gaming peaked with Planescape Torment, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soft spot for games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, Bioshock Infinite, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. He has previously written for GamerU and MetalUnderground. He also writes for PortalMonkey covering gaming laptops and peripherals.