Monday, June 9, 2014

ReBoot Hill

One idea that keeps popping into my head lately is a return to the genre of the Western.

In a manner of speaking, a reboot of Boot Hill.

In the 37 years I've been gaming, I've only run a single Wild West campaign.

It was in 1979 I believe, I was about 10, and it's still one of my best campaigns I have ever done to this day.

The campaign featured a Masked Cowboy, a Native American Mystic, a Half-Black/Half-Mexican Gunslinger, a Yankee Dandy who was a Gambler, Swindler, and Snake Oil Salesman, and a honest-to-goodness Singing Cowboy (who sang and played guitar, giving various buffs to the team and debuffs to their enemies).

It featured ghosts, native spirits of the land, The Red Rider, coal burning steam machinery, and deal a with the devil.

In a discussion with one of my current players about my old 'Legend of Boot Hill' game, I listed a number of influences and inspirations for the campaign that would still apply if I ran it again today. As a matter of fact, I can think of very little I would add. My 'Wild West Appendix N' from 35 years ago would be pretty much identical to my 'Wild West Appendix N' now.

While there might be others, these are my primary inspirations for running a Wild West campaign:

All-Star Western and Western Comics from DC Comics
(Featuring Batlash, Cinnamon Star, Johnny Thunder, Nighthawk, 'Pow Wow' Smith, etc.)
Blazing Saddles (Motion Picture) (You can't NOT be influenced by Blazing Saddles)
Bonanza (Television Series)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Motion Picture)
Fistful of Dollars (Motion Picture)
Gunsmoke (Television Series)
Lone Ranger (Radio and Television)
Rawhide (Television Series)
The Magnificent Seven (Motion Picture)

The Wild West comic books are of particular note, since at the age of 10, they were my most accessible window into the genre and the period.

In addition to the DC Comics Western heroes, Marvel's Wild West characters were popular with my friends and I as well. Kid Colt, The Phantom Rider, Rawhide Kid, and the Two-Gun Kid, all played a part in helping me develop the kinds of NPC allies and enemies the PCs would face.

I remember reading a book with a number of ghost stories and local legends from the period that had a major impact on the kind of game I wanted to run. I wanted to infuse the setting with just enough strange and unexplained elements to separate it from a normal Western story, but not make it so obvious that the players felt they were playing a Fantasy RPG.

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, a favorite, little known resource of mine, originally published in 1910, was another book that saw some use in the aforementioned campaign. The book is a bestiary of fantastic critters supposedly dwelling in the United States and Canada. It is a tome of American folklore and myth at it's finest and well worth a look.

In the end, what is the final result of this post? Why am I really bringing it up? Am I just reminiscing, or has the time finally come to revisit this campaign setting?

Is this my online game, to be run over Google Hangouts?

Tarnation! You got me Hoss. Got to do some thinkin'.

Barking Alien


  1. The past couple of years this is a genre I've been wanting to run. I need to get a few more materials, but for this kind of thing I might just run it with GURPS. Add that to my pile of stuff I'd like to do.

  2. I bet that would be one hell of a fun game!

    Just out of curiosity have you ever played the Aces & Eights game? I keep hearing good things about it but I've never known anyone who had played it.

    1. I purchased Aces & Eights on the word of a friend of mine and the many rave reviews, but sadly it wasn't for me. After reading through it, or trying to, several times, I eventually sold it to another buddy who had played it at a convention and loved it.

      Way too crunchy and dense for me. Not much room to mess with the system and for what I want to use it for, I definitely need room.

    2. I bought it and sold it as well. Just getting through the glossy pages on character creation was enough for me to realize it was way too rules-heavy for me. The "shot clock" was pretty cool, though.

      Didn't care for all the pages wasted on an alternate history I'd never use. Real history is interesting enough.

  3. This is awesome BA! Yep, not a FRPG but pretty straight with touch of fantasy/supernatural/sf -- great stuff. Don't forget the possibility of a T-Rex or a UFO crash either!

    On another note, do you ever go back to thinking about your idea for a TZ game? Though tricky to do I think that was a neat idea.

    1. I have a million and one game ideas, but only about a dozen pet projects I go back to again and again. The Twilight Zone RPG concept is one such project. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time lately to spend on it.

      Thanks for liking the idea. I do too. Now I just have to figure out how to make it work.

  4. I love Boot Hill. Have 3rd edition. No one wants to play. Everyone seems to want the soi-disant "weird west," which almost literally makes me vomit. I'm more about Louis L'Amour-type Western fun.

    1. My problem with the 'Weird West' genre, especially in games, is that there is so very little subtlety. Actually, subtlety is seriously lacking across the board in RPGs.

      I don't want to play Deadlands or an alternate history game like Aces & Eights.

      I want to do what I did back in 1979. I want to run a straight-shootin' Western, and then have odd things begin to happen here and there. Even the Native American Shaman we had was the kind of character where the other players would ask, "Wait...does your character actually HAVE magic? I mean, did he just do something or what?" To which the shaman's Player would just stared are the inquirer ominously while I shrugged my shoulders.

      To quote the God Entity from Futurama, "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."

  5. No "Three Amigos" and no novels?

    1. Ah the 'Three Amigos'! How could I forget?

      There are Western novels?

      Who knew?

    2. Three amigos would make a great starting point for a light-hearted western or even pulp-era campaign.