I’m a serious pack rat when it comes to digital stuff. MP3’s, pdf’s, videos, mobi’s, cbr’s, epubs, jpgs, and multitudes of other junk found at various web sources all make it to my various hard drives if they are related to Westerns. While vacuuming the internet I was amazed to discover the incredible number of Westerns that were made for television. According to Wikipedia there were over 180 titles. When you add up the total number of episodes this comes out to about 11,190. That’s a lot of plots, characters, horses and gunfights. I’ve also noticed that more and more collectors DVD sets have been popping up in Walmart and other retailers. I recently found the complete Shane series and as well as a little known series called Bordertown. Last year I found The Virginian (1st season), Wanted: Dead or Alive (seasons 1&2), and Cheyenne (1st season). There are a ton more out there as well with more and more obscure titles popping up. So between the DVD’s I’m amassing and the various downloads stored on my hard drives I’ve quickly assembled a nice sampling of these television treasures.
I mention these western televisions shows because they can be a great source of inspiration for your western hobby gaming. You don’t have to replicate the exact plots of course–the episode can simply be a starting point for your own characters. For example, an episode of Lawman called The Bandit features an outlaw who robs an $8,000 payroll. Chased by Marshal Dan Troop and his deputy the bandit shoots Troop’s horse and escapes. Seeking shelter he finds a cabin with two sickly kids (newly orphaned) inside and is suddenly stricken with concern and decides to give them some money and fetch the doctor. Arriving in town he finds that the sickness has also effected several others in the area. He is given some medicine by a woman and against his desire to get out of Dodge he goes back to the kids. The doctor arrives but is no help as he has other patients who are also sick. The bandit stays and begins to attend to the kids with what the doctor gave him when the Marshall rides up. The bandit’s attempt to impersonate a farm hand is quickly found out and he is arrested. However, now they both have to look after the kids and over time Marshal Troop gets sick as well and eventually passes out for a couple of days with fever. Instead of escaping, the bandit nurses the Marshall back to health and decides that the owl hoot trail was not the life for him.
There are several features from this short 23:46 minute episode you can use in gaming. The idea of some sort of a plague affecting the townsfolk unbeknownst to the characters who just rode in could cause some concerns. Saving rolls would be necessary to see if they get sick and survive. Does this slow them down in escaping from a posse / catching up to escaping criminals? Your gang could be escaping from a robbery when they come across some sickly NPC’s abandoned in a wagon. How do your PC’s handle this? Yellow Fever, diphtheria, , influenza, Blackwater Fever are just some of the many maladies that can be introduced to your game setting as a random event. Also payrolls for miners/loggers are notoriously targets of bandits–this money is not always in the banks and is often in transit.