“We dug coal together…”

Yeah, well damn…

Last episode of Justified

That was a great episode to end a great show. I was listening to NPR today and they made the observation that it was a show about driven, intelligent, Southern, blue-collar cops up against driven, intelligent, Southern, blue-collar criminals (who were just as often fighting amongst themselves). The commentator was right, as was his observation that this is a demographic that is often portrayed as stupid and lazy – and has been since the death of the Western as a popular genre (though he didn’t quite phrase it that way).

I think it is worth noting how much the genre of cyberpunk owes to the western – not just because of “console cowboys” but because the cyberpunks are the high-tech equivalent of the blue-collar “high plains drifter.” But beyond that, I’m also noting that I’m one of the last generation of American men who grew up watching and reading westerns, even so much as the last major westerns made in my teenage years and early adulthood.

Now the closest that most younger gamers and geeks have gotten to a Western is Firefly – which certainly isn’t a bad version of a Western. It even more certainly speaks to how closely the Traveller RPG hews to Western tropes given how many parallels gamers have seen between the game and the TV show.

In any case, it has me wondering somewhat amused given how much two out of my four favorite games owe to Westerns. Heck my main NPC in Traveller is named “Quint” in conscious imitation of Louis L’Amour’s Flint (as well as, truth to be told, James Coburn’s Our Man Flint and his character Britt from The Magnificent Seven – another Western!). This is probably worth some conscious thought and re-reading/watching some westerns when I run either Traveller or Cyberpunk 2020 next.


Categories: FYI | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on ““We dug coal together…”

  1. I never saw Traveler or Cyberpunk as part of the “Western genre,” but I may have just been too young to see the connections. Star Trek was billed as “Wagon Train to the Stars” and Star Wars is a WW II movie set in space complete with dog fights, so I can see the idea that Traveler is a Western. Cyberpunk strikes me as gangster noir, with the cyberpunks being virtuous rebels at best and glorified villains at worst.

    What strikes me as interesting here is the idea that “Quint” is a deeply developed NPC because he is the amalgam of characters you have read and seen. I may do this, too, but I do not put the conscious thought into my NPC development that you seem to do.

    • I don’t think I always saw the connections, sort of, but I’ve certainly grown more aware of them over time.

      Some NPC’s get conscious thought, others just spring up and develop through play. Quint in particular was a mixture of both. He was consciously designed as a both a Mystery and a Macguffin for the players to explore, and was then developed over the course of a handful of campaigns. In games like Traveller and Cyberpunk (with prior service and lifepath as an inherent part of character creation) I’ve noticed that there is a higher number of consciously created NPC’s because I have many, many more hooks to integrate them with PC’s (and I tend to want to make the hook sink in deeply). In games like D&D, I am much more likely to create NPC’s on the fly and then develop them over time, as needed.

      Quint was also a example of me consciously making a non-White character (he’s “Latino” – if you want to know what he looks like, find a picture of Armand Assante) because I wanted to poke at and manipulate my players based on their sense of normal.


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