[GILT] Once Upon A Time In Show Low


This thing has lain fallow for a week or so, eh? Can’t have that.

I’ve been fascinated with “Weird West” as a genre since, well I can’t remember since when. I didn’t watch Wild Wild West much as a kid but I did read Jonah Hex and the occasional issue of Weird Western Tales. “Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr.”? Oh yes. At one point in grad school we didn’t have quorum for our weekly game so one fellow just spontaneously kicked us into what I believe was my first “story game” experience, and behold it was a western with aliens and crap. I really don’t know how it is I’ve never owned let alone played Deadlands. It’s a crime, really.

But anyway “One Upon A Time in Show Low” would be a short (3-4 session) weird west game. One coherent-ish arc. Very cinematic in style (not to say big action and jumping away from explosions in slow motion, of which there may be some, but rather it should *feel* like a movie). Tarantino? Sure. 1880 or so. I picture it starting with one PC receiving a telegram from a friend:


What follows would be a mashup of Tombstone and The X-Files. Or at least the seasons where the X-Files was still good. I’m particularly interested in mapping the MIB phenomenon to the wild west, pushing their methods with different technology.

And if there isn’t at least one scene involving a PC lassoing and riding a Thunderbird to dogfight a UFO, I will consider myself a failure as a storyteller. And a fight on top of a moving train. Because why even bother setting a game in the Wild West if you’re not going to do that?

Why Show Low? No particular reason. Just looked at a map and it seems to be in a good place for it.

(also, do I need to put in here a disclaimer about the “bad men” phrase and it being set in 1880? I hope not.)

If I could work that awesome hoaxy pic of Teddy Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Roy Bean, and pretty much every other badass of the day into the mix, then I could retire from gaming with every life goal fulfilled.

Now the philosophical bit:

The only trick to it is that the whole motif of aliens and MIBs and whatnot involves dicking people over repeatedly. Evidence vanishes, witnesses clam up, things you remember happening change around to make you look like a nutcase. The Mystery is not solved at the end of the story. The very genre demands that it remain as mysterious and frustrating as ever. Fine and dandy in a show or a movie where you can write the reactions of the characters. Maddening as hell for actual players in an actual game. If I learned anything from my look at Gumshoe and Trail of Cthulhu it’s that the GM needs to make it very clear up front that the game isn’t ABOUT cracking the mystery or having irrefutable proof that the aliens are among us. It’s a weird thing to say and runs contrary to a lot of instincts but the mystery is just background. What matters is the characters’ reaction to the mystery and how they change or whether they meet (temporary?) personal goals.

I’m having a hard time coming up with an analogy for any other genre of gaming – D&D isn’t actually ABOUT finding out how magic actually works? That’s almost there but not quite. Vampire isn’t actually ABOUT drinking blood and avoiding sunlight and all that? That’s closer. Does this make any sense?


3 Responses to “[GILT] Once Upon A Time In Show Low”

  1. Moth Says:

    If you are doing the WWW (weird wild west) you could throw in some native american mystical stuff as well, like instead of defeating the alien menace or whatever they have to rescue the ancient shaman who has the knowledge passed down through the generations on how to release the Earth Spirit to defeat the evil that comes once every however thousand years when a particular comet/planet orbits close enough that causes the cyclical challenge. Sort of Fifth Element type of thing.

  2. foxtown Says:

    The vampire one makes sense, but yeah it is not exactly it. Tough one there.

    My only counter idea is : The sort of response from the government in Raiders of the Lost Arc. I mean, players might figure soemthing out, or find something important, but in the end it gets shuffled away into obscurity. Ignored or forgotten.

    Not that this analogy is even as good as yours.

    Sounds like a fun game though. Enjoy!

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