Thursday, October 28, 2010

Texas Rangers

I know it feels like this has been a light blogging week for the old Blackrazor…at least it’s felt that way to me. I know I have a tendency to throw up pages and pages of posts…I’m not trying to be “prolific” or compete with Grognardia or anything, I just happen to have diarrhea of the brain a lot. Plus I tend to be a pretty self-centered naval-gazing bastard, which leads to a lot “of reflection” and (ranty) blog posts. Got another of those latter types getting teed up in my brain as I type this little missive.

ANYway…while I haven’t been blogging, I HAVE been working/writing this week, though you won’t like what it’s about: more B/X Star Wars mischief. In fact, I’ve written two looong Star Wars/Experience Point posts and have published neither, because every time I read back over them they just read like whine-whine-whine. F that noise…you folks have better things to do with your time than read about my frigging lightsaber fetish.

On the other hand, I’m seriously considering just writing up the damn game as an actual Star Wars RPG and giving it away as a free download. My understanding is Lucas doesn’t have a gripe about “fan-based derivatives” unless one tries to make money off them? It would certainly save on production costs if I could go the West End Games route and stick film photos in the book (instead of illustrations).

All right, all right…I DID say “no Star Wars,” and I meant it…that’s a whole ‘nother week’s worth of posts. Instead, I wanted to talk about a different fetish of mine: Texas Rangers.

No, not the baseball team. I’m not a huge fan of baseball anyway (I enjoy it, but it ain’t the NFL), but if I was rooting for any team in the World Series it would have to be the Giants. How can you not love a team that has Kelly from the Bad News Bears?

No, no, I’m talking about the REAL (so to speak) Texas Rangers…you know, the law men with the six-shooters?

When I was a kid, long before I discovered D&D and knights and armor, I dug the Lone Ranger. “Long before” is, of course, extremely subjective but there’s a lot of growth and development occurring between the ages of, say, 5 and 8…enough that they seem like two different lifetimes.

Guys who are older than me probably have even better/stronger memories of the masked hero and his horse, Silver. I never saw the old black and white serial, but I most definitely watched the Saturday Morning Cartoon (where do you think I learned that you extinguish an oil derrick fire with dynamite? Lots of useful lessons back before they started adding “morals” to the epilogue!). I also had a large action figure or two that I believe was made in response to a feature film done in the early 80s (THAT I don’t remember at all).

The toy was only “okay” (if memory serves I actually had Tonto and my brother had the LR for some reason), due in large part to the limited number of supporting cast dolls. At least, with my Star Wars figures (sorry) I had Storm Troopers and Darth to “fight” with my Han Solo and Luke, etc.

What WAS cool was the little mini-comic that must have accompanied the toy (I don’t recall where else I would have acquired such a thing) detailing the origin of the Lone Ranger. How he and a huge posse got bushwhacked in a box canyon (was the bad guy’s name “Black Bart?” Maybe), and he alone survived…hence the moniker: The LONE Ranger.

Now, I have no idea why he decided to don a mask (shame at being out-smarted by such a low-down sidewinder? Maybe), nor why he decided to go it alone rather than put the badge back on (isn’t that kind of like desertion? And he probably didn’t get the Texas Ranger salary after turning vigilante).

We won’t bother to ask how he could be considered “lone” with his faithful (Apache?) companion.

Anyway, far from the current mythology of the tough as nails “One Riot, One Texas Ranger” kind of guy, the Lone Ranger was more of classic (ancient) hero paradigm. There’s a bit about him that calls to mind Roland, or perhaps Theseus…I don’t know.

I just liked the mask, myself.

When I picked up Deadlands (1st edition only…D20 Re-Loaded and Savage Worlds ain’t my thang), the first archetype to which I was immediately drawn was the Texas Ranger. THIS was “my dude,” mask or not. Some folks might be drawn to the more “fantasy-trope” characters (mad scientists, hucksters, shamans) and some want to base their character off of the typical western badass (Jonah Hex, the Two Gun Kid, the Outlaw Josey Wales or any of Eastwood’s “no name characters”). Me, I wanted a Texas Ranger…and if he could get dry gulched and left for dead and come back Harrowed…well, so much the better.

[and just by the way, I HATE “rangers” in D&D, every edition. They make me want to vomit]

I like Deadlands a lot but, to me, the game feels nearly un-playable and is problematic for all sorts of reasons, design-wise (probably a major impetus behind later editions moving to different game systems). The Weird West setting is probably the main thing I enjoy, though at times it does seem a bit “kitchen sink-ish” (especially with Lincoln as a superhero).

The western genre in general is NOT especially conducive to the “adventuring party.” Buddy pictures, sure. Solo gunmen, you bet. D&D-type crawls? No. And yet that’s what a DL game is apt to be like…take 3 to 5 players, make characters and then set off in a Wagon Train-like serial? That’s kind of dumb…for a role-playing game.

If single player role-playing wasn’t such an exercise in narcissism, the Deadlands world would be ideal for a Lone Texas Ranger (undead or not) to ride around exploring. But even if a 2nd player was down with playing 2nd fiddle Tonto, I’m not sure how long one could sustain a DL campaign.

Of course, the Wild Wild West serial lasted quite a few episodes before being cancelled.


  1. Blah, blah, blah... :-)

    _I_ want to see B/X Star Wars, JB. Don't be afraid.

  2. It would certainly save on production costs if I could go the West End Games route and stick film photos in the book (instead of illustrations).

    Oh, I was rather looking forward to getting involved with that.

    probably a major impetus behind later editions moving to different game systems
    I believe that Savage Worlds is the result of the original Deadlands system being tidied up and simplified, so you may like it more than you think. You can get some free starter rules from the PInnacle website if you're curious.

  3. No real comment to make on this post (other than I think the Lone Ranger was framed or deemed responsible for the ambush, which is why he wears a mask.)

    But here's a song for you: How To Be A Texas Ranger.

  4. I remember the large Lone Ranger action figures from around 3rd grade (1982). One loomed large in an epic campaign to flush everything down the toilet during recess (including those jump ropes with the plastic tube segments, pretty cool; four-square balls, it turns out, will not go down the toilet in case you're wondering). We ended up stealing a Lone Ranger from a 1st grader and managed to flush most of his gear down the toilet, but it got stuck and wouldn't go down itself. So I decided to just throw the thing over the fence into an empty lot. Well, the nuns eventually caught up to us, and my friends all started crying and said it was all my idea, the rats. I felt some remorse, but not much. I thought it was completely hilarious.

  5. It was Butch Cavendish and his gang ( The Hole in the Wall Gang )that ambushed the Texas Rangers, not Black Bart. John Reid and Tonto made sure there were six graves to cover up the fact that there was a survivor. He was never framed or accused of orchestrating the ambush. The mask is just a way to hide his identity, and at least in my opinion, it was part of his "mystique", kind of like Batman's cowl.

    The Lone Ranger has access to a silver mine, so he doesn't need a salary.

    An interesting thing is that the Green Hornet was related to the Lone Ranger. He was the son of his nephew.

    If you haven't seen any of the television show with Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger, who I had the privilege to meet one day, you should.

    "Hi ho Silver, away!"

  6. Chello!

    His brother was a law-man, I believe? I seem t remember that he wore the mask to hide his identity and protect his family.

    As to the 1950s show, there were also two full-length films in color at the time as well, that are sorta entertaining and can be picked up on the cheap.

    Also, there was Zorro in the 80s as well:

  7. I liked the old Lone Ranger shows when I was a kid (and also the Cisco Kid, a little,) but I always preferred Zorro. The original D&D is to RPGs as Zorro is to costumed heroes.

  8. I seem to remember in the 80s movie, the Lone Ranger's brother was actually the Texas Ranger - John just got deputized to hunt down Cavendish. The mask was made from a piece of his brother's bullet-holed leather vest.

    I have never managed to run a Western game - not really the style of my current groups - but I do have this review copy of Dust Devils Revised sitting on my hard drive. With a game likemthat you're a little bit freer to abandon the "party of adventurers" setup and go for something more like, say, Deadwood.

  9. ...a feature film done in the early 80s (THAT I don’t remember at all).

    Coincidentally enough, I just watched this film again for the first time since it cam out...29 years ago! I vaguely recalled not being too impressed. And I was right not to be. It's not a good film. But, that said, it does have Christopher Lloyd as Cavendish (he was in vogue as a villainous actor at the time, if you recall Star Trek III and Roger Rabbit). And a very entertaining Jason Robards as U.S. Grant.

    But a bad film otherwise.

  10. I was a HUGE Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers fan back in the '70s. I had the large Lone Ranger action figure and his horse, Silver.

    I also played a lot of Boot Hill in the '80s. Ironically, it was usually just two of us playing in solo campaigns. We would trade off between Boot Hill, Gangbusters, Top Secret, Gamma World, and Traveller. We would always have a trusty NPC sidekick. It was definitely a lot of fun. On a couple of occasions I have tried to run a group in Boot Hill. It is much more difficult to sustain unless you completely narrow the focus (e.g. outlaw gang, posse, soldiers).

  11. @ Everyone:

    Damnit, folks! Now you're making me want to run a Boot Hill game! And here I was trying segue into Deadlands!
    ; )

    In all reality, I appreciate your sharing your memories. I, too, am much more a Zorro guy than a Lone Ranger fan...but I think it may have been tough to be born in the USA prior to Star Wars and NOT have been exposed to a lot of Western stuff. Western fiction/fantasy has to have been THE "American pulp" for 40 or 50 years...something that's been more-or-less been left behind in the last 20+ years or so...

  12. "something that's been more-or-less been left behind in the last 20+ years or so..."

    And some of us think that's unfortunate. I have found members of spending 5 hours every Saturday afternoon in the 70s and early 80s watching Lone Ranger, Rifleman, Wagon Train, Bonanza and Big Valley. A lot of good in those shows.