I took in the Coen Brothers’ rendition of True Grit on Christmas day. My short review: It’s very good. It also got me to thinking about an element of Westerns and other historical genres that often seems neglected in fantasy and science fiction role-playing games.
An exchange between Texas Ranger LeBoeuf and Rooster Cogburn about where they served in the Civil War sets the events of True Grit in a specific time, or at least, a specific era. This is pretty common in Westerns, though there are, of course, ones that take place in the vague “Old West.” It seems to me, there are roughly five eras in the the Western genre:
- frontier era of buckskin clad mountain men and the wild places.
- Civil War and the Indian wars with blue versus gray as backdrop.
- The post-Civil War Indian warfare
- The classic gunfighter era of a mostly Indian-free West with range wars and gunfights in corrals
- The Dying West of aging heroes and outlaws whose time has past
So I wonder how many people have exploited the march of history as backdrop in their fantasy games. True, Medieval sorts of societies changed quickly less than that of the nineteenth century, but they did change--and fantasy worlds maybe even more so. Is the adventuring experience for characters in one decade the same as the next? Has there been a revolution, or a new dynasty come to power? Maybe a plague, even collapse of a mighty empire?
Is history something happening in your games, or it only something that once happened in the remote past? Do progressive campaigns reflect the passage of time, or do they tend to all take place in a nebulous “now”?