Friday, January 20, 2012

Railroading All Gamers Can Enjoy


Hell on Wheels on AMC tells the story of a mobile camp accompanying the construction of the first intercontinental railroad. It has the usual assortment of characters and professions one would expect in any boomtown, plus individuals looking to actively escape civilization for reasons of there own.

The series (which just completed its first season) would obviously be good inspiration for a Western or Steampunk game, but I think it has something to offer fantasy gaming, as well. Non-traditional fantasy would be the most obvious (Mieville has a railroad being built in Iron Council and Eberron has got trains) but a good old fashion wilderness hexcrawl might be informed by the series, too.

All that’s really needed is a reason for a raucous camp of adventurers and hangers-on to be travelling through the wilderness. Perhaps they're doing something as mundane as cutting a new road (like Daniel Boone and his men in Cherie Priest’s Those Who Went Remain There Still) or maybe they’re doing something more exotic, like riding a giant monster so they can mine stuff from its body. Whatever. They just need to be travelling across the wilderness and dragging a bit of civilization with them.

One of Hell on Wheels’s promo posters proclaims: “Blood will be spilled. Lives will be lost. Men will be ruined.” Sounds like a call to adventure to me.

8 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

It does and I need to see this show, hadn't heard about it all.....

Tim Shorts said...

I hope they put this one on Netflix. I didn't hear about it until near the end of the season.

Tallgeese said...

I discovered the series just after finishing "The Iron Council" and immediately dug it. The show handles racial and cultural conflicts pretty realistically, too.

Sean Robson said...

I lost interest in Hell on Wheels after watching the first five episodes or so; the characters just never really grabbed me, and I found myself continually comparing it, unfavourably, with Deadwood.

The mining camp that became Deadwood was the inspiration for the adventurer camp that grew amid the ruins of Thrace in my current campaign, so you're certainly right about westerns offering a lot of inspiration to fantasy games.

Trey said...

@Sean - I sympathize with your comparing it unfavorably to Deadwood--particularly early on. Having seen the whole season, I think its trying to do a different thing. As @Tallgeese points out, HoW makes racial and cultural conflicts front and center, whereas that's just background in Deadwood, and handles them for the most part very well. The choosing of a protagonist who is a Southern and had been a slave owner--and addressing that--is something I was surprised to see a TV show do (even a cable one) not on a premium network.

Peter Robbins said...

Love Hell. Awesome show. I thought it might end up being a Deadwood rip-off (not necessarily a bad thing), but it has proven itself to be uniquely enjoyable.

Reilly said...

First ep was ok but i'm watching Doctor Who & Sons O anarchy now

garrisonjames said...

Definitely will have to take a look at this show. The history and lore of railroads has always been a major interest. It'd be cool to see some of the real stuff get rolled out in front of impressionable and unsuspecting eyes...it could and did get pretty lurid at times...oh hey--there's Mr. Cash again...