When I was growing up, the only Western I liked was The Lone Ranger. I think it was because he wore a mask to hide his identity, which made him kind of a superhero. I also liked the John Wayne/Kirk Douglas film The War Wagon, because the eponymous carriage was a horse-drawn tank with machine guns, and that was cool. When I could find it in reruns, which always seemed to be late at night or at odd times on weekends, I get into The Wild, Wild West, mostly because of the gadgets and anachronisms and spy-fi plots. I was a city kid. Horses and cattle and sixguns and spurs weren’t things I could relate to.
After 22 years of living on the great American Southwest, I get it. I appreciate history, how this country was shaped, both the heroic and the horrible things that happened along the way. As a writer, great Westerns are opportunities for character bits. Most Westerns, on television and in the movies, relied on strong, flawed, larger-than-life yet profoundly human characters. It’s a genre that I’ve really come to appreciate.
Hank Harwell knows the history. He’s fascinated with the true story of the Texas Rangers, how that organization came into being and the things that they’ve done. He’s also into old pulp magazines, not just hero pulps like Doc Savage and the Shadow, or the horror and science fiction pulps that most geeks are familiar with, but with Western pulps. Hank is also an enthusiast of Old Time Radio, that close cousin to pulp magazines. Somehow, Hank has synthesized all of these interests into a roleplaying game setting.
The Eerie Exploits of Ranger Company X: The Official Series Bible, is the latest release from Asparagus Jumpsuit. Think The X-Files, but with Texas Rangers in the Old West rather than FBI agents in the 1990s. It’s a systemless setting, easily adaptable to your favorite game mechanics. It’s got background on Company X, villains, plot hooks, and a bibliography packed with references. It’s a setting that I’m interested in today for the ability to play with alternate history and create interesting characters, but it’s also the kind of setting childhood-me would have enjoyed.