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I’ve been a fan of the weird west genre since I watched The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. in high school, and at least half of the (admittedly few) Boot Hill games I’ve run have featured something supernatural, or at least seemingly supernatural. I’ve done vampires, The Hound of the Baskervilles (which is really just Victorian Scooby Doo) in a mine, and assorted other horror stories in the Old West. Running these kinds of games with something like Boot Hill is especially fun since the players aren’t expecting the supernatural, so their characters aren’t as credulous as they are in Deadlands or Call of Cthulhu where everyone knows the horror is real but have to go through the often-tedious formality of pretending otherwise for a while.
I was working at a game distributor when Deadlands came out, and the first copy I pulled out of the box went into the “mine” pile as soon as I skimmed a few pages. While the game didn’t quite live up to my expectations in actual play (mostly because the system had so many moving parts that it slowed the story to a crawl), I was just happy to see I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Joe Lansdale and Tim Truman’s take on Jonah Hex way too much. I even read through the preview copy of Werewolf: Wild West that White Wolf sent us at a time when White Wolf players annoyed me almost as much as they annoy…well, pretty much everyone I’ve ever met who worked for White Wolf.
Side note: at the time, I thought that maybe the hole in the book was there to mark it as a “not for sale” copy or something, but when the shipment arrived we discovered that they not only meant to do that, but probably paid the printer extra to drill a goddamn hole in the book. I think it was supposed to be a bullet hole, but some kind of art around the hole (maybe scorch marks or “edge of a bullet hole” art or something) probably would have made it clearer that the books hadn’t been part of a bizarre drill press accident.
Anyway, the point is that Clanbook: Tzimiisce’s back cover art wasn’t the only really stupid idea White Wolf had in the 90s. Wait….that’s not the point. That can’t be the point. If I start making fun of White Wolf, we’ll be here all night making “Oh, such hair!” jokes. The point is I like the weird west genre enough to read most of a World of Darkness book with a dumbass hole drilled through it when I didn’t have anything better to do at work. I like the Cowboys & Dead Things genre, so it was really inevitable that eventually I’d decide to do my own thing with it. That thing was the Six-Gun Seven.
I don’t remember the exact origin of the Six-Gun Seven, but the modern-day version of them made its first appearance in the “other monster hunters” section of M-Force and the Old West version was a Qik Start game in QAGS 2E, where their fearless leader Jake “Six-Gun” Sawyer appeared as a sample character. Since then they’ve been mentioned in a handful of Hex products and I’ve run a few con games featuring them, but that’s about it.
In terms of Idea Debt, The Six-Gun Seven is kind of like a credit card that’s had a $1 balance for the last 20 years. There’s probably an outline and a few notes somewhere on my hard drive, but most of the “work” I’ve put into it outside of entries for other books has been idle speculation. For example, to get around the fact that most people don’t want to play pre-gens, the game will be set up with an ever-shifting membership with the only constants being that Jake Sawyer is the leader (though he can be more of an M/Old Man With An Eyepatch type of character if nobody wants to play him) and there are seven members. I’ve also got ideas for (way more than seven) sample members, some sample adventures, settings, and all that good stuff, but nothing’s down on paper. It’s an idea I want to do something with, but haven’t really put much work into.
So why haven’t I? Part of it is the “old idea” thing where it’s been around so long that the initial excitement is long gone until I watch a Western and start thinking about it again. Unfortunately, that usually happens when I’m knee-deep in some other project that I need to get done. Another reason it’s never really made it to even the Books of Lore stage is that there’s an element of the “it’s D&D, ONLY BETTER!” problem. While the idea isn’t a Deadlands clone (I’ve been doing Old West horror since before Deadlands existed, and there a lot of things I’d do differently in terms of tone and world design), it fills the same niche as Deadlands, and Deadlands has been the standard for 20 years or so. That means the potential audience isn’t so much “gamers who like the weird west” as “gamers who like the weird west and aren’t already playing Deadlands.” So I’d basically be writing it for me, a few of the other Hex folks, and a handful of QAGS fans. While anyone familiar with the Hex product line already knows that we have no qualms about writing games that exist mostly for our own amusement (it’s not like Fratboys, magical hobos, and the comics of Fletcher Hanks are wildly popular among gamers), we tend to stick to ideas that fit a niche that isn’t already filled with an 800-pound gorilla.
The Six Gun Seven would fit in nicely with Hobomancer, American Artifacts, and a few other pieces of Idea Debt I’ve got floating around, but since the basic concept has already been done well by someone else, it’s at the end of the line. The ideas that haven’t been done as RPGs will come first because they’re more exciting to work on and more likely to sell. Since a couple of those are Hobomancer-size projects, my weird west game idea isn’t going to become an Actual Product any time soon (but I still hope to do it one of these days).