One night this week I had the opportunity to see the movie True Grit from the Coen Brothers and starring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, Matt Damon as LaBoeuf, Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney, and Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper. Though the Coens and I don’t always agree, this is an amazing film that should be recognized for multiple awards. And I don’t really like westerns.

As I left the theater and began pondering the film the next day, it dawned upon me that the world of True Grit would be a perfect gaming environment to explore a Western theme. It has wide open spaces, unexplored wilderness, crazy characters to interact with, and a less than clear definition of good and evil. It’s perfect.

If you think about it from a GM perspective, you can see that in the gray morality of all of the characters, there’s really not much difference between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys. Characters like Cogburn have done things on both sides of the law, and even a character like Ned Pepper seems to have a sense of honor as a thief.

The map would be pretty straightforward. Characters would begin in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and perhaps begin an investigation into a client’s (in this case, Mattie Ross would probably be the client) issue. Could be the death of a loved one, theft of horses, disputed claim for gold – just about anything. As the PCs further the investigation, they could get further and further afield and meet interesting characters like the wild doctor wearing a bear skin or any of the local Native American tribes. The “Indian Territory” of present day Oklahoma would provide plenty of open space to explore.

Then you have the “bad guys” on the other side, trying to escape justice. This could be Ned Pepper and his gang or any other group of thugs hiding out in various mines, safe houses, or the great outdoors.

Though the campaign may only last a session or two, it would be interesting to see how it played out.

Anyway, if you get a chance to see True Grit on the big screen, I’d highly recommend that you do. It’s one of only three Westerns I actually like (the other two are the recent 3:10 to Yuma remake and Clint Eastwood‘s Unforgiven). I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but it would present some interesting challenges to a group of roleplayers.

What do you think? Any Western fans out there? Is there already a gaming scenario somewhere based on True Grit?

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