Cattle Country – GenCon 2004 Demo

Scene:  The Texas border under the flag of the Lone Star Republic.  Heading towards the endless horizon, a cattle drive moves slowly north.

Eustace Roberts is the head of the Rocking R Cattle Company and he’s growing increasingly worried.  Bandits have been moving freely across the Rio Grande rustling Texas cattle and taking it back south into Mexico.  They’ve been growing bolder under the leadership of Rodrigo Diaz who’s gained quite a cult following among the peasants of northern Mexico as a hero of the people.  A hero to the Mexican peasants he may be, but to Roberts he’s just a thieving cattle rustler.

Two of Roberts’ men are scouting ahead on the trail just after dawn.  They’ve spotted smoke and head towards it.

The smoke is coming from a burning homestead.  Two Texan’s wearing Deputy badges are beating a dark skinned farmer while a third watches the farmer’s family who look on helpless.

Buck is a cowboy with years of experience but his soft heart can’t let this situation go unaddressed.  He knows the sheriff in these parts to be as crooked as they come, though he doesn’t know he’s been secretly working with the Mexican government as part of a plot to return Texas to Mexico.  Buck draws on the deputies demanding to know why they’re beating this man.

The first deputy is about to explain that this farmer is actually one of Diaz’s men and they’re trying to get the location of the bandits hideout from him before they can hit the nearby cattle drive;  but he barely gets out two words before Jenkins, the second cowboy, shoots him dead.

Jenkins is a greenhorn on his first drive with a brand new pistol and trick harness he’d been dieing to try out.  Unfortunately, trying to impress Buck with his quick draw, he accidentally tripped his hair trigger and shot.

All hell breaks loose.  The second deputy goes for his gun and Buck reacts by fanning several rounds.  The second deputy goes down.  The farmer’s wife, leaps in front of her husband to protect him and gets cut down by Buck’s remaining shots.  Horrified, Buck is unable to react when the third deputy unloads, dropping both him and Jenkins from their saddles.

The farmer, who actually is one of Diaz’s men, grabs one of the fallen guns and drops the last deputy.  Screaming in anguish over his wife’s body he unloads the rest of his rounds into Buck and Jenkins before grabbing a horse and riding off to alert Rodrigo…
Featured Effect, No Zombies:
One thing we’ve noticed is that new players, armed with an unprecedented level of power and an unusual level of responsibility for moving the story forward, tend to take a kitchen sink approach to genre.  Most early games wind up being quite a mixture of different genres; and showing up frequently in many different games…zombies.  Sometimes robots, aliens, or ninja; but most common of all are zombies.

This tends to tone down dramatically once players get used to the power and responsibility of Universalis play, and also once they become more skilled at using Tenets, Facts, Challenges, and Complications to bring more focus and consistency to their stories.

Having had my fill of zombie westerns, zombies in space, and robotic zombie ninjas I made sure that the first Tenet I made in this very first GenCon 2004 demo was “no zombie wierdness”

—Ralph Mazza


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