Day 25 of #RPGaDay2019: Calamity


Today marks the last Sunday post of 2019’s RPGaDay and the 25th day of our month long RPG conversation. Today’s word prompt is CALAMITY and, I’ve got to admit, from the first moment I read the word, my mind conjured up a single image that it wouldn’t let go.

janeCalamity Jane was a hard-as-nails frontier scout, perhaps best known as a friend  of Wild Bill Hickok and a popular performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. She has been famously played on stage and screen by the likes of Doris Day, Anjelica Huston (Buffalo Girls), and Robin Weigert (HBO’s Deadwood).

Jane is a legendary icon and she is of note in our narrative thanks to my inclusion of her in my short-lived Boot Hill campaign back in the early 80s.

I ran it as a Weird Western in a game that included shapeshifting Native American shamans, cannibals, and gods and beasts borrowed from the original Deities & Demigods.


Boot Hill was a great game, created for TSR by Gary Gygax, Don Kaye, and Brian Blume in 1975. While there were similarities to D&D, it primarily used percentile dice for character abilities and skill resolution.

boot hillBoot Hill was wide open, and this probably led to its lack of commercial appeal. Most players, especially back then, need their hand held, and this game focused on combat more than roleplay, especially when it came to gunplay.

The rulebook offered little information about setting or social interaction.

Boot Hill was designed for the gunfight, with a miniatures focus from the start.

Gunfights were short, sweet, and, more often than not, deadly. It did not pay to get too attached to a character in the game as written. Death was a single bullet away. There was no leveling as in D&D, so you were just as likely to die in your 20th gunfight as your first.

I modified the game slightly, heaped in all kinds of callbacks to my favorite western tv shows that were the bread and butter of my childhood — Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Big Valley, etc ad nauseum — and we had a great time shooting up Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City.

Just writing about it now, I’m feeling nostalgic and expect when my current D&D campaign comes to a close in the coming months, Boot Hill will get dusted off and good ole Calamity Jane will lure my players off into the frontier for a rousing adventure in the Wild West.

— Bob Freeman

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