This remake boasts a damn fine ensemble cast including: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier
So the original 1960 film is considered a movie Western classic and with damn good reason; its a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese-language film Seven Samurai. Brynner, McQueen, Buchholz, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Brad Dexter portray the title characters, a group of seven gunfighters hired to protect a small agricultural village in Mexico from a group of marauding bandits and their leader (Wallach). This is the gist of the 1960 film and it has been remade countless times since including a Roger Corman sci fi film called Battle Beyond the Stars. This film has every single thing that a dungeon master could want for a set up for his own dark fantasy or sword & sorcery game campaign from how the party can be gathered to the entire set up for a mini adventuring campaign location. Does the new film thread its way over this same area? Yes in point of fact I think that it does. This is going to be a hell of a ride and its got further connotations for old school Western role playing action. So we all love the scenes in the 1960's film where the various gun fighters are recruited to help save the village from the bandit gang.
But there's a bit in the plot line that always seems to get overlooked and that's this wonderful little bit a subplot; "Arriving at the village, the seven gunmen begin to train the villagers to defend themselves. Each finds himself befriending the villagers. When they realize that the small meal made for them by the women consists of all the food in the village, the gunmen share it with the villagers. Chico is fascinated by Petra (Rosenda Monteros), one of the village's young women. Bernardo bonds with three of the village's little boys. Lee, struggling with nightmares and fearing the loss of his skills, is comforted by the residents. Harry presses the villagers, unsuccessfully, for information about any treasure. Hilario (Jorge Martínez de Hoyos) and Vin briefly discuss nerves on the eve of battle; Vin confesses that he envies Hilario's quiet farming life. Calvera and his bandits soon arrive, sustain heavy losses, and are run out of town by the gunmen and the villagers working in concert. Chico, who is Mexican, follows Calvera back to his camp, pretending to be one of the bandits. He learns that Calvera must raid the village because he is desperate for food to feed his men."
Yeah, that's right a direct nod to the Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese-language film Seven Samurai is the fact that without the village and it lands the bandits can't live at all. This is exactly the send up from the '54 film which is set during the Warring States Period of Japan. And here's where the domain play of The Seven Samurai comes into play for Boot Hill.
This is exactly the point at which when the fight for the village is over that a friend of mine said his PC's would be settling down in the village and using it as a home base. The place is the perfect safe zone for PC's to launch themselves into upper level adventures while taking full advantage of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition Dungeon Master's domain rules for land management and character advancement.
There are a few resources that I would be turning to right off the bat if I was planning on running this style of campaign. First of all for creating and outfitting bandit NPC's quickly and with minimal fuss is this table from the Hill Canton's blog.
Next from the same blog I'd be looking into and keeping some of these guidelines for a campaign to keep things moving along for the players.
Next I'd be taking a trip over to the OSR libary blog and taking a look into the full range of Western themed resources that David Baymiller offers for running a cinematic Western campaign setting. He's got some really nice resources to cherry pick from. The 2016 remake has a distinctly classic Western feel to it.
At the end of the classic 1960's film the characters realize their true fate; "The three remaining gunmen help to bury the dead. Chico decides to stay in the village with Petra, but Chris and Vin prepare to leave. The village elder bids them farewell and says that only the villagers have really won: "You're like the wind, blowing over the land and... passing on... ¡Vaya con Dios!" As they leave, they pass the graves of their fallen comrades. Chris says, "The Old Man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We'll always lose.""
This is done on purpose because of the very nature of the ensemble cast and the possible acknowledgement of future films. But it also sets up the very nature of these characters, these are not the good guys but the men of violence that are needed for the moment and to get the job done. This logic can also be applied to adventurers and men of action who though they might be honorable are not the good guys per say. Boot Hill allows this sort of thing to play out as it will. The new film's cast appears to have this same ideal playing in the background of the new film:
- Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter, the leader of the Seven.
- Chris Pratt as Josh Farraday, a gambler with a fondness for explosives.
- Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux, a sharpshooter.
- Vincent D'Onofrio as Jack Horne, a trapper.
- Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks, an assassin.
- Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez, an outlaw.
- Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest, a Comanche warrior.
- Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue, the main antagonist.
Sam Chisolm: You want revenge?
Widow: I want righteousness... but I'll settle for revenge.
These are lands that really do need not only the PC's but the slow and guiding hands that adventurers can offer the area. Perhaps over time the PC's might move on but somehow after seeing the original film this evening I doubt it. There's also the possiblity here for a Weird Western crossover game with PC's from a D&D game campaign becoming a part of the mercenary band or even using some of the domain level ideas from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Another Weird Western idea was the inclusion of zombies or a random undead threat to take the place of the bandits.
Due to the classic nature and set up for the original film offers far too many possibilities and prime adventure location that can be fully exploited by the DM for a distinctive take on the domain level adventure location ideal.. I'm really looking forward to the new film and where it can take the Western genre for 2016.