Cattle Baron
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Basic Information

A Cattle Baron is the Rancher writ large. Instead of owning one regular-sized ranch, this Western Character will own several ranches, possibly in more than one state, or a county-sized ranch with many thousand head of cattle. He (or very rarely she) will be one of the wealthiest people in the territory or state, and one of the biggest employers.

A Cattle Baron is generally at least middle-aged—it takes a while to accumulate that much capital. Their clothing, tack and homes will tend to be rather ostentatious, but somewhat practical for range life. Cattle Barons will usually have either grown or nearly grown children, a beautiful daughter and/or either a rebellious or dutiful son. Conflicts between the children, and with their parents, are frequent.

He will also tend to possess a senior hand, typically serving in the role of The Dragon whether hunting down "injuns" and "outlaws", organising cattle drives or running a campaign of harassment against those he wishes to buy out. On rare occasions the senior hand may serve as something of a foil, mitigating his master's ruthlessness…

Compare the Railroad Baron.



Game and Story Use

  • In The Western, a Cattle Baron will often be the Big Bad of the story, (Aristocrats Are Evil, even if the "Baron" bit is metaphorical with "Robber Baron") with the desire to buy out or crush independent ranchers and homesteaders to add to his wealth and power.
  • The cattle baron is also an excellent candidate for the father of a failson - whilst the baron himself is likely competent, having probably built his barony himself, it is entirely probable that his son is not made of the same stuff and may lack either his father's ruthlessness (being nice but dim, or possibly interested in studying "book learnins" back East at the expense of doing anything useful) or his competence (being a spoiled and worthless bully).
    • The son may also be a failure only in his father's eyes and may actually be a competent and decent person.
  • Sadly, in historical terms, these guys were the future and as the West developed, "big cattle" tended to get bigger and bigger, with a lot of the small homesteader ranches being bought up and closed down.
    • With this in mind, it's possible to run the baron as a reasonable authority figure who pays a far deal for the land he buys and is quick to put his hand in his pocket when there's a charity case or public work to be carried out. He and his ranch hands may also be useful if the injuns are on the warpath or there is a dangerous outlaw gang about - or they may suffer from the Worf effect and be taken out early in the show to demonstrate the magnitude of the threat ("just rode up t' Broken Hills ranch - place is gone. All the buildin's burned down an' Boss Vickers an' mebbe twen'y men all dead in the ashes… bullit cas'ins ever'where…")
  • In a Confederate Western the Cattle Baron is typically an old enemy from the War between the States upon whom the outlaws are all to happy to prey.
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