A man that makes his living in the northern regions of the U.S. and Canada, most often as Hunter Trapper. One of the most recognizable characters in Westerns, the Mountain Man is always presented as a large bearded man, covered from cap to boots in fur and skins, even in areas where these would not be needed. Common equipment includes various traps, a rifle (often anachronistic), and of course a really big knife (either a Bowie Knife, or an Arkansas Toothpick).
They are often shown alternating between fighting and hanging out with the local natives, sometimes doing both at the same time with two different tribes. Their other common enemy is the grizzly bear, and they are often shown killing them in hand to hand combat.
Mountain Men would gather about once a year at an event called the Rendezvous, where they would sell their pelts to buyers from the fur companies and trade for whiskey and supplies. The Rendezvous was also a social event where the mountain men could play games, swap tall tales and generally raise hell.
Game and Story Use
- Rolled up maximum Strength on your cowboy PC? That might be strong enough to be a Mountain Man.
- Good wilderness encounter. He could be friendly and decent like Grizzly Adams, or a Corrupt Hick that needs to be put down. The players won't know which till he's within Bear Hug range.
- In a fantasy campaign, mountain men may live out amongst orcs or other non-humans rather than primitive human tribes. The effect is liable to be much the same.
- Similar characters can be found in other wild frontiers - Vietnam era campaigns are another obvious one where Europeans who have at least partially "gone native" are significant … and like the mountain-men, these people are prone to being a bit … French. Central Africa is another key example, and even well settled areas like China can have appropriate roles for "nativised trader with the interior".
- There are stories about people robbing Mountain Men.1 This could be a line of work for very skilled or suicidally brave brigands: all the reward, none of the work.