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Basic Information

The Rancher is a Western Character who owns a large spread of land, typically raising cattle. More generally, it is anyone who herds livestock on a fixed area of generally unenclosed land. The occupation may also be called ranging. Ranched livestock will typically be cattle in the Americas or Sub-Saharan Africa and sheep in Australia - goats and camels are common in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. On a smaller scale, sheep, goats and horses are also ranged in many parts of Europe. This is not the same as nomadic herding - although it may look similar to the outsider, and may even involve transhumance, especially on a seasonal basis.

The Rancher employs the Cowboy, Camp Cook and other ranch workers. He (or sometimes she) is the equivalent of a business owner in a more urban setting. They generally will dress a little better than their employees, but not too much—most ranchers are hands-on to some degree, and need to be able to do anything an ordinary cowboy could. Marketing his wares probably involves a cattle drive to get them to the buyer - he may run this himself or may hire a Trail boss to do it for him.

If the rancher owns several ranches, or one big enough to count as its own feudal country, they become a Cattle Baron.



Game and Story Use

  • "Saving the ranch" is a common plotline for Westerns, as a couple of bad years could put a small rancher on the verge of bankruptcy.
    • This doesn't mean charity, nor require a PC Rancher. Instead, the PCs could be ranch-hands on his spread, friends (say, fellow Civil War veterans) or family.
  • Classic motivation for a Cowboy is to one day own a ranch of his own. The Determined Homesteader may have similar goals of growing his little 'stead into a full blown ranch.
  • Rancher is a nice versatile NPC model. He's wealthy enough to be a patron, but not so powerful as to automatically be classed as a villain. It's believable for him to be a Self Made Man, and thus is likely to be viewed sympathetically by the players. He has a vested interest, a ranch to defend, and is thus rooted to the campaign setting. With a bad twist of fate, or a perceived threat to his ranch, and he could change sides in the middle of a struggle and not seem treacherous or unreasonable for it.
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