The Drifter
rating: 0+x

Basic Information

This Western Character Trope is a vagabond, wandering without roots, and only stopping in towns long enough to make a little cash or resupply.

Usually he's The Quiet One that's not lookin' for any trouble. But once someone pushes him too far, the gloves will come off.

This trope also comes up fairly quickly in other genres - not least the ronin/knight errant/Xia of various feudal regimes.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • Probably a certain amount of "truth in television" in the Western Genre - the west was heavily settled by veterans of The War Between the States and poorly adjusted, shell shocked men are likely to have been relatively common. Such men often have difficulty settling back into civilian life - in the modern era they become homeless and live in the gutters of major cities, but back in the day, becoming a frontier drifter was still an option.
  • Sometimes The Drifter is running from someone or something, like a rat deserting a sinking ship. In that way, they're the Bad Ass version of Refugees. One or more Drifters coming to town could signal that Something Wicked This Way Comes.
  • The drifter could be just pretending to be drifting to throw off the local Big Bad, or the PCs. He's really on a mission to depose them.
    • Anti Hero PCs with a stable base of operations will probably over-react when a soft-spoken (but pistol packin') Drifter starts nosing around town.
      • Maybe he looks like trouble, but is actually here to scope out the PCs and determine whether or not they're worthy candidates for some great honor.
      • On the other hand, if the PCs think he's here to Hero Worship or reward them, then he's actually here to prove he's tougher than them.
        • …and probably in a violent and bloody fashion.
  • Sometimes he's not drifting in The Wild West, but in some After The End scenario. You could easily import this character concept to any setting. The Western Genre can also be quite easily recycled in space …1
  • In story terms, the drifter can be someone who has experience of an enemy getting at him by attacking his friends and dependants and deliberately avoids forming bonds with anyone to protect both them and himself.
  • Most PCs end up as drifters (albeit in a group), given that many players don't create any kind of 'roots' for their characters, and of those that do, quite a few have no further interaction with them.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License