Frieght Riders WIP


Freight Riders

Freight Riders

? 2019 Jonah Lemkins

Preface

     I got the idea for Freight Riders while I was sitting in a history lecture, watching a documentary from 1997 called Riding the Rails. That’s definitely one of the weirder origins of a roleplaying game that I’ve heard of.

     While a lot of the details in this game are from that documentary, I must admit that I haven’t tried to make Freight Riders perfectly historically accurate. To absolve myself, I’ll quote Will Hindmarch & Jeff Tidball.

“A game, as a creative work, has no responsibility

to historical and scientific accuracy.”

Things We Think About Games

     As a historian and a game designer, the two forces of creativity and accuracy tear at me. I took Will & Jeff’s advice for the sake of fun, which is what it’s really all about anyways. I hope that you have as much fun playing Freight Riders as I did creating it. Hop on the train!

Acknowledgements

     Freight Riders is based on D. Vincent Baker’s amazing game, Apocalypse World, and the superb documentary Riding the Rails, by Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell.

     Inspiration drawn from Marshall Miller’s The Warren, Joe McDaldno’s Simple World, as well as Ryo Kamiya and Ewen Cluney’s Golden Sky Stories was invaluable to the design and atmosphere of this game. Definitely go check out all of the wonderful work done by these folks.

Apocalypse World

apocalypse-world.com

Riding the Rails

ridingtherails-themovie.com

The Warren

bullypulpitgames.com/the-warren

Simple World

buriedwithoutceremony.com/simple-world

Golden Sky Stories

starlinepublishing.com/golden-sky-stories

Contents

Preface………………………………………………………………………………….2

Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………….3

A Game About Hobos…………………………………………………………….6

Riding the Train…………………………………………………………………….7

Powered by the Apocalypse……………………………………….7

The Conversation, Moves, Player Moves……………………8

GM Moves…………………………………………………………………9

A Note on Violence, Forward, Ongoing & Hold…………10

Traits, Bonds……………………………………………………………11

Character Advancement………………………………………….12

Driving the Train…………………………………………………………………13

Agendas, Principles…………………………………………………13

GM Moves…………………………………………………………….…14

Dangers…………………………………………………………………..15

Tracks……………………………………………………………………..16

36 Things That Can Happen…………………………………….17

USA Rail Map………………………………………………………….18

Playing the Game………………………………………………………………..19

Game Prep………………………………………………………………19

Random Starting City & Season Tables……………………20

Creating a Character……………………………………………………………21

Character Moves, A Note on Gender and Race.………..21

Skills………………………………………………………………………22

Name & Age, Looks, Bindle..……………………………………23

Why You Left Home………………………………………………..24

Basic Moves………………………………………………………………………..25

Special Moves……………………………………………………………………..27

Character Moves…………………………………………………………………29

Appendix A: Mediography…………………………………………………..33

Appendix B: The Hobo Ethical Code……………………………………34

Appendix C: Hobo Lingo……………………………………………………..35

Appendix D: Hobo Symbols..……………………………………………….38

Character Sheet…………………………………………………………………..46

A Game About Hobos

     If you’re reading this then you’re already at least slightly interested in a weird little game about… that’s right, freight train hopping youths in 1930s America. If you’re still there, bear with me and let me elaborate.

     Freight Riders is all about cooperative storytelling. Both the setting and the system lend themselves to this. During the Great Depression the people who we roleplay as, hobos, often didn’t own much more than the shirt on their back. By banding together and offering each other help, they got by. Freight Riders uses the Apocalypse World Engine, a system famous for its narrative focus.

     So, if Freight Riders’ niche historical setting and cooperative storytelling gameplay sound fun to you, let’s dive into the game!

Some Hobo History

     The term hobo entered American parlance around 1890. Etymologists are not 100% sure where it originated. Some possible sources include the term hoe boy, referring to a farmhand, the greeting Ho, boy!, as well as abbreviations for homeless boy and homeward bound.

     Hobo specifically refers to workers who travel from place to place. This is opposed to a tramp, who travels but almost never works, and a bum, who neither travels or works.

Riding the Train

Powered by the Apocalypse

     If you’ve played other games using the Apocalypse World Engine, then you will feel right at home playing Freight Riders. Features will have different names, but all the stuff we love about the system is still there.

     If you’ve never played a game using the Apocalypse World Engine, don’t worry. The rules are simple and the numbers aren’t crunchy. The system is all about the conversation, the story, and the fun we experience together. Ideally there is someone at your table who has played a game powered by the apocalypse before and can easily explain the rules to you. I’ll still go over them.

     In Freight Riders your character has four skills: 

Grit, Presence, Finesse, and Wits. You roll two six-sided dice and add your skill modifier when the conversation calls for you to use one of your moves, e.g. roll+Grit. Every character has the same Basic Moves and Special Moves, and one unique Character Move. Your moves and roll results determine how you interact with the world. Your GM then describes how the world reacts to you, and the conversation continues.

The Conversation

     The main portion of your time playing Freight Riders is spent talking with the other players and with the GM. You talk about what you are doing in the world and how it relates to the other characters.

     A break in the conversation happens when a player wishes to use one of their Moves or if the GM determines that the situation calls for a player to use one of their Moves. The player rolls 2d6 and the GM describes how the world responds to the outcome of the roll. The conversation then continues.

Moves

     Moves are actions which the players and GM perform during the game. They often require a roll of the dice. There are five different categories of Moves: Basic Moves, Special Moves, Character Moves, Soft Moves, and Hard Moves. The first three are only used by players and the latter two are only used by the GM.

Player Moves

     Basic Moves are the central things to hobo life, and which you will be doing often. Special Moves are things that, while important to hobo life, are not done as frequently. Character Moves are unique qualities of your hobo that make them stand apart.

GM Moves

     Soft Moves are used when the players look expectantly to the GM, or if the conversation starts to slow. Soft Moves follow logically from the conversation, foreshadow an obstacle or danger, give the characters an opportunity to react, and can set them up for a future Hard Move.

     Hard Moves are used when a player rolls a 6 or less or after players ignore an earlier Soft Move. Hard Moves must also follow logically from the Conversation, but usually do not give characters time to react. Hard Moves bring the danger to the forefront, usually resulting in a dire consequence that occur immediately.

     It is always the GM’s job to ask “What do you do?” after they describe a Soft or Hard Move. For more details on GM Moves, see page 14.

Some Great Depression History

     The Great Depression was the worldwide economic downturn from 1929 – 1939. The beginning of the Depression is attributed the the U.S. stock market crash of October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday. Unemployment in the United States reached 25% during this time, and was the most important reason for the surge in hobos. The end of the Depression is generally associated with the onset of World War II.

A Note on Violence

     When I designed Freight Riders I envisioned it as a somewhat lighthearted tale of friendship, adventure, and overcoming life’s obstacles. I’ve already said that this game wasn’t meant to be completely historically accurate. It should be acknowledged that terrible things did happen to hobos who rode the rails and lived in the jungles, but I didn’t intend those things to be a part of the game.

     Your characters might get in a tussle or spend the night in jail, but this game isn’t supposed to be about kids getting severely injured or worse. My adventures always ended with everyone returning home with stories and memories, not scars, broken bones, or “catching the westbound.” However, if everyone at your table is ok with a darker tone, then don’t let me tell you what to do.

Forward, Ongoing, & Hold

     When a move tells you to take X forward, add X to your

next roll. Sometimes it will specify what kind of rolls you may add X to.

     When a move tells you to take X ongoing, add X to all rolls thereafter. Sometimes the move, or the GM, will specify which kinds of rolls this applies to or when the bonus ends.

     When a move tells you to hold X, it means you may spend 1 hold to activate that Move’s effects.

Traits

     In Freight Riders, traits are adjectives or short statements attached to characters. They are gained and lost through rolls of 10+ or 6- and from GM moves. When a trait is relevant to a character’s situation, it gives them a +1 or -1 to their roll, depending on whether the trait benefits or hinders them.

     Two special traits are Hungry and Exhausted. They can be gained at any point when the GM deems your character has not eaten enough in the past few days or has done something completely physically exhausting. They two traits give a -1 to your rolls, regardless of the situation.

Bonds

     You have a bond with the people you travel with and meet along the way. By working together, learning about them, and even butting heads, you deepen your connection to that person. Bonds range from strength 0 to 5.

     When you create a character, they start with a strength 1 bond towards all the other players’ characters. Everyone should introduce their characters and fill in the nature of their bonds towards others.

     The nature of bonds are one-way. An older brother may have a Family 1 bond to his little brother, while the little brother might have a Rival 1 bond to his older brother. If two characters have an especially meaningful scene together, their bond towards one another is strengthened by 1. A bond’s nature can also act as a trait.

Character Advancement

     When you roll seven or more, mark the skill used to make the roll. Once all stats are marked, check a Know-how box and erase marks on skills. If a move tells you to check a Know-how box, do so. When all Know-How boxes are checked, erase all checks and choose 1:

  • +1 to a skill

  • Gain a character move

  • Raise a bond’s strength by 1

  • Change the nature of a bond

If you have a +3 skill, two character moves, and a strength 3 or more bond, you may also choose from the following:

  • Retire your character and make new one (See Special Move “Head on Home”)

  • Play a second character at the same time

  • Advance three basic moves (See Advanced Moves)

  • Advance the other three basic moves

Some Hobo History

     Train-riding hobos first appeared in America in the 1860s, after the Civil War. They were mostly comprised of discharged veterans. During the Great Depression, the number of hobos rose to around one million. Today, there are around 20,000 freight-riders in the United States.

Driving the Train

Agendas

     Agendas are the reasons we play, and the goals that the GM should strive towards. The GM should…

  • Take the characters on a journey.

  • Play to learn about the characters and the world.

  • Evoke the Great Depression.

Principles

     Principles are a guide for the GM, as they seek to fulfill their agendas, whenever they enter the conversation. The GM should…

  • Be a fan of the characters

  • Address yourself to the characters, not the players

  • Ask provocative questions and build on the answers

  • Name everyone and make them human

  • Build out the world through play

  • Sprinkle evocative details everywhere

  • Look at your NPCs and ideas through crosshairs

  • Create interesting dilemmas, not plots

  • Make your move, but never speak its name

  • Sometimes reflect questions back on the players

GM Moves

     As stated earlier, GM Moves are the GM’s tools for moving the conversation along if it starts to slow, or if a player rolls six or less.

     Soft Moves foreshadow an obstacle or danger, give the characters opportunity to react, and can set them up for a future Hard Move. Hard Moves bring the danger to the forefront, usually resulting in a dire consequence that occur immediately.

     Here are some GM Moves that can be Soft or Hard:

  • Split them up or have them meet

  • Put them in a tight spot

  • Create a no-win scenario

  • Give them a trait or take one away

  • Change a bond’s nature or weaken its strength

  • Reveal a future danger

  • Imply off-screen badness

  • Show a good thing’s bad side

  • Take something from them

  • Turn their move back on them

  • Give them a difficult decision to make

  • Make a move from one of your dangers or tracks

     It is always the GM’s job to ask “What do you do?” after they describe a Soft or Hard Move.

Dangers

     Dangers are things or people in the world which might cause problems for the characters. They might just stand in the characters’ way or they might be antagonistic. Each danger has a name, a desire, and 2-3 Moves. Here are some examples:

Stan the Railroad Officer

Desire: to arrest vagrants for work in the chain gang

  • patrol the trainyard

  • show up near the jungle

  • arrest a hobo for loitering

The Mafia

Desire: to gain money and power

  • deliver booze to the speakeasy

  • pay off the cops

  • offer a devil’s bargain

The Jungle

Desire: to keep the Jungle respectable

  • usher the punks home

  • pool everyone’s resources

  • move away from a hot area

Tracks

     If you have two or more dangers which may interact with one another, you should create a track. Each track has a name, a new principle to follow in scenes where the track is involved, and 2-3 directions. Directions are a chronological list of moves describing possible future events. Here is an example:

Towards a Cruel Jungle

Principle: everyone is selfish

  • someone swipes the shared food

  • a mob boss offers risky jobs

  • police raid and arrest hobos in the Jungle

Towards Sand-Filled Pockets

Principle: sand… it gets everywhere

  • newspaper headline reads “Black Sunday Misery”

  • families of Okies pass through on their jalopies

  • a black blizzard rolls in

Towards the Chill

Principle: the world is equal parts beautiful and harsh

  • the last leaf falls

  • hobos find shelter or move south

  • a white blanket covers the world

36 Things That Can Happen

     Here is a list of 36 random things that can happen during your game. Roll 2d6, decide on one d6 as the tens die and the other as the ones die.

11   There’s a fair is in town

12   It’s garbage removal day

13   The KKK is in the area

14   The jungle is extremely full

15   There’s a job opening, but only one spot left

16   The trains have been delayed

21   There’s a high stakes poker game happening in the jungle

22   This jungle is run by a boss and his henchmen

23   A soup line started today

24   Police patrol the trainyard

25   An unemployment rally

26   Veterans sell apples on the streets

31   Homeless shelter opens

32   Vegetable seeds distributed to those starting gardens

33   Shop distributing free food

34   The mayor is giving a speech

35   Groups of hobos are making music

36   A dust storm blows in

41   Mafia shootout nearby

42   Some kids need your help

43   You hear that someone is looking for you

44   The train car behind yours has something crazy in it

45   You come across a game of street craps

46   You hear smooth tunes coming from a jazz club

51   The train has stopped in the middle of nowhere for repairs

52   The weather is awful today

53   You realize too late that you’ve been pickpocketed

54   Police raid the jungle

55   You found a wallet belonging to “Joseph Caselli”

56   There’s been a string of disappearances

61   Someone randomly invites you in

62   There’s a seemingly empty building down the road

63   A wild animal suddenly appears

64   You find a case of wine in the hollow of a tree

65   There’s a fortune teller on the outskirts of town

66   The locomotive operator lets you shovel coal

USA Rail Map

Playing the Game

Game Prep

     Gather three or more people and decide who is going to be the GM. Before you start playing, make sure that everyone has two six-sided dice, a pencil, and a character sheet. It may also be useful to print out the list of Character Moves.

     Once you’re all ready, talk for a little bit about the tone of the game you would like to play. Do you want to play a lighthearted adventure around the United States, taking in all the sights and smells? Or do you want to play a gritty tale of survival? Discuss various tones and come to a consensus.

See “A NOTE ON VIOLENCE” on page 10

     You should also decide on the city you’ll start in and what season your game will start during. Alternatively, you can randomize your starting city and season using the tables on the next page.

Some Dust Bowl History

     The Dust Bowl was a period of harsh dust storms throughout the American and Canadian prairies, from 1934 – 1940. Rapid mechanization, combined with failure to apply proper dryland farming techniques, resulted in severe wind erosion. Although the most directly affected areas were around the Oklahoma Panhandle, the dust storms sometimes reached major cities on the east coast.

Random Starting City & Season Tables

#

City

#

Season

2

Los Angeles

2-3

Winter

3

St. Paul

4-6

Spring

4

Salt Lake City

7-9

Summer

5

Seattle

10-12

Fall

6

Atlanta

Roll 2d6 and

consult these

tables to get a

random starting

city and season.

7

Albuquerque

8

Boston

9

Chicago

10

St. Louis

11

New York

12

Charleston

Creating a Character

     Once you’ve gotten your sheets printed out, tone established, and starting city and season picked out, it’s time to create your freight rider. To create a character…

  1. Pick a Character Move

  2. Assign modifiers to your Skills

  3. Name your character and decide how old they are

  4. Describe your character’s looks

  5. Describe your character’s reason for leaving home

  6. Create bonds to the other characters

Character Moves

     Look at the list of Character Moves (see page 29). Starting with the player who was last on a train, go clockwise around the table and pick one Character Move. After someone picks a Character Move, it is not available to be picked again. This will make all of your characters unique.

A Note on Gender and Race

     As I’ve said before, this game is not meant to be completely historically accurate. While women and people of color were treated poorly in the early 20th century, you’re game doesn’t have to reflect this. When you decide on the tone of the game you want to play, include race and gender relations as part of that discussion.

Skills

     Your four skills represent the different ways in which you will be interacting with the world.

Grit represents your tenacity and forceful temperament.

Presence represents your persuasive and assertive nature.

Finesse represents your reflexes and graceful qualities.

Wits represents your methodical and calculating abilities.

     You will not be good at all four right away. Assign one modifier to each Skill. The modifiers are +2, +1, 0, and -1. Once your character gains Know-How (see Character Advancement) you’ll be able to increase your Skill modifiers. However, Skill modifiers can never exceed +3.

Some Prohibition History

     Prohibition is the United States was the period from 1920 – 1933 when the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcohol was illegal under the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The movement to ban alcohol was spearheaded by pietistic protestants and social progressives who cited alcoholism, family violence, and saloon-based political corruption as plaguing modern society. 

     During Prohibition, organized criminal gangs gained control of the alcohol supply for many cities. Crime, as well as the need for increased tax revenue during the Depression, sparked nationwide opposition to Prohibition, resulting in the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th.

Name & Age

Give your character a moniker. Here are some of the most popular names from the 1930s as suggestions.

James, John, William, Richard, Charles, Donald, George, Thomas, Joseph, David, Edward, Ronald, Paul, Kenneth

Betty, Barbara, Shirley, Patricia, Dorothy, Joan, Margaret, Nancy, Helen, Carol, Joyce, Doris, Ruth, Marilyn

Choose an age from 13 to 25.

Looks

Choose one for each or write your own. Looks can be traits.

Hair: bed-head, kempt, dirty

Clothes: Sunday best, patched up, potato sack

Build: scrawny, well-fed, muscular

Hands: delicate, calloused, bruised knuckles

Bindle

     On your character sheet there is a bindle to represent the inventory of all your possessions. There is no number value to limit how many things you can carry. You simply cannot carry more than your character could hold in their hands, pockets, bindle, etc.

Why You Left Home

     During the Great Depression, many young adults who left their families did so to ease the financial burden on their parents and siblings. These poor families sometimes just couldn’t afford to feed that many mouths. Others rode the trains just to see what the fuss was about, or were following their friends. Others still saw the opportunity to have a grand adventure and travel all over the United States. Describe to the table why your character became a hobo. The GM may opt to give you a trait or two based on your background.

Some Dust Bowl History

     The Dust Bowl forced tens of thousands of, already poverty-stricken, families to abandon their farms. Collectively, these migrants were called “Okies.” Many Okies traveled to California, only to find that jobs were just as scarce there as back home.

     The term Dust Bowl was coined by Kansas City news editor, Edward Stanley, in his article on the Black Sunday dust blizzards of April 14, 1935.

Basic Moves

Find a Job

When you look for work, roll+Presence. On 10+, get some work for today. On 7-9 you find work, but choose 1:

  • Get paid a meager amount.

  • The work is dangerous and filthy.

  • The employer and work is shifty.

If advanced, on 12+, find work and take 1 forward to find a job.

Ask for a Handout

When you ask people for material things, roll+Finesse. On 10+, they give it to you, if they have it. On 7-9, they give it to you but they are annoyed, forceful, or otherwise make a scene.

If advanced, on 12+, you get more than normal.

Scrounge

When you want to find and collect things, roll+Wits. On 10+, choose 2. On 7-9, choose 1:

  • Find more than you hoped.

  • That took no time at all.

  • No one notices you.

  • Leave no trace.

If advanced, on 12+, you may choose all 4.

Haggle

When you try to get what you want, roll+Presence. On 10+, convince them your way is best. On 7-9, get your way as long as you guarantee some collateral right now.

If advanced, on 12+, take 1 forward against them and strengthen your bond to them by 1.

Act Under Pressure

When you need to keep it together in a tense situation, roll+Wits. On 10+, you’re calm and collected. On 7-9, you hesitate for only a moment; choose 1:

  • Gain a trait from the GM.

  • Weaken a nearby bond by 1.

  • You feel all eyes on you.

  • Lose something valuable.

If advanced, on 12+, you overcome it all. You GM will offer you the best outcome possible.

Size Up

When you make an assessment, roll+Wits. On 10+, you may ask the GM two questions about the situation from the list below. The GM must answer truthfully. Take 1 forward when acting on the answers. On 7-9, you may ask one question. On 6-, you may ask one question, but doing so results in a hard move.

  • Who are they?

  • What are they thinking?

  • Where could they have gone?

  • When were they there?

  • Why did they do it?

  • How did they do it?

If advanced, on 12+, may ask the GM any single question you can come up with. Take 1 ongoing when acting on the answer.

Help or Hinder

When you attempt to assist or sabotage, roll+Bond. On 10+ give +2 or -2 to their roll. On 7-9, the GM will name a cost; if you accept give +2 or -2 to their roll.

If advanced, on 12+, add or subtract the strength of your bond from their roll.

Special Moves

Evade the Law

When the cops are on your tail, roll+Grit. On 10+, you get away scott-free. On 7-9, you aren’t caught, but choose 1:

  • That was too close! Take -1 forward.

  • Lose something in your escape.

  • You find something even worse.

  • You have no idea where you are now.

Rough ‘Em Up

When fisticuffs or intimidation are in order, roll+Grit. On 10+, your glare or a suckerpunch makes them back down. On 7-9, they crumple, but choose 1:

  • Weaken your bond with them by 1.

  • You’re winded.

  • Take -1 forward to rough them up.

  • You made a big scene.

Hitch a Ride

When you stick your thumb out, roll+Finesse. On 10+, the next car to stop happens to be going the same way as you. On 7-9, a car stops, but choose 1:

  • It takes a long time before someone stops.

  • They can only take you a short way.

  • They want payment of some kind.

Work

When you do your work, roll+Grit. On 10+, you toil away the day. On 7-9, choose 1:

  • Make a mistake.

  • An accident happens.

  • Gain the exhausted trait.

Take a Load Off

When you rest up, hold 1 for each negative trait you have. Holds can be spent one-for-one to gain one of these benefits. Each one can only be gained once per rest.

  • Remove a trait.

  • Gain a trait.

  • Tell a story about you and a bond to strengthen that bond by 1.

  • Express your character’s honest feelings about the past few days to mark Know-How.

Session End

Before you leave the table, explain how a bond now knows you better. Either strengthen the bond by 1 or change its nature.

Head On Home

When your hobo decides it’s time to return home, hold 1 for each strength 5 bond you have. Holds may be spent one-for-one to give the character you create next another character move or add 1 to any skill.

Some Hobo History

     The official Hobo Ethical Code was codified by the National Hobo Convention in 1889. See page 34. Ever since 1900, the small town of Britt, Iowa has been home to the annual National Hobo Convention.

Character Moves

Bold

When you want to gain everyone’s attention, roll+Presence. On 10+, everyone within earshot turns to face you. On 7-9, gain everyone’s attention, but the unwanted attention is not far behind.

Bon Vivant

When you celebrate with a party, mark Know-How.

Boy Scout

When you survive in the wilderness, add 1 to your roll.

Catlike

+1 Finesse

Chef

You have a knack for cooking. When you cook a meal, roll+Finesse. On 10+, everyone who eats may choose 1. On 7-9, gain the trait, full and happy.

  • Gain the trait, full and happy.

  • Take 1 forward.

  • Strengthen a bond with someone present by 1.

  • Lose a trait.

Church Kid

Holy men and women will always help you when you prove you can recite scripture.

Compass

You have a compass. When applicable, it adds 1 to your roll.

Detective

When you look for clues, add 1 to your roll.

Dirty Money

You can recognize the type of people who work for the mafia and know the places where they operate. Impress them and you might get paid well for some illicit work.

Elementary My Dear Watson

+1 Wits

Empath

When you raise a bond to strength 5, mark Know-How.

Insightful

You have a deep understanding of your relationships. To gain perspective, roll+Bond. On 10+, change a bond’s nature. On 7-9, change a bond’s nature but weaken it by 1.

“I’ve got a relative in…”

When you take this move choose a city. You have a relative there who would help you out if you showed up.

Lady Luck

When you take this move hold 3. Holds may be spent one-for-one to turn one of your 6- rolls into a 7-9.

Leader

When you take charge and give orders, people take 1 ongoing to follow your orders.

Liar

When you lie to someone’s face, add 1 to your roll.

Likeable Face

When you form a bond with someone, it starts at 2 instead of 1.

Matches

You have a box of matches. When applicable, it adds 1 to your roll.

Network

When you look for answers, you may ask the GM “Who would know about…?” They must answer truthfully.

Popular

Other hobos in the jungle like you. You can always find one or two who are willing to give you a hand. Roll+Presence. On 9- get one kid to help you out. On 10+ get  two kids to help you out.

Scarred

You have a badass scar. When applicable, it adds 1 to your roll.

Silver Tongue

Whenever you Haggle with someone, you’re always able to get a little bit more.

Sneaky

When you try to avoid detection, add 1 to your roll.

The New Kid

When you impress the older hobos, mark Know-How.

True Grit

+1 Grit

Two-faced

You have a cute face that old people like, but all dogs and cats hate you.

Voice of Reason

When you convince someone or talk someone down, hold 1 against them. Holds may be spent one-for-one to add or subtract 1 from a roll relating to them.

Well Prepared

When you take this move, choose 2.

You start your journey with…

  • A swiss army knife

  • A nice set of clothes

  • A warm blanket

  • A nickel note

  • Extra tins of food

  • A flask of whiskey

Whitewashing the Fence

+1 Presence

Appendix A: Mediography

     Some of these pieces of media are recommendations for helping to visualize of the time period. Others are simply influential to my game design philosophy. All of them are great in their own right, so I suggest checking them out.

Films:

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Coen Brothers

Riding the Rails, Michael Uys & Lexy Lovell

Games:

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, Dim Bulb Games

Golden Sky Stories, Ryo Kamiya & Ewen Cluney

Apocalypse World, D. Vincent Baker

The Warren, Marshall Miller

Books:

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

The Grapes of Wrath & Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression, Errol Lincoln Uys

Yaruki Zero, Ewen Cluney

Things We Think About Games, Will Hindmarch & Jeff Tidball

Appendix B: The Hobo Ethical Code

  1. Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you.

  2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.

  3. Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.

  4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.

  5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.

  6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos.

  7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you.

  8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.

  9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.

  10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.

  11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.

  12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.

  13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.

  14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.

  15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

  16. If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

Appendix C: Hobo Lingo

     This is a list of words which were invented by hobos and are still used today.

Accommodation Car

The caboose of a train.

Bad Road

A train line rendered useless by some hobo's bad actions

Banjo

A small portable frying pan

Barnacle

A person who sticks to one job a year or more

Beachcomber

A hobo who hangs around docks or seaports

Big House

Prison

Bindle Stick

A collection of belongings wrapped in cloth and tied around a stick

Bindlestiff

A hobo who carries a bindle

Blowed-in-the-Glass

A genuine, trustworthy individual

'Bo

The common way one hobo referred to another

Boil Up

Specifically, to boil one's clothes to kill lice and their eggs; generally, to get oneself as clean as possible

Bone Polisher

A mean dog

Bone Orchard

A graveyard

Bull

A railroad officer

Buck

A Catholic priest, good for a dollar

C, H, and D

Indicates an individual is "Cold, Hungry, and Dry" (thirsty)

Calling in

Using another's campfire to warm up or cook

Cannonball

A fast train

Carrying the Banner

Keeping in constant motion so as to avoid being picked up for loitering or to keep from freezing

Catch the Westbound

To die

Cooties

Body lice

Cover with the Moon

Sleep out in the open

Cow Crate

A railroad stock car

Docandoberry

Anything edible that grows on a riverbank

Easy Mark

A hobo sign or mark that identifies a person or place where one can get food and a place to stay overnight

Elevated

Under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Flop

A place to sleep, by extension, "flophouse", a cheap hotel

Glad Rags

One's best clothes

Honey dipping

Working with a shovel in the sewer

Jungle

An area off a railroad where hobos camp and congregate

Jungle Buzzard

A hobo or tramp who preys on his own

Main Drag

The busiest road in a town

Moniker

A nickname

Mulligan

A type of community stew, created by several hobos combining whatever food they have or can collect

Nickel Note

A five-dollar bill

Padding the Hoof

To travel by foot

Possum Belly

To ride on the roof of a passenger car (one must lie flat, on his/her stomach, to avoid being blown off)

Punk

Any young kid

Road Kid

A young hobo who apprentices himself to an older hobo in order to learn the ways of the road

Road Stake

The small reserve amount of money a hobo may keep in case of an emergency

Sky Pilot

A preacher or minister

Snipes

Cigarette butts "sniped" (e.g., from ashtrays or sidewalks)

Stemming

Panhandling or begging along the streets

Tokay Blanket

Drinking alcohol to stay warm

Yegg

A traveling professional thief, or burglar

Appendix D: Hobo Signs

     Throughout this book, there are symbols at the bottom of each page. These are all signs which hobos marked locations with to let other hobos know about help or trouble in the area. These marks were made on fences, buildings, trees, pavements, essentially anywhere that could be drawn on or scratched in. Incorporating these into your game can be really fun.

     Here are descriptions of what each symbol means. Some are more self explanatory than others.

Kind lady lives here: Respectful hobos could get a little food from these women with nothing expected in return.

Man with a gun lives here: The property owner could quickly turn to violence, move on quickly!

Jail has cooties: Sometimes jail time allowed hobos to get a meal and escape bad weather. This sign warned other hobos that this jail was bug ridden and not a good place to stay.

Okay to sleep in barn

Beware of thieves: Literally, keep your two eyes on their ten fingers.

Good water & place to camp

Be prepared to defend yourself: Don’t show cowardness, other hobos or residents are aggressive.

Crooked man lives here: People who went back on their promises of food or shelter were marked.

Tell a pitiful story here: Sob stories were a particularly effective method of getting food for young or female hobos.

Police are hostile

Get bread here

Doctor lives here

Retaliate to insults, go to jail: There were some people who insulted hobos whenever they saw them. In a place with this mark, any form of retaliation could lead to your arrest.

Wet town, alcohol here

Go around this town: A signal that hobos had bad experiences here.

Go this way: Usually found at crossroads or intersections, indicating a way to save time or avoid danger.

Dogs in garden: To keep away would-be vegetable thieves.

Judge lives here: Disturbing the home of a judge or any law official was a quick way to get arrested.

Kind gentleman lives here

I went this way: Hobos who agreed to meet later would leave this mark with their moniker to indicate the nearest town where they would wait.

Jail is okay: Sometimes jail time allowed hobos to get a meal and escape bad weather. This sign meant that this jail was clean and not dangerous.

Some free food: Soup lines, church gatherings, and such were marked.

Get out of town fast

Railroad men look the other way: Sometimes in exchange for money or other valuables.

Owner is out: In the opposite direction, means the owner is in.

Bad water

Money for work here: Usually not much pay, menial work.

Chain gang: The local jail has a chain gang work scheme. Keep your head down and move on.

Easy marks: People here are easy to get handouts from.

“I ate”

Money here: Similar to Easy marks.

Crime happened here

Help here if you are hurt

Will pay to get rid of you

Nothing to gain here

Easy to catch a train here

Warm place to sleep

 

Respect young families here

Policeman lives here

“Moniker” is waiting in town

Fake an illness here

Don’t converse with residents: Similar to Retaliate to insults, go to jail.

Don’t make your presence known: Similar to Go around this town.

Good road to follow, opportunity ahead

Policewoman lives here

Bad / No / Do not: Combined with other signs.

Telephone here

Dry town, no alcohol here

Police will arrest you on sight

Church or religious folks: Could be good or bad.

Dangerous man lives here

Police on alert for hobos

Poor people live here

Dangerous place

Workhouse jail: crooked lawmen, no length of stay, escape necessary.

Home heavily guarded

People do NOT give anything

Stay off main street

Mean dogs here

Great place to get a handout

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