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Deadwood meets Indiana Jones

Between 1877 and 1892 rival palaeontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh hired mercenary gangs of fossil hunters to find dinosaur bones from Laramie, Wyoming. Lawlessness is rife with the gangs using intimidation, bribery, theft and sabotage to find the elusive bones while preventing their rivals from doing the same.

Characters

Bone hunters, tasked with finding dinosaur bones through whatever means possible. Provided with a monthly fee they receive a bonus for any important finds and hampering their rivals. Despite the pay the Bone Hunters feel resentment for their wealthy, well educated employers back East.

Professors and Students were used by both palaeontologists as consultants or superintendents. Poorly paid the real draw is the chance to learn more about the mysterious dinosaurs and write papers on the discoveries made. Unused to the hardships of the West there is tension between them and the Bone Hunters.

Transcontienal Railroad Employees, tasked with creating a route through this remote section of Wyoming. In the process of placing track they could uncover bones that could get the attention of palaeontologists. Digs along their route could set back their schedule and bandits and the Sioux tribe may attack workers.

Members of the Sioux Tribe have plenty of reason to hate the White Men for taking their land and slaughtering their people. Their territory and way of life is still under threat, made worse by the Bone Hunters. Yet some of the tribe work along with them as trackers and guides, in exchange for wealth, power and maybe peace.

Residents of Laramie, from the mayor to the sheriff to the bar tender all might be caught up in the conflict between the bone hunters.

Setting

In the summer Wyoming is unrelentingly hot, while in winter its bitterly cold prone to blizzards. It is hard on the those who work there.

Laramie began as a tent town, built around the Overland Stage line and Union Pacific portion of the Transcontiental rail line. Permanent structures were only built around 9 years ago. The current sheriff and his ‘vigilance’ committee keep lawlessness at bay but violence and lynchings aren’t unheard of.

Who are the important people in Laramie?

The area originally belonged to the Sioux Tribe. Hostilities between the Native Americans and the White Men have been frequent, with the Great Sioux War still fresh in peoples memory. Although the United States military won they are unbowed and will strike against anyone entering their territory. If one were able to parley with this them they might reveal where bones could be found.

Who is the current leader of the Sioux Tribe?

A detachment of the US military remain stationed nearby at fort Laramie, should hostilities with the Sioux Tribe reignite. In truth the army is looking for an excuse to wipe the tribe out and are sure that is only a matter of time before there is another attack.

Who is in charge of these soldiers?

With any trade route you’ll find bandits and Laramie is no different. While bones aren’t their usual choice of loot they will still attack Bone Hunters for their money and supplies. They may also be hired to ‘rustle’ bones from rivals.

Themes

  • Hardship
  • Greed
  • Fame
  • Man Vs Nature
  • Man Vs Man
  • Death
  • Law vs Lawlessness
  • Respect
  • Tradition Vs Progress

Tightening the Screws

  • A vein of gold is found in the area, bringing a wave of new prospectors. Not only is the chance to find gold drawing away gangs but the prospectors mining threatens to destroy valuable bones. The increased presence of White Men also threatens to reignite hostilities with the Sioux tribe who find their land invaded.
  • A large dinosaur bone is found in a cliff face. Can the bone hunters find a way to winch it down without damaging it?
  • A harsh winter dwindles resources and morale. Will the bone hunter persevere or give up?
  • A rival bone hunter gang has made a valuable find and are planning to ship it back East. Can the characters either capture it for themselves or destroy it?
  • A bone hunter from the other side wants to defect, promising to reveal the location of several big finds. Can he be trusted or is this a trap?

Names

  • Joshua Cavanaugh
  • John Callister
  • Carter Wright
  • Emily Armstrong
  • William Younger
  • Wyatt Valley
  • Victoria Burton
  • James Mather
  • Alice Hardin
  • George Fountain
  • Additional Elements

To put this setting into the realm of science fiction you may have the bone hunters discover lost valley or subterranean world with living dinosaurs. Now all they have to do is kill the dinosaurs for their bones.

The existence of necromancy could make this a supernatural series. Using dark magic the recovered dinosaurs are reanimated and used to wage war against the enemy. Each set of bones found is not just an amazing discovery but another weapon in their arsenal.

You may also wish to create an alternative timeline, with events diverging from the history books. There could be a new civil war that turns Wyoming into a battle ground. Do the bone hunters continue in their search or do they take sides in the conflict?

The introduction of steam punk technology might put the bone hunters out of the job as automated machinery is able to dig up large sections of the country looking for bones. In order to secure their livelihood they might have to band together to destroy the machines.

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