Within the first couple of years of my entering the hobby, my friends and I firmly established a trinity of roleplaying games as our go-to games: D&D (for fantasy), Traveller (for science fiction), and Call of Cthulhu (for horror). These were the three games we probably played the most and they were, in my case anyway, the three games whose approaches and focuses most strongly influenced my conceptions of gaming in their respective genres. Beyond that trinity, we played a lot of other games, but comparatively few of them were ever played with sufficient frequency or passion to vie with the Big Three. One of those that came the closest, though, was Gangbusters, about which I've spoken before. We played that RPG a lot and had a heck of a time with it.
I recently had occasion to think about Gangbusters and other games based on real-world history and, as I did so, I wondered why none of them had ever achieved wider popularity. I love history of all kinds; games like Gangbusters and Boot Hill sent me scurrying off to the library to read books about the time periods in which they were set. To this day, I am a fan of both gangster movies and westerns in part because of having immersed myself in these things in order to understand these games better. I suspect I am not the only kid who did this.
What's funny is that, in 2012, I can't think of too many "straight" historical RPGs that are in print and actively supported. As I said, I love westerns and have got a partially completed old school western RPG sitting on my hard drive, but it doesn't include rules for aliens or zombies and it's not set in an alternate history where the Confederacy won its independence. Yet, if you look around, those things are pretty much par for the course. Even the terrific, if rules-heavy, Aces & Eights, takes place in an alt-history rather than the real world and that saddens me.
It also makes me wonder if it's because gamers today simply don't have an appetite for historical RPGs that aren't anachronistic or genre-bend. And so Saloons & Shootists stays on my hard drive ...