With the death of Manaburst our group has moved on to Deadlands, the Weird West roleplaying game. After two sessions I think it’s fair to say we’ve gotten back into the groove and are set to have an great campaign. I think that Luke might have some early-campaign jitters up in the GM’s chair but everyone else seems to be having a great time.
The first session took place January 20th and started out with three young Texas Rangers being called in from their field work assignments to meet with a ranger that had trained each of them at some point in the past, Elijah Peterson, in Redrock, Arizona, a small town just off the rail line. With the recent escalation of the Great Rail Wars the posse-to-be had expected to be assigned to assist the Dixie Rails but they soon found they were in for something completely different.
When the three newcomers arrive, they find the small inn where they were to meet Elijah packed with rangers. The small posse-to-be finds a table to wait for Elijah to join them.
Aristotle Gentry, played by Josh. Aristotle is a quiet man from Atlanta in his early 30’s. Aristotle looked like a fellow who kept himself clean – short near hair, plan circular spectacles, and a nice suit. A few faint blood splotches hinted at his job as a doctor.
Barry Doyle, played by Chad. Barry is actually a northerner who has somehow managed to earn his way into the rangers. In contrast to his fine clothing, Barry’s skin is covered in splotches of black from a ghost rock accident years ago. Summoned for his knowledge as an occultist (though he thinks he knows more than he actually does) Barry is also a Huckster, though he hides it from the other rangers in the posse.
Chuck Walker, played by myself. Chuck is a young man, fresh into the rangers and eager to prove himself. He dresses in a way he thinks is symbolic of the rangers – big wide-rimmed hat and a long duster – and tries to act the southern gentleman despite his relatively modest upbringing.
Soon Elijah finished talking to some of the Ranger higher ups. Most of the other rangers in the building cleared out as Elijah comes over to talk to the posse. Apparently something big was happening and he needed the posse to track down a man named Jonas Pride. Jonas was a local and was hired on as a bodyguard when the Virginian Senator Baxtor Grissom came out west to satisfy his ungentlemanly desires. A few weeks ago Baxtor and his bodyguard went to an isolated just north of Redrock and something happened. A number of men were found dead and Baxtor himself was missing.
Jonas was the only known survivor and witness the rangers knew of. Apparently he returned to town and murdered a few people before hopping a train and heading west to Sweatwater. Dixie Rails, the Union Blue Line, and Bayou Vermilion were all engaged in some pretty intense fighting out there and it’s likely the gunslinger would look for work in one of the rail gangs. Elijah gave the posse two more important pieces of information – that he had reason to believe Jonas was harrowed and that they absolutely needed him ‘alive’ to find out what happened to the Senator.
Aristotle: “Can a Harrowed survive without legs? […] If I amputate [them], will that be a problem hauling him back?”
The rangers board the next Dixie Rail train (which is nearly empty) for Sweetwater. About an hour outside of town the train is attacked by a small group of Union soldiers who derail the train with a small cannon they had concealed near the tracks. The posse managed to fight their way to the cattle car – which had remained on the tracks – with the one survivor they found and rode off for Sweatwater.
Once in Sweatwater the posse took the wounded man to the church which had been set up as a temporary hospice that was caring for wounded from both the northern and southern sides. After leaving the wounded train passenger there Aristotle and Barry went to the tavern while Chuck headed to the Dixie Rail office to speak to whomever was in charge.
Chuck: I need to speak with the person in charge here.
Confederate Soldier: Who’s asking?
Chuck: Walker, Texas Ranger.
Everyone Else: groan
Chuck let them know what happened to the train and that gave them Jonas’ description. The southern captain recognized Jonas’ description, having seen the gunslinger come get off the train. He hadn’t been seen in town for a while but he definitely didn’t leave by train.
While the southern soldiers group and head out to the train wreck and to see if the can catch the union troops the posse does some investigation around town to see if Jonas is still around. Aristotle and Chuck check the brothels while Barry checks the inns. The huckster lucks out, finding the one Jonas had stayed at. Although the innkeeper said Jonas hadn’t been there in two days, Barry still bribes him to get access to the room he stayed in. The room has apparently been cleaned lately but still smells of dead meat, especially the mattress.
With their suspicions that Jonas was in fact harrowed and had left town appearing more and more likely the posse decide to head out to the camp the northern soldiers
Session 2 – January 27th
On their way to the northerners’ encampment the posse stopped by a southern fort. There they met up with a sergeant who had received orders to supply the rangers with a handful of men if they were planning on raiding the northerners’ encampment. Night fell as the small contingent rode towards their target, helping their approach go unnoticed. After a small bit of reconnaissance by Chuck and one of the Confederate scouts, the southerners launched their attack.
We had a new player, Pat, join us. He was playing the southern sergeant temporarily until his character could be introduced at the end of the adventure.
The northern soldiers are nearly overwhelmed immediately although their sergeant keeps them in the fight. Barry has a couple soldiers to flank the camp and use a bugle call to fake a second cavalry charge to give Chuck the chance to deal with the northern sergeant. Barry even discretely hexes the ranger, improving his aim, but Chuck has other plans.
The young ranger quickly rode away from most of the northern troops and barreled down on Jonas, guns blazing, ignoring the fact that he was told to bring the man in alive. Chuck and Jonas trade lead, each one taking more than a few hits but neither of them showing much effect.
Meanwhile the remaining rangers deal with the northern sergeant, and between that and the casualties they were taking the northern troops surrendered. The hired guns fought a little longer as they tried to escape but eventually they – including Jonas – surrender. The rangers ordered the southern soldiers to disarm and restrain the northern survivors.
At which point Chuck unloaded the final round in his pistols into Jonas, dropping him. Chuck tried to continue shooting but the only thing the hammer struck was spent rounds. As Chuck reached for his rifle, the southern sergeant got a good look at him in the light of the fire. Where Chuck had been shot, his skin hung loosely from his body like strips of cloth, showing something that looked like musculature underneath but he wasn’t bleeding at all. His skull seemed to be shifting under his face as if his skin had become loose.
Luke: It’s like he’s wearing a skin suit.
Pat: Is it an Edgar suit?
Barry was able to club Chuck down from his horse with his shotgun before he went to secure Jonas. The southern sergeant tried to restrain Chuck but the ranger got to his feet and his hands grew into vicious claws. The southern sergeant reacted quickly and put a bullet between Chuck’s eyes, and he fell over with a gurgling sound.
The rangers quickly organize the southern troops to take the prisoners back to their fort before trying to figure out what happened to Chuck. Once he examined Chuck’s body, Barry concluded he was a skinwalker – a horrific creature known to skin a person, wear their skin, torture them, then kill them. Usually in that order. He thought they could only maintain their guise for about a month or so though. And combined with the train ticket stub from New Orleans they found in his things, there was a good chance that the real Chuck was killed in the Big Easy. Fearing he might come back to life like a harrowed, the rangers disposed of the Chuckwalker’s corpse as best they could, smashing his skull and chucking him into a bonfire, before heading back to Redrock.
* * * * *
Back at Redrock Barry and Aristotle meet with Elijah to report on their mission. When questioned about what happened to Chuck Barry just tells Elijah that he was killed in the attack on the northern troops. Elijah seems worried – he says Chuck was a good ranger – but seems to buy the story. Elijah also introduces the posse to Rudolf Mordheim, a mad scientist who was being assigned to work with them going forward.
At this point we knew Pat would be playing a mad scientist but he would be creating him after the session so we didn’t have many details on his character. He’ll be detailed in my next write-up.
Once everyone’s ready Elijah uses an elixir of some sort to wake a restrained Jonas up. The rangers start questioning him but quickly realize he doesn’t remember much and what he does remember is a little scattered. Apparently the last thing he remembered was being at the mansion where Sen. Grissom disappeared. Elijah leaves the other rangers alone with the harrowed gunslinger for a while to try to loosen his tongue, and they oblige.
An hour or so later Elijah returns and they question Jonas about the missing senator. Jonas’ story is disjointed – he remembers traveling to the manor with a sickly Sen Grissom (whom Jonas identifies by his alias), Grissom’s bodyguards Chuck and Daniel, and a young boy (who Elijah identifies as the Senator’s son, also missing, by his description). Jonas was to wait outside as “insurance” while the others went inside. Eventually more people showed up but Jonas’ descriptions were hazy. He remembered a young Mexican woman, an older man with a large hat and an exotic (Hatian, though Jonas doesn’t know that) accent, and an ancient old woman who he only heard her voice.
After some strange shouts, sounds, and flashes of light, Jonas saw the Senator leap out one of the upper windows, full of vigor, and bound down the road. Jonas overheard some talking from inside before the Mexican woman shot him dead, and that was the last he remembered.
When asked Jonas confirmed that had escorted the senator to Denver a couple times and that he knew his usual haunts, so Elijah laid out the rangers’ next assignment – take Jonas to Denver and see if they could track down the Senator. If he’s on the run, he may have run to somewhere familiar and it’s as good a lead as they had at the moment. Elijah said he had to head out to follow some of his own leads but for the posse to keep him informed if they uncover anything.
Jonas Pride, played by myself. Jonas is rough and tumble gunslinger who previously made himself a living as a bodyguard or hired gun whenever he could get the work. He’s not the nicest or cleanest gunslinger in the west but he’d kill a man in a fair fight… or if he thinks they’re gonna start a fair fight, or if they bothers him, or if there’s a woman, or if he’s gettin’ paid – mostly only when he’s gettin’ paid. Jonas has been reluctant to accept his status as one of the walking dead but whatever the Rangers think he is, in his mind they’ve decided to hire him indefinitely and their coin spends as well as anyone else’s.
The posse figured that a side trip to the manor where everything went down was in order, but since that was on the way towards Denver it wouldn’t be a problem. They decided to leave the next day at dawn.
* * * * *
We had out third session this last Sunday and I’ll be writing that up in the next batch that I write up. I also want to do some commentary on how the game was set up (yes, Jonas was my real character all along) and is playing out, but that’ll have to wait until later this month. I’m already testing my readers’ attention spans as is. 🙂