Return to That Godforsaken Country

4-15-2017 (Real Date) The Transfer
The Transfer

April 7-21, 1870

Four heroes returned to the Weird West and the Confederate Territory of New Mexico to continue adventuring:

Martin, our host, with Marquis Edward Fauntleroy III, an adventurer from the United Kingdom and veteran of the original incarnation of the campaign with impressive persuasive skills

James, a veteran of the previous incarnation of the campaign, playing Felix Panzer, a Prussian Blessed by Hades (of all unusual entities).

Melanie, with her larcenous and stealthy character Beth St. Clair.

Finally, Vincent returned with Texas Ranger (and Beth's brother) Jack St. Clair.

The group had recently returned to Santa Fe with the outlaws captured in the previous adventure, most prominently including Big Joe Braswell, wanted for murder back in Texas. The group had a few days to shop and otherwise amuse themselves in Santa Fe (having returned on a Wednesday evening) before Jack was to report to the Rangers' office on Monday morning.

On Monday morning, Jack's captain, having congratulated Jack on the capture, observed that while Big Joe was wanted for murder in Texas, and had committed felony armed robbery in Colorado, he had actually been accused of no crimes at all in New Mexico Territory. As a result, he would have to be returned to Texas for trial. The Rangers would deputize Jack's companions for the duration (so there would be sufficient guards) and pay them $20 each for doing the job. In addition, the Rangers would be paying the Goodnight Stagecoach Company a fee for the use of a stagecoach and the employ of its driver. Joe would be shackled inside the coach for the bulk of the five-day trip to Big Spring, Texas.

The posse accepted the task, and after spending some time discussing the particulars of the trip (and making sure to intimidate Joe thoroughly) they set off. For the first couple of days and nights not much happened as they rode and drove across the plains of eastern New Mexico. But on the second night, while Jack was on watch, their camp was surrounded by creatures that were yipping like coyotes, but somehow more ominously. Jack awakened Beth before the wolflings could launch their attack; fortunately Felix woke up when the commotion began and was able to awaken Edward and Emma (the driver). (The group was not excessively solicitous of Joe.) While Beth leaped to the top of the stagecoach and Felix used his powers to apply smite to his ammunition, Edward pulled out his shotgun and sent both barrels into a wolfling, shredding it completely, and Jack drilled one with his rifle. The other two fell to Beth and Felix in short order.

The following day the posse encountered a small encampment of Indians, who offered to share their meal and campsite for the evening. These were Apache (from the group sometimes called the "Kiowa Apache," due to their proximity to the Kiowas) accompanied by the shaman Taza, who some previous members of the posse had encountered before. Taza told the group the story of the Hodag, a deadly creature that seems to be the hateful spirit of cattle or buffalo that avenges itself on human beings. He also told them of the scholar Ezekiel Ambrose, a Boston native last heard of in Santa Fe; Ezekiel owns a tomahawk that other adventurers have used successfully to destroy demonic creatures. Jack told a tale of obtaining really good liquor. (This was an interlude.) The Apache were tracking a herd of buffalo, which they planned to hunt in order to bring food back to the community.

The posse continued on their way to Big Spring; shortly before arriving they observed a couple of dead horses lying on the ground in front of a farmhouse. (The farmhouse was surrounded by a barbed wire fence; the horses were lying beside the gate in the fence.) As they moved to investigate they heard a woman's scream and then a gunshot. A voice shouted at them to go away or he would kill the woman. Our heroes were not about to do that, so Jack first tried to invoke his badge — which didn't impress these outlaws. In the meantime Beth began to sneak around the north side of the fence, while Jack offered to trade himself for the hostage. Thinking a lawman would be a more valuable hostage than a random civilian, the outlaw (one Diego Enriquez) accepted the deal, on the condition that Jack disarm himself first. While Jack was doing so Felix put both deflection and armor on him, and Beth continued to move around the north side of the house. 

Edward was following Felix around the south side of the house at this point, when the outlaw released the hostage and accepted Jack as a replacement hostage; Jack interested Diego in a drink from the flask he normally keeps with him (Jack being an alcoholic). However, neither Felix nor Edward were quite as stealthy as Beth, and Felix was suddenly shaken by an attack that came from a window through which he didn't see anyone. Edward decided the outlaws should be driven out, and so he lit a flask of oil and threw it onto the roof. While the roof was catching fire, however, Felix used the stun power to stun three of the outlaws, including Diego. Once this happened, Diego (recovering quickly) accused Jack of treachery and took a shot which missed. Jack then attacked with a Bowie knife unsuccessfully, but Beth was able to drill him. In the meantime, Edward and Felix engaged with another outlaw who appeared at the window on the south side of the building, and once Diego was dispatched the remaining outlaws surrendered. (GM note on this: I had not anticipated Jack's plan and Felix's use of powers to improve it, but this was an effective way to deal with the outlaws.) The fire was put out and the surviving two outlaws cuffed. In addition, at the cabin had been a young (perhaps 11 or 12 years old) boy who claimed to have been brought there by the outlaws. Interestingly enough, this boy (who reported that his name was Oscar Jones) was carrying a copy of the Book of Mormon and a copy of Hoyle's Complete Book of Games. The posse decided to take him to Big Spring with them; he had reported Fort Worth as his last location.

Arriving in Big Spring, the posse immediately went to the sheriff's office to dispose of their now three prisoners. Sheriff Frank Schmitt was not particularly happy to see them, but he did take Big Joe and the other two outlaws to his own lockup and provided the required receipt for Big Joe. He also reported that Diego (the leader of the gang at the farmhouse) had been a local boy who was really too big for his britches. Frank decided to force Diego's former associates tell his mother what had happened. The posse then sallied forth to see the sights of the town of Big Spring, having spent five days on the trail.

Big Spring would be the largest town in the region if it wasn't the only one. Nevertheless, it has all the expected amenities: general stores, saloons, churches, brothels, doctors' offices, a bank, etc. In addition, somewhat unusually, it contains the Big Spring Institute for the Insane. While Felix and Edward did some additional shopping and Jack decided to visit a local provider of Negotiable Affection for professional services, Beth thought it would be a good idea to investigate the town. So putting on all her amiability and charm, she wandered around to see what she could find out. (Note: despite being completely unskilled in Streetwise (d4-2) she managed to roll 3 raises on a Streetwise check, getting pretty much all publicly available information about the town.) She discovered that it seems half the town is owned by the local bank and half the townsfolk (including law enforcement) works for the bank's CEO, one William Thornton. She also got the layout of the town and a lot of useless gossip. And no one seemed to know a great deal about the insane asylum, which led to a decision by the posse to investigate the asylum.

Beth began by casing the establishment from a safe distance, observing that it was surrounded by an adobe wall topped with barbed wire with guards at the entrances and patrolling throughout. A number of patients were visible walking (escorted by staff) through the grounds as well. Our heroes therefore — particularly since they were just trying to gather intelligence rather than instigate violence — decided to be subtle. Edward thus put on his best "English gentleman visiting the colonies, don'tcha know" outfit with Beth wearing her "I'm very attractive" dress and carrying a notebook straight from secretarial school, Felix doing his best to look like a German scholar (not difficult since he is one) and Jack just making sure his badge was visible (as their government/law enforcement liaison.) Edward then told the guards at the gate that he was on the Queen's business and needed to speak to the person in charge, whereupon the posse was escorted to meet Dr. Karl Schaden, the scientist in charge of this literal madhouse.

(Note: Edward is an extraordinarily persuasive chap and had some very nice dice rolls in this sequence.) Edward explained to Dr. Schaden that he was representing the royal family of England on a very delicate, sensitive matter involving one of their members who was going to need mental health care in a very secluded, out-of-the-way place (to avoid the press and so forth) and that he was touring facilities in the CSA to help make that determination. Dr. Schaden, for his part, was happy to take the group on a relatively full tour of the facility and show them his innovative treatments, most of which involved running trickles of electricity into various parts of the patients' brains and imparting verbal suggestions, typically to calm down violent tendencies, and also to use various colors to calm them. He engaged in some German repartee with Felix (although Felix is a Prussian from Berlin while Dr. Schaden is a Bavarian from Munich). When asked about his financing, Dr. Schaden responded that while patients' families do often pay fees, additional funding comes from voluntary contributions — the largest of which come from their great benefactor, the First Confederate Bank of Big Spring and its president, Bill Thornton. Beth almost dropped her notebook at this point, hastening to write down that information. At the end of the tour, in which no one thought anything was being hidden, Felix shared a lovely bottle of expensive wine with Dr. Schaden, but no additional information was forthcoming.

Following the tour of the asylum the posse made sure that the young Oscar Jones had a bath and his clothes cleaned, and then put him on a stagecoach to Fort Worth, hoping never to see him again. Beth did some long distance observation of Bill Thornton's actual house, which she observed is quite well guarded; she didn't attempt to force entry. The posse then mounted up for the return trip to Santa Fe.

Halfway back to Santa Fe the posse ran into a ferocious thunderstorm, such as can appear in these parts in the springtime. However, over the thunder they heard a more ominous rumbling. They identified it as a buffalo stampede, debated how to deal with the problem for a moment, and then resolved to get out of the way as quickly as possible. They were successful in doing so, although Edward was grazed by a stampeding buffalo. Then they saw the cause of the stampede in the distance. The Hodag, of which the shaman Taza had spoken, was pursuing the herd, but seeing more tasty prey it turned to charge the humans.

All four of our heroes pulled out weapons — Winchester rifles and shotguns — and unloaded with almost military precision on the creature. Despite its undead nature and its great toughness it couldn't stand up, and two volleys downed the creature before it could reach the posse to attack. (GM Note: After the first wound the Hodag tried unsuccessfully to soak, and that largely set it into a death spiral; all the heroes were rolling really well, particularly for damage. This thing was supposed to be much tougher, but in this case the rolling volley really took it down. Clearly the big bad abominations need to be bigger and badder.)

Upon returning to Santa Fe they were able to collect their pay when the Rangers received the receipt for Big Joe, and Jack was promoted to Corporal. What will be the next threat in the Weird West? What are Bill Thornton's machinations? Why is Bill subsidizing the asylum, and is there an as-yet unseen sinister side to it? 

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3-18-2017 (Real Date) The Payroll
April 4-6, 1870

A group of 4 players and one observer met with Marshal Andy at Martin's house on 3-18-17 to continue the Deadlands adventures in "Return to that Godforsaken Country."

Martin (our convivial host) — Returned with Marquis Edward Fauntleroy III, a highly persuasive immigrant from the green and pleasant land of England.

James — Returned with Felix Panzer, an immigrant from Prussia blessed with the touch of, of all entities, Hades.

Melanie — A newcomer to Deadlands Reloaded, playing Beth St. Clair, an extremely charismatic Texan with a bent toward larceny.

Vincent — Another newcomer to Deadlands Reloaded (although a veteran of Deadlands Classic), playing Beth's older brother, Jack St. Clair, a private in the Texas Rangers.

In addition we were joined by Rick, who had not prepared a character but who wanted to observe; he may be joining in the next adventure.

This will be fun — we have a brother and sister who are a law dog and a lawbreaker. They also bicker constantly.

The group began in an ordinary saloon in Santa Fe, where the posse ended their previous activities. After meeting, Felix encountered a flunky for Oswald Masters, who is himself the COO of the Santa Fe Railroad, which Felix and some other folks had assisted before. The flunky gave the group an invitation to join Oswald for dinner later in the evening at L'Abode d'Enchantement, which is far and away the fanciest saloon-cum-restaurant in the entire territory. They agreed, and the flunky left to deliver the message.

Shortly after this happened, across the saloon an argument broke out over a card game. Blows were struck, and the accused was thrown into Felix, who stood up and slugged the guy. Before a full-scale brawl could begin, however, Edward managed to persuade the brawlers to calm down and stop the fisticuffs. (Note: I had intended for this to serve as a harmless trial run of Savage Worlds combat for the newcomers, but that was totally short circuited. This sort of thing happens a lot.) (GM Note: This should have earned Edward a Fate Chip.)

Once the brawl was over before it properly began, Beth asked if she could look over the saloon and find someone who was extremely intoxicated. (In a saloon? In the Weird West? Was she kidding?) Having found her mark she sashayed over to talk to the fellow (as a note, she was wearing her "I'm really attractive" dress rather than her "I'm a real badass" cowgirl outfit.) She spoke to the man for some time and managed to convince him that he owed her $20 for an encounter upstairs that had never happened! (She got about 4 raises on her Persuade roll.) She may have also persuaded him to mend his ways.

At l'Abode d'Enchantement the group enjoyed a fancy (and no doubt expensive) dinner at Oswald's expense he got down to business. The SFRR is laying track north, with an ultimate goal of reaching Denver. (Political note: In my version of the Weird West — and I believe this is actually the case in published versions — Colorado is disputed territory between the USA and the CSA, and west of the Mississippi it is largely impossible to control the borders anyway.) Oswald explained that the SFRR was prepared to jump either way with regard to the final political disposition of Colorado, and the project had been going well until some outlaws began intercepting the special trains that carried the workers' payroll. He asked if our intrepid heroes would be willing to accompany the next special payroll train to try and do something about it. Naturally, since there was a nice payday involved, they agreed.

Before leaving l'Abode the group heard a few rumors, one of which was that one of the young ladies who worked there saw something several days previously which frightened her so much that she hasn't come out of her room at the boarding house across the street since. Felix thought he smelled undead (he has a particular hatred of them) and so, accompanied by Edward, went to talk to the young lady. Edward's persuasive skills got them in, and they learned that Ana (the young lady in question) was sure she had seen her uncle Pepe several days previously, despite Pepe having died some 5 years previously. On the way to the churchyard to investigate they rejoined the St. Clair siblings, who had been doing a little shopping in the middle of their perpetual argument. The foursome then went to the graveyard, where they discovered that the grave of Jose "Pepe" Vasquez had an empty hole in front of the headstone. Felix began tracking, accompanied by Beth, while Jack and Edward repaired to a saloon to get in some more drinking (note: Jack has a drinking Habit.) 

Beth and Felix managed to track whatever had taken Pepe's body out past the edge of Santa Fe and into the mountains, eventually discovering three walkin' dead on a trail up into the mountains. They entered into combat with the abominations, and managed to slay the creatures without much difficulty, returning to Santa Fe in time to get some rest before boarding the SFRR's special payroll train the following morning.

The following morning it was determined that neither Jack nor Edward was adversely affected by the night of drinking (I had them make Vigor rolls; had either of them failed he would have been going with a point of Fatigue.) They boarded the special train, and discovered that when a second-tier railroad creates a "special" train it's because they don't want to use a good modern locomotive on a non-revenue project. The locomotive was a completely open one, a flatbed car with the actual engine on it, one car with some benches and the payroll box, and a crew of two (an engineer and a fireman/brakeman.) It was described as looking like George Stephenson's "Rocket." The trip to the construction site was a two day trip, with an overnight break (as the crew wasn't going to travel at night).

There was a brief interlude while Felix described to the posse how he had earlier in the year successfully laid a ghost to rest, and another incident in the morning in which he inadvertently put his hand on a rattlesnake (which failed to bite him) which was then shot dead by Jack immediately. Boarding the train, the posse continued on their efforts to guard the payroll. This was a good thing, as while the train was laboring up a grade it was attacked by six outlaws and their leader, one Big Joe Braswell. The outlaws planned to shoot near the engineer to force him to throttle the train down and give them a chance to board; however, by the time they successfully did so Edward (using a shotgun as an incentive) persuaded the engineer to throttle back up. In the meantime, as various outlaws and heroes were exchanging fire to little effect, Beth came up with a somewhat crazy plan. She leapt to the top of the wood in the tender and flashed the outlaws with some….flesh. (Taunt skill with +4 for being Very Attractive) This managed to shake them all. After this event it was not too much trouble for the rest of the posse to finish off the rest of the outlaws while the leader managed to escape. Our heroes rounded up the outlaws' horses and pursued. (GM Note: Beth should have earned a Fate Chip for her action here.)

The pursuit led to a small box canyon, surrounded by low hills. As the canyon curved after its entrance the posse was concerned about a possible ambush. In addition, they noticed some unusually colored rocks arranged in a pattern near the entrance. (This was a particularly difficult Notice roll.) Beth proceeded to dismount and climb up one of the hills as stealthily as she could to see if she could spot Big Joe. Felix threw a rock at one of the unusual rocks, but no reaction took place when he hit it. He then stealthily climbed up the hill on the other side of the canyon. Beth, who had gone up first, managed to spot both Big Joe's horse and also the barrel of Big Joe's rifle; Big Joe himself was in a nice hiding place inside the canyon. That was when Edward decided to fire at one of the unusual rocks.

A spider the size of a german shepherd came boiling up out of a concealed pit the rock had been marking and charged Edward and his horse. Edward put the spurs to the horse and led the terrantula away at a rather high rate of speed. And Felix had a plan for addressing Big Joe. A plan involving dropping dynamite on Joes's head. The dynamite drop was successful, but Joe somehow sensed it and managed to evade the attack (actually spending two blue Fate Chips to soak the damage). However, the dynamite woke up four other terrantulas. One went after Beth, one went after Jack, and two went for Felix. (A question emerged of whether spiders can climb up hills. This was amusing.) 

The spider after Beth caught up with her and wounded her severely (two wounds). The one after Jack shook his horse, while the two after Felix failed to hit him entirely. Beth intelligently fled, while Felix used the Beast Friend power to win over one of the terrantulas. Jack meanwhile shot the one he was engaged with and followed over to slay the one that was attacking his sister. Felix managed to kill the terrantula engaged with him, and then dropped off the hill with his new arachnid friend to engage with Big Joe. Felix and the terrantula incapacitated Big Joe without much difficulty, and then Jack's interrogation began.

The group successfully recovered the bulk of the missing payroll, which was split between the posse and the railroad per their earlier deal, and Jack brought in a wanted outlaw alive (Big Joe). Unfortunately, Jack didn't get a promotion out of the deal, but the group did end up with a fair amount of cash as a result.

It is possible, if not likely, that Rick will be joining next time, and possibly additional characters. A mystery has come up, however — why were walkin' dead showing up in Santa Fe? Will there be any issues sending Big Joe back to Texas where he is wanted for murder? Will Jack and Beth kill each other, or will Jack be forced to arrest his own sister?

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The Story So Far

The Story So Far

 

Here are some of the highlights of what has gone before in “That Godforsaken Country:”

 

A number of characters have moved in and out of the posse: a swami, an agent of Deseret, a master of steam power, a mistress of electrical power, a hexslinger, a gun collector, and others. Some of their more prominent discoveries have included:

 

The railroad companies’ competition has become extremely cutthroat. There are several railroads attempting to create a transcontinental connection across the south, including Bayou Vermilion, headquartered in New Orleans, Black River, headquartered in Memphis, and Wasatch (a division of Hellstromme Industries), headquartered in Salt Lake City. The posse has performed some troubleshooting for one of the more minor railroads, the Santa Fe Railroad, which has run afoul of some of the larger players. In addition, some members of the posse were involved in throwing a major wrench into the efforts of Wasatch to expand past eastern Colorado. More recently the posse has stopped efforts by Bayou Vermilion to prevent the Santa Fe RR from expanding to El Paso.

 

The Wasatch Railroad and its associated industries use automata — artificial workers made from metal and powered by ghost rock — to perform most of the grunt work and keep their costs down. Generally these automata are managed by brains harvested from dead animals (horses or dogs) but in at least one case a human brain has been used. The automaton in question (commonly referred to as “Robbie”) has gone to work for HI’s competitor, Davenport Industries, and will probably not be seen again. His son has started working for Tesla Stalin, the weird scientist, as a driver/hand, and Rob’s wife continues to operate their ranch near Espia. Davenport also has the knowledge to create and maintain automata, and agreed to pay Rob some cash along with keeping him functional; Rob sends the cash back to his wife.

 

A number of towns throughout the Territory of New Mexico have been beset with what can only be described as “walking dead:” dead people who apparently get up to go take a walk and prey upon the living. The posse has encountered them in Espia, Santa Fe, and other towns. In Espia they encountered a priest, Michael Flynn, who reported that he had been in a monastery down in Mexico which had been attacked by a large group of them; Father Michael was traveling around the territory to warn people of the threat. He was seen in Santa Fe before the incident there, but has not been seen since. Some members of the posse suspected him of knowing more about that than he let on.

 

Also in Santa Fe is the most expensive saloon in the territory, the “Abode of Enchantment,” which is run by a lady named Belinda Gentry. All manner of diversions are available here, though the prices are quite steep (it’s $10.00 just to walk in the door.) Some underhanded business gets done there; the posse has learned that Belinda — and at least one of the Texas Rangers stationed here — has some contact with US Agent Philip Sheridan. Recently the posse assisted both Sheridan and the Rangers in stopping Pedro Castillo, an agent of the Porfiristas in Mexico’s three-cornered civil war, from smuggling a large load of cannons, gatling guns, and ammunition across the border, so it is likely that Sheridan considers the posse — or some members anyway — as possible allies.

 

Finally, the posse is acquainted with a professor from Boston, one Ezekiel Ambrose. Ezekiel is a student of Native American antiquities, and hired members of the posse to help him explore a set of petroglyphs near Santa Fe. There the posse fought what appeared to be a demonic bear. With the help of the shaman Taza, Ezekiel translated the petroglyphs, which told a tale of the last great shaman of the Anasazi, who traveled far to the east with his apprentice in order to stop evil demons, known as “manitous,” from continuing to flood into the world. The shaman did not return, although the apprentice did, but the apprentice feared that the shaman’s solution was likely only temporary.

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