Five Feet High and Rising

By the Skin of Their Teeth, Part 2

At the start of the session I took Joe (playing Dr. P.), aside to refresh his memory and ask what he wanted to do. [I won’t reveal what we discussed here as the other players don’t yet know and might read this session report.]

When we rejoined the group it was decided that, although the scientists had made Puddlefeather a member of their society, since the rest of the Posse would not be allowed inside, it was time to move on.

One question remained: “What about the screaming?” the Posse asked.

“Uh…screaming contest,” the doctor replied.

None of them bought it, but nothing would make Doc change his story. Conveniently, Red had a meeting that started in half an hour at a saloon across town.

The meeting did not go as Red thought it would. He’d expected an Indian man who had (essentially) threatened him on the train into town, an older man wearing an odd mixture of traditional Indian dress and white clothing. Instead he got a well-dressed, polite Indian man who was thoroughly confused as to the purpose of the meeting. The man, Tom “Black Eagle” did not know the man Red was looking for, nor anything about the playing card (a Queen of Diamonds smudged with Ghost Rock) left in the Huckster’s pocket while he was sleeping on the train.

Tom did have some questions of his own, though. He was looking a man and a woman, neither of which anyone in the Posse had seen. The two had stolen a ritual knife of great importance to Tom’s people, and he’d been chasing them back and forth across the country for a good long time now.

Outside the saloon the Posse reconvened and determined to strike out and find Jeff “Soapy” Smith, the man to whom Benny’s brother owes a $40,000 debt. And they would’ve made it, too, if it weren’t for a buxom brunette in a green velvet dress that all but bowled Hooker over. Introductions were made: this was Rita, a woman Hooker had had “relations” with on the train into town. She had told Hooker a sob story about how she and her brother had been run off their homestead a month or two ago by a band of ruthless savages. Seeing Hooker with the Posse she assumed he had gathered them at her request.

In the midst of this, a man joined the group: Rita’s brother Jonah. I had the Posse roll Scrutinizin’; the preacher and the doctor both noticed Jonah reacted oddly to Benny’s presence, as if he were surprised or nervous to see the preacher there.

In short order they agreed to check out the homestead. “I was thinking we could leave tonight,” Jonah said, “catch them by surprise in the dark.” The Posse did not like that idea; they wanted to go immediately.

To the Homestead And so the Posse set out, still not sure about their new travelling companion (Jonah insisted on coming along).

They were spotted long before they reached the homestead, but they had the presence of mind to keep their hands far from their weapons and made no sudden movements. A lone Indian approached on horseback and parlayed with Red. Red told the tale, that this young man said he was run off the homestead, and he added a bit about needing to find the deed which was still on the property.

The Indian denied the attack, the existence of the deed, and knowing the young man riding with the group, but agreed to let the Posse rest and water their horses at their troughs while Red took a look inside for the deed. On the ride to the homestead

The search proved fruitless, and he said as much when he emerged. Jonah was near hysterical by this point. The Posse intervened on his behalf. The Indian leader allowed Jonah to search the building, but only if Red went with him.

The young man circled the homestead, looking but not really searching for anything. When pressed he kept saying he needed more time, but could not or would not provide a description of what he was looking for. Red made a Scrutinizin’ check and noticed that the young man’s eyes kept darting to the floorboards at the center of the room.

The Indian leader finally announced that their time was up. Red and Jonah made it as far as the door when Jonah broke for the center of the room. The Indian guards were able to secure Jonah, who struggled like a wildcat until he was knocked out, while Red pried up the floorboards and found…dirt.

“Dirt?” said the Posse.

“Dirt,” I said.

“A special kind of dirt?”

“No. Dirt.”

“Oh. Um.” Jesse looked confused and crestfallen. “I guess I dig around a little, see if I can find anything.”

“Almost immediately you hear a thunk—your fingers have found the lid of a box.”

Inside the box was the knife, just as Tom had described. The Indians were overjoyed and broke camp immediately to bring the dagger back to Tom. Jonah they tied to the back of a horse for some questioning, but all the y got out of him was incoherent rambling, so the Preacher knocked ‘im back out.

Lovely Rita, Meter Maid Tom couldn’t offer the Posse anything but gratitude for the knife and its thief, but “this bein’ Indian territory, you never know when that’s going to come in handy.”

Seeing as her brother knew exactly where the stolen knife was, it was time to find Rita. Hooker took the lead and confronted her in her room while the others waited outside—on the landing and outside the hotel. Ken and I went into the kitchen to role-play out of earshot, since he had some information that needed sorting out, but the Posse didn’t need to hear. It went well…until Rita pulled a Rita pulled a gun on him. Her first shot went wild, which called in the rest of the party.

In no time, though, she was out cold, trussed up, and turned over to Tom and the sheriff.

The Posse decided it was time to return to the Gear & Crank. Outside a large group of Indians had gathered. They accused the scientists within of abducting members of their tribes to experiment on. On yet another insane Persuasion roll, Benny convinces the mob to disperse, that the Posse has an in with the group, and they’ll straighten everything out.

Inside Doc uses his newfound access to get the whole group inside, through the banker’s cage, and into a long hallway studded with doors. The first door on the left takes them into an operating theater, now empty…

Cut! At this point it was something like 3 o’clock in the morning, and everyone was exhausted. We’d gotten farther than I had expected, but still hadn’t touched on some of the major threads I developed. All in due time.

Observations -While they’re gripped by the story and happy that everyone has something unique to do and contribute, the players are crying out for combat. Maybe I should give it to them…

-Man, making all the NPCs interesting is hard, especially when the players seem to want every hotel clerk to have a detailed file. Time to push them into the wilderness with personality-less monsters.

-Combat’s gotten a lot easier. It’s unwieldy at first, but “cheat sheets” help a lot, as does reminding players to make their rolls before I get to them, and rolling things like to-hit and hit location at once.

By the Skin of Their Teeth, Part 1

There was a one month gap between our last session and this one, so I used the time to set up multiple stories within Denver, the posse’s destination. I had a few goals this time around. First, I wanted to create enough potential storylines to keep the posse occupied, so they wouldn’t be burning through the entirety of my prepared material in one session. Second, I wanted to give every character a pretty specific goal, at least initially, and to give every character something specific to do in at least one of the storylines. Third, I wanted to use the medium of the tabletop RPG to explore lingering, real consequences to their actions. This is not a video game, and in the coming adventure that should be very clear.

To those ends I took the liberty of describing the posse’s train ride, and sent a unique email to every player. A few members had horrible dreams, and a few had troubling encounters. Each email ended with similar paragraphs. This is the end of the email I sent to Benny the Preacher:

“The train’s whistle blows. Around you are the other three members of your party. The doc wakes with a start, his hand going to his stomach, and then to the flask in his breast pocket. Red’s eyes are bloodshot and ringed with black circles. It looks like he hasn’t slept a wink. Hooker needs a mighty shake before he wakes, and even then he is groggy, shielding his eyes from the sun’s slanting early rays.

You step out of the train onto the wooden planks of the station. Single file you trudge through the station house. Out on the street the others are startled almost as much by your blasphemy as the warehouse across the street.

‘God damn it,’ you say, when you see the ten foot high letters on the building opposite.


I started this session by showing the posse pictures of Denver circa 1870 to give them an idea of what it looks like. It’s a prosperous, growing city, not the equal of Chicago or even San Francisco at this time, but certainly the only place for hundreds of miles that can properly claim the title “city.”

Across the street, in the shadow of the warehouse is a booth not unlike a child’s lemonade stand, only this is larger and better constructed. A large red, white, and blue banner stretches across the top that reads “SOAP.”

Like puppies to a food tray the posse wanders over to it and catches the end of a sales pitch. “One of these bars has a prize inside!” the barker bellows. “One hundred dollars!”

Fans of Deadwood will remember this pitch. Two players who’d seen the show immediately knew the game was rigged, but even the other two thought this sounded fishy. While they deliberated what to do-confront the barker? Press on?-I pushed the issue. A man from the crowd crows that he’s found the prize, and the barker brings out a fresh batch.

The posse goes for the man, trying to pressure him to admit that he’s a patsy. (To what end I honestly don’t know.) They manage to read him well enough to see he’s a fraud, but he leaves the scene as soon as possible.

It was time for the posse to move on, so the barker starts packing up his kit. They take this as a sign and approach him, trying to shake him down. When things get physical (Hooker makes a play to grab the man’s ear), goons pop up and manage to run the posse off without anyone having to touch steel.

Their first stop is a nearby saloon, The Golden Corral, to gather information from the helpful bartender. He doesn’t know Gauge or his mechanical man Jonathan, but he does know the chapter house of the Gear and Crank, a collection of scientists, that’s on the southwest side of town, And he provides directions to the Red River Hotel, where Benny’s (long-dead) brother is supposedly staying, and Hooker’s very interested to get there as well.

The clerk at the hotel is a little on the slow side (a character tic born out of my scrambling for an answer to a question that caught me off guard), but he’s been told to be on the lookout for a preacher named Benjamin, and sends him up the stairs (Hooker’s inquiry after a young woman sadly comes up fruitless). When Benny bangs on the door, a rustling sends the others racing downstairs to “cover the window” in case the man jumps out. Very ingenious of them, but it was just the man getting out of bed.

He and Benny have a heartfelt reunion, but Phil cuts straight to the chase. He is in debt beyond measure: $40,000, all of it to a local loan shark, Jeff “Soapy” Smith. Benny pledges to talk to the man and see what he can do. To his companions he says, “So, my brother’s in debt, and you’ll never guess to whom.”



“A guy named Soapy.” That answer produces very satisfying groans around the table.

Next they pop over to the White Horse Hotel, where they heard a peculiar Indian man known to wear a bowler hat who is of particular interest to Red is staying, but alas, the clerk there is a little tougher and will not allow his guests disturbed. Red leaves a note for a noon meeting (“High noon?” someone else asks. “Right,” Red says, “better make it 11.”), at the Golden Corral.

In the meantime the posse accompanies Doc Puddlefeather to the Gear and Crank. It’s housed in a thin, long free-standing building. They manage to bluff their way into the front room. It’s like the most boring doctor’s office ever. Chairs, a locked door to the west, a banker’s cage against the north wall, and two more locked doors behind that. The clerk disappears down the latter, and returns a moment later with Phineas Ira Gauge. The posse cheers. Gauge groans. “What the hell are you doing here?”

They tell him, and he’s struck by a certain whim (it sounds fishy, but I can’t recall the exact circumstances at the moment…). He points at the doctor. “You, come with me. There’s something I want to show you.” They disappear through the west door.

The remainder of the posse tries to again bluff, belittle, and badger their way through the cage, but the young clerk is having none of it, and all they do is piss him off. He is intrigued, though, by Hooker’s offer to, essentially, go get drunk and laid after church.

Upstairs Gauge leads Puddlefeather into an operating theater where a man is strapped to an operating table, struggling against his bonds, and screaming for help. As Puddlefeather watches, he is gassed and put to sleep.

Aaaand that’s where we had to leave it. We got a good deal of the setup for this adventure out of the way, but there’s still more to come.

Runnin' Outta Patience, Part 2

Back on Track In the kitchen stood a woman with clockwork for a face, legs that ended in a point connected to a series of brass tracks that crisscrossed the kitchen’s floor and went into the rooms beyond. She held up a tray of food. “Dinner?”

The posse began grilling the poor Automaid (as I called her in my notes) right away, asking after Pig Iron. Given that this was not actually the name of her creator (duh duh duhhh!), she had no idea who they were talking about. Whoever the creator was, she now mistook Hooker for that person, and when asked about the key to the locked door downstairs, she happily pulled it out of her apron pocket and handed it over.

This was a big hint to my players for the rest of the adventure, and it’s one they took to heart: sometimes the best way through a situation is not to bash something with your axe.

Anxious to see what was behind the door the posse decided not to explore the rest of the house at that moment (which left me thinking, “You sure? There’s some neat stuff up in the—oh, never mind”), and barreled down to the root cellar, and beyond the metal door.

A single naked bulb illuminated a small ante chamber with earthen walls and a wooden door. A coat rack stood beside the door, upon which hung a stained white lab coat, a butcher’s apron, and dirty rubber boots. (Foreshadowing!)

Into the next room they plunged. Two Constructs (my word for steampunk cyborgs, basically) stood over a body on an operating table. The posse drew their weapons and told the Constructs to back away, which is not something the mechanical men particularly wanted to hear, especially after the preacher mentioned Struan’s name, and with that we entered combat.

…but not for long, as Hooker and the preacher managed to knock the two Constructs out. What the Lord taketh away the Lord can giveth right back; the preacher revived one of the Constructs to question it. The Construct rejected any notion that it was an artificial being, insisting he was as his Creator made him. When asked who that Creator was, I could see the players leaning forward in anticipation. Aw yeah, here comes the big reveal.

“My Creator is the Lord Jesus Christ, as he is yours.”

Everyone looked a little crestfallen, but then Jesse lit up. “He believes in Christ? Can I make some sort of preachin’ roll?” Not only could he, but Benny nailed it, completely winning the Construct to the posse’s side, so convinced was he of Benny’s proximity to the Lord. He told the posse of the Church further in the complex, and as much as he knew—this Construct was obviously more advanced than the Automaid, but only just—about his creator, a man named Mr. Gauge.

Gauge, he said, was an enemy of Struan’s, although they had once been partners of a kind. Struan was a supremely evil man who killed people, and it was Gauge’s penance that led him to take the corpses to this lab where they could hopefully be resurrected and returned to the bosom of the Lord. The specimen on the table was almost ready for Mr. Gauge. The Doc reopened sutures on the chest to reveal a cavity that was empty but for a crude metal rib cage, and a desiccated heart wrapped in twine. The Construct could not describe what the twine was for, repeating only, “That is Mr. Gauge’s department.”

The Construct agreed to alert the posse to anyone trying to get into the lab, even Gauge, and to stop anyone short of him. Benny revived the other Construct, and the group moved through the door opposite the one through which they’d entered. In the next small circular room they encountered two more Constructs standing guard with shotguns, and doors to the south, east and west. Figuring these two were also God-fearing, Benny preached to them, just barely convincing them. They were sure he meant to harm, and allowed him and his friends to go through.

The door to the west led to an underground river. On the ground nearby were a metal stake with a frayed rope tied to it, its end dangling in the water, and a set of railroad tracks that led from the water to a railroad stop. Two dead Constructs lay nearby.

The south room held roughly two score “barrels”, metal cylinders that resembled tall oil barrels with the fronts cut out and a mass of electronics and mechanics in the back. A series of brass tracks, identical to the one upstairs in the kitchen, ran from each barrel to a smaller half-barrel in a corner of the room, near a large control panel with buttons and dials, and an oh-so-tempting ON/OFF switch. Once again surprising me, no one flipped the switch.

Past the western door a long tunnel led to a large, open cavern. Just when the bend in the tunnel straightened out so the posse could see the candlelight coming from the open space, they heard a strange series of sounds. Ringing metal, a scream, the sound of compressed air, and then too-perfect chanting, all on a loop.

Weapons holstered (!) they walked into the room. Pews on the right, mostly full with Constructs, some with completely metallic faces, some with skin, the rest a mixture. On the right a giant mechanical crucifix, flanked by two Construct Roman soldiers. When the chanting stopped they would turn and pound nails into the hands of the Robo-Christ, who would scream and fall limp. With a psshh the nails popped out, Robo-Christ opened his eyes, and the chanting began again. In front of the crucifix on an altar lay a young woman in her Sunday best, apparently sleeping.

Benny knelt down beside the front row to speak with a parishioner, who noted Benny’s collar. After a few questions he decided he had enough and stood before the whole congregation…and through the most incredible series of rolls managed to convince everyone that a) Gauge was trapped in a cave in and could not come for a while, b) they needed to head back to the barrels to recharge, and c) the posse would take the girl back to her father.

(After the session was over I was asked what would have happened if they’d gone in and tried to take the girl by force. “You would’ve had 15 to 20 guns on you within a round.”)

They left the girl there for now and went straight for the train (finally), a good two hour ride north of town.

Just as Ol’ Ron described, a cherry red caboose sticking out amongst a pile of rubble, its door dangling off its hinges. Three more dead Constructs on the ground. Skin-types, though the skin was bleached where it hadn’t rotted off the skull. To the left of the tunnel entrance was a mound of human feces in an alluvial fan, headed away from the mouth of the cave. Doc Puddlefeather was inordinately interested in the feces, blanching behind his handkerchief.

Despite being eerie, there was nothing remarkable about the caboose. The next car, though, was crawling with zombies, which the posse dismissed handily. This put a bit of a kink in my plans. I had designed a series of escalating zombie fights, but they proved to be no match for the posse, and frankly it was already pretty late and I wanted to get a move on. So I truncated the number of cars, but I didn’t want them to get off too easy.

Beyond the passenger car was nothing but wreckage in the tunnel. And yet, a light shone up ahead, from a train car that was still upright, on the tracks. Shadows crossed the windows. “Pig Iron!” the posse told themselves…a bit too loudly. Pretty much everyone failed their sneak rolls, and the men from car had them almost surrounded. Could it be? Blood on the tracks and dead PCs already?

No. The posse wanted to parlay. Red stepped to the front and threw down some amazing persuasion rolls. Not enough to get the strangers to drop their weapons, but enough to get them to reveal that they, too, had been sent by Struan after Pig Iron. But they were magnanimous folk: they let our heroes live in exchange if they’d go ahead and “soften up” Pig Iron.

This whole section was unscripted, and as the Marshall I was really excited and anxious about it. It was the type of on-the-fly storytelling that’s just not possible with a boardgame-based RPG. And it seemed like the posse was buying it. (Did no one wonder how the new guys got through the zombies unscathed?)

The whole reason I’d put the strangers in was to give the posse opponents who would duck and dive and do things zombies wouldn’t do (four of us had gotten together to do the Dime Novel, The Forbidden God, which had been chock full of wussy zombies), and then they go and talk to the bastards.

So, back on track (heh). A train car had been lifted completely off the tracks and set down to the side, against the wall of the tunnel. Just beyond was the engine. Hooker and Red scaled the car against the side, but Hooker fails his sneak roll. There’s a mechanical whirring, and the sound of a cocking shotgun. They can see over the edge, though, and see what looks like a walking Franklin stove with a Gatling gun for one hand and a steel pincer for the other. A man crouched down in the doorway to the engine and called out, “Stay close, Jonathon!”

Jonathon was another spur of the moment decision. I’d always intended Gauge to have a large automaton body guard, but it was always called P.I.G. Iron in my notes, but I had to change his name as several times I had slipped and said that Pig Iron was human. Still, no one ever called me on the fact that I’d had Struan say Pig Iron was a “mountain of a man.” I had some good excuses ready, honest.

The two left on the ground start inching forward, trying to distract Jonathon. Combat started, but it was over quickly, as the two on top of the car dropped down, ran to the engine, managed to avoid a shotgun blast, and disarmed Gauge. Holding the mad scientist at gun point they had him call off his bodyguard, which he did. After a brief exchange both sides realized they were really on the same side, Gauge being chased by Struan, and the posse having been manipulated into the chase. The posse even struck a bargain that allowed Gauge to keep the plans he had “stolen,” but he told them where they could get some blueprint paper in his house to draw up false ones to deliver to Struan.

On the way outside they prepped for an ambush from the strangers that was not to be; the only sign of the strangers’ existence were piles of bloody goop by the track. Luckily for me it was really late by this point, and they didn’t investigate. (Lucky because I had nothing planned for this and had been frantically looking up monster stats in case they decided to go off into the woods.)

Struan was in his office and accepted the plans; the fake plans had worked. He turned over the money promised and plans for an invention of his own to Doc Puddlefeather. I was all ready to pass out the reward Fate Chips and roll up the maps when the posse decided they wanted answers. They marched back into Struan’s office where he sat hunched over the map, fingering a locket.

Words were had, but once someone’s hand touched steel Struan whistled, summoning some goons.

The combat was intentionally stacked against the posse. The goons were armed to the teeth, and a sniper was positioned outside with a sweeping command of the room. What I didn’t count on was yet another ridiculous series of rolls wherein the preacher dropped half the goons by himself in a single round, Red dashed for a curious statue on Struan’s desk, and Hooker punched in a dude’s head.

The sheriff showed up, just in time to see Red standing over Struan’s bullet-riddled corpse, and one guy whose head looks like chum. Benny manages to wriggle them out of it with a mixture of tale-tellin’ and the honest-to-God truth. The sheriff lets ‘em go, with a warning to never set foot in Patience again.

Odds and Ends -I was constantly surprised by the course the players took. Preaching to the Constructs in the Church was great, killing my recurring villain was not. I could have fudged the rolls, but I decided this was going to bite them in the ass. Recurring villain or not, they’d just killed a man in cold blood. A rich man.

-The Focus Bell. We’d played Pit earlier and repurposed the bell as a way to pause the game and shut people up.

Runnin' Outta Patience, Part 1


Of course they chose the house first, because it was the exact opposite of what I wanted—expected—them to do. They were supposed to go to the train first, and then the house. Was that so hard? But no, they head to the house first.

And then, and then they don’t even go for the back door, they go right for the storm cellar. I left them a literal beaten path to the back door, but they insisted on the storm cellar!

Let me explain.

My group had wrung every last drop of fun we could from HeroQuest. The players wanted to add special abilities, or at the least more actions than “move, search for traps, hit things.” I, as Zargon, wanted to actually challenge them in a way that didn’t require simply plopping down more monsters or traps in their path. We thought about Descent: Journeys in the Dark, but that still wasn’t much more than HeroQuest with more bits.

The consensus was we all wanted the depth an RPG offered, but we knew we didn’t want to play D&D. I suggested Deadlands. I had picked up the core book years ago because I liked the setting but had never played (this was also around the time I picked up all three main books for the Munchkin RPG even though I didn’t have a group to play and would most likely never had one, so I don’t know what was wrong with me). It seemed unique enough for everyone so I whipped up an adventure I thought we could do in two or three parts, and it all began with an image I had in my head of a train’s caboose sticking out of a collapsed tunnel.

Characters Ken, playing Hooker, a brawlin’ ex-riverboat mate with a weakness for women. Jesse, playing Red, an Indian Huckster. J.P., playing Benny, a gunslingin’ preacher. Joe, playing Doc Puddlefeather, an ex-Union doc turned Mad Scientist.

The Setup Benny, adrift after leaving Reverand Grimm’s congregation in the City of Lost Angels, has found himself in Lincoln, Nebraska, entertaining some folks at his hotel bar. Among the crowd is a young man from Mississippi that goes by the name Hooker who’s taken an instant liking to the smooth-talking preacher. In the midst of a particularly juicy yarn, Benny is interrupted by the maitre d’ hotel, bearing a telegram on a silver tray. Benny continues with his story while opening the telegram but stops once he has seen the words.

“Phil?” he says, barely audible. Without another word he exits the bar, gathers his belongings, and leaves the hotel, Hooker close on his heels.

“Where’re you goin’, rev?”

“Denver. To find my brother.”

Unfortunately for Benny, the train is stopped in some backwater village, and word is the train ain’t movin’. A mechanical failure or something blocking the tracks ahead. Benny decides to get to Denver any way he can, even if he has to walk. Another passenger over hear Benny telling Hooker this and asks if they wouldn’t mind another companion on the trail. Hooker agrees for the both of them and runs off to “rustle up some horses.”

He does more than that, he comes back with 4 horses, sweet-talked off some widow on the edge of town, and an Indian. “A real-life Indian guide. He knows these parts and says he can take us through.”

“What’s the fee?” Benny asks.

The Indian fiddles with the cuff of his coat. “That we leave as soon as possible.”

Patience, Nebraska (Here is where the players take over and the game begins in earnest.) A town on the horizon, and a long stream of covered wagons heading in every direction that ain’t the town. The posse rides up next to one of the wagons to see if they can’t find out what’s going on. The last train outta Patience got stuck in the tunnel a few days back, a train containing quite a bit. Market season’s come and gone, and a lot of these folks depended on the harvest for cash. The smart money says it was a cave-in caused by an earthquake—ol’ Ron been up to the tunnel, and he said it’s collapsed all t’hell, with nothin’ but the caboose stuck out—but no one can quite recollect a ‘quake.

In town, all roads (and Ol’ Ron, the town drunk) point to one man: Dirk Struan. They learn that they could still ride on to Denver, although that would take them at least 10 days. Probably more to get over the mountains. If the trains were moving, they could be there in a day and a half.

They found Mr. Struan in the local Western Union, screaming at the poor clerk behind the counter who’s trying to explain, again, that he doesn’t know why the lines are down or when they’ll be back up. The Posse’s able to distract Struan long enough to find out they’re exactly what he’s looking for. A man called Pig Iron was on the last train out of town, the train now caught in the cave in, stole some blueprints out of Struan’s office. Law enforcement’s too busy to deal with it, and his own men are off carrying messages to the telegraph office in Lincoln. Could they see their way to retrieving the blueprints? The preacher squeezes Struan for all he thinks he can get, raising their pay from $10 a day to $25—each. Clearly they’ve found a man with deep pockets.

Naturally, now, the thing they should do is hop on their little ponies and ride to the train. So what do they do? “We’re going to search Pig Iron’s house.” This is exactly what I want them not to do. Clues are laid down in the train tunnel that will pay off here, but what can I do? They go to the house.

Pig Iron’s white clapboard house sits on the bend of a river to the south of town. Snooping around the yard they find a well-beaten path that leads from the storm cellar on the right side of the house to the back door, and a clothesline in the backyard, laden with a large white, bloodstained sheet flapping in the breeze. Almost immediately Red tests the storm cellar door and, finding it unlocked, plunges down its too steep and too long staircase, finding himself in an ordinary root cellar. An ordinary root cellar with a large steel door in one wall, and it’s locked.

Back up they go. Through the windows at the back of the house they can see a woman who stands with her back to them. Nothing they do—knocking on the window, yelling—rouses her attention, so Hooker kicks the door down. Still nothing. He taps the woman on the shoulder. When she turns around they see the woman is missing a face. Where it should be is a mass of ticking brass gears. She holds a tray of food up to them, and from somewhere behind the gears comes a tinny, “Dinner?”

And that’s where our truncated first session ended, and so too must this first session report.

Things I Learned 1. Preparation is key. I prepared for as much as I could never having played an RPG before, but without an idea of how my players would react, I was left flat-footed several times as they moved to explore something or question someone I had intended to be purely background. In the future I was (and will be) better prepared for the endless “what ifs” that occur.

2. Players will constantly surprise you. At nearly every turn the players did the thing I least expected they would do. Not just going to the house first, but strong-arming people, bartering, weasling.

3. Players like role-playing. One of the ways I’d gotten everyone on board with playing was to say that no stereotypical role-playing would be required of them. No one ever has to speak in character, they don’t have to dress up, none of that. But man, they love it when I do. They insist I wear the Marshall’s badge Jesse brought for me, and they said my heavy role-playing of Struan really helped them get a feel for the character and the setting.

Did you know…? Dirk Struan is the main character in James Clavell’s novel Tai-Pan. He’s a strong-willed merchant who’s known as the “Green-Eyed Devil,” and he seemed just the sort of strong character that would be fun for the Posse to play of off.

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A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.


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