Deadlands Homebrew Playtest

Ooh, boy, it’s 2am, but I wanted to try to get this down before I hit the hay. Forgive me if I am hazy on anything, I wasn’t particularly well organised while I was saying it, and I’m not much better now. I’ll get to updatin’ the world background before we play again.

We got through Character Generation tonight and had a little time left over to get playing. Even though it’s the Numenera crew playing another Cypher system game, it takes a bit of adjustment even to go back to such low powered characters as a lowly Tier 1. Tier 1s are still, compared to other RPG starting characters, really capable, bit still, these guys are used to the abilitypalooza that is Tier 5 and 6 in Numenera, so starting over takes some doing.

I gave a bit of background from Deadlands and explained the two new rules bits – Ridin’ effect on actions (the faster, the harder), and Reloadin’ (the more you try to stuff in, the harder it gets) and managed to do it without making any double entendres.

Then pretty much just let everyone take the Type, Descriptor and Focus they wanted and let them work it out themselves. The only thing that got us stuck a bit was that you get Skills by choosing the Skill buying Ability as one of your starting Abilities. It’s strange to start a character with so few skills  – you might conceivably start the game with only one Skill and a bunch of Abilities.

And in the end, we had our four characters, correct me if I’m wrong on any of this guys:

Calpurnia ‘Callie’ Georges – A Lucky Fightin’ Sort who Never Says Die. You might be forgiven for thinkin’ Callie was a young feller at first glance, but this is one tough gal who knows who to navigate a fight better than most men, in an age of fightin’ men. She might have Hired Gun written all over her, but there’s more to her past than that.

Bartimus E. Tarnsworth… maybe Tarnsworthy – An Exiled Huckster who Operates Undercover. Formerly Professor of Mythology At Brown University, Bartimus comes West to start a new life. Maybe as a tutor or something else COMPLETELY ABOVE BOARD AS FAR AS ANYONE KNOWS.

Mars Johnston – An Empathic Spinner Who Sees Beyond. Gifted – he says – with an ability to see so much more than everyone else, he’s seen plenty already. A Veteran on the right side of the Civil War, Johnston got himself a bit o’ education, before decidin’ that wasn’t his thing. After his stint in the Army was up, he decided to head out West to really get to know people, you know?

Lewis Colman – A Sharp Eyed Drifter who Calculates the Incalculable. Lewis lost his family to Dakota raiders and so heads west to Wyoming, a land he visited before and loves, to start anew. He was a commissioned officer in the US army and after that, a railroad surveyor, putting to good use his ability to calculate outcomes. Colman and Johnston knew each other in the army, although it was purely by chance that they met on the stage out to Wyoming. Lewis could  tell you what the odds of that chance encounter was.

Part 1 – Invitation to a Necktie Party

We started our tale with our heroes woozily coming to, hooded with rough sacking and bound at the wrists. Someone nearby was droning on about public safety and civilizing the untamed territory and someone even more nearby was slipping nooses around their necks. The chatter of a crowd was audible and when the sacks where whipped off their heads, they saw, squinting into the early morning light that there was a crowd of about 20 people come to watch them swing in Cheyenne’s main square.

The bloodthirsty crowd called for a good hanging (and a burning, in one case) and the orator (Lewis figured that his clumsily sermon-emulating most likely meant he was an elected official, although not particularly a politician) drew his speechifyin’ to an end and was about to signal to his associates that they should get our heroes swingin’, when gunfire broke out.

Lewis had seen the feller that kicked the whole thing off movin’ through the crowd and knew something was about to go down, but Bartimus had only just fully taken in the gravity of his situation and when the first shot rang out collapsed, his legs failing him as he thought the trapdoor underneath him had dropped. within seconds the crowd fled in a panic, the sheriff (for it was he) and two deputies laid dead and several rough cowpokes jumped up on the scaffolding and cut the chokin’ Bartimus free, then helped the others off the scaffolding.

Hustlin’ them into a pony cart as fast as they could, the strangers cut them free as they fled town. They introduced themselves as Curly, who was the one shouting most of the orders, Rubber Dan, who rode in the back with them, and Jeff, who was whippin’ the two ponies on as fast as they would carry what appeared to be a stolen lawman’s wagon.

Heading off westward, they saw pursuers on horseback approach from the town, three townsfolk who had been able to grab their rifles and horses fast enough to give chase. Sizing them up, Curly gave Callie the Sheriff’s revolver to help out Rubber Dan in drivin’ the pursuers off. Shots were exchanged back and forth before either made a telling shot: Bartimus, having asked for a pistol from Rubber Dan landed a wicked shot which caused the pursuin’ townsperson almost to fall from his saddle, dragging his horse’s head around and sending him careening into the other rider, sending both down in a tangle of thrashin’ legs and hooves. It wasn’t all one sided, however, as Jeff had the back of his head blown in by a stray shot. He was propelled forward off the driver’s seat and into the traces, taking the reins with him.

The cart veered off the road as the panicked ponies thundered down a scrubby hillside. Callie leapt up, vaulted the driver’s seat and landed on the wagon tongue, catching each pony by the mane. She hauled backwards on them, slowing the out-of-control cart. Lewis leapt up to the driver’s seat and reached down to retrieve Jeff’s gun. Callie handed the reins to Curly, who turned the cart as fast as was safe back towards the road. Meanwhile, Mars, who had seen that these rough strangers who had helped them escape a swingin’ seemed to be honest in their intentions, also managed to persuade the (wounded) lone pursuer to turn back. He correctly read that the man wasn’t up to bringing them in by himself and the pursuer turned back.

If someone doesn’t leap out onto a wagon tongue is it even a Western?

They made it back onto the road, (now at a reduced pace or they’d kill the horses) until they arrived at the crossroads. It was here that they were supposed to meet up with Chicago, who was supposed to already be here with their horses. No such luck, Chicago wasn’t around. This made Curly fret and Rubber Dan practically frantic.

A couple o’ things became evident to the four would-be hangers over the next few minutes: firstly, that they had no idea how they got there. After thinkin’ about it for a spell, Bartimus would come to the conclusion that someone had messed with their memories, erasing about 10 days from July 2nd to today, July 12th 1876. This also meant that they’d missed the Centennial, which they were sore about. Bartimus was also certain that hexin’ was involved, because they all ‘woke up’ at the same time. That they all ‘woke up’ just before they were about to be hanged suggested  to him a particularly powerful and cruel power at work.

Secondly, they had no idea why these strangers were aidin’ them and takin’ them to Big Dan’s camp. When asked, Curly answered as if it was self-evident, because they had asked to be rescued, of course. Apparently they’d managed to get a note to Big Dan while in the jail, askin’ to get rescued and promisin’ plenty of cash. which apparently they must have because they were in the lock-up in the first place because they’d been caught by the Marshalls for robbin’ two banks on the night of the 4th of July. The Centennial Robberies, they were callin’ it, added Rubber Dan helpfully. None of this rang even the smallest of bells.

Thirdly, if Chicago didn’t get here with their horses soon, the posse that was most definitely forming up in Cheyenne was going to catch them. They needed speed and they needed it fast. The town bells were audible. Also audible, the tortured front axle of the pony cart cracking. Lewis leapt out and figured out a plan to fix the cart, with Bartimus surreptitiously supplementin’ his efforts.

Even with the pony cart fixed up, Curly seemed dubious that it would lend enough speed to get away from the inevitable posse, even as hopes of reaching Big Dan’s camp by sunset faded. Yes, our heroes seemed to be in a bit of a pickle – stuck in the middle of nowhere with a Marshall led posse presumably bearin’ down on them, and safety far beyond the distance the pony cart could take them. It was just then that an excited Rubber Dan stood up on the cart and pointed out an exciting new development comin’ from the northwest: a stagecoach, with four horses, makin’ real good time and comin’ their way.

Hi! I’m stagecoach painting. You might recognise me from that time you went to talk to someone at a desk in a bank.