28 May, 2010

Buffalo Soldiers Prelude

From: Mr. Zebulon Pike, Camp Bryant, Sioux Nation
To: Mrs. Hannelore West, Kingsport, Mass.
July 1877
Dearest Sister,
With all the weirdness going on in Eastwood Ridge, it was decided that we would continue to maintain a nightly watch lest anything untoward occur while we were sleeping. The night before we were to leave Eastwood I awoke late, lot having been alerted to my watch by Mr. Tobin. During his watch he had packed up his things and left, leaving us a note that he was taking the “short route” to Deadwood and that he would make arrangements for our arrival. As an unbalanced fellow prone to gunfire, I thought it might be for the best to spend some time away from his presence while he pursued his own agenda.
The next morning, our departure was again delayed. We thought to say goodbye to the tavern keeper but Miss Bowden the sister of one of the now dead deputies, was having a hysterical fit in the tavern. Mr. Pace, Mr. Bongiovi and I were all agreed that it would be best to ride on when she stormed out to confront us over the death of her brother. We were able to able to honestly say that we hadn’t seen what had occurred and speculated that it was some sort of dispute between the marshal and his deputies. We benefited greatly in the obfuscation by Mr. Tobin’s absence and were finally able to make our escape.
The road to Deadwood is paved with disappointment. The discovery of ghost rock in the Black Hills by Frank Bryant back in ’75 lead to a rush. Many of those camps and towns that grew overnight quickly disappeared when the Sioux asserted their authority over the land.  Since the town of Deadwood and the ghost rock that supports it continues, the towns on the trail to them have endured, if not as actual communities, at least as way stations.
I will refrain from using the colloquial “Ghost Town,” to describe the former town of Hot Spring as it is devoid of actual ghosts, in so far as we could determine in our brief stay. There were a few wooden foundations and outbuildings but most of the tents that had been the town had been packed up long ago. One building remained as a stagecoach station except that when we arrived it had been burned and there was no sign of the station keeper. A search revealed a number of unshod hoof prints, indicating that Indians might be responsible.
Rather than staying there and drawing attention to ourselves we rode on until nightfall and camped without a fire off the trail. Even so, Miss Bowden had been able to find us. She seemed intent on being our companion on our trip to Deadwood where she would meet with another of her brothers. She also grilled us again about the events surrounding the death of her brother. There was little we could do to prevent her from joining us.
The next day we rode on to Camp Bryant. Much like Hot Spring it was little more than a way station but unlike Hot Spring it was, as yet, unmolested. The old man (and why does it always seem to be old men attending these stations?) seemed less concerned that I would have thought at his neighbor having been burned out by Indians and the distinct possibility that his place may be next. He said he was expecting a stage through soon and we decided to wait. The stage never came but that evening we were attacked by Indians on horseback. Riding through the darkness they somewhat ineffectively launched flaming arrows at the building. Mr. Pace, from his vantage point on the roof fired a few rounds and down one of their ponies, which was sufficient to drive them off.
As I write this, it is the next day and the Indians have been showing themselves on a rise in the distance. The station attendant seemed intent to have us ride on, saying that he thought we should be able to continue and that he wouldn’t be bothered. I thought the man delusional for the natives had clearly shown their hostile intent the night before and would have the distinct advantage over us should we mount our horses and take to the open road. No, we were set to stay.
I have set a table out on the porch for a clear view with my pistol nearby. I have been trying to do some development work on my personal defense weapon but to advance that I will need some additional scientific apparatuses. Instead, I have alternated between writing this letter and sketching some other concepts. What do you think of the armored convenience on the next page? I have heard of so-called “war wagons” but an armored wagon leaves the horses exposed. What one would need is a self-propelled vehicle, much like a trackless train engine. It would need wide wheels to support the weight of the boilers and armored passenger compartment. Are the slopped sides and lighter armor adequate for deflecting bullets? Would the boilers provide enough power to propel its own weight at a sufficient speed over terrain? I seem to recall reading of a German producing an engine wherein gas is ignited within the drive cylinder rather than having externally heated steam drive the pistons. This strikes me as a much lighter and more efficient method. Would a stratified downdraft gassifier produce fuel quickly enough to drive the engine or would some sort of pressurized cylinder be necessary to hold the combustible gas? Carrying only the concentrated fuel, perhaps even if it could be liquefied, would save additional weight.
And, though things are somewhat tense, the fact that your are reading this proves that I have escaped relatively unscathed and have found enough civilization to post this letter to you. Fear not, for I shall write you again soon with news of my daring escape from marauding savages.
With fondest regards, your brother,
Zebulon
This adventure is one of several based loosely on the Pinnacle Entertainment one-sheet, Buffalo Soldiers. The adventure was run in Dec ’07 or Jan ’08. This write up was the product of Zebulon”s player, with some editing by yours truly.

21 May, 2010

Envy

From: Mr. Zebulon Pike, Eastwood Ridge, Dakota Territory
To: Mrs. Hannilore West, Kingsport, Mass.
July 1877
Dearest Sister
After the “Dread Tree Incident”, it had been decided by our somewhat haphazard assemblage that we would wait the day or two until the expected arrival of the area’s marshal. There had been a series of gruesome murders that would need to be explained to authorities. Since the truth would most assuredly not be believed, it was also agreed that we would describe everything as having happened exactly as it had occurred with the substitution of “bandits” for “ambulatory demonic tree” and “the walking dead.”
And even though the townspeople had received this edited version of events, the “bandits” were still at large and the town had apparently had enough of the killings. They spent the day preparing to abandon their homes. We took the time to investigate the homes of those that had been murdered in recent days. For many of my comrades, it was much a matter of sanctioned looting. The townspeople had already gone through many of the homes and recovered what useful items they could before their own abandonment. Mr. Tobin found a workable shotgun and employed my technical skills in shortening the barrel and stock to add a shotgun pistol to his weighty arsenal.
The cut-away barrel and Mr. Tobin’s flaming distillate has given me an idea for a device for my own protection. While my pistol is certainly effective and I am not unskilled in its employment, there are many situations where a pistol’s use may be restricted or obviated altogether. There are establishments and entire towns even here on the frontier that require one to check all firearms before entering. I doubt that people such as Mr. Tobin will abandon all their protections and so it seems logical that I also should have such a camouflaged holdout for myself.
Though I know you have a keen interest in the sciences, I will not go into details at this time as I am only in the early formulation of the idea myself. Suffice it to say that it will be an incendiary projector and, should my chemical formulation balance out, this device should be overwhelming in it’s effect so as to end hostilities immediately.
As nightfall approached there were signs of a fire quite a distance outside of town. The tavern keeper indicated that “Zeke” lived out that way and since none of the townspeople were interested in investigating so our happy band mounted our horses and set out.
Zeke’s home was fully engaged by the time we arrived and the Marshal and his two deputies were on site. It seemed a suspicious coincidence but, as the Marshal was the law in these parts, I suppressed my initial skepticism in favor of a more civilized expectation. As might be expected, the Marshal found us dubious as well and we explained the events of the previous days (as we had agreed). He didn’t seem overly concerned with a troop of bandits having murdered a dozen townspeople in the past weeks. My suspicions were elevated.
His two deputies were left at the homestead where it was feared that the body of the unfortunate Zeke was still within the conflagration. We returned to town and were witness to a strange interaction between the Marshal and the tavern keeper. The Marshal, a relative of the tavern keeper, revealed himself to be quite the bully and he was irate with the tavern keeper’s decision to pack up and leave.
It was past midnight when the deputies came riding noisily into town. Mr. Bonjiovi and I realized that Mr. Pace and Mr. Tobin were not in the house and instantaneously concluded that they had gone off and done something precipitous. When the Marshal and deputies rode out of town, we collected our horses and followed at a discrete distance.
There was another fire. I guessed that Mr. Tobin had gathered combustables that had not been burned on the previous night and set another bnlaze to draw the Marshal’s attention and provide some light for the gunfight I expected him to be initiating. Before coming upon the entirety of that situation, Mr. Bonjiovi and I discovered one of the deputy’s horses tied to some brush behind a low rise. Having read von Clauswitz does not make me a tactician but I clearly deduced that one of them was likely to have taken up a firing position on that hill. As we dismounted, my expectation was confirmed as there was a rifle shot from there. We advanced stealthily in an effort to ambush him.
Then there were a pair of shots from the homestead; a report that I recognized as one of Mr. Tobin’s Walker pistols immediately followed by a rifle shot. There was another rifle shot over our heads and I assumed that it was Mr. Pace firing at the deputy on the hill. That suspicion was confirmed when the deputy came upon us heading headlong down the hill.
Mr. Bonjiovi assaulted and disarmed him and as he was restrained be began babbling incoherently, his speech impediment a direct result of his deafness. (I apologize for not having mentioned this fact earlier.) He seemed genuinely scared and mostly harmless in this state so I handed him a piece of paper and a pen in hopes that he could make clear his attempts at communication. It was difficult to see in the starlight but I could make out a drawing of a knife and a star. This, and his wild gesticulations, lead us to confirm our suspicions that the Marshal had stabbed Zeke for some reason and subsequently burned the house to conceal his crime.
Another drawing of a horse indicated that the deputy wished to be allowed to escape. And to that end he pulled from his saddlebags an item for each of us. Heavy and about the size of a pack of playing cards, even in the dark it had the faint glitter of gold. For this bribe, we would allow him to escape.
It was Mr. Bonjiovi who traded the bar back to the deputy and then claimed the saddlebags. The change in the deal was apparently acceptable to the deputy who rightly feared for his life and fled with his single bar leaving us with a total of five bars.
By the time that Mr. Tobin and Mr. Pace had joined us, Mr. Bonjiovi and I had divided the bars with a pair for each of us and the one handed to me to share with the others as the bribe we had accepted to allow the deputy’s escape. Mr. Tobin had another bar and, given that I estimated the value of each bar at around five-hundred dollars, there were not many questions. I admit to a certain. . . discomfort in how easily I fell into this deception. It is a weak justification that Mr. Tobin, in looting the abandoned homes had probably acquired some items of value that had not been shared and it was entirely possible that he had found additional bars of gold. It seems unlikely that the deputy would have all the gold save the one that Mr. Tobin found lying about.
We may never know the full story of the dispute but Mr. Tobin had suspected that the dispute had been over something of value and that the deputies had been left behind to guard whatever it was. He had gone out in the night, determined that that gold was the root of this evil and sent the deputies back into town to draw the Marshal out. The Marshal obliged and was killed when Mr. Tobin, defying all reason and probability, outdrew the Marshal’s already drawn gun and killed him. The other deputy shot the falling Marshal in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to ingratiate himself to to Mr. Tobin and was himself subsequently killed.
So, dear sister, as I close this letter you will surely have realized that this weighty package contains more than just my correspondence. The enclosed will more than compensate you for the cash that you advanced me for my passage westward and also lessen the stress caused by my brother-in-law’s incharitability. If you do not already have for yourself a trustworthy financial advisor, I suggest calling on Mr. Freeman at his business on Bedford Street near the Green in Boston. He will remember my service in averting damage to his establishment in the fire of ’72 and will extend to you every courtesy.
With deepest affection,
Zebulon
This was the second session of our Deadlands campaign.  It was loosely based on the one-sheet adventure Envy from Pinnacle Entertainment.  The adventure was run on December 6th, 2007.  This letter was written by Zebulon’s player on December 11th, 2007.

14 May, 2010

Operations Order #100520

Delta Green/Realms of Cthulhu Demo Game
Fragments of Mu

Location:
Bill & Walt’s Hobby Shop, 245 Fourth Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15222
Phone: 412-281-9040
Time & Date: 20 May 2010 @ 5:00PM
“You are cordially invited to a night at the opera…”
This Saturday I will be running the adventure Fragments of Mu as an Explorer’s Society demo of Reality Blurs’ Realms of Cthulhu. The adventure will be set in the mid-1990s in the Delta Greensetting. Up to 6 players will portray Delta Green agents or friendlies. We start at 5pm and expect the game to finish at approximately 10pm. Our normal habit is to secure pizza as a group from Ephesus Pizza up the street.

UPDATE
Setting: Pabodie Research Station, Antarctica – 20 May 1995
Participants in this game: Agent Richard Johnson (FBI), Agent Peter "No Relation" Johnson (FBI), Dep. Marshal Manu Kua'aleia (US Marshals Service)

Lynched

From: Mr. Zebulon Pike
To: Mrs. Hannilore West, Kingsport, Mass.
July 1877
Dearest sister,
I will first apologize for the lateness of this correspondence. Having left the silver rail of civilization, I have also left the somewhat more regular channels of communication. I will endeavor to continue in my regular writings and will send them as the opportunity becomes available.
I had late this afternoon arrived at the prairie town of Eastwood Ridge, an interesting moniker in that it is not particularly east of anywhere, there are no woods nor is it located in proximity to a ridge. It was also strange that at the still early hour, there was absolutely no activity. Like those puritanical communities that “roll up the streets at night,” all the shops and houses were shuttered, barred and locked. That is, except for a pair of horses tied up at the town’s drinking establishment. By a remarkable coincidence, the horses belonged to two gentlemen that I had met at the station some weeks ago.
The first was one Mr. Don Bongiovi, apparently a former cavalry officer (though for which army I could not determine) who was continuously strumming upon a well-worn guitar. Even when conversing, he would play upon his instrument to accentuate certain points, much like an orchestra would accompany and operatic performance, though singularly more pedestrian.
The other occupant of the tavern was another former soldier, one Mr. Ezekiel Tobin. My first encounter with Mr. Tobin was his asking me, entirely without provocation, as to whether I had ever met or heard of a certain man. Given his demeanor and the armory he carried I had the distinct impression that Mr. Tobin had some deadly unfinished business with this mystery man. It also seemed that Mr. Tobin had received the worst of it so far as he drank heavily and had raspy cough.
The taverns proprietor made an appearance and we learned what had the town closed up so tight. There had been a series of horrible assaults and murders in recent weeks. Homes would be broken into and the occupants would be dragged out of town to be hung en-masse from the so-called hang’n tree a mile outside of town. Several posses had been formed to seek out these marauders but many of them had not returned. Out of fear, the proprietor said.
The coincidences piled one upon the other when Mr. Alexander Pace, who I mentioned in my last letter, also arrived in town. Quite spontaneously we all took action to investigate this situation. Mr. Tobin and I took the horses to the livery, Mr. Tobin having to be exceptionally persuasive to get the stable attend to unbar the door and take in the horses. Mr. Pace took up a position on the roof of the tavern while I and the others were at the one end of town in the house that had been most recently assaulted.
After midnight, there was a gunshot from the tavern and while both Mr. Tobin and Mr. Bonjiovi had earlier exhibited selfish tendencies, they both showed good character in immediately moving out into the street to lend assistance.
Up the street, the unfortunate tavern keeps was being dragged away by a shadowy assemblage of assailants. And while Mr. Pace and Mr. Tobin each dispatched several of the brigands with rifle shots, others set upon the tavern keeper and continued towards the edge of town, still intent on hanging this man even though several of their own had been killed.
Now, dear sister, I must stress upon you at this point not to pass on what I am about to replay to you to any others, most especially not your husband. His opinion of myself is already at an ebb tide and I would not want to fuel his disdain.
As the others continued their pursuit of the attackers, I paused to investigate the bodies as, even at a distance in the dark of night, they seemed unusual. They were corpses. Not for having been just shot but the cold, deep lifelessness of having been deceased for day or even weeks. Their spines had been broken and the heads swung loose on only the muscle and tissue of their necks. It came upon me the dread realization that these people were the victims of the previous week’s lynchings and after having been dressed in their best clothes and respectfully laid to rest by their neighbors, they had risen from their graved to reap some unknown revenge.
When I caught up with the others, they were locked in battle. The hanging tree was not a mile outside of town, it was right at it’s edge, and by some dark arcanum was ambulatory, having literally pulled itself from the ground to advance upon our group with malevolent waving of limbs and ropes, like tentacles, reaching out. Mr. Tobin had cut one such rope from around the tavern keeper’s neck and was fighting off additional ropes while Mr. Pace repeatedly fired rifle rounds into the apparently unaffected trunk.
I am quite pleased with my steadfast comportment under the deadly assault from otherworldly horrors. Lesser men might have fled or be struck dumbfounded but I set upon the task with purpose and fortitude. I drew forth one of the sticks of dynamite that I had purchased on a whim in Chicago. I had placed two stick in the pocket of my jacket earlier in what I had thought at the time as being somewhat overly paranoid. The first stick hurled at the tree with a short fuse exploded with little more effect than to make the monster “angry” and advance upon me with surprising swiftness, that is, for a tree. The second stick landed in the boughs and hurt it more significantly but it set upon me with enchanted ropes and threatened to throttle me were I not to escape in short order.
That monstrosity of a pistol you had insisted I take with me was drawn from a pocket and fired at close range, severing the rope that had attached itself to my leg. Meanwhile, Mr. Tobin had set on the ingenious idea of taking one of his whiskey bottles and, with his handkerchief inserted in the bottle and set alight, he threw the improvised incendiary at the tree. This slower burning weapon was much more effective than the explosive effect of the dynamite I had thrown and in short order the tree was fully ablaze. (I must make myself something similar for future use.) The walking dead who had been under the tree’s evil influence collapsed, signaling the end of its power.
So, the rumors are true. Strange things are moving out on the frontier and I was right to travel here to investigate. And while little would please me more than to reveal this revelation to your husband and his cadre of doubters, there is not yet enough proof. I will show them, though. I will show them all.
This chance meeting of four travelers in the wilds and our subsequent adventure, did I not know better, might have me believe that divine providence had taken a hand. And even though it is the most suspicious of coincidences, I have nonetheless taken the opportunity to throw in with them. Their “type” seems the sort to invite adventures of the preternatural sort and since research of such things was, again, my initial goal, I will continue to travel with them.
Do not fear if my letters do not come with as much swiftness as they had previously. The vast distances of the frontier make such correspondences unlikely. But I will continue to write regularly and post the letters as a group when such opportunities present themselves. Give my warmest regards to your sister-in-law and my continued disdain to your husband.
Your most loving brother,
Zebulon
This session was our groups first game and was based on Lynched, a one-sheet adventure from Pinnacle Entertainment.  We ran this adventure in mid-November 2007.  This write-up was prepared by Zebulon’s player on November 18th, 2007.

07 May, 2010

Once apon a time, in the west…

Over two years ago, four men wound up in the same bar in a godforsaken town, south of the Black Hills.  They did not know each other before that day – but after their experience in town they were inseparable.  They were:
Ezekiel Neoptolemus Tobin  Gunslinger.  Bounty Killer.
Possessed of a rasping voice, vicious neck scar, and extremely large firearms.
Zebulon Pike  Scientist.  Gentleman.  Adventurer.
Come west to seek his fortune and to satisfy his curiosities about the odd tales told back East.
Don Juan Bongiovi  Cowhand.  Musician.  Lothario.
Come north from Mexico, he is a man of song – but few words.
Alexander Crenshaw Pace  Lawyer.  Dandy.  Gambler.
He came west to leave behind life of a New York aristocrat, in favor of the knock around life of a desperado.
Their adventures would become staples of the dime novels – passing into legend.

04 May, 2010

Special Agent Johnson

Addicted to coffee, annoying, hated by wildlife and his intestines replaced with MiGo neo-tissue. SA Richard Johnson’s life sucks.