So, Deadlands. Three sessions in and we’ve got the rules hacks pretty much nailed down now, namely balancing the initiative system so that the spread didn’t result in either 1.) half the party holding four cards and the other half holding one, or 2.) the entire party holding three to five cards. Our fifth character finally appeared: Troika Sinclaire, former outlaw and ne’er-do-well who was left for dead, suffered a vision quest, and is now giving up parts of the white man’s ways to get back to nature. (So, a gone native Shaman.)
Session 1 – Point Insertion
The characters wake up to find themselves hogtied in a barn, with short-term amnesia and sketchy memories of the last four months. The last thing they remember was a New Years’ 1878 celebration, where they were out drinking and partying—only, each remembers the posse holding different roles (one thinks Ezekiel the Blessed was the bartender, Zeke remembers the Ranger Jeremiah Johnstone handing out drinks, etc.). That and a selection of clues (e.g., props to make up for the lack of plot—photos, stock certificates, and the front page to a Tombstone Epitaph). Easily breaking their bonds, then arming themselves with whatever junk they can find, when Warlord Kang jumps down from the rafters.
So, a note. Four of the five Posse members took a Veteran draw, and the ninja ended up with a free mysterious background from snagging a joker during character creation. His joker gave him Doppelganger—and, being a man of the Orient, the logical pick was Warlord Kang, tyrant-king of his own Shan-Fan (San Francisco) based criminal syndicate and leader of the Iron Dragon Rail Corporation. Pretty much your standard Yellow Peril caricature made flesh. No shit, he looks like Ming the Merciless:
Of course, only two people recognize that he’s Warlord Kang: Sam Steele, Moutie, and Zeke the blessed. So, Sam arrests him and want to bring him forth to Ottawa to be hung for his crimes. After arresting the others for being “drunks.”
Moving right along, the exterior is filled with cornfield and dust, rolling hills in the background, and a forlorn farmhouse. Going inside, they find the farmhouse is filled with blood and some of their gear—the more noticeable and/or stabby parts. And that’s when Zeke notices the dust cloud coming ’round the hills, which looks to be a posse of some sort.
After Warlord Kang discovers some bodies in the well, including an undead girl, Sam demands that they investigate, and rescues a ghost—making the others question his sanity. Having spent quite a while in the well, the riders show up, being a frothing-at-the-mouth lynch mob. Warlord Kang does the sensible thing and hides in the corn, while everyone else parlay. Through much work, they work the leader of the mob down to a “sporting chance” and gives them to the count of thirty before they ride whooping after them into the corn. They manage to escape by diving into a cave the ghost girl shows Sam, and they sneak they way through some caves.
Emerging on the other side, Warlord Kang guts some locals, including some Sam and Jeremiah tied up, and Zeke struts off back to the farm to bury the corpses. As they’ve already been buried, the lynch mob moving home in a well-organized fashion, the posse notes the date: April 4th, four months since their last memory. With that knowledge in mind, they ride off to get train tickets to get to DODGE CITY, where Jeremiah’s guns are known to be held.
They ride on a train that is ambushed by werewolves, and almost all die in the scuffle. They don’t, which is the important part.
Session 2 – Residue Processing
Battered and bleeding, with the train’s workings beyond their ken, the posse treks off to some lights in the distance, which turns out to be a near-abandoned canning factory, property of the E.M. Potts Potted Meat Co. (easily identified by the blue cow on their cans’ labels). Heading inside, Warlord Kang sneaks away, while everyone else marches into the main office, chatting down the sole survivor: the disrupted Bruce, with a shattered arm. Revealing that the head of the company was doing experiments on livestock and Mexican immigrants, some howling in the distance attracts the posse’s attention. Finding himself abandoned to the elements, Bruce commits suicide.
Meanwhile. Having noticed a room full of sharp cow-gutting automated saws, and finding a sleeping Troika Sinclaire locked up in a cage in some kind of office, Warlord Kang stumbles into some werewolves when attempting to avoid the howling things. He ninjas away, only to stumble into some more werewolves. One smoke-bomb later, he starts hiding himself in the ventilation system, and after the rest of the posse got out of the death-room, stumbles onto the werewolf breeding pit, a nest forged out of bones and bits within the central control office.
The rest of the posse gets in through the processing factory’s open doors, which slam shut behind them just as the automated saw system kicks in. Not wishing to go through them, Zeke attempts to kick the door open—and succeeds in bashing open the aluminum siding. At which point he is grappled by a werewolf. As Sam and Jeremiah shoot at the pressure pipe powering the saws to disable them, Zeke grapples the werewolf and beats it to death. Peering outside, they see… more werewolves. Zeke and Sam decide to crawl through the meat trough in the center of the room, underneath the saws, to get to the door at the other side. Jeremiah attempts to hold the werewolves back, but is badly wounded, and falls into the trough to crawl his way to safety. As he emerges, the saws finally turn off.
Regrouping, they fortify themselves in the office where Troika Sinclaire finally awakes. They debate proper strategy when they realize they’ve been trapped by werewolves, plans to climb to the roof are brought up and brought down, as are plans to run out, kill a cow, and drag it back into the room as a werewolf lure. Eventually, they run off while setting some dynamite next to the ghost rock boiler (that Warlord Kang had spotted in his immaculate escape), bringing the whole building down, and causing a massive stampede of cattle that glow eerily blue under the moon.
Regrouping once more, they make their way to the ruined factory’s train, and fending off the alpha wolves and the wolflings, make their escape thanks to Science!.
Outside of town, Zeke asks them to stop because he will not ride on stolen merchandise. Instead, he rides Troika’s horse Swiftwind while Warlord Kang runs alongside him.
Session 3 – …in noctu luna lacrimat
Finally arriving in Dodge City, having converted their stolen train into a steam wagon, they disassemble. Troika falls into a miraculous and eerily session-long coma. Jeremiah goes to the telegraph office to warn the Agency of the werewolves, and gets entangled with sheriff Bat Masterson. Sam gets into a bar brawl with an unkempt man wearing a Lance Corporal Mountie uniform. Zeke walks off to find Jeremiah, and also gets embroiled with the local law, who is trying to figure out why Jeremiah abandoned his roots to become a wanted man who blew up a scientific institute in Colorado. He does send a deputy to get Sam out of trouble, who then buys the uniform off of him.
Save for Warlord Kang, the group opts to spend the night in jail, where it is attacked by the ninjas of Warlord Kang. Attempting to capture them using smoke bombs and knockout gas, the ninjas cause havoc before they are put down. Jeremiah and Zeke go back into their wall-less cells, while Warlord Kang runs off with some of the dead ninjas’ gear, and Sam goes to get the law. One midnight trial later, and the posse is riding back to Denver, to find out more about the explosion they were reputed to cause.
When the train they were on was stopped by a strange coincidence—a stopped, empty, and surprisingly familiar-looking train heading from the direction they are now currently going—Jeremiah is roped into a missing persons investigation on behalf of one of the locals. Heading out into the woods, they find an abandoned mill in a swamp, the tree branches littered with little occultist charms.
Progressing further, they find a stone circle in the center-ish of the swamp, lined with candles, the circle containing scattered bits of feathers and honey. Lighting the candles and filling the area with torches, Zeke stumbles upon a crudely-made broadsheet advertising the Enlightened Order of the Weeping Moon, a Victorian-style gentleman’s club that is very exclusionary and which primarily exists in California, Oregon, and Back East.
While debating their next course of action, a massive werewolf, black as the night, covered in even blacker snaking tattoos carved into its fur, jumps into the middle of the circle and attacks. During the pitched battle, Zeke is mortally wounded, and Jeremiah is battered, but by the skin of their teeth they survive. At which point they hear more howling off in the swamp, and skedaddle.