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Saturday 12 November 2016

Wild West Update: The Great Race

So in this week's adventure, a $2 bet at the Dodge City harvest festival about whether a mule could beat a horse in a race escalated wildly out of control as soon as three of Ford County's richest men plus Dodge City's mayoral candidate got involved.  Suddenly, a $2 bet on a race to the next town over and back turned into a massive four-team horserace (three horses and one mule, actually) from Dodge to Fort Cheyenne (about 560km distance) with $80000 at in bets at stake!

And of course, some of the PCs immediately got in on the act. In particular, Smith and Miller, who are partners in owning a saloon, ended up as rivals, with Miller riding his champion (and very aggressive) horse Brimstone for James "Dog" Kelly, while Smith offered his services (and those of his horse "meteor") to Mifflin Kenedy, one of the richest ranchers in the west.

To make the race possible, the backers needed to involve the assistance of the Wells Fargo company, had to pre-prepare the route with waystations, assign a wagon-team of support for each rider, have fresh horses for the wagon-team at each stop, as well as supplies.

They also immediately thought up ways to cheat, and with this much money  at stake, at least some of those involved will have no compunctions about even human casualties (to say nothing of horses). All three of the ranchers appear to have hired up gangs of thugs to try to sabotage the other teams (in the case of Mifflin Kenedy, his gang of thugs is apparently being run by his violent and mentally unstable son Spike). Some of them appear to have bribed the wagon-riders of rival racers.

"Dog" Kelly, who is the 'poorest' sponsor in the race (only owning a racetrack, a restaurant, and a saloon) decides to rely on his wagon team: "Kid Taylor" (a PC, and one of the fastest hip-shooters in Dodge) will be playing defence to keep Miller alive; while the other wagon-team member is the super-creepy John Joshua Webb (which one of my players has described as being 'the freakiest sociopath he's ever seen in an RPG campaign'), who will be in charge of 'offence' (and everyone agreeing that to avoid the noose, the less they know of what Webb has planned, the better).

The fourth team is the mule ("Jaqueline"), ridden by Billy Houston (the Dodge Marshall's jailor), and with Cooter (the Dodge Sheriff's jailor) acting as the wagon driver (it was Cooter who started this mess by betting that Billy's mule could beat the Double-A Ranch's stallion "Lightning"). Sheriff Bassett is worried for this team (even though they are being backed up by Buck's Bar-T ranch, who are also providing a whole team of goons for fucking up the opposition); so Bassett comes up with a two-part plan to protect his friends. He sends the Mormon Gambler in as the other man on the wagon to keep the boys safe, and Bassett himself is going to follow the mule-team in secret just in case any gunplay should happen.

Even before the start of the race, Buck approaches Miller (who, before becoming a highly-respected member of Dodge city's elite, was working as cattle-rustler with Buck) and tries to bribe him to throw the race. He makes it clear this is an offer out of friendship, so he can focus on 'stopping' the other riders and keeping Miller unharmed. But Miller refuses.

At the start of the race, someone shaves down Miller's saddle-belt; he notices just before the race starts, and publicly calls it out, almost starting a shootout among everyone involved! But incredibly, it's John Joshua Webb who defuses the situation by quickly acting all friendly and saying it was probably just natural wear and he can fix it anyways.

Along the way, Smith's wagon-team (consisting of Smith's bartender from his Fort Bar, and a hired goon working for Kenedy) tells him that at one of the stops the wagon-team team with "Lightning" tried to bribe them to abandon Smith. The bartender also got the sense that the team was no longer loyal to the Double-A ranch but had themselves been paid off.

Then, about half-way through the race, most of the racers hit a big crisis when two way-stations in a row are found empty and stripped of all supplies!  Smith and Miller end up in the same empty way-station and realize that their only hope might be a nearby town (probably barely a town at all) that may or may not be about a day's ride away. If they can't get supplies there, they're finished as far as the race is concerned.

(an actual stagecoach station on the route):

Meanwhile, Jacqueline the Mule is way behind, but then Cooter, Billy and the Mormon Gambler come up with an idea. Everyone else is following the trail, but if the mule cuts straight across open country (what with its superior all-terrain capacity), it could theoretically shave off 100km from the race and have a fighting chance to arrive first. In an area full of bandits, indians, wild animals and unpredictable terrain it's a huge gamble, but they decide to go for it.

That's where we had to stop. The second part of the race will be next session, plus we'll probably find out what's happening with Deputy Young, whose player wasn't there this week and who had gone off chasing a federal warrant down to Texas with Wyatt Earp.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia


  1. So the carriages got to switch horses, but how will the riders keep their animals alive through this ordeal? A race this long will almost certainly kill them if they don't get plenty of rest and food at regular intervals.

    1. That's right. That was part of the challenge. The horses needed to take time to rest between legs. It was a race based on both speed and endurance.

    2. Did you go into detail about the logistics? Like, how long they could keep going without resting etc.

    3. Yes. Part of what made the adventure very interesting was just that kind of logistical calculation. Each participant had to measure how far they wanted to try to get in the course of a day, versus how tired that would leave their horse, etc.

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    5. It does sound like an interesting premise for a scenario. As a GM getting my facts on the max running distances and speeds of different types of horses, mules and horse-drawn carriages straight would be somewhat daunting.