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Tuesday 31 January 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: Four stories

Our game this week was something of a slice-of-life in Dodge City. It featured events surrounding the arrival, on the same day, of four different NPCs to the town.

First, there was the only one people were expecting: Kid Taylor had sent money for his kid sister, Lily, to come to live with him in Dodge.  Lily arrived hand in hand with her new friend who she'd met on the train, Sarah Lang.  Sarah was, at 17, a year older than Lily, and from the south.  During their trip she had convinced Lily that her older brother's idea of Lily working at John Miller's new restaurant was ridiculously boring. Instead, she should do what Sarah had a mind to do: find herself a handsome and rich husband in the woman-starved wild west.

Kid Taylor immediately realized he was in trouble.

The third newcomer was a man named Nate Springer. He was known many years back as a shootist, a professional killer, one of the best.  He'd gone to prison, however, and had only just been set free after 7 years. Now, Springer calmly told Sheriff Bassett to his face in the Long Branch Saloon that he'd arrived in Dodge on a job, to kill a lawman. He wouldn't say which.

Finally, it turned out that Sarah was running away from home because her family had tried to force her into marriage with a young farmer named Andy.  When he learned that Sarah had run off to Dodge City, the furious young southerner came after her, considering it an insult to his honor and manhood.

The two girls ran off on Kid Taylor the moment he took his eyes off them, and he was forced to skip his work at the Alhambra Saloon to go looking for them.  
Eventually, he found his sister, separated from Sarah. Lily had become momentarily lovestruck by the handsome (though slightly stupid and extremely impoverished) young jailer of the Marshall's office, Billy Houston. Kid and Billy almost exchanged blows, but not actually over Lily. It turns out that while Kid was angered about Billy kissing his sister, it was really Lily who had all but forced herself on Billy. Meanwhile, Billy didn't want to fight until Kid Taylor insulted his champion mule, Josephine. When Lily realized Billy cared more about his stupid mule than her confessions of undying love for him, she slapped him, and the fight was averted.

Meanwhile, the lawmen started looking into Nate Springer.  Wyatt Earp realized something didn't seem quite right. Springer was 'hired' right out of prison. And he hadn't had almost any time between leaving the jail and making his way to Dodge. The lawmen concluded that it was very likely Springer was lying about having been hired. The question was why: was he looking to die? Was he trying to recover his business reputation by killing a lawman? Or was it something else?

Andy had arrived hot on Sarah's trail. He found out she'd been seen with Kid Taylor and went to confront him. Only Lily's word assured him that Kid Taylor hadn't "soiled" his fiancee's chastity. He looked ready to kill someone. But while he was furious with Kid for having lost Sarah and not knowing where she was, he didn't want to kill someone without Sarah there to see him. So off he ran.

Eventually, it turned out that Sarah had been with Bat Masterson, the new county Sheriff.  And right as the lawmen were trying to find Nate Springer (who had vanished) and decide what to do with him when they did, along comes Andy demanding a duel with Bat Masterson. He'd found out that Masterson had bought Sarah a room in the Dodge House Hotel, and presumed Masterson had slept with her. And Masterson, always enjoying his reputation as a scoundrel of sorts, refused to deny it. But Masterson gave the farm boy a talking down that intimidated him too much to act at that moment, telling him that he'd gladly fill him with lead tomorrow but that today they were hunting a real threat; and that if Andy wasn't willing to wait a day, he would just beat him to a pulp.

Andy skulked off, even more furious and even more frustrated, insisting that he would avenge his dishonor.

The lawmen were too busy worrying about Springer to keep thinking about Andy, and eventually Springer was sighted outside town, drinking heavily and shooting his gun. The latter made sense, but the former would be very out of keeping with his character (or that of any truly professional killer). Charlie Bassett and Jeff Young go to face him down.

When they find him, Bassett figures it all out. Springer wasn't hired. And he wasn't doing it just to regain his fame or reputation. He was doing it because his 7 years imprisonment had shatered him, and now he'd lost his 'nerve'. Bassett's threat to Springer mirrored that of Masterson's to Andy: come tomorrow and duel, or leave town forever.

But while all this was happening, a more horrible event was unfolding: Andy the farmboy went into the dodge house, knocked on the door of the room where his beau Sarah was staying, and when she opened it he shot her dead through the head. Then he went downstairs to the lobby of hotel, gun in hand, and shouted half-insane for Bat Masterson to come kill him or die.

But it was John Miller and Tom Martin who went through the door first, to try to talk Andy down. There was some confusion, things got tense, and although it didn't quite seem to be his intent, a sudden motion by Miller led Andy to draw his gun on him.  Miller proved to be faster, however, he drew and shot Andy through the chest. Only the fact that the town Doc was already on the scene allowed the farmboy to survive (of course, it would only be to face the noose for what he'd done to the girl he claimed to love).

As for Springer, he did show up the next day, in front of the Sheriff's office. But not to duel. He unstrapped his holster and tossed it and his gun in front of the Sheriff's door.  "You got me right, Bassett", he said, "I'm broken."
Bassett advised him to put his old life behind him and try to start again somewhere far away from shooting; but as he walked away Springer only said that those would be fine words for some other kind of man.

Martin, the telegraph operator and part-time (for now) reporter, was too slow on the draw to have participated in the shootout with Andy.  But afterwards he wrote a story about the four people who came to Dodge on the same day, and got it published by the paper back home in Philadelphia, who expressed they were very interested in more stories from him about the 'Gomorrah of the West'.

Lily, for her part, was terribly distraught over the death of her friend, and briefly considered leaving town. But then, she seemed to come up with a better idea. She didn't want to work in Miller's restaurant. Apparently, she wants to seduce him and end up marrying the handsome, rich, and courageous man. Of course, this is bound to cause problems for Miller, not only with and for Kid Taylor, but also with the widow McKnee, Miller's considerably older but wealthy, influential, and indomitable beau of several years.

Those repercussions, however, will only be played out in our next session.


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