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Sunday 26 March 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: Yellow Fever

This session in Dodge, the city was heavy into the Cattle Drive season, and the long awaited opening of the Beatty Hotel and Babylon Gambling Hall was taking place.  The ribbon-cutting ceremony was officiated by the mayor, and the mayor's girlfriend: the beautiful and famous singer miss Dora Hand.

At the same time, Bat Masterson invited over his surviving brother, James Masterson, to take the place of their dead brother Ed as Deputy Sheriff, and as his partner in the Lady Gay Saloon & Music Hall.

James turns out to be less gentle than Ed, and less genteel than Bat. He makes it clear that it's not just family-loyalty that brought him to Dodge; it's also Dodge's reputation as the "Gomorrah of the West".  He quickly makes it clear that he's looking forward to shooting someone, and gets into an argument that looks very tense for a few moments with Kid Taylor, when he takes an interest in Kid's younger sister.

Speaking of Kid Taylor, he ended up having a meeting with the Better People, the rival power-group in Dodge to "The Gang", the group of saloon owners who currently control most of the town's politics.  Kid Taylor was more or less associated with the Gang until now; his former employer Dog Kelly (current Mayor of Dodge) and current employer Bat Masterson (Ford County Sheriff) are both members of the Gang. But he feels he's been underappreciated, plus he's trying to get himself married to the daughter of Better-People member Judge Robert Wright.

The Better People decide Kid Taylor would be a good fit with them now that he's Dodge City's dentist, and want to essentially use him as a spy on the Gang, between now and the next election, in the hopes of getting information they could use.

At the same time, Miss Jenny, the saloon-owner and known beau of former Sheriff and current Marshall Charlie Bassett, gets a visitor of her own, in the form of a New Orleans gambler named Cole.

He's here for the big winner-takes-all high-stakes Poker Game being held at the Beatty Hotel Gambling Hall for its opening.  Bassett is none too pleased with this, but he takes it with his usual stoic resilience.

Then, on the day of the big Poker game, disaster strikes. The great Yellow Fever Epidemic hits (it would end up claiming 13000 lives that warm summer, mostly in the American South).  It turns out that 2 of the PCs get infected: Martin the telegraph operator, who had just secured a steady job writing a weekly article as a correspondent for a Philadelphia newspaper; and Hale the Mormon Gambler, who had just gotten a new job as the head concierge at the Beatty Hotel. Both became quickly ill, along with a few other people in town (most notably the old lady who ran the boarding house most of the PCs stayed at when they first got into town, David the Mexican, and Louie the town drunk - of those three, only the old lady would die).

Beatty and Miller, neither of them infected, had to make a gargantuan effort to try to hide the fact of the disease's presence in Dodge; even though the infection rate would actually turn out to be very low, the scare-effect alone could ruin everything for their new hotel enterprise, and especially, they had to get the Poker game started before anyone could find out, or the whole thing would be cancelled. They resorted to all kinds of shenanigans, most notably temporarily kidnapping Mayor Kelly so he couldn't blab the truth of the matter.  Then they remembered Kelly was actually on the list of participants in the big game, and recruited him as a co-conspirator.  He kept his silence until everyone had sat down, cashed in, and placed their first ante, meaning the 'winner takes all' rules were binding. Then he announced that there was Yellow Fever in Dodge. About a third of the participants up and left in a panic, deciding that the $500 buy-in wasn't worth risking their lives. Thus, the day was saved for Beatty and Miller; not so much for Dog Kelly, as he ended up losing the tournament to the Bar-T Ranch owner, Buck.

As the game ran well into the night, the gambler Cole went from doing moderately well to losing very quickly around 3am. Miller, who is very observant and was supervising rather than participating in the game, noticed this and found it odd. He'd noted (also being a pretty decent gambler himself) that Cole changed his style and took some unusual losses in quick succession; almost like he was trying to throw a game.  It made no sense for a winner-take-all game, unless he had a very good reason to want to leave quickly at a certain time. He also remembered that earlier in the day, Cole had paid a visit to the Dodge city bank.  Deciding to be better safe than sorry, he sent a quick note to Sheriff Bassett about these odd developments.

Sheriff Bassett got together Deputies Jeff Young, Wyatt Earp, and Bill Tilghman, and had them stake out the bank. He went to look for Miss Jenny, to see if Cole hadn't just slipped out to see her in the middle of the night.  It turns out he had been to see Miss Jenny, but to say his goodbyes. She confessed that Cole had lived a criminal life in the past, and was worried Cole was about to do something.

Bassett came back just in time for the lawmen to spot Cole and a couple of associates (one of whom had been working at the bank for the last three months); they were indeed robbing the bank, during a time of year when it would be likely to have the most money (the early part of the cattle drive).  They intervened, calling on the men to surrender. A shootout followed. The rogue banker hid in the bank and didn't participate, the man on the horses ran. Tilghman was too far away to join the fight, his only part being to call on the men to surrender themselves.  But Cole's associate shot it out with Wyatt Earp, and was quickly killed with two bullets to the skull. Cole himself shot at Bassett, the man who'd won Miss Jenny's heart, and Bassett and Young fired back; Cole missed, but the two lawmen put two bullets each in Cole's chest, and he was dead before he hit the ground.

As to the victims of the Yellow Fever, the Mormon Gambler got fairly ill, and in his moment of crisis even tried to settle his affairs with his fiance Becky, willing her his money. But he also prayed fervently to the Heavenly Father and the angel Moroni, and (the player rolling a natural 20 on his check against the disease), miraculously recovered! His faith was now redoubled.

Sadly, Martin, who had been a telegraph operator and journalist, and had only been in Dodge for a few months, was not so lucky.  The fever took him.

That means, though, that next month someone new will be coming into Dodge. Stay tuned next time as the cattle drive season of '78 ramps up!


Currently Smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

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