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Tuesday 6 June 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: End of an Era

In this week's session we had two different plot-lines going on in two utterly different locations.  First, Hale the Mormon (ex-)Gambler had gone back home to Utah, with his new wife Becky, to present her to his family.  She was to be baptized into Mormonism so they could be married within the LDS church in Salt Lake City.

Hale's family were very happy to see him and very welcoming to Becky, but while she was going through the hoops necessary to her conversion, a family incident took place.  Hale's young cousin Hiram had run away from home, to the only place that the Mormon's thought of as a worse den of iniquity than Dodge City: San Francisco. And since Hale was the most world-wise member of the family and was thought of by them to be something of a renowned adventurer, he was sent out to San Fran to find him.

Meanwhile, in Dodge, the time had finally arrived for the trial of Spike Kenedy, who had very obviously murdered the famous singer Dora Hand a month earlier (though it's true that he had actually meant to murder her lover, Dodge City mayor Dog Kelley). For the trial, Spike's father Mifflin Kenedy had come to town with a dozen strongmen and a carpetbag allegedly full of money (in fact it had about $25000 inside).

Dora hand had been so beloved that on the day of her funeral every saloon in Dodge closed its doors for the first time since the city was founded, and her  gorgeously-bedecked funeral carriage was followed by 400 men on horseback.

Dog Kelley had drunk himself into a month-long stupor, but the boys at the Alhambra Saloon were all plotting to take the law into their own hands if necessary. They were joined in this by Kid Taylor, and ironically by Deputy Young, though both of these had very different ideas of how to handle things. Young was assuming that justice would be served but Mifflin would use his men to try to spring his son, while Kid was pretty sure that Mifflin would bribe his son to freedom and vigilantes would have to take care of justice themselves.

Over in San Francisco, Hale had arrived into the largest metropolis he'd ever seen and had no idea where to even start to look for his young cousin.

He got the idea, in a bar, that maybe he could hire the Pinkertons to find Hiram, so he went to see them.

 Unfortunately, he was quickly "identified" as his doppelganger, the famous and missing outlaw Derek McClue. They apprehended him, in spite of his pleas of mistaken identity, though they did finally agree to send a telegram to the Dodge city sheriff to check out his claim.

Unfortunately, the telegram was sent on the day of the trial. As Judge Wright had ordered a closed court, the town's population were out on the street. Sheriff Masterson ordered that no civilian was allowed to carry weapons on Front Street for the duration of the trial, and all the lawmen (plus "Other" Miller, who'd been deputized) were busy trying to keep order.

The Alhambra bunch had settled on a plan: assuming that Kenedy and his men would leave Dodge along the Cimmaron Trail, they went to Turkey Bend to set up an ambush. Kid Taylor would stay behind in town and would immediately rush off to warn the other men when the trial was over and Kenedy was on his way. But Taylor was acting very suspicious on the street and Bat had him arrested. Taylor admitted to the plan and Deputy Young was sent out to intercept the men and convince them to call off the plan, which he did.

After only a couple of hours, the verdict came out: Spike was found not guilty! People were enraged by the travesty of justice, but with the lawmen as guards, the Kenedys and their men quickly rushed off to take the train to Cimmaron. The ambush wouldn't have served any purpose.

No one was more devastated by how the trial had gone than Charlie Bassett.

He was already in a foul mood on account of having had an argument with his girl Miss Jenny. She had demanded that he marry her, and he wasn't willing to do it. Then the result of the trial, where Mifflin Kenedy had very obviously bribed Judge Wright and the prosecutor, was more than he could take.

He went to angrily confront the Judge, and the Judge said something that implied that Wright wasn't the only one who had taken a bribe. Bassett had taken this to mean that Bat Masterson had also been bribed, which he thought would explain why Masterson had done nothing as he saw this obvious corruption unfold.  Upset beyond his limit, Bassett threw down his Marshall's star. He was done with the law.

Had Masterson taken the bribe? History is unclear on the matter, and from the GMing point of view I kept it a mystery too. My players were very divided as to what had really happened, and that's just how I wanted it.

Meanwhile, Hale was now in the San Francisco jail, in a cell with a number of nasty characters including a very large Chinese thug.

When the police guard called him McClue, the Tong man went nuts, apparently his gang had some kind of problem with McClue.  The jailhouse violence was halted when the police came back, with Hale's cousin! The Pinkertons had chased him down just to check the facts. Unfortunately, young Hiram, not wanting to be dragged home to Utah, claimed that his cousin WAS in fact McClue, having heard the "celestial" saying the name.

Everyone was now fairly convinced that Hale was full of crap, and he was left alone again, with the Tong enforcer about to slit his throat, when he was saved by the police for the second time. The Pinkerton had come back, as they'd finally gotten a telegraph reply from Dodge city. Since Hale had kept his trip to Salt Lake (and his Mormon heritage) a secret by claiming he was taking Becky on honeymoon to San Francisco, the sheriff's assumed that this was their Hale, so they quickly advised the Pinkertons to that fact.

The Pinkerton head office, it turns out, had also already been observing Hale and had concluded that he was not really McClue, so the local SF Pinkerton had to do the right thing and arrange for Hale's freedom. Hale rushed off to try to find his cousin. He tracked down his last location in a horrible slum-flophouse and there heard Hiram was planning to go sign on to a whaling ship. Hale was about to rush to the port, when he ran into his old cellmate and his Tong clan! Cue a kung-fu chase through the city, with Hale having no idea where he was running to. Unfortunately for him, he actually ran straight into Chinatown.

More fortunately, though, he ended up in a small Buddhist temple. The old monk who managed the temple was apparently no friend of the Tong, and when they faced off everyone was sure they were about to see a kick ass kung-fu fight... except instead, the monk pulled out a shotgun and blew away the Tong ringleader. In fact, the monk (named Liu) was an old buffalo hunter who'd traveled with Buffalo Bill. He didn't know much kung-fu but he sure knew how to handle a shotgun.

Hale decided at this point he had no more fucks to give, and introduced himself as Derek McClue. Monk Liu was even more impressed and presented Hale to the Tong's rival, the Big Swords Society. They escorted Hale to the port, where he managed to catch his cousin at the very last moment before signing up to a whaler. After an impassioned speech, he managed to convince him to come back to Utah and face the family, promising that later if young Hiram wanted to leave home, Hale would give him a hand.

All ended well for the Mormon ex-gambler, but not so much in Dodge City.  People were expecting, at the very least, that Bassett and Miss Jenny would ride off into the sunset together, but it was not to be. Bassett turned her down, feeling it would always be unfair for her, for him to have chosen her second after his badge. Instead, Miss Jenny and Bassett both ended up selling their parts of the Long Branch Saloon to Chalkley Beeson, a recent newcomer to Dodge who'd already build the city's first Billiards Hall.

Miss Jenny went back to New Orleans, while Charlie Bassett headed off to Colorado with Mysterious Dave Mather, the two of them planning to go pan for gold.

To the players, Charlie Bassett was the archetype of the white-hat lawman, and probably the most important NPC in Dodge.  His departure clearly marked the end of an era for the campaign. Dodge will never be the same.


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