Thursday, August 1, 2013

Deadlands Reloaded: Independence Day Actual Play


Previous Sessions:
Volume 1
Volume 2

With two of the players from the previous sessions no longer with us, and years having passed since those games, Tommy (my sole player, as some of you know) and I decided we would take his character Tontchay solo.

Putting our heads together, we decided that the nightmares from the previous two sessions, combined with the lack of concrete evidence as to Marshal Kidd’s whereabouts led to Tontchay and Tinhorn breaking off for good, with Tinhorn ultimately deciding to head Back East.

(WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE INDEPENDENCE DAY DIME NOVEL – which IS 16 years old at this point – FOLLOW.)


Tontchay, having renounced his Shamanism, decided to head back to Oklahoma to see if someone could help him enter the spirit world and hopefully find Kidd. His path led him through Dodge City, Kansas in the summer of 1876, just a scant few days before Independence Day and the nation’s centennial.

As Tontchay broke camp and rode into town that early morning, three well-dressed riders rode from Dodge City to intercept him…and the lead rider was none other than Wyatt Earp. Earp quickly noted the badge that the Cherokee rider was wearing and he asked him if Marshal Joe Kidd might not be with him. Tontchay reluctantly said no, and Earp asked if Tontchay was, in fact, Kidd’s Indian deputy, to which Tontchay nodded in the affirmative. He said that Kidd had fallen and he was looking for the Marshal. Earp asked if he was planning on staying long and Tontchay said he didn’t know…as Earp said he and his men could use the help quelling tensions during the town’s big Independence Day celebration, as quite a few Rebels and Yankees were in town and not getting along. Tontchay, who was also running light on cash, jumped at the opportunity when he was offered $10 a day. Earp gave him his beat and directed him to the Dog Eye Saloon.

Tontchay met Dog Eye and the two got along pretty well, sharing in the observation of one of his younger, developing waitresses, until their chat was interrupted by a drunk who asked Tontchay for something to drink, just until his check arrives on July 5th…prompting Tontchay to drag him out to a trough and dunk him! The drunk, who Dog Eye names as Clayton Mansfield, wanders off saying he gets the message. Dog Eye said he wandered into town a few days ago, bought a room through the Fifth, and has been in a drunken stupor since.

Tontchay got distracted by a scene in the streets between a lanky redhead and a black man laying in the streets. He immediately intervenes and the black man takes a shot at the redhead. The redhead’s brother shows up and pulls him back and tells Tontchay that it was a misunderstanding. The redhead, Ralphie, looks over his shoulder and tells Tontchay that “this ain’t over.” The black man, Walter Jackson, is a former Union soldier in town to spread the pro-Union word. Tontchay mentions that he might be quieter about it, keep his opinion to himself, and Walter retorts that the nation was supposed to be about freedom. Tontchay just mentions that people like Ralphie Simpkins and his brother Jake might take exception to that.

Tontchay next ran afoul of Ida Mae Hobart and her religious crusade against alcohol. (Incidentally, Tontchay’s player said I play a self-righteous religious zealot very well.)

Later that afternoon, he overheard an argument coming from an alley and saw an attractive blond woman arguing with a well dressed man. When he moved to the alley to make sure everything was okay, the blond woman broke off and intercepted him, introducing herself as Suzy Winger, one of Dog Eye’s “ladies”. She said the gentleman was a customer and they were just arguing over fees. She told Tontchay that he should come see her as she’s heard…stories…about Indians, and hasn’t had the chance to verify them. He politely declined.

(All that and basically nothing but pure roleplaying! There was an Initiative Draw on the showdown with Ralphie, though.)

The first night of festivities went well and Tontchay was roaming the streets when he heard screams from Dog Eye’s saloon and busted into what turned out to be Suzy’s room, where she was screaming at the bed, which was a bloody mess…and held a body missing its head and arms. Tontchay went all CSI in examining the room, ordering Dog Eye to get the Doc. He could tell the window had been broken out and saw a trail, so he barked at two of the other “soiled doves” to take care of Suzy while he went on the hunt. He followed the trail through the alleyways until it turned back out onto the street and he lost it.

(This was impressive as Tontchay has no Notice skill, but rolled reeeeally high.)

A fight broke out in front of the saloon and he showed up just in time to see Walter get his arm broken by Ralphie. He tried to Intimidate Ralphie to no avail, and Ralphie clipped him with a wild swing…so Tontchay stuck the gun in Ralphie’s face and back him down…until Ralphie’s brother fired into the air and Tontchay wound up in a stand-off with Ralphie, Jake and another thug. They were claiming that Walter attacked Ralphie, and the whole thing was interrupted by a bizarre series of events in which Clayton stumbled up and snapped Walter’s arm back in place and began wandering off. Ida Mae Hobart interjected herself and said that was a lie, prompting Ralphie to push her into Clayton, causing the two to fall in a trough. The moment of levity was short lived and Tontchay pondered whether or not he could take down all three, when Wyatt Earp rode up and interrupted the stand off. After dispersing the crowd, he chewed Tontchay out for nearly starting a gunfight with Rebel dissidents just looking to screw with Dodge, then said he was going to take a look around the murder scene and they could compare notes later.

The next day, Earp was still miffed, but he and Tontchay came to an understanding. He also relayed that the victim was a friend of Earp’s and a Union spy named Paul Goodwin, the man that Tontchay saw arguing with Suzy the day before.  Tontchay went to see Suzy at Doc Smith’s, but she was in no condition to talk. Dodge City seemed to be on the verge of violence, and the night’s festivities were not nearly as peaceful on the night of the 3rd. He did run into a knife wielding Walter Jackson who said that Doc Smith was impressed with how Clayton had reset his arm, and he said that if Ralphie gave him trouble again, he would be ready.

Around midnight again, Tontchay was patrolling the streets when he heard commotion behind the Saloon and came up on a crowd. He shoved his way through and saw the hacked up remains of Ralphie Simpkins. His brother Jake wasn’t far behind and he started proclaiming that it had to be union scum! This nearly started a fight with pro-Union sympathizers and Tontchay sent for Earp while the alleyway was about to explode in violence! Tontchay marched between both sides and stared them down equally, ultimately causing both factions to back off while he lectured them on their immaturity! Earp showed up, applauding the speech, and sent the crowd scattering…then reiterated to Tontchay in private that he did do a great job.

(Tontchay has stared down crowds before, so he gave it a go here and proved to give both sides pause.)

Tontchay began to suspect that the killer had to be related in some way to the Dog Eye Saloon, but decided to go to Clayton’s room and see if he could roust the drunk. He succeeded, and Clayton quietly told him that he used to be a field surgeon, but that he was now drowning in a bottle on his family’s dime as he headed West, figuring he would head to Shan Fan, maybe find him an Asian woman. Tontchay told him he didn’t know what he had seen or lived, but that it took a brave man to do good from the bottom of a bottle. It was almost touching.

Tontchay was awoken the next day by Doc Smith’s daughter, who said her Daddy wanted to see Tontchay. He went to Doc Smith, who told him about his horrific experiences in Gettysburg, and this sadistic monster in surgeon’s clothing that was slaughtering the wounded and ripped out the eye of a soldier. Doc Smith talked about how he shrugged off bullets before retreating in the night. He said they called this thing The Butcher, and that he thinks The Butcher has come to Dodge City.

Tontchay went back on duty and kept the powder keg from exploding until he got word that Suzy was ready to talk. She told him she was an informant for the Union and that Paul had been there for business and not pleasure when this monster burst into her room and knocked her out. When she came to, he was butchering Paul. All she could see was a top hat and a tall form before he burst out of the window. Tontchay had left Doc Smith’s suspecting Clayton and this seemed to push it over the top…when he hit the locked door, he was surprised to see Dog Eye standing there with the key to let him in.

Inside, Tontchay and Dog Eye were stunned to see…a neat and clean room…that had nothing remotely incriminating or odd…until Tontchay looked under the bed. He pulled out a surgeon’s bag and found tools inside, as well as an empty scalpel case with blood stains in it…and then he saw the carpet bags, about six of them, and he removed them from the bed…opening them to find severed heads sewn to arms and legs. This shook Tontchay, especially when he recognized the faces of Paul and Ralphie. He told Dog Eye to get Earp and fast.

When Earp arrived, Tontchay tried to explain that they were taking on a supernatural, bulletproof killer but Earp was having his doubts…so Tontchay let him and just told his men to stay out of his way while he hunted The Butcher in Dodge City during the Independence Day celebration as his Patron Wolf spirit began to “speak” to him in the way only it can.

As he set out into the streets looking for The Butcher, he spotted a top hat and kept trying to follow it, but the crowd kept getting in his way. As Tontchay headed through the alleyways, he sensed a presence behind him…and turned to face Jake Simpkins. Jake had him dead-bang…until Walter attacked Jake from behind, stabbing him repeatedly with his good arm. Tontchay’s nice treatment of Walter had paid off.

Tontchay took Walter with him to hunt for The Butcher…when The Butcher came running down the wall between them and swiped the scalpel, slashing out Walter’s throat and cutting the back of Tontchay’s neck. What followed was a brutal curbstomp as The Butcher began to slash Tontchay apart and wear him down, until he quick drew his knife and fought back, wounding The Butcher. The Butcher bolted to get away, but Tontchay went back to his pistol and fired, shooting the scalpel out of his hand…which caused the nefarious Butcher to transform back into Clayton Mansfield!

(This would have been LETHAL, but Tontchay played an Adventure card that give him a d6 in Fighting, rather than leave him completely helpless.)

Clayton told Tontchay that it was the scalpel and he couldn’t control himself…he explained that his mentor gave him and his friend Jack scalpels, and he said that he would wear it embedded in his skin to try to feed the blood lust, but it wouldn’t work forever. He pleaded with Tontchay to destroy the scalpel.

The problem was that Clayton was up on the roof and Tontchay on the ground. He lurched for the scalpel and Tontchay tried to shout him down…but when that failed, he had to open fire and kill Clayton!

He returned to the Dog Eye Saloon to get the scalpel case, only to find the place ransacked and a disheveled Wyatt Earp who said he had been attacked by the bizarre, stitched together body parts in the room!

The most harrowing part came when Tontchay made it back to Clayton and climbed the roof…only to find that the scalpel was missing.

NOTES: I did have to tone down The Butcher, as most Deadlands adventures are meant for a posse and not a single hero…especially a single Seasoned one. Oh, and Tontchay did NOT come away from it unscarred. It was sad playing without our friend Kenny (“Tinhorn” from the campaign), but it looks like we’re going to run with the idea that Tontchay is now flying solo and looking to pull Marshal Kidd out of The Deadlands one way or another. We ran Independence Day pretty much by the book, and it made for a very role-play heavy adventure, and the one real combat we played without any maps or minis at all.

Honestly, I had forgotten just how fun Deadlands is until we ran this. It was very cool and very fun to revisit it.