The Weird West

Getting out of Dodge
A thrilling introduction to the Weird West

The game begins at 10pm, the night of June 3, 1879, with the half-mad swordsman Argent, the hung-over hexslinger Jack, and Civil War veteran John Hightower all locked in separate cells in the Dodge City Jailhouse—with an angry mob outside screaming for their blood. The scene outside turns into a riot when the crowd set the jail on fire, causing the guards to flee and giving the players a chance to break out.

After reclaiming their possessions and fighting their way out of the building, the party finds that the main street of Dodge had erupted into complete chaos, with fires, looting, a frightened horses running this way and that. With a little help from Deputy Marshal Wyatt Earp, the party fights its way through the crowd to an empty stagecoach. Following Marshal Earp’s advice to “get the hell out of Dodge,” the party takes off into the night.

They aren’t able to slip away unnoticed, however, as half a dozen rioters pursue them on horseback. While Hightower drives the horses, Argent spies something weird from his perch on top of the stagecoach: running alongside the rioters is a massive black hound with glowing red eyes, whose crimson hue is reflected in the crazed eyes of the rioters. Jack, leaning out of stage to shoot at the pursuers, recognizes the dog as looking just like a smaller, less menacing hound that had tried to prevent his escape from Dodge.

Jack and Argent determine that the hound is resistant to bullets—the shells pass right through its semi-translucent body. Jack has better success hurting the creature with hexes, but neither seems to do much damage. It is left to Hightower to drive off the remaining riders through some deft maneuvers. When the last pursuer abandons the chase, the hound lets out an enraged howl before simply fading into the night.

The party settle down for the evening in a sandy gulch, having traveled a few dozen miles west of Dodge City. Jack, Argent, and Hightower all introduce themselves and try to get a sense of each other before lying down for the night.

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Ghosts of Sand Creek
Beware the Bag of Power

To briefly recap the events of the previous session, the freelance inventor Vincent Jerome Black joined the party after being found locked up in a trunk on the stagecoach. Traveling west from Kansas into Colorado, the party encountered a medicine man who offered to give them safe passage through Cheyenne territory in exchange for their help in putting to rest the ghosts of his people, who were killed in a massacre 15 years prior. The real purpose of the offer was for the party to unwittingly smuggle a medicine bag into the abandoned town of Chivingtonville, thus breaking the barrier that had kept the ghosts out. While in town, Hightower also discovered a pair of letters that provided some clues about the town’s history and information about a plot involving someone called “The Wizard.”

The party encountered the lone inhabitant of Chivingtonville, Parson John Chivington, previously a Colonel in the U.S. Army responsible for the massacre. After being run out of the Army and out of Denver, Chivington set up here, but the ghosts scared away the other residents. Upon spotting the medicine bag, he quickly deduces something’s up and watches with the party as the ghosts, led by their undead medicine man Black Kettle, break through the barbed wire barricades. The party and Chivington hole up in the church and struggle to fight off waves of ghostly women and children, as well as the occasional ghost warrior. The ghosts ultimately break through into the church and the battle becomes a melee, with Argent surrounded in one corner while Black Kettle backs Chivington into another.

At this point, Jack urges the party to concentrate their fire on Black Kettle, reasoning that defeating him will dispel the ghosts. Vincent realizes that the ghosts are avoiding him because he carries the medicine bag and then tries to use it to command the specters to attack Black Kettle. This works on most of them, who surge around their former chieftain while the party finishes off the rest. Trying to fend off his tribesman leaves the medicine man open to a devastating shot from Hightower’s rifle. Badly wounded, Black Kettle’s demeanor changes as he urges the party to shoot him in the head to kill the demon inside him. Argent pulls off the finishing shot, sending Black Kettle’s body tumbling to the ground and causing the ghosts to evaporate. Chivington breaks out the whiskey to celebrate, offers the heroes $20 each, and pledges to rebuild his town.

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The Professor; Daddy's Boy Part I
Our heroes stumble onto something big and shiny

After receiving their reward from a surly John Chivington on the morning of June 5, 1879, the party decided to head for Denver to the northwest. While leaving Chivingtonville, the party notices the footprints of a giant hound. The party travels for several days on the high plains of Colorado without incident. On the fourth day, the party is approached by four Cheyenne warriors. The warriors grow much friendlier once they learn that the party put Black Kettle to rest. However, that does not stop them from asking the party to help them track down a group of bandits.

After several hours, the party and the Cheyenne find the six bandits attacking a lone wagon. But this is no ordinary ambush. The wagon is surrounded by a protective dome of electricity, which the lead bandit is trying to bring down with some kind of contraption that throws fireballs. The Cheyenne ride down to attack the bandits, but while bullets seem to bounce off the braves’ elaborate buckskin vests they hold up less well against a fireball. The bandits dismount and take cover behind their horses, but a convenient malfunction takes the fireball thrower out of the fight. Argent urges Hightower to drive the stagecoach closer so he can hit them with his sword. Hightower takes a shot at the bandit leader, but kills his horse instead, which falls onto the marauder. The bandit leader manages free himself only to be shot in the face at point blank range by Argent. The lead Cheyenne warrior recovers enough to skewer a marauder with a spear, while Jack’s hexes bring down another. Vincent’s bad luck continues as he tries to unjam Hightower’s rifle but only makes the problem worse and his Heal-o-tron 9000 repeatedly fails to treat Jack’s injuries.

With three of their companions down, the remaining bandits flee, but Argent is able to shoot one before he escapes. With the battle done, the wagon’s lightning shield lowers and the heroes meet its occupants: Professor Charles Lewis Reason of Howard University and his top student, Ms. Loretta Freeman. Professor Reason explains that he is on a geological survey of the West and had hoped his facility with languages would allow him to pass through Cheyenne territory unharmed. The lightning shield is a creation of another Howard student, Granville Woods. To Vincent’s disappointment, the device is patented. Three of the four Cheyenne warriors have survived the fight, but two are pretty injured. The lead warrior is busy collecting the bandit’s firearms, explaining that the Cheyenne are stockpiling them for the day when the Old Ways aren’t enough to protect them. To Vincent’s dismay, the fire cannon is too damaged to be repaired, but its scrap materiel is enough to construct another device.

The party also discovers that the lead bandit was carrying a strange card: on one side is the symbol of an eye inside an inverted triangle and the words “Nos Nunquam Somnus.” On the other side, inscrutable writing can be briefly glimpsed before it vanishes. Professor Reason translates the words as Latin for “We Never Sleep,” but no one is able to recognize the phrase or the symbol. Jack determines that the vanishing words were a supernatural message being sent elsewhere.

Professor Reason asks the party to accompany his wagon to Denver, to ward off any other surprises. The party travels for another three days, finding abundant food and water. On the evening of June 10, however, a storm is approaching and they seek shelter at a nearby farmhouse. They are welcomed by Sherilyn Conway and her son Jamie. The boy’s father is notably absent. Sherilyn lets Loretta stay in the house, while everyone else must bed down in the new barn. That night, the party hears noises from the old, dilapidated barn across the way. They sneak up and spy Jamie conferring with a 12-foot tall armored automaton, with a gatling gun for one arm and sharp pincers for another. The automaton has the words “U.S. ARMY, 9th CAVALRY emblazoned on its chest and a flag painted on each shoulder.

The party soon learns that somewhere in the metal hulk are the remains of Rob Conway, who was shot by bandits after leaving to seek work. Rob’s memories after that are fragmentary: he remembers waking up in a dark room with men in white coats who mentioned someone called “the Wizard.” He remembers lumbering across the prairie, with a woman’s voice whispering in his ear, telling him to kill all the Cheyenne. He remembers burning tepees and a medicine woman blasting him with a spell. Then the voice was gone and his mind was his own again. He fled back to his family’s farm, where he has been hiding in the decaying barn and communicating with his son by scratching words in the dust with his claw. He has not been able to work up the courage to reveal himself to his wife.

Vincent examines the automaton, quickly noting that the gatling gun is out of bullets and that Rob has suffered battle damage. Vincent also quickly determines that there is not enough room in the chassis for Rob’s entire body, so most likely his brain is all that remains. How it is being sustained is unknown, though Vincent does remember that about 60 years ago a German doctor speculated that electricity could be used to revive a dead brain. No further work on the subject has since been published. The examination also reveals that all the factory marking and serial numbers have been filed off, except in one spot where the following can be made out: " ellstro "

Hightower fears that this may be a conspiracy to frame the U.S. Army, while Vincent suspects a rogue element within the government could be involved. Either way, everyone feels like they’ve gotten in over their heads. At this point, they hear a horse whinny outside. Another wagon has pulled up outside the house, and the dark figures climbing out of it look to be carrying guns.

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Daddy's Boy Part II
Nos Nunquam Somnus

Picking up right where the last session ended, Vincent stumbles as he exits the barn, alerting the mysterious gunmen. Hightower tries to negotiate with them to avoid violence, but they say they have orders. Then the shooting starts. To their horror, the party discovers that the six gunmen are armed with Gatling pistols.

When most of the party crept out the east end of the old barn, Argent New Haven had sneaked out of the west end and remained hidden. After calling upon his faith in the Omnimessiah to shield him, he waits for the right opportunity to strike. Argent’s waiting is quickly spoiled by Rob Conway, who smashes his way out of the barn and lumbers towards the gunmen. Argent tries to use his bulk for cover to get close enough to engage the shooters in melee.

Using both hexes and bullets, Jack kills several of the gunmen over the course of the shootout. Hightower and Vincent try to find a way to spook the marauders’ horses but the beasts appear to be drugged and ignore everything that happens around them—until Vincent accidentally kills one of the horses, pinning one of the shooters beneath it.

The remaining attackers have been trying to bring down Rob Conway with shots to his head, but they have had trouble landing a solid hit. The pinned man tosses an explosive at the automaton, but only cripples it rather than destroying it. The remaining gunmen are killed trying to flee. On each of the bodies, the characters find another card with a the same symbol on it. Each time one is picked up barehanded, the same inscrutable writing appears on the back only to vanish moments later. But no such writing appears when Jack picks up a card using a fold of cloth.

Hightower and Argent interrogate the surviving gunman while Vincent tries to repair the damaged Rob Conway. The gunmen says he was contracted to track and destroy the automaton, though he doesn’t know the client. He explains that the symbol on the cards is the logo of his employer, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and that he was acting on orders from Alan Pinkerton himself. The gunman and his companions set out from the Pinkerton branch office in Salina, Kansas. He also admits that “the Wizard” is a Pinkerton client. Worst of all, the scribbles on the back of the cards are the heroes’ names, which are being transmitted back to Pinkerton headquarters.

Vincent is able to get Rob back on his feet, but the automaton is badly damaged and its not clear how much longer he can last. The party leaves Rob to converse with Sherilyn and Jamie as another pair of riders approach the farmhouse: a Cheyenne medicine woman and a mountain man with a big rifle strapped to his back.

The medicine woman was the same person who initially freed Rob from his programming and she’s tracked him down to destroy him. The party ultimately agrees, so long as Rob consents. The heroes tell her what they’ve learned about the Pinkertons, the Wizard, and the seeming conspiracy to frame the Army for attacks on the Cheyenne. The medicine woman has never heard of “the Wizard,” but she admits the Cheyenne are surrounded by enemies.

The medicine woman reveals that the Conways are friends of the Cheyenne and agrees to stay on the farm for a few more days until Rob and his family are ready for her to give him peace. The old woman takes the Pinkerton into custody, promising that he will face Cheyenne justice. She also pledges to place Sherilyn and Jamie under the tribe’s protection.

The heroes decide to spend the night and set out the next morning. Once they’ve escorted the Professor and Ms. Freeman to Denver, they’ll have to see about dealing with the Pinkertons.

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Buffalo, Cat and Soap
Two creatures and a conundrum

The Mnemomizer

Before leaving the Conway’s farm, the heroes are presented with one further item obtained from the captured Pinkerton. The palm-sized silver globe, called the Mnemomizer, can cause short-term memory loss and heightened suggestibility. The device only has one use and if triggered improperly, can blind everyone nearby. The Pinkerton claimed the device was to be used on Sherilyn and Jamie Conway after the automaton was dealt with.

The Buffalo Soldier

The heroes ride for another day or two until they come across a Cheyenne camp that has suffered a savage attack by riders dressed in Cavalry blue. The Cheyenne managed to catch one alive, a young black man claiming to be Sgt. Emmett Ford of the 9th Cavalry. He spins a story about being ordered from Fort Laramie by a Captain Forrester to attack the Cheyenne. His general cluelessness belies his supposed rank and Hightower quickly recognizes the uniform is a fake. “Emmett” refuses to disclose any further information, beyond warning that everyone is in mortal peril if he’s not released.

At that moment, a scout returns to warn that a troop of 100 Cavalry are riding towards the camp. The Cheyenne warrior Lone Wolf wants to attack, but another Cheyenne leader, George “Beaver” Bent hopes to negotiate, buying time to evacuate the camp. He asks the party to ride out and speak with the Cavalry.

The party confers with Colonel Ranald Mackenzie of the 5th Cavalry, who informs them that isolated homesteads north of Cheyenne Territory have been attacked. He shows them one of the arrows retrieved from the scene, noting that the stone head is distinctly Cheyenne. When the heroes relate their encounter with “Sgt. Ford,” Mackenzie asks to see the prisoner.

During a meeting between the Cheyenne leaders and the Colonel, the arrow is revealed to be a fake, having been fletched with goose feathers rather than the turkey feathers used by the Cheyenne. When Emmet Ford is transferred to Mackenzie’s custody, however, he transforms into a terrible half-man, half-buffalo creature. Jack recognizes one of the creature’s weaknesses, but that doesn’t stop it from dealing a savage blow to Argent. Hightower gets in a good shot, but the Buffalo Soldier still stands. A badly wounded Vincent raises the medicine bag against the creature, weakening it for a killing shot from Jack.

Mackenzie thanks the heroes for their assistance and promises to report the information they provided. Peace with the Cheyenne remains in effect, despite the best efforts of someone to break it. Mackenzie writes them a letter of recommendation that vouches for their good character and encourages all officials to provide them with assistance.

Death comes on big cat feet

The heroes arrive in Denver, the home of Thomas Edison, just in time to be hit up for bribes by a pair of corrupt cops who have questions about their stagecoach. The cops are scared off by Mackenzie’s letter, however. After taking in lunch at the Arcade Restaurant and Saloon, they parting ways with Professor Reason, who is heading on to Yellowstone to conduct his geological studies.

Outside, the heroes are momentarily distracted by a freak show that is set up in town. While a passel of youths pick the pockets of the crowd, an announcer wheels out a rare Ozark Howler. Jack notices another hexslinger in the crowd just in time for the Howler’s cage to suddenly open and the creature to attack the announcer. The heroes fire at the howler and manage to hit the announcer instead.

It becomes clear the incident was staged by the hexslinger to distract from a bank robbery happening across the street. While Argent and Jack confront the Howler, Hightower shoots down the hexslinger and together with Vincent pursues the two other robbers. The Ozark Howler manages to escape while Hightower keeps the robbers from escaping in a waiting wagon long enough for Vincent to burn both men to a crisp. Hightower then deftly rescues the stolen money from the burning wagon.

Dishing on Soapy

Word of the heroes’ actions spreads quickly and they are summoned before Governor Davis Hanson Waite, whose residence has been fortified and is guarded by state militiamen and a collection of heavies from the Knights of Labor. The Governor explains that he was elected on a reform platform to root out corruption in the state. However, several corrupt officials are resisting his efforts to remove them and have barricaded themselves in City Hall. As they have the support of the local police force, the Governor has called out the state militia.

But the real source of the problem is the local crime boss, Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith, owner of the Tivoli Club saloon and gambling hall. Governor Waite suspects Soapy will want to hire the heroes (needing as many gunhands as possible to survive the standoff). Waite wants the heroes to infiltrate Soapy’s operation and get some hard evidence of his connection to the corruption. It has to be physical evidence, as Soapy seems eerily capable at suborning witnesses. In exchange, the Governor offers $100 each and the full support of his office in their future endeavors.

After the party has settled in to their boarding house, they get a message from Soapy requesting their presence at the Tivoli Club. They are led through the saloon up to one of the poker rooms on the second floor, where Soapy lays it out: he knows they met with the Governor and figures they have been hired to take him down. But he makes a counter-offer: double what Waite is paying, plus help with the Hateful Thing that has been tailing them. All he needs in return is for them to present the Governor with some forged evidence and acquire a few hairs or a personal item of the Governor’s.

The heroes accept Soapy’s offer, but quickly learn they cannot pass him fake hairs or items. The party also learns that a scrapbook detailing Soapy’s every misdeed might be found in his second floor office next door to the Tivoli Club. Additionally, evidence of his role in a recent voter fraud scandal might be found somewhere in the Tivoli Club.

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The Denver City Hall War
Taking Soapy to the cleaners

A Foolproof Plan

Having agreed to both the Governor’s plan to take down Denver kingpin Soapy Smith and Soapy’s plan to take down Governor Waite, the heroes need to find some way out of their predicament. Fortunately, Vincent has a cunning plan.

The following morning, June 15, after taking in breakfast at Mrs. Alford’s, the party treks over to the Governor’s office, where they lay their cards on the table: Soapy has seen through the Governor’s ruse and wants them to take one of his items for use in a spell. Governor Waite doesn’t believe in sorcery, but he’s troubled by the leak of his plan. Vincent then urges the Governor to mobilize the militia and have them surround City Hall. This escalation will keep Soapy’s attention while the heroes put into effect the rest of their plan. Governor Waite declares martial law in Denver and prepares to join his troops.

The heroes then hurry back to the Tivoli Club. Word of the escalation has spread fast (thanks to Denver’s telephone system) and the place is practically deserted. The heroes convince Soapy’s remaining men that they need to see him immediately. They are taken over to the Clubs room, where Soapy is going over things with his top lieutenant Fatty Gray and his brother Bascomb Smith.

The heroes convince Soapy that they need to speak with him alone. Once that happens, Vincent whips out the Mnemomizer before his big mouth foils the plan. Successfully operating the device, Vincent blanks Soapy’s memory and leaves him highly suggestible, at which point the party asks about the location of Soapy’s illicit records. The records are inside the frame of a picture in Soapy’s office next door. Jack also wisely asks if there are any surprises and Soapy warns them about a bomb in the desk. Jack immediately takes the tin ID chip that will keep the bomb from going off. Hightower then clocks Soapy and ties him up.

Realizing that they won’t be able to talk or sneak their way past the two guards downstairs, Vincent begins to assemble two makeshift stun grenades. Low on spare parts, he has to dismantle the room’s light fixtures and in the process finds a tiny listening device shaped like a beetle.

After they get past the guards, Vincent and Hightower carry the unconscious Soapy towards City Hall, while Argent and Jack swing by Soapy’s office. There they find Bascomb and another henchman going over the floor plans of the city building.

Argent overcomes Bascomb’s initial suspicions and convinces him to let them into Soapy’s office, where Jack finds the scrapbook hidden in the false back of a picture of Soapy’s family. The book contains newspaper clippings of Soapy’s exploits, as well as records of Soapy’s bribes to local officials. It also contains references to his dealings with someone called “Wizzie,” including the sale of around 50 Cavalry uniforms. As they leave, Bascomb lets them know that most of Soapy’s men are holed up in City Hall with at least one case of dynamite.

The party reunites and approaches City Hall, which is now surrounded by militia who’ve deployed two Gatling guns and a small cannon. A hundred or so Denver Police Officers have taken up defensive positions outside the building, while more gunmen can be seen through the windows. The heroes are taken to the command post, where they present Soapy and the evidence to the Governor.

Coyote Angry

They are interrupted by the arrival of Thomas Edison, who drives an industrial load lifter between the soldiers and the police. He urges the Governor to peacefully resolve the situation by taking it to the Supreme Court. When Edison learns of Soapy’s arrest, he speaks to the heroes privately. The bug they found was his, planted by his technicians as they “repaired” the Tivoli Club’s wiring. While there, Edison’s men suspected that there was a hidden room behind the janitor’s closet. Edison speculates that this is the site of a power source that fuels Soapy’s ability to influence people.

The heroes return to the now-deserted Tivoli Club to investigate. Unable to find the hidden trigger for the entrance to the secret room, Hightower and Argent just bash in the back wall of the janitor’s closet, which does the trick. Inside, they find a circular room much larger than the space it occupies on the second floor. It is decorated everywhere with paintings of coyotes, has a strange red symbol painted on the floor, and at the far end has an altar with a pile of soap bars including one wrapped in a hundred dollar bill. Jack recognizes the room as a shrine to the trickster spirit Coyote, drawing its energy from the deceit taking place all around it in the rigged casino.

After talking Jack out of burning the place down, Hightower gets some mops and buckets and tries to wash the paint off without offending Coyote. However, disrupting the symbol on the floor causes the pile of soap bars to assemble itself into a man-sized Soap Golem. Vincent’s flamethrower is only semi-effective, while the water from the buckets has no impact. A well-placed shot from Hightower, however, pierces the hundred dollar bill and breaks the spell animating the golem. All supernatural energy drains from the room and the heroes get out before it shrinks back to its proper size.

I Need You For The U.S. Secret Service

After breaking Soapy’s mystical power source, the heroes go to Edison’s townhouse, where he introduces them to “Sam,” an agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Sam has received Col. Mackenzie’s report on the Cheyenne incidents, which link the Pinkerton Detectives and reclusive industrialist Darius Hellstromme to the Wizard. Both the Pinkertons and Hellstromme are based out of Salt Lake City, the site of numerous sightings of the Wizard’s top lieutenant, the Dark Woman.

Sam says that the Secret Service has had difficulty inserting agents into Deseret, but he thinks the heroes will have an easier time of it. He asks them to cross the Rocky Mountains and take the Bee Line railroad from the town of Defiance, CO to a stop just outside of Salt Lake, known as the Junkyard. Its the site of Hellstromme’s massive factories and one of the few places a Gentile won’t stand out. They are to confront the Pinkertons and Hellstromme and search for any evidence on the Wizard’s identity. In return, they will be “handsomely rewarded” by the U.S. government.

The heroes accept the offer and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening shopping for equipment. By the time they return to Mrs. Alford’s, it has grown dark. Outside the boarding house, they are accosted by some toughs that seem to be under the influence of the Hateful Thing. Hightower manages to talk them down by assuring them that the party will be out at dawn tomorrow.

Escape From Denver

Inside, however, a new crisis is awaiting them. Ed Chase, an influential local gambler and owner of the Palace Theater urgently needs to speak with the heroes. Chase runs an honest casino, but he explains that he also operates a safehouse for those in need. He is currently sheltering a pregnant young woman named Maria, who was married to a Union Blue Railroad enforcer gunned down by Central Rail thugs. A Central posse is in town looking to keep her from testifying about the murder, while a Union Blue squad is gunning for her to prevent her from revealing any company secrets. Chase has lined up an escape plan for her, but for it to work he needs her on the South Platte Ferry by 8:10 a.m. tomorrow. Unfortunately, Soapy had hired all the local gunhands and thanks to the heroes, they’re all in jail. So now he has to turn to the party at the last minute.

Chase runs down some of the background on the Great Railroads: they are powerful, ruthless companies that have been waging their own private war against each other for 15 years. Union Blue’s founder, Dr. Thomas Durant, has close ties with the War Department, allowing him to equip his goons with military grade heavy weapons. Central Rail, meanwhile, has fallen under the sway of a cabal of hexslingers known as the Wichita Witches. Neither group should be tangled with lightly.

Chase says he’s doing this out of charity but offers to pay the heroes. Hightower declines for the group, noting it’s on their way out anyway. The party reviews the potential routes to the Ferry and decide to try smuggling Maria through the alleyway behind the Palace Theater while Jack attempts to divert attention by driving the stagecoach down 17th Street. Unfortunately, the party isn’t able to slip out without being noticed and they are ambushed by a Union Blue squad armed with a small cannon. In the ensuing firefight, Vincent commandeers an Industrial Load Lifter and uses it to smash the cannon and the rail warriors’ makeshift barricade.

At the ferry, Hightower, Jack and Maria walk into a trap laid by the Central Rail team, whose witch had foreseen their plan. Maria reveals that her “pregnant” belly was actually concealing a pair of Colt Peacemakers. She and the witch badly wound one another. In the bloody firefight that follows, several heroes are wounded but only one Central thug manages to escape. After treating Maria with the Heal-o-tron 9000, the party takes her out to the middle of the river on a ferry. She orders them to stop midway, just in time for her ride to show up—an auto-gyro fitted with floatation devices. Maria thanks the heroes for their help and then climbs aboard the aircraft, which soars up and then west.

As a result of their actions over the past three days, the PCs have become folk heroes in Denver, where they will always find a helping hand.

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The Mines of Maria, Part I
Dark as a dungeon, damp as the dew

Rocky Road

The party travels high into the Rocky Mountains, leaving the well-traveled foothills for the empty and ominous spruce-fir forests. When the heroes settle down for the night on the second day of the trip, a catamount stalks their camp, mimicking a woman crying for help. Jack senses that something is off, however, and Hightower and Argent manage to turn the tables on the creature. Argent ultimately beheads the creature, and Hightower drags the carcass back to camp, where Jack insists on eating it.

The next day, the heroes encounter a limping traveler on the road—it’s Maria, the young woman who they helped escape on the auto-gyro a couple of days prior. Maria explains that the auto-gyro crashed in the mountains, killing the pilot. She’s trying to make her way to Whateley, a mining town in the mountains. The party offers to give her a ride.

On the way, Maria elaborates on the real reason she’s on the run from two of the Great Railroads. A few months ago, Maria teamed up with her “husband,” a former miner named Wade. The two of them signed up as rail warriors for the Union Blue Railroad. They waited for the inevitable attack by Central Rail’s goons, then sabotaged the train, broke into the engine room, and stole a device from the Great Engine.

Maria and Wade hid the device in an abandoned mine outside Whateley and then headed to Denver to try and find a buyer. That’s where they ran into the Union Blue and Central Rail posses. Wade ate a bullet, but Maria managed to find refuge with Ed Chase at the Palace Theater. Chase connected Maria with a buyer (the auto-gyro pilot), in exchange for a cut of the sale.

Maria explains that since no one outside of the Five Great Railroads has gotten their hands on the Engines’ bizarre technology, the potential price tag is on the order of $100,000. She’s grateful for the heroes’ help getting her out of Denver, so she’s willing to cut them in if they help her retrieve the device from Whateley.

The Way is Closed

Whateley, Colorado is a mining town that has gone through at least one boom-bust cicle. It’s situated beside a lake at the bottom of a valley ringed with mountains, which Maria says are riddled with mines. The party arrives in town late in the afternoon to find the streets almost deserted. A stable hand tells them that a couple of weeks ago, miners in the Old Whateley Mine started going missing until there were so many disappearances that workers refused to go into the mine. But when people tried to leave the valley, somehow the roads always wound back to where they started. Now people are starting to vanish from town every night, with most of the residents holed up in the Pick and Shovel hotel while the local constables guard the warehouse of mine owner Arthur Mechum. Most folks blame the situation on the ghost of town founder Noah Whateley, who perished in an accident at the old mine twelve years ago.

The party encounters Mechum leaving the hotel and he confirms much of what is being said, but he doesn’t believe that people can’t leave the valley and thinks talk of the ghost is just superstitious nonsense. The real reason that the miners won’t go to work is that they’re holding out for more money. Mechum says that equipment is being stolen from his warehouse and the local community leader, Mrs. Doubleday, won’t let him conscript people for guard duty. Mechum suspects the thefts and disappearances are the result of sabotage by his competitors. He offers the heroes $1,000 for recovering a pair of industrial load lifters that have gone missing.

The inside of the Pick and Shovel Hotel is crowded with displaced families and looks more like a refugee center than a hotel. The proprietress, Mrs. Eleanor Doubleday, greets the heroes but warns that the place is full up. A longtime resident of Whateley, she tells them that her husband Michael was among those who perished in the mine disaster 12 years ago. Since then, people have only mined the upper reaches of the surrounding mountains, for fear of hitting aetherstone fumes if they go as deep as the old mine. She suspects the mysterious happenings are Noah Whateley’s revenge for Mechum recent reopening of the Old Whateley Mine. She urges the heroes to investigate and offers the assistance of the town if they do.

The heroes convince Maria that they should put off finding the device until after the mine situation is resolved. They also talk Mrs. Doubleday into finding a room for Maria, while they stay with the horses in the stables.

A Bite in the Dark

During Hightower’s watch, he suddenly feels a compulsion to leave the stables—but makes enough noise in doing so to alert Argent, who wakes up the rest of the group. They try to restrain Hightower, but he overpowers them and keeps going. He leaves the town and seems to be heading towards a mountain across the lake.

Before he gets too far, however, the Hateful Thing comes slinking out of the dark, looking wary. It tugs on Hightower’s pant cuffs to try and steer him back towards the town, but when that fails it bites him sharply, waking him from his stupor. The creature then sneers at the party before fading away again.

The party spies two other people, an older man and a little girl, who seem to be similarly entranced and heading towards the mountain. The group also sees a light on in an isolated cabin on a wooded hill some distance from town. After some debate, the party decides to follow the two sleepwalkers, tracking them for several hours as they go around the lake and approach the entrance to the Old Whateley mine. The heroes watch them enter the mine and then abruptly vanish into the darkness.

Beneath the Lonely Mountain

Realizing that no one in the party has a light source, the heroes trek back to the town where they sleep in for several hours. They convince Maria not to go after the device until they’ve dealt with whatever is going on in the Whateley mine. And they tell Eleanor Doubleday about the events of last night and encourage her to string some bells up as an alarm when more people try to sleepwalk out of town.

The heroes then meet with Mr. Mechum and borrow several miners’ helmets and two Edison electric torches in order to see their way below ground. They ride horses over to the Whateley mine entrance and notice that all of the metal, right down to the nails, has been pried out of the surrounding buildings.

Argent, a native of the Rockies, explains that his sect once fought an ancient evil deep within the mountains and this experience is reminding him of the tales he heard as a child.

Recalling how the two sleepwalkers from last night seemed to suddenly be swallowed up by the darkness, the heroes probe the mine entrance before deciding it’s safe to enter. About twenty paces in, their lights dim, all sound grows muted, and the air becomes cold. Another ten paces and they’re clear.

The inside of the mine is hot and noisy. A loud clanging sound, like hammers on metal, rings out from deeper in the mine and the party can see the flicker of firelight coming from several passages up ahead. The party discovers a fire in one passage near the entrance that is meant to serve as a crude ventilation source for the mine. Near it, they find a ragged journal of semi-incoherent ramblings about the “great master.” The most recent entries express concern that the master’s dreams had “turned to steel” and ended with a pledge to protect the master from the “metal poison.”

The next chamber the heroes investigate is lined with slime and has half a dozen semi-translucent pods hanging from the ceiling. The party creeps up to the entrance to the next chamber, the source of the clanging. Inside, they find ten creatures, man-shaped with slimy gray skin that hangs loosely on their bodies, large milky eyes, and no nose. The creatures are crudely forging steel into large plates that look as if they are meant to fit together into a massive chassis or armor, although some pieces have large holes in them.

Argent sneaks into the room and strikes one of the creatures from behind with his new silvered longsword, cleaving it in half. He tries to get the drop on another creature, but isn’t stealthy enough in his approach. The monster lets out a terrible shriek, alerting everyone in the cavern. In the ensuing battle, the heroes methodically dispatch the creatures, including two more who appear at the chamber’s entrance. The party doesn’t quite perform flawlessly, though, as Argent gets caught in a blast from Vincent’s Burninator and Hightower accidentally shoots Jack.

After the battle, the heroes return the chamber with the pods, finding that two of them are now empty. Argent and Hightower cut open the remaining pods, revealing the old man and little girl they saw from last night as well as a third victim and another thing that is halfway towards becoming one of the creatures. After ensuring that the three survivors are able to return to town on the horses, the party examines the mine.

The main tunnel dead ends abruptly in a wall of perfectly smooth rock. Jack identifies the smoothness as a telltale sign of the burrow spell. Vincent then slaps together a gadget that should allow the party to burrow through the wall to get to the other side. The gadget will only last for one use, but he assures them that he can build another on the other side. With that, the party steps through the stone and into the next session.

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The Mines of Maria, Part II
Through the looking stone

After using Vincent’s device to burrow through the stone blocking their path, the party tumbles out into the deeper section of the mine. The passages here are faintly illuminated by the silver-green glow of veins of aetherstone. Although they can hear voices in the distance, the party first investigates a tapping sound coming from a side passage. They come upon a pair of Tommyknockers sabotaging the supports near a latrine area in the tunnels. The creatures let out a piercing shriek and then meld into the stone. The noise draws the attention of several Devoured Ones and the Tommyknockers use this opportunity to bring down part of the tunnel in an attempt to bury Jack and Vincent.

By this point, everyone is alerted to the heroes’ presence and several cultists rush out to attack Argent. Unfortunately, their ceremonial daggers get tangled in each other’s voluminous robes and they accomplish little before they are dispatched. Argent, Hightower, and Jack are caught up in a running melee and gunfight with the cultists and their remaining Devoured Ones. Vincent, meanwhile, was separated from the group during the cave in and is attacked from three sides by the Devoured Ones and the Tommyknockers. In such close quarters, he is unable to use his Burninator as the creatures wear down his defenses. He gets a brief reprieve when the Devoured Ones and the Tommyknockers start fighting each other, but this only allows a Devoured One to move in for a devastating blow that leaves him incapacitated and bleeding on the floor.

The rest of the party having eliminated most of the cultists, Argent and Hightower rush to Vincent’s aid while Jack keeps watch for the cult’s leader, a woman in a crude suit of armor with a robotic arm who had vanished into the cult’s lair. Argent and Hightower bring down the Devoured Ones while Vincent stabilizes and regains consciousness.

The cult leader reappears, trying to escape with a bound and struggling hostage—it’s Maria. Hightower gets the woman with the robotic arm to release Maria and then allows her to leave. As she vanishes, the cult leader warns them that Nycho-Teuthis, many-handed as the cuttlefish, will destroy them. The party manages not to laugh.

Both the Heal-o-tron 9000 and the power of the Omnimessiah are unable to overcome Vincent’s terrible wounds. However, Argent’s skills with natural healing are, over the course of an hour, able to revive the inventor.

Hightower, meanwhile, frees Maria, who explains that she decided to check out the mine where the device was stashed on her own. She got cornered by some Devoured Ones but claims the entire situation was under control until someone reached through the wall and grabbed her. Maria says that she was held prisoner a little further into the cavern along with another man.

Something about the lanky, long-faced man hanging from shackles rubs both Hightower and Maria the wrong way. The man claims to be State Mine Inspector Don Blankenship and demands to be let down. Jack quickly determines that he is under the effects of a glamour to hide his appearance. Questioned by Hightower, the man reveals his connection to the cult: he is Noah Whateley, the town founder believed to have perished in a mine disaster 12 years ago.

Noah Whateley was the cult leader until a few weeks ago, when Nycho-Teuthis came into contact with the device Maria stole. The thing, which Noah describes as box of gears whose very presence presses in on one’s mind, fused with the creature. Instead of dreaming of wiping out the human race, Nycho-Teuthis’ visions now include bands of metal encircling the Earth in an iron cage beneath a smoke-stained sky. Whateley resisted this perversion of his master’s apocalyptic vision and as a result he deposed as cult leader by his granddaughter Rebecca Whateley, the woman with the mechanical arm.

Whateley offers to help the heroes defeat his god if they promise to destroy the device and leave Nycho-Teuthis buried in the earth. Jack refuses to let Whateley down until he provides them with information, so he grudgingly tells them that igniting the veins of aetherstone that run through the creature’s chamber will temporarily disorient it. At this point, Jack executes Whateley. In death, the glamour fades away, revealing a hideous creature with mottled grey skin, mandibles, and two clumps of tentacles instead of legs. Hightower isn’t pleased that Jack just killed a captive, but Jack insists the action was justified.

Searching the cavern, the heroes find some old mining supplies—including a case of dynamite—as well as the cult’s stockpile of older guns and crude bladed weapons. They discover Rebecca’s lab, which includes some interesting designs for her mechanical arm as well as her journal.

Rebecca Whateley was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until strange visions drove her west, where she encountered the thing that had been her grandfather and was inculcated into the cult of Nycho-Teuthis. She sold her family’s claim to the mine to Mr. Mechum, so that he would clear a path down to the buried god. She also bought fully into the creature new, mechanized vision of the apocalypse and came to view her grandfather as too weak to lead. The last scribbled notes hint at a final ritual to free the creature. It is clear that the metal plates being built by the Devoured Ones are intended as armor for Nycho-Teuthis.

Armed with this new knowledge and the dynamite, the party prepares to venture deeper into the mine and kill monster below.

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The Mines of Maria, Part III
The bigger they are, the more dynamite it takes

Dead Men’s Tales

The party ventures deeper into the Whateley mine, with Maria tagging along. The lower levels of the mine are dimly lit by the glow of aetherstone veins and the heroes don’t travel far before they exit the miner’s excavation and enter a set of tunnels much older. Vincent burns down a tangle of spiderwebs and egg sacks that blocked their path, causing an enraged Terrantula to attack but the party quickly dispatches it.

Further down the tunnel, they find a room lined with petroglyphs of running buffalos. Inside is Michael Doubleday, the husband of Eleanor Doubleday presumed dead in the mine disaster 12 years ago. After Michael confirms that none of the heroes are cultists, he explains that he used to work as a miner back when Noah Whateley found this deposit. When Michael and Eleanor discovered Whateley was some kind of Satanist, they confronted him in the mine as he tried to free Nycho-Teuthis. In the ensuing struggle, Eleanor was forced to set off dynamite to bring the cavern down and keep the creature trapped.

Michael managed to escape the cave-in and find safety in the petroglyph room, which has been warded against Nycho-Teuthis and its followers. Nor was he the first to take refuge there; a desiccated skeleton in the remains of a brown robe also shares the room. This was Padre Joaquin Diaz, a priest accompanying Francisco de Coronado’s expedition. One of Coronado’s lieutenants, Alfonso de Cardenas, led a band of Spaniards into the Colorado Rockies after having a vision of great riches there. They forced the natives to show them the hidden entrance to the subterranean depths, but in the darkness the natives turned on them. Diaz fled, while Cardenas and his remaining men pressed on, only to be destroyed by the guardian spirits. That was not the end for the Conquistadors, however, who still stalk the halls as animated skeletons, searching for some way past the Guardians.

Michael says that from what he’s pieced together from his knowledge of Indian legend and notes stolen from Whateley’s journal, a race of many-handed giants was trapped inside the Rockies by the efforts of White Buffalo Calf Woman and Coyote, who laid a series of wards on the mountain to prevent their emergence. Whateley and the cultists have been working to peel back those barriers, but they have yet to overcome the Guardians. Armed with this knowledge, the heroes set out to find the Guardians and hopefully convince them to let them pass.

First, they suffer a run-in with the skeletal Spaniards. Although the creatures are swiftly dispatched, they rise again moments later to attack once more. The party discovers that they must remove the gold doubloons from the skeletons’ eye sockets to keep the monsters from reassembling themselves. Carefully searching the room, the party also discovers the golden Cross of Coronado wrapped in some rags.

The Guardians

Further down the winding corridor, they reach the Guardians’ chamber. Argent, Hightower, and Vincent step forward to investigate, while Jack and Maria wait in the corridor. As the trio enters the chamber, the light behind them dims and a supernatural barrier cuts them off from the corridor. Three figures emerge from the darkness—their doppelgangers.

The mimics explain that Coyote is greatly displeased with their destruction of his shrine in Denver and the overthrow of his chosen servant Soapy Smith. Hightower and Vincent insist that they should be allowed to pass in order to destroy Nycho-Teuthis, but the doppelgangers insist they must provide penance by showing that they’ve learned their destructive impulses will ultimately only harm themselves.

At this point, Hightower has had enough and unloads his Colt Peacemaker from the hip. His bullets strike the copies of Argent and himself, but the wounds are suffered by the originals. The doppelgangers move to attack while Hightower stands dumbfounded. Vincent and Argent trade blows with their copies, but all the damage either version deals is only felt by the heroes. Hightower ultimately concludes that this must be some kind of trick and simply walks past the mimics, who watch him walk by. The other two follow his example and the doppelgangers simply fade away.

As Jack and Maria enter the chamber, the room fills with a pale mist, from which emerges a beautiful Indian woman wearing clothes of white buffalo hide. She heals most of their wounds, noting that Coyote really does not like them. She tells them about a sacred pipe in the room below which can give them an edge against the Devourer.

She also gives them a warning: the walls between Earth and the Spirit World are crumbling, and dark forces are slipping through the gap. Worse, some unknown force on this side of the barrier is working to sabotage it. She warns that the poisonous aetherstone is a sign of the Spirit World pressing into this reality and harbinger of what could come should the two worlds merge.

The Dweller in the Deeps

The heroes descend a narrow shaft into an antechamber where they find the sacred pipe, which summons up illusory doubles for three of them.

The chamber opens out onto a vast cavern wrapped in curving veins of aethersone—a glimmering aetherstone tainted pool lies at one end, while two great pillars of rock obscure the cave’s depths. The heroes enter cautiously and spy Nycho-Teuthis in a far corner of the open space, half hidden behind a pillar.

The Devourer is massive, well over thirty feet long, and covered in gnarled arms and tentacles. The monster is encased in its steel shell, except for one unfinished section on its right side. Sitting above the intersection of its main grasping tentacles is the Engine device Maria stole. Light seems to slide off the box of gears like oil as the parts move in patterns not possible under normal geometry.

The heroes devise a plan to ambush and distract the monster while Vincent hits the device with his flamethrower. However, they fumble their approach and alert Nycho-Teuthis, who burrows into the stone only to reemerge on the other side of the cavern, blocking their escape route. One of its massive tentacles seizes Maria.

Vincent manages to free her and a blast from his flamethrower melts the device, disorienting the creature. Hightower takes this opportunity to race towards the monster and use the dynamite on its unarmored side. Unable to reach it fast enough, he passes the explosives to Maria, who quickly plants them and runs.

Although the party had planned on using only one of the three bundles of dynamite they had recovered from the cult’s supplies, Hightower passed all twelve sticks to Maria, who planted them on the Devourer’s unarmored flank. The ensuing explosion ripped Nycho-Teuthis in half. It also ignited a chain reaction in the aetherstone, which began to bring the cavern down. The heroes scrambled to get out, with Jack barely dodging falling debris.

They hook up with Michael Doubleday and escape the collapsing mine into the orange light of late afternoon. The entire mountain has crumpled inward slightly due to their actions. When the party returns to Whateley, they see that in their absence the Hateful Thing has turned the town against them. However, the safe return of Michael Doubleday is able to overcome the instilled suspicions and the party is hailed as the town’s saviors. The mine owner Mr. Mechum is somewhat less pleased, however.

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Day of Defiance
A banishing, a swordfight, and a vampire slaying

After departing Whateley (soon to be renamed Doubleday) on good terms with everyone but the mine owner, the party (plus Maria) travels down out of the mountains to the town of Defiance, railhead for the Bee Line. Upon learning that all firearms must be turned in to the Sheriff upon entering the town, most of the party elects to remain outside while Argent and his longsword head into town to buy ingredients for the spell to banish the Hateful Thing.

While in town, Argent witness the execution of the bandit known as the Mad Arab. Curiously, the body is hauled out into the desert for burial under heavy guard by Sheriff’s Deputies. Argent also learns from Sheriff Roark that there is a railroad workers’ strike going on. The railroad sent down its enforcer Mr. Schmidt to crush the strike, but the Sheriff has prevented him from using strikebreakers. Instead, bodies have been turning up in the strikers’ camp and now in town. Roark suspects Schmidt released a chupacabra, but so far he’s seen no sign of whatever is causing the deaths.

Argent returns with the news from town and that night the heroes set up in the cemetery overlooking the town. Inside its wrought iron fence they plan to force the Hateful Thing to manifest so it can be destroyed. The creature raises skeletons from the graves to attack them, but their silver bullets prove too much and it is destroyed.

The next day, the heroes head over to the strikers’ camp to investigate the situation. Another body has turned up, drained of its blood like all the others, with no sign of the killer. Jack determines that it could not be a chupacabra, but there are several other blood-drinking beings it could be. Argent learns that Schmidt is a deadly fencer prickly enough to accept any challenge—but then, he’s killed every man he’s faced.

Argent proves his match, however, dodging Schmidt’s attack and then skewering him like a sausage. The celebrations are short lived, however, as the heroes learn that a terrifying creature has broken out of Schmidt’s room in the Golden Spike Hotel downtown and is going on a killing spree.

The party races to confront the beast, which turns out to be a Nosferatu. The monster proves resilient to gunfire and when Argent thrusts the Cross of Coronado at it, the creature is disturbed but does not recoil. Vincent’s Burninator only manages to set the hotel on fire. Finally, Hightower manages to kill the vampire with multiple shots to the heart.

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