Blood Drive

Tick, Doc, Finn's Rock

The morning sun is over the horizon, and Ray “Doc” Brown finds a noose over his neck a mile outside of Finn’s Rock. Good deeds don’t go unpunished.

As luck would have it, Ace, Creed, and Nolan Tinney (a cowboy from the Lazy S ranch) are riding towards the town of Finn’s Rock looking for a doctor. Their pal Cole needs a doctor… bad. They come across the hanging near the sign that says:

Finn’s Rock
1 Mile

Coffinn’s Rock
Stay Away

The hanging seems more like a lynching, and Cole and Ace save Doc as he’s dangling from the tree…

The story starts to emerge. Town Marshall Bryce seems to have lost it; he’s taken over the dying town by force. When Doc stood up to him backed up by some town folk, Bryce callously gut shot one of the crowd. Shortly after, Doc was grabbed by two “deputies” and hauled off to the hangin’ tree.

While Cole’s life hangs in the balance, at the minimum, Doc needs his bag. Creed feels a need to do more; it just ain’t right leaving the town in the clutches of a madman.

The makeshift posse attempts to recruit Doc’s friend Campbell but reconsiders when they think about the danger to the family man.

With stealth and some luck on their side, the group gets to Doc’s office without making any noise thanks to the Huckster’s tricks. Their luck runs out when a deputy is standing in the office, recognizes Doc, and fires. Then all Hell breaks loose.

When the smoke cleared, the posse had taken out Marshall Bryce, the surprise betrayer Dr. Adrien Mannen (Ray’s replacement), and the remaining deputies. It was a tense battle in close quarters. Nolan was killed, and Creed was wounded (but patched up by Doc).

Leaving Campbell in charge and confident that the town had been freed, they ride back to Cole. He would’ve been a goner without Doc. Somehow a prairie tick was in Cole’s stomach (Doc figures he must have ingested it somehow), and Doc knew what to do. Cole recovered in short time, but an hour or more, and it might’ve been a different outcome.

A day or so later, the group joins back to the cattle drive with Doc in tow. The final push for Denver is on…

Game Notes:

After thinking about it, I upped the XP awards to 4 for Doc on his debut, and 3 for Ace and Creed. I really enjoyed myself, and thought the players brought a ton to the party. That’s worth an extra XP.

Rules wise, I was surprised by the effectiveness of Soaking. It prolonged the battle and didn’t feel quite right. I also was surprised that the system is not as lethal as I thought. It took a bad roll for Bryce to actually be dead rather than just out of the combat (with some brain damage).

Adventure wise… I came to the table with just the framework. I knew Doc would be getting hanged (kind of a classic Western thing), I knew the town was in Marshall Bryce’s clutches (that was taken from the Coffin’s Rock adventure), and that Cole (or someone else had Gary shown up) had a mysterious ailment. Everything else was done at the table. I didn’t know Dr. Mannen was a bad guy until Doc entered the room… it just felt right, and the battle seemed like it was going to be pretty one sided. If we had more time, I would’ve went with anything the player’s thought was going on. Maybe Bryce was being controlled by someone else. Maybe the missing Mayor was possessed. Maybe there was something sinister in the mine. Or… the players could have just rescued Doc and rode back to Cole, and the adventure would have taken a different direction altogether. I was nervous about trying this, but I thought it worked.

How the West Was Weird

The action opens with Cole finding “the gun” in Black Dog’s saddlebag. It’s made of black metal with a white bone handle, a red snake and a black snake are in-laid either side of the handle, it has no hammer, and the cylinder is encased so you can’t see the ammunition or load the gun. Cole tells the posse and Sutter. Creed thinks it’s “witchery.”

There’s no rest on a cattle drive, so the herd leaves at down in the general direction of Roswell.

The herd takes almost two weeks until it gets to an abandoned farmhouse before the trail turns into desert. On the way, the posse sees a Hangin’ Judge riding after the Lost Devil Gang, run off some Comanches trying to steal some horses, and spot their first sign of CSA presence in the area.

There’s a well at the Abandoned Farmhouse and it take the better part of a day to water the animals and cowboys. Cole rigs up a contraption to make the job easier and frees up much manpower.

The Abandoned Farmhouse itself proves to be a mystery. Locked from the inside, several valuables, a weird (but quite normal) loaded gun… but no clue what happened to the inhabitants. Sutter shrugs and says “probably Camanches” which you assume is his answer to many things in this area.

In late afternoon, Danny Murray (a dandy cowboy) and Junior Boukman (clearly so kind of voodoo priest) arrive to talk to Sutter and Cole about the gun on behalf of Bayou Vermillion. They try to negotiate on the basis the gun is dangerous, then offer Sutter a fair amount for the herd (“that train has left the station, son”), then offer Cole escalating amounts up to $500. When that is refused, Murray seems disappointed but leaves.

The desert is brutal, but the posse mostly manages. The herd almost goes into a stampede as it nears a tributary of the Colorado River. Cole’s horse is attacked by a swarm of red and black snakes (both indigenous to the area), but they disappear as others arrive on the scene.

It’s a week of easy riding, and the herd is left in a box canyon outside Roswell. Sutter, Abby, and a couple of hands go into Roswell to try to sell part (or all) of the herd.

On the second night, a spy using a rocket pack takes off outside Roswell and crashes a mile from the herd. Sent to investigate, the posse finds a the dead spy, a rocket pack with a bullet hole in it, some Deseret bank notes, and a drawing of a mechanical man with scientific notations. While investigating the scene, CSA soldiers come running down the hill and open fire on the posse. Ace gets hit, but the “battle” is very one-sided and the soldiers get mowed down.

Creed heals a couple of the soldiers, Ace grabs the shotgun and goes back to camp, Cole stashes his backpack with “the gun” in it, and eventually the duo are taken into custody by followup CSA forces. They buy the story after seeing the healed soldiers, the lack of a shotgun, Creed’s collar, and Cole’s sincerity.

The CSA proves to be inept interrogators and investigators, they buy the entire story, shrug their shoulders, and the incident is over. They do tell Sutter to move his herd along.

While leaving Roswell, long story short, Cole and Creed (and later Ace) meet Johnston Hanley a weird scientist (and weapon expert) for the CSA. He’s able to tell them a little bit about the gun (it has limited charges, don’t fire it when it’s out) but directs them to Mahlon Roesch in Denver for more information. He also offers to sell the posse some of his prototypes… as long as they give him a full field report.

Non-Story Notes

  • This was the “closer look at the setting” portion of the adventure.
  • I’m not fond of the constant Survival and Vigor Rolls. I’m going to change that up.
  • Black Dog’s death has me changing quite a bit in the adventure which is fine.
  • I’m still not sure what I think about Savage Worlds as a system. Definitely things I like, definitely things I don’t.
Black Day for Black Dog

Blood Drive’s strength is that it’s an introduction to Savage Worlds as a system and Deadlands as a setting. This chapter of the adventure was clearly intended to showcase Savage Worlds ability to handle large scale combats easily. I think it was successful… despite the GM’s lack of preparation!

Three days after the cattle drive started, Bayou Vermillion attacked in the middle of the night. Bill Sutter and Luke Canton were scouting ahead for the next watering hole and four of the Lazy S cowboys were riding the herd, leaving the three members of the posse, cook Javier Ortega, Abby Morton, and 10 cowboys to fend off 10 rail warriors, 5 walking dead, and Black Dog himself.

Cole and Ace concentrated on the rail warriors and walking dead, but Creed jumped on the opportunity to blast away at Black Dog when he got too close to the action. Hit in the chest with two slugs, Black Dog was down for the fight. His crew tried to rescue him, but Ace entangled the lot of them and they were swept underneath the stampeding herd.

Things looked dark at the beginning, but when the dust settled the Lazy S had only lost two hands. Clearly, it could have been much worse.

While doing a perimeter ride, Cole finds Black Dog’s horse. While there’s nothing special about the animal, in the saddlebag Cole finds a leather cloth with a strange six-shooter wrapped inside.

Is this the end of Bayou Vermillion‘s attacks? Will the herd make it to Roswell intact? Will Abby ever stop talking? And what’s the deal with that gun?

Tune in next time…

Of Spiders and Shootouts

This is just a quick recap so I don’t forget the details; I’ll be back to edit this…

  • Sutter tasks the posse with tracking down some stray cattle.
  • Some success, but then there’s a Terrantula attack. Tense moments. Creed and his horse are swarmed. The horse goes down, Creed manages to get to the water, and blasts the horse/spiders/dynamite into smithereens.
  • Ace tells a harrowing tale of the Weird West.
  • Upon returning to the Lazy S, Bartholomew Phelps and some Bayou Vermillion goons (including Black Dog) confront Sutter. Outnumbered, Phelps rides away. Ace and Phelps have history.
  • Sutter escalates the drive. Three days before departure…
  • Ace – seen as the leader of the posse – overhears some jealous mutterings from Worley Ries.
  • Posse is tasked with accompanying Abby Morton to Pettinger’s Supply to pick up supplies.
  • Phelps and 5 BV gunmen confront the posse. Phelps calls out Cole.
  • Phelps wins the duel, but both are still standing. BV attacks. Phelps and Ace tangle, and Abby drops Phelps for good.
  • Aftermath…
    • Ace’s “secret” is out of the bag.
    • Abby
    • Posse has three BV rail warriors captive; no clue what to do with them.
    • Where’s Black Dog?
    • The Posse is hurting… and they have to leave on the drive in 2 days.

Let me know if I left anything out.

Greenhorns and Devil Eyes
Ace shows the posse how to cowboy up...

Cole, Creed, and Ace all find themselves in Sutter’s Flats at the Lonely Crow saloon. They’ve heard rumors that someone in the area is hiring, and they are desperate enough (for their own reasons) to show up to the middle of nowhere in hopes of a job.

They don’t have to wait long… Bill Sutter walks in to the Lonely Crow and hires the trio within 15 minutes. He’s driving his cattle north for sale. Bayou Vermillion is low-balling him, and he’s having none of it. Cole and Creed look the part of cowboys, but Ace doesn’t fit the profile. Bill doesn’t seem to mind much as long as they are willing to learn and work hard. $30 a month is the agreed upon wage.

Since Cole doesn’t have a room at the Lonely Crow, he heads back to the Lazy S ranch with Sutter and spends the rest of the day prepping the bunkhouse for himself and the other two newcomers.

The first real day of work finds the trio breaking horses. This seems to be a test of sorts. Sutter hands them off to Luke Canton who basically points at four horses and sits back to watch the entertainment. Creed does manage to break one of the horses but looks the fool doing it. Cole looks okay. It’s the dandy Ace, however, who proves to be the ringer. He breaks two horses… and then decides to have a go at Devil Eyes the horse no one on the ranch has been able to break.

A crowd gathers as Ace ropes and mounts the giant mare. Creed even mutters a prayer for Ace. It’s Ace’s day though. Devil Eyes bucks, snorts, thrashes, but eventually is broken. A cheer goes up from the Lazy S hands. Sutter is so impressed that he loans Devil Eyes to Ace for the drive and gives the trio the night off.

Dinner is particularly upbeat that night due to Ace’s exploits. Round-up is considered harder than the drive itself, and normally the hands are ready to eat and head to bed. Abby Morton sits with Ace for a bit and asks question after question…

Non-Story Notes

  • Character creation took way longer than I expected. For Smooth and Jeramie, I’m going to find out what they want to play and have some sort of template ready.
  • I warned folks that neglecting fighting is probably a bad, bad thing. That sets your parry rating and could cause issues if something jumps on your face.
  • Riding is the main skill for cattle driving. Throwing is important for roping.
  • I messed up a few things with Devil Eyes, but of course the results stand! Joe also had a free success in his hand that he could have used, so let’s just say it all balances out.
  • Steve has changed his character’s name from Ezekial to Creed. I think I’ve corrected all of the references. Also, based on Creed’s picture, I would say he DOES look the part of a cowboy… So I retconned that in the adventure log.
  • Regarding Miracles, they only last for one round even if they can normally be maintained by other Arcane Backgrounds.

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