Sunday, April 30, 2017

We're Buff Here - Deadlands on Tabletop Day



In a Weird Mood


I'm neck deep in a Weird West mood right now.  Want proof?

  • My wife and I spent the last two weeks watching Westworld on HBO.
  • During that same time I've pumped about 20-30 hours into Red Dead Redemption on my XBOX 360. 
  • I sent my Numenera campaign back to 1879 last week.  
  • I'm planning to run a playtest of +David Baity's Dark Trails, a Dungeon Crawl Classics spin on the Weird Western for my May contribution to the DCCRPG World Tour 2017.  I had a chance to play Dark Trails at Gary Con, and it was a blast!
  • I purchased The Cackler, so that I can get a little Weird West comic action going.  
  • For family movie night last night we watched that Harrison Ford classic: Cowboys & Aliens.  

What started all my binging?  I gotta blame the original:  Deadlands!  

I'm really excited to get my hands on the Deadlands 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition, that will hopefully be showing up in the near future, clad in a foreboding, black wooden whiskey box!  A few weeks back I was going through some of my old, Deadlands books, while I was working on my DCC Shudder Mountain campaign.  That planted a seed!  

So for International Tabletop Day 2017 I wanted to pay some respects to the original trails o' terror, and run some Deadlands Reloaded for the Norwin Game Knights.  

I just needed to concoct a quest.  I wanted to create a quick, two to three hour introductory adventure that let our group use the new Hero's o' Gloom pre-gen characters from Deadlands: Good Intentions.  These characters are perfect for an adventure set in the City o' Gloom, Salt Lake City.  But to commemorate the sixth anniversary of our family almost moving to Kansas, I was interested in basing the adventure in Dodge City.  

I also wanted to feature a new threat to the Weird West: the Werebuffalo!

Now I could just go and write down what happened in the adventure, but for this blog post I'm going to post my adventure outline.  What, you thought you were going to get a full adventure?  Wrong blog!  

Feel free to use it in your own game, or hack it up and make it more your own.  The plot is campy and the NPC names are terrible, but maybe you can do something with...

We're Buff Here


Adventure Summary:

The PC's are customer relations personnel for the Smith & Robards mail order catalog out of the City o' Gloom. They've traveled by train all the way to Dodge City, to find out why their regular clients at "Gutter Camp" to the north have ceased to use their products. They only know two things at the start:

  1. The buffalo hunters and tanners of Gutter Camp used to purchase a lot of specialty tonics and elixers that would help make the long, 16 hours easier.
  2. When they arrive in Dodge City, they get a message back via a dead messenger that just says "we're buff here." 

After some investigation the party finds out the following:


When the PC's get to Dodge City, break out a map (out of the Deadlands 20th Anniversary Edition) and let the players have fun in the city.  Make this as much of a sandbox as possible.  For our game, five of the seven players were brand new to Deadlands so I threw as many weird western cliches as possible at them.  Wyatt Earp showed up for their guns, they found themselves in the Alhambra Saloon, etc...

Somehow, someway, get this information to the PC's:
  • Gutter Camp has been struggling to keep staff recently. Many of the hunters have been leaving, and the company hunt leader, Grant Granston, can't seem to keep people for longer than a few weeks.
  • Grant Granston was running low on cash, and while he needed to keep his staff hard at work, he may have made some dealings with a less-than-honest snake oil salesman named "Best Buy Bill."  
  • Recently Grant sent a note back to Dodge City, saying "We're Buff Here." The messenger who was delivering the note died soon after, from a blunt impact to the head (a Werebuffalo headbutt).  
  • Gutter Camp is located twenty miles north of Dodge City.

If the PC's want to do any more exploring in town, feel free to toss in some more encounters.  For instance, in our game the PC's wanted to dig up the body of the dead messenger.  So I let them!  Ernesto the Steampunk PC used his massive metal arm to drag the coffin out of the ground, and the posse threw it on the back of their wagon and headed north.  I placed a bill of sale for a product called "Big & Buff" in the pocket of the dead messenger.


What actually went down

Here are some of the details to the adventure backstory.  It's up to the GM to divulge the info when it seems appropriate:

  • The buffalo hunters recently stopped buying their products from Smith & Robards, and instead started investing money in a local snake oil salesman named "Best Buy Bill." Best Buy Bill promised all kinds of tinctures and elixers, but at a much cheaper cost than Smith & Robards.
  • The one product being given to the buffalo hunters was something called "Big & Buff."  On one hand, it makes folks super strong for a full day, without needing sleep.  But Big & Buff had a nasty side effect: it turns folks into werebuffalo. 
  • Best Buy Bill would shackle the sick hunters to his wagon before they turned, using silver tethers, and then once they transformed they could do nothing to escape.  
  • Best Buy Bill is taking the werebuffalo, and selling them to a twisted Confederate army officer named "Colonel Krieg". The Colonel is trying to create a strike force of werebuffalo that he can use as muscle in raids in Kansas. 
  • Best Buy Bill was successful in chaining up eight of the twelve turned werebuffalo. 
  • Grant Granston never drank any of the Big & Buff, nor did his messenger.  While all this buffalo turning, and escaping was going on, Grant gave his messenger a note, and sent him to Dodge City for help.  It was supposed to read "were-buff here", but some dirt got on the message, and a spec made it look like the "were" was a "we're".  Oh, and Grant forgot the hyphen.  

Wait... are you telling me this is a weak plot?  Just an excuse to do a play on the words "we're buff?"  Well... you're right.  Sorry.  But this is the adventure you signed on to read.  

The Camp

  • When the PC's arrive at the camp it is in deplorable condition.
  • There are four parts of the camp:
    • The tents
    • A stream that runs through the camp, where the buffalo hunters did most of their butchering near.  
    • A wooden fence.
    • An area where horses were tied up.
  • Barely anything survived. Grant Granston is missing.  Or he's not.  Up to you, the GM. In my game, I left him out, and just assumed he was dead.  But that's because my PC's spent a lot of time playing around with the messenger's corpse.  In your game, maybe he's alive and can leave clues, or help with fighting Best Buy Bill.  
  • The PC's can come across a surviving human undergoing a change into being a werebuffalo at night. He will lash out, while transforming, but shouldn't make it the whole way.  
  • At some point the PC's will face four werebuffalo.  I had them come out of the stream.  To make it seem like they were more "were-like", I said that they were all wearing torn up clothing, like the Hulk.  

Werebuffalo

You want stats for that werebuffalo?  Well it should come as no surprise that I just did a quick reskin of the Werewolf found in the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook on page 142.  Just increase their Vigor to a D12, and give them a Tough Hide that boosts their Toughness by 3.  Ultimately, their Toughness will be an 11, which is pretty damn hard to beat, but hey... why not?  

Also, werebuffalo just headbutt instead of bite.  But it does the same damage as a werewolf bite.  

Tracking Down Best Buy Bill

Best Buy Bill can easily be tracked down, as he left the camp not too long ago.  If the PC's follow a trail to the east, they eventually find his mechanical horse driven cart.  

Best Buy Bill isn't a threat at all.  I used the "Scientist" archetype from the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook and pumped up his Toughness to a 7 to reflect a couple points of armor from his semi-mechanical body.  

His wagon comes in three pieces:
  • A mechanical horse in the front.  Functions just like a regular horse, but can never needs to rest or sleep.  Runs on ghost rock.
  • A middle, "crew" section.  Best Buy Bill has a pair of goons that have d6's in all their stats, and fire a pair of Lightning Blasters at the PC's if they get too close and mean harm.  Each one functions as the "Bolt" power from the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook, and has 20 power points.  The crew roll D8's to shoot the Lightning Blasters.
  • The rear section is a chain gang of the eight remaining Werebuffalo. 

How this all shakes out is up to you.  The werebuffalo know what they are and enraged.  But they shouldn't need to be foes!  If an especially charismatic PC (like Father Houston in our game) can persuade them to fight back, let them do so.  Make it epic!  

Ending the Adventure

This part is totally up to you.  In our game, the PC's got one of the werebuffalo to fight on their side, and they freed it.  Then they freed the rest of the werebuffalo and sent them back to Smith & Robards.  They also killed Best Buy Bill.  But again, make this adventure your own.

*     *     *

I wrote this adventure on the fly, and threw things together pretty quickly for International Tabletop Day.  I knew that I'd have mostly new players for Deadlands Reloaded, so I wasn't that concerned about making things too challenging.  But I'm half-tempted to go back and rework this into more of a functional "One-Sheet" style adventure.  Perhaps I will.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, let me know!  

Happy gaming!