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Author Topic: [Dust Devils] Wyrd West - On the Trail of Bastards  (Read 3530 times)

Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« on: April 04, 2004, 10:32:18 PM »

The following is an e-mail I sent to the gamers.  A friend is coming in from outta town and I reckoned this'd be a good game ta run:

The Adventure:

Little Pyramid is your home, a town on the border between Upper Rosetta, Lower Rosetta where the Norse hold law. The pyramid that gives the town its name is no bigger than an outhouse, has been worn away by time, said to be a general from Rosetta who was peppered with arrows from the native tribes. The glyphs are worn away by dust and time.

Some bastards came through town last night, shot up Kef's Saloon, raped a girl and robbed the pyramid that gives the town its name.  Y'all are the posse that's been rounded up to catch the varmints.

Let me know who you are and why you volunteered to go after the bastards.  Make their deeds and their history as much a part of your own as you care to.

We'll be using Dust Devils which is a really neat Indie RPG that'll allow us all to make up great characters in just a few minutes.

The World:

After years I tracked down the poem at the end of this message. I'd read the poem in an anthology, maybe during high school or even junior high. It stuck with me.

It is a wild west where every mythology I loved as a child meets in the dust. Six guns meets Set. High noon for Horus.

Then I had an image of a battered brass scarab belt buckle, holding up a worn pair of jeans. The buckle is also an amulet, keeping the rattlers away from his horse while on the trail. Whose horse? I don't know. I don't know yet. But I know his dusty boots are engraved with cats chasing snakes and the heels are worn. There is a leather band with hieroglyphs around a black hat.

What we know as the Mississippi is the Nile's Brother. The Brother bisects the great states of upper and lower Rosetta with its gambling boats in the shape of great hippos, red-stone pyramids and Bast-run brothels.

North and South Rosetta are at odds, last month a fight broke out in their congress and all augurs seem to see nothing but plagues and Angels of Death in their tea-leaves. The Pilgrim-slaves of Lower Rosetta seem to be biding their time, waiting for something.

Texas is a state afire with a range wars between the cattle barons. The Wooden Horse Ranch in Troy County has gained the enemnity of many of the most powerful barons. Rumor has it the blood is being spilled over a woman.

The northeast has been settled by great lodges of Norsemen with runes carved in the bullets of their six-guns and totem poles adopted from their neighbors with Odin atop Thor atop Loki atop Fenris atop a Turtle.

The east was settled by the army of a Roman emperor from the old country who has since fallen to his brother's knives. The senators of the Republic await the coming war between upper and lower Rosetta greedily, hoping to gain more land.
Injuns are inspired by Arthurian legend, with one chief recently rising to unite the nations and the White Buffalo Woman giving him a warclub to destroy his enemies.

There is also this hazy image of Little Pyramid, a town on the border between Upper Rosetta, Lower Rosetta and where the Norse hold law. The pyramid that gives the town its name is no bigger than an outhouse, has been worn away by time, said to be a general from Rosetta who was peppered with arrows from the native tribes. The glyphs are worn memories.

The Exodus maybe parting one of the Great Lakes rather than the Red Sea. Sly Uli makes his way back home after the war through old Mexico.

The Inspiration:

I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra
Ishmael Reed

'The devil must be forced to reveal any such physical evil (potions, charms, fetishes, etc.) still outside the body and these must be burned.' (Rituale Romanum, published 1947, endorsed by the coat-of-arms and introductory letter from Francis cardinal Spellman)

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra,
sidewinders in the saloons of fools
bit my forehead like O
the untrustworthiness of Egyptologists
who do not know their trips. Who was that
dog-faced man? they asked, the day I rode
from town.

School marms with halitosis cannot see
the Nefertiti fake chipped on the run by slick
germans, the hawk behind Sonny Rollins' head or
the ritual beard of his axe; a longhorn winding
its bells thru the Field of Reeds.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. I bedded
down with Isis, Lady of the Boogaloo, dove
deep down in her horny, stuck up her Wells-Far-ago
in daring midday getaway. 'Start grabbing the
blue,' I said from top of my double crown.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Ezzard Charles
of the Chisholm Trail. Took up the bass but they
blew off my thumb. Alchemist in ringmanship but a
sucker for the right cross.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Vamoosed from
the temple i bide my time. The price on the wanted
poster was a-going down, outlaw alias copped my stance
and moody greenhorns were making me dance;
while my mouth's
shooting iron got its chambers jammed.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Boning-up in
the ol' West i bide my time. You should see
me pick off these tin cans whippersnappers. I
write the motown long plays for the comeback of
Osiris. Make them up when stars stare at sleeping
steer out here near the campfire. Women arrive
on the backs of goats and throw themselves on
my Bowie.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Lord of the lash,
the Loup Garou Kid. Half breed son of Pisces and
Aquarius. I hold the souls of men in my pot. I do
the dirty boogie with scorpions. I make the bulls
keep still and was the first swinger to grape the taste.

I am a cowboy in his boat. Pope Joan of the
Ptah Ra. C/mere a minute willya doll?
Be a good girl and
bring me my Buffalo horn of black powder
bring me my headdress of black feathers
bring me my bones of Ju-Ju snake
go get my eyelids of red paint.
Hand me my shadow

I'm going into town after Set

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra

look out Set here i come Set
to get Set to sunset Set
to unseat Set to Set down Set

usurper of the Royal couch
imposter RAdio of Moses' bush
party pooper O hater of dance
vampire outlaw of the milky way


Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2004, 10:50:22 PM »

The first gamer has sent her concept:

My first thought is that the girl who was raped was one of my girls.  I run the saloon/whorehouse, and no one samples the goods for free!  Bast's Cathouse is the name of my gig, and I, Emuish้r้ (which means "little pussy" in ancient Egyptian), aka Sharp Sh้r้ (pronounced Sherry), am out for blood.  
The way I see it, Sh้r้ used to be a "soiled dove," but worked her way up until she took over the joint. Sh้r้ does not take kindly to anyone roughing up her girls.  She's pretty quick on the draw and not one to take shit; she's also a priestess of Bast (if that's possible, let me know if it's not).  The whorehouse doubles as a temple, and there are both types of cat everywhere.  

The saloon and the cathouse could be separate but symbiotic organizations.  I am picturing my character as a hot Calamity Jane type, who dresses like a man but sexy, top hat, worn down boots, gun belts and all.  I imagine the sign out front having a cat fighting a snake, with all the lewd innuendo such a picture could evoke.  

The gamer who sent this to me asked for any feedback and I told her I thought the concept was perfect.

Any ideas?


Posts: 576

« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2004, 11:06:37 PM »

Cool. I like cross-genre possibilities, but I also am nearly having a tough time wrapping my head around all of them - mixed wyrd mythoses, and Western tropes, AND remembering to set up the players for big Devil-prone questions. Do you see these different mythos changing the who Devil issue for players, or does this merely give our vision of the devils a different shade of color?


Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2004, 11:17:32 PM »

Quote from: Dev
Cool. I like cross-genre possibilities, but I also am nearly having a tough time wrapping my head around all of them - mixed wyrd mythoses, and Western tropes, AND remembering to set up the players for big Devil-prone questions. Do you see these different mythos changing the who Devil issue for players, or does this merely give our vision of the devils a different shade of color?

I hear ya, there are a whole lotta myths in that there stew.

I think the Devil issue will remain very much the same.

Ben Lehman

Posts: 2094


« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2004, 02:17:59 AM »

This is just a post to say "sounds cool" and a random tidbit.

Random Tidbit:
If I were in this game, I'd play the old, disaffected Aztec guy, who ran away from the flaying sacrifice that might have saved his people from the Romans.



Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2004, 08:46:18 AM »

Another player has e-mailed me a character:

I call myself Khat. (1) I'm a scar-faced, thin-lipped wench that most folks know to leave well enough alone. People say I started out as a vengeful twinkle in Daddy's eye, a neo-Sekhmet conceived to bring down those as done him wrong. (2) He was Mayor of Peoria (3) before he got run outta town, and that never sat with him, see. If anybody knows who Mama was, they ain't talkin' and I don't much care: I grew up with Daddy, on the run in the scrublands. Folks've said he weaned me on scorpion venom and fresh blood, but that's just bullshit. It was goat's milk and whatever else he had. Problem is, a course, Daddy weren't no saintly Ra turned on by the fickle. He's as crooked as a broke-backed sidewinder with a forked tongue to match, but I didn't know that then. Not until after I rode alone into Peoria at a fresh fifteen years and shot down the sherriff (4), the mayor and a few other folks and rode out again, sour and cool as fresh lemonade. While towns up'n'down rounded up wranglers, and the price on my head went up'n'up, Daddy was busy bustin his old pals outta jail and puttin together a new gang. We lived it large, crackin more than a few heads, til the day I thought ta ask: 'So what did these folks do to ya, Poppa?'

'Nothin at all, Baby Girl,' he said, 'That score's settled and then some. This here's New Business.'

That didn't sit right by me. I grew up an outlaw, sure, but it's one thing to be on the lamb 'cuz the bad folks are out ta git ya and a whole other thing to be the bad folk through'n'through. I sold my Daddy out, tipped his hand to th'authorities, but he got wise and ran me out too. I got me an amnesty for turnin coat, an I decided to live small for awhile. I came to roost in Little Pyramid, and I been servin drinks at Kef's a few years now. Then them varmints came through, makin bad trouble, and I dusted off the ol' pistols and put my apron down.

Not only they mess up some good folks in my new lil life, which is bad 'nuff, coupla them boys... they ran with Pops.

Khat's kitty: brace of pistols, inlaid with vultures in mother of pearl. Whip. Mean right hook, and a sucker punch from her conscience.

1. A homophonic pun on the English 'Cat'; also the Khemetic-language word for the part of the soul-self which is the physical body, or 'the part that rots.'

2. I'm treading waters that mix game and real-life Significance, here. Sekhmet, vengeful destroyer, Eye of Ra, bringer of plagues and protectress of those who fight them is my patron Goddess (or First of a few, anyhow). But with the Egyptoid influence in your Wyrd West, why not?

3. Name chosen arbitrarily, with no attachment.

4. But I didn't shoot no deputy....


Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2004, 12:12:38 PM »

E-mail from another player:

Caelius is obviously Roman, or at least he's part Roman, with that nose and square jaw and green eyes. But, his cheekbones and straight black hair point to some injun blood. Also, he's pretty red-skinned, but it could be all the time he spends in the sun tendin his land. He looks to be about 30 years old, but it's hard to tell, he's so weathered by what must've been an outddor life before he came to Little Pyramid.
Cae came to Little Pyramid about three years ago, bought a small plot of land on the outskirts (in full with cash!), and set up a small farm. Over the years, he has kept almost completely to himself and doesn't even seem to be a resident of the town most of the time. He tends to his crops and his chickens and comes to the town market when he needs supplies or has a surplus of eggs or corn to sell or trade. He lives alone in the small house and doesn't bother nobody. He's got an injun-lookin horse and a small pack of mutts. He don't attend no temple--Eqyptian or Norse; no one's seen him praying to the Four Directions either. Maybe he prays to Roman gods or none at all.
For all that he normally keeps to his lonesome, once in a blue moon, he comes to Kef's, sits at the bar, and drinks himself unconcious. He doens't talk or make time with the ladies; he just drinks. Well, that's not totally true. When he's drunk as a skunk, he sometimes talks to Khat a little. What he says, though, only him and Khat know. All in all, he's an odd one.
The rest of the story:
Caelius was born of the unlikely but loving union of a Roman soldier and a Cherokee woman. When he was born, he got a Roman name from his father but not much more. When he was a small boy, his father was stationed elsewhere, and he left his half-breed son behind. Cae grew up in his mother's tribe and eventually was given the name Small Eagle in deference to his Roman heritage. However, he was always known as a person reluctant to take sides, indecisive, of a divided mind. He was sometimes called Snake With Two Heads--usually behind his back.
Although his mother's people accepted him, Cae never felt that he was a part of their culture. He went through all the rituals: he sweated, he drank the Black Drink, he ate the sacred mushrooms, he kept vigil in trees, and he hung from the hooks. Never did he feel the spirits. Never did the hawk or the wolf call his name. Deep in his heart, he knew that this was because he was a man of two peoples and had never chosen which path he would follow. If he wasn't happy, at least he was safe and had his own life.
All that changed because of Wolf Craving Blood and Bold Dog. Bold Dog was the new chief and Wolf Craving Blood was his brother. They incited other villages and clans to make a real war against the Romans. They wanted to kick them off Turtle Island once and for all, back to their lands of goats and olives. Their raids against the Eagles become more violent and more frequent. Finally the Romans grew tired and set out to exterminate all the Cherokee. When the scouts alerted the village that a large force of Romans was coming, Caelius was paralyzed with conflicting feelings. He couldn't help either of his peoples kill the other. At the last minute, he fled. He took off into the woods. When the battle was over, he returned. The village was devastated. His lodge was mostly burned. In the rubble, he could see that his mother had died defending her other children. She had earned great honor in her last moments. He buried her as properly as he could, although he did not remember all the songs that should be sung to the departed. He was 15.
After this, Cae went west, telling himself that he was seeking freedom. During his travels, he lived as he could--by stealing mostly. He stole a pistol from a sleeping mail carrier and made himself into a good shot. He came to the great prairies of the Pawnee and the Lakota and, recently, the Egyptians. Out there in the dust and sage of the Shoshone, in a town barely fit to be called such, Cae met another traveller, another outlaw. This man was a red-haired Norseman as mean with a hatchet as he was with a pistol. He went by the name Red Gun. After a night of cards and drink and talk, Red Gun took Cae under his wing. Together they robbed their way across the plains and badlands. Injun, Egyptian, Norseman--it made no difference; if you had valuables you were fair game for the pair. On top of being partners in crime, they were also partners in the bedroll.
Caelius and Red Gun were together for several years. They swore to each other every oath you can think of and then some. They told each other  only death would part them. But there came a morning when Caelius woke up alone and cold in his bedroll. Red's horse and pack was gone. Next to Cae pack was his share of the gold from their latest robbery. And that was that. Red did a good job of covering his tracks.
Caelius went a little nuts for a while. He stayed out in the badlands searching for Red sometimes and other times just wandering in a fog. He didn't care if he lived or died or about anything. How long this went on, Cae doesn't know. Eventually he came to his senses. He decided he couldn't keep up a life of crime; it wouldn't feel right without Red. He decided to settle down in the first town he came to. That town was Little Pyramid. Even though he's gotten over Red as much as he can, Cae has sworn to himself that if he ever sees Red again, he's going to make him tell him why he left. And then he's going to kill him. To shoot him right between the eyes.
Cae had settled into a sort of life in Little Pyramid. It was a lonely life, but he didn't much want to socialize anyway. He had his crops and his dogs. It was a quiet life that suited him fine. And then here comes Red again to mess it all up, to take all the feelings that Cae had put in jars on a high shelf and smash'em all over the floor. Red come through Little Pyramid with a gang of sunovabitches shootin' things up and rapin' a girl and robbin' the pyramid. Well, he wasn't gonna get away with it. He's gotta pay for that. And for somethin' else.


Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2004, 08:16:45 PM »

E-mailed to me from a player:

I might do a nicer, story-version of this, but in brief:

Chickasaw Jack

Jack probably ain't Chickasaw.  He isn't even all Injun.  His daddy was squarehead and his momma was Injun.  (No one knows what tribe, no one much cares, neither.)  He growed up real handsome, and there ain't a boy been born since Thor hisself who's biggern' stronger.  Only problem was, he got slowed up along the way.  His daddy turned to that crucifixtion cult and never did take too kindly to him.  Downright hated the poor bastard after his momma died.

Boy kinda stood out.  A little too red for Valhalla if ya kinnit, and
that began to itch on his daddy more and more each day since his little bit of Injun pussy passed.

Jack's daddy took it into his head--with the help of the local
preacher, mind--that the red in Jack's flesh was a hint of the little red pitchfork man runnin' all over inside little Jackie's soul.  Daddy took it into his head--still not by his own self--that maybe beatin the boy would save his soul.

Came time when Jack was old enough to choose to be born again in Jesus' waters.  Little Jackie wanted his daddy to like him so much.  He thought for sure this would be the way.  So he done it.  Only he got held down  too long under the under and he ain't been right since.

Still, everyone's got use for a strong halfwit who aims to please hard like he do.  Shit, it makes the boy so damned happy when he gets somethin right.  And it aches him powerful bad when he fucks up.  He'll go on a tear, moanin and rockin and beatin hisself upside the head with them big ham-fistsa his till you stop him.

Anyway, he's still a handsome fella--though he don't know how to use it none--and he's strongern' ever.  Bigger, too.  He kicked around for a while from one cuss usin him to another, till he come to Little Pyramid an the sweet arms of Bast.

Mostly alls you need is to have a big fucker like that in the taproom and ain't noone not completely fucked outta his gourd gonna fuck around.

When a man lets his whiskey get aheada his sense, all one-a them pretty ladies need to do is point Chickasaw at the poor fool.  Then you just gotta step the fuck out the way.  It's like Rover been starvin for a week an someone hid prime rib inside Little Sue's dolly.  Ain't a pretty sight.

Ain't nothin hardly human in it.

Which brings us to the dead whore.  The girls is always kind to Jack.

The new ones don't know his head's all fucked up an all they see is  that face the body like one-a the Einherjar(http://www.pantheon.org/articles/e/einherjar.html) come a-courtin.
Even the older girls take a likin to Jack, though.  When he ain't worryin a fella's head off his shoulders like a kid tryin to pull off a green
twig, he's a sweet boy.  So when the one whore who been nicer to him than alla t'others turned up dead?  Well, Chickasaw Jack been askin the ladies whose turn it is to dance.

And waitin sure ain't his game, so if I was you, I'd say the fuck away from that big bastard.

Nev the Deranged

Posts: 741

Dave. Yeah, that Dave.

« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2004, 04:59:11 PM »

Hmm.. we've seen Western crossed with high fantasy, pulp fantasy, gothic fantasy, steampunk, and alchemy... but Western crossed with Egyptian tropes... now there's something nifty about that. Your initial description of the Egyptian gunslinger was pretty sweet. The other cultures don't seem as well suited, but that's prolly just because they haven't been as well developed yet.

Your players' write ups are really inspiring. Some great work. Looks like you have a hella groovy game ahead of you... keep us posted!


Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2004, 01:34:34 AM »

Shere's wonderful player, Paula, e-mailed me the following just before the game, more background.  We were on the verge of playing before sitting down at the table, so I was glad that we played just after this, right when the iron was hot.

As it turned out, this NPC was a big part of the overall plot:

Sigrid Meritmiuwset (means "pretty little girl kitty") is not the slightest bit Egyptian.  A tall, platinum blond stunner with blue eyes, fond of fancy dresses, long, curled hair, and stylish hats, she is as different from Shere as Bast is from Thor.  (Picture Darryl Hannah as a Wild West whore)
Sigrid arrived in Little Pyramid 13 years ago, at the age of 11, when her father traded her in payment for his bar and gambling tabs at Little Pyramid's whorehouse. This was well before Shere had control of prostitution in Little Pyramid (she was a working girl herself at this time), so Sigrid did not have the easiest time of it, having been used as rough trade for the first 6 years of her life.  Shere bonded with the child early on, and helped her through the most difficult parts of the business, all the while accumulating enough money and influence to challenge the current owner of the bordello.  
When Shere was able to oust her former employer and take over, Sigrid was 17 and Shere's lover.  This fact is an open secret among the girls in the whorehouse, now ennobled into a Temple, but as far as Sigrid and Shere know, not known by anyone who is not a devotee of Bast.  Both Shere and Sigrid stopped plying their trade once they took over the house, although Sigrid occasionally had liaisons with some of her favorite regulars, much to Shere's bemused annoyance.  Still, theirs is a mostly happy relationship. Sigrid runs the nitty-gritty financial aspects of the bordello and the Temple, dealing with the mundane housekeeping and upkeep aspects as well, while Shere does the front-end work of public relations, dealing with clients, liaisons with other local businesses, and keeping the patrons and girls in line. She's pretty soft-spoken, practical, and feminine, not aggressive, brash, and charismatic like Shere.  
Sigrid's Devil is the fact that she secretly longs for a "normal" life.  She wishes she had been able to marry a man, settle down, and raise a nice Norse family.  Once her alcoholic, degenerate father traded her into a life of prostitution, any chance of that happening was shattered; in her eyes and the eyes of society, she is "ruined" forever.  She has created with Shere a life that is as close an approximation of her dream as she could construct, with Shere as her "husband," the girls in the house as her "children," with her running the household, but still likes men too (still, rarely but sometimes, sleeps with them, which she keeps from Shere as much as possible) and still wishes she could be a regular lady of a regular house.  She has never told this to Shere, who would not remotely understand this urge whatsoever and would feel deeply betrayed.  Usually,  Sigrid's Devil is dormant, unless she meets a man who appeals to her fantasy of "husband material," or Shere really ticks her off.
Beautiful as Helen of Troy
Smart as a whip
Figurin' 3 (by this I mean finances)
Seducin' 2
Ridin' 1
Sweet Talkin' 2
Housekeepin' 3
Devil: 1


Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.

« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2004, 11:45:59 AM »

I played this game with four buddies.

Sher was played by Paula, an ex-girlfriend turned friend who I've gamed with before and GMed for in the past.

Chicksaw Jack was played by Rob, a friend since Junior High who showed me my first RPG, the Marvel Super-Heroes Game.

Caelius was played by Tom, a friend who I've brainstormed about gaming with and GMed.

Khat was played by Robert, who I'e played alongside but hadn't GMed for.

What I liked about this group is that they are all peopel who have GMed before.  This meant when each person got narrative control, they really ran with it.  Robert, in particular, added some really nice bits and pieces to the game with his narrative choices.

They fell into a rhythm fast and while the game took a while to get off the ground, they fell into it fast.

Paula lost a hand of cards early in a little conflict in the bar, just trying to charm the Deputy into doing something for her.  From then on, the Poker skills came out and for the next hour or so they really laid waste to anything in their way.

The first few conflicts had me worried.  By the end, when each tracked down their own rival in the gang and sought justice, they were confident but then some hands didn't go their way and it got bloody in a big hurry.

What I liked about the way the adventure worked is that violence was an option but they could have resolved their issues in others ways.  None of them did.  They all chose the gun.

It was a bloody mess but a satisfying bloody mess.

Robert Bohl

Posts: 525

« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2004, 11:55:21 AM »

This here is Chickasaw Jack.  I done likeded this storee a whole bunch ceptin' where momma got killed.  I guess she had it comin to her, but it still were awful sad.  I got ta beat the shit outta lotsa people an Shere done let me go days without gettin no baths, an that was fun!  I don remember mosta it, but I knowed we done good an that whore ain't gotta be alone in heaven no more.  Or on the scales.  Or somethin.  Sometimes I forget things.

Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG
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