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Author Topic: [Dust Devils] The Hanged Man (sort of)  (Read 2636 times)
Malcolm Craig
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« on: September 19, 2005, 09:22:41 AM »

So, after being intrigued and impressed by Dust Devils at GenCon, I finally got round to running a game of it.

The game used the introductory adventure 'The Hanged Man' from the book as it's basis though, as we shall see, the game developed a life of its own. The characters involved were the four pre-gens from the book plus an additional, new character:

'Gentleman' Jim Harris: A low-down, mean wanted gunfighter
Zeke Munro: A guilt ridden, drunken bounty hunter
'Black' Jack Kerrigan: The cheatinest card sharp in the West
The Reverend Jebediah Crowe: Gun slingin' preacher and all round judgmental bringer of fire and brimstone
'Lucky' Luke Johnson: A lonely, isolated, friendless cowpoke with good heart

The town of Last oak has seen a hanging. A fly-pestered corpse sways from the big oak in the centre of town, wafting the smell of decaying flesh down what passes for a main street in these here parts. Apparently, this is the body of 'Gentleman' Jim Kerrigan, a rootin', tootin' no-good varmint and killer of over 100 men. Cut to the Golden Cactus saloon, where in the corner sits the Reverend Jebediah, Winchester '73 across his lap, untouched whisky in front to him. Scattered about the bar are the other PCs

Alone at a table sits Gregory Danforth (NPC), a man who fancies himself as something of a card sharp. He invites the PCs to join him for 'a friendly hand or two'. Munro, nursing his drink at the bar, declines, while the rest join him. Munro continues to glance at the wanted poster. Danforth makes the mistake of referring to the Reverend as 'friend'. The Reverend finds this mighty presuming of the man, causing him to leap to his feet and bring down his holy wrath upon him, saying that he's mighty quick to assume he's a friend. Also coming into play is the fact that Danforth was brought up Catholic and the Reverend is most disinclined to be likin' Catholics. The Reverends devil is 'judgmental bastard' and he has taken an instant dislike to the hapless card sharp. The others sit and grin whilst the conflict plays out.

After the cards have been dealt and hands assembled, it transpires that the reverend has won both the conflict and the narrative, whereupon Danforth cowers in fear and the holy avenger threatens him with his Peacemaker and recites the word of the Lord over the head of this misbegotten fool. Danforth quails as the reverend sits back down. Despite his fear, he deals the cards...

Kerrigan is a dirty rotten cheat and is determined to show this no-good how to play cards. Harris is just taking it easy, observing the situation and watching Munro at the bar with one eye, having previously laid one of his ivory handled revolvers on the table. The Reverend assents to a game of cards, but is mighty suspicious of Danforth. Poor Luke, the isolated cowpoke, just tries to play a friendly hand and keep the peace between the fractious elements round the table. The cards are dealt.

Shockingly, Danforth draws four of a kind and wins the hand, to the annoyance of Kerrigan. Grinning smugly, his bravado overcoming him (Danforth also has narration), he taunts Munro at the bar, chiding him and musing why he's such a miserable fellow as to not want to join in a friendly game. Munro, already half way to drunkenness on rotgut whisky, takes great exception to this and strides across the bar, lashing out at the smiling Danforth as the card player rises from his seat. The conflict is over quickly, as the enraged bounty hunter punches Danforth in the face, smashes a chair across his back and spits on the now unconscious body. The Reverend now sees his opportunity...

Dragging the comatose Danforth from the saloon, chanting psalms and prayers, he throws him face first into the horse trough and holds him down, baptising him in the name of the Lord! Luke, ever the peacemaker, attempts to bodily intervene and haul the raving preacher away. This all to no avail. The preacher holds the man down, reciting psalms as Danforth kicks his last, only relenting when he's sure the card player is dead. Luke is appalled by this act of murder, but the Reverend is wholly convinced he has done his duty by the Lord. Meanwhile in the bar...

Kerrigan, ever the low down dog, attempts to swipe the pot of money from under the nose of Harris. Luckily for him, he succeeds as Harris attention is drawn away. With both the win and the narration, Kerrigan subtly pockets the cash, but leaves exactly the amount that Harris initially staked, just to be on the safe side. He then heads to the bar as Munro the bounty hunter ambles outside to see what the fracas is about...

At this point, the Sheriff and two of his deputies arrive, determined to drag these no-good murderers to jail. The Reverend is unrepentant, Luke protests his innocence and Munro antagonises the Sheriff by telling him that he knows full well they've hanged the wrong man and Harris is right now in the saloon. The Sheriff blusters and holds his ground, saying that if Harris really isn't dead, why doesn't he come on outside and show what a man he is. Eventually, Munro strides back inside and begins to berate Harris for being yellow, stating the he knows who he is and he'd better get outside now. Kerrigan, meanwhile, continues to sip his sarsaparilla at the bar. With a sigh, Harris gets up and walks outside...

There is a commotion and Harris, winning the hand and the narrative shoots the impertinent Munro in the leg. The Sheriff calls him a dirty rotten yellowbelly, that if he really was Harris, he would have shot them all dead by now and show that he was the fastest gun this side of Tombstone. For a while, Harris remains cool. Eventually, he cracks, drawing his sixgun and firing at the Sheriff. The poor Sheriff doesn't stand a chance but despite losing, wins the narrative: crippled by a shot to the guts, he slumps to the porch as his deputies go for their guns. Calling down the vengeance of the Lord, the Reverend draws his Colt and prepares to  send these unbelievers to the pits of Hell. Luke, meanwhile, heads for his horse as Kerrigan watches from the saloon...

After all is said and done, the Reverend leaves two deputies lying in the dust and then attempts to go for Harris. In the bar, Kerrigans derringer springs from his sleeve as he levels it at Harris' back, all the while Luke is galloping his horse down the street, lariat circling above him as he attempts rope Harris and drag him away. Shots ring out and all the gunmen miss as 'Lucky' Luke ropes Harris, pulling him away from the scene and into the darkness. The Reverend howls, Kerrigan runs from the bar and leaps onto his horse a moment before the preacher. Munro painfullly climbs aboard his buggy and with a glance backwards, slings a lit stick of dynamite through the doors of the saloon. As the group gallop of out of town, the saloon detonates behind them...

On the road, Luke is riding for all he's worth, attempting to prevent Harris from cutting himself loose with his Bowie knife. Cue conflict. The outcome of this is that Kerrigan wins, and Harris gets narration. Kerrigans horse tramples Harris just as he cuts himself free, while Munro unlimbers his scattergun and the Reverend takes aim with his '73. Luke wheels round, bracing his shotgun across his arm, ready for the final showdown. In a hellstorm of gunfire, the Reverend is struck down by a shotgun blast as Harris is fatally shot through the heart as he attempts to throw his knife at Kerrigan. Harris, having finally realised that his life had come to nothing and that in a short while, his name would be forgotten forever [as a wanted, mean man, he finally came to the realisation that once he had passed, he had really left nothing behind him and eventually his fame would pass and be forgotten]. And the Reverend Jebediah, the thundering, judgmental, sixgun wielding, fire and brimstone preacher was taken by two barrels of 00 buckshot in the back. And, as he pitched forward into the dust, he saw himself descending into Hell, to be welcomed in the fire by Satan himself as punishment for all the men and women he's killed in the name of God [his devil being 'judgmental bastard', he finally found that he too was being judge as his life slipped away].

The scene ends with Kerrigan, Luke and Munro facing each other with loaded guns, deciding if they really can split the bounty on Harris' head three ways...

Thoughts on the Game

This was my first time running Dust Devils and on the whole, it went extremely well. I decided not to use chips as a part of this game, just so that we could all get a feel for the basic mechanics. The shifting narrative really did drive the story, as did the players incorporation of their characters devils, traits and knacks. In post-game discussion, one of the points that was raised was the very dangerous nature of conflict (obviously, use of chips would have changed this somewhat), which resulted in a fairly rapid 'death spiral', as a series of conflicts piled the damage onto the characters. However, as this game was only meant to last a maximum of two hours (it actually lasted about 90 minutes), this didn't represent a serious problem.

Player involvement on the part of all taking part was great, they all contributed to the story contained within the scene. In the end, rather than focusing on the hanged man and the conflict within the town, it was the conflict between the characters that really drove things towards their apocalyptic end.

As a GM, I found running Dust Devils a very refreshing experience and one which I am keen to repeat in the near future.

Cheers
Malc
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Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios
www.contestedground.co.uk

Part of the Indie Press Revolution
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2005, 10:11:21 AM »

Hello,

That was pretty gory!

You guys know that any damage can be defined however the current narrator wants, right? That even if a character takes maximum Body damage, the narrator can say he's just stunned, or rendered helpless under a bunch of toppled lumber? And that this principle applies even if the character was being shot at by another character doing his level best to kill him?

Best
Ron
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Malcolm Craig
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Posts: 263


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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2005, 11:46:35 AM »

Hello,

That was pretty gory!

You guys know that any damage can be defined however the current narrator wants, right? That even if a character takes maximum Body damage, the narrator can say he's just stunned, or rendered helpless under a bunch of toppled lumber? And that this principle applies even if the character was being shot at by another character doing his level best to kill him?

Best
Ron

Yep, it did turn out to be something of a bloodbath when all is said and done. For me, this was very much an exercise in working out how the game functions in play, and very valuable it was too.

Although perhaps not strictly 'by the book' damage resulting from a conflict was handled by the players of the characters who took the damage deciding what the damage did to character. This helped give the player the feeling that, even though narration for that situation devolved to another person, the damage taken by their characters was not completely out of their hand and that they had a certain amount of influence over their characters in that situation. In play, this worked out quite well, as players opted to assign damage as they thought it was narratively appropriate to the character. So, when Munro was shot in the leg by Harris, Steve (who was playing Munro) took note of the fact that he was hit in the leg, but descibed how this affected his character, deducting a certain amount from Heart, but also taking some damage from Guts to represent the blow to his psyche and a point from Eye to represnet the fact that he was shaken by the attack.

Cheers
Malc
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Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios
www.contestedground.co.uk

Part of the Indie Press Revolution
Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2005, 01:44:57 PM »

I thought it was cool that Munro got beaten in a conflict when he had a full house of aces-and-eights. The other guy had four of a kind. Appropriate for the genre.

BTW I think only two characters actually did any killing.

The Reverend Crow...
- drowned Danforth while "baptizing" him, claiming that he was cleansing him of his sins
- killed the two deputies (never send boys to do a man's work!) and Sheriff, shooting them in the back while they lay injured
- shot Harris clean through the heart

Zeke Munro...
- blasted Crow to hell using his two-barrelled shotgun, before loading the corpse into the coffin he kept on his cart

Still, quite bloody.

The best bits while playing were the barbs flying across the table. I particularly liked Munro calling Harris out for "being yella".
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