- The silence was broken by the sound of a whiskey bottle shattering on the saloon floor. The man cleaning the tables turned away from the stranger in the doorway and stormed out of the room. The bartenter seemed just as confused as to what was going on. He told them that the man in the gray suit was called Malone and that he was fond of hanging around the abandoned train station.
- After finishing their breakfast, Victor decided to get some sleep at the Last Lights hotel while the others went to find Mr. Malone. The conversation with Malone at the train station was somewhat unnerving and confusing. The man seemed to display a very calm and curious insanity - and was very interested in them. After they concluded their discussion, Leah went to see about getting into the post office where she'd be working while the others took a cue from Victor and decided to get some rest.
- After a short rest, James went with Victor out to check up on his sister Sara. She was very happy to see them, and obviously distressed at her husband Edward's behavior. She told them that he'd disappeared for a few weeks, and since he'd returned he'd been out digging in the pasture. She was concerned about his sanity, and also that his partners - other former coal miners with whom he'd started the ranch - were going to kick him out. The two went out to the pasture where he had dug 9 holes about the same size and shape as graves, and was just staring at them. As Victor expressed his sister's concerns, Edward became confrontational. He rambled about the heat, about not believing it, and about having to go back before collapsing into near-unconsciousness. Victor and James got him back to the house, and Sara called for Father Clarence and a nurse called Jessica Farns.
- That night at the saloon, James and Victor got into a brief scrape with a man called Jack Santos they'd seen earlier that day at the Ranch. Some time later Mr Malone appeared again near Jack and a few others - they seemed very agitated by his presense. As he walked back to the door of the saloon, he asked them "who it was going to be". Jack pointed angrily at James, but Mr Malone told him "No, not that one - he's not one of us." The marshall then got up and said they could take this disagreement outside, but Mr Malone told him it was too late for that. It was then that Jack pulled out his gun and shot another man. Both he and Jack seemed utterly shocked by this. Mr Malone walked outside, muttering something to himself.
- Chaos ensued, during which a candle was tipped into a puddle of spilled liquor and ignited a fire. One of the other men took off after Mr Malone. James was the first outside, where he saw a large splatter of blood in the street leading toward a darkened alley. Down the alleyway he found more blood, entrails, and body parts. As he examined them, he caught a brief glimpse of a spindly shadow moving further into the darkness. The others joined him in searching, but they found no more evidence beyond some strange scorch marks on a few nearby buildings...
- The group decided to meet with the mystery contact that had messaged their ghost card. The arrived at their usual meeting place early, and saw a limo approach and a group of people get out: a man in a nice suit with a half-cybernetic face and several obvious bodyguards. He told them he'd gotten their info from the group's DCPD contact and that he had a job for them: the rival corporation Ullertech had stolen a cybernetic prototype and he wanted them to get it back. They'd be paid 20k up front and another 80 upon completion. After some discussion, they decided to take the stranger up on the job.
- That night they saw the news broadcast about the creature attack they'd witnessed. They were somewhat unnerved to see themselves in some footage from a corp security camera and hoped the poor resolution would be sufficient to keep their identities a mystery.
- The next day, the group made some preparations and V sent a message to his hacker contacts looking for info on Aethercorp - a defunct corporation they suspect might be behind Justin Mills' activities and the monstrocity. Sara returned to the Delphi office in hopes of talking to Dr. Telns about some psychic disturbances she'd experienced: a sound like thousands of distant screams. Dr. Telns didn't seem to be present, but Sara spent some time talking with one of her associates who relayed a request from the Dr to her: Deidra Telns was hoping Sara could use her abilities to locate the nature and source of the disturbance.
- That night, the group traveled to the target area indicated by their employer: an area of Old Harbor still sparsely inhabited. Finding a power substation and following the largest conduits running through the sewers, they located the likely target building. While V spliced himself into the data lines and gained access to the facility's computer systems, the others broke their way in through the door at the bottom of the back stairwell. Once inside, they found their way through the dark and damp basement to the stairway up into the building. Looking up they saw a metal door, a very old and worn-looking keypad, and camera pointed in their direction...
- After a couple more exchanges with no real progress on either side, Isaac managed to turn the tables on Vostok with one decisive salvo, setting himself up for the win a round or two later. As Fyodor made his way off the field, Isaac attempted to smooth things over by congratulating him on a good match - with some success.
- Meanwhile, Thaddeus attempted to quietly enter the bar where his crewman Marshall Fox was holding a gun on another patron. Unfortunately, the chime above the door gave him away and startled Fox, who reflexively whirled to see who was coming up behind him, giving the thugs in the bar an opening to leap on him. Thaddeus ultimately waded in to the resulting melee in an attempt to pull Marshall out. By the time Thad had KO'd one of the attackers, Marshall had managed to get just enough leverage against the one pinning him down that he was able to pull himself free - limping, but not seriously injured.
- The situation fizzled from there, and the two got a cab back to the drop port - during which time Thad was able to pull little out of the dispondent crewman about what had happened. Morale on the small crew had taken an obvious hit over the concern about Fox's actions and well-being, so Isaac had the ship's mate call everyone back from leave where he gave them all news of his win, their new ally, and their hopefully-lucrative contract - and to celebrate, he was taking everyone out for a night on the town.
- On monday, the crew met with Major Caldwell at a military office to sign and discuss the particulars of their mission. They would be heading to Capricorn III - a Capellan world in a near-border system. They would be target munitions factories and depots on the planet. The AFFS would be covering transportation to and from the system, and would be paying them a 750k contract fee for the mission. They were free to take whatever salvage they could pull from the planet during the week of operations.
- On friday, they lifted and over the next week made their way to the system nadir to rendezvous with the merchant-class jumpship Sunset Crane and Gallager's modified leopard Krenshar. From there, it took about 5 weeks to make the jumps to the Capricorn system, where the two merc companies detached and began accelerating toward their target world...
GM's Note: One of the great things about this session was the snake-eyes I rolled for Marshall Fox's reaction to the door chime when Thaddeus entered the tense situation. I had prepared a bunch of possible dialog angles between Thad, Fox, and the gang that all when out the window when Marshall completely dropped his composure. One of the things I love about RPGs - sometimes the dice make pretty radical turns in the story.
- The group split up in the gallery and spoke to a few others present, including the Watch Second Wencia Naldibar, and Osiris Knell, a resident wizard. Also in attendance were a few nobles they recognized, including a young man who has a beef with Kael over his interest a certain member of House Barens, and a woman they'd seen acting strangely at the Magnar City Social earlier in the year.
- When the hearing concluded, the group met up outside the gallery where they were approached by Heglan Foula, one of the nobles in opposition to Julius Nevarg's push for increased internal focus. He offered the party a substantial sum to "investigate" House Nevarg in search of conflicts-of-interest that might call into question the house's motivations.
- Meanwhile, Lily had been "called" back into the darkened gallery by a pixie who came to ask her about what she and her companions did up at the monestary at Saint Orvusk. He told her that their actions had had some effect on the ongoing corruption, but that it wouldn't be enough to prevent its worsening.
- The group then left the White Hall and headed back to the Baron's Tower to ask the innkeeper about who had given him the false message when they suddenly found themselves under attack...
- Having received multiple messages from Rory about the state of the case, the made arrangements to meet him for their payoff the next day. They finally managed to break on of the cases open. Inside they found 32 vials of some substance and an injector.
- Deciding to see what "Justin Mills" wanted in his message to Mario, the group headed over to the address at 3am. The location turned out to be an old Ullertech warehouse. The guards outside didn't know anything about "Justin". As they were leaving, a 12 foot monstrosity emerged from the shadows and began smashing its way into the facility.
- As the firefight began, the group retreated to a "safe" observing distance, where they happened upon a young woman videotaping the scene. Sara was able to assess that she was related to the media/press in some way.
- The creature did a lot of damage, took a lot of gunfire, and limped away. The group followed it an eventually found it collapsed and apparently dead in an alleyway much further into the Old Harbor district.
- The following day, the met with Rory to give him the untouched case, and told him they were gravely concerned about what was inside. He gave them their payoff, and they left.
- The group received a message on their ghost card indicating another time and passphrase, but the fact that it didn't seem to originate from their contact at the DCPD concerned them.
- V told the rest of the group that he suspects the whole thing to be the work of corrupt corporations - Proto-Nine, and the defunct Aethercorp that they suspect "Justin" is working for. His aim is to bring them all down somehow. And Sara tells them that she had received another message from the Watchful - the "resistance" group that seemed to have a similar aim...
- Isaac Clarke went to talk w/ the Major Caldwell about their contract and found out that Vostok's Hijackers had requested an override on the AFFS' decision to award part of the contract to Mjolnir's Wrath - citing their superior accomplishments. He tried to talk the major into sticking with his original decision, but Caldwell indicated that, even if he himself didn't like it, on paper, giving the job to the Hijackers seemed to make more sense. It was then that Fyodor Vostok joined the conversation and suggested a 'mech duel as a way to decide, the Major seemed to like this idea.
- The following morning, the gathering reconvened at the Northtown Military Base's training grounds, where Isaac and his Hatchetman faced off against Fyodor and his Quickdraw using virtual weaponry. The first few exchanges landed decidedly in Vostok's favor, and Isaac is now scrambling to turn the tables.
- Meanwhile, Thaddeus received a call from their ship's mate: one of their crew apparently left the ship about 20 minutes previous - with a pistol. Thaddeus found out where he was going and headed that way. When he arrived, he found one of the ship's techs pointing a gun at a patron at the bar...
- Kael and Ravina went to the Temple of the Golden Sun to report the situation at Saint Orvusk to the clergy there. The priest they spoke to was a little confused about their reports of Orvusk's grave being broken into because, he told them, Warult Orvusk was buried there in Rolessi.
- Lily returned to House Dyn'Talor to request they send a message to their members in Igveston about the growing orc problem, and they had a short conversation about the fey of the Charothi Forest.
- Later, the group received a message from Tyless Vallane requesting their presence at the ongoing hearings at the White Hall that night. The hearings were a part of the continuing debate between where enforcement resources should be allocated: within the city where violent crime was rising, or focused outward where reports of orc activity had people on-edge. When they met up with Tyless Vallane in the gallery, however, he told them he hadn't written the message and wondered what duplicitous entity wanted them at the White Hall...
Setting: Dark West, Northern New Mexico Territory, Town of Redwood
System: In The Cards (homebrew)
- Leah [Sheri] :: The new postmistress
- Victor [Tim] :: Rancher coming to visit his sister
- Oliver [Dave] :: Company man come to find out why coal shipments have stopped
- Roxanne [Taylor] :: ???
- James [Tony] :: Traveler looking for a fresh start in a new place
- A group of travelers meet up on the road and camp together with a man called an old prospector a few hours outside the town of Redwood. They all shared dinner and had a nice chat about the area. Elijah, the prospector, told them that the area had been declining quite a bit since the coal mine closed and the trains stopped coming into town, but he was hopeful that the area would stick it out and survive.
- Late that night, the group was awakened to the sounds of Elijah hurriedly packing up his things in a near panic. They found the stagecoach driver and his two guards dead from apparent stab wounds, and Roxanna saw something moving outside the camp. Whatever it was, Elijah apparently caught sight of it too, and went screaming into the night in the opposite direction as Leanne swore she heard a distant train whistle. On edge but unwilling to risk the horses in the darkness, the group holed up in the camp until morning.
- The next day they headed into Redwood. While Leanne and Victor delivered the mail to the town hall and spoke to the marshall about what had happened, Oliver, James, and Roxanna went to the Bucksaw Saloon for some breakfast and an early drink to calm their nerves. They spoke to the bartender about the previous night's events, and James asked if there were any local natives that might have stories about "things" roaming the wilderness. He told them he could only think of one natve that lived in town - the widow of a miner by the name of Caleb Solomon. One of the barhands seemed to be listening to the conversation and seemed, for some reason, to be growing very angry because of it.
- It was then that another man appeared in the saloon entrance. He wore a nice, grey suit and was looking at a gold pocketwatch. The already quiet saloon fell completely silent. As he looked up, he smiled and said in a low voice "Can you hear that train, a-comin'?"...
GM's Note: The idea for this game came out of a conversation a month or so ago when someone suggested we do some kind of horror one-shot on halloween. I kicked around a few ideas while putting it together, but pretty quickly decided this would be a great opportunity to finish the idea I had for a western-themed game system that used only cards and poker chips - no dice or even character sheets. Over the course of a week or so, I fleshed out the basic ideas and put together a creepy, Dark West game to run with it. It didn't take super long to explain, seemed to run quite well, and everyone really loved the feel of it. I may make further tweaks, but I'm quite happy with how it came out. Of course, I cannot "one-shot" a "one-shot", so we only made it through about 1/3 of the scenario, but everyone liked it enough that we decided we would try to get together soon to see if we couldn't continue it.
- After a brief conversation with the captain of the military caravan, the party contined back to Rolessi. There, they split up and made reports about the gathering orc horde to Kael's contact at the House Vallane Adventurer's Guild, the Watch Prime, as well as Mayor Dale and Lord Magnar. Overall their reports seemed to be believed, but questions remained...
- Deciding it was their best shot at getting access to the upper laboratories, V used his neural link to venture into the Proto-Nine computer system, heading for the security area. Once past the System Sentries, he found a panel full of door lock indicators and releases - the only problem was, he could only override them for a few seconds.
- The rest of the group made their way up to floor 82 and slipped through the door after V opened it. They found the labs on this level to be in a state of complete disarray. Sara located the case they had come to grab without too much trouble, and headed down and out of the building with it - playing off an encounter with Bluestar Security using some fast-talk and her psionic empathy.
- Kendra and Mario, meanwhile, grabbed another case and decided to check out some of the upper levels. V told them that the upper floors were all VIP/CEO penthouses and executive meeting spaces, but when the two arrived, they found the place completely abandoned.
- Returning to meet up with V who escaped from the VR system only after a tangle with one of the Sys-Ents, the three were able to convince Bluestar that they were legit and exit the building as well.
- The group met back up at Kendra's shop. They tried to open one of the cases, but only managed to scratch up the exterior. Meanwhile, Mario went to talk to some doctors about plastic surgery to repair his scarred face and on the way back stopped at one of the city's PostTerms where he found a message containing only an address and a time from Justin Mills...