Jan 012016

When last we left our posse, they had just ridden into Shelly Pearl’s camp to inform them that the Mayhem Gang had been taken out. The camp was grateful, especially Shelly Pearl. But though the posse was given a heroes welcome, they knew that their work wasn’t finished. They paused only long enough to take a short rest, gather up some supplies, and ask about some reinforcements. Shelly and Clementine were tapped to help with the assault on the Cooked Earth Mine, while the rest of the camp kept back and out of trouble.

The ride to the cooked earth mine was blessedly uneventful. The posse tethered their horses and had Shelly wait outside, while Clementine was told to ride back to Coffin Rock and keep an eye on the good reverend. If she saw him leaving, she was to ride back and inform the posse. With one final glance at the sky, the posse entered the Cooked Earth Mine.

+Digression: At this point, the posse had been pretty heroic, so I figured handing them a couple of wild cards to help out was the least I could do. Plus MJ rolled well on his Persuasion, which I like to reward. But in the end the additional wild cards were mostly used as guards and insurance, which gave them leeway.

The cooked earth mine was as eerie as the rest of the town. Ghostly voices on the air pleaded for help while a warm, wet wind pulsed upward and out of the mine. Deep veins of blood-red rock lined the mine walls, each pulsing with dark power in time to some hidden heartbeat. The air was warm and stifling, and smelled of copper and fire.

The posse was a bit unnerved, but they all soldiered on without much balking. After a short walk past the entrance, they came to a large wood and steel lift that looked to take them down deeper into the mine. They were about to start the cranks when T. Saint John noticed some strange wires leading up from the corners of the shaft. Following them upward, he spotted rocks piled above the lift, placed to fall the moment it moved. A deadly trap, had it not been noticed. But Tens was more than a match for such a thing, and before long the posse was being lowered by the mighty muscles off the Irishman.

+Digression: I might be letting T. Saint John’s Investigator edge apply a little too often, but darned if it isn’t useful having a character with a high notice in the Posse. It tends to avoid a lot of trouble, like with this dead fall trap on the mine lift.

The lift touched down a few hundred feet below the entrance, none the worse for wear. The posse disembarked and waited a moment so that T. Saint John could stretch his muscles and take a quick breather. As they waited, six ghostly miners stepped out of the walls. The posse tensed as they gathered behind the largest ghost, the specter of what would have been a large man in his prime. He opened his mouth and introduced himself as the shade of William Wood, the old mine foreman.

The ghost of William told the posse about how they’d been tricked by Cheval and led down into the mine, where they were then thrust into a burning pool of bubbling blood-red mud. They described the pain of being seared alive and then the anguish of having their souls trapped while their bodies rose as twisted blood men in service to Cheval. The men could not pass on to their final reward while their bodies still served Cheval. And so they had a proposition.

The ghosts pleaded with the PCs to let them posses the posse. The ghosts couldn’t pass the blood rock as shades, but riding within the bodies of the posse they could reach the pit and reuinte their souls with their former bodies. The posse looked to Sister Mary, and after a bit of thought she said that it should work. And so the posse all agreed, one by one, to let the miners posses them. Sister Mary hesitated at first, but as she agreed to let the last miner in, she felt a sense of divine approval at her actions. And as the ghosts entered, each of the posse had to relive their final moments of drowning and burning in the mud pit. It was harrowing, but all off them managed to maintain their composure.

+Digression: I was honestly curious what the posse would chose here. In the end they all did the heroic thing, which earned them all a Bennie. The wife was a bit hesitant, and so I had her roll Sister Mary’s Faith as a sort of “divine guidance” roll. I actually really like rolls like this, as it’s a way to provide gentle hints in an in-character manner.

+ The adventure itself states that anyone who agrees to the possession gets a +2 bonus to spirit rolls while in the cooked earth mine. And while I did use that, I also gave each PC the benefit “Ghost Ridden.” This is like a minor edge which gives all the PCs a +1 bonus on Guts checks. I felt this heroic action deserved a long term reward.

Now possessed, the posse made their way further into the mine, all while the miners used their own voices to tell the posse what had happened. The trip was warm, tense, and more than a little eerie. After what seemed like ages, the posse finally entered the heart of the mine where the blood pit resided.

It was a gruesome scene. The spirit Tacheene was floating in a glowing blue bubble, his rocky arms outstretched and pouring blood-red magma into the pit of bubbling mud below. The walls of the central mine were sheer and striated with more of the blood rock veins. To the right of the entrance the posse spotted many of the townsfolk chained together and guarded by one of the blood men. And there, at the edge of the pit, two blood men were trying to push Carl into the pit!

+Digression: The adventure just states that the posse arrive in time to see two blood men pushing a third into the pit. I decided to amp up the tension by adding in more chained townsfolk, and then had one of the players roll a d20 to see how bad the pit victim was going to be. A natural 1 came up, and so I chose the worst possible choice – Carl the innkeeper. Bad for the PCs, but great for drama!

The posse wasted no time jumping into action! But before they could even react, each of the ghostly miners erupted from their host and screamed toward their bodies! They joined with their former earthly shells and soon the posse could see that the blood men were being hampered from within. Their good intentions had just come back to aid them, in spades!

The long rifle of Sister Mary barked and took down one of the blood men holding Carl, while Juan Tomas sent burning hellfire from his crackling six-gun. Combined with the arrows of Fast Cloud, the shotgun of Pearl, and the kinetic blasts of Tens, half of the blood men fell almost immediately. But more importantly, Carl was given just enough breathing room to scramble back from the edge as his two captors were momentarily shaken.

And then T. Saint John spotted the real problem on a narrow edge above the pit. Reverend Cheval! He was cackling madly but soon stopped as he spotted the posse. He then gloated that the posse would never sto his plans, never! He was somewhat taken aback when the posse laughed at his voice, and so in a fit of anger he summoned two massive blood men from the pit! And then, as if totally insane, he jumped right into the blood pit! Unlike the blood men, he vanished in a flash of light, leaving behind the blood men, the frightened townsfolk, and two very large and giant sized problems!

+Digression: It’s time for me to take a few lumps. I had meant for Cheval to be this mad and insane menace, quite scary and unhinged. But the voice that came out of my mouth can only be described as “lab nerd Skeletor.” Instead of being scary, it was just funny and I cannot fault the players for breaking out in laughter. And so my frightening villain was instantly transformed into this teenaged reject villain from the old Super Friends cartoon. Probably with bad acne and a Canadian “Girlfriend.” Ah, well. You win some, you lose some.

But the posse had a giant-sized answer of their own: T. Saint John. The burly Irishman stepped forward to do battle with the two behemoth blood men, Pearl right behind him. Tens came to his aid by stripping away the kinetic energy of the large behemoths, with Fast Cloud right behind her. And as those four dealt with the big problems, Juan Tomas and Sister Mary went about dismantling the rest of the blood men and freeing Carl. And before long, it was clear that the posse was going to prevail. Even more so when the chained townsfolk were rallied by a rescued Carl. The mass of them used their chains to it the remaining blood man in half by sheer weight of numbers and brawn!

+Digression: In some instances, you can just tell when a fight is just going to go the way of the PCs. This was one of those cases. I had tossed two large (+1 Size, +2d STR/VIG, -1d AGI) Blood Men to beef up the challenge, as the remaining blood men had lost their Henchman (gain a wild die) abilities and they were getting mown down quickly. But then Tens had an amazing roll on her Entangling, which left the brutes unable to attack or move, with little chance off recovery. And with only one normal blood man left, I just ruled that the posse and the townsfolk took them down. The townsfolk using their own chain to kill the blood men was a player suggestion, by the same. But when a fight is just all over except the dice rolling, it’s far better to just narrate the end (or let the players do it!) and move along.

The wicked blood men dispatched, the heroes had time to catch a breather and to see the spectral miners lift upward to their final reward, thanks upon their lips. The townsfolk, though panicked, were reassured by the presence of their new heroes. The posse took a moment to send them up to the mine entrance and into the helpful presence of Shelly Pearl. They told Shelly and the folks to head for her camp, that they’d send word once the place was cleansed.

Now that the blood men had been dispatched, the hold over Tacheene wasn’t as strong. The spirit thanked the heroes for their aid and told them that it could use its power to send them back to the town. The posse watched in wonder as the blood pool started to flicker and show strange images. They saw the Ten Feet Under from behind the bar. The doctor’s office from up above. The church from near the altar. And then they saw the Jewel Theater from behind the stage. And that sight was gristly, as the ladies of the Jewel had two men tied to the table and they were feasting upon their guts as they still writhed as they were consumed alive!

Without hesitation the posse jumped into the pit, one by one. They all felt a strange sensation as they were teleported from the cooked mine back to Coffin Rock. It wasn’t all that pleasant, but it was the only way back in time! One by one the posse tumbled out of one of the mirrors and reflective surfaces in town! T. Saint John and Fast Cloud tumbled out of the mirror behind the bar. Tens and Pearl landed catlike from one of the mirrors in the Crystal River. Sister Mary emerged from the mirror at the Jewel Theater, rifle in hand and vengeance dancing in her eyes, her journey guided by the Almighty Himsef. And Juan Tomas and Fast Cloud tumbled out of the polished copper altar of the church, right into a ritual being enacted by Cheval and his cultists!

+Digression: At this point, the PCs being clever about covering up all of the mirrors in town came back to help them. Since I love rewarding clever play, I ruled that any reflective surface that was covered couldn’t be teleported to, which left only four possible exits: the church, the saloon, the jewel theater, and the crystal river (the PCs declared that they had to have missed at least one mirror). And so I had each PC roll a d4 to determine where they ended up. But that’s far better than all of them being scattered to the winds.

+Digression: At this point in the night, my wife really wasn’t feeling well and went into the bedroom to lie down, leaving use to decide what happened to Sister Mary. As luck would have it, she was the only one who randomly rolled a 3, which was the Jewel Theater. As one the table decided that it was divine providence and that Sister Mary arrived in the Theater as an Agent of the Almighty, ready to sling bullets and chew bubble gum. And she was all out of bubble gum. My wife is pretty stingy with her Benny use, and so she had a bunch of bennies, including a Legend chip. And so we spent all of them for her and just fiat declared that she took out the entire nest of ghouls by herself. It was actually kind of awesome and I’m sorry my wife wasn’t there to actually play it out.

T. Saint John was the farthest away from the church, but he was also the second fastest posse member, right, behind Tens. And so he both took off like a shot for the church, running as fast as he could. Tens only paused long enough to give herself and Pearl a kinetic boost (Speed power) before jumping out the window and toward the church! But before all the others could arrive, Juan Tomas and Fast Cloud were there to lay down some vengeance.

Time slowed as Juan Tomas unholstered his pistol and made his slow approach to Reverand Cheval, who was chanting from a huge book bound in human skin. Hellfire belched from the barrel of his cracklin’ six-gun unleashed enchanted ammunition. The Ranger’s hand worked the hammer in rapid succession, and within a span of heartbeats he’d emptied his cylinder into Cheval’s now very dead chest. All Fast Cloud could do was look on in awe.

+Digression: I love it when dice cooperate with the Big Damn Hero moments. MJ tossed down a few bennies to make sure this happened (which is one reason why I love them!), but at least three of his shots aced, with one acing at least four times. The combined damage was more than enough to take down a spell-empowered Cheval in one round. This was only made worse when JE played the No Quarter adventure card, which meant that no one could soak wounds until a joker popped up! It was epic and the entire table cheered. Good riddance to that villain!

With their dark master slain, the cultists did all they could to finish the ritual. They just finished as the rest of the posse arrived! Their final words, combined with the blood sacrifice of Cheval, was enough to call up a Demon from the pits! But the posse had seen too much to find even such a creature more than scary. And they had come loaded for bear.

What followed was a brutal fight where the entire posse was forced to choose between killing the demon and taking down the cultists. But in the end they were just too iron-willed and ornery to die. The cultists fell like wheat before the scythe and the demon didn’t last much longer once the entire posse focused on it. The battle was over only a few short minutes after the gunfire had started.

Digression: So the adventure says the that the demon only emerges if Cheval has time to enact the ritual. Which he didn’t. But I wanted to give the rest of the posse something big to fight, and so I had it come in. I had looked over the stats of the critter, and at the bennies available to my players, and decided they could handle it. And they could. They took it down hard, especially once JE played the No Quarter adventure card. Turns out cultists and demons kind of suck when they can’t even attempt to soak wounds.

With Cheval dead and the demon vanquished, Tacheene was finally freed from his prison. The entire town could tell that a spiritual noose had just been lifted from around their necks. The next few days saw things quickly put out rights. Shelly Pearl’s camp returned to town and she was declared mayor with backing from Juan Tomas. The posse returnee the deeds to her and the Daly legacy was restored.

The posse was fed incredibly well over the next few weeks, and they took the opportunity to spread the tale of their exploits far and wide. Almost immediately the shadows didn’t seem as long, and within the next week the nights started to feel a bit safer once more. It was clear that the posse had made a huge difference in this little corner of Colorado. And they were just beginning.

+Digression: Sister Mary used Inspiration on Juan Tomas and MJ just rolled /amazing/ for his persuasion roll. His result was somewhere in the mid-20s, and so I ruled that the town’s fear level was going to drop to [B]0[/B]. The PCs really put their heart and soul into the town and I wanted to reflected in a place of real safety that they could return to time and again. Within the town they all have a +2 Charisma bonus, not that they’ll ever really need to make social rolls again. By the adventure, the fear level in town drops by 1 immediately, and then 1 more within the following month. I just went a bit further.

Final Thoughts on Coffin Rock
This is probably the second or third time I’ve run Coffin Rock as a Deadlands introduction, and I have to say that this one was definitely my favorite. I got to see the characters go from numbers on a page to real, breathing characters. And I have a few players who are already clamoring for more, so I must have done at least a reasonable job.

As a starter module, I think Coffin Rock has a lot of promise. There’s a good mix of investigation, combat, and exploration. It includes just enough detail to help busy GMs, but not so much that you get lost in minutia. It has all the stat blocks you need to run the adventure, though some of them definitely show the signs that this was an early product.

The one thing I really liked was the option of a variable fear level to raise or lower the difficulty. This was a great idea that I’m really sad they didn’t keep using in other similar products (at least to my knowledge). The adventure itself says that the fear level is the same in all areas, but I find that you can make the levels variable if some parts seem more interesting than others.

I’d recommend this adventure to almost any GM, with a few caveats. This probably isn’t great for a group that likes a whole lot of combat, as it really rewards exploration. It’s also not great if you’re not competent at improvising and adding details yourself. And groups who have trouble with investigating on their own might well struggle. But otherwise this little adventure remains a great place to jump in.

Coffin Rock: 4/5 for newbies, 4.5/5 for veteran savages
If it were me, I’d have liked to see a bit more information on scaling and a few helpful hints for new GMs. If they did that, this would be an amazing teaching tool and introduction. As it is now, it’s good to great depending on your experience.

I have one more session write up to do for the final parts of these character’s Novice rank. After that we might take a break before I start running again, likely with a modified take on the The Flood.