Mar 052016

+Digression: This session only had three players, with two by the end of things. As such, I didn’t want to run anything in heavy continuity. And so I reached for a nice one sheet: Feast of Famine. I didn’t exactly follow it all that closely, but used it as a blueprint. Which is what these One Sheet Adventures are just fantastic at providing. I actually have most of them printed out and I stuck them in my campaign binder. Because you never know when you’re going to have an off night and need something quick. You can find a lot of them here:

With fall dragging on into winter, the posse was finding itself more and more entangled in the doings of Coffin Rock. The city was steadily growing and changing, even with the cold winter weather. Spirits were running high as November faded into December. The town was quickly covered in a thick blanket of snow, slowing the pace of life to a crawl. But now the windows were aglow with candles or even some of the newfangled electric lights. The air was filled with the scents of wood smoke, baking breads, and other treats. This time the town of Coffin Rock wasn’t hunkering down in fear of the dark. Not with their saviors and guardians around. The town had much to be thankful for, and for once they were going to show it. The town was ready to celebrate a true Christmas.

+Digression: I’ve long been a fan of the “Christmas Episode”, and so this was my take on that. I had briefly considered just going with a “Krampus kidnaps children” plotline, but ultimately decided it didn’t feel right. Plus I always enjoy playing up the mundane aspects of life.

All round the town doors were being thrown open to share baked goods and other savory treats. The streets were filled with carolers spreading good cheer in return for liquid warmth. Impromptu games and contests were concocted daily, as the good folk of Coffin Rock tried their best to impress the posse. Merriment was definitely in the air, and the heroes weren’t about to be left out. T. Saint John reprinted A Christmas Carol in the local paper, along with a few other holiday classics. Sister Mary worked with the local children to form a small children’s choir, in addition to leading several holiday sermons and church functions. And Juan Tomas made sure that the Emerald Star (the renamed Jewel Theater) and the Six Feet Under both had tables full of food for weary travelers and carolers, all at no cost. In addition, Juan Tomas had been quietly buying up all of the poor value livestock and crops from surrounding farms, just to ensure that folks could make it through the winter. As such, the tables were often full of some sort of stews or beef.

As Christmas neared, the posse began seeing strangers rolling into town in wagons. To a one, they all seemed emaciated and starving, and their wagons weren’t loaded with much at all. As they arrived, they looked absolutely astounded at the celebration and largess being exhibited by the once troubled town. The weary and hungry strangers were immediately taken in and given food, warm blankets, and a good looking over by the doctor and Sister Mary. One young girl, Delia, was at death’s door. But between the faith of Sister Mary and Brother Constantine, they quickly gave the poor young girl as second chance at life.

+Digression: One of the times I cheered the loudest was the bit in Hogfather where they do a send up of The Little Match Girl. I’ve always stood with Pratchett on this: the story is horrible. And so I wanted to give the posse a similar chance to avoid the horrible ending. In the one sheet, Deliah is already dead, but I figured that the big damn heroes could change that. And they did.

It didn’t take long for the travelers to explain the situation. A while back, things just started going a little bad for the residents of the small towns north of Coffin Rock. At first it wasn’t anything, but before long folks started growing hungry, no matter how much they ate. And then the livestock started to sick and die: of starvation. Every visitor had the same tale: townsfolk and loved ones just began wasting away, despite being fed. It was as if nothing they ate gave them any sustenance. But now they seemed to be recovering. Strangest of all, the nearby village of Leafton seemed to be doing just fine. So fine, in fact, that they’d refused to trade with the smaller towns, which had pushed them on to Coffin Rock.

The group had a quick palaver and opened up the boarding house for all of the travelers who had been hid by starvation. They then redoubled their investigation, and after a few more days of arriving villagers, were able to figure out that whatever was happening seemed to be originating from the town of Leafton. That left the posse with only one choice: to go and investigate the source of the problem. But before they could leave, they had to gather supplies and Juan Tomas wanted to find more information. And he knew just where to find it: from Laughs at Darkness, the coyote shaman they’d met atop Coffin Rock. And so the ranger gathered up some supplies and left for the top of Coffin Rock. But he wasn’t alone: Fast Cloud had grown board of watching Tens work and she wanted to learn more about this fascinating older man. She trailed him, and after a bit of negotiation, was allowed to follow along.

Once atop coffin rock, it didn’t take the two long to find the Kiva. They brushed off the snow, made their way inside, and started up a fire. They sent up smoke signals, then tossed the same strange herbs on the fire that Laughs at Darkness had heard before. And before too long, they could hear his laughter and the old shaman stepped out a shadow. He asked the two what they wanted, and Juan Tomas explained the situation. He wanted to know if Laughs at Darkness had seen anything. The shaman replied in the negative, saying that the two should ask the birds and the land for guidance. When Juan Tomas indicated he couldn’t speak, the old shaman muttered some words of a smooth stone and handed it over to the Juan Tomas. He explained that by placing the stone on his tongue, he could speak the language of the birds. And with that, the shaman gave a laugh, a wink, and promptly took on the appearance of a rather wealthy gambler. Juan Tomas was a bit surprised, as he’d seen a similar man fleecing a bunch of white men earlier in the week. Laughs at Darkness gave the ranger a knowing wink and then stepped back into a shadow, leaving the two alone to contemplate the situation.

+Digression: I made up this little fetish on the spot. It’s basically a small stone with a few uses of Speak Language and Beast Friend in it, limited to birds. I gave it five uses before it crumbles to dust. And that is one reason why I love savage worlds: it’s so easy to make up items like this on the fly.

A bit wiser than before, the g packed some supplies, saddled up their horses, and hit the trail toward Leafton. It wasn’t an easy journey. First they had to find the spur that lead up to the village. Then they had to contend with washed gullies, uneven ground, and fallen trees. Plus about a foot and a half of snow. It was a wonder that anyone had gotten down the trail to Coffin Rock.

As the posse got close to the town, they slowed and dismounted, taking in the quiet of the forest. It was too quiet. Most of the posse quickly realized that no birds or other animals had come within a good quarter mile of the town. And so they walked back a bit, until Juan Tomas spotted a large murder of crows. He pulled out his stone, and started asking the crows what was going on. Being clever birds, they quickly negotiated him out of some hardtack, jerky, and a fine bottle of tequila. But in return for the bounty, they did have answers. They spoke of a darkness in the town, and a strange dark man that stank of unnatural death and fire. They warned the posse to steer clear, but quickly sensed that the heroes weren’t going to give up. Juan Tomas thanked the crows, then asked if any of them would come with him. To his surprise, an old crow with a milk white eye agreed, so long as Juan Tomas shared his food and drink. An accord was quickly made, and the posse mounted up again.

+Digression: I’ve got a soft spot for ravens and crows, and so I was tickled with MJ had Juan Tomas ask about them coming with him. I decided right then and there that he was going to get a buddy. I figured that any crow that was gonna go with him would have to be old and grizzled, and I wanted to give it the special ability to see the dead and other “spirits.” And so was born White Eye the Raven. This is the first companion for Juan Tomas, and he’ll stick around until he’s either abused or killed. I’ve also decided to treat him like a 3.5e D&D familiar, complete with all the benefits and drawbacks. I figure the rest of the party has companions, and so Juan Tomas deserved one too. I have plans to give Sister Mary a Dresden Files inspired Foo Dog later.

Armed with a sense of foreboding and a feathered friend, the posse rode into Leafton, where they were greeted by just about the happiest and well fed folks they’d seen. They didn’t see nary a shifty eye or a strange glance. Instead, they spotted a very well stocked general store, fat and happy citizens, and many a Christmas decoration. The entire scene looked more like something out of Dickens than it did a den of evil. Confused, the posse stopped at the general store to try and get the low down. The proprietor, one Hampton Osgood, quickly informed the posse about the wondrous traveling salesman that had saved their town. He had rode in on his wagon, set up shop, and started selling fine goods at a deep discount. Even more, he had gifted some of the townsfolk with unusual items that just made life easier.

This immediately made the party suspicious, and so they quickly adopted a ruse. Juan Tomas was a “guide”, showing around the famous journalist, T. Saint John. And T. Saint John was more than willing to take pictures and listen to the stories of these good folk. And so the posse had Hampton pile up all of the goods he got from the trader, and had the man stand in front while a photo was taken.

+Digression: Every member of the posse got an “item upgrade” for helping out the ghosts of the miners. One ghost passed through the camera of T. Saint John, leaving him with a unique item. It now functions like an Epitaph Camera, but with an added benefit: it can capture the image of ghosts and other “supernatural phenomenon.” The posse quickly twigged to this, thus the whole photograph sessions. Since it was a clever idea, I let it pick up the cursed relics.

The resulting photograph showed mostly a bunch of mundane items, save for the new meat grinder that Hammond had been gifted. When viewed by White Eye or through the camera, it appeared that a spectral human hand was sticking up out of the grinder. The posse managed to keep their surprise from showing, and quickly thanked Osmond for his help. They then asked him about the rest of the town to subtly gather a list of everyone else who had dealt with the trader. List in hand, they made their goodbyes and slowly started making the rounds of the village, checking each household for evil. Before long news of the newspaper reporter reached the ears of most folks, all of which wanted to be in the paper. It took several hours, but the posse managed to document all of the problematic relics before the supper bell.

After returning to the town square, the posse got their first look at the wagon of the kindly salesman. Curious, they investigated and Sister Mary Katherine soon realized that among the intricate scroll work of the wagon were hidden symbols of dark magic. But before she could relay the information, the door of the wagon opened and the group came face to face with a very handsome salesman. It was impossible to really say what he looked like, other than he had a charming smile and sharp features. He asked the posse if they needed anything, and Juan Tomas said that he was looking for a flask. The salesman was delighted, and after dipping into his wagon, he returned with several very fancy flasks. Juan Tomas considered for a moment before selecting a fine silver one that seemed to match his shooting iron. The salesman then paused and asked Juan Tomas if he wanted something a bit more special. Juan Tomas agreed and the salesman dipped back into the wagon, returning with a plain looking flask. He promised that it would never go dry, and insisted on gifting it to Juan Tomas.

But Juan Tomas was no fool. He played clumsy, having the salesman pick up the flask and hand it to him, where he carefully grabbed it with a handkerchief. He was slick, and the salesman didn’t catch up on what they were doing. He then took a longer look at the sister and decided that he needed to retire before the big feast that evening. The posse quickly took their leave, and returned to Osmond to ask him about the feast. Osmond told them that Jenny Garret, a local woman, was having a feast for the entire town. The posse said that they’d love to attend, and that what the feast really needed was a big old bonfire! Osmond thought it a good idea, and soon the posse was working with several strong men as they made their way into the forest. Juan Tomas asked White Eye about a good tree, and the bird quickly led them to an old lighting struck oak. It took a bit of effort, but before long the townsfolk and T. Saint John had pulled the thing down and were carting it back. Sister Mary was about to leave, when she suddenly spotted a strange glint in the dirt. Curious, she picked up a strange looking agate that had been covered in tiny roots. It felt warm to the touch, and so she tied it to her belt before returning to town.

+Digression: The stone is a magical reservoir. When carried, it grants a character with an arcane background 5 additional power points. I felt like the party needed something special, and so decided that they’d find something with a high enough Notice. JZ rolled something like a 19, and so she found a minor relic of use to her.

Once the townsfolk and the posse had drug the tree back to town, night was beginning to fall. Juan Tomas told Sister Mary and T. Saint John to entertain the townsfolk, while he slipped away. And right then the Texas Ranger became a cat burglar. He slipped around town in the gloom, carefully using a pair of tongs to place each cursed item in a sack. It took him a while, but he managed to return to the feast with a large bag of relics, carefully covered with a bit of wood. Dinner was about to start when all hell broke loose.

First things first, Juan Tomas tossed the relics on the burning bonfire. Which immediately started to burn with black flames. This caused the kindly salesman inside the church to stand up and take notice, which caused Sister Mary to take note. And then the Gnawing Hungers attacked!

+Digression: At this point JE had to go home, and so we sort of just NPCed T. Saint John.

From out of the darkness and through the windows, shambling corpses with terrible sharp teeth emerged. The townsfolk were taken by surprise, as was Juan Tomas outside. Chaos began to ensue. Juan Tomas tried to shoot some down, but it was hard to get a clear shot in the darkness. And then gnawing hungers proved to be tougher than expected. He was rushed by three of them, and within moments they had managed to tear great gashes in his hide. Now seriously hurt, he was forced to retreat, covered by the bulwark that was T. Saint John. The ginger giant went to work crushing heads. Meanwhile, inside the church, Sister Mary and the kindly salesman were locked in battle. The nun could see the salesman conjuring black flames, but she had her own power: namely faith and a very large rifle. She leveled her rifle at the evil man, muttered a single prayer, and promptly put a quarter sized hole in his head. The dark magician fell to the ground, dead from a single gunshot. Sister Mary then rushed to the aid of Jenny Garret, where she spotted a large cornucopia. Her joints ached and a terrible smell hit her nose as she closed toward the thing: it was obviously part of the problem.

With the salesman dead, cleaning up the rest of the gnawing hungers was quite easy. Sister Mary and T. Saint John made short work of them, while Juan Tomas did his best to drive the salesman’s cart into the fire. Of course the salesman’s horse, being a simple animal, wanted nothing to do with the fire. It balked and bolted, tipping the cart on its side a few feet from the fire. But with a mighty heave of his muscles, T. Saint John managed to flip the cart onto the fire. More black flames erupted, and they were redoubled when Sister Mary tossed the body of the salesman and the cornucopia on the fire. The fire abruptly turned a bright right and then a horrible howl went up into the air. And then the fire blazed with a golden light that burst forth, cleansing the town of the last remnants of the salesman’s evil.

+Digression: At this point it was getting pretty late, and so we just sort of narrated the last of the fight. I didn’t feel like the gnawing hungers were really all that big a threat, and so I used the quick narrative combat rules instead. They worked a treat, and I think I’ll be using them again in the future.

With the evil cleared, all of the nutrition that had been stolen by the horn of false plenty was suddenly stripped from the townsfolk. Many of them suddenly dropped the ground, terribly malnourished and in danger of dying. Only the healing hands of Sister Mary kept them alive, and even then the posse knew that it would take them weeks, maybe months, to fully recover. But at least they’d live. The posse stayed in town just long enough to help get the sickened villagers situated, but they had a date back at Coffin Rock. Tomorrow was Christmas, and they weren’t going to miss it for the world!

+Digression: Overall, I had a lot of fun with this little adventure. I was happy that I was able to slot it into my game easily enough just by making some tweaks. The session itself was a bit disjointed, as it had been a while since the group had really gotten to roleplay. But even with all that, it was a fun night. Plus we got a bit more depth to the newly recovered Coffin Rock and the surrounding environs.