Sunday, July 22, 2018

Restless Spirits

This scenario builds upon the events in the short story "The Dead Man's Hand," introducing a plot to steal back sacred native relics handed over to Christian missionaries.


Little Raven was an Indian boy who didn't like what he saw happening to his people, giving up traditions ways for the new lifestyle of the white settlers. When he saw some of them trading valued items for newfangled tools and other supplies, he took action and stole the assembled relics from the preacher who was collecting them. Sadly, he did not manage to escape with the goods, though; instead he was betrayed and murdered by a frontier doctor, who then arranged for them to be sold to an eastern collector.

Even death can't stop Little Raven, however.

His spirit, unable to find rest, has returned in the form of a haint. What is more, he has found a group of people who he thinks can help him recover the items. Using his ability to possess a living person, Little Raven intends to find out where the goods were sent, and then to go and retrieve them.

The Dead Man's Hand
For more information about Little Raven, please refer to the following short story.

Adventure Synopsis
This adventure begins when Little Raven's spirit, in the form of a haint, uses its ability to possess one of the Player Characters (see pages 75-6 in the Sixth Gun rulebook for details). Once inside that host's body, he then starts a fire at warehouse in Smith's Crossing and, using it as a distraction, sneaks into the Smiths' home to learn what he can about the missing cache of native relics. As long as he learns what he wants—that Rev. Smith sold the items to an eastern collector, who's using them as part of a touring display to raise money for “bringing civilization to the heathens”—then Little Raven and his host begin preparing to go and recover them.

The exhibition, which is being run by a businessman named Miles Jameson, takes place aboard a steamboat called the River Maiden. The PCs can mix and mingle with those who've gathered, learning about the items while concealing their intentions. Once they've made a plan of action, then, they can steal the relics and make a run for it.

For the Gun Master
At first glance, this might seem like a straightforward heist. The PCs are dealing with people who have powerful allies, however—and ones who are likely to seek revenge against offenders. While those repercussions might not occur during the events of this scenario, they can certainly provide plot hooks for future adventures.

Involving the Heroes
In this case, at least one of the PCs can become involved with this business whether or not the players want to do so, given that the haint that is Little Raven's spirit possesses one of them in order to start the fire at the warehouse and break into the Smiths' home.

The Host
Admittedly, it's not too much fun playing a possessed character. For that reason, the GM might want to let the player of the possessed PC run a different character while Little Raven possesses his host. Alternately, the PCs could convince Little Raven's spirit (the haint) to possess another host with whom they are willing to cooperate in conducting this theft.

Scene 1—Arson and Trespassing
To start this business, the haint that is Little Raven's spirit must make an opposed Spirit roll. For its target he picks a PC who could be good at breaking and entering, especially one with good Stealth and Lockpicking traits. Using that host body, he then takes a gallon jug of lamp oil, sticks a rag in the end, lights it on fire, and throws it at the back of the warehouse (building B). At the GM's discretion, other PCs might make Notice checks, opposed to that character's Stealth efforts, to recognize that something strange is happening.

Once the fire is started and the people of Smith's Crossing notice it, they respond quickly to fight it. Rev. Smith sends a runner to ring the church's bell, calling out others. They then form a bucket brigade from the river and start dousing the flames. This activity can be represented mechanically with a series of five Smarts checks; each one takes two minutes to accomplish.

At the same time, the would-be thief heads for the Smiths' house (building G), sneaks in the front door and up the stairs, and then starts rifling through drawers and searching for documents. The letter in question is in Malachi's room, and looks fancy when compared to other correspondence. It reads:

Dear Rev. Smith,

I am pleased to invite you to the opening gala of my traveling exhibition, 
Civilization's Frontier. It will include speeches—and you are certainly 
welcome to contribute your thoughts—along with items from my 
collection. Funds raised will help support missions such as your own.

This traveling exhibition will be hosted aboard the steamboat 
River Maiden, which grant us access to any number of ports along the 
Mississippi and its tributaries. It will begin on the Sunday six weeks from 
my writing, and we will stop by Smith's crossing one week in advance.

Respectfully yours,

Miles Jameson

The GM can pick a date on the letter that is appropriate. Armed with this information, Little Raven begins preparing to meet the steamship.

Of course, the PCs probably object to having one of their own possessed by a haint, even if the spirit's intentions are honorable. Magic is probably the best option for this, but they might devise other means. Even so, Little Raven's spirit could then try negotiating with the PCs to secure their cooperation and perhaps even have a willing host accept the possession.

Smith's Crossing
For the first scene of this scenario, please refer to the article that details this small western town.

Scene 2—The Exhibition
As mentioned in the letter, the steamboat River Maiden stops at Smith's Crossing on the appointed date. It takes on any interested passengers, along with a fresh supply of wood for fuel. That's when Rev. Smith goes aboard, and the PCs can, too. This creates an opportunity for investigation and chances for good roleplaying, a few of which are detailed below.

The Host
The gregarious host of the exhibition is this eastern financier, who made his fortune in the timber business. He welcomes the PCs to the exhibition and inquires about their interest in frontier life, Indians and religion. At the GM's discretion, characters might need to make Persuasion checks opposed to his Notice efforts in order to keep their true motives concealed.

Miles Jameson
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Boating d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d8
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Command, Connections, Filthy Rich, Rich
Hindrances: Elderly
Gear: Fancy clothing.

Other Characters
Listed below are some of the other characters who might be present for this business.
  • Ezekiel Wainwright is the lawman Englelbert Meier sometimes employs to keep the peace aboard the River Maiden. He is here for the exhibition, and might remember the PCs if they attended the Great River Poker Tournament described in the scenario Reversal of Fortune.
  • If Reverend Smith suspects that someone rifled through his room during the fire—probably by making a Notice check opposed to the PC's Lockpicking effort after the fact—then he could suspect trouble, and might bring help with him.
  • It's quite possible that characters from the PCs' past make an appearance. This could include NPCs from previous scenarios, such as the pickpocket Gerald Lawrence from Reversal of Fortune.
  • Characters with elaborate background stories could find that someone from their past is present for this exhibition.
  • This is also a good chance for the GM to introduce new NPCs for future plot hooks, ones who might have business for them after seeing how this situation develops.
The Steamboat
For the next couple of scenes, please refer to the article about the River Maiden to find deck plans and location descriptions for it.

The Relics
The five items are being kept in Jameson's stateroom—the aftmost one on the starboard side of the middle deck (area 5)—for safekeeping; they are put on display in the dining hall on the main deck (area 8) at certain times in order to impress the guests. Additionally, the dining hall is filled with painting and sketches by frontier artists depicting native life, and outside of meal time certain guests are invited to tell their stories—provided, of course, they reinforce the notion that Christianity can bring peace and prosperity to the West.

Characters who think to ask about such matters can confirm that Miles Jameson is collecting money from his guests; this is kept in a carpet bag carried by Sheriff Wainwright. This totals something around $1000, in a mixture of coins and paper money—although the GM can always adjust that sum based on the needs of the campaign.

A Means of Escape
One question that the PC should answer before they make their move is just how they are going to flee from the riverboat. Options here include stealing rowboats from the River Maiden, or having canoes ready. Once they can reach land, they should have further transportation ready, such as saddled horses and/or a wagon.

Scene 3—Thieves in the Night
Just how this situation develops is likely to require a good deal of adjudication on the part of the GM. After all, there are a number of NPCs present who might become suspicious of an attempted robbery, and the PCs could develop any number of schemes for acquiring the relics.
Something to keep in mind is that Little Raven's spirit doesn't fully trust the PCs other than the one that he has possessed. For that reason, if he comes to believe that they're being too cautious—or, worse, that they don't really intend to steal the items—then he might become more aggressive in his tactics.

Finally, somebody might want to stage a major distraction, and hinder any possible pursuit, by sabotaging the riverboat. This might include incapacitating the roustabouts who make sure the boiler is filled with firewood; throwing a few sticks of dynamite into the boiler to damage it; or any other plan that the PCs can imagine.

Whatever the case, this burglary is likely to play out in two separate stages. First is the theft itself, which is probably best represented by dividing the action into two different sections, with the first focusing on trait tests and combat for the theft itself, and the second resolving the PCs' efforts to escape from the riverboat with the items that they've stolen. The prior can be handled like a standard combat, if a complex one, using the different characters already introduced.

Scene 4—Fight and Flight
Once the PCs have the relics in their possession, they should seek to flee the scene. (This assumes that they don't want to stand their ground and do battle with everyone who takes an exception to their thievery.) Rowboats or canoes are perhaps the best conveyances in this situation, requiring characters to use the Boating trait, along with the chase rules presented on pages 94-6 of the core rulebook, keeping in mind the following considerations.
  • Treat this as a Standard chase, lasting 5 rounds, as the characters race across the open water to the shoreline.
  • Since rowboats and canoes have similar speeds, no characters have any advantage from being in one as opposed to the other.
  • The Terrain is not difficult, since this is open water through which the steamboat has been piloted.
  • One Passenger in each canoe or rowboat can make a Boating check to help the lead character.
  • There are as many rowboats pursuing the PCs as there are important NPCs who want to catch them. That is likely to include Ezekiel Wainwright and Miles Jameson, along with Malachi Smith if he is present, and perhaps others at the GM's discretion. Each is accompanied by a Roustabout.
  • Obstacles can include drifting wood (Minor) or rocks in the water (Major); a Disaster results means that a boat has tipped over, dumping the characters aboard it into the water. This, then, becomes a potential Drowning situation.
If the pursuers manage to catch the PCs, then they might try resorting to such desperate measures as diving overboard and swimming for it. Keep in mind, too that Little Raven could try to possess a new host, perhaps abandoning the PCs altogether, in order to escape with the relics. On the other hand, as long as they escape, the PCs can do what they will with the stolen goods.

By stealing the four relics, the PCs have acquired some items of tremendous value to one or more Indian tribes. It remains for them to arrange remuneration, which can take all manner of forms. Even once that has been settled, however, there's a lot of unfinished business yet to be resolved.

Further Adventures
Here are just a few of the possibilities.
  • Miles Jameson and his allies could always offer a bounty for capture of the PCs, as well as for recovery of the stolen items.
  • Dr. and Mrs. Smith might have other, more direct means of taking revenge against the PCs if any of them have required medical treatment in Smith's Crossing.
  • The Indians to whom the PCs deliver these relics might have other jobs for which they need help from those who can mix into white society.
  • There's also the fact that Little Raven's spirit still can't rest in peace, due to the fact that part of his body was used to create a Hand of Glory.

Appendix—New Relics
Detailed here are game mechanics for the four sacred items that Little Raven is seeking.

War Bonnet
The wearer of this eagle feather headdress gains a +1 bonus as per having a high Charisma score; this stacks with any other bonuses granted by being Attractive or from other means.

Coup Stick
When used against another character who is a Wild Card, the wielder of this club gains a bennie upon causing that character an Incapacitation result.

Painted Shield
This wooden shield, painted with native symbols, grants a +1 armor bonus to the wielder's Toughness score.

Medicine Bag
The one who carries this medicine bag receives a +1 bonus to all Tribal Medicine rolls.

Appendix—Rowboats and Canoes
GMs who need to represent rowboats and canoes during the PCs' escape from the steamboat can print and cut out the following templates.

No comments:

Post a Comment