Thursday, May 7, 2020

Fort Arneson Revisited

In this post I'm revisiting another location from my The Sixth Gun campaign, this time Fort Arneson in the middle of the Great Plains.


A Bit of History
Fort Arneson was built as an outpost on the Great Plains for the United States Army shortly after the Civil War. It was named for General Anders Arneson, who earned his reputation during the war against Mexico. For most of its history it remained little more than a backwater supply depot, until a major conflict erupted, and was quickly resolved. 

That conflict arose during a treaty conference between the U.S. Army and several Native American tribes. The fort had been infiltrated by Dr. Mordecai Smith along with his wife, Angelique, who was secretly a practitioner of Voodoo. Aided by a band of ghouls and others, they dug tunnels in the form of a pentagram beneath the fort and then detonated explosives in them, killing many of the attendees and triggering a major battle. All of this served as a sacrifice as part of a ritual to open a rift into the Winding Way, and it succeeded. The battle was quickly resolved, however, and those who caused it were killed, due to intervention by a band of American adventurers. In the aftermath of that incident, the Black Stars moved in to work with the U.S. Army to lock the facility. Since then they have brought in others, too, including represents of the Native American tribes, to help study the rift and the world between worlds into which it opens.

The Original Fort and “The Incident”
Refer to the following article and adventure for a layout of the fort's interior and more information about the incident that occurred here.

Recent Additions
The map above provides a layout for the following locations. They include the train platform (A), water tower (B), cemetery (C), council house (D), tribal circles (E), corral (F) and storehouse (G). 

Train Platform

This structure is raised about three feet off the ground, putting it level with many of the train cars that roll through the area. There is a ramp leading up from the ground. Resting on the platform is a small wooden building, one that holds little more than two tables surrounded by chairs. A broad roof extends all around it, including a covered area for those who are waiting for trains outside the building. 

Water Tower
This structure has a cylindrical holding tank raised up on stout wooden legs; a ladder leads up to a narrow platform with a railing around it. In addition to providing water for refilling steam engines, it is used to irrigate the flowers and shrubs planted in the adjacent cemetery.

Not surprisingly, this area—enclosed by a low stone wall, with a gate that allows entry—is filled with eat rows of graves, each marked by a headstone. Included among the names of the deceased are Capt. Anders Arneson III, Lieutenant Sean Fitzpatrick, Dr. Isaac Shaffer, Clement Bonsteel, and Small Raven. All but the last one are people who were killed during the Battle of Fort Arneson.
At the back of the cemetery there is a small stone obelisk that bears the following engraving:

In this place, on 8 January 1887, a band of valiant Americans fought to prevent a great tragedy.

Council House
This building has a broad roof supported by sixteen columns; four doors provide entrance, and the interior is filled with benches. It is intended to be a comfortable place in which to hold discussions and negotiations.

Tribal Circles
Some of these Indian tepees are present year-round, while others come and go with their occupants. There are at least two separate circles, one for each of two bands, led by Standing Bear and Red Hawk, respectively.

To make more room inside the fort—and because of the truce they have with the Indians—the soldiers moved their stables outside its walls. They keep a full score of horses, along with tack and harness for riding them.

This building, with walls made of mud brick, holds not supplies for the fort but rather ones intended for distribution to the nearby native tribes. For that reason, it holds all manner of foodstuffs, blankets and clothing, manufactured goods from back east, and even rifles and ammunition that can be used for hunting.

Inside the Fort
The aforementioned document provides an accurate layout of Fort Arneson, except that the stables which were once located inside the walls have been replaced with another set of barracks. This means that there are two full squads of infantry soldiers, along with two squads of cavalry, each led by a sergeant, and with lieutenants who answer to Captain Jeffreys. 

The Rift

Dug into the ground beneath the fort is a series of tunnels that form a pentagram, the result of magical sabotage that led to the Incident. In the center of these is a broad, open chamber with a gaping hole in the ground at its center; that is the entrance that has been torn open into the Winding Way. The personnel at the fort use this area for storage, including crates and barrels of supplies—and enough gunpowder that, if needed, they could try to seal the rift.

Detailed here are the people who are in power at the fort; they represent the United States Army, the Black Stars, and at least two native bands.

Captain Danforth Jeffreys (Seasoned)
Captain Jeffreys was a cavalry lieutenant during the Battle of Fort Arneson; he took over command after Captain Arneson was killed. Although he might once have been described as pompous, that experience has taught him humility—and made it clear just what the stakes are for successfully fulfilling his duty at the fort. Now he is a very capable officer, even if he does still think rather highly of his own abilities.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d4, Battle d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d4, Investigation d4, Knowledge d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Stealth d4
Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Command, Command Presence, Hold the Line!, Inspire, Tactician
Hindrances: Pick one Major or two Minor
Gear: Uniform, Colt Dragoon .44 pistol (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1), cavalry saber (Damage d6+d6).

Terrence Taylor, the Indian Agent (Seasoned)
This Indian agent has read a lot about Native Americans, and is entrusted by the government to make annuity payments and arrange treaties. During and after the Battle of Fort Arneson he has even studied under Standing Bear, participating in some of the ceremonies. Given the importance of what lies under the fort, he takes his job as intermediary between the natives and the settlers very seriously.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Academics d6, Athletics d4, Common Knowledge d6, Notice d8, Persuasion d8, Research d8, Stealth d4, Tribal Medicine d4
Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Connections, Linguist
Hindrances: Cautious
Gear: Fancy clothing, writing materials, Bowie knife (Damage d4+d6).

Red Hawk (Heroic)
For years this hunter and warrior led his people in resisting incursions by settlers, especially the buffalo hunters, railroad builders and ranchers who would follow them. That all changed when he and his people were manipulated into attacking Fort Arneson; he lost many warriors during that battle, and only later learned that it was part of an occult plot. For that reason he has sworn to help anyone who fights to prevent similar tragedies from occurring ever again.
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d8, Common Knowledge d6, Fighting d8, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Riding d8, Shooting d8, Stealth d8, Survival d6, Tracking d6
Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness, Command, Command Presence, Fervor, First Strike, Inspire, No Mercy, Quick
Hindrances: Outsider
Gear: Bow (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6, RoF 1), knife (Damage d6+d4).

Standing Bear (Heroic)
For most of his life Standing Bear has had an affinity for living things—and those that have passed. He is able to communicate with animals, and even to look beyond the physical world and into the spiritual one. He had even visited the Winding Way before “The Incident,” as the White Men refer to it, tore open a rift into that realm. Thus he knows how important it is to keep Fort Arneson and its secrets safe, even if that requires cooperating with the settlers who have altered his people's way of life forever.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d4, Healing d4, Knowledge (local) d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Stealth d4, Survival d4, Tribal Medicine d10
Pace: 6”, Parry: 6, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Shamanism), Command, Improved Rapid Recharge, Inspire, New Power x4, Power Points x2, Rapid Recharge
Hindrances: Outsider
Powers: Armor, banish, beast friend, boost/lower Trait, deflection, dispel, healing, spirit walk; Power Points: 20
Gear: Trappings, staff (Damage d6+d4, Parry +1, Reach 1, requires 2 hands).

Judge William S. Whitaker (Veteran)
In addition to proving himself as a United States Marshal in service to that special branch known as the Black Stars, William S. Whitaker has learned some of the secrets of Voodoo—just like his grandma once practiced, secretly, while she lived as a slave. This gives him an edge as he goes about his job, both acting as a magistrate in this frontier territory as well as conducing special investigations into occult matters when they are needed.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d4, Common Knowledge d4, Fighting d8, Investigation d8, Knowledge d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Riding d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness, Arcane Background (Voodoo), Brave, Combat Reflexes, Combat Sense, Connections, Dodge, New Power
Hindrances: Code of Honor
Powers: Boost/lower Trait, detect/conceal arcana, divination; Power Points: 10
Gear: Suit, pocket watch, gun belt, Stetson hat, badge, folding knife (Damage Str + d4, -2 to be noticed), Colt Peacemaker (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6+1, RoF 1).

Ordinary People
To find stats for typical soldiers, officers and Native people, refer to the following documents.

Plot Elements
Detailed below are just a few of the ways in which the PCs could become entangled in adventures and campaigns settled around Fort Arneson.
  • Characters who entered the Winding Way by other means—such as via the entrance beneath the New Globe Theatre in London—would thus come up from below Fort Arneson, and therefor have some explaining to do.
  • In a similar vein, the heroes could be present when something monstrous emerges from the rift; after fighting with it, they might be recruited to go back into the Winding Way to find and deal with whatever caused its emergence.
  • Although the full story of The Incident is a closely guarded secret, necromancy is a potent form of magic, and thus grave robbery provides enemies of the Black Stars with a means of learning what happened.
  • What few people know is that Clement Bonesteel, one of the deceased who fought in the Battle of Fort Arneson and is now buried in the cemetery outside it, was romantically involved with the sister of Captain Jeffreys, Cora, who lives back east. While she knows that her beau was killed in a battle involving Indians, she is determined to learn the full truth—and she could unwittingly become the pawn in a plot by the Cabal or some other nefarious group.
  • Those who really wanted to undermine the personnel of Fort Arneson could do so by pitting the various parties there against each other—the old “divide and conquer” strategy. Given the bad history between the U.S. Army and various native tribes, that proposition might not be as difficult as it seems.
  • There is also the mystery of a Gatling gun with the name Clementine engraved on it. This, in fact, belonged to a band of raiders who were active on the Missouri-Kansas border during the lead-up to the Civil War. At least a few of those bloodthirsty souls returned from the dead as a ghoul; who is to say that there aren't more, who wouldn't take kindly to Bluecoats wielding their beloved equalizer?

Appendix: The Inscription on the Obelisk

In this place,
on 8 January 1887,
a band of valiant Americans
fought to prevent
a great tragedy.


  1. Well, I have to say I love the name of this Fort! :)

  2. The idea came because, in my mind's eye, the fort's commander looked like pro wrestler Arn Anderson; I switched around the name, and so it just made sense to name it after Dave Arneson.