Monday, May 27, 2024

Play Report - Empire of Texas, Session 3 - 5/22/24

De Lancey Gill - Street in the Pueblo of Oraibi, Tusayan, Arizona

"The Emperor of Texas has heard the plight of his allies across the desert. The Plague wracks them and empties out villages. From his riches he promises to provide medicine. The price is independence."

For the Referee side of things, see this blogpost over on the Underground Adventurer.

Players :
Halloween as… the Referee.
Cosmic as… Captain Kelly Branson of his Texan Majesty’s Imperial Army, a bookish officer with high aspirations.
Jack as… Chuck Dalton, recently recovered from horrendous head trauma and infection.

Kelly, Ignacio, Leandra, and Karl survey the scene. A circle of bullet riddled wagons, the corpses of men and horses. They dismount and begin poking around, disquieted by the scene. Ignacio climbs up into one of the wagons and finds its contents are untouched. Most of it is plastic packets of some fine white powder (it was heroin), in another wagon they find a crate of weed, and glory of glories wagon containing a stunning three hundred bars of gold. They look on in awe at the shining metal. Unfortunate that it’s not food. Quickly the expedition is called over and the loot transferred, packed away, and hid in the party’s own wagons. The night passes hungirly but warmed by the small fortune now in their possession.

Day eleven passes uneventfully and thirstily as they trek through the desert, pursued by buzzards. The men, while heartened by the loot, are wearing thin.

Day twelve and things are looking grim. The horses are near dead from exhaustion and the men parched, reduced to eating lizards and sucking on pebbles. But around midday Leandra comes riding back from ahead of the expedition, waving her hat in air and hollering. A town! A town! At first they think it a mirage, but it solidifies into the form of a decidedly real village of earthships and dome roofed pueblos. The expedition approaches cautiously, noting the furtive nature of the inhabitants (who wear pelts and seem not to have much in way of farmland, this being the desert) but meet with a small delegation sent out from the village. The woman at its head introduces herself as Simone Cassowary, she is tall and muscular and wears jewelry adorned dreadlocks. The villagers welcome trade but forbid the expedition from coming into town, save to fill their canteens at the well. Nodding, Chuck, Kelly, and F. Finch divest themselves of weapons and indicate for the men to do the same and troop into the village one at a time.

Negotiations go well, aided in part by a gift of hash–promptly smoked–and Kelly trades the looted old world clothes, three revolvers, eighteen rounds, a horse, and half the crate of looted hash for two hundred and ten days worth of food and water. As well, they get the lay of the land, learning about an oasis at a line of cliffs straight west, and a boulder to the northwest they should keep south of if they want to hit the mountain passes. They learn also of a town to the south the villagers have been out of contact with and a crag to the north that has opened with gunfire from a great distance at passing caravans, and some other tidbits like this. The expedition passes the night on the outskirts of the village and departs the next morning.

Day thirteen was cloudy. The expedition passed over empty desert, keeping westward still. Day fourteen was much of the same, though they saw in the distance lonely bits of broken concrete jutting out of the dry earth. The horses were eating through a lot of supplies and a lot of water, worrying Kelly, but so far all was good.

Day fifteen was overcast, early that morning the party arrived at the series of cliffs about which they’d been told. It takes the better part of the day to descend but they find, at the cliff base, a waterfall burbling out of the rock and into a green fringed pool; an oasis in the dry lands. The expedition quickly sets camp and spends their time fishing and collecting forage and filling their canteens and splashing about enjoying this respite. Around dinnertime Leandra comes back to camp to tell Kelly and Chuck about a cabin she’d found to the north. The three ride out to investigate, finding the cabin atop a hill.

They all dismount and Kelly has Chuck creep up to peer in a window. He does, but as he goes to peek a rifle barrel pokes out! A man starts yelling from inside and demands Chuck identify himself. Down the hill, Kelly and Leandra throw themselves flat. Chuck identifies himself as a soldier of Imperial Texas which the man takes poorly, ranting about empire’s bringing doom to the world. Chuck complies with a demand to disarm himself and, after some shouted exchange between Kelly and the cabin dweller, they decide to fuck off and leave the man alone. Back at the camp they post extra sentries and sleep the night away.

Day sixteen the expedition rides westward, scouting northwest for the boulder they were told about as they go. The day passes mostly without event but in the evening as they began to look for a campsite one of the scouts, Esteban, comes riding up from behind to report a dust cloud due east and closing. Kelly rides back and peers at it through his field glasses. He counts around twelve riders. The party is nervous and confers. After much debate they decide to ride through the night to reach the boulder Leandra spotted to the north, which should serve as fortifiable highground. The men break out their rations early, munching dried meat as their horses ride on through the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon.

The next morning, amid the heat, the exhausted expedition arrives at the boulder perched atop a twisty, rocky highground. Really it’s more of a hill, but either way it serves their purposes. They climb to the top and use the steep slopes as a backstop for a U shaped wagon fort, putting the horses inside and setting up with their rifles. The dust cloud of their pursuers is upon the horizon, they too have ridden all night.

Despite Chuck’s objections Kelly decides to take Merryweather and ride out a good distance to wait for the approaching riders and parley. He ties a white flag to his lance for the purpose. While waiting a distance from the wagon fort Kelly examines the riders through his field glasses. Closer now, he counts fifteen men on horseback. They wear khakis and buckskins and tote rifles. He sucks in his breathe. Sitting before each rider in the saddle is a gagged child. Sweeping his glasses along the approaching line, Kelly spies Simone, the leader of the village through which they passed, seemingly unconscious and bloodied, tied up and draped over the back of one horse. One of the riders has a very long and very old looking rifle, light gleams of its scope.

The pursuers slow down and dismount about 300 meters away. Kelly watches as the rider with Simone throws her to the ground. He is bald and pink as a newborn baby; stuck in his belt is an ancient automatic pistol. He rests one boot on Simone’s neck and beckons Kelly closer.

The Captain complies, riding just close enough to hear the bald man’s proclamation. He, the bald man, says that the expedition has taken something that belonged to colleague’s of his, something they are anxious to get back. He says that he razed Simone’s village. He demands the taken items, as well as all of the expeditions food and ammunition in compensation for the trouble and disrespect towards the Lord of the Desert.

Kelly says he needs to discuss this with his superiors. The bald man gives him ten minutes. Slowly Kelly rides back to Merryweather, then the two ride breakneck back to the wagon fort, desperation in their hearts…

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Play Report - Empire of Texas, Session 2 - 5/17/24

"The Emperor of Texas has heard the plight of his allies across the desert. The Plague wracks them and empties out villages. From his riches he promises to provide medicine. The price is independence."

For the Referee side of things, see this blogpost over on the Underground Adventurer.

Players :
Halloween as… the Referee.
Cosmic as… Captain Kelly Branson of his Texan Majesty’s Imperial Army, a bookish officer with high aspirations.
Jack as… Ignacio Marquez, a hardhearted convict; formerly as Chuck Dalton, currently indisposed due to his injuries.

Chuck Dalton survived the night despite his injuries, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Father Finch, but his cracked skull gained a bad infection. The next morning, as the expedition quickly packed its bags and got the hell out of the now hostile village of Tula, he was packed away like so much cargo in the back of one of the wagons to rest.

The sky was overcast and as soon as the party had left town the clouds split open in a deluge like downpour, turning the track to mud. Everyone took the opportunity to fill their canteens, but the general mood was dour and glum. That evening, after a days travel westward, the expedition halted at an abandoned grain silo and camped there as the rain began to abate. That night, Ignacio, still smarting from his fight with Chuck, silently crept over to the latter's sleeping roll with a knife in hand. Before he could do the deed however, another convict awoke and he quickly feigned checking Chuck’s bandages.

The next day was overcast and Chuck’s infection had taken a turn for the worse. The expedition struck out westward across the fading plains and travelled till about midday when one of the convict scouts, Karl, brought Captain Kelly a report of a small party to the south. Kelly quickly collected Merryweather and Ignacio then rode with Karl in the lead to a small gully where a band of men where picking through a broken down wagon. Four men standing guard with rifles while otherwise hauled out crates and cracked them open. Through his field glasses Kelly spied fine looking fabrics. Some kind of argument broke out below, but Kelly felt content to leave the strangers alone. His comrades did not agree, arguing that the expedition needed trade goods and that it was well within their rights as Texan soldiery to seize what they needed. Kelly sighed, but agreed. Besides it would make for a chance to test the men in battle.

Quickly they rode back to the wagons, leaving Karl to keep watch, and collected seven men (leaving behind F. Finch, the injured Chuck, and two convicts to keep guard) then rode back to the gully.

The plan was this. The three soldiers–Kelly, Solomon, and Merryweather–would take up a position ont he high ground above the gully, where they already were, and open up with rifle fire on the wagoners below. The convicts on horseback would circle around and descend into the gully then come charging into the wagoners side with their lances while the latter were distracted. Kelly placed Ignacio in command of the charge.

The convicts saddled up and road out while the soldiers unholstered their rifles and bellycrawled up to the edge of the wide gully.

The first salvo hit two of the wagoners, injuring one who jumped behind cover and dropping another. Solomon’s shot went wide, making him curse. The wagoners respond rapidly, six rifles opening up. Most of the shots go wide, whizzing overhead like wasps or sending up gouts of dirt. However two hit their target and Solomon suddenly slumped forward with a grunt.

Before either party can reload, a fierce yell rings out and down the gully come the charging convicts, their lances leveled. The wagoners frantically turn and start taking shots but the horsemen are quickly upon them and all is chaos. Ignacio spears a man. Jessica takes a slug a falls from her horse. Dolores receives a wound but gouges a chunk out of a wagoners skull in return. Esteban likewise. Ester too. Suddenly its all over, the wagoners morale breaks for there is only one man left standing, or rather crawling, beneath the wagon. He pleads for surrender.

Back up on the gully rim, Merryweather and Kelly have rushed over to Solomon and turned him over revealing the bullet wound in his scalp and throat. Blood bubbles out as he tries to breath. Kelly hugs him close and the soldier dies in his captains arms.

Down below, the convicts are dismounting, checking themselves over, and accounting for the dead and wounded. Igancio in a fit of rage grabs the surrendering wagoner by the hair  (to scalp him?) and drags them out from his hiding space only for the man to get the better of him, the two scuffle and roll apart each with new knife wounds. Kelly is running down the gully side yelling about clemency, but it’s too late.

The wagoners are all dead or dying. They are not given medical attention. Jessica (who it turns out is dead) and Solomon’s bodies are loaded up on horses along with the looted weapons, ammunition, and miscellaneous kit from the dead wagoners. The crates are opened up, they contain expensive old world clothing: denims, sneakers, tough boots. Those too are loaded up, but as the convicts go to drag the crates out from within the broken wagon they cry out. Within is the bloated, rotting corpse of a man. A man struck by plague. Crossing themselves and making warding signs, the expedition quickly departs, taking the wagoners two horses with them and leaving the rest for buzzard food.

The expedition makes camp that night, the wounded are tended to and the dead buried. F. Finch is kept busy with surgeries while Kelly makes an account of supplies expended and gained. While examining the looted rifles he notes the makers mark, which reveal that they come from “Machine” a long standing armoury town recently annexed into the empire. Trade rifles and trade bullets, exported by imperial traders, which went on to kill imperial soldiers. He shakes his head in disgust. Later he distributes an extra revolver to each of the men and issues a rifle for each of the convicts.

The next day is dreary, still overcast, with blackbirds calling as the expedition awake and break camp. They head westward for the Dirt Snake, leaving behind two graves and a bloodied, buzzard circled killing field. Chuck’s condition worsens. The day passes uneventfully and in the evening they come upon the Dirt Snake, a sort of dried riverbed, like a great big canyon cutting its way through the shrubland. The party makes camp on the chasm edge.

The next morning is misty, the bottom of the Dirt Snake hidden under a sea of grey. The expedition spends the morning descending into the canyon, on foot, leading horse and wagon. Chuck seems to be doing better, he is sitting up and talking. At the bottom they find a chaos of mud, ruck, and rusted metal junk. There is no obvious place of ascent for the opposite side and by the time night comes the party is forced to make camp in the canyon bottom. Kelly worries over their dwindling food supplies.

The day breaks hot and bright, burning away what remained of the mists. The expedition winds its way along the canyon searching for a route up the otherside. Chuck, who seemed to be doing so much better, is bed ridden and feverish. As the party is picking their way along, maneuvering the wagons through the jumbled rock and mud, they suddenly hear low bellowing echo down the chasm. Mud and flying dust, a pack of six mangy not-exactly cows, toothy goat-bulls, charging towards the expedition. The horses began to panic. Kelly quickly whips together a firing line, taking up position behind the wagons, and nine rifles open fire. Only three shots hit, downing the same number of bulls, the rest miss or bury themselves in impenetrable flesh. Quickly the men work the levers of their rifles. The second salvo downs another two bulls, leaving one left who crashes through the wagons, gunning for one of the convicts: Leandra. With shocking calmness, she drops her rifle and pulls out her big knife and before you can blink she has grabbed the charging bull by its horns, swinging deftly up around and onto its back. She plunges her knife blade into its brain and the bull topples, coming to a skidding halt with Leandra atop it, unharmed. Everyone gapes.

F. Finch is of the opinion that the mutant bulls are probably edible if thoroughly cooked, Kelly, eyeing the nearly exhausted rations, orders them butchered along with three of the spare horses. Most of the afternoon is spent at the task and the party makes camp in the canyon bottom once more, feasting on black roasted bull and chewy horseflesh.

Day nine is overcast and the expedition is still in the damn Dirt Snake, Fortunately, they manage to climb up and out of the west side of the canyon that morning. The vegetation is sparser here, as the shrubland slowly fades into desert. Chuck is stabilized and everyone wounded in the skirmish has healed up. The day is spent in uneventful travel, though all are acutely aware of how desperately low their food supplies are. Kelly sends Leandra out to scout the southwest but she comes back with nothing to report but barren plains. That night the expedition camp in the open grasses and eats through the last of their supplies. Three horses go without feed or drink so that the men can eat.

Day ten is hot, the baking sun high overhead, and the party heads westward with empty, protesting bellies over dirt and dry grass. The day passes by. As they are setting camp in the evening and ignoring the gnawing in their bellies, Leandra returns from scouting out the north. She brings Kelly to the corpse of a deer, its rib cage torn open and viscera spread across the ground, and points out a thin wavering column of smoke further north. Kelly, Ignacio, Leandra, and Karl mount up and ride out towards the smoke in hopes of a little hunting at least.

What they find is a circle of burnt out wagons, the wagoners scattered about; dead and clutching weapons in their stiff hands...

Friday, May 17, 2024

Play Report - Empire of Texas, Session 1 - 5/12/24

Art by Me

"The Emperor of Texas has heard the plight of his allies across the desert. The Plague wracks them and empties out villages. From his riches he promises to provide medicine. The price is independence."

For the Referee side of things, see this blogpost over on the Underground Adventurer.

Players :
Halloween as… the Referee.
Cosmic as… Captain Kelly Branson of his Texan Majesty’s Imperial Army, a bookish officer with high aspirations.
Jack as… Chuck Dalton, a convict with a heart of gold and big dreams.

--- (tw mention of sexual assault and violence)

We set out scene within the walled confines of Fort Tonio upon the Empire’s western frontier. Captain Kelly Branson has arrived to this distant and dusty outpost in order to take charge of an expedition to aid his Majesty’s allies in the far west. He is gruffly received by a certain Captain Butler, commandant of the fort, who signs over the equipment and convicts to be used in the undertaking. Kelly promptly has the prisoners, now his men, unshackled and gives them an impromptu speech on the nobility of their mission and the grace which they have just received from the royal hand. He confers with his new officers, setting one of them, Solomon, to work seeing if he can procure but a little more ammunition for the expedition. They will set out at first light the following morning. Then Kelly repairs to the officers mess to dine with his fellow captain.

Meanwhile, Chuck Dalton stands in the yard, newly freed of his manacles, still massaging his wrists. He is overjoyed to be participating in something for the Greater Good. The other convicts are wandering about and mingling, watched by the wary eyes of the fort’s guards. Two convicts start to argue, escalating into a fight, and Chuck, seeing a chance to be the “hero”, wades in. Moments later one Ignacio Marquez lies bleeding, his face mashed to a pulp under Chuck’s fists. The other convicts eye Dalton warily. Behind a dirty window pane Kelly and Butler watch the brawl and sip wine from old world plasticware.

The next morning the expedition woke at the crack and readied the wagons and steeds in a hurried way. Solomon had managed to arrange with the quartermaster for a few extra rounds of ammunition to be packed in. Before leaving Kelly had the convicts line up and, one by one, distributed the revolvers, ammunition, and lances. With the sun cresting the horizon the party rode out and into the scrub. Midmorning, with the fort still almost in view and everyone settling in, Kelly distributed a bit of chocolate to the men, who quickly ate it before it melted in their fingers. The sun overhead was hot.

The day passed without event, moving westward at a steady pace over hilly shrubland. Come nightfall the expedition camped on the plains under the brilliant stars. It was then that the sentry spied a distant fire and two riders approaching camp.

Kelly woke the other soldiers, then Chuck–telling him to quietly wake the other convicts–and crept out towards the riders making sure to keep low in the scrub so that they were not silhouette against the fire. Kelly cried who goes there and the riders identified themselves as fellow Imperial Texan soldiers, a scouting party ambushed with a wounded member over yonder in their own camp.

Still wary of deception, Kelly took Finch, Merry, Chuck, and two other convicts along with him as he followed the rider back to their camp. There they found eight other ragged soldiers and in a tent their commanding officer suffering from a festering chest wound. Father Finch got to work but could get no further without valuable medical supplies. Kelly took aside the scouting party’s lieutenant and explained the situation to them, telling him that the expedition couldn’t part with their supplies without something to make up for it. The man nodded, understandingly, and scrounged up a jerrycan of gasoline. Finch got to work and by morning the wounded man was stabilized. The two parties parted ways, amicably, wishing each other luck.

The second day proved overcast and muggy. The expedition continued their route westward and around noon caught up with a small caravan of traders also heading west. The traders were protected by nine rifle armed guards and were hauling ammunition with plans to swap it for pelts and feel out opportunities for profit among the hunters of the south. Both expeditions were heading for Tula, and so joined up. The day passed by. While riding Chuck got to know some of his fellow convicts better.

The next morning proved overcast, but drier than the preceding day, and the joined-expeditions arrived shortly in Tula. The town proved to be little more than a collection of mudbrick homes in the shadow of a church belfry but the locales were friendly enough, if aloof and cautious. All the woman kept their hair hidden. Kelly met with the town’s leader, a certain Moonib (Muneb?) he grants them hospitality wit ha few words of warning about the town’s pacifistic ways.  After some haggling, which Kelly got the worst of, the expedition parted with three horses in exchange for a hundred days worth of supplies. Kelly promised to attend mass that evening with the townsfolk and vouched for the conduct of his men. The expedition encamped in the shade of the houses and got to work helping with various small chores and tasks.

Kelly conferred with his men, inviting Chuck into the little circle to. Father Finch expressed discomfort with interior of the church where all images of Lord Jesus Christ had been effaced. Idolators, he concluded. Opinions were mixed on the best route but eventually a southwestern route, heading straight for the nearest crossing of the Dirt Snake was decided upon. The little conference split apart.

That night, after attending a long and boring mass, the expedition members joined in a sumptuous feast of venison stew and old wines from the north. But as everyone tucked in, a murmur arose. One of the congregation, a woman named Sister Jessica, was missing. The expedition realized that one of their own number, a convict called One Eyed Donny, was gone as well. A sinking feeling settled into Kelly’s stomach. Dinner broke apart, what few of the traders had attended the feast split for their own camp.

One of the convicts told Chuck that they’d seen Donny following Sister Jessica out towards the well, quickly he whispered this to Kelly who dispatched Finch and Merry (along with Chuck) to investigate while telling Soloman to gather some of the convicts and began, quietly, getting the horses ready. He himself would follow Moonib and his mob.

The convict and the two soldiers crept out towards the well, finding an abandoned scarf. Expecting the worst, they found it, in the form of Sister Jessica’s body and crouching next to her, his pants round his ankles and a blood stained rock in hand, One Eyed Donny.

Chuck immediately draws his gun, a tense moment, then Donny goes for his gunbelt. A chaotic few moments and then Chuck is on the ground being beaten by Donny when the two soldiers (who had fallen behind) shoot, one missing and one hitting, Donny begins to stagger away and they gun him down.

Chuck, lying there with his face bashed in, looked up and saw the concerned face of F. Finch and beyond it the stars. He passes out.