Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spectre of the Gun, session 1

Big thanks to ze bulette for scanning and
uploading this picture, so I don't have to.
So last night we played the first session of the new Boot Hill campaign.  The picture to the left is from inside the book and it just cracks me up.  I showed it to all the guys last night for a laugh.  Carl point out that when the rulebook was new (back in '79) you could probably get that shirt of the rack at Sears.  I countered that my dad probably owned that exact shirt.

Anyway, there were three players besides me last night.  Here's the roster:

Nick played 'Wild' James Riley, a young man with the consumption (i.e. tuberculosis) who, as a lad, was a eyewitness to the infamous Wild Bill Hickock/Davis Tutt shoot-out.  As a result, he idolizes Wild Bill and all the terrible things he stands for.

Carl came up with 'Gentleman' Jim Dunnigan, the black sheep son of a bigwig Texas rancher and the best-dressed cold-blooded killer in any room.

And Wheels rolled up Josiah Donahue, an ex-cowpoke and gunfighter who possesses almost Indiana Jones-level bullwhip skills.

The name Josiah Donahue came off my Random Gunslinger Names table.  Carl named his PC after one of the greatest game designers in history.  And Nick's PC is named James Riley because that's the real name of the gunfighter whose role he played in the first shoot-out of the evening.  The bits about the tuberculosis, the cowpokeyness and the rancher dad came from the historical events as well.  The other character hooks came from a wilden west version of the Deck O' Stuff, but with less equipment and more character concept stuff.  It was neat how the various random vectors produced some intriguing characters.  Other special equipment we used included a roll of Gaming Paper and some blank 1" counters my bro-in-law got me for Christmas (my in-laws are cool).  This was my first time using a tactical display since my 3.5 days but I managed to keep my gorge down.

The campaign is designed as a two stage affair.  The first stage involves wargaming some real historical gunfights, with little or no roleplaying in between the shootery.  This is meant to create background material for the PCs.  Like how Gentleman Jim is now known as the man who gunned down Mike McCluskie back in Newton, Kansas.  PCs can end up one either side of any individual fracas, so some their may be some emnity within the party in stage 2 of the campaign.  Another design goal is to create something resembling a Forgist relationship map by the natural consequences of play rather than fiat.  A climactic shoot-out isn't just about blazing guns.  It's about the past history that got you there and the whirling emotions that lead you to pull the trigger.

Scenario 1 was the Hide Park Shoot-out of 1871, sometimes called the Newton Massacre.  I won't recap the entirety of the historical events, but the guy Gentlemen Jim is replacing basically shows up to Tuttle's Dance Hall, looking to avenge the death of his friend Billy Bailey.  Gentleman Jim's target is the aforementioned Mike McClusky.  Also present are three cowboys who were friends of Bailey's from his range days.  McCluskie is outgunned, but the attackers don't realize that his young ward James Riley is present.

In the actual history of the event, Riley wins the fight clean.  He walks out of Tuttle's with two empty sixguns and everyone else involved is inside on the floor dead or dying.  Nick didn't have the same deathwish as the real Riley and got the heck out of the bar after only firing a few shots.  Because of brevity of the exchange, the positioning of the shooters and the heavy smoke, Wheels's and Carl's PC never get a good look at Wild James, but he sees them clearly before the fight starts.  Interesting.  Now the party includes the man who gunned down McCluskie and the youth who looked up to the dead man as a father figure and the killer doesn't know this.  Even better: Gentleman Jim wasn't actually McCluskie's killer!  One of the NPC cowpokes did the job, but the well-dressed sonuvabitch is taking all the credit!

Less than a year later the three PCs all coincidentally end up in the same posse, riding out of Fort Smith, Arkansas.  At the lead are two Deputy U.S. Marshals looking to interfere in Cherokee tribal business.  Historically, the Bloodbath at Goingsnake (or the Goingsnake Massacre) resulted in 8 out of ten posse members dead and over a dozen Cherokee killed as well.  I had planned this one out as a ten on ten battle with PCs on both sides, but the players wanted to party up and not have so many dang NPCs involved.  So I declared that we would be starting the combat on the second round of gun fire, with have the posse already down.  The players made good use of the terrain and got some good rolls.  Wild James took a bullet in the gun arm, but made out okay shooting lefty.

One particularly neat moment was when Wild James found himself in the middle of the firefight holding an empty gun.  Josie Donahue throws him a spare six-gun, so they are now officially Cool Bros, despite being on opposite sides a few months back.  Best shot of the night had to go to the NPC marshal with the Buffalo Gun.  He hit a Cherokee in the arm/hand at close and rolled so high for wound severity that I ruled the poor bastard's arm practically exploded in a shower of blood and bone.  Then there was the poor Cherokee peace officer who took three shots to the groin before going down.  Long will we remember the Inglorious Fall of the Three-Testicled Cherokee, shot once in each ball before he died.

The whole point of the second scenario had been for the Marshals to arrest Zeke Proctor, a legendary half-Cherokee troublemaker accused of murder.  Wild James turns the tide of history and actually brings him in, earning him the reputation "that kid who captured Zeke Proctor".  Too bad the success of this mission almost assuredly screws up U.S.-Cherokee relations at least as bad as the actual Bloodbath did.

Next session: a good ol' fashioned daylight bank robbery!


  1. What's with the Irish names?

  2. Jim Dunnigan? As in the Complete Book of Wargames dude?

  3. Kent: Some day I'm going to re-read Lear just to figure out where the heck you are coming from. Anyway, the answer to your question is probably the sorry state of Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. Cf. Blazing Saddles for more info.

    ckutalik: Yep. Carl's one of the many local gamers whose old school credentials make me look like a snot-nosed kid who started with a Basic Set. (Which of course I was.)

  4. Great stuff! It's fun to read old-school games reports that aren't about halflings and elves. Looking forward to more.

  5. Any Boot Hill stuff is great. Very, very cool, man.