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This session was recorded and you can hear it at theRPGAcademy.com. It was divided up over two episodes.
The first portion of this session (Episode 6) picked up directly where the previous session had left off, on the front porch of the Wessell ranch house. Sebastian continued hitting on Lizzie, while Martin and Jonah interacted more with Samuel and Jared. They agreed to stay for the next day and help with some repairs around the ranch in exchange for a lodgings and food before they headed off on their way.
Things settled into exploration mode as the PC’s started checking things out. My goal here was to make things seem completely normal, but make the players totally paranoid. This first half was all interaction role playing. The action finally came with the climax in the second half.
Jonah made the acquaintance of Lizzie’s shy but charming little daughter, Annie. He also got a strong hint that Jared was a bad dude. This scene was just freaking adorable, and was a nice contrast to the otherwise dark tone of the campaign.
We got some wonderful insights into Martin’s background and personality as he hung out in the barn with Eric and the lonely cow, Bessie. I really wanted to bring out more of his backstory, since he’d sort of just been the random holy man that had hooked up with the other two. He really won over Eric in this scene.
Sebastian kept working his way into Lizzie’s skirts, but got sabotaged by Jonah. Good times.
They found the slaughter room behind the locked door in the barn (it is a ranch, after all!), which was more than a little creepy, but completely understandable. But they also realized that for a ranch, there seemed to be a distinct lack of livestock, aside from Bessie. There was a delightful sense of paranoia at this point, but no one could really put a finger on why. Scott was the most vocal, and I was just loving it!
The next morning they woke up to a fabulous breakfast being served. The meat was very unusual, and Eric stormed out, and Annie seemed noticeably depressed. What was hilarious was that Scott was freaking out, calling out his suspicions about the meat, but didn’t let it change Martin’s actions. He had actually pinned the tail on the donkey, but I just kept my cool and kept moving forward.
Breakfast came to an abrupt halt when Eric’s friend Steve came crawling down the stairs headfirst, (thump thump! thump thump!), which got everyone’s attention. Only when he pulled himself far enough forward past the stairs did I reveal that his legs had been amputated, and only bloody bandaged stumps were left. Quickly putting 2 and 2 together, the PC’s sprung to their feet and Sebastian had his guns drawn.
A fight broke out in the dining room that was pretty cool, involving flipping tables, running out the front chased by a freight train named Jared, and some fancy gun work from Sebastian. I handled the Wessell family very loosely in this conflict, shooting from the hip on skill levels and some simple Aspects as I felt they made sense. From my prep, I had a basic idea of what made each tick, so it wasn’t too hard at all.
During the fight, Jonah ran out of the house, and headed to the barn to burn it down. At this moment I raised the stakes and showed him a horde of zombies descending on the property. There was a unanimous reaction of “Oh shit! I forgot about the ZOMBIES!” I couldn’t have been more pleased with this moment! This was one of those priceless moments where you legitimately surprise your players. The zombies started swarming the ranch busting in through the back kitchen door and windows, and generally making a mess of the conflict in the house.
The entire scene ended with the PC’s running away from the ranch house being overrun with zombies, the barn on fire. I would have liked to spend a little more time in this final scene, but we all had to call it a night, so the end was a little rushed. They now have Eric, a teenage boy, and Annie, a little girl, in tow, which should be all sorts of interesting. I will represent those two as a group Aspect, which I’m sure will see some use.
They are headed to their first legitimate town that we’ve seen since this began, which should dramatically change the nature of their challenges and conflicts. I’ll also use it as a chance to have the players help collaboratively create some of the Places and Faces of the city (a la the City Creation rules from the Dresden Files RPG).
I totally stole this story arc from The Walking Dead video game Season 1 Episode 2 – “Starved for Help”. I knew that none of my players had played that game, so I felt free to steal with impunity. I made quite a few changes to convert the St. John family from Walking Dead to the Wessel family in my game, but I kept to the general premise. It gave me a very clever twist that felt totally in line with our creepy Weird West setting. Honestly, even if any of them had played the game, I think there were enough initial differences to obfuscate the connection until the big reveal at the end.
Lesson – Don’t be afraid to steal ideas. Steal from movies, games, published adventures. Take good ideas wherever you find them, and then twist them to fit in your game.