Monday, November 13, 2017

Ill-Gotten Gains

I've been working on a follow-up to my first adventure for The Sixth Gun RPG; here it is at last.

Here's a link to the PDF.

Ill-Gotten Gains


During the time leading up to the Civil War, on the border between Kansas and Missouri, it was not uncommon for bands of desperadoes to raid towns on both sides of the state line. An especially notorious group of such raiders was led by Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan, a self-described “gentleman of fortune” from Charleston who vehemently opposed the abolition movement. While this band of cutthroats was eventually brought to justice, rumors have persisted for more than two decades that a cache of their stolen loot remained hidden after their deaths. Most people assume that such legends are not credible, and that there is no real evidence of the cache's existence.

That was, of course, until a recent incident aboard a steamboat on the Mississippi River.

Adventure Synopsis
This scenario introduces the heroes to the tale of Mad Dog's Raiders and there lost cache of loot, via certain undead attackers who wear the remains of distinguishing uniforms. Following that incident, the steamboat's owner—a German immigrant named Engelbert Meier, who has a strong interest in the history and legends of the American frontier—recognizes the uniforms and asks the PCs to investigate. From there they must track the zombies back to their riverside cache, and then follow cryptic clues back to an old plantation house. At the end of the trail they find the loot—along with a wraith, the spirit of Mad Dog Madigan himself—in its cellar.

For the Gun Master
During the years leading up to the Civil War, the question of slavery loomed large in American life. For one thing, new states as they sought to enter the Union had to decide if they would allow for one person to own another. That question led to such legislative decisions as the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, both of which only delayed the inevitable confrontation over the future of slavery in America. This delay also led parties on both sides of the debate to conduct raids across the border between free Kansas and slaveholding Missouri. As a result there was much bloodshed, as well as looting and destruction.

Of the many parties who participated in this violence, none was more enthusiastic than the band of Confederate raiders led by Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan. That group quickly developed a reputation for neither asking for nor giving quarter, and legends began to grow about the vast cache of lucre that they assembled. Known as the “Crimson Company,” it is said that they fought under a flag that they called the Bloody Banner, and that they distinguished themselves by tying scarlet bandannas on their left arms.

Few people know what ultimately happened to them during the Civil War, and they might have slipped into obscurity and eventually have been forgotten—until, that is, a cunning bokor discovered their hideout and used his power to animate their bodies in an attempt at robbing a riverboat poker tournament.

Involving the Heroes
As mentioned above, this scenario is intended to be run as a sequel to “The Grand Tournament.” Following those events, Herr Meier approaches the PCs with information about the zombie attackers, and asks them to help track those undead fiends back to their place of origin. He tells them what he knows about the cache's history, and then negotiates shares of the profits as long as they are willing to assist him.

The River Maiden and the Great River Poker Tournament
Refer to the links below to find more information about Herr Engelbert Meier, his riverboat, the Great River Poker Tournament that he hosts and a group of heroes who might show up to compete.




Scene 1—What Has Come Before... and Afterward
In the aftermath of the attempted robbery—whether or not it succeeded—Herr Meier approaches the heroes. He thanks them for their efforts, and then explains what he knows about the raider band, including the details from the first two paragraphs of the For the Gun Master section. Finally, he makes his pitch, offering to split evenly any spoils found during the investigation. He just wants, after all, to immerse himself in the legend of the American frontier.

If the GM is using this as a stand-alone scenario, then introducing the PCs becomes a bit more challenging. In that case, they might come along in the aftermath of an attack, when Sheriff Wainwright and his deputies are cleaning up the mess. Because those lawmen are preoccupied, Herr Meier notices the heroes and decides to recruit them for the investigation. Whatever the case, hopefully the heroes soon find themselves in one or more of the sternwheeler's boats, following the trail of the Confederate zombies.

Scene 2—Up and Down the River
Tracing the undead raiders back to their lair requires a series of Tracking checks. From a narrative standpoint, this involves discovering subtle signs of their passage, including the following possibilities.
  • A boot print in the mud
  • A scrap of cloth that matches the raiders' rotting uniforms
  • The remains of a small animal, caught and eaten by one of the zombies
  • Etc.
This is a chance for some vivid description, too, as the heroes pick out these signs while steering their boat through tangles of reeds and trees with hanging branches, occasionally drag the boat through muddy shallows, and the like.

At the same time, the PCs must succeed at three Tracking checks in order to keep on the trail. Of course, it's also possible that the heroes could use supernatural means to track the zombies, such as via Beast Friend (to summon an animal that can track), Boost Trait, Divination, or even Grave Speak.
At the same time, the heroes can encounter some of the swamp's dangerous denizens, including some of the following options. 
  • Alligator/Crocodile (SWDE page 135)
  • Snake, venomous (SWDE page 140)
  • Zombie, shambler (T6G RPG page 83)
  • Finally, this could also allow the GM to introduce a curious NPC under unusual circumstances, so as to provide future plot hooks.

Scene 3—The Lost Cache
Refer to the following map when the heroes reach the cache once occupied by Mad Dog's Raiders. Keep in mind that light sources are important, limiting what the characters can see while exploring. 

1. Entrance
The entrance to the hidden cache is dug into the side of the riverbank, in an area concealed by overhanging trees. What is more, depending on the height of the river, the cave is usually at least partially submerged. Spotting it requires a Notice check at a -2 penalty; even then, people wouldn't think that it's anything more than a natural cave. Characters who've been following the zombies' trail back to this location don't suffer the penalty, however.

2. Tunnel
The tunnel rises sharply up above the waterline here, until it reaches a point where it is completely dry. It is cramped in here, though, requiring characters to stoop. That could cause a -2 penalty to certain skill tests, at the GM's discretion.

3. Collapsing Floor Trap
In the upper level of the cave, a broad section of the floor has been replaced by a thatch covered with sand. Spotting it requires another Notice or Survival test at a -2 penalty, revealing irregularities in the shape of the floor or erased tracks leading around that area, respectively. Anyone who walks across the middle of the upper level plunges through it must make an Agility test to determine how many spikes they hit: critical failure = three; failure = two; success = one; success with a raise = zero. Each spike attacks as if it had a d6 fighting skill, and inflicts 2d6 damage.

4. Ladder
A ladder here leads through a hole in the floor down to the lower level.

5. Spikes
Scores of sharpened wooden stakes protrude from the ground here, underneath the false floor above. This is, of course, where interlopers end up if they don't recognize the trap that has been set for them. What is more, those who spring the trap likely draw the attention of any shamblers that managed to find their way back to the cache (see below).

6. Raider Hideout
Seven hammocks have been tied up to wooden posts in this area, six along the inside wall of the cavern and one that hangs between those others and the exit. Those belonged to, respectively, the raiders and Mad Dog; he was never a very trusting soul. There is also a broad table at which they took their meals, along with a small firepit and numerous chests and barrels. Before they can examine these items, however, the heroes must deal with the swarm of rats that inhabits this area. Once disturbed, they head for the ladder and then up and out of the cache, biting anyone who comes into their path.

Rat Swarm—Use the stats from page 242 of the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook.

The Loot
Among the barrels and crates one can find old sacks of biscuits and flour, now spoiled; containers of coffee in a questionable state; various kinds of meat jerky, also starting to rot; along with dried beans and casks of water that are still good. Scattered among these items are a few empty chests, along with a handful of old Morgan silver dollars half buried in the sand. All in all, this should give the impression that there was more loot here, but that the best of it has been moved.

The Journal
There is also evidence that someone has recently occupied this area. The ashes in the firepit are still warm (Notice test), some of the personal goods are relatively new (such as a coffee pot and tin cup and plate), and someone has recently slept in Mad Dog's hammock (Tracking test). Finally, wrapped up in the hammock's blanket is a journal that belonged to Jacques Lemaire. It details his investigation of stories regarding Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan and his raiders, and includes some of the following details.
  • Lemaire provides a description of “Mad Dog” Madigan and his raiders; the exact details of this are left up to the GM, and can certainly provide links to future plots.
  • He also describes the cache as being five furlongs west-by-southwest of “the old plantation house.” He mentions that this is the place from which they sold their stolen goods, but doesn't go into much other detail about that location.
  • The occultist has also written in a timetable for the stops made by Engelbert Meier's River Maiden, which correspond with its travels during the Great River Poker Tournament.

What Has Come Before
As mentioned above, this scenario can be run as a sequel to “Reversal of Fortune.” If that is the case, and if Jacques Lemaire managed to escape from the heroes at this time, then it is entirely possible that he has come back here to rest and recover. In that case, he has the rat swarm attack the heroes (using his Beast Friend power) in order to defend himself.

Scene 4—Heading Inland
Having acquired the information in Lemaire's journal, the heroes should easily be able to find the house from which the raiders sold their goods. Depending on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign, the GM could add more encounters with wildlife and other hazards, as detailed in Scene 2 above, or this journey could be relatively uneventful.

Scene 5—The Old Plantation House
Once the characters arrive at the house, refer to the following map and area descriptions for details.

1. Entry
The houses' front door here opens into a two-story front room. A door leads into the parlor at the right, and a staircase up to the landing on the second floor. To the left, double doors provide access to the dining room.

2. Parlor
This comfortable room is furnished with a sofa, three armchairs and a handful of side tables, creating a space in which to receive visitors. All of it now, however, is covered in dust and smells faintly musty.

3. Dining Room
A broad wooden table surrounded by eight chairs dominates the center of this room. Unlike the parlor, it shows signs of recent use, with one end of the table cleared of dust.

4. Kitchen
The kitchen has recently been used, too. While the ashes in the stove are cold, the utensils, pots and pans have been cleaned recently. What is more, a trapdoor in the floor provides access to the cellar (Area (9) below.

5. Pantry
Shelves line the walls of this room, filled with boxes, jars and other containers of food. There's also a cask of freshwater on the floor, along with an empty basket. Here again, the food is relatively fresh—but it is up to the heroes to deduce that Lemaire was living here while researching “Mad Dog” Madigan and his raiders.

6. Servants' Quarters
This room, once home to the house's servants, has long since fallen into disuse. It is furnished with a bed and desk, but is otherwise empty.

7. Bedrooms
Each of these rooms is also furnished with a bed and desk, and boasts a (now empty) closet for clothing. None have been used for some time.

8. Master Bedroom
In addition to the bed and desk, this room boasts a storage trunk and two bookshelves. This was once the place from which “Mad Dog” Madigan plotted his band's raids, and where he enjoyed the spoils of victory. More recently, however, it is where Jacques Lemaire has been living, communicating with the ghoul in the cellar and plotting his attack on the River Maiden and the poker tournament it hosted.

9. Cellar
Storm doors lead down here from outside, in addition to the ladder from the kitchen. This is where the loot is kept, as well as where the ghoul that Arthur Madigan has now become. Consumed by bloodlust, the former Confederate captain has devolved into a flesh-eating, undead monster. For that reason, the middle of the cellar is filled with gnawed bones, scraps of cloth and the occasional odd personal item. Various crates, trunks and barrels are arranged against the walls.

The Loot
While the GM should feel free to tailor the following list, here are some examples of the spoils accumulated by the captain and his raiders.
  • A small strongbox containing five hundred Morgan silver dollars
  • A case of twelve bottles containing good whiskey
  • A portmanteau filled holding a dozen fancy dresses
  • A set of lockpicks in a leather pouch
  • A photograph of Madigan and his raiders, with their names written on the back
  • A Gatling gun, with the name Clementine engraved on it
Before they can claim this loot, however, the heroes must first deal with the ghoul who lives here. When they first arrive at the house, the ghoul is in the basement. Once he becomes aware of interlopers, however, he moves to stalk them. This might require slipping up the ladder to the kitchen, or out the storm doors in the back of the cellar. At that point, he makes Stealth checks opposed by the heroes' Notice efforts, waiting for changes to ambush lone characters.

Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan—Use the stats for a ghoul from pages 76-7 of The Sixth Gun RPG.

Provided they can defeat the ghoul, the heroes have made a notable historic discovery—and, of course, claimed some valuable loot for themselves. They should also have gained some important information about current events, including details that could lead to further action.

Further Adventures
Detailed below are just a few of the possibilities for additional business in which the heroes might become entangled.
  • Among the papers in the master bedroom is a bit of paper, a cryptic note that does not match the bokor's handwriting. It simply says, “Smith's Crossing, All Hallow's Eve.” Just what that might imply, of course, is left up to the discernment of the heroes.
  • It's always possible that the loot collected by Madigan's Men includes something important, an item that can be connected to another plot. For example, there might be legal papers regarding a contested estate, a letter with important details about secret plot, a declaration of love for a romance that was never allowed to happen, or something similar.
  • As mentioned above, the bokor's journal could contain hints about lost relics, secretive cults, or other business related to arcane investigation.
  • Herr Engelbert Meier would happily purchase items from the heroes, adding them to his collection of frontier memorabilia. What is more, he might want to hire them to pursue other such acquisitions.
  • The heroes could always decide to take up residence in their newly liberated plantation, a notion that brings its own set of problems.
  • It's also possible that one or more surviving members of “Mad Dog's” Men decide to reclaim their spoils from the heroes—or from Herr Meier, if he purchased them—by any means necessary.