Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Tombstone Showdowns and Pelgrane Day

I had it all worked out, and then it went wrong.

Pelgrane announced its first ever Pelgrane Day last Friday, and I immediately came up with a Cunning Scheme. I'm Premises Manager at the local dramatic society, and it has WiFi. If I can game on the actual stage, so much the better, but even if I can't there are plenty of other rooms in the building. We could livetweet the entire thing! Maybe even shoot some video, do a bit of recording, nothing fancy.

Filled with confidence and joie de vivre, I get the gang together: Max, Tach, Mary and Jym, who're currently journeying on the Orient Express - sanity dwindling away not in a trickle but by handfuls - and they leap on board. I pick for the evening Ken Hite's Vendetta Run, a fun survival horror setting perfect for a one-shot. I have two weeks to prepare. What could go wrong?

Well, we had a hurricane for one thing. The theatre cellar flooded, and then caught fire. Not as serious as it sounds, and nobody was hurt. However it did mean I was kept very very busy, and exhaustion set in. The theatre lost its WiFi connection, and thanks to one damn thing after another it still didn't have its WiFi connection by the time Friday rolled around. Never mind that I had much less time to prepare than I'd fondly imagined.

At one point I considered cancelling but decided against. The show would go on!

Not in the theatre, though; that was taken. We moved up into the office instead. The office is supposed to be haunted, though how much truth's in that is anyone's guess. Like just about every old building in Hamilton the theatre's supposed to have been a bordello back in the bad old days, but I've heard that story so many times about so many different places in Hamilton it must have been wall-to-wall shagging back before the Great War. But let's say one of the customers is still hanging around, why not. It's as good an excuse as any.

We started the session at 7pm with character creation, and were gaming before 8, carrying on till after midnight.

The characters are:
  • Hosanna (played by Tach), a dealer at the Bird Cage Theatre which hosts the world's longest ever poker game in its cellar.
  • Shallott (played by Mary), a medical type more than a little handy with a six-shooter.
  • Slim Bob (played by Jym), the worlds fattest demolition expert, with a deep, abiding love for chocolate.
  • Twitchy (played by Max), a Cowboy gunman and enforcer, weedy but a dead-eye shot.
I decided to set the game in Tombstone itself, rather than have the Earps chase the characters across half creation. There's plenty of information out there, and the Wikipedia page even has a period street map. It also allowed me to steal real-world locations, like the Bird Cage and the Courthouse, for important scenes.

I made a couple decisions I would later regret. First, I decided to do this with the lights off. LED tea lights are cheaply had, and I thought this would add atmosphere. It did, but the flip side was I had very little to photograph.

The red tea lights are for the Keeper, the others for the players. Note to self: if I do this again, more tea lights please. Mind you it could get expensive; down here those things cost about a buck a light. Which is still fairly cheap but if it's a buck a light here they're probably .10c in the States.

It did make things difficult to read. This is where tablets and phones come in handy. Plus Pelgrane is relatively rules-lite when compared to, say, D&D or other crunchy games, so you don't have to spend eye-straining minutes looking for something on your character sheet.

Speaking of, what would have made this even more fun is period character sheets, as have been made for Bookhounds, Dreamhounds and Trail. I know this is more of a fan project, but there's a few KWAS that provide alternate settings - Tombhounds, Vendetta, Moon Dust Men - and my artistic skills are negligible. Would that there were an easy way of setting up fun character sheets!

Another regrettable decision: music. I like using music in game, but I hadn't appreciated that recent iPlayer updates meant the interface had confusingly changed. Plus my battery seems a little feeble these days. Che sera sera; the music kinda worked, but not as I'd have liked. 

One other bit of prep I have to mention here: Time Life Books. My God those things were gorgeous in their day. The one you see in the photo is The Old West - Gamblers. I could not have done this without that book. Highly recommended, and you can often pick up those titles for silly money, especially in the States.

We started with a tremendous hangover. The characters wake up in their chosen hidey holes in Tombstone, having tied on a righteous one the night before. As Slim Bob awakens in his pharmacy and makes himself a cup of coffee out of last week's grind, dreaming of chocolate, Hosanna, Shallott and Twitchy - who were over in the Bird Cage - go looking for him. They find a bunch of Earps (Deuces, which term will mean nothing to those who haven't read Vendetta Run; think of them as mooks) and things soon turn grim.

Fortunately Slim Bob traps one of them under his enormous girth, but that still leaves a couple outside.

"I hear you're the best shot," says Twitchy to Lou Cooley. "I propose a gamble. I'm going to flick this here coin up in the air and if you can hit it in one try without missing ... Unless you're chicken."

"I'll hit that coin," says Jim, "And shoot you right between the eyes with the same bullet."

"I'd like to see that," says Twitchy, and hilarity ensues.

Fortunately for Twitchy he does not get perforated, but Shallott does, and with rounds that will not heal. It's always the way when someone plays the hero; someone else carries the can.

However after all the Earps are dispatched - their bodies mysteriously vanishing - the characters look in at the Bird Cage. There they meet Josiah, a miner, who extolls the virtues of the establishment.

"Are you married, Josiah?" says Hosanna.

"I don't like to talk about my personal pains and miseries," is the reply.

But with Josiah as a beard they sneak into the poker game, where Doc Holliday is supposed to be holding court. Twitchy, staying upstairs, notices a couple Earp hangers-on lurking on the other side of Allen Street, keeping an eye on the Bird Cage. However the group doesn't notice Warren Earp and a compadre sneak in the back of the Bird Cage and take up ambush positions.

Josiah, it seems, has a very interesting mine. "Hell is a place, ma'am, but it's also ... I'm sorry, I've lost my train ... you'll be going there soon, ma'am, real soon. What was I saying?"

A sinister figure appears at the other end of Allen Street, and storm clouds gather. Wyatt's on the way.

Shallott slips out and gathers a couple Cowboy helpers.

With Warren and his compadres blocking the escape route, and Wyatt plus helpers plus Doc come in the front door. However thanks to Preparedness and copious explosives this proves to be a poor life choice for the mooks.

"I wonder if I might try some Intimidation," says Slim Bob, as he "kinda rolls toward 'em."

In the gunfight that follows Shallott comes out more perforated than Swiss cheese, and pretty much everyone takes hits, but the Keeper gnashes his teeth in frustration. More mooks were needed, and Warren went down like a puling kid. All the Cowboy NPCs get killed, which is just as well really since if they hadn't been there to be bullet sponges the PCs would probably have died.

I could go through the rest of it shot for shot, but that would take a long time and half the fun of a gaming session is being there. Suffice to say that Twitchy got the death he'd been looking for and Slim Bob fared little better. Shallott crawled away with several bullet wounds that would never heal, and Hosanna beat the odds and achieved salvation.

Well done to all, and many thanks to Pelgrane for all the fun!

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