The players are mercenaries for hire operating out in the west. They are contacted by a magnate from Chicago, Kenneth Loggins, who needs help collecting a debt from a small western town by the name of Bomont. He loaned capital (in particular: sewing and textile tools and goods) to an ambitious young woman named Ariel Solomon, but she is overdue on the returns. The players must travel to Bomont to either collect Ariel’s debt or bring her to Chicago’s debtor’s prison.
Bomont is a town rife with paranoia, guilt, and grief. The township’s leader is also their reverend, a grieving man named John Solomon. His youngest daughter, Dianne, had just been murdered. After going missing for a week, her waterlogged head, stinking of whisky, was found on the steps of the local saloon. Reverend Solomon has ordered the building locked, and has banned from the township not just alcohol but all activities he has long associated with the evil, including music and dancing.
The players arrive just over a month after this tragic event.
Ariel, Dianne, and her friend Rusty have a dream: turning the saloon into a dance hall. Rusty has helped recruit several former prostitutes escaping nearby towns as performers. Ariel sold most of the larger equipment she acquired from Chicago and stocked away the money to seed their dream, keeping only enough supplies to sew their dancing outfits. By day they sew, and by night they practice their routines.
Ariel does not have enough money to pay Loggins back, but insists that if she is able to open the hall and put on a show she will easily be able to make the money back.
Shortly after the PCs arrive, Rusty disappears.
Sheriff “Eggs” Benedict is deeply in love with Ariel, but she has not let him on her plans, as she knows how devoted he is to following the law. If he does learn the truth, he will in fact be torn over his love and his commitment to the law. He does what he can, however, to resist players who attempt to arrest her and bring her back to Chicago.
When Rusty disappears, Eggs approaches the PCs and asks if they would be willing to volunteer for the search.
Eggs is convinced that the former saloon operators were behind the original deaths, though he can find no evidence to back it up. The saloon owners in turn have pointed fingers at the local group of teetotalers who, at the behest of Reverend Solomon, have repeatedly targeted the saloon for vandalism and theft. In the week before Dianne’s disappearance, a barrel of whisky went missing; the local cooper, a man named Chuck, says that he caught Dianne trying to steal alcohol once.
In truth, he is a devout and zealous follower of Reverend Solomon who has attempted to destroy the saloon from the inside. He is also the one responsible for the deaths; he discovered the girls’ plan and grew convinced the three were evil witches, infected by Satan through dance. He kidnapped Dianne and drowned her in one of his barrels. In an effort to both close the saloon and discourage the other witches, he soaked the head in whisky and left it on the saloon’s doorstep. After learning that Rusty and Ariel were continuing their work, he kidnaps Rusty and brings him to his workshop.
If the players are quick enough, they’ll catch Chuck in the act of drowning Rusty in a barrel of whisky, and might save him with some quick first aid. Eggs and Ariel will also arrive on the scene. Perceptive characters will notice Ariel retrieving an item from her petticoats; a knife gifted to her from one of the former prostitutes for self-protection. If the players are not swift, Ariel will draw the knife and charge Chuck, stabbing him repeatedly.
Conclusions If Chuck is Arrested Peacefully: Reverend Solomon comes to see the error in his zealousness, and can be convinced, albeit not easily, to support his daughter with her dream, provided alcohol and prostitution are both still banned. True to her word, after only a few nights Ariel is able to raise enough to pay off her debt. If Ariel kills Chuck: Eggs arrests her for murder, and insists his jurisdiction supersedes they players’ debt collection, leaving them empty-handed. Frustrated, Kenneth Loggins turns to the Pinkertons to get his revenge on both the town and the players who failed him.
That’s a remarkably complex set-up for what looks to be a short (one-shot?) session! It’s hard to do justice to a mystery adventure in a single session, but this looks like it would do the trick. Looks fun!
Warning – this adventure contains children in peril, and possible harm to children.
The town of Rosewood is home to a cult worshipping Yg-Salla, the Great Serpent. They have been holding ecstatic rites in the caverns connected to the town’s sewers for years. Several weeks ago they actually managed to summon their scaly master, who appeared through a rift and promptly killed most of the revelling cultists and then disappeared into the sewer system. Since then the town has been subject to a series of disappearances and rumours of a giant reptile in local sewers and waterways. The cultists are desperate to control Yg-Salla but will need to find him first. In the meanwhile, townsfolk continue to disappear in alarming numbers.
Sometime this afternoon, a girl named Jessica Martin disappeared from her home in a southern suburb of Rosewood. She took a backpack and some supplies and left a note for her parents telling them she was going to find a monster she’d heard about and capture it, just like her hero Jack Colton from tv. Her backpack contained a flashlight, some nylon rope, a pen knife, some sandwiches, and her Jack Colton Adventurer’s Club pin, a cheap tin star, but one of her prized possessions. She hasn’t been seen for several hours. About an hour ago, the torrential rain that the weather-man had been promising started to fall with a vengeance. Investigators will have to act swiftly if they want to save Jesse before the sewers flood.
Day – Yg-Salla awakens. The beast is seen in the river just north of town, close to the storm sewer outlet
Shadows – the rain intensifies, runoff becomes dangerous is spots. A Public Works employee is found torn apart at the pumping station north of town.
Sunset – Jessica’s uncle Chester assaults a police officer who ‘wasn’t doing enough’ and sets off into the sewers armed with a shotgun. Some roads become impassable due to water.
Dusk – Cultists slip into the sewers to search for Yg-Salla, armed with ritual knives dipped in snake blood. Some sewers in the downtown star overflowing.
Nightfall – running battles in the sewers as Chester, the Cultists, and Yg-Salla clash in the shadows.
Midnight – Yg-Salla will devour the town, one victim at a time. The sewers overflow.
Yg-Salla, the Great Scaled One
A Chthonic spirit that like a cross between a squid and an alligator. Eyeless and about 20’ long, with four legs, iridescent scales, a wicked beak, and a mane of tentacles sprouting from it’s shoulders.
Powers:Tremor Sense - does not need light to see; Natural Climber – can climb walls and most ceilings with ease
True Name – calling out Yg-Salla’s true name while holding one of the Cultist’s ritual silver blades will allow you control the beast, or banish it back to it’s dimension.
The Sewers Location: maze (confuse and separate)
A bewildering mix of old and new construction, full of narrow passages and odd open areas. These tunnels fill steadily while it rains.
The CavernLocation: Crossroads (motivation: to bring people together)
Natural caves connect to the sewers. This is where the cult holds its rituals. Hidden here is a cache of silver ritual knives. A group of cultists will likely be performing a ecstatic ritual here when the hunters arrive, with loud drums, wild dancing and murmured incantations.
Cult of the Great Serpent Minion: Guardian (motivation: to bar the way or protect their master)
There are about 20 cultists that will slip into the tunnels over the course of the evening. Each is armed with a sliver ritual knife (Harm-2 close). They will either be searching for the beast, performing a ritual, or guarding the tunnels close the cavern
Chester Martin Bystander: Helper (motivation: to join the hunt)
Jessica’s Uncle. He is a debt collector and enforcer for a local gang. Violent and headstrong, but he does truly want to save his niece.
Jessica MartinBystander: Victim (motivation: to place herself in danger)
An adventurous girl who loves the outdoors and exploring. She is quite brave, but her over-confidence often leads her into danger.
Police Chief Stan BurdockBystander: Sceptic (motivation: to deny supernatural explanations)
He’s been chief for years. He has no belief in the supernatural and doesn’t want ‘amateurs’ anywhere near his investigation. He will start sending officers into the tunnel shortly after the rain starts.
I do like to see a well-done Powered by the Apocalypse entry. They do such a good job of presenting clear stakes in a clean format. I’m not familiar with that particular game, but your entry does a good job of giving me a sense of it. I might have to check it out.
This was a tough set of ingredients for me. I was definitely feeling the rust trying to work all of these ingredients together. While it eventually all coalesced into a story that worked, I did realize how much of what I was putting together was ultimately backstory. While there's only the search/confrontation spelled out for the PCs in terms of codified encounters, I hoped that there would, implicitly, be more character interaction going on as the PCs reach the town, figure out what kind of situation they've just walked into, meet Ariel and try to decide whether or help her or to try to drag her back to Chicago in chains; and I tried to throw up enough obstacles and complications towards whichever goal they end up partaking. I might have made the stakes a bit clearer throughout the adventure, as well.
I also realize that I was getting a little too cute by half on some of the ingredients (Waterlogged Sewers, anyone? Eh? Eh?)
As for my competition, I love Monster of the Week, and this is such a great example! I love the various levels of complications you introduce as the clock ticks down (I realize that clocks, as a game mechanic, is more of a Forged in the Dark thing, but I feel like they would work equally well in this circumstance). It's hard to top a great PbtA experience.