Cullen's Quest - the roleplay adventure

This is a short Western scenario that I ran one evening for four friends. The basic story is the 'Stagecoach' classic of a group of stangers travelling on the same coach through Indian territory. There's also a sub-plot about one of the characters trying to get hold of a stolen map. That's all there is to it, but it made for an enjoyable evening's adventure and a rattling good read of a novel (so I've been told) For more about the book, click on the cover image below.

click here to learn more about the book

GM's Notes

This scenario has four PCs, but if you have more players feel free to either adapt the NPCs as necessary or add a new character of your own invention. The system used is based on GURPS. All stats and skills are based on 3D6; the player must roll under his skill level to succeed. A 3 or 4 is always a critical success; 17 or 18 is always a critical failure. Each character has hits equal to his HT. This is only a short, one-off scenario, so don't get too bogged down in damage tables, modifiers or realism.
If you can get hold of a map of Texas, it lets the players get a feel for their journey but it's not essential.

The Characters


You are a 'drummer' - a travelling salesman with a bag of samples. Your wares are ladies undergarments. This provides the chance for plenty of jovial good humour. You are cheerful, sociable and willing to try drinking anyone under the table.
You say you need to get to El Paso and make sales in order to keep your job, but you have another reason for being out here. Although you wear a suit, you are Texan born and bred. Your Pa discovered a silver mine out here and drew a map. He was killed in the War Between the States and the map was stolen. After months of investigation, you believe Jack Wybourn has your map. You want it back, but you know he won't give it up easily and that he's ruthless. You wrote to him but he denied knowing anything about the map; you still have that letter from Wybourn hidden in your boot. He's never met you and you are travelling under a false name. Your real surname is Williams
ST 10   DX 11   IQ 13   HT 13      
Shoot 12   Brawl 13   Climb 11   Ride 13   Drive Team 11   Gamble 15
Carouse 15   Lie 14   Detect Lie 15    Tell Saucy Stories 16   Scrounge 14
Know Comanche Ways 13   Speak Comanche  Spanish 13   Wilderness Survival 13
Wink Knowingly 14

Colt Navy .36 (worn in shoulder holster under jacket)
2D-1   6 shots

Punch damage  1d-3  Kick damage 1d-2

Useful Items - case of frilly underwear samples, lucky silver dollar, pack of cards, cut-throat razor, whiskey bottle.

RIBBONS WILLETT - stage driver

You've spent all your long life out west, mostly with horses. You reckon you can handle any team over any trail. Flood, fire, heat and indians have never stopped you yet and you're real proud of that. You're a colourful character annd like playing the part for greenhorns out from the East, though you sure don't take any nonsense from them, or anyone else. Your team and the stage come before anything else.
ST 12   DX 11   IQ 11   HT 13
Shoot pistol 13  Shotgun 15   Knife 14  Brawl 14  Gamble 14
Drink whiskey 16   Swear Colourfully 15   Spit Tobacco 16   Drive Team 17
Vet 11   First Aid 10   Leatherwork 13  Animal Handling 14
Woodwork 10   Tracking 12   Find Water 14   Cook 13   Spanish 12
Bullship 14   Wilderness sense 14   Holler 14   Read/write 7

Colt Dragoon (on gunbelt with knife)
2D+1   5 shots
Shotgun   5D at short range   3D med   2 shots
Bowie knife  1D-1   Punch damage 1D-3   Kick 1D-1

Useful Items - chewing tobacco, leather scraps, rawhide strings, bootleg whiskey, needle and thread.

JOSIAH WARD - newspaperman

You are a keen young reporter fresh out from Rhode Island, where you work for the 'Woonsocket Chronicle'. You've come west to see Indians and experience the frontier now because you foresee a wave of emigration following on from the War Between the States. You never got to do any reporting on the War but you are determined to make up for missing that excitement by getting out to the West. Perhaps one day you'll write a best-selling book about your experiences. For you, life is one big adventure to be reported on.
ST 10   DX 11   IQ 14   HT 11
Brawl 13   Ride 12   Climb 13   Shorthand 14   Get Excited 15
Drink 14   Flirt 14   Boast 14   Research 13   Lie 14
Bluff 15   Detect Lie 14   Scrounge 14   Sneak 9
Detect Booze 14   Shot Guns 9   Telegraphy 11
Science ! 12   Whoop 10

Punch damage 1d-3   Kick damage 1D-2

Useful Items - notebook and pencil, penknife, small hand mirror and comb, clean hankies.

HILLERMAN - silent gunman

A tall, rangy man with tanned skin and eyes narrowed from staring into the sun. You've been drifting since the Confederacy lost the War Between the States, earning a living in whatever presents itself. You saw so much pointless slaughter in the War that you don't have much faith in human nature any more. You rely solely on yourself, but if you give your word you'll keep it. You just don't give your word very often. You happen to be very good with your guns, but you'd like to find something more worthwhile than shooting for a living. You'd also dearly like to get money to make up for the loss of your family's plantations and fortunes in the War.
St 11   DX 15   IQ 12   HT 13
Shoot Pistol 17   Shoot Rifle 16   Knife 16  Brawl 14   Ride 16
Drive Team 13   Squint into the Distance 17   Climb 15
Grunt Meaningfully 17  Improvise Weapon 14   Jump 15
spanish 9   Lie 11   Fast-talk 11   Show off with Guns 16
Fast-draw 16   Light match on Stubble (not necessarily your own) 15

Colt Army (on gunbelt with knife)   2D+1     6 shots
Winchester Yellowboy rifle     damage 3D     17 shots
Bowie knife  1D-1
Punch damage 1D-3     Kick damage 1D-1

Horse - sorrel gelding called 'Copper'

Useful items - cigarillos and matches, penknife, jingly spurs, peppermint candy, photo of mysterious beautiful woman

The NPC's

JACK WYBOURN - businessman

This is the bad guy. He served alongside Robson Tindall's father in the War and took the treasure map from his body. Wybourn wants the silver for his pension (he's in his 50's) and takes the line that Tindall Jr is plenty young enough to go out and find his own mine. What most worries Wybourn at the moment is the wild Comanches who roam the country near his mine. He has illegally supplied them with new rifles so the Army will be forced to deal with them and the land will be cleared. Like many men of his time, he believes that the Indians are wild men who don't use the land properly and who should be cleared away for those who are willing to 'improve' it and use it. He isn't too bothered about any white folk who might get hurt before the problem is resolved - he just wants his silver. Wybourn claims to be travelling on business; he supplies goods to isolated towns and ranches.
ST 10   DX 11   IQ 12   HT 12

Shoot 16   Ride 14   Drive Team 10   Lie 15   Lockpick 13   Sneak 14
Gamble 14   Brawl 13

Colt Navy .36 (on gunbelt)  2D-1    6 shots
Punch  1D-3    Kick 1D-2

Wybourn carries the treasure map in a hidden pocket on his gunbelt. He also has a carpetbag with travelling things. A recent receipt for 30 Winchester repeating rifles is hidden in a flap inside the bag

WILBUR JEFFERSON - freed slave

A former slave going west to look for for-real paid work. He's rather in awe of the confident white men and won't push himself forward. He is very good with animals and knowledgable about horses
ST 12   DX 12    IQ 11   HT 10

Ride 13    Animal Handling 15   Vet 14  Blacksmith 14
Drive Team 14   Fix Wagon 13   Axe 13

Axe  1D+4    Kick 1D-2   Punch 1D-3

DON AND MARY SCHMIDT - newlywed farmers

Don and Mary are a young couple from Indiana going to take up a farm near El Paso which she has inherited from her uncle. They are rather shy and not particularly range-wise.
Don Schmidt
Drive Team 11    Shoot gun 9   Banjo 14

Mary Schmidt
First Aid 13   Flirt 13   Scream 15

They have a mass of farm equipment with them including an axe, carpentry tools, a hen coop with hens, and Mary's first aid box

Day 1

Picture of a celerity wagon

It's 8.00 am and the stagecoach is about to leave Fort Stockton, down in the south-west of Texas 1867. It is about to start a three day journey to El Paso, down on the Texas-Mexico border. There are 7 passengers inside plus Ribbons Willet, the driver. Hillerman is riding in the same direction and has chosen to accompany the stage as there are rumours that the Comanches are on the warpath.
The stage is not the usual sort seen in films, but a celerity wagon. This is more like a straight-sided wagon with canvas sides and roof above the basic box. Farm goods are stowed under the bench seats, along with a sack of US Mail. More items are hung along the outside. The celerity wagon is drawn by a team of six horses, which will be changed on the second night. Most of the time the horses move at a trot.

The first day's journey heads almost due west along the dusty trail. The first sign of anything wrong comes about noon when the travellers see a dead steer near the road. It has been shot several times. The steer has no other signs of injury. What is unusual is that there has been no attempt to butcher it, or even take the skin; it seems to have been killed for sport. If anyone tries, they will be able to retrieve a bullet from the carcass. Use GUN skill to recognize it as from a Winchester repeater. The Winchester Yellowboy has only been available for a year and is uncommon.
Ribbons Willet and Wybourn both know that there is a Comanche war chief called Black Dog who is said to be ready to put on war paint. It seems unlikely that his warriors would have new rifles or spare ammunition to waste like this. Wybourn says that the army should be called out and made to clear to Comanches from this land to make it safe for settlers. He points out that they endanger his business of transporting goods.
drawing of Indian scoutIn the afternoon, someone will notice flashes of light in the distance. Someone who knows Indians will realize that scouts are using bits of glass to heliograph messages to one another. The Comanches are out there and watching...

The Stolen Map

How this subplot develops is largely up the whoever's playing Robson Tindall. He may choose to deal with it himself, or may confide in another player for some backup. There are several opportunities during the adventure for him to search Wybourn's belongings for the map, but Wybourn sleeps with his gunbelt under his blanket. Other characters may feel that the stolen map is strictly between the two men, but the receipt for rifles is different. Supplying guns to Indians is the kind of crime that could get Wybourn strung up from the nearest tree. If Tindall finds the receipt and confronts Wybourn with it privately, Wybourn will try to make some kind of deal. He claims to supply goods to isolated towns and trading posts, and the rifles were partly supply goods, and partly arms for the guards on his wagons. There is no proof that he gave the rifles to Comanches. He would rather deal with Tindall than kill him, but if he is forced to make a deal, he will take advantage of the Comanche attack to arrange an 'accident' for Tindall.
If Tindall gets the receipt and tells the other characters about it, there is no chance of a deal. Some PC's may call for Wybourn to be strung up immediately, but Mary Schmidt will certainly object. She will suggest keeping Wybourn tied up until he can be turned over to the sheriff in El Paso. If Wybourn is tied up when the Comanches attack, he will offer to help fight them off. He offers his word, and he will keep it, though defending Tindall will be fairly low in his priorities. If the receipt is known about, he won't try to arrange an 'accident', as that would be too obvious and almost certainly would get him strung up.
Tindall's main objective is getting hold of the map. Whether Wybourn faces justice for supplying guns to the Comanches is up to the characters who find out about it. It would be fitting

The First Night

In the evening, the stage reaches its first overnight halt. The station is called Lone Cottonwood, and is run by Ted and Betty-Lou MacKenzie. They have also heard rumours that the Comanches are on the war path, but they haven't seen anything. The team horses are put into the corral and the travellers will sleep on the floor of the three room adobe house, apart from Don and Mary, who get the spare bedroom.
During the might, the PCs are woken by the sound of restless horses milling in the corral. As they go to investigate, the horses start stampeding around inside. Although the PC's will most likely suspect that Indians are around, in fact there is a bunch of young stallions in the area which have smelt the mares in the corral. If the horses are left stampeding in the corral, they could well break a leg, which is fatal. As PC's reach the corral, the wild horses come stampeding out of the dark. All the characters can see is scrubby, dim shapes of unshod horses which may or may not be carrying Indians. The horses in the corral will try to jump out and some will succeed. If any do run away with the wild horses, they will be back in the morning.
Emphasise the poor light, the noise and excitement of the horses in the corral, and the danger of the approaching horses. Use the situation to cause the maximum confusion among the players. It is perfectly sensible to let the panicking horses in the corral out to run wild. Willett's team horses know this area and he's sure they will return in the morning. Hillerman may be less pleased if his horse is also let loose, but let the players sort that out amongst themselves...

Day 2

The stage will probably leave late after the confusion of the night before and the temporary disappearance of some of the horses. The day's journey is dull and dry, crossing a section of arid desert land with nothing more lively than rabbitbrush, creosote brush and cacti. The celerity wagon is stifling, with the sun beating on the canvas sides and no breath of wind. The sides can be rolled up but the fine, white dust gets everywhere. Encourage PCs to get out and walk a while; after all, there's not much room to stretch legs in the celerity wagon and the seats are unpadded wooden benches.
Sometime before noon, someone will notice an arrow hidden under a sagebrush. It is lying half-hidden, with the tip about four inches from the stem of the bush. A reasonable skill roll on Indian Knowledge or even Wilderness Survival will identify the arrow as a war arrow, rather than a hunting arrow. The head is set so that it lies horizontally when the arrow is on the bow, rather than vertically; this helps it slip between horizontal human ribs... The arrow is very well made with a dogwood shaft and goose feathers and was decorated by its owner with zig-zag lines carved into the shaft. It seems to have been placed deliberately, but is too good a quality just to have been discarded. A good roll on Indian skills will tell a character than the arrow is a signal to other Comanches in the area. It indicates a council war-meeting about four miles away from the bush.
By the afternoon, the characters should be feeling dusty, dry and thirsty (and probably anxious about those elusive Indians). Suddenly a small pond is seen. Anyone who makes a Wilderness Survival roll will know that this is alkaline water, and deadly poisonous. If anyone fails, most likely either Josiah Ward, or one of the Schmidts if the PCs all succeed, they will want to take a nice refreshing drink. If anyone is allowed to take a good drink of alkali water, they will become very sick and wretched. Preferably, someone will stop them in time.
The evening halt is at Baccy John's place. When the party come around the corner in the trail to reach it, they will see that the place is burnt out. All that is left is an empty corral, the walls of the tiny, burnt-out adobe house, and the bodies of Baccy John and his hound. An examination will show that this is an Indian attack which happened the previous morning. The spare team of horses which should have been waiting have gone, as has Baccy John's weapons. Baccy John was an old frontiersman, a friend of Ribbons Willett. If anyone is careless enough to let Mary Schmidt see the mutilated body, she will scream and have hysterics. There are no Comanches about at the present, but the party will probably want to establish a system of watches for the night.

The Second Night

The adobe has two rooms inside, and the charred remains of some primitive furniture. Adobe doesn't burn well, so the walls are still good and solid enough to stop bullets. The door in the front has gone, and there is a window hole with a blackened shutter to its left. The corral is to the left and behind the adobe. The station is in an area of open ground, with low cover about forty feet away.

At about two in the morning, the Comanches come for a visit. Five young bucks have come to steal the party's horses. When they are noticed and attacked, their response is to make a fighting retreat,though if any of them have half a chance of getting a horse they will try. There are no other Comanches about; this five set out on their own to try and make a name for themselves. After the fight, it is noticed that even these inexperienced Comanches were carrying new rifles that normally only the older warriors would have.

The Comanches

picture of mounted warrior

Comanches were among the wildest and fiercest of the plains Indians, and the masters of mounted combat. Although they would generally recognise a war-band leader, the loose social organization meant that any individual was free to go or stay as he wished. In the case of this scenario, the warriors have chosen to follow Black Dog, who has good medicine (and, more practically, a supply of new rifles). When attacking, the Comanches act as individuals, each trying to prove his courage and count coup. In the big attack on the coach, Black Dog will let the others go first. He has already proved himself and can afford to let them seek the prizes; this is the action of a mature and generous warrior. When the party hold off the attack, he will push himself into the action to save the situation. Black Dog will lose his followers if his attack fails badly, so he will fight to the end. Comanches will risk their own lives to rescue injured or dead colleagues. A lightly injured Comanche may flee; one who is very badly hurt will probably choose to die fighting honourably. For combat the Comanches are wearing just moccasins and cloth breechclouts. Black Dog has a soft buckskin shirt with long fringes and a pattern of horseshoes on the shoulder. All have bright patterns of warpaint and lucky talismans of the pretty stone/animal bone variety. Average warriors will have an eagle feather or two in their hair; heroes have several feathers. Black Dog has a plain headdress adorned with a pair of buffalo horns.

BLACK DOG - war leader
ST 12   DX 14   IQ 13   HT 15

Ride 17  Jump 16   Hide/sneak 17   Wrestle 16
Bow 16     1D    12 arrows
Rifle 15   3D    17 shots
Knife 15   1D-1

For the main combat, roll a D6 to determine what kind of Comanche the player is fighting.

(on roll of 1)  HERO - an experienced warrior
ST 12   DX 13   IQ 12   HT 14

Ride 16   Jump 15   Hide/sneak 15   Brawl 15
Bow 15    1D    12 arrows
Rifle 14  3D    17 shots
Knife 15  1D-1  

ST 11   DX 11   IQ 10   HT 11

Ride 14   Jump 14   Hide/sneak 14   Brawl 14
Rifle  11    1D   17 shots
Knife  11    1D-2

St 10   DX 10   IQ 9   HT 11

Ride 14    Jump 13   Hide/sneak 12    Brawl 12

Rifle  10   1D   17 shots
Knife 11  1d-2 

Day 3

This is the last day of the journey; the stage should arrive in El Paso at four in the afternoon. The players have had their first taste of combat with the Comanches, and they just know the big attack is coming sometime soon. By now, they have probably worked out that someone has been supplying the Comanches with new weapons. The country here is more mountainous, cut with canyons and mesas. Ribbons Willett is the only PC who knows this area. If the player asks about likely ambush sites, have him make an IQ roll. If he succeeds, he will remember a place where the trail goes steeply uphill as it leaves one canyon. It turns a sharp corner and comes out high on the side of a larger canyon. At this point, the trail is bounded by the cliff on one side and a hundred foot drop to the canyon floor on the other. The trail goes downhill here until it reaches the floor of the canyon.
The stage will reach this point in the late morning. The stage just reaches the point where the trail starts to angle upwards when the Comanches attack. They have been waiting in the scrub on the other side of the narrow canyon floor. About 20 Comanches come racing to attack the stage. It will take them six rounds to close with it. By this time, the stage (presumably moving at a gallop) will be one round away from the sharp corner in the trail. It will take a Drive Team at -4 to skill to get round safely. If the PC driving fails the first time, one of the wheels has gone over the edge and the stage will be stationary for a round while the horses try to drag it back onto the trail. The difficult remains the same. If the Pc keeps failing, or fumbles, give them a few chances to recover, dragging out the tension. Try not to let the wagon go plummeting off the trail, but if they consistently fail, it will. Give all aboard a reasonable chance to jump out. The Comanches will continue to press their attack. They will have to make standard Riding rolls to get round the corner.If the players are dealing with them too easily, a few more will pop up. If the PC's are unlucky and get into real trouble, the Comanches will back off more readily when injured. The NPC's will also fight. Jack Wybourn is competent with a gun and will fight for his life if he can. Neither of the other men are much use with guns, but will try. Jefferson is a mean hand with an axe and will charge into the affray quite readily. Mary Schmidt will probably scream, but she can make herself useful seeing to wounds and reloading guns. In any event, the Comanches will keep fighting until the majority are dead or driven off. Black Dog will attack until killed, at which point the others will definitely leave. If the PC's try to pursue, the Indians will leave them behind.

The End

It is quite in order for the travellers to keep anything they take from the Indians; guns, horses, knives, bows etc. None of the Comanches are carrying anything else of value. After the attack, it is wise to stop the stage to deal with injuries etc. This is the last point for the Tindall/Wybourn subplot to be resolved, if it hasn't been already. From here, the stage continues unmolested to El Paso.
If Wybourn is known to have supplied the rifles, and is still alive, the sheriff in El Paso will take him into custody. It may be satisfying to have Wybourn make a last ditch attempt to revenge himself on Tindall and get himself killed. If the sub-plot has been kept a secret or you don't have time, this is optional.
In any event, the stage has arrived more or less safely, and almost on time. Tindall should have his Pa's map, and Wybourn may have been brought to justice for supplying weapons to the Comanches: a good day's work all round.

Observant readers will have noticed that there isn't anyone called Cullen in this scenario, in spite of its title. I've given all the character names as they appeared in the original scenario. For the book, I used the surnames of those friends who played the characters. As the scenario didn't really have a name, I used the book's title. For more info on the book, click on the image at the beginning of the scenario.

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