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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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.
In 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...
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
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...
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.
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.
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 (2-5) AVERAGE WARRIOR 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 (6) YOUNG BUCK 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
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.
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.