Saturday Seed – 32 (Aces & Eights)

This week’s seed is being planted for Aces & Eights. I have been reading a lot of Deadlands recently, but given my druthers I like to keep the supernatural pretty far from the cattle, so although I do have a few ideas to share for the Weird West, I will not be sharing them today.

The seed:

A stampede and trampled bodies leads to a race against time to find a missing child that when the seed first begins to grow, no one realizes is alive and missing, not dead and missing. That in turn leads to a deadly gunfight and a chance for the characters to be heroes, or heels. This tale is not one of great action or daring, but is one which can bring a setting more into focus, add a touch of interpersonal drama and moral decision-making, and put the characters in the middle of a community looking to recover from a disaster. Opportunities abound.

Planting the seed:

To set the vines of this story running through the fallow fields of future stories, it will require that your players’ group of characters has some familiarity with the residents of a town or community. This should not be attempted at some town that the characters are just passing through.

The details:

A large herd of cattle that are being driven to market are grazing near the town. The trail hands responsible for the herd get into the cook’s private stash of Kentucky Bourbon drinking late into the night and on into the morning. Over a heated hand of cards, a fight breaks out – spooking the cattle, and sending them as a rushing wall of death into the streets of the town. The hands, too drunk to do much more than make asses of themselves, are unable to prevent the tragedy which occurs.

The stampede blasts through the town, damaging property, injuring its own members, wounding many residents, and killing the less fortunate among them – including 3 children.

At first, everyone assumes that the children are siblings, known to have been at the store. No one looks that closely at the mauled remains to make a positive ID when the bloodstained clothes and
remaining hair all suggest the assumption is correct.

A family, passing through on their way west, reports their child missing later that day after lunch time comes and goes without sign of him. The sheriff recruits everyone he can to search (giving a good lead-in to involvement for the characters), but the father also tries to rouse everyone he can as he searches the wreckage of the streets looking for his son. No one knows if the child’s body was swept away by the stampede and left amid the wreckage, if he is lost, or if the child is simply hiding in fear.

Eventually, in a suitable location, such as a well near a family with a collie, the search turns up a child, but not the child everyone is looking for. It turns out that one of the children found dead was that of the traveling family, while the child found hiding was the local family’s. Although this discovery at first seems like a cause for joy, it really just shifts the sadness to new shoulders.

Eventually, the story of how the stampede started will come out. By sunset, dark rumbles will be heard in saloons, and by morning, the father, drunk and bereaved will be heading out to the pasture land, looking to kill. The sentiment in town will be split among those who feel accidents happen, and those who feel a lynching might not be out of place.

Where will the characters stand, and what will they do?

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