Saturday Seed ~ 41 (Aces & Eights)

This week’s seed is to be planted in the fertile soil of the Western Frontier brought so clearly to life by Aces & Eights.

The Seed: Not all is what it seems among a group of settlers pushing West

The characters come upon a wagon train near sunset which looks like it stopped quite early in the day to make camp. There is a lot of activity; cooking, checking the wagons, wheels, and livestock; washing clothes in the nearby stream, and there is even some music from a well-played guitar expressing the grandeur of tumbling tumble weeds.

It is an idyllic scene.

It also hides a dark secret.

Experienced or at least sharp-eyed characters will soon note some strange activity around the camp beyond the early hour in which camp was struck. Two men have cut a cow out of their herd, and are slaughtering it close to the hustle and bustle of the camp and more strangely within sight of the rest of the herd. Blood gushes forth and spills in wide rivulets across the dust of the road and the low grasses of the prairie…  quite a lot of blood. Who would have thought the cow had so much blood in him?

If the characters inquire if they might share the fire, it will be hard for the settlers to turn them away in light of the plentiful meal, and lovely spot they have chosen. Even so, there will be looks and low mutters which seem to indicate that the majority wishes to do just that. Regardless, they will be allowed to stay if they like. Each member of the wagon train puts on a pleasant face, but just the same, cagey characters will know that something is being hidden.

Planting the seed

This seed is perhaps best used as an interlude in period of long-distance travel, or an extended time away from real civilization. If the characters are prospectors, a whole new level of paranoia and conflicting emotions and motivations can be brought forward as this idea takes root.

The settlers are headed west to make a new life, but they are not ordinary citizens. Part of one of many experimental and small religious cults or offshoots of the untamed frontier, these people harbor strange beliefs rumors of which could have reached the characters’ ears over the course of your campaign as tale tales and yarns around campfires and as distractions during poker games.

What is going on

The wagon train is made up of 4 wagons, run by 4 families, and their assorted hired men, and livestock. They will have overcome incredible hardships of terrain, weather, human greed and prejudice, and reversals of luck by the time this desolate place has been reached. Their odd faith, however, will have given them no comfort, however, as it is rooted in vigilance against sin, and advises immediate action to root it out for the betterment of the community of believers.

In this case, the sin is one of amorous love between unwed youths. The action taken was to kill them both. When the characters were spotted, the community chose to cover up their deed in fear of reprisals. In their journey, they have encountered much resistance to their way of life, and been routed out of many towns for their ungodly ways.

The details

More than enough evidence of the dead is there to be found, from blood and bloody clothing, to spatters on the garments of the executioners, to shallow graves under one of the wagons. Conversations will suddenly derail as names of the dead are about to surface, and amusing tales will suddenly come to a close with strangely flat endings as the teller realizes that they have to change details to disguise the absence of the victims.

What happens when the discovery is made can be a balance between fear of violence on the part of the characters against the superior numbers and obvious fanaticism of the settlers, and between the fear of discovery and reprisal on the part of the settlers.

Running the scene can be handled as a tightrope between learning what can be learned without the settlers learning what has been learned, and surviving through to dawn and the safety of a wholly false ‘friendly good-bye.’

Alternately, vengeance is mine, could say the characters… or the settlers, and things could get very black and white very, very quickly.

It is, as always, up to you~


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