T. J. McKeehan was the winner of the Valley of the Kings Tournament at the Lexicon ’16 Gaming Convention. The tournament consisted of two rounds using a combined deck from the original Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Kings: Afterlife. In the photo below, T. J. is shown on the right with his winner’s plaque. On the left is Tom Cleaver, the designer of Valley of the Kings.
Check out the newest Pine Box Expansion, Ghost Town, available now! Ask your local game store about it today!
An Evil Deed, Indeed
By Jeff Bailey
“This is shaping up to be a bad day,” thought Lillian Morgan as she coughed up her third small, green, pulpy mass and spat it into the bedside bucket. As she took a silk handkerchief from her housemaid and wiped her lips, she quietly cursed this horrible town and all its troubles. “Rich people aren’t supposed to have days like this.”
She folded the handkerchief and wiped a thin layer of cold sweat from her brow. She reflected back on the first time she’d laid eyes on Nathaniel Morgan. Lillian wondered what she would tell that girl about her future.
“Coffee, chicken soup, bread. Now.” Lillian didn’t even look at the housemaid standing nearby, but dismissed her with a wave. “And send Ashbel up.”
Two minutes later, Doctor Emanuel Ashbel timidly opened the door to her bedroom. Lillian was mildly irritated at being scrutinized like a sick heifer, but she kept her tongue still for the moment. He was, after all, the doctor. He reached out to touch her arm, but she glared at the outstretched hand until it retreated. After he studied her a little more from a respectful distance, he offered his evaluation.
“Your skin is still clammy, you’re sweating more than you should, and the boils are still developing. Your eyes are slightly dilated and almost rheumy. I see you’re not using the bucket as much today as yesterday, and that’s better.” Lillian felt a little bile rise in her throat. The sight of that bucket was the most revolting thing she had to put up with day after day this week. But after a cooling breath, the sensation passed. Ashbel was still going on and on, in his helpfully unhelpful way.
“Miss Morgan, I know you have trouble holding down solid food. But you’ve got to try. Your system needs all the fuel it can get to fight this thing.”
Lillian sighed. “Not yet, Doctor. Until my stomach settles a little, I’ll stick to Mama’s prescription.” She waved forward the housemaid, who arrived early with today’s meal. She took the bread and soup first, pointing to the coffee and the side table. The maid gingerly put down the mug and waited for Doctor Ashbel to speak. She’d learned it was easier to flee if someone else was talking. With the first word out of his mouth, she quietly moved out of the room.
“The bread at least is a good idea. How can I help?”
Lillian felt a spark of ire at the chiding approval, but decided not to speak until she’d had her first sip of coffee. It didn’t penetrate the blurring malaise inside her head, but it loosened some of the mucus and made breathing less troublesome. “If I’m not going to die today, I need to start fighting back against that venomous wench of a step-daughter. She’s finally left me alone now that she’s gotten what she wants, so I can start getting it back.” She took another sip and snorted to avoid a cough. “I need you to get Pasteur up here. Then, find Jon Longstride.” She reached to the nightstand and picked up two envelopes she’d prepared the night before. “This is his to-do list. Then bring Shane and Graves both up here.” She flipped the pair of envelopes so the other one was on top. “This envelope, give to Luke. He’s small and won’t attract attention, which is important given where he needs to go.”
“Very well,” Ashbel said. “But not before I see you eat that bread. I’m willing to help, but first show your commitment to recovery.” He looked down at Lillian, and she felt a little irritated that he, a paid employee, wasn’t more mindful of the orders she gave. But it wasn’t worth the effort of getting up and slapping him, so she continued to stare back up at him. Arguing with him would just take more time, and her fortune was eroding with each second that brat stole more resources and people from her.
Lillian ate, slowly and gingerly. It took her nearly half an hour to finish even that small a meal, and she felt exhausted with the effort of it. After the meal, she rested up against the headboard and half-closed her eyes. Ashbel leaned in to scrutinize again, and his clinical appraisal would have unnerved her if his sheer failure to get things moving wasn’t irritating her so much. “I’m saving my strength for the meeting you are supposed to be organizing. Get going.”
Ashbel quickly left, riding out to the Research Institute to collect Doctor Pasteur.
* * *
Lillian nodded to Warren Graves, who was the last to arrive. Once he sat down on the right, she turned to the leftmost person, Dr. Sky Borne.
“Doctor Borne, report on the herds. How is our product doing?”
The biologist sighed deeply. “The losses continue. We’ve isolated the healthy populations, only to have the sickness appear as if from nowhere.” Dr. Borne pointed to Ashbel and Pasteur. “Even with the assistance of these esteemed colleagues, we’re barely getting product to market. The local buyers all know about the disease, so nobody will buy cut meat any more. They need to see live cattle to know they’re buying healthy. Our breed seems to be immune, but they are languishing with the diminishing of the other herds. We’ve been using some of the more sickened cows as food sources.” Sky’s delicate expression seemed to say the word ‘cannibalism,’ even though her lips refused to do so. “The rate of infection has slowed, however. Whether that’s because of effective treatment or the simplicity that the remaining cows are naturally more resistant – that is unclear. But with the sheer magnitude of the infection, I cannot guarantee we will be a viable business next year.”
Lillian then turned to the next man over, Jon Longstride. “Jon, first go over the numbers for Morgan Cattle operations. How badly is the money bleeding?”
The normally amiable Longstride shook his head. “I’m not Max. From what I understand about the numbers, they’re awful. We’ve managed to reduce the rate of loss, but I’m not sure I see profit any time soon.”
She then turned to the next person over. Louis Pasteur studied her intently as she spoke to him. “Doctors … have you made any progress? Will there be any cowboys left to tend my herds?”
The doctors exchanged glances, and Ashbel spoke. “We cannot say. The pathogen is tenacious, and still defies attempts to even categorize it, let alone fight it. We are confident, however, in the future stability of the animals, but we are not listened to by those who are in a position to buy. As to the workers, their fate is tied to all of us. If we cannot stem the tide among human victims … God help us all.” The room grew silent as everyone looked uneasily at Lillian’s thin and drawn frame.
Pasteur finally spoke up. “We anticipate breakthroughs on many fronts. We will win the war against this sickness. But at what moment, we cannot say.”
Lillian winced a little, coughed a little, then she turned back to Jon. “Now the second set of numbers, Jon. How is Morgan Mining doing?”
Jon sighed. “Laughing all the way to the Bank of California, really. Again, I’m not the right pair of eyes for this, but I can see she’s gone from hiring miners to building experimental drills. The expense of protecting the ore from the mines to the railroad is high. But the bandits are starting to shiver every time they hear Healey’s horse.” Lillian swore under her breath at the name. “In short, Morgan Mining is booming for now. But like Emanuel said … their workforce is languishing as well.”
Lillian nodded, then turned to face Nathan Shane, seated between Ashbel and Graves. “Okay, now you two. Who have we lost to that viper’s meddling?”
Nathan Shane twirled a strand of straw in his fingers as he looked around the room. “I’m reasonably confident that everyone in this room still has your interests at heart. But after that, it gets sketchy. For absolutely sure, she got her fangs into Lane, and got Remy to boot as her personal bandit hit squad. For the science contingent, that jobhopper Eustace True, the unsurprisingly disloyal James Ghetty, and Harold Aimslee. Oh, and Howard Aswell.”
Lillian seemed to be checking boxes on a list, and it was a list nobody wanted to be on. Finally, she turned to the young boy standing next to her nightstand. “You brought me something, yes?”
The lad swung a dusty tan satchel from his back. He reached his hand inside, and gingerly took out a parchment roll. “Mister Baird secured the original for you from the Registrar, ma’am. He wishes you health and long life.”
Lillian rolled her eyes and spoke to her team. “Nathaniel used to say, ‘Stocks may rise and fall. People are no darned good. But they’ll always need land. Keep an eye on who’s buying and selling it, and you’ll know who’s winning and losing.’ ” She took the paper and unrolled it, glaring at each word with indignant offense. She waved Luke away, and he obediently retreated.
For a full two minutes, nobody spoke. Everyone in the room either supported Lillian enough to give her the time to read the text, or knew it was a bad idea to interrupt her. Shane and Graves chewed the ragged ends of their straws, Jon wiped his brow, Dr. Borne kept her impatience to only a furrowed brow, and Pasteur and Ashbel monitored Lillian’s face for signs of faintness or the need for her bucket. But Lillian spoke four words that woke them all.
“Everyone but Pasteur, leave.”
Nobody ran, and nobody jostled. Nathan Shane spat into a spittoon near the door, which broke the soft flutter of hard leather soles on hardwood floor. Soon, the French biologist and the cattle baroness were alone in the room.
“The deed is simple enough. Lula sold a property to that ringmaster, Ivor. It’s fairly worthless property, and he overpaid for it. I don’t have time for Nathan and Warren to glean their aims, and somehow, I have a feeling they would come up empty. I need answers now, and of the people who could help me, you’ve got the best hands and you’re the most willing to assist with something you don’t fully understand.”
Louis raised an eyebrow, but still nodded. “If I can assist, I will. For the good of all the living.”
Lillian pointed to the liquor cabinet against the wall. “Open it. Grab the bottle of Night Train Reserve and pull.”
Pasteur moved to open the cabinet and saw the bottle near the front on the top shelf. He pulled, and with a soft clack, the entire inside of the cabinet moved forward. The bottles were all placed in slight recesses, so they didn’t spill. As he continued, the back panel of the cabinet passed the doors, and from beyond it a three-shelf rack of bottles, jars, and pots of various sizes emerged. Three shelves lined the other side as well. A wheel dropped down to support the revealed pharmacy. There was no dust to be seen, and Pasteur recognized this meant the supplies were used recently, and likely frequently.
Lillian pointed with one hand as the other tried to suppress a cough. “Dog’s eyes … komodo scales … owl liver extract … elderberries … black clover … nitric acid … and of course, witch hazel. Bring each bottle separately.” She took the thick clay crock that had been filled with soup earlier. “I’d normally use a brew for this, but I’m not up to leaving the room right now. So we’ll make an incense of it.”
After Pasteur brought the first bottle, she pointed to a pestle inside the ‘normal’ cabinet. Pasteur scooped it up and brought it with the second bottle. Lillian had already extracted the sticky contents into the crock. Pasteur looked at the shriveled and bruised orbs with scientific detachment.
He spoke thoughtfully as he watched her work. “A sympathetic connection …”
Lillian silenced him with a snap of her fingers. “It’s hard enough without someone else’s words around. I know this is fascinating to you, but keep those thoughts inside your head.” Lillian spoke a word she rarely offered with earnestness to anyone, but Louis Pasteur was a man of great reputation and skill. “Please.”
Pasteur nodded and continued ferrying bottles to and from the cabinet. Lillian took each, added its contribution, and mashed the crock’s contents with the pestle. Pasteur returned the last bottle and looked back to Lillian. She pointed to the bottom shelf.
“Infused ghost rock dust … gently.”
He reached precisely, taking the jar and moving it with smooth dexterity from the shelf to Lillian. Lillian tried to reach into the jar with her soup spoon, but Pasteur gently took hold of her shivering hand. “How much, Madame?”
Lillian released the spoon with a sigh of relief. “One ounce.”
Pasteur measured out the powder deliberately, then closed and returned the jar. Lillian took a match from the side table.
“Have a seat, doctor. You can watch from the outside, but the show is just for me.”
He nodded and took Warren’s seat. Lillian touched the match to the powder, then picked up the deed.
“Hound’s eye … cry of night … bitter lye … bring me sight!” At the last word, the powder ignited.
From Louis Pasteur’s vantage, a cloud of dark vapor surrounded Lillian. It suffused the air with a noxious, acrid smell.
From Lillian’s vantage, the world vanished as her mind soared into the void beyond.
* * *
A dusky prairie was revealed, and on it stood a wreck of a human. Blood oozed from pores, pus dripped from every orifice, and skin hung loosely on bone. The skin was a mottled purple, the hair was stringy and grey, and the bones sharp and twisted. But it seemed to stand with pride, and it snarled at the sky.
“I consume thee!”
The skin bolted and jerked as muscles boiled out from within. Bodily fluids spattered the grass, and the human grew taller. Clothes materialized out from nowhere – the garb of a circus ringmaster. Ivor Hawley stood proudly, and his body seemed to grow larger every second as it fed on the energy of the diseased blood and mucus.
“I consume thee!”
At the edge of the prairie stood herds of cattle, birds and horses. Black lines, cables of thickened blood and ichor, shot from Hawley’s skin and speared the cattle, the birds, and the horses. They writhed, withered, and died. Hawley grew stronger, larger, and more terrible. He was now taller than any tree on Earth, and his eyes were on a set of structures at the edge of the prairie.
Gomorra, standing defiant yet ignorant of the giant lumbering toward it. At the close end stood the property Ivor had purchased. It resembled a large pustule, shivering with anticipation.
“I will consume thee!”
Ivor’s eyes were drawn to Lillian’s, even with the vaporous nature of the vision. But his eyes gleamed with thick silvery cataracts, and he pointed to Lillian’s lungs and the foul congestion within.
“I AM CONSUMING THEE!”
Instinctively, she turned to run and saw flames coming toward the prairie from the other direction. Off in the distance, the clang of hot iron rang through the air, a sulfurous fume stung her nose and eyes, and off towards the mountains at the far range of vision …
She blinked amidst the smoke and flame. It wasn’t a mountain she saw off in the distance. It was a massive hoof … a cloven hoof, black as coal, standing at the edge of vision. Lillian’s eyes tracked upwards to the leg, but her vision spiraled into blackness as the flames speared into her limbs.
* * *
Lillian’s vision returned to the real world, where Louis Pasteur had launched from his chair to catch her as she had twisted and leapt from the bed. She was leaning heavily against his shoulder, her arm over his head, and her throat was raw and aching. She looked down to her legs, where she had felt the illusion of heat lancing through sinew and bone, and her eyes widened as she saw thin wisps of steam rise off her sweaty skin. Her body collapsed on top of the esteemed physician, but he took gentle hold and softly swung her back into bed. Her head landed square on the pillow, and she breathed slowly and deliberately for a minute, letting the world slowly grow back into focus.
Lillian saw Dr. Pasteur briefly leave, and he returned with a bucket of cool water and a cloth. He held it out to Lillian and she took it eagerly and started rubbing her aching calves and forearms with it. She spoke softly.
“Doctor Pasteur, I need you to arrange for a meeting. Actually,” and she paused a moment to spit something obnoxious into the bucket, “I need you to carry a message for me instead. I can’t handle more visitors right now, and this can’t wait.”
The doctor seemed occupied with a smell he couldn’t quite place, but he nodded. “Certainly. On whom should I call?”
Lillian sighed, then winced as the sigh caught in her throat. After yet another coughing fit, she steadied herself. “The same person mama always said to talk to when the devil came knocking at your door.” Pasteur studied her face closely, to confirm between them that Lillian wasn’t raving, then nodded resolutely. Lillian was surely afraid, but the fear was not the ranting of a lunatic. It was the cry of warning in the night, as dark beasts slouched roughly towards the innocent.
Lillian took one more steady breath, and looked at the remains of the soup crock. The shards had been thrown off the bed, and now lay in a sprawl on the floor. Blackened and charred remains of what had been the wellspring of health.
“Go get a priest.”
Saddle up pard’ner!
Slingers of guns and spells, lawmen and outlaws, cowboys, pokes, punchers, doom-clowns, braves, mad scientists and martial artists — we’re callin’ you out!
The first ever European Marshall Tournament is being held UK Game Expo on June 4th, 2016 at 9:00 am!
The event will be run by the Doomtown UK Facebook Group team and is sponsored by IQ Games Centre.
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/920179741393803/
UK Game Expo Site: https://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk/
Tickets for the Event can be bought here: https://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk/bookevents.php?category=car
Doomtown UK Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DoomtownUK/
This preview is for the next Pine Box Expansion, Ghost Town, arriving in stores March 28, 2016! Ask your local game store about it today!
by Jon Del Arroz
He hadn’t even looked up when Sheriff Grothe and Wendy Cheng walked into the jail. His head hung low, unshaven and dirty. This was not the clean, upstanding businessman from Gomorra’s past. His eyes were dead, the fight in them gone along with the lingering anger from Mayor Whateley’s very public, personal accusation hours earlier.
Silence loomed for another moment before Abram reluctantly started in. “Max, you’ve lived here longer than most. You’ve seen things the rest of us only hear about in stories.” Abram paused for breath. This wasn’t going to be easy.
“Apparently that doesn’t count for much. Word is that Whateley wants to see me swing,” Max said, still unmoving.
“We won’t let that happen,” Wendy said.
Abram frowned at the deputy. They’d talked before about Max’s situation when Wendy had told him that she and Max had been investigating the mayor. According to her, this was a vendetta. He believed in Max’s innocence, but the evidence couldn’t be ignored.
There was also the fact that the mayor sent his lapdog, Rafi Hamid, to insist that an example be made of Mr. Baine. For Abram, this was the clearest picture of where rocks and hard places met. The right thing likely meant political problems with Whateley and that, the understaffed law dogs couldn’t afford.
Max finally looked up at them. “You’re going to defend me?”
“Not exactly,” Abram said. “I’ve got a handful of eyewitnesses that say you mugged a defenseless citizen.”
“That wasn’t me,” Max said, eyes meeting Abram.
“I know, Max,” Wendy said. “We know. We’ll do something about it, but –”
“But I can’t just turn a blind eye to the whole thing. The best I can offer is a compromise,” Abram said.
“What’s that mean?” Max asked.
“It means I’ll allow you to leave town. We’ll look the other way and consider the matter settled. You can move on with no warrants or targets on your back, and it’ll be enough to get the mayor off of mine. But you can’t show your face in Gomorra anymore, Max. If you do, there’ll be more trouble than either of us can handle. You understand?”
Max stared at Abram in disbelief for a long moment. “How can you allow the likes of Nicodemus Whateley and Lillian Morgan to run this town, when –” He sighed. “No, that’s not fair to you.” He turned, his eyes glimmering with tears. “I’ll do as you say, but heed my words, Sheriff. Watch where you make your bed,” Max said.
Abram said nothing. What more could he say to a man who had already been broken? This solution was the best for everyone. He stepped aside and allowed Max to leave the cell.
“Max, I won’t give up,” Wendy said.
Max turned to her. “I know. Just be careful. Keep your head down,” Max said. He met Abram’s eyes once more and nodded in understanding before departing the jail, and the town of Gomorra.
This preview is for the next Pine Box Expansion, Ghost Town, arriving in stores March 28, 2016! Ask your local game store about it today!
by Ross Fisher-Davis
“Mr. Mayor,” Rafi lingered near the door. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a young gentleman who insists upon seeing you.”
The mayor’s eyes lazily rose from his book. “I specified not to be disturbed; was I not clear in my request?”
Rafi swallowed, regained his composure, and spoke again.
“He says he’s related to you, Nicodemus.”
Nicodemus raised an eyebrow, carefully closed the book, placing it out of sight in silence.
“Send him in,” Nicodemus whispered.
The young man who strode in was tall, lean with dark hair. He gave Nicodemus a look that mixed determination and outright wonder. Finding his manners, he took off his hat, letting it hang by his side.
“Nic? Mister … Mayor Nicodemus Whateley?? Is it you?” He asked.
Nicodemus nodded slowly, watching the boy’s every move like a cat.
“None other.” He said, slowly rising from his desk. “But you knew that. You, however, are a mystery here. So who might you be?”
The youth took an eager step forward. “Name’s Theodolphus, but Mama called me Theo … Theo Whateley-Boyer. From your second cousin, twice removed … also your fourth cousin, on the Providence side, I think. I come a long way looking for you, Nic. I come a helluva long way.”
“People who come looking for me oft regret the decision.” Nicodemus stepped around his desk to approach the boy, and Theo felt the Mayor’s stare grip his heart. Nicodemus Whateley’s black pupils contained nothing but darkness.
“Blood calls to blood, Nic. I hear it screaming out across this town.”
“Screams are a frequent sound in Gomorra. Who sent you? Speak.”
“The family, Nic … back east. We ain’t heard anything in so long. Then when the news came through that everything in Gomorra had fallen, we thought the worst.”
Theo drummed his fingers against the brim of his hat.
“I went to the manor first, but you weren’t there. You’re all that’s left, Nic. You’re the last one who had contact with the master …”
“Knicknevin is no more. I freed the of that tether,” Nic said. “I’m my own master now, Theo. And so are you.” He made a motion in the air to brush the young man away.
“That’s the thing, Nic. The family don’t know what else to do. They’re fighting amongst themselves … no real leader, no real direction. I heard about you though. I heard what you done here in Gomorra! You’re what we need!”
Nicodemus seemed to stare through Theo, appraising him.
“We need you, Nic. The family needs you,” Theo said, determination hardening his face.
Nicodemus reached out and took the boy by the shoulders gently, but with purpose. A smile crawled across his features.
“Theo, I am the family.”
This preview is for the next Pine Box Expansion, Ghost Town, arriving in stores March, 2016! Ask your local game store about it today!
by Paul Durant
“No luck,” said Emanuel Ashbel, his voice both muffled and echoing within the plague doctor getup. “The chickens you vaccinated with McCadish’s strain are showing symptoms.” He produced two vials of blood from his coat and handed them to the doctor.
Pasteur cursed, his own voice muffled by the gauze wrap around his mouth. “I had thought McCadish’s infection would have been weakened enough to allow the body to immunize itself.” He took the samples and quickly prepared a glass slide for his trusty Chevalier microscope. “You look preposterous in that outfit, by the way,” he said as he adjusted the focus to peer into the microbial world.
“Doctor, sick people come and go from this lab all day,” said Ashbel. “I’m not taking any chances after Aimslee turned ill. If this outfit kept out the Black Plague, it’s good enough for me.” He grabbed the mask and pulled it off. “So, what’s it look like in there?”
Pasteur stood up and offered Ashbel a look. “I’ll need a more prepared slide to be certain, but I believe the McCadish strain did work … or began to. See on the right, the bacteria cluster in much smaller numbers, as if weakened. I believe that when we take a more detailed look, we will find that the bacteria that still show vigor are of a slightly different shape.”
“So, what do you think it means, Doctor?” asked Ashbel.
“We starve bacteria by keeping it where it cannot feed,” Pasteur said. “But perhaps this bacteria does not starve, but hibernates. When it finds a suitable environment again, it awakens and sets to work faster than the body can address it. If we could keep it weakened …” He trailed off, then stood up suddenly and went to the rear of the room, with the racks of sample cultures growing in agar. He carefully examined the arrayed vials, not even noticing when Lula Morgan stomped in in her own hastily assembled protective gear.
“Is this where you two have been?” she asked. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you all day, but at this point I can’t even find a courier who isn’t sick. I’m losing money hand over fist with all this lost work.” She pulled off a glove and shook bits of dust out of it. “Find a cure for the workers, before we all go bankrupt.”
“Je travaillais déjà sur ce problème. La science médicale est plus importante que vos caprices cupides,” Pasteur muttered under his breath.
“What was that?”
“Oh, Dr. Pasteur doesn’t speak English,” Ashbel lied. “He was just asking me what you were saying.”
“Oh, all right,” said Lula. “In that case, you should tell him ‘Je sais que vous parlez Anglais, Pasteur. Votre vie va prendre une tournure déplaisante si vous continuez à gaspiller le temps et l’argent de votre mécène.’ ”
This preview is for the next Pine Box Expansion, Ghost Town, arriving in stores March, 2016! Ask your local game store about it today!
Nine-Tenths of the Law
by Ross Fisher-Davis
The doors creaked open as Malcolm leaned on them, stepping up into the wide entrance hall.
“Watch your step Miss Morgan; it’s a little dusty. But it’s big … fit for anything really. I hear Morgan has a lot of business these days!”
Lula lifted the hem of her skirts from the dust as she stepped through the door, a look of distaste upon her face.
“Some of us at least. Why isn’t anyone doing business here already? This place is huge.”
Malcolm looked over his shoulder, and then up to the ceiling, a painful smile stretching across his face. “Oh, you know how it is. Just waiting for the right person!”
“If it’s all as you say it is, I’m interested. Show me around?”
“Absolutely,” He looked warily down one of the passages, listening for a moment before advancing.
Malcolm began counting off features as they walked, flinching every time the click of Lula’s heels echoed behind him. “You saw the welcoming hall; there’s room for a still, a storefront, and a few big offices, each as roomy as the last.”
“Must have been an impressive company that used to own all this.”
“Sweetrock? Oh, the biggest Gomorra until the Storm. All gone now … mostly.”
Reaching a staircase leading up to the the second floor, the old man put his hands on his hips and nodded. Above them hung a tattered banner bearing a shovel and pickaxe logo.
“So, what do you say?”
“There’s gotta be a catch, Malcolm. Rats? Mold?”
“This house is clean Miss Morgan; of that I can assure you.” The old man wrung his hands.
“Well, my new portrait would lighten up any old room. Knock off another ten percent and call it a deal.”
The old man almost backflipped with joy.
“I’ll get the deed! You stay right here. I mean it, really don’t … don’t go nowhere.” He rushed up the hallway.
Lula climbed the stairs and gave a tug at the old banner.
“What was that Malcolm?” she called out, gritting her teeth to pull harder.
“You agreed on the price. It’s awfully poor form to take it back now. Sign the papers so this place can be mine!”
The banner finally came loose, and Lula turned, her triumphant smile shifting to terror.
“THIS PLACE IS MIIIINE! YOU … CAN … HAVE … NOTHIIING!”
Malcolm heard footsteps so fast, he thought horses had started wearing heels. He caught a fleeting glimpse of Lula’s petticoat as she sprinted out the door into the light of day. Malcolm tossed the deeds into the dust.
“Again with this, Howard? Really?!”
Malcolm cursed into the yawning darkness of the building and stomped outside to straighten the “For Sale” sign once more.
Check out Doomtown: Reloaded’s latest Saddlebag, Bad Medicine, on sale now!
The Shootin’ Life of Jessica Patchett
by Paul Durant
Sloane didn’t ask for identification when she heard the knock at the door — she knew it was Pancho from the way he walked down the hall. Without looking up from the history book she was reading, she unlocked her room and let him in.
“Allie’s back from town!” he said cheerily as he rummaged in the bag he held. The outlaw’s life was one they both happily lived, but a bounty on your head DID make it a bit more complicated to head out to the grocer’s. When one of their “lower profile” members went for supplies, it became a big production. “She says she couldn’t find the books you were looking for, but she got your cheese … Why is your coat rack on the other side of the room?”
“People were tripping over it,” Sloane lied as she accepted the food. “Oh, this is cheddar! I asked her for gouda.”
Pancho looked confused. “Wait. How do you … why do you even care about what kind of cheese you get? You do not strike me as the sort to worry about what goes best with her rioja blanca.”
She shrugged, and flicked open a switchblade to carve off a piece. “I like cheese. I don’t see why it should be so perplexing to you.”
“Because YOU perplex me, Rubia!” he said, teasing. “You are unlike everyone else out there in Soddum and any other woman I’ve known. How you came to be here must be quite the story.”
* * *
Missouri’s Circle #4 Orphanage sat at the end of two long, desolate roads. One of them was gravel, forking off the highway that led to Lea’s Summit and winding its way around gurgling rivers and black, gnarled trees. The other split from a quiet life working at her father’s bookstore at about the same time his aorta split itself open and led through the home of every one of little Jessica Patchett’s aunts and uncles. That road was lined with words like “What’s wrong with her?” and “She’s dead inside. I don’t understand how Jacob ever loved that girl.” In 1864, they both ended at a large, gloomy manor house in the middle of nowhere, filled with bleary, weary children, overseen by fat and garish men and women with too much joy for their surroundings.
The orphanage master, a grotesque beast of a man, knelt down to her eye level in a leer. “You know why you’re here, little girl?” he asked, not even bothering with introductory pleasantries. “You’re here because nobody cares about you! That’s right. No brave young boys or beloved tomboyish girls here. Just leftovers that the world has forgotten to care about. But we haven’t forgotten you. Power is returning to the world … power that can make something useful even out of a little spit like you.”
She stared at his eyes, saying nothing.
“Oh, a defiant one,” he said, grinning. “I do so love the ones like you. Try and run! You’ll pray you make it back here before the bears eat you. There’s no way out. Nobody will save you.”
* * *
Exactly seventeen days later, he was in a mud puddle, rolling around on the ground in pain from the stick jutting from his eye. She was screaming as well; she had to, to make it sound like she was being terrorized, cover up his sound, and prevent any of his allies from coming to investigate. But her face was utterly calm as she watched his slowly leave him. She didn’t think he could get the stick out; she’d picked a nice and knobby one just barely wide enough to jam into his eye socket after she’d sharpened it. If he had the presence of mind to pull it STRAIGHT out, maybe he could have saved himself. But he kept yanking it at an angle with only one hand.
He tried to grab her with his other hand, but she always kept two steps in front of him as he howled and grasped at empty air. She brought two sticks, so she didn’t even have to be within arm’s reach to finish him off. Every time he recovered his balance, she whapped the branch in his eye, driving it further toward his brain. She couldn’t do it very hard, but she didn’t need to. Four or five little taps, and he was dead.
He’d given her the whole tour, gloating with every locked door about how wicked everyone on staff was, how impossible it was to escape. Showed her the pistol they kept by dry-firing it against her temple every time she tried to escape. It took her three days to come up with a plan. It took ten more to steal enough bullets, fail at escaping enough to get the pattern down, and make him confident enough to go in careless and alone. She was also sick for a few days with a cold, or else she’d have been out in two weeks even.
Why he terrorized children, she didn’t know, nor did she care. She was going to escape anyway, even if this place wasn’t run by freaks who yammered on about all the great things they were going to do in this new world now that “everything had been restored.”
Once the man — she never cared enough about him to recall his name — stopped breathing, she pulled the revolver out of the holster, removed the keys from his belt, and rifled through his pockets for money. The gun was never loaded; he loved using it to scare little children for some godforsaken reason, but he wasn’t about to let some snotnosed kid slip it away from him and shoot him when his back was turned. That was why she had to steal the three bullets from the tool shed. She loaded two of them, and the whirring click of the revolver’s cylinder was the most satisfying noise she had ever heard. The third, she kept between two of her fingers.
A Colt Walker revolver is too big for a young girl to fire normally; she hefted it like a rifle, one hand steadying the barrel, one hand on the grip. But neither hand shook as she walked back to the dining room at the Circle #4 Orphanage and interrupted whatever they were doing with eight decks of playing cards. “Wake up that fathead who trims the hedges,” she ordered. “And then all of ya lock yerselves in the tool shed.”
One of them, a woman, snaggletoothed and hateful, who deserved a remembered name even less than the headmaster, laughed and said, “Nice try, little girl. What, did you give Myron the slip? Boys, time you show –”
Jessica flung the bullet at her face, quickly grabbing the barrel of the gun back. “Yer boss is dead, an’ I got two more bullets where that came from. I ain’t never fired this thing before, but if ya wanna catch me, yer gonna get close enough my aim don’t matter. And they look like they got a powerful kick to ‘em, so maybe this thing breaks my arm when I shoot it, and the second shot ain’t as good. So it’s gonna take three of ya to catch me. The first one dies, the second one gets crippled, the third one gets to kill me. Does anybody want me dead bad enough to die for it?”
They were in shock, being ordered at gunpoint by a twelve-year-old girl.
“That’s what I thought. Now wake up that fathead and get in the tool shed.”
Ten minutes later, she opened up the kids’ bunkrooms. She didn’t wait to be recognized or explain they were escaping. “Get yer pillowcases and empty the pantry. We’re burnin’ this place down.”
She wasn’t yet called Sloane, and it wasn’t rightly a gang. But it was her first taste of leadership.
* * *
They went west, avoiding major roads and thoroughfares. Jessica may have had a keen mind for how to assemble pieces of her murderous plan, but she was still a child and didn’t really know how the larger social world of grown-ups worked. She was dimly aware that crossing state lines was a good thing for those on the run from authorities and thought they should do that a couple of times. As far as she knew, the malign powers that ran horrible orphanages chased their escapees with a vengeance.
Kansas is flat, long, and seemingly endless when crossing it by train, so the plan to cross multiple states went out the window pretty quickly. At least there were plenty of wells and farms to take from along the way; had they been navigating forest all that way, they’d probably have died. It was after long, hungry months of walking that they finally found a church.
The nuns were pretty nice, giving away plenty of food to these kids who’d wandered across Kansas on their own. Apparently nice did it for them, because almost immediately they were talking about staying.
“This can be a home for you too, Jessica,” Sister Josephine would say. Well she’d had a home before, and look where that got her.
“If we stay, the sisters say they can help find families for us,” the kids kept chanting with the kind of optimism that’s best left with children. Jessica wasn’t a child anymore. So she told them, “Parents die. Then yer just alone again. Relyin’ on these homes, this charity, is nothin’ but empty hope. And I don’t need it.” So she just kept moving.
When she did join up with someone, it was a gang. The Sixth Avenue Gang, petty Topeka crooks who needed an inconspicuous lookout to tell them to beat it when the law came to break up their dice games. This was a relationship she understood; she performed a service for money and could leave whenever she liked. Nobody could keep her there, so she stayed.
She rose through the ranks by not caring a whit about rising through the ranks. She had a reputation for being calm and collected, unlike the violent and impulsive thugs who usually fell into that life. She was loyal in that she never saw the temptation of ratting to the law. They thought she wasn’t ambitious because, to them, ambition was a thing that resulted in idiotic and failed power-plays, not slowly gaining things you want and ensuring they can’t be taken away.
When Topeka got too hot, the gang moved west, chasing the lawless frontier. When the gang fell apart, she made sure everyone who helped her was repaid for their service, and she signed up with an outfit calling itself Sloane’s Gang. Her other compatriots wanted out of a life of crime, and she did her best to help them leave it, even if she didn’t understand why. They must know what’s better for them, more than she did. But a life within the law simply was not for her.
Sloane’s Gang was run, unsurprisingly, by Sloane, a giant of impulse and appetite, who clearly had made his path in life by virtue of the fact that everyone was too afraid to tell him to have any self-control. He drank, smoked, and caroused to excess. The gang got by on intimidation, and a mountain of a man with a rifle in each hand was quite intimidating. But it was clear he could not have built this outfit, nor was he running it. The Sloane Gang had outposts all over, and Sloane couldn’t have built a toy castle from alphabet blocks.
A man named Jonah Essex was his left hand, his advisor, the man making the real plans. By the age of twenty-four, she was Sloane’s right hand. The other members of the gang thought she was a trophy, and had she been anyone else, that might have offended her. But had she been someone to take offense, she’d never have gotten to that position to begin with. She honestly didn’t understand why that kind of notoriety mattered so much to them, but she didn’t understand why a lot of things did. She was clear-headed and collected, planning the way out of every bad situation they found themselves in. She handled tactics, Essex handled strategy, and Sloane shot people with astonishing accuracy. It worked for her, and if it stopped working, she’d make it work again.
It was after they had robbed the stagecoach office at Liver Creek that she became aware it would no longer work.
Essex came to her that night. “Jessica,” he whispered. “I got bad news. It’s about Sloane.”
“What’d he do this time?”
“Nothing yet … It’s what he’s going to do,” said Essex. “I looked through our haul. He didn’t just take valuables … he’s got records. He’s making a paper trail on us.” Jonah looked around, like someone might be watching. “I think he’s planning to turn on the Gang. Trade us to the hangman to stop ‘em from measurin’ his own neck.”
“That would be a terrible idea,” she said.
“It’s the holster,” he continued, as if spilling a dire secret. “I think it’s changed him. IT is the source of Sloane’s power, but … no. It’s gone to his head. He was too weak.”
“A magic holster?” She arched an eyebrow. She had seen magic before — Essex was not shy about his ‘card tricks’ around the camp — so it wasn’t a possibility she immediately rejected. “The holster give you power, but it takes you over, too?”
“No, no, no,” Essex said, shaking his palms. “Nothing like that. The holster cannot control you. But it’s filled with power, more’n enough to share if you’re strong enough to be worthy of it.”
“I suppose it makes sense,” she said, drawing the pieces together. “Probably the only way anyone’d ever be able to swing those rifles around the way he does.”
“Yes, yes!” Jonah said. “But he is weak enough that the power is too much for him. Listen, he isn’t the first Sloane, Jessica. He took it from the last, and he led us to ruin. But you … I see it. You are strong. You have what it takes. You could take it, you could be Sloane, and lead us.”
“You rotten little snake,” slurred Sloane’s voice from the doorway. “You had enough of me, huh? You feeding that line to the girl now?” He hefted his rifle. “I oughta blow that lyin’ tongue out the back of your face. I shoulda KNOWN you was trouble.”
Jessica looked unperturbed. “Is it true?” she asked.
“Th’ hell do you care?” he slurred. “I ain’t seen you care about anything anyhow. You just stare with those dead eyes, an’ let people do whatever. So what if I killed the last Sloane? Ain’t the first or the last either of us has killed. Why do you care?”
“I don’t have a problem with killers,” she said. “I have a problem with traitors. Those folks trust you. If you’re going –” and then she was on him.
The rifles Sloane used were enormous and dangerous, but they were long and could only be fired with the arm fully extended, restricting his aim at close targets. That was why Sloane was always at his side, to cover that range. That was why threatening her with a rifle was a bad idea. Jessica has never betrayed anyone, but she believed in having a plan to kill everyone she ever met.
She’d given him a chance to deny the charges, and he showed no interest. So she was done with him. She could not tackle him or throw him back; he was much too large. But she could get close enough that he couldn’t aim, and she couldn’t miss. Two rounds from her Walker to the chest, and he was done, just like that. The other gang members came out of their hiding places to see the commotion, and Essex waved them to wait. “Take the belt,” he said. “You are Sloane now.”
He said it with a mystic reverence that caused him to ignore the fact she had already put it halfway on. She felt no different, which she supposed was a good sign. She tried to holster her gun and frowned. “Hm. The Walker is too big for this.” She shrugged, looked at the gun she’d won her freedom with, and handed it to Jonah. “I’ll need to get a new one.”
* * *
Pancho stared as Sloane shrugged again. “Everyone’s got a story, Pancho. Don’t see why mine should matter. I am who I am, and I am where I am. Does how I got here change anything?”
As Sloane walked away to shelve her history book, Pancho stared very carefully at her hands and her calculated steps. “Si, Rubia,” he said. “Take it from someone who’s traveled. Where you are, it’s just one place. How you got there is all the places you’ve been before, and all that happened. The road makes you far more than the home it leads to.”
Sloane looked up, decided it wasn’t worth her while to debate it, and put the book away.
Check out Doomtown: Reloaded’s latest Saddlebag, Bad Medicine, on sale now!
By now we’ve exposed you to the design guidelines for all spell types, as well as the tidal dynamics of Kung Fu. However, even though they’ve been in the game since the Base Set, we still haven’t taken the time to explore mad science in the world of Doomtown:Reloaded. It’s high time we cover that gap.
Gadgets are a big part of the Doomtown story. Not only are they a very cool aspect of the game, but they’ve always been immensely popular among the players. In Classic Doomtown, there was a whole outfit dedicated to them, but of course in Doomtown:Reloaded, they’ve been put to more practical use by the ranchers of the Morgan Cattle Co. and those do-gooders in the Law Dogs.
While mad science is a skill, it doesn’t exactly follow the same rules as the spells. Particularly, gadgets require quite more effort up-front to invent and put into play. However, as a tradeoff, you only need to pull for them once and afterwards you can trade them to the most appropriate dude to hold them. This is unlike spells where the original spellcaster needs to hold them until they leave play.
But the difference in how they enter play and attach is far from the only difference between gadgets and spells. The truth is that mad science does not even work within the same paradigm as spells. Rather than the three usual questions answered for spells (“How does it affect game state”,”How does it win shootouts”, “How does it affect out of play cards”), a gadget breaks out of the mold and provides its own answers.
Gadgets are multifaceted.
One advantage we aim to provide when you’re using mad science is that you’ll need fewer cards to provide the same amount of raw power you’d get from normal goods. Theoretically, this should allow you to dedicate less card slots for that purpose and instead cover some holes in your strategy, or find space for alternative tactics.
A prime example of this raw power is the newly released Yagn’s Mechanical Skeleton. By itself, it not only covers your needs for bullets, influence, and increased value on one dude, but and also serves as a hard counter for control effects. And if that wasn’t enough, the same card is well suited either for Horse decks, as well as gadget dude decks.
Similarly, the recent Personal Ornithopter, is suited for both constantly enabling your main shooter to join every battle, as well as allowing your squishier dudes to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.
While this strength has not been utilized as much until now, expect to see more of it in the future.
Gadgets alchemize economic power into game advantage.
Gadgets (and their related cards) are the only type of card which can turn raw ghost rock into raw power. Normally, the only way to spend your money is to play more cards from your hand, or just pay for a dude’s upkeep. This leads to situations where you either don’t have enough money to play all the cards you want, or where you have more money than you know what to do with. An example of this a situation is where you play deeds, to the point where you can’t leverage the extra income and only care about their control points. However if you don’t put enough deeds in your deck, you’re constantly starved for playing all those other cool cards you want.
In contrast, a gadget player can easily include a ton of deeds in their deck and rely on repeat gadget abilities to efficiently put all that money to good use. Whether that is via cycling out their useless cards via Xemo’s Turban, running circles around their enemies using Mechanical Horse, or making sure an opponent always suffers in shootouts by keeping things tied through a Force Field. Mad scientists have a ton of these effects, and even a few of these gadgets in play can mean not a drop of ghost rock goes wasted.
Of course all these effects can be tricky to use in the fragile early game, so until a gadget player’s economy stabilizes via deeds, they can use cards like the Disgenuine Currency Press, or the Recursive Motion Machine to provide them with the funds needed.
Gadgets cross card type boundaries.
While spells will always be spells and Kung Fu will always be actions, with a few abilities here and there instructing you to make the relevant skill checks, gadgets have no problem crossing type boundaries and providing you with gadget dudes and gadget deeds. Not only that, but such cards tend to be quite above the curve to make up for the hefty costs of inventing. Thus, all gadget dudes until now have been Non-Unique, providing you with plenty of expendable bodies in the same value with great stats or abilities. Similarly all gadget deeds have been providing amazing value for money, either giving an instant return on investment, as in the case of Secured Stockyard, or aggressive control and built-in protection like with Miasmatic Purifier.
This allows a gadget player to utilize their mad scientists not only for their hearts but their spades and diamonds as well, never leaving their expensive skilled dudes with nothing to do.
On Gadget Power Level
That said, it is true that gadgets have not managed to do as well when compared to other strong competitive archetypes, despite being wicked fun to play and having a ton of fans. This has to do with figuring out the fact that it’s been quite tricky to discover where the golden mean lies in regards to the hefty costs involved in gadget-making. At times, their total costs (i.e. GR cost, deck building restrictions, booting a mad scientist, etc.) only net makes them into slightly more powerful cards than normal goods, which is just not worth it, if one appends the opportunity cost involved. An apt example being the comparison of Winchester Rifle or Pearl Handled Revolver to the core set’s Flamethrower.
It’s taken us a while to figure out where the power level of a gadget needs to stand before it can pull its weight in regards to its complete costs. And while previous gadgets are not by any means worthless, they simply have not received the synergies they needed.
With Dirty Deeds, Foul Play, and Bad Medicine, we are confident mad science will get the support it needs from cards like Marty, Janoz Pratt and Luke the Errand Boy, in addition to new gadgets invented to put the fear of science into your unfortunate opponents.