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Welcome to the Weird West Doc

From Article in the December issue of Tombstone Epitaph 1874

Welcome to the Weird West dear Reader
by Eugene Wilderman

We here at the Tombstone Epitaph stand behind every strange word, odd article we print, though many scoff at the bizarre tales found here in the pages of the Epitaph -all stories more “distinguished” papers refuse to print, we know experienced travelers rely on our reports which are quite accurate and helpful. I will endeavor to assist you with a brief overview of what you have to look forward to as you head west into the Weird West.

We don’t know when exactly it started or why, but many strange things and frightening, even sometimes sinister creatures, have been said to haunt our many frontier towns and cities, and sometimes that is nothing to some of the whispers we’ve heard of things out in the wilds. Not all of what we learn about do we print. However, these stories aside, there’s plenty of more mundane troubles that you need to be aware of before traveling west and I like my colleagues feel it is my duty to help inform you lest you stumble off this mortal coil and end up in one of our many cemeteries, prematurely.

As to when it started I guess it wasn’t as bad before ’68. The year 1868 is when the Great Quake happened and much of California fell into the sea. When the quake happened it didn’t just split the entire west coast apart it also shaped the rest of the nation, even the world. California had long been a land of dreams, since gold was discovered there in ’49, but the quake in ’68 led to the discovery of Ghost Rock. Imagine the power of a mineral twice as valuable and a thousand times more useful than gold. The Quake left the West coast of California, from Mexicali to Oregon, a labyrinth of jagged mesas, now called the “Maze,” towering over the flooded sea-channels below. At first folks thought what they were finding in the walls of Maze was just coal, but in fact the landscape had cracked open to reveal a new mineral heretofore undiscovered: Ghost rock. This new fundament burns a hundred times hotter and longer than coal. When burned it gives off a ghostly white vapor and howls like the Devil himself so those early prospector’s named it Ghost Rock and the name’s stuck.

Of course this new mineral would set off a new revolution in science and predictably a great number of hopeful inventors, prospectors, investors and all manner of others streamed into the Maze to take advantage of this new discovery. (Maybe you’ve thought about investing in the new science yourself!) Now of course the Confederate President and Union too, soon realized the potential value of the new mineral to their war efforts but the Confederates were the first to use it in battle when in February of 1871 General Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia attacked Union lines around Washington DC. The use of the new science (fueled by Ghost rock) made the attack so effective that Lee’s army seized the Union’s Capital! The Yankee’s eventually took their city back as the Rebel’s devices began to malfunction or run out of fuel, but the message was clear – Ghost Rock powered weapons and devices were the way of the future.

Though Ghost Rock has been found all over the country, the greatest concentrations remain out west in the Maze and no rail lines have yet connected the Maze to the battlefields of the east. Both CSA and USA Governments offered exclusive government contracts for the first company to build a transcontinental rail line and with that the Rail Wars began. A host of railroads answered the Governments’ call but soon only the biggest could continue the effort which required almost as much investment in protecting workers and lines as in the building itself. The bloody rivalry is far from over as the race for the west has not yet been won. (We urge caution in your travels but recognize that rail is too useful a means of travel to refrain from using it on account of these difficulties.)

Yes the Civil war drags on and is felt almost as much out in the west as the east. Why? because of the Indian Nations. Since the White men were taking so long with their civil war the Sioux nation, after the defeat of Custer, established their dominance over the region and have retained control of the Black Hills. The many tribes of the south got together and made a strong claim to the center of the country, called the Coyote Confederation. The Civil war drags on and settlers’ and other folk keep heading west to get away from it and search for their fortunes. Union and Confederate agents follow too and are laying claim to the same territories. Sometimes the war is cold, sometimes hot, especially around those “November Offensives” (term applied by the cynical for the curious tendency of the war to heat up in election years.)

President Grant has ruled the North since 1872 and he refuses to acknowledge the CSA or any of these other nations: Sioux Nation, Coyote Confederation, Republic of Deseret and the City of Lost Angels. Aside from the CSA the others are small but powerful local powers that the Union may get around to setting straight once they get done beating up the CSA, if they can defeat the south. In the meantime it’s best for regular folk to give all due respect.

The Sioux have benefitted the most from the civil war and the Union Army’s distraction elsewhere. Their leader Sitting Bull, or “hunkpapa wicasa” is wily and belligerent. After leading his people to a victory over General Custer at little big horn the Union has given Sitting Bull and the Sioux more respect. Since Ghost rock was discovered in the sacred Black Hills of the Sioux Nations, thousands of white prospectors violated the Indian’s borders in search of riches. This caused so much trouble that the Wicasas finally allowed the whites to mine the Black Hills but only if they would not stray from there, paid a fee to the nations and lived only in the treaty city of Deadwood. Those who stray outside of these boundaries are considered trespassers and subject to Sioux law for that charge, which is inevitably death.

The other Indian nation was formed down south by a coalition of Cherokee, Comanche, Creek, Seminole, Kiowa, Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians who saw the success of the Sioux and decided to form their own nation: The Coyote Confederation. The leader of the Confederation is known only as “Coyote” and he remains cowled in a red cloak even among his own people. This leader leaves each tribe to its own devices but controls the actions the tribes take as a group. While this leader seems wiser than the sometimes hot-headed leader of the Sioux, this policy of hands off leadership has its downside as there are still many braves amongst the tribes that carry on the age-old tradition of raiding white settlements. So because of this and the war, those lands of the Coyote Confederation (Dodge city is right in the center of that area) are still referred to as “disputed”. The Coyote Confederation rarely raids into the Confederacy or towns and cities in the disputed lands and so this has led some to speculate that they are sympathetic to the Southern cause.

The Republic of Deseret is centered in the City of Gloom or Salt Lake City but encompasses all of Utah. After managing to get Utah declared a territory the Mormon’s enjoyed isolation, anonymity and even their own laws until the Gold Rush of ’49. Though the Saints prospered financially as a waypoint for thousands of miners headed for California, the new “Gentiles” could not always live by their laws. The Saints muddled along until 1866. By that time, with no end in sight for the Civil War and several unfortunate conflicts with non-Mormons (including the Union Army), Brigham Young declared that the Mormons would rule themselves until such time as the government had the time and resources to properly address the Saints concerns and complaints. Since then the Mormon’s have established themselves and the most scientifically advanced city in the west, perhaps the world. Deseret was founded by the church but by taking advantage of the Ghost Rock excitement and the draw of a local Scientist of some renown: Dr. Darius Helstromme who has based himself in Salt Lake, the City of Gloom has electric lights, sanitation, horseless carriages, and many other fantastic devices abound as well as a constant fog (the Gloom) that hangs over the city. The Gloom is produced by all the combustion of Ghost rock in the factories and the many devices within the city.

After the Great Quake a small group of survivors led by a Reverend Ezekiah Grimme established a city out in the Maze they dubbed Lost Angels. Right after the quake resources were limited but since then Grimm and his flock have grown the city into a thriving metropolis. Taking advantage of being a waypoint between the isolated boomtowns of the maze and the rest of the world has helped the city grow. While the city is doing well and the Reverend and his flock of “Angels” can be welcoming, be wary dear Traveler, I have had reports of visitors to the city forced to attend religious services and there are whispers of worse things too. I don’t think it’s wise to say more as much of what I’ve heard has yet to be substantiated, but as they say where there’s smoke. ..anyway be cautious if you choose the City of Lost Angels as your destination.

So whether you head west out of curiosity, or to earn your fortune, be prepared, there’s much to see and much danger too. You’ll meet wild men, savages too, miners, soldiers, hombres an more besides, the question is, are you a tinhorn, and a tenderfoot who’ll run back east telling tall tales of your adventures or will you find a way of life? your fortune?, or just what is making that bump noise in the middle of the night? Now of course no single article can express all you might need to know but I have tried to hit the high points you really must know and so best of luck to you in the Weird West! I hope this has helped you plan your journey.

GM Notes:
Campaign will start in late Winter of 1875, all characters will be heading west towards Denver via Stage coach.

My initial plan is for two adventures that could easily develop into a campaign if folks are interested. I want players who are willing to allow themselves to be scared a little bit sometimes. I won’t be doing horror all the time but when I am trying to build the horror mood I don’t want it broken by random humor or other distractions. Insanity as in Call of Cthulhu can happen, but there are ways for phobias and the like to be healed, if you want them to be. ..
The game itself will be run at Kittenlair at a time yet to be determined, but if everyone decides that a weekend evening is the best time for them, then that means the game will only run twice a month with a standard alternating pattern like 1st and 3rd Saturdays. Other likely days would be Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings.


The above flavor text is largely a re edit of Tombstone Epitaph text found in the Deadlands players handbook. As I feel the PH gives way too much of the world away I decided to redraft it for my players, who I’m sure will enjoy making those discoveries in game more than reading them anyway.

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