After The End #1: “No Law”

by mshrm

“In the cursed earth where mutants dwell
There is no law, just a living hell…”

– Anthrax, “I Am The Law”

Who’s Who

  • Doc Rizzo Von Frankenstein Van Helsing, Hardy Doc.
  • Francisco, Fast Nomad.
    • Nabisco, his horse.
  • James Robert “Jimbob” Eternity, Blessed Trader.
  • Liberty Vargas, Pure Strain Human Tech.
  • Rufus the Dog, Mutated Dog Hulk.
  • Vine, Sentient Plant Scavenger.

What Happened

It was hanging day in Mt Hope. Three criminals had been convicted, and three criminals were due to swing.

A crowd had gathered in anticipation of the event, and then the crowd had drawn a crowd. A water seller and a dog vendor were hawking their wares. Here, we find our heroes, either idly curious or hard at work.

Liberty and Jimbob share joint ownership of an ox-drawn wagon. They travel up and down the valley, selling repairs and religion. Liberty repairs broken machinery, while Jimbob preaches and passes the hat. (And practices both the short and the long con, but we won’t dwell on that.) They are accompanied by their friends, Rufus the Dog and Vine. Rufus is a talking dog with an extra mouth, a flesh pocket, and a katana that he wields with his mouth. Vine is a first-generation sentient plant, the only one ever seen in the valley; most people assume they’re a pet.

While Jimbob sprayed fire and brimstone at the crowd, Doc Rizzo circulated, failing to sell bogus birth control pills. The doc was once a respected member of the community, but age and alcohol had put a tremor in his hands and put an end to his surgical practice. Meanwhile, a wanderer, Francisco, watched from horseback from the edge of the crowd, drawn by the commotion.

Rufus and Vine were relaxing while Jimbob performed, having finished their work setting up the improvised stage. They were approached by a young man who introduced himself as Shin. He shared the contents of his flask with Rufus while admiring their nomadic lifestyle and obvious resourcefulness. (Shin offered Vine – who has no sense of taste or smell, nor any experience with alcohol – a nip from the flask, but Rufus advised against it and took that nip for himself.) Since they were travelling around and clearly knew how to handle themselves, Shin said… maybe they would be interested in a job?

Being shy, Vine hung back and kept quiet, but Rufus admitted that they were always interested in doing good work. That said, though, as a dog, he had no head for business. He would defer to the boss, if Shin wanted to hang around until after the sermon. Shin agreed, and settled down to wait. Doc Rizzo, seeing a flask being passed, came over, introduced himself, and invited himself to a deep swig.

As planned, Jimbob’s sermon came to an end just before hanging time. Marshal Purvis, the law around the valley, a humanoid pig, led out the three prisoners and set about equipping them with stools to stand on and nooses to put around their necks.

The Mayor came out to observe the hangings, puffing on her pipe and keeping a sharp eye on the crowd. She had been the undisputed ruler of the valley for years and years. According to legend, she was descended from Rebecca, the hero who had led the original settlers of the valley to safety in the days of the apocalypse, when the Ancients destroyed their world.

Jimbob approached Purvis, and asked if, as a man of God, he might be allowed to tend to these poor souls. Marshal Purvis allowed it, if they were quick about it. Jimbob approached the condemned, asking if they had any messages to pass on to their families… perhaps the location of hidden wealth that could be returned?

The first shook his head, no. The second pointed out that he had been condemned for stealing seed corn, not something that happens to folks with hidden wealth. The third shook his head, then thought better of it. He asked Jimbob to carry a message to his brother. While scavenging in the ruins of the city of the Ancients in the south end of the valley, he had come across a cache of vehicle parts, well preserved, but too heavy to loot. Jimbob noted the directions to the cache, promising (insincerely) to deliver the news.

Impatient, Marshal Purvis shooed Jimbob away from the condemned and unceremoniously kicked the stools from beneath their feet, one after another. As the crowd cheered, Rufus introduced Jimbob to Shin.

Doc Rizzo and Jimbob both recognized Shin as “Shady Shin“, long-time resident of the valley. He’s known for his get-rich-quick schemes and all-around moral turpitude. About six months ago, he committed an offense against the Mayor, and had only recently been allowed to show his face in Mt Hope.

Our heroes weren’t going to hold someone’s criminal record against them, especially when that person might be offering profitable work. Jimbob sat down to parlay with Shin. After a certain amount of verbal sparring, Shin’s offer became clear.

There was a low-down dirty mutant, Shin explained, who was holed up in the outskirts of the Ancients’ city in the south of the valley, brewing up drugs. This mutant was clearly up to no good. Shin felt that it would be best if the drugs the mutant was brewing were in Shin’s pocket, rather than the mutant’s. To this end, he was willing to pay a couple of enterprising youths to rob this mutant and make off with his illicit drugs.

Jimbob sent Shin away for a moment so he could discuss matters with the crew. They agreed, this sounded like work they could do. However, they felt the need to add a few extra hands. They would need a doc, in case of injury. Well, here was Doc Rizzo! When approached, Rizzo was open to the idea of hitting the road for a spot of adventure; he hurried off to fetch his surgical instruments. So, then, what if they needed to deliver some injuries, rather than repair them? Well, here’s a noble nomad and his mighty steed; would Francisco be willing to join their cause? He would, joining the group on the spot.

So, our heroes set out travelling south from Mt Hope. While the highway of the Ancients in the south of the valley had long since been destroyed, the old right-of-way still existed, so it was relatively easy travel. While the bulk of the party travelled at the slow pace of an ox cart, Francisco and Rufus ranged ahead of the party to scout.

Halfway through the afternoon, Rufus and Francisco went scouting ahead of the party and discovered a would-be ambush. As they forged ahead, they came upon a place where the road crossed a creek. In the bushes near the ford, they saw a young man lurking with a weapon. Noticing the young man, Rufus asked Francisco how he wanted to proceed?

Francisco only knew one way to deal with an ambush. With a wild cry, he spurred his horse to a gallop and charged! Rufus was momentarily surprised, but game: he burst into a run, chasing to catch up to the nomad.

The ambusher had been prepared for a slow-moving cart, not a pair of fearsome attackers charging at speed. He abandoned his place of concealment and ran for it. Rufus hit him at the knees, taking him down mid-creek; then, as he struggled out of the water on the far bank, Francisco’s horse, Nabisco, planted a hoof in the middle of his back, pinning him face-down in the mud.

The two held the ambusher until the rest of the party approached. Doc Rizzo recognized the young man as a local farm boy. The party decided they would take his shoes and his pistol, and set him free. Upon examination, it turned out that his flintlock pistol wasn’t even loaded. He had intended to rob them with a bluff. With a laugh at his foolishness, and a snap at his backside from Rufus, they sent him scurrying on his way. “Tell your mother I said hello!” Doc Rizzo shouted after him, waving.

Our heroes made it to the outskirts of the ruins of Rebecca’s Town at sundown. While the rest of the party set up camp in the hilly forest about a mile outside of town, Rufus and Vine went to stealthily scout ahead, seeing if they could locate their target. They found block after block of ruined houses. Eventually, they found the block they were looking for. One house on the block was less ruined than the others. There, they observed candlelight and movement through the boarded-up windows. The two settled in to observe for a bit.

After some time, they saw the front door of the house open. Displaying considerable caution, a person came outside. He was an obvious mutant, carrying a shotgun in two hands and a knife in his third. As our heroes watched from their place of concealment at the end of the block, the mutant stepped outside. He called out, and two big, mean-looking dogs followed him outside. When the dogs sniffed the air and showed signs of uneasiness, Rufus and Vine withdrew as quietly as possible, and returned to the rest of the group to relay what they had seen.

The party stayed up late discussing different plans of action, finally going to bed with no clear course. During the night, they were awoke by sounds of a commotion in town. Jimbob, who was on watch at the time, heard disturbing groaning cries and shouts from the direction of town, followed by a gunshot, then another gunshot, then hooting cries of distress retreating in the distance. Several other party members awoke at the gunshot. Vine, sleeping under the wagon alongside Rufus, startled awake and thumped their head-bud on the wagon bottom. Jimbob took cover in the wagon.

What was going on? Francisco volunteered to go see. He slept on horseback, so a quick scouting foray was no problem. He trotted into town, heading in the direction of the commotion. Before long, he realized the commotion was likely coming from the mutant’s house. As he approached, he caught sight of several shadowy figures, fleeing away from that place. Neither wanting to pick a fight with unknown foes, nor wanting to tip off their target, Francisco returned to the camp to tell the others what he had seen.

While unsettled and somewhat mystified by these events, the others had nothing to suggest. The party returned to their beds for the rest of the night.

At dawn, the party arose. Over breakfast, they came up with a plan. Francisco set out to gather herbs from the forest, which Doc Rizzo would render into a sedative to dose a couple of rations with. They planned to plant the drugged food in the mutant’s front yard, to be found by the mutant’s dogs. Once the dogs were asleep, Jimbob and others would approach the house to propose a deal.

Francisco was able to locate some useful herbs, which Doc Rizzo was able to process into a couple of doses of a strong sedative. Rufus volunteered to keep watch around camp. This left the others with some time to kill. Liberty, Vine, and Jimbob went down into the ruins to do some light scavenging. They found a mostly-intact home and searched it. Vine slithered onto the roof and into the attic, while the others investigated the ground floor.

When the scavengers reconvened, they mostly had a haul of junk… but Jimbob had found a hidden lockbox. Unobserved by the others, he slipped it into his valise. Later, back at camp, he mentioned that he had been holding on to a lockbox for some time now, and asked Liberty if she could pick the lock. After a couple of tries, she managed it. Inside, they found a plastic card, and a key on a keychain. The keychain bore the image of a running dog and text reading “Greyhound, Athens”.

While the learned members of the group puzzled over this, to everyone’s surprise, Vine stepped up with an explanation. “Once I found a skeleton, and it had a key like this. I found the locker with the same markings as the key, and the key opened the door. The Ancients used to leave stuff in lockers and take away the key. Then they would come back later and use the key to retrieve their stuff.”

Interesting, but nothing they could follow up on right now. Doc Rizzo handed over the drugged rations, and the group traveled into the city towards the mutant’s base.

Once within sight of the mutant’s house, Vine flung the drugged rations onto the mutant’s front lawn, and our heroes settled down to watch. In time, the mutant opened the door to let out his dogs, but he noticed the drugged rations. He stepped out onto the lawn and suspiciously kicked the drugged food to the other side of the street. He then returned to the house. Judging from the sounds, he let the dogs out into the back yard.

Clearly, our heroes’ plan of drugging the mutants’ dogs wasn’t going to succeed without help. Rufus snuck up to retrieve the drugged rations and return them to the mutant’s yard. Unfortunately, the mutant turned out to be keeping watch. When Rufus entered his yard, the mutant threw open his door with a “Ha!”

Rufus charged, fast-drawing his katana and driving it into the mutant’s knee. Vine pried a loose brick from a chimney near their place of concealment across the street and flung it at the mutant, spoiling his aim. Then Francisco came around the corner, astride his galloping horse. He aimed his musket and let fly, crippling the mutant’s leg!

Rufus braced himself to meet the mutant’s pets, expecting the dogs to come charging out the door. Despite all the fierce barking and growling, the expected charge never came. Peering inside, past the prone and screaming mutant, Rufus saw that the dogs were chained up. A lucky break!

The crew rushed into the house. At Doc Rizzo’s direction, Rufus and Francisco picked up the crippled, cursing mutant, placing him on a table with good light so the doctor could work. “You’ve all made your last mistake!” the mutant ranted. “My boss won’t forgive this! She’ll string you up by your thumbs!”

While Doc Rizzo improvised bandages from duct tape, Rufus held his sword to the mutant’s neck. The others spread out to search and secure the house, keeping well clear of the chained and barking dogs. Someone fetched the drugged jerky from out front, and shortly the dogs were snoring.

The house was half full of debris. The front room was a campsite, with some blankets making a crude bed in one corner. The kitchen had been somewhat restored by the addition of a rusty wood-burning stove on one side, and a makeshift drug lab on the other. Clearly, this was the right place, but despite their best efforts at searching, they could not locate any actual drugs.

Meanwhile, Doc Rizzo was getting to know his patient as he worked. The mutant introduced himself as Walter, and expressed an admiration for Doc Rizzo, as a fellow man of medicine. Walter hinted that he might speak more freely if he could talk to the doctor alone. Doc Rizzo asked the others to give them the room, which they did, with some protest. Jimbob emphasized that they would all be nearby if they were needed for anything.

Walter negotiated with Doc Rizzo. He explained, again, that he understood that Doc wasn’t like those other guys, so he offered to get Doc out of trouble with his boss, but claimed his hands were tied when it came to those who had assaulted him. With his leg crippled, he didn’t feel equipped to defend himself where he was. “We have a bit of a morlock problem around here,” he commented. Doc Rizzo nodded, remembering the disturbance the night before. Therefore, Walter wanted Doc’s help to transport him north in secret, where he could rendezvous with his employer. He would need Doc’s promise to protect him from the others, and he would also need the others’ names, to turn over to his employer.

In exchange, he offered to turn over his stash of homemade painkillers. “All but one,” he amended.

Doc Rizzo called the others back in. Leaving Rufus to keep an eye on Walter, he went to discuss what he had learned. The crew explored various options for dealing with the situation. Jimbob mentioned the possibility of a double-cross; perhaps the simplest thing would be to accept Walter’s offer, then leave him dead in a ditch along the way?

To his own considerable surprise, Doc Rizzo found that he felt a certain sense of responsibility for his patient. While not condemning such tactics in general, he rejected them in this situation. On the other hand, nobody liked the idea of handing over the bulk of the party for torture and likely execution. (“And who is his boss, anyway?”) In the end, they agreed to accept Walter’s offer for the moment. Perhaps they could sway his opinion if they worked at it, convince him that the whole thing had been an unfortunate misunderstanding and there had been mistakes made all around and couldn’t we all just be friends… Failing that, maybe they could weasel out of punishment. (“Maybe if we give up Shin? I don’t trust him anyway.” “Maybe. But only after he’s paid us.”)

Doc Rizzo brought the news to Walter, who revealed his hiding place: a dark, cobwebbed, overhead alcove in the house’s cellar. There, they found a small bottle with a handful of pills. As promised, they gave one to Walter, who gratefully dry-swallowed it on the spot.

What next? Between the shadow of Walter’s employer and responsibility for the wounded man himself, there didn’t seem much sense in rushing to travel. Perhaps they should take a look around, see if there’s any likely-looking scrounging opportunities nearby to check out before sundown…

To be continued…

GM Notes

We had a couple of mistakes during character creation, but they all turned out lucky in the end. Rufus’ player was aiming for a talking dog – walks on four paws, no thumbs, the whole business. In GCA, I had a template for that, and a different template for a dog-person – walks on two legs, has human hands but also fur and big floppy ears. There was enough ambiguity in the templates’ names that Rufus ended up with the latter. When I reviewed the character, I didn’t realize that it had missed the mark. Oops! But it all worked out. Rufus presents as a dog – a weird talking dog with an extra mouth, but a dog – but doesn’t suffer many of the disadvantages of that form. Mainly, this means he’s agile enough to stand on two legs to reach high shelves, and he can use his mouths as effectively as a pair of hands… though the player has said that Rufus will voluntarily avoid tasks requiring great manual dexterity, just for the look of the thing.

The dice had a sense of humor this time, for sure. When the scavengers were examining the keychain, I called for an Anthropology roll. The supposedly-educated PCs failed their rolls and shrugged, clueless… then the dopey plant with the short attention span rolled a 4 and got a critical success.

Despite all his preparation and paranoia, Walter chose a poor moment to chain up his dogs. This lucky lapse in judgement was a product of Jimbob’s Serendipity.

Speaking of humorous dice, Walter felt an immediate kinship with Doc Rizzo, rolling a 17 on a reaction roll. The current plan, as I understand it, is to leverage that feeling to turn Walter to their side. Most, if not all, of the group has agreed to pitch in points to buy him as a group Ally.

Experience

Standard award was 3 points, for a successful mission and some outstandingly funny play. Cool Point was awarded to Francisco for taking the shot, and general all-around roleplaying awesomeness.

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