A Deadlands: Hell on Earth Adventure by Genesis Whitmore
edited and illustrated by T. Jordan "Greywolf" Peacock
This adventure is written with the Hell on Earth setting in mind, but with an attempt at just a touch of the Weird West in terms of flavor.
This is not meant as an introductory adventure, but rather as one to lead into after the heroes have defeated an especially high-profile villain ... thus giving some NPCs some plausible reason to want to cash in on the heroes' notoriety. Ideally, it should give heroes in the group a chance to brag and bask in the glory of being heroes for a bit ... right before they get plunged into yet another wild adventure!
This adventure is best suited for a group with "people skills", not a group that is just out to shoot monsters (and anything else that moves). There are plenty of opportunities for the Posse to just turn their backs on the whole adventure and walk away. (In fact, that's exactly what happened partway through playtesting this scenario!) In the interests of speeding things along, and if you have a particularly loose group without any clear leadership, it may be to your advantage to assume that the events of the "Introduction" have already happened, and that you start the action with the Posse already at the Saloon, talking terms with the Colonel and coming up with ideas for their performances. The real action, after all, won't start until the first performance...
Our heroes return triumphant from their previous adventure, and arrive in the local settlement to claim their bounties, get their reward, and bask in the glory of victory. While there, they are approached by a flamboyant-looking gentleman -- He's looks distinctly well-to-do, which means that he's got clothes that don't have patches in them, he's got all his teeth, and he doesn't stink, for starters. He offers to buy them all dinner at what passes for a saloon or restaurant in town, and mentions a "proposition" he has for them. He introduces himself as "Colonel" Andrew T. Christopher, an entrepreneur who did well by realizing that people will pay greatly for a taste of the old life "before the bomb", and he does his best to deliver.
His goal in the saloon is to brag their ears off, get them happily drunk, and impress them by buying the most expensive meals in the house. If that doesn't impress the group, he's also got a few ladies from his "Opryhouse" who have tagged along to woo and win the adventurers, and he'll be a charmer to any ladies in the group. He's also thrown some modest amounts of money (read: bullets, and tradeable items) around in strategic places, earning himself some short-term "friends" so folks will be inclined to call him by name and make him seem that much more well-known and important in the presence of the heroes.
His offer is such: All they have to do is provide a few nights of entertainment by telling their story to his patrons and in return he'll give them free room and board, and complete access to his Opryhouse - that is, among other perks, a safe place to spend the night, three square meals a day, free drinks, and other comforts rarely found in the Wasted West. After a few nights of "storytellin'", he'll "pay handsomely". If pestered for specifics, he'll be evasive, only promising that he plans to give them "a lot", and he'll suggest a week of nightly performances. If that simply isn't good enough, he'll make some offers, carefully tailoring them as best he can to what he thinks will interest the group. Bullets are the common currency, of course, but he'll do his best to judge what special "hankerin's" any members of the group have that he can fulfil.
If the heroes are greedy, he'll try to be generous, but not so much so as to make them overly suspicious of his generosity. After all, they're just being asked to tell some stories for a few nights, not to sign lifetime contracts, and he recognizes that heroes of this variety are likely to be pretty paranoid about things that "look too good to be true". If the Posse seems reluctant to commit themselves for so long, then he'll be willing to bargain down to a shorter term, in the hopes that if they at least spend the night, he can make sure they're well-treated enough that they'll change their minds and want to stay longer.
The Colonel offers the heroes a ride in a ridiculously long stretch limousine that happens to be armored (AV 2), and has a small pool in the back, as well as numerous conveniences unseen in the Wasted West. Among those conveniences would be the company of beautiful ladies, and a bit of wining and dining and plenty of flattery on the ride to the Colonel's holdings at Hickory Bend.
Awards: 1 White Chip for every Posse member who agrees to go along.
The Colonel made a deal with a "demon", also known as the Phantom. (This so-called "demon" is actually an Abomination ... which might as well be a demon, for all the Colonel knows.) Once a week, the Phantom demands a sacrifice, which it claims by means of various "accidents" that happen in the Saloon and Opryhouse. In return, it provides the proprietor with moderately well-behaved Manitous to power various machines in his building. The limousine used to drive (or escort) the group to the Opryhouse will be powered by such a spirit. The same is the case with the appliances in the kitchen, the lights, the air conditioning, the player piano, and several other gadgets.
Anyone familiar with Junker "technology" might not be terribly shocked by such an arrangement, but the trick is that while Junkers trap Manitous, wring secrets of pseudo-science out of Manitous and force them to power devices ... these Manitous are willingly participating in this scheme. (Or, perhaps more accurately, they're being compelled by a power in alignment with the Reckoners, rather than the wishes of a Junker.)
During performances in the evening, there is a window box in the main auditorium that none are allowed into or near. From this spot every night, the demon watches the performances quietly, and selects his next victim. The problem is that he's asked for the Opry's star performer next, and the proprietor isn't willing to lose the business that her death will cost ... so he's quietly sneaking in some "professionals" to deal with the situation. What's more, as he didn't specifically hire them to deal with the demon, he doesn't expect to have to pay them for its extermination. In fact, if they cause any damage from their combat against it, he can have an excuse not to pay them for their other performances.
The wisdom of the Colonel's scheme and deception is, admittedly, questionable to say the least. The trouble is, he's grown so accustomed to stretching truths as a matter of habit that he has a hard time being honest even when he has no reason whatsoever to lie. He could end up with a net loss on an elaborate scheme to jilt someone, when he could have done better by honest means ... and he'll still think himself quite clever and shrewd when all is said and done. (He'll just focus on how much money he got out of the "mark", and conveniently overlook his expenses.) On his own, he was never terribly successful, but the "demon" recognized his twisted nature and was thus pleased to enter into an arrangement, largely for his own amusement, being of a rather bent nature himself.
You'd expect a stretch limousine to be a gas guzzler, but this one moves right along, having enough fuel for a nice long drive without having to stop to bargain for fuel anywhere along the way. Again, someone might rationalize this away as an example of Junker ingenuity, but if so, it's a sign of some awfully remarkable Junker. If any member of the Posse has cause to be curious about what powers the vehicle, there are no discernable emissions that would indicate the use of spook juice, gasoline or alcohol. The operation suggests an electrical device, though the sounds under the hood suggest a combustion engine. Unless there are any particularly nosy members of the group (such as a curious Junker), there's not likely to be any reason to call this to the attention of the Posse.
The engine seems perfectly smooth, but it sounds like it's growling anytime certain characters come near to it, who may be particularly aligned with fighting the Reckoners. (For example, Blessed, Templars, Shamans, clergy, vampire hunters ... but certainly not Mad Scientists, Junkers, Witches, or Hucksters.) The limousine is yet another bit of infernal technology granted to the Colonel by his "friend".
Also, the interior smells like brimstone for some reason (something likely to be noticed by the PC in the group with the Keen edge, or an enhanced sense of smell, or the one who makes the highest Cognition roll). If the Colonel is asked about it, he'll claim it's just the brand of cigar he smokes, and be as polite and accommodating as possible if someone wants some fresh air. He does not, however, actually smoke any cigars while in the presence of the Posse. (If heroes want to stop under whatever pretext, he'll gladly oblige, not wanting to risk anything that might make the heroes think they're being kidnapped or anything like that. He hasn't the means to hold them against their will.)
The interior of the car is air conditioned, and it has various frills and features. The Colonel is also accompanied by some of the prettier girls he hand-picked from the Opryhouse, who intend to make the heroes feel welcome. Drinks are served, and other little niceties to make the Posse feel like they're getting the red carpet treatment.
If you've got a few of those in your group, you might toss in an extra White Chip for those who actually role-play their characters, and recognize that little things like air conditioning, clean water, and so forth would be a luxury that few could afford and many would appreciate -- even if the same characters might suspect, rightly so -- that this isn't all for free. This isn't to say that role-playing an ascetic is a bad thing. It's just the sort of thing that should be rewarded only if it adds depth to the character, not just an excuse to be an artificial killing machine with all the personality of cabbage.
Awards: 1 White Chip to every Posse member who actually bothers to talk to the Colonel or other NPCs present in the limousine.
The heroes are at last taken to the "town" of Hickory Bend, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, save that it's along a moderately traveled route. Keen-eyed heroes may note that there's not much in the way of security measures to be seen, which is unusual. Settlements with anything worth looting build up walled fortifications to keep muties and raiders out. If questioned about it, the Colonel will just laugh it off and insist that this is a nice area, and "we just don't have problems with troublesome folk like that in these parts". This area has a Fear Level of 4, which isn't that odd in the Wasted West, but wouldn't be the sort of place you'd find people living in comfort without worries.
What's to be seen of the town is a mock-up of a western one-street town, complete with storefront facades, and a saloon (clearly marked "The Old West Saloon"). A General Store offers some fairly basic wares, there's a Corral (parking lot), some Stables (with genuine horses and other riding beasts), and a Smithy (blacksmith shop). The Opryhouse itself is a separate building, not visible from the street, but accessible by a path that leads behind the Saloon and off into the trees.
There is some more wining and dining at the saloon, with the Colonel taking great interest in the group and their accomplishments (especially if they have any tales to tell that demonstrate their ability to defeat minions of darkness), and then the members of the Posse are taken to their rooms and allowed to wander the premises. All their meals and drinks are free, and it's hinted that the women are as well.
If the Posse seems especially paranoid, and reluctant to accept the Colonel's hospitality, he will politely try to persuade them to relax, but he won't push it. Any paranoid Posse member could easily come up with some sort of nightmare scenario that all of this hospitality is really a cover for something sinister and dark. And, surprise, it is! However, the Colonel hopes that if he's not being pushy, any paranoid members of the group will have less to worry about. The worst that could happen is that the Posse flips its collective lid and gets violent, but the Colonel is confident that he won't run into that problem. (Besides, if the group is well known for being psychotic, the Marshal shouldn't be sticking them in this adventure anyway, as the Colonel wouldn't have bothered them.) The next worst thing would be that the Posse simply leaves ... and in that case, the Colonel will just have to go out and recruit another bunch of heroes.
The settlement of Hickory Bend has been entirely built since the time of the Last War, and made to look like a facade of a wild west town, with storefronts lined up on either side of a single curving main street.
At the General Store (C), members of the Posse can purchase fairly common gear items at more or less list prices -- basically just stuff in the main book's Gear List. There aren't any high-tech gadgets for sale, and no big weapons, though there might be the occasional piece of armor for sale, and the proprietor sells horses that he keeps in the nearby Stables. The proprietor, John Colt, won't tolerate ruffians, but he's not anxious to get his shop shot up, either. If threatened, he'll defend himself, but if the Posse looks like it's eager to use lethal force, he'll do whatever he can to appease them (up to and including just leaving the shop and letting them grab what they want), and he'll just go and complain to the Colonel about these so-called "heroes" he brought into town. If the Posse just acts strangely, he'll likely close up the shop under some pretense ("Time for lunch!") and try to politely shoo them out, then take a "vacation" until they leave.
Some prices at the Store are a bit different. Spook Juice costs half the usual price, and "fresh veggies" are available for only 5 bullets instead of the usual 55 per serving. Milrats, however, are double the usual price. This reflects the availability of the "creature comforts" provided by the Colonel's benefactor.
The Stables (I) house a number of beasts, most of them just plain ugly, owned by various travelers who pass this way. Horses or horse-like mounts can be stabled here and fed at a cost of 5 bullets a day.
The Blacksmith (H) has a mechanic/gunsmith/blacksmith by the name of Ol' Jake, who is willing to do repairs for negotiated prices. He pretty much comes across as "harmless and stupid old codger" to strangers, but if it looks like someone's trying to pull a fast one over him -- or to threaten him -- he'll forget the act pretty quickly.
The "O.K. Corral" (A) is just a parking lot. (That's why there are Stables and a Corral on the map.) There are no parking charges. The limousine is kept here, tended to by the Colonel's personal chauffeur, Chase Bentley.
The Barber Shop (F) actually offers a shave and a haircut, two bullets.
The Sheriff's Office (B) is where Sheriff Ravenwood can be found when he's not out riding his horse "patroling" the area (going out hunting), or doing a bit of "public relations" with one of the ladies at the Saloon. The jail has two cells, and was built more out of continuing the "theme" of the town than any practical consideration for locking up criminals. Unless there has been a brawl recently and a need to give some of the participants a place to cool their heels a bit, it's usually empty. Troublemakers around here tend to either get ignored or get dead. The big and primitive locks on the jail cell doors can be picked with lockpickin' against a TN of 3, with fairly primitive tools.
The Pharmacy (G) is also the office for the town doctor -- the venerable Doc Spencer, who provides general medicine and veterinary care. Doc Spencer just relies on the locks that came with the store, so if someone tries to break into his office or the back area while he's away, the locks can be picked with fairly simple tools, by meeting or beating a TN of 3 on a roll of lockpickin'. Nobody has really cared to try before, though.
There's a badly mutated street vendor by the name of "Wormy" who offers milrats at the low price of one bullet/dollar per milrat (unless he changes the price, which he does from time to time, since he often forgets what the price was), and he's got thirty of them, plus a large tank of water. However, anybody who bothers checking with a geiger counter will find that the milrats and water click as being highly radioactive, and harmful to anyone short of someone with the "Irradiated Food is Yummy" mutation. Anyone who eats one of these irradiated milrats will, a couple of hours later, have to pass a Vigor test at TN 9, or take a Wound to the Guts. Any Wind suffered attached to this Wound is treated as Wind lost due to radiation.
Other storefronts may be added or ignored at the Marshal's discretion, since they really aren't crucial to the plot.
The Opryhouse itself is an enclosed ampitheater built directly behind the saloon. (For something that large to be built after the bombs dropped is a remarkable accomplishment indeed, and would normally suggest someone of considerable wealth and resources, even more than the Colonel has demonstrated so far.) A short path leads through the trees to the ampitheater, which is closed at the time, and has a sign indicating that there are "shows nightly". At first, once the Posse gets there, the "attractions" sign just says, "New shows coming soon". Once the Colonel has things hammered out with the Posse, the sign will be updated to properly announce the heroes (and whatever lofty nicknames they want to be called by) and the feats they will perform -- in addition to telling of their marvelous adventures, of course.
Although this is unknown to the players, there are also caves and tunnels under the ampitheater and the Old West Saloon. Located in these caves is a still for making some really wild moonshine (with a bit of spook juice mixed in for an added "kick"), as well as the "generator" for the place, and the lair of the demon. The caves offer easy access to just about every section of the saloon and Opryhouse.
Despite this complex being out in the middle of nowhere, it has running water and electricity, and even radio and television. If the PCs even think to question such amenities, the Colonel can explain that there's a generator down in the basement, and the radio signals come from some stations over in some larger settlement by the name of Hope, where they've started broadcasting old pre-bomb movies and popular television shows. If someone gets too nosey about the generator, he can fall back on a story that he's got an arrangement with a Junker who keeps the place running ... and if the PCs insist on meeting this Junker or finding out more about him, the Colonel can confess to not knowing all that much, but promising to introduce him to the heroes once he comes by the area again, making up some story about how this Junker travels a circuit, providing services to businesses like this one on all of his stops. ("I think he's still over in Hope, working on their broadcast tower.")
Incidentally, there is no such settlement called "Hope", but the Colonel's estimate of its location is sufficiently far away to rule out a casual visit during the Posse's stay at the Opryhouse. If the heroes seem overly interested in it, he'll make up some information about it based on other settlements he's seen, and hint that after their stay at the Opryhouse, there might be some business for them over at that settlement afterward. He's primarily concerned with his present situation, and if the Posse deals with the monster and heads off and doesn't manage to find "Hope", well, that's a problem for another day.
The truth is that Manitous are indeed providing the "power" to this place, but not by means of ghost rock batteries or conventional electricity. There are wires running through the walls, but these serve as conduits for the Manitous to flow from place to place in the complex, kind of like a twisted version of electricity, making the lamps glow, making the phones ring, working the plumbing, and even generating music and shows for the televisions and radios. If anyone with a knowledge of Occult Science were to be able to view a schematic of the layout of the wiring in the building (and the Colonel keeps any such schematics securely locked away in his office), he would find all sorts of strange twists and turns that would seem to serve no real purpose by conventional means -- even "conventional" by a Junker's twisted standards.
Just in case someone actually wants to play at the casino, a huckster by the name of Ashley Hand can try to interest someone in a game of poker, or else there are slot machines and a roulette table.
If anyone wants to play at the roulette wheel or at the slot machines, there is a booth where bullets can be traded in for one "dollar" tokens, and the same tokens can be traded back in for bullets.
In case anyone actually wants to bet on the roulette wheel or try out the slot machines, here are some further rules for handling their chances of winning.
There is a network of caverns running underneath the Opryhouse, the Saloon, and much of the village of Hickory Bend. Unlike most caverns, the tunnels are not all pitch black darkness. There are pools and streams of glowing green water, quite contaminated, which will set any geiger counters clicking, and which have the same effects as a Toxic Pool. Toxic Zombies can be found lurking here and there, the remains of those poor fools who at some time in the past sought shelter in these caverns and fell prey to its hazards ... or of bodies that were dumped here in the caverns and were transformed by the toxic materials and this place's aura of evil.
All Toxic Zombies here are under the ultimate command of the Phantom, and either roam about, acting as his sentries, or lie lurking in the muck, ready to grab anyone who tries to get by.
Tunnels lead up to various locations around the town. One leads up to a hollowed-out area underneath the General Store (C), accessible by a trap door that leads in. Another tunnel leads to a trap door under a rug in the Colonel's office, with a still nearby (D). Another leads to a secret passage in the Opryhouse (E) that goes up to the inaccessible balcony box seat that the Phantom watches from. (The Phantom has many powers, but becoming insubstantial isn't one of them, and neither is teleportation.)
In a large chamber (X) are large cannisters marked as hazardous wastes, floating in pools of radioactive sludge. The glow is strong enough here that the area is brightly lit, and members of the Posse who linger down here without radiation suits (or resistance) will begin to lose Wind from radioactive exposure every half hour (Take a Vigor test against TN 9; failure means losing 1d6 Wind), not including any ill effects of contact with the radioactive pools themselves. It shouldn't take all that long for the Posse to find its way to the Phantom's lair, unless they're spending a lot of time dallying, but the Posse should still be given the impression that merely being here isn't a good thing, let alone dealing with all the nasties. The Phantom and his Toxic Zombies, of course, are impervious to any nasty side-effects of wading in the sludge.
What follows are some sample ideas for miscellaneous events to have transpire during the heroes' stay, provided they don't simply bolt at the first opportunity. For the duration of their stay, they get free room and board, and aren't having to scrounge around to survive, which frees them from the usual Wasted West concerns. Furthermore, at least at first, they're not always having to look over their shoulders to keep guard against unnatural horrors ... unless they go looking for them, of course.
There may be a few distractions to keep the heroes busy during their "off hours", but on the surface it should appear that the "purpose" of this adventure is for the heroes to get a chance to tell stories about their adventures, and for any showmen in the group to get a chance to show off their abilities (music, dancing, trick-shooting, and so forth). This is a pretty mixed bunch here, and mutants in the group aren't going to get snubbed (at least, not much), and even a Huckster could openly perform his stunts for the crowd without fear of getting strung up. Members of the Posse should get Fate Chips for their creative efforts at performing. (And, truth be told, they'll probably need them.)
The Posse should get a chance to meet some minor NPCs, maybe pick up some rumors on possible future plot hooks, and get a chance to show off and look cool. During a prolonged stay, however, there should be progressively more obvious hints that something is amiss. That's fine with the Colonel, really. His intent is for the heroes to do his dirty work. If the Posse is suspicious about something going on in the place, he'll gladly play along, but his intent will be to shuffle any blame off his own shoulders and toward mysterious unknowns if at all possible ... and he'll be more inclined to pretend that this is some suddenly new development, rather than admit that this is some horror he's known about (and aided) all along. The Colonel aims to present himself as the (mostly) innocent friend of the Posse, their ally against this horror that is assaulting his fine establishment. If it will help him win points with the Posse, he'll be as generous as possible, especially with the resources provided for him by his connection with his "benefactor", such as the drinks and food and creature comforts ... but the Colonel, if possible, will be very stingy with "cash", or what passes for it. Bullets and such aren't among the things directly provided for him by the "Phantom", and the Colonel would rather keep a nice little nest egg, in case things get really bad and the whole Opryhouse has to close down.
Barroom Brawl: Never ever ever have a Templar and an Anti-Templar in the same room together. It's not pretty.
Kitchen: Whose idea was it to try and cook a radrat?!?!?
Hotel Rooms: One of the guests has gone missing. The girls are happy to be rid of him, though, as he was something of a lech. (Don't ever diss a witch's cooking.)
Opry: Time for your first performance, guys! Who wants to go first?
Retiring for the Night: A room with a TV!
Saloon: Drinking contest!
Kitchen: Ew ... now we know where that missing feller went off to. Who would want to cook someone's body and lop his head off? (Wonder if anyone notices that "How to Serve Man" book tucked away in one of the shelves?)
Hotel Rooms: You know ... my room service phone sounds like it's growling at me!
The TV might have a few episodes that the viewer doesn't remember ever seeing. For instance, on a sitcom, a major character actually dies, complete with laugh track still going, and stupid jokes. And then an "accident" happens. The Phantom has figured out about the PC's darkness-hunting tendencies, and is trying to encourage him to leave - or maybe even send him off on a wild goose chase, thinking that there's some demon-possessed television station on the other side of the county, in that fictitious settlement of "Hope".
Opry: Another performance (and another chip to those who do well). Also, the star performer, Ariella, will be doing a show tonight and the lights and music in the Opry seem to be acting mighty strange when she does.
Main Room: The Colonel looks like he didn't get any sleep, and walks with a slight limp. The dancing ladies look spooked as well.
Opry: The demon will try to kidnap his prize this time, growing impatient with the proprietor.
If the Posse, however, saves Ariella from being snatched, then the Phantom will be looking for another chance to make his move. It would still behoove the adventurers to deal with this threat, one way or another.
1 White Chip to every member of the Posse that tries to help Ariella. (It doesn't really matter whether they succeed or not. Either case should still give you something to work with. If, however, some member of the Posse manages to save Ariella by a particularly self-sacrificial feat -- such as the blowing of a whole stack of Fate Chips, heroically shielding her from the Phantom with his own body, etc. -- then a Red or Blue Chip bonus may be in order to help replenish the Fate Chip stack.
The Rest of the Joint: The demon is starting to show his displeasure. Things are breaking down and acting weird, people are getting spooked, and some weird fellows have started wandering into the saloon and scaring out the normal people. Any couch potato PC watching the television is going to see even more strangeness ... perhaps a sitcom that seems to parallel the day's events, with a character that corresponds to the PC, and "predicts" his death, for instance.
Everywhere: The Phantom has figured out the proprietor's plan and intends to kill him and as many people as he can. Spooks run rampant through the buildings. If it's a spirit powered machine, it's going wild, while witches and servants of the demon run wild in the halls and try to wreak as much havoc as they can. The Colonel, if he's still alive, desperately rushes to his office and tries to get his cache out of his safe, and bail out of Hickory Bend.
In the time before the construction of the Opryhouse in its current incarnation, there was actually a small settlement here after the bombs dropped. In the caves beneath this place, a coven of witches met and consorted with a demon that made its lair beneath their town. The dark being was being summoned up, purportedly under their control, so that the women could dominate their families, and lash out at rivals. Slowly, the demon began to become more greedy and demanding. As the witches scrambled to provide for its demands, they risked their secrecy, and were at last discovered by the local authorities. The witches were hung, and the caves where they performed their rituals were sealed up. The Fear Level had actually increased at this discovery, however, and as the years went by, the settlement was burdened by various calamities and predation by monsters. At last, all of the people had moved on or died off, leaving a ghost town.
Years later, an enterprising survivor of the Last War, Andrew T. Christopher, staked a claim (so to speak) on the grounds above the caves to build "the best place for entertainment in the world", since it was off of a major interstate that was sometimes still used by the Convoy and other travelers, but just enough out of the way to hopefully not attract too much attention from raiders. He'd make a bar, hire dancing girls, and build a classy hotel and a show-house. Like all big dreams, the man overshot his resources and found himself destitute. It was then that the demon emerged and offered him aid to fulfil his dream ... at a price.
The workers started to vanish, but the saloon was built in record time. It was almost as though the place was building itself. Odd people flocked to have a chance at working at the Opryhouse, willing to work for almost nothing at all. Like all dark places, it attracted those of a dark disposition. Hucksters deal cards in the casino, witches work in the kitchen, and some wares of the bartender resemble beakers you'd expect to see in a mad scientist's office. And, of course, the high-tech accoutrements have "Junker" written all over them.
The hotel rooms have odd furnishings. Wires glitter across the walls like coiled snakes to power the various devices in the rooms. And each room is stocked with an ample supply of books, all of them related to the occult somehow. (And, no, you won't find any Gideon Bibles in the bed-stand drawer.)
There are stories about people vanishing, but oddly nobody seems to think much of it, or they avoid the questions.
The dancing girls are for the most part innocents in the whole affair. There's a witch or two among them, but most of them are just teenage runaways, or hardened old birds that can out-drink the toughest gumshoe.
The problem is that both the proprietor and the Abomination living underneath the building are getting greedy. The Phantom wants more people and "sweeter meat", while the proprietor wants more power and money to keep his establishment new and "exciting". He could care less about losing a drunk in the bar, a dancing girl or two ... but if it means losing something that makes him money, he'll put up a fight. (Or, that is, get someone else to put up a fight for him.)
This adventure could take a number of different paths. Many adventures are written up under the presumption that the Posse will take a set course, and a number of events will happen to them, one by one. This assumes that the Posse is able to fight off the monsters they're supposed to beat, gets captured by the foes who are supposed to capture them, catches the criminal who's supposed to lose, vainly chases after the criminal who was supposed to get away, and so forth. This kind of plot structure -- where the outcome of every encounter is more or less predetermined -- is sometimes referred to as "railroading".
This was written with different expectations in mind -- namely, a Posse that has been spoiled on a great deal of freedom of action, and tailor-made sessions, rather than pre-fabricated modules. Originally, this was just a collection of notes of characters names and a rough idea of motivations, with the expectation that the Marshal would fill in the blanks during gameplay. This adventure depends more on character interactions than big combat scenes (with the notable exception of the expected showdown with Damien down in the caverns).
In actual play, much of this adventure was never actually used. You never know just what kind of weird stuff the Posse might do. The Colonel drove up to the Posse, offering them a ride and a job, and they took the ride simply because they were in a bad situation and their vehicle had just been wrecked. Once they got into town, some of the Posse members were interested and asked questions, while the others just got paranoid and wanted to get out of town at the soonest opportunity. One of them even wanted to rocket the Colonel's limousine to make sure he couldn't follow the Posse. If your group is just used to blasting Automatons, Walkin' Dead and mindless monsters, they may not be able to handle having to deal with "normal" NPCs.
That said, even though the Posse didn't stay through the first day, they managed to keep themselves busy enough that the adventure at least filled up a five-hour session.
If you have a particularly loose Posse, you may need to try a more "heavy handed" approach to starting off the adventure. For instance, instead of going through the business of the Colonel driving up and wining and dining the Posse, then driving them to the town, the Marshal could do a bit of hand-waving narrative, explaining that this is what has gone before. For example:
In other words, by this method, instead of "Here's an opportunity," it's "Here you are, here's the adventure." Of course, the PCs could still stubbornly seek to bolt out of town at the first opportunity, but if you've got that sort of Posse, then just dump a bunch of Toxic Zombies on them outside of town, and maybe that'll satisfy them -- and then you can move on to a different "shoot-'em-up" adventure more fitting the playing style of your Posse.
Another idea would be to give individual Posse members added incentive to hang around a while. (Even if they don't perform in the Opryhouse, there can still be an adventure if they hang around town long enough for things to get exciting.)
For instance, you could hint to a Blessed or Doomsayer in the group that this is a golden opportunity to preach to the masses. If you have a Huckster, Mad Scientist/Junker or Witch in the party, give that PC a taste of Damien's little "Manitou Persuasion" boost. The PC won't know why her spells are working more effectively here, but it might be worth investigating further. If you have a Law Dog or Templar in the group, if there's a hint of shady goings-on here, then any lawful person should feel obliged to see what's up and what can be done about it. (The showgirls aren't beating up muties, after all, so this town shouldn't earn the scorn of the Templars.)
There are several possible ways to resolve this adventure, depending upon the playing style of your group, and the resources they have.
A low-powered (or fairly Yeller) group might opt to just beat a dust trail out of town and escape any potential dangers. That's the easy way out. The Posse doesn't get Grit or Fate Chips for surviving by running away. That makes for dull games. However, it's still a legitimate method for dealing with the problems here. If the Posse just moves on, then events will continue on their present course, except that the Phantom won't throw a tantrum -- Ariella will just mysteriously disappear, never to be heard from again.
If you feel like giving the group a second chance, they might hear a rumor of this in the next town they end up in, and if they promptly decide to head back, they could conceivably learn of the caverns, go underground, and find the lair where Damien has his "love" chained up (and in pretty bad condition, thanks to the environment), intending to make her suffer a slow and agonizing death in the hopes that the trauma of the incident will bring her back as a fellow undead creature to join him for "all eternity". (Yay. Ain't love grand?) If you don't feel that generous, then Ariella is dead, the Colonel finds another singer, and the whole cycle repeats itself while the Posse continues on its merry way.
These are a few non-player characters described in greater detail (with statistics), some crucial to the plot, others just available as additional "color" for the setting.