Ghost Lands and Sixguns

This teaser is the first posting for my “Ghost Lands and Sixguns” setting for Savage Worlds. This is one of the four settings covered in my “Savage Characters” project which is available starting in Nov 2014 at DriveThruRpg. The setting itself is in development and playtest with some new rules to govern awakened animals, new edges, and hindrances. Sign up for the Dragonlaird Gaming website or like our Facebook group to keep updated on happenings at Dragonlaird Gaming.

Ghost Lands and Sixguns

Elias Wesley Hayes, Natchez Adams Ferryman and Wilderness Guide, 1850.

Since the earliest days of Europeans exploration of America, the spectres of the Far West’s magic have been undeniable. From the mysterious haunting of abandoned settlements to Natives who could fling fire and make dead bones walk, the evidence was clear. White men feared to make this discovery public back in the East. You never know what could spark another Panic and bring down the nation.

You don’t believe me? Well you have never heard about Lewis and Clark’s long stay in the Golden City of El Dorado, have you? It never made it into their published journals thanks to a direct Presidential order. All of those wild tales that you think are exaggerations are more truthful than anyone would guess.

The Natives knew well enough not to anger the spirits with profane acts. In the beginning they tried to teach white men their ‘Nature’s Law’, but very few listened. Slowly, trails were cut west from the Mississippi and settlements founded. Sometimes this meant driving out the Natives from the best pieces of land. Soon the Native’s hand of friendship held a tomahawk in it.

Barnabas Clegg, an ordained minister, was one of the few who listened to the Natives. He ventured West to bring the Lord to the heathens. Witnessing the natural wonders and Savage Magic, he became convinced that the West was the Holy Land, a land of God’s miracles, and that the Natives were His blessed children. Clegg began to attract followers of both white and red skins after he discovered an evil spirit infesting a small town and he destroyed it with magic he had learned from the Natives. He was convinced it was the power of God working through him. Soon he became known as the only white man west of the Mississippi who could fight back against the bizarre and malign infestations of the lands. He may have been the first, but he wasn’t the last.

After Clegg’s sudden death at the hands of a powerful Native spirit called the Trickster, his followers created the Order of Barnabas. Charging themselves with the protection of the New Holy Land from the Devil in all his forms, the Order learned all they could from the Native caretakers. They harnessed the Savage Magic and today they move along wagon trails and through mining towns as secret defenders of this Haunted West. If you find one of the Order by your side, count yourself blessed, son.

You’re much more likely to run into the men of the United States Cavalry, sworn to pacify the hostile Natives and rid the West of its superstitions. They remain unswayed from this duty even though every major expeditionary force that crossed Ole Miss has eventually suffered terrible hardships and defeats. Some have never returned. Determined, the President has harnessed the ingenuity of the country’s natural philosophers and the steam factories in the East to create new weapons for the Cavalry: wheeled dragons of steam, fire, and smoke; guns that unleash lightning; and even mechanical wings that let a man fly. It’s a war of Scientifica Opera against Hilvhiyui Kanohelvhi – the Scientific Mechanicals against Savage Magic.

Although white men have drawn territorial maps of the West, anyone who travels there knows the true boundaries: those of the elusive-but-powerful Native nations and those between the Lands of the Living and the Land of the Dead. Crossing the Native Boundaries without invitation will earn you a war party in the hills around you. Crossing between the living and the dead will invite soul-rending nightmares, both while sleeping and awake. The only safe lands are the consecrated grounds of the Missions and the odd strips of unclaimed territory where white men’s towns crop up.

All the settlements white men have out there just cling to the edges of the land, the unclaimed spaces. If you go west, you’ll find the Traders and Mountain Men. They know the ways to walk where others dare not. Least ways the survivors must have learned something, I reckon. They bring back gold jewelry, gemstones, furs of the strangest creatures, and many, many tales. Traders know the thousand tongues of the Natives. Mountain Men know the secrets of the land and the wild beasts. Both are dangerous to meet, but a better friend you’d never find.

Whites ain’t the only ones goin’ West. Most Mexicans won’t risk angering the Natives or the Spirits, but the Spaniards think different. These Conquistadores claim everything north of Mexico proper west of the Mississippi for the Catholic Church and the King of Spain. ‘Course our President’s opinion is a mite different. Spaniards got their missions in the strangest places: mountain top, middle of a river, middle of the woods. It’s almost like they don’t have a choice where to be. General Salas maintains forts on the coast, a land they call Cal-e-for-ni-ay and he sends his cavalry expeditions east just like we send ‘em west. I ain’t got no love lost for the Spanish and I expect no Christian hand from them in a moment of need. They’re best avoided if you can manage it.

After all these warnings, you’re still here with a fire in your britches to board that ferry across the Mighty Miss. You’ve heard of the Seven Cities of Cibola and their streets paved with gold? Or the men searching for the Spanish Pass through the Rockies? You’ve read the stories of Frontier Franklin and wonder if any of those tales of mechanical wonders could be true? Maybe you’re answering one of them advertisements from a Scientific Gentleman to come out West and help with his Great Works? You think you’ll find your own beautiful Native princess and be her hero like Jack Dawson?

Whether you come West for land, for riches, out of sheer curiosity, or a steaming desire to meet your Maker before your appointed time, let me give you fair warning. Be wary of lights in the distance at dusk, for they are most likely Temptations set to steal your soul. A kindly stranger who looks familiar and asks to ride along with you awhile might be a crafty Double Man, who’s ready to exchange your hospitality for all your blood. Wells in the wasteland might have water to slake your thirst but careful of the changes they might bring. And never cross a burial ground lest you wake the vengeful dead!”