Thursday, May 23, 2013

Adventures II

I'm never really sure if Americans are seeing the same Google I am seeing ... the image today commemorates the 140th anniversary of the North-West Mounted Police, founded May 23, 1873.  In Canadian terms, that means only that an act of government was passed.  You may believe there wasn't a single officer of the cloth anywhere in the country on that day.

I bring this up because of another event that is also due to have it's 140th anniversary a week tomorrow, on June 1st, 1873 ... eight days after the act was passed.  I notice none of the links immediately connected to the Google page makes the event clear.

In the late winter of 1873 a number of events culminated in an area along Battle Creek in southern Saskatchewan.  There were two whiskey forts in the valley (there were many strung along the Canadian border, but there were two relevant to this area), operated by Abel Farwell and Moses Solomon.  In May, two groups descended on the area.  The first were some 300 Nakoda natives who appeared, starving, desperate for supplies and poorly set for valuables with which to pay.  The forts, given the time of year, were short-supplied themselves, but some stores were given, enough to keep the Nakoda alive.

At the same time, a group of American wolfers led by John Evans and Thomas Hardwicke were moving north in pursuit - so they believed - of those who had stolen their horses in Montana.  A wolfer is a wolf-hunter, generally considered to be of low character, largely in how they tended to operate.  They were wild, scruffy men, sometimes employed by ranchers to kill wolves and sometimes working independently for bounty.  A common trick was to kill one wolf, poison the carcass, then expose it for other wolves to come and eat.  Often up to 30 wolves could be taken this way without a shot, whereas the pelts were undamaged.  Skinning wolves was a dirty job, and obviously a bath was a rare thing, particularly in winter ... so one may imagine this group of wolfers as they entered the Battle Creek valley were pretty whiff.

At this point, the Wikipedia entry for the event picks up.  The wolfers would contend that another of their horses, belonging to one George Hammond, had gone missing, and that the Nakoda had stolen it.  Anger fueled by whiskey would lead to more than a dozen wolfers, supported by some of the residents of the whiskey forts (the metis freighters mentioned in the Wikipedia article), attacking the Nakoda camp and slaughtering a great number.  Wikipedia calls it 23 dead, but I've seen reports that give much higher numbers.

(About six years ago, mid-2007, I worked on a proposal to Telefilm Canada, with screenplay attached, as a contract I did for a would-be director.  It was turned down, but that may have been because the CBC already had a miniseries on the event in the works.  This is where my research is coming from).

Wikipedia also doesn't mention that the fact that many of those performing the massacre were Americans - and many of them ex-confederate soldiers - led directly to the March West of the newly formed NWMP.  At the time of the massacre, there was no real law west of Fort Garry.  By 1875, the whiskey forts were smashed, Americans interlopers were pushed back across the border and order was established on the prairie.  The NWMP did that in a remarkably short time.

We wouldn't want to waste all this, however ... so think of the possible D&D adventures:

1) The party encounters a group of 300 refugees, either tribesmen, pilgrims or dispossed peasants, who are desperately low on food ... they have perhaps enough to feed them all for only a few days.  The party obviously isn't carrying enough for them all; but apart from finding them food (if the party chooses to do so), there's also the matter of keeping any locals from considering the group dangerous, a nuisance or merely undesirable.  Naturally, if the party attempts to obtain food at a nearby village or town, with the refugees in tow, there is bound to be friction between the group and the local residents ...

2) The party encounters a group of bulletters, who are bound for an obscure valley to make again the vast sum of money they've made before (supposedly, they do this every year).  The trick is to kill one bullette, then poison it with a combination of toxin and a perfume that works on other bullettes like catnip.  Naturally, they tell the party that once you kill the first bullette, the rest is a breeze.  The only thing is, the bulletters are lying ... they've never done this before, they haven't got the combination right and so the bullettes who come to eat the carcass don't die.  However, there are a lot of them and they are really, really drunk ... so all hell breaks loose.

3) The party comes across an area of lawlessless, preferably quite a large one, which they might have to get across for some reason in order to achieve their goals (that's up to them).  Staying alive is one thing, but when they come across a group of slaughtered merchants killed by rabid devil dogs, there's four cartloads of free, undamaged barrels of liquor that fall into their possession.  Naturally, the party's good fortune isn't in a vacuum, and there are others who know the liquor is lost somewhere out there on the prairie.  The party is always free to leave it behind, but who can resist the potential for thousands of dollars of free profit?  And knowledge itself is a dangerous thing ... does the party lie about it's location?  Does the party destroy the liquor for the good of the locals who are plagued by the damage the liquor is doing?  Does the party fight off all comers to move and sell the liquor for the profit?  Only the party knows.

Just a few ideas off the top of my head.


Terence Kaplan said...

Guy Vanderhaeghe's book "The Englishman's Boy" provides a good historical fiction account of the events at Battle Creek. How historically accurate the book is, I can't say. But it definitely was a good read.
I used his description of the battle as a template for a battle in my campaign: ranged fighting over prairie, taking cover in the top of coulees.
I had mixed results. 4e Rangers in a sniping fight are a dangerous thing.

Butch said...

The Google Doodle I'm seeing today (May 23) is different. It's a little girl running up to her dad and hugging him.

It's a touching cartoon and the story behind it is pretty cool, but if Google put this up for Memorial Day, I have to bitch a little. People always forget that Memorial Day is to remember people who DIED in wars, not living veterans (that's Veterans Day) or people currently serving in the military (that's Armed Forces Day).

Alexis Smolensk said...


It's even less remembered that Memorial Day was originally established to commemorate the end of the Civil War, specifically, the worst conflict in your nation's history.

fisheezy said...

Alexis, I was curious since you're talking about adventures, why you haven't posted any sessions from your own adventures. I've just recently discovered your site as I was preparing to DM my first game, so I may have missed them--I'm only as far back as March of this year on your blog entries--but of all you seem to preach it would be fantastic to see it in practice.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I don't go into stories of my campaigns because I have always found listening to stories from others to be the most boring thing possible:

"... and then we went into the lair of the Lizard King, only the King wasn't there, but there was this trap, and I thought it was a pit trap but my friend Jeremy thought it wasn't, and we finally found out that it was really a portal, and that you had to say the magic word to go through the portal. Luckily for us, the villager we met two weeks before said that if we found a portal, we needed to sacrifice a chicken, and I just happened to have one, so ..."

It's like having someone relate their dreams to you. Worse than death.

An example of my running can be found on my online blog, in the Links on the sidebar ... "Tao's Campaign."

Taren said...

"I thought it was a pit trap but my friend Jeremy thought it wasn't..."

"It's like having someone relate their dreams to you. Worse than death."

Oh god, that is so funny. Thank you!

Great story ideas, by the way. If I use one, do I owe you royalties? ;)

This is just a quick post to say I love your blog.