Thumb On The Scales

Things were easier when I was a ranger. thought Nettie Jack Russel in the cattails and reeds that peppered a riverbed, dry and dead this far into the burning season. Her nose itched but she dared not scratch it. 

The sun was low in the sky, just a few rosy fingers caressing the horizon while the rest was so deeply blue it might’ve been purple. A few scattered clouds rolled lazily eastwards and the way the sun lit them up from underneath reminded Nettie of the brushfires she’d needed to circumvent this far into the Blastlands - only much much prettier. 

Her knees ached. She’d hidden in these reeds since the sun was so high in the sky it threatened to bake her scalp raw, shaved as it was. But what skin she did have was thick and leathery - where it wasn’t peeled back to expose muscle and bone. Nettie surreptitiously wiped her brow on a handkerchief and a few chunks came with it. 

You’d think, she monologued in the way the terribly bored tend to, that contracts would make it easier to determine who the bad guy is. It doesn’t. It makes it easier to figure who broke a deal; which is good enough for most folk these days. 

Someone laughed. Nettie froze. Her eyes, red and watery after nine hours of silent observation, flickered to the tallest man in the group whose mouth was wide and grinning. Hers pitched downward in a tight frown. 

Some forty feet from the Law Dog were a band of nerdowells she’d been tracking for the better part of a month. Bandits, these days. But when they’d worked for the Railroad Commission they’d been caught smuggling goods off of the Ox. Now the word to describe them was “breachers” and it was a Law Dog’s job to bring them in. 

This was the Viper Gang. They’d picked up the name recently after their leader survived a nasty snake bite by manifesting psionic powers and purging the stuff right out of his blood. Nettie thought it was a little stupid. No vipers in the Lonestar. 

The leader in question was one Jeremy Scales, a burly remnant fellow who looked like he might’ve been Saltwise if the dice rolled different. But life hits you hard and so the tough green plates across his face and shoulders looked more like ugly callouses gone septic. He was generally understood to be a charming psychopath - Nettie could see that in the way his crewmates followed his laughter with their own. He knew how to coach a room. 

The sun had all but disappeared behind the horizon and velvety darkness descended. The Viper Gang sat comfortably around a campfire and as the evening progressed they grew drunker. Wild and ugly tales poured out of their mouths as quickly as they filled them up again with booze. Nettie listened, diligently taking notes in the little brown journal that had lead her to this hiding place to begin with. 

Fetters make men of us, she wrote absently, without them we descend into base animalism. So cyclic is the wickedness of man that I knew these to be monsters before I preyed upon them for a night and a day. Contracts might be useless if we’re figuring some higher morality - but folks that break them generally turn out to be shitheels.

“Alright, girl.” A voice called cheerily from the camp. “Come on out now.”

At first Nettie did not register what Jeremy Scales had said. Or that he had said it to her. Until a rough hand clamped around the back of her throat and a powerful blow to the head dimmed her vision and turned her limbs to jelly. Ahh Hell. She dropped the book. 

That rough grip dragged her from her uncomfortable place among the reeds and into the firelight. She saw a few flecks of blood hit the dirt where it dripped from her scalp. She felt a sharp pain in her shoulder when the thug who hit her tossed her dangerously close to the coals. They disarmed her handily and broke her arms.

“Another cocker spaniel come to chew at my heels, eeh?” Scales mocked, kneeling in front of her. Nettie’s eyes wept from pain; bewildered. “Guess the RRC didn’t tell you, yeah? That you’re the fifth pup they’ve sent after me in half a year.” Nettie’s stomach dropped. They most certainly had not.

“Poor kid.” Scales commiserated and stood again. She noticed her book in his hand - when had it gotten there? Nettie blinked, in shock. “Good notes.” he said, flipping through it.  “But it’s too bad you called me a shitheel here at the end. I’ve got a real prideful streak in me. S’from my mother’s side.” 

Nettie gritted her teeth. She could already feel the infection reknitting the bones and muscle. If she could keep him talking long enough-

Jeremy Scales flipped his duster back, exposing a snub barreled silver shotgun. He unholstered it, took casual aim, and shot Nettie Jack Russel right in the teeth. Her body hit the ground with an unceremonious thud. 

The grim faced bandit  handed the book off to one of the thugs in his gang. This one was named ‘Handsome’. Jeremy understood this to be ironic. “Keep that.” He ordered, “And move the body. She smells like my sister.”

The last of the sun disappeared below the horizon. Scales looked up and away from the fire. His expression was mild. 

Another dead dog, he mused. How long ‘till they’re tired of this game and sic the ‘hounds? 

He’d need to finish his work before then.

A Law Dog Vignette by S. Lindley

Quota

Huckleberry leaned with arms crossed against the tree that tried and failed to provide shade to the cut that the work detail was mired in. The track they laid for the Ox was heavy; even the Irons strained under the weight of the rails and ties as they laid them down along the muddy ditch dug out by their peerage. The Law Dog’s eyes were locked on a particular digger, smaller than the rest, whose slower pace had held the work crew’s progress back from making quota for the last two weeks. Huckleberry had been told the shiftless drudge’s name, but he hadn’t cared enough to commit it to memory. Once he’d seen the dude, the burly Iron had known which way this would go. 

The waifish Remnant handled his shovel clumsily. He was too small to leverage it properly, and anyone with sense could see he didn’t belong on this detail. The Commission had been clear that the work would be demanding. The contracts had specified the length of track that would need to be laid daily. Even the conditions The Commision expected had been researched and included in the formal agreement that every one of these miserable fucks had signed or made a mark for. Some of them couldn’t read. Like as not the Breacher was among those. But Huckleberry didn’t care. His pity for them as weren’t capable of looking out for themselves was nonexistent. Their eyes had all been full of currency, and this part, the negligence for their own ability, was a consideration that hadn’t occurred to the idiots.

At some point, the Breacher felt the Blood Hound’s eyes on him. He began to look up from his work periodically , his already abysmal pace lagged even more. The piss-reek of fear wafted in the air and Huckleberry curled his lip into a snarl at the stink of it. When the Breacher saw this, he flinched, as though the expression had reached out to strike him physically. Those toiling around him didn’t seem to take notice, but neither were it they that Huckleberry had his eyes on. In fact, to all but the Breacher, Huckleberry may as well not have existed. The Law Dog let his hand slide down onto the pommel the rifle holstered on his hip and down the length of his leg, and he let the Breacher see him do it. 

A few things happened next. The Breacher’s shovel hit at the wrong angle, and the distribution of his weight caused him to slip and stumble into his neighbor; a Retrograde digging at a much more acceptable pace than the Breacher. They both tumbled to the ground, and the second man fell against a third, an Iron who had been struggling in the rear of a line of lifters carrying rail up the cut. He lost his balance and the rest of the dominoes fell, along with the rail. All because of this useless little moron. It was the moment Huckleberry had been waiting for. The one he’d known would come. The moment when the cost in time that the Breacher represented overcame the meager contribution to the project. 

Huckleberry’s rifle had cleared the holster before the rail hit the ground, and the deafening crack of the shot split the air. The Breacher’s brains splattered against the mud and the diggers and lifters in the vicinity scrambled to make distance from the fresh corpse. Their eyes turned to Huckleberry as he slid the gun back home, waiting for an explanation, or instruction. Huckleberry let that linger long enough that the cost in time for their gawking wouldn’t outweigh the value of the intended message before he spoke. 

“Y’all’s all signed your contracts. Y’all’s all had quota. And y’all’s all had termination agreed to for missin’ it. Get the fuck back to work.”

And so they did.

A Law Dog Vignette by J. Newman

Concerning the Hiway War and her Lasting Effects (Final)

It was in the third year following the Bomb over Bravo that the Lonestar entered its proper Industrial Age. Like the common cactus plant, which grows upwards and triumphant upon the dross and rot of its older self, the workcamps of New Bravado stretched outwards and upwards towards the sun. 

Progress is exponential, theory dictates, and given the time, space and safety in which to grow, a population may reobtain and surpass their previous technological eschalon by degrees. In the relative peace of the 03’ PHW (Post-Hiway War), the people of New Bravado were given this opportunity in spades. 

Ramshackle tents and shacks were replaced piecemeal by proper frames, walls and roofs. The land was tilled and tamed by the same kind of stubborn folk that have always made these rocky scrublands their home. Bit by bit the landscape took upon the shape of a settlement, and progressively a town. Isolated, on the edges of sand and fire, New Bravado became nonetheless a destination on the minds of the brave, entrepreneurial, and desperate. 

The Ox was completed in the first four months of that year, thanks to the efforts of two Doctor O. Sam-Manual Sung and Doctor B. Squire but its maiden trek between the town of Essex and New Bravado was not until some two months later. A pilgrimage, the train was attacked by a band of Tainted, Natural Ones and Lascarians and nearly derailed. The Ox Killers, a new identity ostensibly under the power of Holy Mother Queen Jasper, claimed the effort - nearly provoking a war between the Railroad Commission and the Tribes Disparate in the weeks following. 

Felicity Redfield, CEO to the Railroad Commission, genius inventor and investor, saw opportunity where others saw conflict and negotiated a contract with the Tribes Disparate that served them both. Holy Mother Queen Jasper would keep the Ox Killers at bay, using her own soldiers as railjacks to defend the Ox as it makes its way across the Blastlands - and in return her nation state reserves the right to ship wares up and down the line between New Bravado and Essex without surcharge and to gather yearly in the boomtown for the purposes of political summit. Shale, brother and right hand to the High Mother, negotiated the bulk of this contract and it is his ambassadors that reside in New Bravado to this day. 

As a stone rolls, the town and its reputation gained inertia; the ruins below lent New Bravado the sheen of opportunity as again and again delvers dragged up artifacts and rarities that made them not humble spelunkers panning for gold, but wealthy gentlemen and women whose reputation was only outstripped by their wealth. 

It was the stories of these first delvers that drew the attention of the wastes. Three hard years stole the hope in the tired eyes of Braves and those affected by the Hiway War. Three hard years made meanness comfortable in the hearts of itinerants and refugees. But three hard years were the fallow fields in which hope would again take root because as cyclic as human wickedness is, so too is the goodness of man and the belief that better times are yet before him. 

And so the Lonestar arrived; in wagons, or flatbed trucks, on foot, or in the greasy cabins of the Ox, and by sea. The second Indulgence came and went, taking with it lives and contracts but affirming its place as a Bravado Tradition. The Punkerport grew, as did the Junkerpunk’s general resentment towards the Railroad Commission - a kind of offhand rebellion that did more to legitimize the RRC as the ultimate power and the Junkerpunks as their anti-establishment counterpoint. 

The town grew at pace in the later months of that third year, developed a haphazard culture, a half dozen work crews, infrastructure to support the delving population and the kind of halfway houses that their occupants never really leave. Private contractors sold their finds out of The Maw or liquidated them for brass to be sold up the line in Essex

The town developed a kind of comfortable cadence of capitalism that lasted all of two months. In the summer of that third year disaster struck in the form of western raiders that descended upon the muddy, radioactive caldera That-Was-Bravo in the first year post-bomb; Firebrands.

Festooned with bullet-casings, blast-glass and all the same bravado the town touted, the Firebrands blew up a section of track halfway between the burgeoning boomtown and Essex, rendering the rails unusable and the Ox’s goods forfeit for scavenging. Their motivations are largely unknown, though their penchant for explosions is common knowledge. 

Now, some two months following, the track’s re-completion looms. The alleys and streets of New Bravado are temporarily dark. With no way to ship down the line, the town has become isolated. Little information enters or leaves as the only mechanism by which a layperson may easily migrate is currently decommissioned at the empty rail station just south of Essex. There are whispers of strangeness, of the Mortis and her servants, and of returned persons who have no business among the living. As a scientist I am hesitant to record these claims lest I give them credence. But as a scientist I must also acknowledge that there is no more uncommon dirt than that tread by the Braves.

An old adage rings in my mind as I pen these final sentences that bring us to the contemporary state of the Town Bravado and Her Outlying Territories. This is a place that bends but does not break. That endures and endures and endures again. A roughshod and rowdy testament to the hubris of man that waxes and wanes as surely as the moon. For never in the history of the Lonestar have I known a place to render its people so stubborn or staunch. Nor have I known a scrap of land so dearly loved and returned to. 

So go west, you young and yawning; you beleaguered and bastards. Go make the world your children will live in. Go find your fortune in the sharp angled hills and dusty wells of the Worlds Before and Below.

This author lost their home when the Hiway war began in earnest. The world we live in now is not my own nor do I have the energy left in my tired bones to reclaim it. Instead I will pen your triumphs for those who follow after. Go forth and succeed knowing your victory is immortal. 

Stay Brave. 

Dr. Pernathius Goodfellow 

August 03’ PHW

Keepin' it Local!

Some of you may remember a time in years past when great caravans of DR players would pile into an over-sized van or two and drive ridiculous hours and miles just to be present for “THE big event” at other chapters. When chapters would have, in addition to big plot events, one event a year that was a bit more ‘special’ and exciting because it meant everyone made sure that was the event you Did Not Miss.

We are pleased to announce we are bringing back that tradition, with the re-introduction of premiere local events! In a network with approximately 20 branches, there’s never been a better time to put the spotlight on local chapters and local stories. Those of us who remember those days remember how fun and exciting they were, while also giving us more of a reason to go say howdy to the neighbors or trek cross-country between our own local events. For this reason all branches unanimously voted to bring back this tradition.

In 2019, and again in 2020, each branch will run a Premiere Event. They are spaced out through the remainder of this year, to give every chapter the chance to shine the spotlight on their new 3.0 stories. For Texas, our Premiere Event will be October 25th - 27th. Players attending this event will have the opportunity to buy up to an additional 5 build, as we did in the past, for +$50. The opportunity also exists for us to run 4 day events in the future, should we decide to do so.

The DR chapters are divided into regions. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida now comprise Region 2 so you’ll see the Premiere events rotate between those chapters in our region, spaced out as best possible. If you don’t know the date of your 2019 local regional event, check with your local chapter! You will also see greater cross-plot and regional event opportunities coming in the future, and the incorporation of wasteland-wide story lines into the local level. Our goal is to bring the network together in new, bigger ways, on a smaller scale.

Region One   Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont,  Massachusetts , Rhode Island, Connecticut,  New York ,  New Jersey , Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland   Region Two    Oklahoma ,  Arkansas , Tennessee, North Carolina,  Texas , Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama,  Georgia , South Carolina,  Florida    Region Three   Minnesota,  Wisconsin ,  Michigan , Iowa, Illinois,  Indiana , Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas,  Ohio , West Virginia, Virginia,  Kentucky    Region Four    Washington , Idaho, Montana, North Dakota,  Oregon , Wyoming, South Dakota   Region Five    Northern California ,  Southern California , Nevada, Utah, Arizona,  Colorado ,  New Mexico

Region One

Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland

Region Two

Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida

Region Three

Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky

Region Four

Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota

Region Five

Northern California, Southern California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico

And now for some sad news, Deathcon/Downfall 2019 is cancelled. While we are excited to accommodate the shift to premiere events as a replacement, if you have already purchased your attendance to Deathcon, you will have several options, including a full refund, applying your ticket price towards your local chapter event attendance, continuing to experience the non-attending Downfall plot, and more. Please follow this link for more information about Deathcon cancellations. Where possible, we want to make this shift in scheduling easier, and that page will provide information about what to do next if this change effects you.

Additionally, with the shift to local events and focus, we will be able to sell things like advanced memberships and merchandise locally, starting in mid-September. That helps keep it all in-house, and gives you, the player, easier access to the faces and people who are handling your experiences and purchases directly.

Thanks friends for reading, we’re excited to continue to share stories with you!

Your Texas Team: Shan, Aesa, & Ryan

Sales Pitch


It was already over. They just didn’t know it yet.

The couple was seated in the ramshackle office outside the rail station, and the bustle of the camp outside was simply dim background noise.  The repeated clanging of the workers laying track outside was a spiking rhythm that cut through the walls, but the repetitive nature made it easy to tune out.

“Like I was saying, you both know that the Firebrands have been pushing further east.  There have been three reported attacks in the last week, and it’s all the Tribes can do to keep the railways clear.  I can only imagine the worry that has caused both of you.”

He leaned in a bit, and rolled up his sleeves, half-listening to their stories of raiders and zed.  A comforting smile, and he was back.

“The Railroad Commission wants to help ensure your safety.  With the upcoming construction of the greenline, it will be possible to get from Essex to Waking in just under a day.  The wastes have never been closer, or more connected. But I really feel like I need to ask you a question.”

One of the prospects took the bait.  “Sure, I guess?”

“Are you a man of vision?”

“Uh.  I think so?”

Sure he was. He moved in for the kill.

“No, I don’t just think so. I know so.  You knew the dangers out there, but you realized the importance of having a place to rest your head safely on the trip south.  It’s been profitable for your farm, and you’ve been able to reap the rewards of that foresight. You’ve set aside a nice nest egg for the future, and only a man of vision knows what it takes to protect their family and provide for their future.”

Here it comes.

“I think you are an honest man.  A reasonable man. You know the truth as well as I. The raiders and zed don’t stop. It’s only a matter of time before a horde is a little bit too big, or that steel door takes one too many hits to stay on the frame.  But you have options now, and that has to be such a good feeling to have.”

“Uh.. What do you mean by options?”

Gotcha.

“Opportunity, my friend.  Your farm is something that we at the RRC have a need for.  The engineers tell me we can shave off a month off the construction if we route past your farm. You’ve named your price, and I’m happy to say that the Commission decided it was worth the investment in our shared future.” 

The couple shared a glance to each other.  Of course they were impressed.

“We also have a shining new opportunity in the Bravado Camp.  You’ve heard about what we found there, haven’t you?”

Of course he had. Everyone had.

“The RRC is paving a path forward to the future.  Imagine a world where you don’t have to worry about those raiders breaking down the door, because you are safe in your bed, letting us keep watch at night.  This world is more connected that you can imagine, and there are opportunities that I know a man with your intelligence has already considered.” 

A little effortless flattery never hurt.

“Imagine a world where you can delve into the ruins to find fortune and glory, and then be back in Essex by nightfall to join your family for dinner.”

A gasp. Right on cue.  

An interested murmur between the two meant that he had sparked the man’s imagination.  A grin crossed his face, as he wrapped this one up.

“That’s not a fantasy.  It’s a reality.” The prospect leaned closer.

“I want to help you with this favor. Why stay in this farm, hoping you can survive another Burning Season, when you can help the Lonestar become something better?  Our contract will ensure that your investment in this farm is tripled. You will have the funds to provide a better life for you family, enough to fund your expeditions into the ruins, as well as a little left over.”

He pushed the contract forward, so the prospect could appreciate the sum that they were talking about.  A pittance really compared to what the RRC would gain from being able to build without a fuss from the locals.

“When this railroad is connected, thanks to your vision to know that selling your land now, while the moment is right, you will be part of something more.  Who could argue if you pocket a few extra Brass for yourself in the process?”

The prospect eagerly agreed. Who could blame him?  It was easy to be forward thinking when you were the one profiting.

“I’m so proud to have been part of this monumental contribution to our future. Thank you sir.  With your help, this great railway will connect the entirety of the Lone Star.”

He was particularly proud of how his eyes seem to water, seemingly overtaken by emotion at the idea of the prospect’s contribution.  Hook, line, and sinker.

“Just sign on the dotted line.  I’ll have Agnes go over the terms and conditions with you outside.”

A smile, a handshake, and it was over.  He grinned, and called for the next prospect.  Man, he loved this gig.

The future was bright indeed.


A Railroad Commission Vignette by J. Loyd