The Dust Devils session started a little late, since two of the players who'd signed up never showed, and the GM recruited his wife to fill in. The scenario was a Romeo and Juliet riff set in the Wild West, with feuding Montgomery and Capeheart families, and an unlikely romance between Rebecca Capeheart and Jed Montgomery. I played Ty Bolton, a hired gun for the Capehearts. Johnny Mercury, Jed's best friend, delighted in needling me; Arthur Prince, the local marshall, tried to keep the peace; and Queenie Mae Belle, the town madam, was Rebecca's de facto foster mother.
The story, what there was of it, was mostly driven by the NPC's Jed and Rebecca, which was fine because the rest of us were having a grand time chewing the scenery. Ty was a walking powderkeg, looking for an excuse to start a fight, but knowing that Judge Capeheart wouldn't tolerate him stirring up trouble without an excuse.
The session started at a hoe-down, no guns allowed. When Bob Taggart, another of Judge Capeheart's boys, tried to sneak a hidden gun into the hoe-down, I walked over to make sure the marshall treated my boy with "respect". Prince made it clear that nobody was getting inside with a gun, Johnny needled both of us to keep tension high, Queenie tried to defuse the situation by offering Bob a good time with one of her girls, and Bob was frozen in panic, just wishing he was out of this situation. Somehow we never quite came to blows, and when Judge Capeheart came over to see what the hubbub was about I called upon Marshall Prince to witness that I hadn't caused any trouble, I just came over to see that Bob Taggart was treated respectfully. It may have been the most fun I've ever had in an RPG backing down from a fight.
A showdown wasn't long in coming, though, as at the end of the next dance Rebecca and Jed found themselves alone in the middle of the dance floor, just staring at each other while everyone in town stared at them. I walked up and asked Rebecca if this man was bothering her, and when Johnny flung his arm over my shoulder with a not-so-friendly friendly remark I spun around and tried to punch him in the face.
In Dust Devils, when there's a showdown, everyone says what their goal is for the showdown. I said I wanted to lay out Johnny on the ground, Johnny said he wanted to lay me out, Prince wanted to break up the fight before it got out of hand, and Queenie wanted to hustle Rebecca away before she got hurt. We were each dealt maybe 6-12 cards, based on the traits on our character sheets and the details of the situation, and had to make the best poker hand we could. Queenie and Johnny each ended up with two pair, I had a full house of aces and eights, and Prince had a straight flush. Since I beat Johnny, I got what I wanted; since Prince beat all of us, he got what he wanted; and since I had the highest single card, I got to narrate the result. So I announced that I'd spun around, hit Johnny squarely in the nose, and he flew backwards six feet and was out like a light. Then when I turned back around, the marshall's fist came out of nowhere and I flew back six feet and was out like a light. Queenie hustled Rebecca away, and Jed just stood there, bewildered and forlorn.
That night, Rebecca and Jed eloped. They went to Queenie, who blew her top and refused to hide them, or give them horses to ride across the border to Canada, but eventually calmed down and agreed to hide them in the cellar and find them some horses (not hers) the next day to get out of town.
Johnny woke up to a tremendous headache and the news that Jed and Rebecca had eloped, and Montgomery Sr. was pressing him to finally choose a side in the Capeheart/Montgomery feud. Johnny refused to commit himself, saying only that he stood with Jed, but charmed his way out of fatally offending Montgomery, and agreed to ride with a couple of Montgomery's boys to look for Jed. His interview with Queenie went poorly, as she denied having seen Rebecca and pestered him to distraction with accusations of her own.
I awoke in no better shape than Johnny. I asked a couple of the boys what had happened, and they told me the marshall had knocked me out—elaborating, after I expressed disbelief, with the detail that the marshall had cold-cocked me with his pistol. I vowed revenge. Just then Judge Capeheart came with the news that Rebecca and Jed were both gone, and I jumped to the conclusion he'd kidnapped her. The Judge sent me off to the Montgomery place to get Rebecca back, and I asked what to do if the marshall got in the way. "He's just one man with a gun," the Judge said, which was exactly what I wanted to hear.
The marshall wasn't any more pleased to hear the news, especially before he'd had coffee. He sent his assistant Ebenezer for coffee; by the time Eb got back with the coffee, his wildly shaking hands had spilled all but about an inch at the bottom of the cup. Marshall Price filled it the rest of the way with whisky. Sadly for him, he didn't have time to drink it before I rode past him on the way through town. I informed him that Jed Montgomery had kidnapped Rebecca, and that the "grown-ups" were on their way to the Montgomery place to settle things. He warned me that he wouldn't tolerate any lawless vigilanteism, and I responded with ever-increasing levels of epic disrespect, culminating in the declaration "Seems to me there are two conflicting agendas in this town, and this time tomorrow there's just going to be one conflicting agenda."
Johnny Mercury came out of Queenie's whorehouse with Montgomery's boys, and me and my boys tied up our horses and walked up to confront them. Peaceful negotiations aimed at encouraging Johnny to slink off like a cowardly weasel failed, and I proceeded to draw my gun, leading to the second and final showdown of the game. My goal was to kill Johnny and the Montgomery boys and either take out the marshall or see him turn yellow. Johnny just wanted to get out of the encounter alive, and the marshall wanted to take down whichever gunmen were still standing when the fight was over. The marshall won the showdown with a full house, Johnny had a slightly less good full house, and I had an ace-high flush, which gave me the right to narrate how Johnny ducked out of the way of my shot, which blew Queenie's prized plate glass window to smithereens, and the marshall shot me in the gut while the Capeheart boys put up their hands and backed away. I was pretty clearly at death's door, and consulting the rules, I found that I could either use my accumulated chips to delay the end, or to deal harm to another player. I immediately tossed my chips into the center of the table, declared "I'm cashing in my chips," and described how I got off one final shot, drilling Johnny Mercury (who declared "A plague on both your houses!" before expiring), just before the marshall put two more bullets into me. Queenie described how she took advantage of the confusion to lead the horses we'd left tied up around the back of the whorehouse, and Jed and Rebecca rode off to the Canadian border. A happy ending, of sorts.
A tissue-thin plot, but we all had a fantastic time chewing scenery. The mechanics were enjoyable, but nearly irrelevant; we were all as happy to lose the showdowns as to win, and I thought it was fortunate that the marshall, who got absolutely no respect from anyone, actually came out on top of both showdowns. Great fun.