I hunted around a bit and found the whole page of Deadlands stuff, including the one-sheets, which are self-contained encounters and scenarios. Perfect. There were a bunch I could have used, but I wound up going with Lynched, so here's the result.
First, our characters:
- Suzi Love, who you might know from regular installments of my Deadlands game. She's traveling back to Louisiana on family business.
- Jack Vance, huckster, gambler, and all around shady customer. He's traveling west from Baton Rouge after some unpleasant business involving poker.
- Clement Brown, mad scientist, physicist and man of knowledge. Traveling west trying to get to the Great Maze and get some more ghost rock (and hoping the warmer climate will help his condition; he's a sick man). Traveling with...
- Pearl Hart, gunslinger, gambler and muscle for hire. Work's been kinda slow, but she's hoping it'll pick up as she and Clement get west.
- Olaf Dunbar, tinker and tradesman. He's headed south, working his way down to New Orleans, selling his services as he goes. He's traveling with Bobby, his young ward.
The characters all roll into the small town of Eastman's Creek. It's mostly a hub for the homesteaders around it, but as Pearl and Clement hitched their horses, the saloon is deserted. No lights lit, no one behind the bar. They look around a little, and Pearl goes behind the bar to pour a drink.
Olaf rolls in shortly after, and Bobby goes scampering in. Olaf looks around and notes that the place doesn't seem abandoned - it's clean and maintained. He sniffs and smells dinner cooking, and goes in the back and finds a man cutting vegetables. The man turns out to be Eli, the owner, who is surprised to have any business. And there's more coming - Jack rides up just then, looking for a room.
Eli scrambles to get dinner going (Olaf insists on helping), and asks Pearl to light the lamps. Olaf notes that Eli is nervous about something, but doesn't indicate what. Suzi arrives just then, as the sun sets, and Olaf and Clement wind up carting her immense trunk up to her room (she travels in style, financed by Nikolai).
Dinner (gumbo) happens, and folks head off to bed. Suzi asks if there's a tub; Eli says there is, but it's in his room because he wanted to clean it. Suzi uses the tub (her ritual bath), and Eli sits with Jack, drinking whiskey and talking. Jack asks him what's really going on here, and Eli explains.
Some nights ago, a man and his wife were dragged out of their home and hanged from an old oak tree. The townsfolk were unable to find any evidence of who did it, but they cut the people down and buried them. Then, the next night, another man was dragged from his bed and hanged from the same tree. The townspeople are scared - there's no law in this own, just a marshall that comes through every so often.
The night passes uneventfully, and in the morning Eli says that he needs to go check the tree. Pearl, Clement, Suzi and Jack volunteer to go with him, while Olaf (who is not only taking care of Bobby but has the Yellow Hindrance) stays behind. After the group leaves, Eli's wife shows up, and profusely thanks Olaf for all his help.
At the tree, the characters see no new bodies. The oak is old and dead. Suzi casts Dispel, but nothing seems to happen. Jack casts Detect Arcana (and deals with the Devil, unnecessarily), showing off his magic to the others. He confirms the presence of dark, pervasive magic, here. The characters decide that tree's gotta go.
Pearl and Clement stop off at the house of the first people to die on the way back. Something big smashed through that door, and there are fingernail marks on the floor from where the people were dragged out, but no footprints. This would have taken several men to smash through the heavy door, but no evidence suggests that's what happened. Clearly, we're dealing with something worse.
Everyone regroups at the inn, and Olaf offers to rig up an accordion saw. Then they figure they can cut the tree down and burn it. That takes much of the afternoon, and as evening falls, everyone heads out to the tree.
When they get there, they see bodies...four bodies, hung from the branches. As they approach, the "nooses" pinch off and the bodies land, and advance on the characters.
Clement fires off a Burst from his ghost-rock cannon, and Shakes three of the zombies. Jack casts Entangle, but deals with the Devil (again, unnecessarily), doesn't get the hand he needs, and winds up Entangling Suzi, Olaf and Clement instead. Pearl shoots at the zombies, but it doesn't seem to help much.
The tree whips a noose out and catches Clement around the neck, yanking him to the tree. He fires his gun and severs the noose, but the tree cracks him across the face, nearly killing him. Olaf, freeing himself from the Entangle, drives the carriage over to help, and Suzi calls up a windstorm to blind the zombies. Olaf grabs Clement puts him in the carriage, and starts riding away, but the tree whips Jack and Olaf with its nooses. Olaf has a tool in his pocket and slices the noose, and Jack casts Trinkets and conjures one, so they drop to the ground.
Suzi casts Elemental Manipulation and lights a zombie on fire. She whips it with Mina Devlin's whip, and it goes quiet, staring at her. She orders it to hug the tree, and it does...the tree immediately starts to burn. Clement, deciding to let the horses take him where they may, turns around and fires his cannon at the tree, severing its nooses and some of its branches. The tree goes up in flames, burning to ash in instants, and blowing away on the wind.
The characters head back to the saloon, where Eli and Olaf tend the wound (read: Clement), and Olaf thanks them all heartily. The townsfolk pay the characters what they can, and everyone continues on their journey. Who knows, maybe we'll all meet up again.