I ran Dust Devil for the first time yesterday as a one-shot. We had a total blast but I'd like to get advice on some minor snags.
I thought I'd have two players but my friends' 18-year old teenage son and his girlfriend, a total newbie, both spontaneously joined in (and utterly rocked the game!).
Capt'n K, an ex-soldier turned Pinkerton thug, bent on punishing criminals
Little Thunder, an Indian hunter turned vagabond, filled with hatred of the railway (teen 1)
Bella Jordie, a battered housewife transformed into a sadistic gunslinger (teen 2)
Pink Patty, an ex-midwife turned backstreet abortionist, traumatized by mercy killing a dozen women/babies after an Indian raid.
Pink Patty's Devil seemed interesting but murky to me, but despite some discussion we failed to refine it. As a result, it was the only Devil that fell flat and never affected play (despite a story which turned out to have a forced abortion). Any ideas on what we could have done?
I used the Romeo-and-Juliet scenario from the rulebook, but immediately modified it with Juliet's father being a railway mogul, Juliet being pregnant and the saloon owner hiring Pink Patty and Little Thunder to suggest and possibly enforce an abortion (to hide his involvement in hiding the liason). I half-expected the PCs to turn down the job offer and rat out or kill the saloon owner, but I suspect the players were into a D&D-ish "follow the plot" mindset. The other PCs ended up as Juliet's bodyguards so a bloody end became all but inevitable.
When the second recruitment scene dragged on (after Juliet had poured out her heart to Bella Jordie), I had a messenger arrive with news that Romeo was being beaten to a pulp by the cowboys of Juliet's father at the saloon. Quite heavy-handed, but it was a one-shot and I wanted to get things moving.
At the saloon, Capt'n K tried to calm everyone but Bella Jordie's sadistic gunslinger successfully provoked the cowboys to "get a pretext to open fire and kill people". She used her Full House (Ouch!) to do just that, with her fellow bodyguard Capt'n K caught in the crossfire. Good times!
Lots of bloodshed followed. Juliet was poisoned (to lose the baby), Romeo died of his injuries, Juliet killed herself by throwing herself into the line of fire, the dying Indian confessed the nefarious plot (Redemption!) and the abortionist and the saloon owner were to be lynched. The abortionist escaped and provoked a battle between the feuding families (aided by Bella Jordie). Pure blood opera!
I had intended to follow the rules, but in practice a lot of details fell by the wayside. In particular, we never got a healthy chips economy going. Only the Indian played against his trait "taciturn" and earned chips.
"Highest hand wins, highest card narrates" worked absolutely fabulously, especially in conjunction with the brutal harm rules and the flexibility concerning parties not directly in opposition to the winning hand. Very, very cool!
One snag was narrating harm spread across several attributes. We had no problems envisioning what various Flush hands caused, but how to narrate "he loses one heart, one diamond, one spade"?
The other snag was that a lot of characters initially survived being gunned down, owing to the rule that you die in a scene after being reduced to zero in one attribute in the current scene. It's a very useful rule, ensuring a dramatic and player-authored ending, and fortunately its improbable results did not seem comical to us. Still, we discussed it afterwards and one player expressed his desire to see "ultimate showdowns" (last man standing, essentially, and not with everyone else crawling around).
We're definitely planning on playing more Dust Devils, so ... any advice?