In tonight's adventure, the PCs made their way from Dodge to a little town called Deadwood. They ended up there because Wyatt Earp had been tasked with catching a gun runner named Griff Larsen, who was selling rifles to renegade Sioux.
Seeing Deadwood was a bit like seeing an alternate-reality Dodge City. The PCs THOUGHT that Dodge was a wild and dangerous place, until getting to Deadwood, a city that was (at this time) completely outside the law. It was founded after a gold strike deep in Indian Territory. Due to the Treaty of Laramie, it was built in an area where the federal government had no jurisdiction, making it a place of pure anarchy in those early years.
They had barely arrived in town, and had already seen the tent city, the prostitutes on the open street, the opium dens, the smallpox epidemic, and they got into a shootout with an apparent lunatic, for reasons they couldn't understand (though they expected it was someone who had some kind of beef with Wyatt). Speaking of which, right after this Wyatt Earp had a somewhat tense first encounter with the de-facto town Sheriff, Seth Bullock.
Bullock seemed mostly concerned with Earp and the PCs getting the fuck out of his town before their presence caused a major war of some kind. As it turns out, the gun-runner the posse was looking for was in some way connected to local big man (and crime lord) Al Swearengen.
Swearengen, of course, didn't want Bullock and a gang of lawmen with federal authority (however technically invalid it might have been in town) coming after him. This meant he wanted them achieving their objective quickly, but he also didn't want the gun-runner to implicate him, so he offered to 'find' Larsen for them, with the unspoken addendum that he'd be found dead. This did not sit well with Wyatt, who would have no problem killing the fugitive himself, but frowned on the idea having someone else kill his target as a way to avoid justice. So he recruited Bullock to help the PCs make an ambush for the men Swearengen was planning to send after Larsen.
Meanwhile, the rest of the PCs were with Charlie Bassett, deep in Indian territory, trying to make use of Bassett's skills from his buffalo hunter days to get the Sioux to cooperate with him in apprehending the gun runners. It started out poorly when a group of renegade braves ambushed them in the night. The PCs learned quickly just how dangerous a group of braves could be, with two of the PCs taking injuries, one of the two taking a tomahawk slash right to the neck (luckily, he was tough enough not only to survive the hit, but be good to ride the next day). They found a delegation of the Sioux the next day, gifted them the surviving brave they brought with them, and after a difficult negotiation in which one of the PCs (the only one who spoke any Sioux) proved crucial, managed to get the chief to tell them where the gun runners were at in a way that didn't cause the chief to lose face.
The group with Earp and Bullock ambushed Swearengen's men, but being as fucking stupid as thugs usually are, the men tried to shoot it out first and then tried to run, rather than face them. Even so they were caught, and made to confess where Larsen was hiding out. They left the men with Bullock, even though it sounded like he was planning to kill them, and rode off into the hills to find their prey.
I think in this session the PCs got to see some of the dirtiest side of the west. The truly ruthless crime lords, the truly vile traitors, and they saw both Bullock and Earp acting in ways that were utterly not what the romantic ideal of the western Lawman was all about. They saw Earp unchained in the anarchic environment of Deadwood, and realized that for some people the badge is just another gang to belong to. Maybe a gang that tries to bring a bit more order, or that use their power to try to do right (as arguably both Bullock and Earp try to do), but still a gang.
Currently smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best