This week’s seed is a grim idea to spark a manhunt in Aces&Eights. It is suitable as a motivator for one story in a campaign, or as an ongoing theme.
The seed entails offering the players the opportunity to involved their characters in a search for a prisoner who has escaped from justice in a small and isolated community, and could be wreaking havoc in his sick way in another dust bowl town in the middle of nowhere.
Planting the seed
The seed is appropriate for any group of characters, particularly those with the desire or the need to travel, or those already in the bounty hunting business or sworn in as due representatives of the lengthening arm of the law.
Simply put, a town doctor, middle-aged and respected, has been collecting souvenirs from his operations, particularly amputations, for years and storing them in his root cellar. His shrine of stolen curiosities, picked in mason jars and lovingly labelled was uncovered quite by accident by some boys playing hide and seek among the clapboard houses sprouting up along main street. The doctor’s pleas of innocence and claims of some higher, scientific purpose were dismissed in the minds of the townsfolk due to the evidence of certain lustful behaviors being conducted in the presence of the trophies.
The doctor was almost lynched, but the town sheriff and preacher working in tandem managed to persuade the town that doing things according to the law would get them their vengeance without staining their souls. The doctor repaid their devotion to the law by escaping in the night by killing the preacher and mortally wounding the sheriff.
The doctor, who had lived for years under the name Tobias Vickers, made his escape by feigning illness as the preacher, an aging theologian, brought him his supper. The sheriff, also an older man, was caught unawares smoking on the front porch, and has not regained consciousness. It is believed that the doctor harvested trophies from each man as the sheriff’s nose is shredded and one eye is missing, while the preacher’s left ear was torn off.
The townsfolk demand blood, and marshals have been called in, as have bounty hunters. The doctor has many sins for which to pay. Newspapers are running a carefully edited story of the events leading up to the escape, but the story is growing and taking on more sinister aspects via the grapevine.
What is going on
For once, there is nothing really going on, other than depravity. The doctor, like anyone else, needs a place to rest and the means to make a living. There is no clue as to where he went, but armed with knowledge of the territory and what opportunities exist for a man who can work, a clever group might begin to plot out a careful search. Railway construction camps, ranches, new townships, strike towns, the border… Where would a man go to lose himself, and then how would he begin to set himself up again to sate those awful appetites?
The doctor, not a young man, will not be able to labor for long in a work camp, but might be able to find basic work on a farm or ranch… but his sense of violation at losing his collection of trophies, his frustration at being caught, and his new-found thrill in murder and mutilation will all conspire to cause him to make decisions which drive him toward public service as a doctor, barber, or dentist somewhere where he can pass unnoticed. He is clever, and also cunning. He is unafraid to scar or mark himself to help with his disguise. He has seen the wanted poster bearing his likeness and has taken pains to change his appearance and bearing. If he can, he will obtain a military commission and head as far out on the frontier as he can to practice medicine… of a sort.
Darken others' doors: