They're ridin' hard to catch that herd, but they ain't caught 'em yet
'Cause they've got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire
As they ride on hear their cry
~Lyrics by Stan Jones
This is an encounter that takes place out on the Prairies and Plains of Tayxis, always at night.
The night air is cool and crisp, and the winds make starting a campfire difficult, but not impossible. As you settle in for your evening meal, you hear the sounds of spurred footsteps approaching from the darkness. A the weathered form of a cowboy slowly takes shape in the flickering firelight, his hand resting on his holstered pistol.
"Easy there, pardners, easy - jest lookin' to rest ma boots fer a minute", he drawls, edging forward, his hand still on his pistol.
Should the party attack, he will defend himself and back away, disappearing after 3 rounds, ending the encounter.
Jim Murphy (Undead): AC 5; MV 14; HP 22; Dmg 1d6; Str 11 Con 14 Dex 18 Int 12 Wis 6 Cha 10; Alignment Neutral Evil; THAC0 14; Fast Draw - Jim Murphy automatically wins initiative when firing his pistol, and fires a second time when a 19-20 is rolled.
Description: A member of Sam Bass' gang, he betrayed the group after the Governor put a bounty on their heads. When surviving members of the gang threatened to "kill him, cut off his head and carry it away in a gunny sack", he fled to the local jail for protection, where he eventually killed himself. Damned for his betrayal and suicide, he is now condemned to chase the Devil's Herd.
Should the party allow him to sit, they notice that his flesh is transparent at first, but seems to get firmer as he warms up. He spins a tale, telling his story from a more sympathetic perspective - he was persecuted by a group of people he chose not to work with any longer, was hounded from one end of Tayxis to the other, until he was given a choice between horrible death or painless suicide. Ever since his death, he, along with other damned souls, have been forced to chase the Devil's Herd. While he is short on details, the upshot of his story is that he's managed to slip away from the chase for a bit, but it won't be long before someone comes looking for him.
Of course, he neglects to mention that that "someone" is Forcas, Master of Saytin's Stables. Murphy's plan is to convince the group to help him capture one of the Devil's Cattle, and trade it back to Forcas in exchange for release from his torment. While the cattle can not be caught by the damned, he reasons that the living might stand a chance.
Murphy is familiar with the path that the Herd takes, and hopes to set an ambush, with the characters' assistance, and suggests that the Guadalupe Pass might be a perfect place for an ambush. Not far from El Paso al Inferno, it's a narrow stretch of road between two peaks in the Guadalupe Mountains. The Herd passes through this Pass between 2 and 2:15 in the morning every third day.
This information relayed, he begs the characters for assistance one last time before looking fearfully over his shoulder and saying that he has to go, that they will find him soon. He will answer one final question, and then leaves.
Shortly thereafter, a mountain man carrying a spear and riding a nag approaches the party, asking about a runaway fugitive. A Preacher, Ranger, or other character able to sense evil will immediately realize that this man is no man at all, but a demon. He will not attack the party, as he is more concerned with retrieving his wayward soul. However, if attacked, he will defend himself, and use Invisibility as a last resort if the tide turns against him.
low visibility and high winds. Anyone who fails an attack by more than 10 must make a Dexterity check or lose their balance.
At 2:15am every third day, the Herd rounds the bend and comes through the Guadalupe Pass, crosses the Guadalupe River, and makes the next turn by 2:30. The eastern walls of the mountains that lie against the River are high and blind, and cannot be seen until after the Herd has passed into the river valley. The party has a small window of opportunity to grab a single Head of Cattle as they pass. Someone experienced wtih a lasso can rope a steer and divert them from the herd without Forcas, who rides at the front, noticing. Even if a member of the Damned see, they will not say anything, and Jim Murphy will offer the party a wink and a tip of the hat as he passes. If they fail at the attempt, the Herd continues on, and the characters must fight Forcas and the Damned. If they survive the battle, however, the Herd will return in 3 days time, and allow them another shot at it.
The Devil's Herd: No. Appearing: 2d12 AC: 6 MV 24; HP 20; Dmg 1d8 (charge) 1d6x2 (hooves); Special; Str 16 Con 16 Dex 13 Int 6 Wis 6 Cha 6; Alignment Neutral Evil; THAC0 14; Trample - Anyone struck by the Charge must make a Dexterity check or be knocked from their feet. They are automatically struck by both hoof attacks from the Cattle that knocked them over, and must make Dexterity checks for each head of Cattle that has not yet gone that round, or suffer twin hoof strikes from them as well. Note that the soul of anyone killed by the Devil's Herd is pressed into service by Forcas, and must spend the rest of eternity chasing them. Description: These unholy cattle are the pride of Saytin's Stables, Forcas takes runs them on a drive every third day to keep them lean and mean. Their time in the Pits has given the a vicious streak, and they have come to relish goring unfortunate passers-by with their steel-tipped horns.
The Damned: No. Appearing: 1d6 AC 4 MV 16; HP 22; Dmg 1d6; Str 11 Con 14 Dex 15 Int 11 Wis 7 Cha 3; Alignment Neutral Evil; THAC0 12. Description: The spirits of the damned, hand picked by Forcas himself to aid in driving the Devil's Herd. Only the meanest, foulest of souls are considered.
Aftermath: Should the party succesfully steal the bull, the next night that they make camp, the sound of chains and hoofbeats will wake them from their slumber. Jim Murphy's ghostly body is tossed into the campfire, looking surprisingly alive. The party hears Forcas' voice growl from the shadows, demanding the return of the Bull, and revealing that the camp is surrounded by his Damned Souls. He promises to leave the party unscathed, should they surrender the Bull, and is telling the truth. Should the party attack and drive away the force, they can keep the bull and sell it for 10,000 Dolars.
Either way, Jim Murphy has been freed, and his form assumes corporeality. He will offer his services to the party in return for his freedom. Should the party be foolis enough to take him up on this, he will betray them at the first opportunity, take everything they own, sell it, and attempt to start a new life somewhere.
After all, once a traitor...