The Ballad of Shotgun Magilacutty and 2 Guns John Adler
By Zachariah Van Sluyters
My name is Zachariah Van Sluyters and I am 41 years old. I started playing role playing games with Robotech by Palladium books when I was 12 and have been hooked ever since. I Have been playing as both game master and character for the better part of 2 decades. I also own my own gaming company and have published a role playing game system, (Upper Hand the wrestling Role playing game from Axiom Games LLC). Why Am I telling you all of this? Two reasons, the first is obviously to sneak a plug for myself in there but the second is so you just how many games I have played and the breath of my gaming experience before i saying the following;
This is the story of the best character arc I have ever been a part of.
The setting is a plain western game, cowboys and the range, with the centerpiece being a mid-sized town trying to expand on the dangerous frontier. The players other than me were ahead by one session with the game and they all played bounty hunters for the local law enforcement. They all had different goals and aspirations and were all phenomenal role players in their own right but one player, who will remain nameless, had a character attempting to become a well known quick draw gunslinger named 2 Guns John Jones Adler. 2 Guns was supported by the town in hopes that he would become a famous gunslinger and the town would become synonymous with his name.
Enter my character, ‘Shotgun’ Magillicutty.
The Game master of this session had a very laid back approach to character creation, nothing was off limits but keep in mind if you make something likely to die, you are probably going to die. I had always really wanted to play a true psychopath in a game and could not pass up the opportunity even if it meant a quick death. I created Shotgun, an Irish immigrant, large stocky man who was hard to kill and used a lever action shotgun he named, “Betty.” Shotgun was a vicious cunning killer with a wild and unpredictable temper that had made him extremely wanted on the east coast by everyone from the police to his own people. So he had fled west looking to escape, but also to look for more trouble..
My 1st Session
Running out of money Magillacutty ended up in the player’s town looking for work and finding a bounty for $100 dollars, an astronomical sum in the old west. He headed out, not knowing that the players had already fought and killed the bounty and were about to head back to town with it. Shotgun happened across them but figuring out what happened, instead of talking or trying to communicate he steals a horse and a wagon with the body of the bounty inside. What followed was a cat and mouse game through the rest of the day with the group trying to catch Shotgun, and Shotgun managing to stay one step ahead.
Shotgun managed to make it to town first, having stolen one of the player’s horses and cutting off the bounty’s head for proof, he took it to the night deputy to get paid. Unfortunately the deputy informed him there was a typo and the bounty was only ten dollars not the one hundred originally promised. Being an unpredictable psychopath, shotgun executed the unsuspecting deputy with the shotgun, robbed him and attempted to calmly ride out on the stolen horse. This is where 2 Guns met Shotgun for the first time as he and another of the party were riding into town to attempt to head off the bounty thief. Having never gotten a good look at Shotgun, they only managed to realize he is the thief by the stolen horse. A showdown ensues, one that ends with 2 Guns putting a bullet into Shotgun’s head.
At the time I thought I was done, ready to play my new character in the next session, however the players, and kudos to them for role playing, worked to keep Shotgun alive which was made possible by the ungodly amount of hit points he had. In the end the bullet had hit him at an angle, opened him up, put him down, but not killed him.
Through more insane role playing and a twist of fate, Shotgun manages to avoid the hangman’s noose, with a lack of visible evidence of the murder, The sheriff, positive he did it, tells him he is coming after him. To save himself, shotgun seeks refuge with the local madame(and biggest crime lord in the city). She gives him safe haven and the sheriff backs off, for the time being. This creates a huge rivalry that would last the length of the game between Shotgun and The Sheriff, both looking for the opportunity to kill the other but neither able to because of their ties to the madame.
During this time Shotgun began to seek out 2 Guns. Not to kill him or get revenge instead he was Obsessed with the man who shot him, believing that because 2 Guns shot first they were kindred murderous spirits. This became a centerpiece for the arc, 2 Guns disagreeing at every turn but questioning himself and if Shotgun was right. He also began to weirdly like shotgun despite the horrible things he continued to do and say.
Shotgun also took up with the madame and started to trust her and found a connection with a child(Shotgun’s only soft spot) which allowed him to gain some sympathy with the group. This created a truly interesting dynamic where the party that had once almost killed him began to accept him into their ranks even though he was still extremely unpredictable and violent.
The Black Scorpions
The black scorpions were a massive gang of bandits who looked to form their own town and burn the players town to the ground, they also had beef with the madame and after a brutal shoot out they emerged as the main antagonist of the campaign. Shotgun realized quickly it was them or the madame and he needed to take them out. This is where things get tricky however, because the madame, who had begun to care about Shotgun, didn’t want him facing down the black scorpions. So she cashed in a favor with 2 Guns and when he and Shotgun rode out alone to do recon on the gang 2 Guns was to lead him in circles. The madame believed that Shotgun wouldn’t be able to just do recon and instead would end up getting himself killed going after them.
2 Guns did well at this but it also caused some misadventure that only brought the two closer together now removed from the group as a whole. They continued to bond and even became friends. This trust managed to set up the tragic and violent end of Shotgun’s arc.
The Emotional finale
Despite 2 Guns’s best efforts they still managed to find the bandit city.
The rest of the group also caught up with them, trying to figure out what to do about the city, one of the other players ended up revealing the Madames plot to Shotgun, and that 2 Guns had betrayed him. It’s also worth noting this was the third or fourth time Shotgun had found that the Madame had lied to him and he had had enough. He marched into the camp and switched sides, giving the bandits the group’s location.
The group was rounded up and it looked as though they were to be killed. This created one hell of a dynamic at the table let me tell you. Sure enough though right before the shots rang out the sheriff made his presence known as he had infiltrated the scorpions. He now broke that cover in order to save his favorite bounty hunters.
A glorious shootout ensued, bandits everywhere, chaos and hails of gunfire. Shotgun ended up with a couple of bullets in him but had managed to survive and found himself hidden in an alley. Meanwhile one of the players found himself near dead and the numbers of the bandits too many, Side by Side the sheriff and 2 Guns fought their way towards the edge of town, making a path for their escape.
Unfortunately for the sheriff they passed Shotgun’s alley, Shotgun decided to finish the rivalry and stepped out of the shadows raising his gun to fire on the Sheriff. 2 Guns saw Shotgun, but had a rare fail on a speed related check to shoot Shotgun first, Shotgun winked at him and killed the Sheriff with a single shot to the back of the head. A split second before 2 Guns used a single pistol shot to strike Shotgun in the heart killing him dead.
First I want to just note that this took place over many sessions for the better part of a year, sessions full of side missions, mis-adventures, and other chaos that had both bonded the characters and set up this emotional finale. Every player at the table pushed their Role playing into high overdrive when I chose to have my character betray them and while nothing was personal this did end in a fair amount of yelling at one another.
Still I would have had this no other way, The through arc of the man who shot him in his first session finishing the job is poetic in itself but you add in the fact that they became friends in the space between and it makes the pay off that much sweeter.
You also could say that while the player was very much trying to stop Shotgun in the end, that his failure to save the sheriff came from a hesitation formed out of the relationship that had formed between the two, that in that instance of failure 2 Guns was playing himself, not the other way around. I live for gaming moments like this, where it feels like that game has already been decided. We are just watching it happen, that the game in effect is playing us.
I want to thank all the players and the game master involved in this game. While I’m not sure who of them, if any, will read this, they are all great role players that made this drama amazing and I also applaud and thank the GM in this game for being versatile enough to deal with the situation and, well to put it bluntly, deal with all my shit.
The Last Tea Shop. A solo TTRPG playthrough. Written by Ash Alder and narrated by Zachariah Van Sluyters