Below are a number of adversaries, both mundane and supernatural, that you can use in games of “Brotherhood of the Rail”.
This represents a gang of opportunist thugs who beat and rob hobos. They might be other migrants, local teens, deputized citizens, organized crime lowlifes, or any one of a variety of low level thugs. They might also be gangs of predatory children, orphaned by the Depression. They aren’t much of a threat in themselves, but will usually target lone (and preferably injured) hobos.
Skilled (+2) at attacking the weak, intimidating, running away
Bad (2) at stand-up fights, socializing with other hobos
They can come in groups of up to a dozen (6 stress boxes) but most commonly are 2-6 (1-3 stress boxes).
Pack of dogs
Dogs are a common threat to hobos, and this group can represent anything from a couple of junkyard dogs to an entire pack of hounds set on fugitives.
Skilled (+2) at chasing, smelling, running (sometimes biting)
Bad (-2) at climbing, getting into enclosed areas
One hit will take out a dog. Give them one stress box for every two dogs in the pack.
Yeggs are far more dangerous than the Bad Actors they resemble – Yeggs are professional criminals who travel the rails in order to avoid the law. They might be safe crackers, murderers, professional muscle hired by the railroads, etc. Unlike Bad Actors, a group of Yeggs is sufficiently tightly knit that they take consequences before being completely defeated. A hobo expecting an easy tussle with a few Bad Actors can be in for a very nasty surprise if it turns out that they are Yeggs instead.
Skilled (+2) at Defending, Attacking, one sort of criminal activity (robbery, assault, theft, etc.)
Bad at: interaction outside their gang,
A gang of Yeggs will typically have around 3 stress boxes, and the normal complement (2, 4, 6) of consequence boxes. Unless directly involved in their preferred criminal activity, however, Yeggs will generally give up a conflict after losing their stress boxes.
Gangs of Yeggs are typically led by an important Bad Guy, who should be statted up as appropriate.
These are police and security guards hired by the railroads to assure that hobos either a) pay for riding on trains, or b) don’t ride them at all. A typical railroad bull should be a challenge for a group of hobos – they are usually armed with some sort of club and sometimes carry guns. Some will simply do their jobs like reasonable men, but a few are sadistic monsters who delight in robbing or killing hobos. Particularly vicious railroad bulls, such as the notorious Texas Slim, will be near to legendary figures, and extremely powerful and difficult to defeat.
Sheriffs are similar to railroad bulls, and should be created as major bad guys. Unlike most Bulls, however, Sheriffs have access to a few deputies, lots of firearms, and the ability to call on the police departments of neighboring towns and to deputize large numbers of people in case of emergency (such as an entire group of Player Characters arriving in their town and causing trouble). Attacking any member of the law enforcement community, no matter how corrupt, dishonest, or evil, is generally a bad idea, and will usually instigate a massive manhunt for the perpetrator. Defeating a Sheriff should involve outwitting him or convincing him to become an ally.
With a few exceptions, supernatural threats should always be major bad-guys. They may be able to control more mundane threats (werewolves, for example, may be able to control packs of dogs), but any supernatural threat should be pretty tough to handle and not be easily defeated.
Often serving as independent minor troublemakers, or as the servants/lackeys of more powerful faeries, gremlins delight particularly in destroying complex machinery and/or stealing, pestering, and generally annoying people. Virtually infinite in numbers, defeating a group of gremlins will provide at best a temporary respite before whoever or whatever is summoning them just gets a bunch more.
Skilled (+2) at: breaking machinery, stealing, biting, defending against attacks other than cold iron
Poor (-2) at: defending against cold iron, resisting milk
One hit of any type by a weapon of cold iron will defeat a gremlin. They have two stress boxes against any other sort of attack. Gremlins appear individually or in groups – sometimes very large groups.
A Haint is a ghost or apparition. It usually occupies a specific location, but it sometimes tied to a specific object or (more rarely still) a specific individual. Usually a Haint is the spirit of a person, but it can sometimes be the manifestation of some great evil that took place in a particular location. Haints vary greatly in appearance and abilities – some are no more than voices or cold areas, while others can visibly manifest. Some haints can communicate, but urually in cryptic ways such as riddles, obscure references, gestures, or writing on mirrors or frosted windows.
Haints are usually impossible to defeat permanently unless the events causing them to manifest are dealt with. Physical conflict with them is usually a waste of time, though characters with aspects like “Magical” and “Supernatural” can activate their aspects to affect Haints normally for one round.
A particular Louisiana take on the werewolf, by the time of the Depression the Rougarou can be found across America, though it is still most common in the Bayous (and Quebec). Rougarou are typically loners, though some are able to summon and control packs of local dogs/coyotes/wolves. They are humans cursed to take the form of a wolf-headed man (0r less commonly a supernaturally large wolf) and roam the countryside.
Rougarou are often associated with themes of obedience/disobedience. Common methods for being transformed into a rougarou are failure to observe lent, being disrespectful to a witch, or chronically disobeying parents. The curse typically lasts for 101 days, and is then transferred to another through a bite or consumption of the rougarou’s blood.
During the day the rougarou appears as a normal, though somewhat sickly, person. At night they transform and haunt the area, killing anything they can catch. Individuals frequently react with real horror to what they have become, taking extreme steps such as locking themselves in cages or chaining themselves to trees in order to prevent their murderous rampages. These methods are seldom successful for more than a day or two. The curse typically lasts 101 days, after which time the original rougarou may become free of it by passing the curse to someone else by feeding them some of the rougarou’s blood.
Defeating a rougarou in combat is extremely challenging. They are not susceptible to silver. Usually it takes something associated with the reason for the curse being bestowed in the first place (which may involve tracing the curse back through several incarnations) such as holy water, a parents tears, or a mojo bag from the witch who cast the curse in the first place in order to remove the curse, though it is also possible to simply kill the rougarou by chopping off its head if you can manage to put it down.
HIGH CONCEPT: Reluctant Rougarou
TROUBLE: husband and children
OTHER ASPECTS: Rotarian, Home town girl
Careful: Fair (+2) , Clever: Average (+1), Flashy: Average (+1), Forceful: Legendary (+8)/Mediocre (+0), Quick: Fantastic (+6)/Mediocre (+0) , Sneaky: Great (+4)/Poor (-1)
(When approaches have two listings, the first is for lougarou form, the second is for human form)
Because I am a rougarou, I gain +2 to defend against non-magical physical attacks unless they utilize my weakness
Because I am a rougarou, I gain +2 to physical attacks while in rougarou form at night.
Because I fear for my life if discovered, I gain +2 to resist any attempts to convince me to reveal anything about my rougarou nature or background
Because I hate my rougarou nature, once per game when in rougarou form I can transform back into a human for one round. Players can spend a Fate Point per round thereafter to allow me to remain in human form for another round. If attacked, I immediately transform back.
STRESS: 3 boxes
WEAKNESS: Janet Ingles is a fourth generation rougarou. The original recipient of the curse, Giles Wilson, was cursed because he beat up his elderly parents and stole money from them. He now lives in a big house, while they live in a tarpaper shack with what remains of their possessions. The curse’s weakness is exposure to any of Giles Wilson’s childhood toys (the parents have a box of them).
(Note that the rougarou is a good example of a statted up boss level bad guy. The same general format can be used for other sorts of high level threat characters)
There are plenty of creatures with phenomenal, legendary power that PCs can interact with. Usually these creatures should not be statted per se and scenarios should revolve around a) using them as patrons and getting them what they want, b) discovering some specific way that they are vulnerable and using that to temporarily thwart their plans.
OLD MAN DEATH
The reaper of souls himself, Old Man Death is not specifically a figure of evil, though few would call him friend. In the tough times of the depression, where poverty bred starvation and disease, and medical care was often lacking, it was not uncommon for those who were suffering an ailment which could not be cured to prepare themselves for the arrival of Old Man Death, and even speak of their upcoming encounter with relief as a release from the suffering and toil of the world.
When Old Man Death appears, either it is because your time has come, or because Old Man Death wishes to bargain for a life. In some cases he may set a task for the Hobos, and spare the life of the one he has come to take if they succeed. In other cases he may offer a wager, such as a fiddle contest or a game of chess or checkers. Old Man Death will never offer a wager against any skill or ability that he is poor at (though very occasionally he can be tricked). Most commonly he will have one approach that he is Legendary (+8) at, two that he is Fantastic (+6) at, one that he is Average (+1) at, and two in which he simply cannot be challenged.
Example: Old Man Death challenges one of the hobos to a game of chess for his soul. The GM decides that Old Man Death is Careful (+8), Clever (+6), Flashy (+1), Quick (+6), and cannot be challenged at Forceful or Sneaky. The easiest way to defeat Old Man Death at this chess game is with flashy, impressive moves and lots of banter or entertaining cross talk. If someone decides to intimidate Old Man Death by knocking the board in his face or cheating, they lose automatically.
Angels are messengers and assistants to God, and will often appear in times of great spiritual trouble. They can appear in any form they desire and will usually appear to hobos as another hobo (though one with a particularly noble or commanding bearing).
Angels have difficulty communicating with humans because they don’t really understand humans. Angels do not experience time in a linear manner the way humans do, and see everything in terms of its moral, not physical consequences. Because of this they often speak cryptically or symbolically, and it is extremely difficult to hold an extended conversation with them or to question them for details.
Example conversation with an angel
Angel: Beware the tow-headed boy!
Angel: If you do not, the suffering will be great!
Hobo: Suffering? What kind of suffering?
Angel: That caused by the tow-headed boy.
Hobo: What will the tow-headed boy do?
Angel: Cause great suffering!
Hobo: But how? Will he kill someone? Die and break his family’s hearts? Invent some kind of pois0n? Be the cause of a terrible accident?
Angel: Beware the tow-headed boy!
Other important legendary figures include such individuals as Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry; encounters with legendary places and things such as the Wabash Cannon Ball (a railroad version of the Flying Dutchman), the realm of faerie, and even the Rock Candy Mountain.