The Ballad of Jeb and Henny (Shadows of Brimstone)


I’ve never done anything like this. I mean, I write on the internet all the time and even published a few articles here and there, but posting fiction widely is new to me. What follows is a serialized account of my adventures in the tabletop adventure and role playing boardgame Shadows of Brimstone.

This is a game I’ve discovered recently and have fallen utterly in love with. It’s a system with serious depths to plumb, and I intend to plumb 'em. I expect most of my sessions to be solitaire and, dice-willing, my plan is to maintain a cohesive arc. I’ll be starting with two introductory vignettes featuring two heroes each, culminating in a full 3- or 4-hero campaign as the two groups merge. That said, we could see a cameo or even a new hero here and there if I can find anyone willing to overburden my poor dining room table with me.

I’ve chosen a serial format for several reasons, not least of which is convenience, and because it follows nicely with a typical “battle report” structure. Of course it’s also quintessentially pulp, a style I hope to emulate here both in terms of content and, being frank, levels of effort. I’ll be going mostly off-the-cuff as befits the improvisational, write-by-prompt nature of expanding upon ludonarrative, but I strive not to be [too] slipshod about it.

Like anything else we make, I’m doing this for myself. It’s for a creative writing exercise, for therapeutic reasons, for the simple joy of gaming and what it can inspire. But naturally I’m sharing it here because I hope that maybe someone else will enjoy reading it. I am no editor but I promise you I’m a good argument for one. This is very much an improvisational affair, so if anyone does find themselves “tuning in next week” for this jam, then with advance apologies, I hope it’s a fun ride!



Jeb and Henny had come to Brimstone seeking Darkstone like all the other damn fools. It wasn’t their first time to the boomtown, but they had not returned since the Cataclysm—it takes a damn good reason to drag a sane person into these parts, even before it blew sky high. With two days of riding still ahead of them and their horses already kicking up acrid dust from the ash blanketing the parched earth, they could have thought of a million good reasons to stay away forever.

Jeb caught a glint in Henny’s eye which made him grimace, and Henny caught that. “You hate that we’re doing this, Padre, I’m sorry.” Henny said, hanging his head a little.

“I hate that it’s necessary.” Jeb mumbled and nickered to his horse to stop. “Let’s camp here, I’m done riding.”

Two weeks earlier, the men had been in Hill Town, at the edge of the Badlands, as far as one can get from Brimstone without going for the big swim. Jeb and Henny rarely had much reason for palaver in recent years, but their lines of work meant they occasionally crossed paths, and tonight they had such an occasion.

Recently, Henny had seen a notable and sustained rise in violent incidents at the saloon and hotel. Drifters mostly, seemingly unaffiliated with any gang of cowboys or rustlers. Usually they got booted out of town after a night in the hole, but lately the incidents had become particularly vicious and the Sheriff’s tiny jail was overflowing.

Yesterday there was a hanging.

For the last several weeks Jeb had his hands full offering guidance to his troubled parishioners. The rash of apparently random violence in town had folks on edge, and some had even discussed leaving. Lately however, he had been troubled by a series of encounters with some of the strangers passing through. None said much beyond what he guessed was mad jibbering, but each of them rubbed viciously at their eyes with enough force to make Jeb wince, and was plagued with sulphurous belches. When asked how he might help, they all screamed with laughter and walked away.

Last night, a group of people immolated themselves in the town square.

Neither men were strangers to the taint of Corruption and this recent behaviour was all too familiar. As they discussed what they might do, a stranger approached and sat right between them. He reeked of booze and gum disease, so naturally he leaned in good and close.

“It’s that Brimstone ore. It’s still there. Folk findin’ it buried in the rubble. Buried with the people. Buried in the people! Please excuse me.” He snorts and hocks into a spittoon halfway across the bar. “‘Beg’n yer pardon. Folk talkin’ bout a second rush out there. Tellin’ spook stories to keep folk out. They can keep it fer themselves, all I care! Ain’t no’ne worth knowin’ wants anythin’ to do with the stuff anyhow.”

With an unexpected grace he bows, and departs. Before the preacher can offer the informant a drink, Henny grabs his arm and gestures to the table. Their tip money—and their booze—is gone. Jeb looks back up to see the man sloshing their mugs to and fro as he chats up the next table.

“I suppose we knew what we were dealing with, eh Jeb?” Henny slouches in his chair, grabs at a drink that isn’t there and tosses it back.

“That guy? He’s harmless.” Jeb winks and heads to the bar. “I didn’t want to believe it, but I suppose I knew this wasn’t going to be another chat about rustlers.” He sits back down with a bottle of whiskey and takes a quaff before sliding it across to Henny. “We going back?”




Dawn breaks on the camp and snuffs out an unseasonal frost. The chill made for a hard night’s rest and Henny is grateful to see Jeb’s fire and the coffee boiling above it.

“Still an early riser.” Henny half-asks, reaching over with his cup.

“I still don’t sleep. Not really. And wait for it, it’s not ready. You have to let the grits settle.”

It dawns on Henny that Jeb is already dressed to ride. His shoulders slump a little as his dreams of a hot breakfast slip away. He kicks some dirt and starts to gear up. “What’s the rush, anyway?”

“We can make it by dusk if we push it. I don’t want to spend another night in this wilderness, the darkness is stifling.”

Henny gives a long look and nods. Jeb pulls a silver ladle from his boot and skims clear, black coffee into their mugs.

“Worth the wait. What’s the rush, anyway?” He winks and hands Henny his mug.

A few hours pass and there’s hardly a trace of the two riders. The remnants of their fire blend into the scorched earth within minutes under the constant wind, and only a wisp of ash on the horizon hints at their direction. As the lazy Sun dips, the darkness reaches greedily and our heroes are once again engulfed by… The Shadows of Brimstone!

See us next time in: A Fistful of Darkstone!!