The Township Fulsom
Act I: Prison Gang
Your ranger squad happens upon a chain gang, crushing up gravel as they build up a new road between two communities. The guards are professional, and courteous to you, answering your questions, but first insisting that you put aside your weapons before you approach. The prisoners seem well fed, better than many villagers you've seen, althoug the guards are very quick to enforce discipline. You notice a couple metal boxes, a dozen yards away, and hear a couple men calling for water from inside. You're told they'll be released at nightfall, and to stay away and leave them be.
The next town over is peaceful. The sheriff and his deputies seem competent, aside from one yahoo. The local pub has a few farmers and merchants inside. One of your squad notices that the bartender seems sullen and angry, but questions get you nowhere.
Staying the night, you hear a commotion in a room nearby. You go investigate, and find that the local deputies are carting off a merchant guardsman for theft. The bartender is awake by this time, and, when the deputies leave, starts muttering about the injustice of it all. Questioning reveals that a few deputies are quick to make arrests. Prisoners are rarely found innocent due to manufactured evidence, and are speedily sent out to the chain gangs. The bartender will put you in contact with some disgruntled citizens/merchants who will hire you to free their men.
This scenario is about how you choose to deal with the deputies and the chain gangs.
1) You can investigate the recent 'theft', show that the arrest was unjust, and get a few deputies arrested and put onto the chain gang. Depending on your skills, you convince the sheriff to release other innocent men (if you can identify them), but you get one shot, and if your evidence is lacking, you'll be run out of town for having slandered law-abiding officers. The consequence of succeeding is that a few men get off, but trade route construction slows down. The town sherriff won't be happy with the situation, but he won't hold it against you for upholding justice. You'll still get some help out of the town in the future, slightly lower than average. Crime in the area will moderately increase as there are fewer deputies on the force, and they are more cautious about making arrests. You can end up talking the sherriff into release genuine criminals, either by a failure to gather evidence and discern lies, or because you genuinely want to release criminals, perhaps because you made a few deals.
2) As above, you can investigate and determine that many arrests were false. However, you can make a deal with the deputies. After all, you recall that the prisoners were well fed, and if discipline was strict, no one was dying who didn't actively fight back. You get assurances that the prisoners will be released after serving their time. Depending upon your negotiation skills, you might solicit a bribe. You'll likely be required to help round up the bartender and other discontents, in the interest of public order. Ultimately, trade route construction advances at a decent pace, and you've found some common ground with local law enforcement. Crime in the area will stay down. You can expect better than average help from the town in the future, but several of the prisoners, and their few free friends, will consider you complicit in their false imprisonment and either refuse to deal with you, charge you more, or cause trouble for you in the future.
3) You can backtrack to the chain gang and free them all. If the guards live, or if the guards get off a radio call before dying, the town will be hostile to you. The prisoners will be grateful, and you might get some better deals with merchants who've travelled through the area. However, some prisoners will have been justly imprisoned and you'll hear rumors of increased violence in the area. If you succeed without the town knowing, they'll still help you in the future, but with trade route construction halted, and increased violence in the area, they won't be able to offer much.
4) As above, you can free the prisoners. You can also run the sheriff and his deputies out of town. Calling in another Ranger squad will return law and order, and ensure that the town stays under your control. Some townspeople will resent you, others will cheer. The rangers will be able to import prisoners from other jurisdictions to continue with construction projects. You'll still have a few newly freed ciminals to deal with, and certain crimes will be targetted against Rangers specifically, as a few innocent deputies and guardsmen will have escaped, and now seek revenge. You can expect average help from the town in the future.
5) Walk away. The town is safe, and if a few people are falsely imprisoned, they're not being abused. The town sheriff generally agrees with the positions of the desert rangers, so you can expect an average amount of aid from the town in the future. The disgruntled citizens will leave for other towns, so you will not be able to accept their offer at a later date.
Options 1 and 2 should be the hardest to manage, as it will require a combination of intelligence, perception, and diplomacy to gather evidence, eliminate false leads, and convince the authorities to see your way. These options will also require you to not outright free the prisoners, as the merchants ask.
Act II: Consequences
Options 1, 3, and 4 will result in a few thefts and murders to investigate in surrounding townships. The severity of the crimes will depend on who got released from the chain gang. More serious criminals/deputies will commit multiple crimes, but there should be the option of outhinking them and cutting short their crime spree, perhaps by setting a trap using some innocent lives as bait. Whether you get called in to investigate depends on whether you were run out of town or not.
Options 2 and 4 will result in you getting called in to help negotiate a new alliance of townships as the trade routes are finished. Your success will result in increased influence over a surrounding town or two. Angry citizens, freed prisoners, and/or escaped deputies may speak out during negotiations, leading to failed talks that result in maintaining the status quo. Some prisoners/deputies may have come out better for the experience, and speak up about how their life was turned around. You ability to silence critics, get success stories to talk, and cut deals with relevant parties will influence your success. It should be much harder to silence escaped deputies, especially since many will have a been truly good officers, well known in the surrounding communities. In those cases, you will have to manufacture evidence of corruption if you want negotiations to succeed (this should be very hard to do). Extreme failure will result in war parties being sent to Fulsom to clean up their government. You might still take a side if war parties are sent off, but your influence in certain jurisdictions will decrease nevertheless.
Options 5 will result in nothing. You made no impression on anybody, so they will not call you in for any reason.
I didn't really flesh out the scenario that much, but while some choices may seem more just, I would hope that the writing would influence the players decision making. Some innocent people should be downright unlikeable, while some criminals and dirty deputies should be sympathetic, doing to wrong thing for the right reasons (trumped up charges for real criminals who got away with crimes elsewhere; maintaining order with a healthy dose of fear, pointing out how lawless the town used to be...)