West Dickens is an old swindler who poses as a traveling salesman when he is really a con man and is purported to have unique miracle cures for many medical and psychological problems, which he calls Nigel West Dickens' Elixir. He is an impeccable dresser and travels in an opulent emblazoned stagecoach.
John Marston, after having worked with Marshal Leigh Johnson to clear Pike's Basin, is tipped off by deputy Eli that West Dickens has gone missing. He states that West Dickens is missed by his repeat customers in Armadillo. Marshal Johnson equates West Dickens with a drug dealer.
Marston finds West Dickens having been shot and exposed to the elements not far from his stagecoach south of Coot's Chapel, and returns him to the doctor in Armadillo while fighting off bandits who want to finish the job.
Despite Marston's personal dislike of him, West Dickens becomes the central networker and orchestrator of Marston's plan to assault Fort Mercer. West Dickens puts Marston in contact with Seth Briars and Irish, as well as supplying his newly armored stagecoach and uses the "Trojan horse" strategy to deceive the outlaws.
The attack does well, but they find out that Bill Williamson had escaped yesterday morning. Irish then volunteers to take John into Mexico on a barge. West Dickens suggests that he intends to travel abroad, having exhausted customers in the New Austin region. When Marston meets Irish at his barge on the way to Mexico, West Dickens is seen talking with Irish. This is when he tells them he is off to Europe or China.
He is later seen in the Blackwater police building, being arrested for possession and distribution of narcotics. John recognizes him and tells the officers to release him, stating he helped him catch Bill Williamson, with Edgar Ross claiming (in a sarcastic manner) that he is a hero. He is then let go.
One of the first newspapers that can be bought in 1911 has an article about Dickens' "miracle tonic," stating it possesses extraordinary healing powers, saying a woman with one leg grew back her lost limb, and a man on his deathbed got up and went to the nearest brothel with the vigor of a 14 year old boy. It can be assumed that Dickens has greatly exaggerated, if not outright fabricated, these feats. On the other hand, the accounts could be true to provide a "well what do you know" moment. If one would pay attention, they can see that the game never shows what happens to an NPC after drinking the elixir. Also, after Marston drinks it he gains the second level of Dead-Eye, showing that the elixir may have something to it.
Dickens is first seen at Fort Mercer trying to sell his Elixir for 100 gold coins, claiming it cures the zombie plague, and repels zombies. He sees John and tries him to play along with his act but John ends up saying 100 coins is too much for a drink, and threatens him with his revolver to give people a free sample of the Elixir. Dickens has no choice but to reluctantly give the customers free samples. However, he and John watch a man drink the elixir, exit the fort, and be immediately mauled by undead. Nigel gives John a bottle of elixir and tasks John with finding more plant ingredients so that he can attempt to make an actual cure for the plague.
Upon second encounter, Dickens sends John on an errand to Riley's Charge to acquire some metal parts he eventually uses to construct and complete a Blunderbuss. John, despite Dickens' hasty words, is unimpressed with the weapon.
Dickens also confides in John concerning a branch of soldiers "officially" crossing the border to help those in Mexico. Dickens' age would disallow him to pose as a member of the group, and informs John of a group of army deserters stationed at The Scratching Post that may be willing to lend him a uniform instead. When John asks Dickens where he's heading, Dickens optimistically replies that he's headed for either Baghdad or to meet his maker at the hands of one of the undead, smiling as he and John departs amicably. Dickens leaves the scene on foot and he is not seen again.
His appearance, character, voice and mannerisms seem to be based upon the actor/comedian W.C. Fields. His outfit is also very similar to Fields' most popular role as "Mr. Micawber" in the original David Copperfield film. Also, Fields played many con artists in his films, one in particular involves Fields' character peddling a "miracle elixir".
Furthermore, West Dickens' characterization and interactions with John Marston appear to be influenced by the character "Carpetbagger" from the Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales.
After the mission "Can a Swindler Change His Spots?", if you stay at Cueve Seca you can see Nigel stand a foot off the ground urinating. Afterwards, he will stop, walk away, and go back and do it again.
Although Marston initially hated Dickens, he calls him a 'harmless old fraud' when he frees Dickens of his arrest in Blackwater. Marston most likely, despite disliking Dickens' lifestyle, probably sees him as an ally, if not a friend, due to his help on the assault on Fort Mercer.
As seen in Undead Nightmare Nigel West Dickens apparently owns a small valuable item, as he has a small box that he handles very carefully, with rattling coming from the box. This item could also be some of West Dickens' Elixir ( Which has been revealed to be a powerful Undead Bait ) that the old man keeps in a little box and handle carefully to avoid spilling it ( And so baiting every undead near ).
It seems he has been lynched at one point, shown by a scar stretching across his neck. This is likely due to him being caught as a con artist.
His relationship with Irish remains fairly ambiguous, considering he is rarely seen using heavy firearms. However, in dialogue, Irish mentions selling morphine to a friend named Shaky; Irish's drug trafficking may explain their relationship.
Both Dickens and Irish wish to become permanent partners with Marston in their schemes.
Despite constantly failing at "cures" and "miracles", West Dickens says he will not give up science.
It is likely that the fraudulent salesman in the film, The Dangers of Doctors and Patent Medicines is intended to depict, or at least be reminiscent of, Nigel West Dickens. The character, like West Dickens, displays a shameless thirst for profit at the expense of customers' health and naiveté, and pawns off bogus 'remedies' whilst constantly having to relocate to avoid lynching. This is also plausible as one medicine bottle in the film reads, 'Doc West's Revitalizing Swig'.