So in response to the Double Shot Kickstarter Classic and Good Intentions that is going on now, I decided that my next couple of books that I was going to re-read were the Deadlands Reloaded Player’s Guide and Marshal’s Guide. Yesterday, I finally got the time to finish the Player’s Guide and I wanted to take some time to put down my thoughts on it.
The first thing I want to say about it is that I love the size of the book. As I get older, I am finding that I don’t like reading full-sized books as much as the smaller 6.5″ X 9″. This is especially true when I am reading them on a tablet. Otherwise with the two column layout, I end up scrolling up and down on the page, or straining my eyes because the print is so small for a full-page view.
The first chapter covers the setting and recent history of the US. It does not cover the actual causes, and it does down play the importance of slavery as a cause for the Civil War. On the other hand even though the Civil War has extended well beyond what it did in reality, the Confederate States did end slavery in their territory on their own (in part to secure the aid of the British. There is a lot of high level information in this section about the state of what is the US, and hints at darker truths in this chapter to give the players an idea as to what is actually going on in the world. Right now the US is broken up into six countries at least until the Civil War is actually resolved (Union, Confederate States, Sioux Nations1, Coyote Confederation2, Deseret3, and Commonwealth of California.
This chapter covers making characters for the setting. It has side bars on both slavery/racial prejudice and gender equality. The gender equality is basically that since the Civil War went on much longer in this setting, more women have been included in the work force due to manpower shortages. As for slavery/racial prejudice, slavery was ended by both the North and the South and that racial prejudice is the domain of villains not the heroes that you will be playing. For the most part the rules are exactly the same as the rules in the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Guide. We do get a new attribute Grit and we do get some new hindrances and edges. Of note for those that are familiar with the setting, you can not start as a Harrowed4 in this version of the rules. They also add the Guts skill in for this setting that they took out of the base Savage Worlds rules.
This chapter covers the gear available in the setting from your basic historical weapons to the Infernal devices made by Mad Scientist. We also get rules on buying cheap gear to make your starting funds stretch further. There are also rules on selling gear that is looted from the outlaws and bandits that your posse fights with. The last section covers the fancy gear that you can order from Smith’s & Robards Catalog and have shipped to you. These cover things like Rocket Packs and Steam Wagons, all powered by Ghost Rock and that have a tendency to explode on you unexpectedly.
This chapter covers parts of the setting rules for Deadlands. The rest of the rules are covered in the Marshal’s handbook. Items that it covers are Grit, Double vs Single action revolvers, changes to bennies (called Fate chips in this setting), Specialized rules for duels, gambling, and hanging.
This chapter covers the second layer of the setting’s onion. The secrets that some of the players might know to start off with, but not all of the settings secrets. The first thing that it covers are the Union’s Agents and the Confederacy’s Texas Rangers. After that we get sections on the various supernatural powers the heroes can have (Blessed, Hucksters, Shamans, Mad Scientists, Masters of Chi (martial artist with powers), and the Harrowed. The game changes how each of the power systems work for example the Blessed do not use power points in this setting5, nor do they have to pick powers, they just decide what they want to cast and based on the spell’s rank, they take a penalty to their skill roll to cast the spell. Hucksters get an opportunity to power their spells by dealing a hand of cards using the Deal with the Devil rules, and of course this can blow up in your face just as easily. Mad Scientist build their powers into devices which surprisingly enough are not very stable and can also blow up in their face and everyone else near them. Shamans have a slightly different list of spells and use power points, but otherwise they work similarly to the Blessed. The martial artist that use Chi powers are different in the fact that each of their powers is a separate skill and that there is no extra downside if they roll a one on their skill dice when trying to activate a power. The final section covers the harrowed, and we get some harrowed only edges that are supernatural powers they can manifest. We also get some information on how they can acquire new powers by defeating supernatural evil creatures and taking some of their powers. We also get some information on the harrowed’s struggle to maintain control of themselves while fighting off the demon that animates them. The other thing in here is each of the Savage Worlds powers with the Deadlands trappings. The powers look to be from before the revision in Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Guide so it states that the bolt spell can be used to cast 1 – 3 bolts of 2d6 or 3d6 damage, which is no longer the case according to the latest Savage Worlds rule set.
Finally we get to the appendix and in it we have a small map of the weird west, a breakdown of powers by arcane background, a list of poker hands and how many power points each generates during a Deal with the Devil, and a character sheet.
The only thing that I found that was missing in this revision of the rules from the previous was the list of language families in Deadlands. If you have the previous edition of Deadlands Reloaded that combined both the Marshal’s and Player’s book this was in there and could be important especially for those with the outsider disadvantage. This is something that I always look for, but I can never find even though I have a memory of seeing it as a sidebar in one of the books.
- The Dakotas and some of Montana and Wyoming. ↩
- Most of Oklahoma. ↩
- Utah under the control of the Mormons. ↩
- If a character dies during play, they get to draw one card per point of Grit that they have and if they get a joker they come back as an intelligent walking dead struggling for control of their body. The Stone and a Hard Place plot point campaign adds an edge to start off this way, and there is a possibility that you could start off this way if you choose the Veteran o’ the Weird West edge. ↩
- I have heard that this rule is going to change with the release of the Good Intentions plot point campaign, but since that hasn’t been released yet, so I don’t know for sure. ↩