Thursday, May 24, 2018

Deadlands: Making Dudes (And Dudettes)

A while back, I made this document for myself, just to have laying around when making characters for Deadlands. Now, since I'm starting to play it again, I figured I'd post it up here so I can share it with my players easily. And add some pictures...

Using this guide:
The point of this document is provide a list of EVERY SINGLE Edge and Hindrance in every Deadlands source book in the classic Weird West line. It will also include recommended Edges/Hindrances for the various character concepts, as well as the optional Edges/Hindrances for each Arcane Background.
Unless otherwise noted, things are from the Player's Guide.

General Edges:
Big Ears
Don't Get 'Im Riled!
EAGle Eyes
Friends In High Places
Gift of Gab
Law Man
Light Sleeper
Luck O' The Irish
Mechanically Inclined
Nerves O' Steel
Sense O' Direction
“The Stare”
Tough As Nails
Veteran O' The Weird West
“The Voice”
Two-Gun Kid (LD)
Gallows Humor (BE:S)
Blood-Brother (GWN)
Nature's Own (GWN)
Soft-Footed (GWN)
Strong Digestion (GWN)
Unscented (GWN)
Strong Stomach (AG)

General Hindrances:
All Thumbs
Bad Ears
Bad Eyes
Bad Luck
Big Birches
Big Mouth
Big 'Un
Death Wish
Doubting Thomas
Grim Servant o' Death
Heavy Sleeper
Law o' the West
Lyin' Eyes
Mean As A Rattler
Night Terrors
One-Armed Bandit
Ugly As Sin
Accursed (F&B)
Damned (F&B)
Secret Identity (LD)
Finicky (GWN)
Smelly (GWN)
Unpolished (GWN)
Mark O' Cain (LA)

Arcane Backgrounds
Arcane Background: Blessed
Crisis Of Faith (F&B)
Conscience (F&B)
Righteous (LA)
A note on religion: Fire & Brimstone covers most major religions, including Islam, Taoism, and others. However, the Mormons and followers of Grimme's Church of Lost Angels are covered in City o' Gloom and Lost Angels respectively.
Recommended Reading: Fire and Brimstone, Hexarana

Arcane Background: Huckster
Arcane Prodigy (H&H)
Familiar (H&H)
Old Hand (H&H)
Bad Karma (H&H)
Focus (H&H)
Obvious (H&H)
Recommended reading: Hucksters & Hexes, Hexarcana

Arcane Background: Shaman
Recommended reading: Ghost Dancers, Hexarana

Mad Scientists:
Arcane Background: Mad Scientist
Recommended reading: Smith & Robards, The Collegium

Martial Artists:
Arcane Background: Enlightened (Hex, TGM)
Martial Arts Training (Hex, TGM)
Quick Thinker (Hex)
The Cup Overflows (Hex)
“My Kung-Fu Is Superior!” (Hex)
Sifu! Sifu! (Hex)
School Rivalry (Hex)
Style Vulnerability (Hex)
Recommended reading: The Great Maze, Hexarcana

Voodoo Priests:
Arcane Background: Voodoo (Hex, RoB)
Favored Chual (Hex)
Recommended reading: River o' Blood, Hexarcana

Blood Mage:
Arcane Background: Blood Mage (TBC)
Whatley Blood (TBC)
Apt Pupil (TBC)
Belongin's: Arcane Tombs (TBC)
Recommended reading: The Black Circle, Doomtown or Bust!

Arcane Background: Hexslinger/Shootist (LD/TR)
Recommended reading: Law Dogs, Texas Rangers

Arcane Background Anahuac (LA)
Patron Saint (LA)
Recommended reading: Lost Angels, South o' the Border

Note: not included - Arcane Background: Aztec.

Concept types
Cavalier (BE:S)
Foot Cavalry (BE:S)
Forebearance (BE:S)
Seen The Elephant (BE:S)
Soldiers currently members of an army should take Obligation, Rank, and Enemy. Former soldiers can take things like Loco, Lame, One-Armed Bandit, and Hankerin' to explain why they're not still wearing a uniform. Deserters should also take Wanted. Current and former soldiers can also take things like Brave, Heroic, and the like. They can also take Veteran O' The Weird West, as a lot of weirdness has been centered on battlefields. If your character retired and still has some friends in uniform, Friends In High Places could be something to think about.

Law Man:
Depending on the degree of authority a Law Man has, they should have the Edge of the same name. Most marshals and sheriffs are bound to towns and counties, but Federal Marshals and Texas Rangers can be highly mobile and not tied down too much. Bounty hunters can also count as Law Men, except that they rarely have the Law Man Edge. Seeing as most members of the law have to face down some serious threats without much back-up, Edges like Brave, Sand, Nerves O' Steel, “The Stare” and “The Voice” can be very helpful. There's also no reason why a man wanted Back East or across a border or even a few states/territories away can't be a Law Man, but if they want the Wanted Hindrance, make sure it's low level, maybe 1 or 2 points worth. If your character has made a name for himself as a Law Man, the Renown Edge might be something to look in to. Both Law Men and bounty hunters might have Friends In High Places to reflect folks in power they've helped out in the past.
Recommended reading: Law Dogs

There are many different types of outlaws; shyster, bank robbers, Maze pirates, and forgers all operate on the other side of the law. If your character is an Outlaw, she should take the Wanted Hindrance. Just because someone is an Outlaw doesn't mean they're a bad person. Maybe your character became a bank robber to make ends meet and has gotten quite good at it. Combining the Wanted and Yearin' Hindrances could make your character have a goal or reason for breaking the law. Or, maybe your character became an Outlaw because she has a temper and gunned down the wrong man that pissed her off. In general, you don't want to play a Black Hat in the game, but being a bit on the mean side should be fine.
Recommended reading: Law Dogs

Monster Hunters:
Most 'Monster Hunters' in the game are from either the Union or Confederate governments. But, there's also the Explorer's Society from Rascals, Varmints, and Critters book. In addition, there's tons of folks who have had run-ins with the monsters and weird creatures running around. If you're wanting to have government support, look below. For those of you who want to be a bit more independent, you might want to take an Arcane Background (Blessed is the most powerful one for fighting the minions of the Reckoners), but it isn't required. To face down the horrible things out there, and to live to fight another day, you're going to want to have Sand, Veteran O' The Weird West, Brave, and maybe Gallows Humor. Since they're been facing Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, they might be a bit Loco, have a Hankerin', maybe have some Night Terrors that keep them up at night, or be missing some parts making them Lame or a One-Armed Bandit to remember a beast by. You might also want to look at being a veteran Soldier or former Law Man.

Folks that follow the 'way of the gun' tend to be people that can't operate very well in the normal world. In general, a Gunslinger is going to need Brave so they don't run during a gun fight, and for those of you who want to have both hands firing, Two-Fisted and Two-Gun Kid are must-haves. There's tons of things for trick shooting and modifying your guns, so make sure you look around the 'Recommended reading' below. Some Gunslingers might be Law Man or veteran Soldiers so look at those for more suggestions.
Recommended reading: Law Dogs

Texas Ranger:
There are two 'degrees' of Rangers: regular Law Men and Monster Hunters. While the Rangers handle both, they might not be in the know about the beasts running around the Weird West until they get promoted up in Rank. In general, Rangers have Big Britches, are usually Brave, Loyal, and have Law Man and an Obligation.
Recommended reading: Texas Rangers, Law Dogs

Agent/Man In Black:
Originally, the Union's Monster Hunters were the Pinkerton Detective Agency, but in 1877, President Grant created the Special Services Agency. For the most part, the members of either group had two major goals: fighting the Confederates and killing monsters. Unlike the Texas Rangers, the Agency doesn't really have law enforcement powers and tends to be more scientific in their approach to the servants of the Reckoners. Being Brave, having a Secret Identity, and Curious isn't uncommon. But, you're kind of a Law Man and you best believe you have an Obligation.
Recommended reading: The Agency, Law Dogs

Nationalities and Such
Born on Horseback (GD)
Clown (GD)
Converted (GD)
Gone Native (GD)
Guardian Spirit (GD)
Paleface (GD)
Stone Faced (GD)
Disloyal (GD)
Half-Breed (GD)
Old Ways Vow (GD)
There are tons of different tribes of Native Americans out there. Some follow the Old Ways, others are more European influenced. If you're making an Indian Brave or Shaman, make sure to do your research and read the book listed below.
Recommended Reading: Ghost Dancers

Blackfoot (GWN)
Cold-Blooded (GWN)
Lumbering (GWN)
White-Boy (GWN)
Wide-Eyed (GWN)
In 1877, British forces invade Detroit. Now, while that might be seen as an improvement to some folks, it did piss off a lot of others. Canada is a lot like its southern neighbors, but not as rough and tumble. If you want to play a Canadian, just make him like a normal cowpoke, but maybe give him Ferner if he's a real big fan of the Crown.
Recommended reading: Great Weird North

Macho (SoB)
Fuero (SoB)
Social Class (SoB)
Unless you're running a game Down South, Mexcians are going to be Ferners. They'll also have to pick up the lingo, too, so don't forget about that. Most Mexicans will be coming up north to get away from the happenings down there, so they might have a Yearin' to start a good life. They might also be the stereotypical Bandito, with Wanted to go with it, on the run from the law back home.
Recommended reading: South O' The Border

(As in from The Maze [formerly California] and/or Lost Angels)
Lost Angel (LA)
Mestizo (LA)
Iron Stomach (LA)
Chosen One (LA)
Outcast (LA)
There's so many types of folks out in the Maze, I'm just going to list out some of the major groups: the Chinese, the Indians, the Confederates, the Yankees, the Mexicans, and just about anyone and everyone else. Outlaws around the Maze are usually pirates. Mad Scientists abound, looking to be close to a source of Ghost Rock. Martial Artists are common here because of the large Chinese population. The Texas Rangers might be looking for someone who's run off and hiding as a miner or something. There's also people who try to salvAGe things from the cities that fell into the sea. Seriously, if you think of it, you'll find it in the Maze.
Now, the City of Lost Angels is the largest city in the Maze and is run by a religious nut-job.
Recommended reading: The Great Maze, Lost Angels

For folks that come from Back East and north of the Mason-Dixie line, they'll want to take a look at the book listed below. For the most part, folks heading west from the North are escaping built-up cities, a mildly oppressively government, and a lot of war zones.
Recommended reading: Back East: The North

Rebel Yell (BE:S)
Honorable (BE:S)
Southerners are an interesting breed, from a young nation (who's existence is subject of debate). They have some mighty Big Britches, they tend to be Intolerant towards loud-mouthed Yankees (and/or Mexicans), and if from New Orleans, might have Arcane Background: Voodoo.
Recommended Reading: Back East: The South, River O' Blood

(Steam-punk cyborgs)
Got a fella missing an arm? Well, the New Science has a solution! Scrappers are most common in the City o' Gloom but I'm sure people could be found anywhere. If you want to start out with some new gizmos in your body, you're going to want to pick up the Belongin's Edge.
Recommended reading: City o' Gloom, The Collegium

Advanced Stuff
Angst (BoD)
Aura o' Death (BoD)
Degeneration (BoD)
Haunted (BoD)
Mark o' the Devil (BoD)
RAGe (BoD)
Unnatural Appetite (BoD)

Lycanthropy (RVC 2)
Vampirism (RVC 2)

Blue Veil
Born on All Hallows Eve
Born on Christmas
Born Under A Blood-Red Moon
Breech Birth
Cat Child
Child Of The Raven
Earth Bond
Seventh Son/Daughter
Medium (BE:N)
Tempest (H&H)
Brush With Death (GD)
Dream Birth (GD)
Nightmare Birth (GD)

New Hindrances:

Minority (1-3)
Give me your tired and poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..”
Let's face it, America has always been a home for immigrants. Folks from every walk of life have ended up in the USA and now the CSA. In the Deadlands world, folks are a bit more enlightened than they were in ours, but I think a minor addition to the game works okay. Unlike Ferner, being a Minority doesn't mean that you're Fresh-Of-The-Boat, but may have been born and raised in the country but are just slightly different. To define, there are three categories of minorities: Racial, Religious, and Gender. Racial minorities are easy: if you aren't a honkey, you can pick up this Hindrance. Religious minorities are a bit harder to define and mostly rely on where the game is taking place, but the major minority Back East (and to some degree in other places around the West) is Catholics. Usually from Irish or Italian immigrant stock, the followers of the Pope don't have an easy time from judgmental folks. Gender is a bit harder to work with, as the Civil War has drained lots of men-folk allowing women to fill many roles thought unimAGinable a few short years AGo. Women can pick up Minority if she does a job that's very much 'man's work' like being a Law Dog, but take it up with your Marshal first.

For the most part, not being a WASP is enough to get the one point level of this Hindrance. Your character is black, Chinese, Indian, or maybe Catholic. While most folks don't really have a problem with him, some folks might look at him a little funny and the law might knock on his door first if 'someone matching' his description commits a crime.

For campaigns that take place an area where a group of minorities cause issues (Apache raids, perhaps?), Marshal's may allow players to take two points in this Hindrance if they are part of or closely match the minority (like being an Indian, but not even an Apache in the example above).

For Marshals that want a bit more 'darkness' in their campaigns, they may allow up to three points of this Hindrance in some locations. For example, some folks in the Maze may not take too kindly to someone Chinese because of Kang's pirates. Or, maybe folks in the CSA aren't as accepting of freedmen as they say in the Back East book...

Book Abbreviations:
PG – Player's Guide
MH – Marshal's Handbook
F&B – Fire and Brimstone
H&H – Hucksters & Hexes
GD – Ghost Dancers
Sm&Rds – Smith and Robards
Col – The Colligum
BE:N – Back East: The North
BE:S – Back East: The South
TR – Texas Rangers
AG – The AGency
LD – Law Dogs
TGM – The Great Maze (California)
CoG – City o' Gloom
Dead – Book o' the Dead
ToT – Tales o' Terror: 1877
RoB – River o' Blood
TBC – The Black Circle
RVC 1 – Rascals, Varmints, and Critters
RVC 2 – Rascals, Varmints, and Critters 2
SoB – South o' the Border (Mexico)
GWN – Great Weird North (Canada)
LA – Lost Angels
BoD – Book o' the Dead

Friday, October 27, 2017

Blast From The Past: Deadlands (classic)

Welcome to a Spaghetti Western... With meat!

Who doesn't love a good Western? Okay, a lot of people. The genre is something of an acquired taste. I understand that. I've never been a huge fan of the Western. The older ones, the really old ones with singing cowboys and heroes in White Hats (that, by the way, is the origin of the phrase), are terrible to my modern sensibilities. The genre is hard to get into, but has a strange romance to it. There's something about that lone man with a gun and a mission that appeals to Americans. The times when things made a bit more sense. Or were more simple. It was a time of exploration and desperation. Of all the genres in media, the Western is the quintessential American genre. Except when they're mimicking Japanese Samurai epics. Seriously. Look that up.

Sister Mary doesn't mess around

But, many years ago, I stumble upon the Deadlands card game, Doomtown. My dad found a large box of the cards at a garage sale and thought I might like it. And, oh, did I. Eventually, I found out the card game (which will be reviewed in a Gone But Not Forgotten article before too long) was based on a RPG. After picking it up, I loved it. An original and interesting system, a new look at an Alternative History of the Civil War and the following Wild West era, and gave it a unique twist.
Since I love this game so much, you better hold on to your hats, cowpokes; this is going to be a long one. I couldn't hold myself back...

The system in the original books is a prototype of the current Savage Worlds system. If you're familiar with that, you're ahead of the class.

The basic mechanics of the system use a unique mix of playing cards and dice. Even to create your characters. You draw cards to get your stats, which generate points to buy Aptitudes, Edges, and get more from Hindrances. Instead of character classes, you buy the skills and advantages to make the kind of character you want. You can mix and match a bit. You could make a scientist that's also a bare-knuckle brawler. Or a gun fighter with mastery of historical poetry. It's really up to you.

As I mentioned, the system uses a mix of playing cards and dice and it starts with character creation. To build your character, you draw a dozen cards from a regular deck of cards (jokers in and Hoyle's strongly recommended). From those twelve, you select ten to keep. You convert the cards into a series of stats, with the cards' number telling you what type of die (d4, d6, d8, etc), while the suit of the card determines how many dice (2d6, 3d4, etc). Once you figure out what you have to work with, you have to assign them to your stats. As I'm sure you've figured out, there's ten stats, which are divided into “Corporeal” meaning the physical (Deftness, Nimbleness, Quickness, Strength, Vigor) and Mental (Cognition, Knowledge, Mien, Smarts, Spirit). When you're assigning those stats, you'll want to know what you want your character to do in the game. If you're looking to play a rough and tumble gunslinger, you'll be upping those Corporeal traits. If you want to play someone who can think his way around corners, you'll be upping the Mental stuff. One thing to know is that your points for skills are going to based on the die type of some of your Mental traits. Oh, and Spirit isn't a dump stat. Keep it at d6. At the very least.
Once you get done with your Traits, it's time to start working on your Edges and Hindrances. You can use the points you have for your skills to buy Edges, but I strongly suggest you just take some Hindrances to get some points. Edges are another way to focus your character, making him or him faster, more charismatic, Brawny, or you can select an Arcane Background (more on those later). Hindrances help you flesh out your character, is he Randy? Is he Wanted somewhere? Maybe he's Mean As A Rattler? Or could he be Loyal? Any points you don't use on Edges can be used on your skills, too. Nifty, huh?
Once you've got all this figured out, it's time to work on skills, or Aptitudes. While your Aptitudes are based on your Traits, you might be required to switch them around. Let me explain a bit. Let's say you want to do some “Shootin'” with a rifle. You put points into the Aptitude Shootin': Rifle, to a maximum of 5. Now, normally Shootin' is a Deftness Aptitude. If you have a Deftness of 2d6 (that's roughly human average by the way) and a Shootin' of 5, you'd roll 5d6. Your Trait determines the die type and the Aptitude rating determines how many dice you roll. Now, let's say you want to make a trick shot or something, so you'd have to use Cognition for it. If your Cognition is 1d8, you'd use 5d8 for the roll to see if you can figure out how to make the shot, then 5d6 to take the shot. Does that make sense?
If you're looking for more points, there's a great little Edge you can take. It's called Veteran of the Weird West. It costs you zero points and gives you 15 points to spend on your character. How cool is that? But, it comes at a cost. After you pick this Edge, your Marshal (the GM of the game) draws a card from a deck and compares it to a chart in the Marshal's Handbook and gets to mess up your character just a little bit. Isn't this fun?
Now, a little while ago, I mentioned “Arcane Backgrounds.” They're an edge you can take and there's a few of them. The folks who deal with devils are called Hucksters. Those “Practitioners of the New Science” (AKA mad scientists) have an Arcane Background. Native Shamans have their own. As do the servants of God, the Blessed. In addition to their Arcane Background, they also need to take a skill for their power. Each level in this skill lets them take a “spell” (except mad scientists). There's also source books for each one of these groups which give them new Edges to help focus their powers as well as give them a ton of new spells. If you want to play one of these, you really need to get these books, too.
Now, those are the Arcane Backgrounds in the core book, but there's a few more. In The Great Maze, they give you rules for the Chinese Fightin' Arts (Martial Arts to modern folks). In Bloody Ol' Muddy, there's rules for Voodooists. In Law Dogs, they introduced Shootists, which are a lot like Hucksters, but focus only on their guns. There's even rules for Anahuac Priests, and Aztec Priests. While powerful, these things are a point sink. Three points for the Arcane Background, up to five for the skill you need (Faith, Hexslinging, Ritual, etc), and more if you want to get Edges to make your magic user better. If you want to play one of these, you need to be really smart with those character points.

One of Hoyle's Hucksters. Pick a card... Any card.

Before I go on further, let's talk more about how the game works. First off all, you need at least two decks of cards to play: one for the posse (a “party” in other games) and one for the Marshal. When it comes to initiative, each member of the posse makes a roll. Then, you get cards based on your roll. The Marshal draws a few for the bad guys and then starts counting down from Ace and on down to Deuces, with the suit of the card figuring out who goes first if more that one person has a ten for example. If you draw a red joker, you get to go whenever you want. If the same card, the exact same card, is shown (as the Marshal is using his own deck) there's a roll off to see who goes first. If the posse draws the black joker, things suck for the player who drew it. In general, black jokers are bad news no matter what you're doing.

Another Huckster. Looks like he didn't draw a joker...

Now, let's talk about how you roll those dice. As you've seen, you get to roll multiple dice for any kind of roll. But, there's one big difference in how it works. When you're rolling for a stat, you roll all your dice and then take the HIGHEST of the dice. Let's say you've got 3d10 in Smarts and you're making a roll. You get a 5, a 2, and a 6, then your roll is 6. Got it? Good. When it comes to trying to figure out if you succeed or not, you're looking for a Target Number (or TN). Usually, the TN is 5, but it can go as low as 3 and as high as 13, odd numbers only. I hear you asking “How can you make a 5 if you're only rolling d4s?” Good question. The answer is “Exploding Dice.” Let's go back to our example. You roll your 3d10 and this time you get a 2, a 5, and a 10. Since you rolled the top number on the die, called an Ace, you get to roll another d10 and ADD it to the last one. So, let's say the second one is a 7. Now, your top die is a 17. Cool, right? It's important because you can also get a “Raise” on your roll. A raise is when you get 5 above the TN. If the TN is 9 and you get 14, you got a success and a raise. But, there is something that might confuse you. When it comes to damage, you add dice together, like you do in most other games (except if it's a stat check). So, if you pop off your Peacemaker, you roll 3d6 and add those three together. You know what's cool? Damage dice can explode, too. I've seen a Peacemaker do 30 damage thanks to that.
So, I'm sure you're wondering what happens when you do that damage, what it really does to folks. Unlike most games, like D&D for example, you don't have hit points. Instead, you have wounds and locations. And Wind for non-lethal and bleeding damage. The locations are your limbs (right and left arms and legs), your guts and you head. You can take up to five or six wounds in each location before it gets maimed. Of course, you can's exactly take a maiming wound to the head and keep breathing. Each level of wounds applies a negative modifier to your rolls and you have to see if you stop bleeding. Also, since this the 19th century, if wounds to your limbs can mean you can lose them, even if you're able to get medical attention. Isn't this fun?
But, there's a way to not take damage at all, as well as boost your rolls. And get experience. Fate chips. That means poker chips. Because poker is big in this game. You can spend the fate chips the Marshal hands out to negate wounds, heal Wind damage, boost rolls in different ways, and use them for some spells. If you end the session without spending all of your chips, you can convert them into Bounty Points, which are the experience points in this game.

If you don't know how to play poker, you might just want to brush up before you play. Maybe you should buy yourself a copy of Hoyle's Book of Games...

I don't think she's interested, muchacho

When it comes to the setting, the game starts out in 1876 (by the time the “classic” system was shut down, it was 1879) and the Civil War is still going on. Before you ask how that could happen, there's a bit of back story you should know. On July 3rd 1863, an event known as The Reckoning began. If you don't know your history, the Battle of Gettysburg was going on. One of the bloodiest battles in the war in a battle that would later prompt the famous Gettysburg Address. This is when the West got Weird. There were reports of the dead rising and eating the brains of their former comrades. There were other things that happened that day. The entire Union garrison in New Orleans was wiped out in a single night. Union ships on the Confederate blockade were attacked by mysterious monsters. People who had read Hoyle's Book of Games suddenly discovered a code that allowed them to tap into the Hunting Grounds and trick demons into giving them little boons of power. Indian (Native American) shamans were suddenly granted much more power from their nature spirits. This is why the war dragged on. Whenever there were large battles, things would get... Weird. This allowed the Confederacy to survive just long enough to free their slaves and get France and the United Kingdom to break the Union blockade. With the blockade over, the Confederacy has survived. Out west, things are much more complicated than they were in our time, not the least of which is what happened to California. In 1869, the western half of California fell into the Pacific ocean. As a native Oregonian, I laughed with wicked glee when I read this. Anyway... So, when the Great Quake happened, as the survivors found a mysterious mineral called Ghost Rock was found. It's a lot like coal, but better. It was also a key ingredient in gadgets that were being made by the purveyors of the New Science. Better known as “Mad Scientists.” With the magical boost given to them, the Native Americans used the distraction of the never-ending Civil War to take back some of their lands. The Sioux were able to reclaim most of Dakota territory and hold it. The Mormons also used the distraction of the conflict to declare neutrality and wait to see who was going to come out on top. To make matters even more “fun,” both the North and the South declared a race to what was left of California (now known as the Great Maze due to the pillars of land left behind by the Quake). Several folks jumped at the chance to win the prize. This being Deadlands, it quickly devolved into what's called the Great Rail Wars.
Now, let's take a minute to talk about the “Weird” in the Weird West. When the Reckoning started, a few odd things happened. In the deserts of the American West, critters known as “Rattlers” appeared. They're not called that because they're like rattle snakes. No, the “rattle” is from your teeth. They're gigantic worms that burrow under the ground and then pop up for a tasty snack (if you've seen Tremors, you have a rough idea how this works). Usually a cowpoke and his horse. While the most wildly known ones are the ones from the Mojave, there's some others lurking about, too. In the Great Maze, after the Great Quake, actual sea serpents turned up. The Chinese immigrants took to calling them Maze Dragons and the name stuck. There's also other weird things running around, rumors of werewolves, vampires, and other nasty things. I could go on, but I'd rather not spoil any surprises for anyone who might play the game... But, most people dismiss them as rumors. That's in part to the work of groups in the USA and the CSA. In the USA, the Pinkerton Detective Agency were hired by the Union government to keep things quiet. But, in 1877 or so, the government ended the contract and created the Special Services Agency. This new Agency hired some of the best and brightest from the Pinkertons, including the elusive head of the Western Bureau, a man known only as The Ghost. South of the Mason/Dixon line, the weirdness (and country wide law enforcement) is handed by the notorious Texas Rangers. The Rangers also act like the US Marshals for the CSA, which divides their attention. The Rangers and the Agency differ in methods, but have one common goal: Keep the weirdness out of the papers. Of course, there's one major newspaper that's working towards revealing the truth to the world, but most people think it's bunk. That would be the Tombstone Epitaph. To most folks, the Epitaph is entertaining to read but not to be believed. There's a lot of folks out there trying to report the truth, but they tend to vanish if they make too much of a ruckus about what they've seen. When you read the source books, the player's section is usually written in the form of one of those three groups (the Rangers, the Agency, or the Epitaph), so you want to remember them.

This is a cover for a Vampire: the Masquerade source book, it helped inspire Deadlands

Speaking of source books, there's some you really want to pick up. There's some for locations, such as City O' Gloom (Salt Lake City as we would know it), The Great Maze, and South O' The Border (Mexico of course). There's also books for Back East in the USA and the CSA. If you're thinking about running a game in or near a location, you should pick these up. If you're thinking about playing a Texas Ranger or a member of the Agency, there's books on those. The same goes for Hucksters, Shamans, and the Blessed. There's also a book called Hexarcana, which is a must-have for any Arcane Background. Why? Because they update all of the Arcane Backgrounds and give you a few more spells. One book everyone should get is Smith & Robards. The book is full of weird gadgets and alchemical creations, which anyone can use. These inventions vary from useful (things like Gattling rifles) to humorous (automatic flapjack maker anyone?) but it also gives your resident Mad Scientist an idea of what's already been done. Another one you need is The Quick & The Dead, which aren't always mutually exclusive in Deadlands, because it has all of the information on the setting. There's also helpful charts in the back for Marshals for random encounters for the road. There's also Tales O' Terror 1877, which updates the setting and some rules (which you don't need if you've bought the Player's Guide and the Marshal's Handbook). For Marshals, there's Rascals, Varmints and Critters one and two.
One cool thing is that the older source books have adventures in them, some focused on the Arcane Background for those books, but they're good for any posse you have.
There's so many source books, I honestly list them all, but you should take a look at them just in case.

Even after all of this, if you can't come up with what kind of character you want to play, there's Archetypes in the Player's Guide, as well as many others in each source book. You can also use them for inspiration for characters, too. The only problem with the Archetypes is that you don't get the ability to make awesome draws for your character and you might have to shift things around to make the character fit exactly what you want to play.

Whew... That was a long one. And I barely scratched the surface of this game. If you want more, such as details on the Arcane Backgrounds or locations in the Weird West, let me know. I wouldn't mind doing a whole series on this game. It's one of my favorites. Plus, the information is still mostly valid and relevant because there's Deadlands: Reloaded which continues the world but in the Savage Worlds system.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Let's Review: Evil Spares None

What is it?:
Evil Spares None is a cooperate horror board game that I helped Kickstart a few years ago.

The setting:
It's based on the typical “slasher flick” type movie we remember. You take on some high school students trying to get away from the slasher while trying to who's behind the mask. The victims, I mean students, are forced to flee , running through the town, passing by those killed by the Psycho and those yet to be killed. and collect evidence to discover who the killer is.

The system:
The system is a bit of a mess. At the start, you get 2-3 characters to start with. But, you can only activate one to begin with and hope you get the chance to put the rest in play. Or just activate them as your other characters die. During your turn, you get three actions with your characters, but you have to burn an action to switch to another character if you have more than one in play. Characters have a Health stat, a Combat stat, and Brains stat, in addition to a special Active ability and a special Stand-by ability. They seem to have a huge amount of variance between them and I haven't played enough to see how balanced they are.
In between player turns, the Psycho gets to move one space and draw cards. These cards usually let him move more, so he can catch up with you before you get a chance to even move your first character.
When it comes to drawing Action cards, you have to be in the right spot on the board to get the chance to draw them. And you need those Action cards. You also need to make it to the right spot to reach a Stranger before the Psycho gets there first. Strangers can become Townies, who you can sacrifice to save your own skin, or can become another Character. And, for even more fun, you need to reach the bits of Evidence left around so you can solve the mystery... And hopefully use it to survive when the Psycho comes calling.
When it comes to placing new parts of the board, you're suppose to do it randomly, but that's really hard when the tiles are double sided. Draw the wrong one, and everyone is fucked. Hard.
The one thing that goes smoothly is combat. It's simple dice rolling and comparing Combat stats between the Characters and the Psycho. Weapons and other Action cards can help the players, and Evidence and Townies can be “thrown at” the Psycho to avoid the combat. But, as the Psycho increases in power, he becomes harder and harder to defeat... Well, slow down, really, in combat.
As you play the game, there are a few score boards you have to keep track of. The first is the Stalk-O-Meter, which tracks who's the Target of the Psycho and who's going to be next. Being the Target is bad. Very bad. Then, there's a Psycho score board and a Player score board. The Psycho score moves up based on what the Psycho cards do. And some Psycho cards are conditional upon the Psycho score is. The Player's score moves up by finding Evidence and hurting the Psycho. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to get those all figured out.

Is it worth it?:
I hate to say it, but...
I paid $25 for the game and I don't know if it's something I really want to play again. As one of my friends who played with me said “These rules are way more complex than they need to be.” That sums up my feelings. I think it could have used a bit more playtesting to simplify it. The idea is sound, but the execution was fumbled. Now, I do feel like I got a good amount for what I paid for, but I wouldn't have bought it blind like I did.
While I did have to put the game pieces together (which means putting stickers on things), I didn't mind that. My only real compliant was that the character pieces are wooden things with “Minecraft Avatar” versions of the characters. Why not just have a profile picture or just name instead? Minor, but not something that really sold me.