Deadlands is a horror role-playing game set in an alternate history. The Old West has become the Weird West, and in the dark places there are monsters lurking, waiting to strike fear into the hearts of honest, hardworking folk. Someone’s going to have to put these monsters down and bring a sense of peace to the Weird West. You got the Sand in you to take the fight to zombies, wendigos, and other, stranger dark things?
What is Deadlands?
The history of Deadlands take our history and turns it ever so gently on its head. The quick strokes version is that an ancient pact that bound evil spirits to the spirit world and banished them from the earth has been broken through blood and magic. The spirits are back with a hell of a vengeance and are turning the world into a dark and scary place. Dark magic brings nightmares to life, and can literally scare the life out of people. What kind of heroes can stand up to such terrible evil?
Deadlands offers a number of eccentric character options beyond what you’d normally expect to find in the Old West. So alongside your heroic law dogs, scurrilous outlaws, stage coach drivers, bounty hunters, buffalo soldiers and a host of other cowboy types, you’ve got some of the following:
- Huckster: Students of one of the most arcane of arts, gambling, Hucksters have learned to perform an outlandish number of tricks by literally playing poker with the devil.
- Shaman: Students of the natural world, Shamans trade devotional favors to a variety of powerful spirits to earn their blessings and work powerful magic.
- Blessed: Representing practitioners of a dozen different faiths, the Blessed use their faith to channel energy to heal the sick, calm fears, and in the most extreme cases, raise the dead.
- Mad Scientist: Through the powers of “science,” amazing discoveries are made from Rocket boots to portable gatling weapons and steam powered armor.
- Men In Black: The United States of America has a very secret, very efficient agency for dealing with Supernatural threats. Utterly proficient, and supremely capable of operating in the shadows, the Men in Black protect the US from threats from beyond.
- Texas Rangers: The Confederate States of America does things a little different from the North, and nothing screams rebel pride like a Texas Ranger rolling into town and kicking the snot out of anything that’s got too big for its britches. Remember folks, One Riot, One Ranger.
One of my favorite things about Deadlands is that it lets you tell stories about regular people caught up in horrific events. You can make the sharp eyed gunslinger, but you can also make the old school teacher, the man that runs the general store, or the old drunk at the bar. All of these characters have a place in the old west, and they belong to the Weird West just as hard.
The best advice i can give for a new player of Deadlands is to avoid the urge to go find all the books and read up on the setting. Deadlands is a mystery of epic proportions, and you’ll rob yourself of wonderful opportunities to get exposed supernaturally by reading up on what’s out there. Take it slow, and let your Marshal show you what’s up.
How to get Started with Deadlands
There are two primary ways to play Deadlands. You can either pick up Deadlands Reloaded, which uses the Savage Worlds game system, or you can pick up Deadlands Classic, the original version. Each one has things to recommend it, but you’ll be able to have a hell of time regardless of which direction you end up going.
The original version of the game, originally published in 1996, the books that most players will need to get started are the Weird West Player’s Guide and the Marshal’s Handbook.
Available from a variety of online retailers for the .pdf versions, you can still find a variety of print versions if you go looking for them. Be aware that beyond these books are dozens of other titles in this product line and you can have a lot of fun expanded in the directions that interest you.
When Pinnacle Entertainment Group (PEG, Inc.) released the Savage Worlds rules for creating a role-playing game that could be used with any setting, one of the first games that made the jump was Deadlands. Appearing as Deadlands Reloaded, the new version of Deadlands plays faster and greatly simplifies a lot of the rules. Again, for the player getting started, you’re going to need two books, the Player’s Guide and the Marshal’s Handbook.
Whichever way you decide to get involved with this horrific take on the Old West, you’re going to have hours and hours of fun getting into all sorts of trouble and blowing things all to hell. Remember to pick up several decks of playing cards for this game, as just about everybody in the universe is going to need one. That’s our opening look at Deadlands, and we hope you have a hell of a lot of fun.
Game on, Game Fans.