Deadlands: The Weird West (2021) - So what do we think?

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CRKrueger

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If you mean crazy as in triggering you, no.

If you mean crazy as wildly over the top Gonzo, kind of. That adventure is about the top of the crazy scale, but it’s not the only one up there. The big campaign that goes from Deadlands to Hell on Earth is that level of Gonzo. I’d say those two are the only ones at that level.

But, talking about any Gonzo adventure is like reading a wiki article summary of any comic book. It sounds like the most stupid, ridiculous thing imaginable. But when you’re running it, or playing it, just like the comic book, it has its own internal logic.
 

Simon Hogwood

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The premise is that Robert E. Lee hires the PCs to assassinate Jefferson Davis, who has been replaced by a doppelganger. Robert E. Lee is assassinated in the process, dying heroically to save the PCs, and the PCs get their chance to kill Davis at Lee's funeral. First, they have to deal with stopping a voodoo ritual to kill Jefferson Davis, though before they know it's not the REAL head of the CSA. Oh and also rescue Davis' family from where they're under house arrest (the doppelganger choked to death Jefferson's infant son to scare them into compliance).
. . . is there some reason the PCs can't just let the voodoo ritual kill Jefferson Davis?
 

CT_Phipps

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. . . is there some reason the PCs can't just let the voodoo ritual kill Jefferson Davis?

Yes, it doesn't work because it's not actually Jefferson Davis (due to being a doppleganger) but this strikes me as already going from a weird place because the PCs would know Jefferson Davis as not just the head of the CSA but the tyrannical police-state EVIL head of the CSA. The original Deadlands let you be "honorable" Confederates but even in-universe h'es supposed to be shitbag working for the Reckoners.

AND there's the NOT inconsiderable fact that the PCs are playing Unionists, abolitionists, or people of color who'd want the historical one dead.
 

CT_Phipps

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Pinnacle Entertainment actually did a decent trailer for the "new" version of Deadlands that I think pretty much summarizes their design philosophy for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition.

"Return to Small Town Horror"

 

Roseblack

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Well, this edition is the one I wish I’d had a few of years back when I ran itso I’d call it a success overall. Deadlands has always been a problematic fave for me, just like the source material it’s based on. It still leaves much to be desired in its treatment of Indians and Chinese Americans, for example, but getting rid of the Confederacy is a step in the right direction. It says a lot that, in a setting with monsters and magic and mad science, a slavery-free and racially-inclusive CSA was the one thing that utterly defeated my suspension of disbelief.

And yeah, Dead Presidents sounds pretty bad, but it’s pretty much what I’d expect from something heavily influenced by late-90s adventure design (i.e. railroady AF) and by 20th-century neo-Confederate revisionism (i.e. trying to paint Lee as a heroic figure and pretend he wasn’t a raging white supremacist). Neither of those things has aged well. Those things aside, the gonzo is par for the course for Deadlands, which is unapologetically high camp.

In any case, I also like the return to ground-level, local adventures and a more sandbox feel, as I never cared about the big metaplot stuff. And you can dial in your preferred level of gonzo vs. grit.
 

CT_Phipps

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SHOWDOWN AT SUNSET is another adventure that has recently come out for Deadlands: The Weird West and helps establish what they're trying to accomplish for the new edition. I am a bit iffy if there's enough content to deserve an entire review but I think the book does provide a sense of direction for Deadlands: Savage Worlds Adventure Edition that was lacking for Reloaded.

Well, no, that's not quite right. Reloaded did have an identity, it was just big epic plot point campaigns trying to get control over the massive metaplot that had come to eat the previous edition. Deadlands was originally envisioned as a metaplot-driven game of the Nineties that had a beginning, middle, and end. It would eventually go on to Hell on Earth and Lost Colony in a kind of multi-generational saga that would culminate in the defeat of the Reckoners.

However, that doesn't really leave much room for the player characters. As someone observed about the metaplot heavy Abberant and Trinity games, if Divis Mal is so powerful that he can never be defeated and changes the plotline at will to accommodate then what is the point of the players? Which is to say they didn't have a point and the writers would have been better off making novels. Reloaded thus got to be defined primarily by dealing with Stone, Brother Grimme, Raven, and Darius Hellstromme as well as averting the apocalypse.

Showdown at Sunset is a contrast to Horror at Headstone Hill in that it is a small self-contained adventure of about thirty pages. This is roughly the same size as Night Train, one of the most popular early Deadlands adventures, but lacks the extensive opening fiction that took up half the book. It is a story you can easily put into any existing chronicle and has a simple enough plot that every posse will generally want to deal with it: stop the hellgate from being opened by the evil huckster.

The premise is that a local gambler has taken over a small town using a demonic deck that steals the souls of his victims. When the deck gets a complete fifty two souls, the huckster will have a gateway to hell opened underneath the town. He doesn't necessarily want to open the gate but if you're cashing the Devil's checks then you eventually you have to repay the balance. There's a shooting contest, a stagecoach robbery, and a beautiful saloon singer to add a few more Western motifs to the event.

The tagline of the new edition was "return to small town horror" and this certainly is a small town horror. The player characters come in, find the local baddie, and deal with it. The simplicity and lack of big politics is an appeal. However, I will say that the book could have used a bit more twists and turns. For example, the villain eventually turns on his masters when I feel like there's not enough build-up to explain why. At the very least it should be something triggered by the PCs rather than happen randomly.

If I had any complaints, it's the events do feel a tad inconsequential and I would have preferred to add a bit more of the factions of the setting or NPCs that could be reused.
 
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