Thursday, June 02, 2011

In Which The Warlock Invades the Wasted West...

One of the great things about the Dayton area isn't just the numerous gamer population or the 4 friendly-local-game-stores in our vicinity.  We also have a great series of stores to support the gaming addiction that aren't just specialized in minis, dice, and games...

Welcome to the Wasted West!
In fact, it's at one of those stores that I managed to find a real set of treasures!  In amongst the shelves at Half Price Books, I managed to pick up a copy of Solid! The d20 Blaxploitation Role-Playing Game, as well as a copy of Deadlands: Hell on Earth, the 'sequel' to the original Deadlands game.  "Oooh!" said I.  What a relic!

With both of these, I headed to the checkout counter happy as could be, as you might imagine, but I was somewhat unprepared for exactly what I picked up.

While I had been somewhat down on Hell on Earth for its seemingly odd continuation of the Deadlands metaplot, I've got to say:  the mechanics and sheer uniqueness of the classic version more than make up for this!  Just when you'd think that you can't do much more with a "Mad Max"-esque, post-apocalyptic setting, just add some Hell on Earth!  So many possibilities, like my favorite, the Doompriests--believers in mutation and radioactivity as paths to power.  With powers like "Atomic Blast" and "Nuke", how could you go wrong? 

One of the big draws that Deadlands has for me is the unique magic system that each class has. Where, in a game like D&D, most magic-users felt the same--pick X spells of Y level; you have those memorized until you sleep next--Deadlands bucked that trend. Hucksters cast spells by playing poker against otherworldly demons, Shamen had to appease the Spirits by performing tribal medicine rites, while Blessed simply prayed for an answer. 

But the real key comes in how different a Doompriest feels from any other arcane backround, even a Syker, though they use the same arcane resource:  Strain.  Where a Doompriest excels in combat, surviving in radioactive wastes, and in powering items and the like, the Syker's focus lies more--and fittingly so--on espionage, getting powers of disguise and subterfuge rather than straight-up damage.  A New Templar, similarly, gets subtle 'divine gifts' that aren't even activated like the other powers.  They're simply "always on", providing that extra divine edge to a Templar's abilities that push him into victory.  Each arcane background has a different feel and focus, which makes them really unique and fun to play.
From the upcoming "Deadlands" comic book...

I find myself in a unique position right now, as Pinnacle Entertainment has already announced a "Reloaded" version of Hell on Earth, meant to use the generic Savage Worlds ruleset as a core mechanic.  While I liked the newest incarnation of Deadlands: Reloaded, I do feel that some of the arcane backgrounds are a little too similar.  Hucksters are fine, still using the poker-based mechanic, but the Martial Artist, the New Scientist, and the Shaman all use power points in some manner, and have quite a few commonalities in their available powers.
At one point, in "Follow the Walkin' Man", I had 5 characters with arcane backgrounds--a Huckster, two Blessed (a priest and a Voodoo houngan), a Martial Artist, and a New Scientist.  Aside from the Huckster, there was little difference in the powers being slung about, which led to an almost "generic" feel. 

Luckily, I had some really quality players in that game--the PlatinumChick, Will the ManMan, Chris the III, and DigitalKat, among others--that added their own descriptors and made the game really take shape.  Plus, it seems like with Pinnacle's upcoming 1880 Smith and Robards' Catalog, there'll be some changes made to the Weird Science rules, making them a little more separated from the other backgrounds.

I really hope that Pinnacle, as they move forward into Hell on Earth, keeps the individual nature of the arcane characters.  Seeing the high quality of the Deadlands products so far, I have little doubt that they're going to do their best, so it'll be interesting to see what comes next from them!


  1. Thunderforge12:42 PM

    For what it's worth, I disagree and think that the Deadlands Arcane Backgrounds feel very different when you're on the player's side. Yes, you are generally casting the same sort of powers (using the list of 30 or so, rather than the hundreds available in Classic Deadlands, which may be part of the source of the "sameness"), but I felt that each AB worked differently enough. My Blessed for instance had access to EVERY power that he could get and eschewed Power Points, which came in handy, which was very different than the other ABs. Sure I could cast "Boost Trait" just like the Huckster, but the way I did it felt different enough for me as a player.

    I think that Savage Worlds is also really big on letting the GM determine if the trappings will change the effect, rather than "sticking to RAW". Consider the "Blast" power (which, as we've often bemoaned, uses the "Burst" template). To a standard Huckster, it's a card that explodes into energy. To a Hexslinger Huckster, it's a whole heck of a lot of bullets being fired (as the Arizona Kid did in our last session). To a Mad Scientist it's a grenade launcher he invented. To a Martial Artist, it's kicking and punching a whole lot (and it doesn't have a range).

    I think a good GM would go beyond what the rules say and make the powers feel different based on that. Maybe bullets and punches aren't very effective against some sort of rock golem, but exploding cards and grenades work just fine. Against a creature who is only vulnerable to magic attacks, the Huckster's energy is probably the only form of Burst than can harm it, but maybe the Mad Scientist made a Ghost Rock hand cannon rather than a grenade launcher and that might be effective.

    And I too am looking forward to seeing how they deal with the ABs in Hell on Earth. I'm sure it will be incredibly awesome!

  2. I guess part of my issue with the Deadlands ABs comes from the fact that the powers lists have so much overlap. I have a hard time visualizing say, a Martial Artist or even a Huckster using Blast (the flamethrower one), but they still get it as an option.

    I realize that a lof of the descriptors and the like rely on GM/player communication, but it seems like a lot of those issues could easily be rectified by cleaning up the powers lists and building in more of the "suggested descriptions" at the eand of each power.

    I'm glad it felt more different for you as a player than it did for me as a GM.. Then again, when you and Jules were slinging spells, it was primarily just the two of you, and the Blessed and Huckster mechanics are obviously VERY different. When Dee joined us, I felt like she was often playing a very conservative Huckster, relying only on power points. Jake's powers were very different, and were nice in the fact that they often "ran in the background". But still, finding both the Blessed and the Martial Artist with 'armor', 'boost trait' and 'quickness' up was a little...ill-fitting, I thought.

    Very eager to see what comes in the Reloaded version! Have you heard a release date yet?

  3. Thunderforge1:40 PM

    For what it's worth, the Classic version of Deadlands had a lot of spells that did exactly the same thing, but were available to different Arcane Backgrounds. So a certain Hex, a certain Contraption, and a certain Blessing all did the same thing, but were called different things. Reloaded tried to streamline that by having one power with different trappings and trying to make sure each one was balanced. I suppose it's a matter of personal preference whether that worked out in the end or not.

    As for Hell on Earth Reloaded, a few weeks ago I did my research and compiled a list of EVERYTHING that Pinnacle has announced that they are working on. You can find it here.

    Regarding Hell on Earth's release dates, Pinnacle staffers used their famous obscure and non-binding replies. When asked if it would be in 2011, Cutter (the Deadlands brand manager) said "The Magic 8-Ball says, Signs point to yes." Shane Lacy Hensley (president of Pinnacle) said "It's not going to make GenCon this year." So the best estimate right now is sometime after GenCon, but in 2011.

  4. Awesome forum post, brother. It's neat to see everything being so close on the horizon. It's like reading my Christmas list!

  5. I actually dislike Savage Worlds Version of Deadlands, i find it too bland and that it has lost its feel. Classics maybe more clunky, but clunky in a good, flavoursome way.