Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tommy's Take on Deadlands Reloaded: The Last Sons



Last week, I tackled the first of the Deadlands plot point campaigns, The Flood, featuring  war against Reverend Grimme. This week, it's a war against the Servitor of War himself: Raven.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The print version is not available yet, but the PDF of Deadlands Reloaded: The Last Sons is available right now for $34.99. A crushing tome of 336 pages, The Last Sons is divided into three major sections: The Tombstone Epitaph, The Player's Guide and the Marshal's Guide.

As is common, the Tombstone Epitaph opens the book, this time beginning with a recap of the events of The Flood. The City of Lost Angels is gone and California is finally independent. A second Rail War has erupted after conflict in Kansas between the railroads exploded. The Union's election has been delayed, Custer's war with The Sioux is heating up. There's even a Hell on Earth reference, discussing Satan's Garden, a Hellish place outside of Deadwood. There are also concerns expressed (and rightfully so), that Darius Hellstromme isn't facing enough scrutiny for the crap that he pulls. A wonderful feature is the Round-Up, a series of job postings that could easily double as plot seeds.

The character creation chapter adapts material from The Ghost Dancers book from Deadlands Classic, expanding options for Native American characters. A number of Indian specific archetypes are suggested, as well as language groups and which tribes speak which. Four new Hindrances (three of which are available as Major or Minor versions) are included, my favorite being Counting Coup - in which your Native Warrior is compelled to touch his foe with a coup stick before he actually moves to strike them. New Edges include Gallows Humor (which lets you laugh in the face of death) and Two-Gun Kid, to maximize your dual gunslinging potential. Totem Spirits and Patron Spirits are also included, the former being specific to Native Americans and the latter applying to Blessed (with Loa and angels listed as Patron Spirit possibilities). A new power is included for contacting the Spirit WOrld, and there are two great sidebars, the first on Native American trappings for Edges and the second for Totem Spirits.

The gear section includes things like coup sticks and peyote, as well as equipment and requisition rules for both the Texas Rangers and The Agency. Agency gear includes boot knives (that pop out of boots), black dusters (designed to assist in the drawing of weapons), gatling carbines and pistol canes! Ranger gear includes Fugitives from Justice in the Confederacy (with Chapter 13), the LeMat Undertaker (a ghost steel pistol that fires special rounds), and the Supernatural Phenomena Survival Kit.

As with The Flood, The Last Sons Player's Section is available as a free download.

The Marshal's section begins with a look at War's Domain, largely encompassing the Disputed Territories. We get an in-depth look at Raven and his plans ever since he attacked The Old Ones and sparked all of this Deadlands insanity. Under the guise of helping the Indian Tribes, he has pushed the pieces around all over the area, including down into Mexico, planting the seeds of war. In fact, he's the reason why the Mexican army was a troublesome issue in The Flood! Once again, the stage is set for the PCs to step in where the NPCs have failed and hopefully shut Raven and War down. There are also references here to Hell on Earth for the sharp-eyed observer, like how The Reckoners cheated (and that Raven is subconsciously aware of it).

The Setting Rules are pretty extensive, starting with "everyone's suspicious" and covering adventuring in the Hunting Grounds (and the Deadlands) - where anyone can count coup on a defeated foe...as well as The Ghost Dance and everything it can do (including raise the dead...and not necessarily as a Harrowed...but a full on resurrection). It is, frankly, epic stuff. New relics are also included, like Crazy Horse's coup stick and Wild Bill's six shooters.

A general guide to the region is included, with a sidebar detailing how the region changes after the end of the campaign (not unlike how The Flood changed the Great Maze region). A sidebar also covers the many battlegrounds in the region, as well as their Fear Levels and the features found in the area. The entries in this section also include references to the relevant Savage Tales that feature the area in question. An adventure generator for the Disputed Territories is also included.

The plot point campaign itself includes 9 adventures spanning about a year in the Deadlands timeline, plus an epilogue that allows the survivors to throw their weight around in the aftermath of the Rail War II. Tying into the Hell on Earth connection, the adventures include a trip to The Devil's Tower, the location featured in the trilogy of adventures that originally launched Hell on Earth. Unlike the last PPC, this one isn't about killing the Servitor (Grimme in that one, Raven in this one), but it is about fundamentally altering the world when the posse has to enter the Hunting Grounds and hold off the minions of War itself as native Shamans perform The Great Summoning.

Over 30 Savage Tales are included, with classic Deadlands callouts like a conflict with the Nosferatu that started the infamous Night Trains, a clash with The Butcher and his scalpel (from the dime novel Independence Day), and one Savage Tale that is a chance at taking down Raven...which is every bit has difficult as it sounds, and can have damning consequences on the posse.

A ton of monsters and NPCs are included, from classic Deadlands beasties like huskers and The Revenant, to stock stats for manitous of different power levels, to stats for various Ravenites (including False Ravens) and NPCs like Al Swearengen and The Ghost (the undead Abraham Lincoln), The Gal With No Name (from the Great Rail Wars skirmish game), Jesse James and more.

WHAT WORKS: The book opens with a special thanks to Deadlands fans for keeping the setting around for 16 years...and with all the shoutouts to the history of the setting, it feels reeeeaaally appropriate. I don't know if all of those callouts were were planned that way or not, but a ton of the stuff included in this book are the things I think of when I think "Deadlands". Throw in the setting rules for the Hunting Grounds, an epic plot point campaign that again brings major change to the game world and the fact that they once more made the Player's Guide a freebie, and Pinnacle nails the mark again.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The art was my major gripe. Some of itwas recycled from classic books (though appropriately placed to draw attention to the callouts) and some of it was just a bit too comic booky for what I want out of Deadlands comics.

CONCLUSION: A beefy, beefy tome that outstrips The Flood by almost 150 pages, and much of that is new content that can be used outside of the PPC, which is impressive in its own right. As a Deadlands fanboy, I'm very pleased. The Stone and Hellstromme PPCs have big shoes to fill.