Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tommy's Take on Deadlands: Smith & Robards 1880 Catalog


The original Smith & Robard's Catalog for Deadlands Classic was just that: A catalog of cool and freaky inventions available from Smith & Robard's (in universe). This 1880 version updates the company to the Deadlands Reloaded timeline, as well as updating a lot of the inventions and mechanics for Savage Worlds.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Smith & Robards is available in PDF for $14.99 and print for $19.99, clocking in at 144 pages. Boasting Pinnacle's usual production values, the PDF is full color and layered (for easy printing and display).

The opening of the book retells the origins of Smith and Robards, the "good" Mad Scientists of the Deadlands world. With Robard's money and Smith's brains, the two waged war with the biggest "evil" Mad Scientist in the Deadlands world, Dr. Darius Hellstromme...and formed a mail order service that has been providing adventurer's with extra cash for years now. If you haven't played The Flood, and plan on it, this section does spoil the ending of that book.

The "Using The Catalog" section is just that...using the catalog. I mean, from an in-universe perspective. Just be aware that sometimes mishaps can occur (just like mail order in real life!) There are even guidelines for customizing the products you are buying. Your Mad Scientists can even sell inventions to S&R...if you impress both partners. New Malfunction rules, falling a bit closer to the original games', are included...as well as a quick list of "common" items (like steamwagons, acid guns, hat guns, and so on).

The catalog itself takes up the bulk of the book, divided into sections: Conveyances, Vehicle Accessories, Rail Car Accessories, Armor & Clothing, Miscellanea, Labor Savers, Elixers & Tonics, Weapons & Accessories and Travel Essentials.

Conveyances are vehicles, including common modifications (like gatling mounts for your ornithopter). Other cool vehicles include Climbing Spiders and the Perpetual Landship, as well as Deadlands classics (no pun intended) like Maze Runners and Steam Wagons.

Vehicle Accessories include the likes of Clockwork Torpedoes and armored turrets.

Armor & Clothing includes everything from heavy armored dusters to rocket boots to mechanical skeletons and rifle canes.

Miscellanea includes the Epitaph Camera, ghost rock detectors and psychic projectors!

Labor savers include chain saws, clockwork laborers, and a visual scale whose malfunction can be FRIGHTENING.

Elixers & Tonics cover exbalming fluid (a handy weapon against the undead), greased lightning pills and liquid courage (which can make you go berserk if it malfunctions!)

Weapons & Accessories include Ghost Rock tipped armor piercing bullets, martial arts weapons like the flying claw, gatling shotguns, dynamite launchers and even lightning guns!

Travel essentials range from rations to self-cleaning clothes to alarm systems!

From there, the book ventures into the Marshal's section...beginning with game stats for Smith and Robards. A delivery mishap table is included (the item may get banged up in transit...or lost altogether)...as well as a Research Mishap table for Infernal Devices (like the device getting Gremlins, the Mad Scientist gaining a new dementia, the Mad Scientist becoming haunted by a malevolent spirit or even risking outright possession. Devices can also become flawed, attracting ghosts, causing bad luck or even tempting possession for the user!

The last section is a rules option from Classic that, thus far, had not existed in Reloaded: Steam augmentations! You can get augmentations one of two ways: Take the Scrapper Edge at character creation and start with them, or pay for them the hard way...which can include big mishaps.

Enhancements are broken down by bodypart, with a ton of options.

Arms include basic mechanical arms, piston hands, buzz saws, needles and firearms!

Ears include echo-locators and sound enhancers.

Eyes include microscopic and telescopic lenses.

The Head includes Piston jaws (think Trap Jaw from He-Man) and venomous fangs!

Legs include piston legs, hidden compartments, spring heels and much more.

Finally, Torso enhancements include armor and snorkles.

WHAT WORKS: I love it when awesome stuff from Classic gets updated to Reloaded...and that's what this is. The Scrappers aren't going to be for everybody, but the insane elements of Deadlands are part of what I love about it. Plus the random tables, customization options and so on...and yeah. Good stuff here.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: We've never used a ton of Weird Science devices in our games, but MAN they seem like they would be an almost pointless money pit sometimes.

CONCLUSION: This book really is just an updating of material from Deadlands Classic, bringing it in line with Deadlands Reloaded, but as far as I'm concerned, that's not a bad thing. As more and more Deadlands Classic stuff is brought up, the less people can complain about the alleged "lack of flavor" Reloaded has, and the less work I have to do converting Classic stuff to Reloaded. Thumbs up. MUST HAVE? No...but I'm sure pleased with it.