Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tommy's Take on Deadlands Blood Drive 1: Bad Times on the Goodnight

What the hey? I still do reviews on this blog? The following is Bad Times on the Goodnight, the first of a three part series (designed to also be standalone) called Blood Drive for Deadlands, written by John Goff. As always, it's an adventure, so I'll try to go light on spoilers, but if I go too light, it's hard to do a review.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The PDF is $9.99 for 37 pages, which might be a tad steep for some folks, and the adventure is largely designed for novice characters. It is designed to either be used as the beginning of the Blood Drive campaign, or as a standalone adventure as you need. You DO need a copy of Savage Worlds and Deadlands Reloaded in order to get full use of this product.

The production values are suitably top notch, as Pinnacle products tend to be, with removable layers, high quality art, search functions and so on.

The adventure starts off in Texas and takes your posse on a cattle drive up to Wyoming, with a full on range war along the way. Interestingly, one of the common complaints I hear from Deadlands critics is that there's not enough "normal" old west stuff going on, which this adventure addresses right out of the gate with sections focusing on - and rules supporting - rounding up and roping cattle, as well as breaking horses. Far from extensive, of course, but Deadlands has never tried to be an old west simulator...though these touches are appreciated.

The bulk of the first act is pretty much tame stuff like this, with a hint of weirdness thrown in (when the cattle are attacked by some of the more "normal" - but still creepy - varmints of the Weird West) and culminating in a showdown with the Bayou Vermillion railroad.

Act two gets into the actual cattle drive, complete with a "positioning map" for the PCs and NPCs to use to make sure all the parts of the Cattle Drive team are covered (I know I'd need something like this for a cattle drive...I don't know who does what). The cattle drive is plagued with zombie attacks, possibility of stampede, a creepy scene that is meant just to remind you that the Weird West is really weird and an encounter that harkens back to Lonesome Dove's cattle drive just a bit, albeit with an evil twist.

Act three switches gears with a bit of social conflict as the posse enters the Disputed Territories, and sets up a conflict with some very bad men, as well as an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" kind of situation to cap off the Cattle Drive.

WHAT WORKS: The "slice of Weird West life" stuff is very much welcome, with a "common" cattle drive also being peppered with a number of distinctly Deadlands encounters. The Act Two stopover is very nice touch that helps drive home the oddity of the setting. This adventure certainly lives up to the promise of being self contained.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: If you're running this is a full series, there's an NPC or two with plot armor, and some suspicious players are going to get hung up on that Act 2 stopover I mentioned. $10 for 37 pages may feel like a tad much for some people.

CONCLUSION: I love the "mundane" stuff being in here. Such a great change of pace for Deadlands adventures (which I'm usually a fan of, anyway). This also serves as a great adventure because not only does it combine elements of the "weird" west with the "old" west, but a number of the Savage Worlds and Deadlands Reloaded rules as well (dueling, random encounters, social combat and mass combat). Is it the most awe inspiring adventure? Nah. Are the hooks in this adventure compelling enough to make you NEED to see Blood Drive 2? Not really. But it's well worth picking up, especially for a relatively new group who may not be wildly familiar with the Deadlands setting.