Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Deadlands Classic is one of my favorite games. It was around 1999 that I picked up the rulebook at a used bookstore in Berkley. The freedom of the wild west mixed with zombies and other monsters just makes for something that catches my imagination. I was hooked and had to get just about everything I could for the setting regardless of how much playtime I could get.
I was impressed with the Doomtown card game that was already going out of favor by the time I found it. With each of the games core concepts divided up into different fractions you vied for control of a single boom town. One of these factions were "the bad guys" -The Whateley family. They didn't beat around the bush with a subtle connection. They Whateley family, much like their Dunwitch Horror counterparts mixed with things not of this world and were suitably creepy.
So here it is 2016 and I get a Deadlands comic "The Cackler" It is a suitablely creepy bad guy who as the comic goes on is revealed to be the progenitor of the Whateley clan. Ok this guy is something to be reckoned with. As the comic continues is reveals that The Clacker is in fact Mordrid the son of Morgan LaFey. It turns out Shane Lacy Hensley (the creator of Deadlands) had planned this bit all along and had just waited about 20 years into the games existence to reveal it! Talk about playing the long game...
A "new" edition of Deadlands has been out for several years now. While I don't have anything against the Savage Worlds rule system, it is watered down compared to the Deadlands: Classic rules which I prefer. I do like though that instead of just re-hashing everything from the previous edition, they continue to move the story of the game world forward with their Plot Point books, which satisfyingly let you encounter (and even defeat) the big bads set up in the classic campaign books.
In this way Deadlands reminds me of another lost gem of roleplaying: Torg. In both of these the players are faced with a bleak world with enemies much larger and powerful then they are, and quite possibly ever will be, and yet they can affect the world for good, and bit by bit rally the human spirit to push back the creeping intrusion of reality. It is a step away from the every popular grim-dark settings that let you valiantly fight against the inevitable dying of the light into the slightly silver lined realm of shall we say, grim-twilight, where the light may yet still be returned to the world.
Best of all they are running a kickstarter for a re-release of the classic version (something I totally don't need, yet need all the same) as well as a new plot point campaign for one of my favorite villians/settings in Deadlands: Dr. Hellstromme and the City of Gloom.
Why my favorite. Well, firstly I like Dr. Hellstromme's style. He knows what is really going on, and in a very Faustian way is willing to sell out the entire world to get his wife back (awwww). That and Hellstromme represents one of the great sleeper hits of Deadlands, the weird science. Deadlands was well into steampunk before it was even a thing (I dare say it is one of the un-credited founders of the genre).