Reload The Savage World Of Deadlands
  • Reload The Savage World Of Deadlands


    Itís been five years since I first read Savage Worlds and until rather recently my experience was left to that of an appreciative reader. Iím certain some of you know this experience. You have something and want to run (or play), and paid good money for it, but everyone in your group is non-pulsedÖ Thatís recently changed since my longtime friend and Fantasy Grounds GM introduced Savage Rifts (reviewed here) and Deadlands into our somewhat regular sessions. This Review is a brief delve into Deadlands Players and Marshals, Reloaded handbooks for Savage Worlds.


    Deadlands offers an alternative history, and horror themed setting in the wild and weird west (late 1800ís). The civil war concluded in a draw. The confederate states didnít join the union, and America is split into six separate nations. The dead walk, things go bump in the night and by no mere coincidence, the discovery of a mysterious mineral, Ghost Rock which is worth a bit more than its weight in gold, fuels many of the ďmodernĒ innovations of this weird west setting.

    The setting encourages a very specific type of game. Player characters will likely be a part of a secret agency, discovering and going about battling supernatural horrors. While also, keeping somewhat of a tight lip in regards to the horrors they face. The biggest point being that if ordinary folks learn too much about these supernatural threats, this increases evilís influence on humanity. Iím paraphrasing, but essentially thatís the premise. With this, Deadlands serves up a handful of interesting character Archetypes, setting specific Hindrances, Edges and Powers; as well as equipment, weapons and (magical, ghost rock powered) Infernal Devices.

    Tacked onto the Savage Worlds ruleset are few elements, which distinguish Deadlands. First, is the concept and measure of Grit, each characters capability to stay their nerve and avoid (mechanic) penalties, versus any potential horrors. As anyone familiar with Savage Worlds knows modifiers (+1, +2) carry much more significance than most systems. Grit is important in regards to each characterís Guts Check. Deadlands incorporates Fate Chips (three colors of poker chips) instead of bennies. Though the application is a bit different and expanded; Fate Chips carry the same idea: modify rolls, remove conditions.

    Two elements we havenít yet utilized are the guidelines for gun duels and gambling. Our group and our character builds are emphasized with investigative horror in mind. Also, we found the re-emphasis in this ruleset in regards to Taunt and Intimidate carried enough mechanical significance that weíve stuck to that. Whatís written just hasnít hit our table, yet.
    Both the Deadlands Players Guide and the Marshalís Handbook are full color PDFs with hyperlinked Table of Contents. Art is plentiful and great at giving the vibe of the material. Text is standard two column format. Both of these books are decent as to layout, but will require sometime for adequate familiarity.

    Though Iím relatively certain itís a design choice about the only major criticism I have for these products was that the best elements of the setting, are left to the Marshals Handbook; you can run your own take on the basic setting from the Players Handbook, but youíll be missing the biggest and best ideas of running this material.

    Overall, if you enjoy Savage Worlds and desire to run a horror themed wild west setting, or even ( I would guess) just strip out some of the horror for a straight up wild west RPG, I certainly recommend giving Deadlands a shot.

    Disclosure: This review uses affiliate links. The Deadlands Players Guide is a Savage Worlds setting. A Savage Worlds core book is required to run this setting.

    contributed by Jeff Duncan
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      I've enjoyed Savage Worlds for years and was lucky enough to see the first design diaries when Shane was documenting this new RPG that he was spinning out of Rail Wars.
    1. marroon69's Avatar
      marroon69 -
      Great game! We are currently running one of the Servitor campaigns and it is great! I think the best part is how it is just one step away from the real west, it takes history and just adds a little push into fantasy.
    1. Arashi Ravenblade -
      I like Deadland's setting, but I can't stand Savage Worlds.
    1. shidaku's Avatar
      shidaku -
      I loved the original Deadlands.

      Never tried Savage Worlds.
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      I've heard a lot from my GM as to liking the original (non-Savage Worlds) Deadlands as well. I haven't got a look at it yet.

      With SW Deadlands, I like the way Ghost Rock is defined in the setting... And with how some of the archetypes fit the genre, really well.
    1. Wraith Form's Avatar
      Wraith Form -
      Non-PULSED?!? It certainly is a Deadlands game.

      I think you mean "nonplussed".
    1. Eltab's Avatar
      Eltab -
      I pulled an old Deadlands adventure from I-remember-not-where and converted it to a Gamma World convention module. (mid-90s)
      Little did I know that the main monster, which attracted me to the module, was a re-skinning of a Gibbering Mouther.

      I've recently seen a pseudo-Deadlands guide that has the Civil War begin during Andrew Jackson's Presidency (IRL Nullification Crisis) and run from there. They get to break up the Dis-united States (and Northern Mexico) into several more pieces.
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Wraith Form View Post
      Non-PULSED?!? It certainly is a Deadlands game.

      I think you mean "nonplussed".
      Nope I meant what I said... As in it didn't excite anyone in my group to play it. They weren't confused (or nonplussed) about what the game was... Just not enthused to play it.
    1. Connorsrpg's Avatar
      Connorsrpg -
      Pretty sure original Deadlands formed the basis for Savage Worlds - there is not a lot of difference, except I think, how some of the unique archetype powers worked. In any case, Deadlands is s fantastic setting and a hell of a lot of fun (Any system... but I do love Savage Worlds).
    1. amerigoV's Avatar
      amerigoV -
      I love me a bit of Deadlands. I ran a short arc for my group after we transitioned over from D&D. One of my favorite moments in the game was when the group figured out who the villain was, but could not prove it. Since the setting has its roots in the real world, magically they actually refrained from must murder-hobo-ing the bad guy until they actually had real proof.

      Well, that and in another one-shot 3 male PCs got "drained" by a succubus that ran a saloon.

      Always a good time running/playing Deadlands.
    1. choam10191's Avatar
      choam10191 -
      Quote Originally Posted by J.L. Duncan View Post
      Nope I meant what I said... As in it didn't excite anyone in my group to play it. They weren't confused (or nonplussed) about what the game was... Just not enthused to play it.
      Non-pulsed isn't actually a word. And if you were to construct a neologism meaning what you claim to have meant, it would be more like "low-pulsed" or "min-pulsed"; the only logical interpretation of "non-pulsed" is DEAD, as in "not living".
      Wraith Form was giving you the benefit of the doubt in assuming you inadvertently used a malapropism.
      And, yes, the North American usage of "nonplussed" meaning "unimpressed" would've been closer to your intention:
      https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nonplussed
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      Quote Originally Posted by choam10191 View Post
      Non-pulsed isn't actually a word. And if you were to construct a neologism meaning what you claim to have meant, it would be more like "low-pulsed" or "min-pulsed"; the only logical interpretation of "non-pulsed" is DEAD, as in "not living".
      Wraith Form was giving you the benefit of the doubt in assuming you inadvertently used a malapropism.
      And, yes, the North American usage of "nonplussed" meaning "unimpressed" would've been closer to your intention:
      https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nonplussed
      To many big words... Neologism? Malapropism?

      Seriously, it's nice to have a fan. I find it hard to be a coincidence... (again) So, how many accounts do you have?
    1. smiteworks's Avatar
      smiteworks -
      I love Savage Worlds, but the book itself is rather boring. It's just the rules and rules are pretty boring for most people. For me, what I like is that is forms a central core for a very large list of unique and cool settings. There is...


      • Deadlands (my favorite)
      • Weird Wars II where you might be hunting and fighting werewolves during WWII
      • Sundered Skies where you fly around in galleons as you float between islands in hell
      • Evernight where the the dark elves won and extinguished the sun
      • Necessary Evil where you play the role of super-villains defending the planet after the so-called heroes all fell into a trap and died against the alien invaders
      • Rippers where you rip parts off of victorian age monsters and build tech around it
      • ... and probably a couple dozen others I'm forgetting at the moment
    1. TheSalemLord's Avatar
      TheSalemLord -
      Quote Originally Posted by J.L. Duncan View Post
      Nope I meant what I said... As in it didn't excite anyone in my group to play it. They weren't confused (or nonplussed) about what the game was... Just not enthused to play it.
      Been there...Still there.
      My groups are still sticking to D&D. Not that is wrong, but it saddens me that they didn't want to try something different or new ... So, we keep playing D&D.
      I really want to try Deadlands, the setting is awesome.
      I've tried with the 3.0 D20 Edition version of Deadlands with other group for the familiarity with the D20 rules...worked..fine, but wasn't good at all.
      I really want to try SW rules set.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Quote Originally Posted by smiteworks View Post
      I love Savage Worlds, but the book itself is rather boring. It's just the rules and rules are pretty boring for most people. For me, what I like is that is forms a central core for a very large list of unique and cool settings. There is...


      • Deadlands (my favorite)
      • Weird Wars II where you might be hunting and fighting werewolves during WWII
      • Sundered Skies where you fly around in galleons as you float between islands in hell
      • Evernight where the the dark elves won and extinguished the sun
      • Necessary Evil where you play the role of super-villains defending the planet after the so-called heroes all fell into a trap and died against the alien invaders
      • Rippers where you rip parts off of victorian age monsters and build tech around it
      • ... and probably a couple dozen others I'm forgetting at the moment
      Gotta be that guy, the original inspiration for Evernight's villain race was mind flayers, which makes more sense when you think of the horrific way the bad guys feed.
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