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Deadlands Reloaded: Coffin Rock

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5 out of 5 rating for Deadlands Reloaded: Coffin Rock

Perhaps the most prominent Western-themed tabletop game, Deadlands is a long running franchise from the mid-90s. Although popular, the system was beginning to show its age and in 2006 the product line was updated to Pinnacle Entertainment's new Savage Worlds systems. For the next 2 years free content was released for the RPG in the form of one to two page mini-adventures, but no full products. In fact, Deadlands has a bit of a reputation for an NPC-centric metaplot and railroading adventures, and the first adventure released for a new line could make the difference in a game sinking or swimming.
Such fears were put to rest when Coffin Rock came out in 2008. Even at a decade old it still holds up well to modern standards, and I ran it for a total of 3 gaming groups in introducing the setting to them. An open-ended mystery in a Colorado mining town which fell on hard times, Coffin Rock has many iconic elements of the setting at large. The mechanics for Fear Levels, an area's overall level of negative emotions and pall of supernatural evil, detail just about every major location and how things change for the worse as said Fear Level rises. A new local church known as the Brotherhood of the New Covenant managed to tap a new copper vein in the otherwise stripped mines, and who are in fact behind the latest supernatural evils going on in Coffin Rock. From creating clay-like "blood men" now roaming the hills to unleashing a foul mold in the local general store, their Reverend is eager to plunge the town into a virtual Hell for his dark master.

Visiting PCs can put together the greater picture while dealing with a healthy number of "side quests" and encounters which tie together nicely. One example is Shelly Pearl, the daughter of the dearly departed mayor, having been run out of town by the crooked Marshal who now owns said mayor's property for trying to reclaim her legacy. And said Marshal also accepts cuts from the local whorehouse whose working girls rob (and eventually cannibalize at the highest Fear Level) liquored-up clients. The PCs may get on the bad side of the Marshal for any number of reasons, or meet Shelly in the hills while she's being attacked by one of the "blood men" monsters. There's a good mixture of mundane evils, such as outlaws in the wilds who may run into town to shoot up the place, to a gradual increase in monsters and spirits as the Fear Level rises.

Although the adventure is meant to be a slow, investigation-based multi-session scenario where the PCs are in town for an in-game month, Coffin Rock's major weakness may be in that it can potentially be finished too quickly. The New Covenant conducts its activities in the last good mine in town which the PCs are bound to investigate out of curiosity if nothing else, and a run-in with an Indian shaman outside of town can lead to an infodumpy vision quest which more or less points the party in the direction of the climactic battle. During my own sessions I made this less obvious, and also gave said Indian shaman a bit more personality so he didn't end up as the "mystical minority" who provides inspiration to the protagonists and then disappears to never be seen again.

As for the climax, it takes place in the cult's mine, where the Reverend Cheval is conducting deadly baptisms of hostages in the boiling mud seeping from a captured earth spirit's wounds to make more Blood Men. The fight proper is split between the initial mine encounter and a portal back to the church where the cult begins to summon a demon to unleash in town. The demon is a tough but not impossible battle worse case scenario, and the stakes feel highly appropriate as the PCs try their best to disarm or kill the leader as he chants blasphemous words from an unholy text.

Although 33 pages in length, the material alone is open-ended enough for a great amount of replay value, and unless the PCs are rushing should last you several sessions. It is the perfect entry-level adventure for new players to the setting and a good adventure on its own. I cannot recommend Coffin Rock highly enough!

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