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Horror and Headstone Hill (Deadland Campaign Review w/ Spoilers)


The Horror at Headstone Hill is an investigative campaign for Deadlands using the Savage Worlds rules. For those unfamiliar with Deadlands, the game is set in the Old West of the United States but with a twist including magic, steampunk, and horror. Dubbed “The Weird West,” this is a game where a posse that includes a rabbi, mad scientist, cowboy, a witch, and a samurai can walk into a saloon and it’s not the setup of a bad joke.

Conclusion: The main campaign is fundamentally flawed but can be fixed by the GM with just a little bit of work.

Set in the Wyoming territory in 1884, the player characters are tasked with investigating the disappearance of Agent George J.A. Reeg of the Agency. Agent Reeg was himself sent to Heaston Hill under the alias of Lens Buckle, miner, to investigate a series of disappearances before he himself disappeared. In order to provide a reason for the posse to work together, it is suggested they should all be members of the Twilight Legion, a club of sorts dedicated to fighting supernatural threats throughout the world. One or more player characters are also encouraged to make members of law enforcement such as US Marshals, Men in Black Dusters (Agency), or even Texas Rangers but it is not required.

The main part of the campaign is devoted to investigating the disappearance of Agent Reeg and is divided into three acts. There’s no particular timetable for when these acts must be completed, so the GM is free to use the myriad of side adventures included with the campaign or from other sources to keep the campaign going for as long as they’d like. Just for the setting of Headstone Hill alone and the side adventures, this is a pretty good purchase.

And like a poor man’s Seth Skorkowsky, I’m going to warn you that here be spoilers. If you plan on playing this game then go no further otherwise you’ll spoil the campaign.

In any investigative game, it’s vital that players are able to follow a series of clues leading them to unraveling the mystery. In this case, the characters are sent to find out what happened to Agent Reeg. In Act I, the players find out Reeg uncovered the activities of a nefarious cult that had been responsible for the disappearances of townsfolk. Some local bandits came to Reeg’s aid when he was attacked outside of town by local townsfolk who melted into ooze. The bandits were the last to see Reeg alive and they don’t know what happened to him.

We never learn Reeg’s fate. Presumable he’s killed, but his fate is never explicitly addressed in the rest of the campaign. And worse yet, there are no clues connected Act I to Act II. The PCs find out Reeg suspects a cult if operating in the area, but there is zero indication of who or what the cult is all about. The PCs accidentally stumble onto who might be the cult leader only if they take an interest in the brewing troubles between the Heaston Mining Company and the Independent Miner’s Association. My players didn’t take any interest in that conflict because they were busy investigating what happened to Reeg and were more concerned with the supernatural threat.

There is a relatively easy fix for this. The PCs might be interested to also investigate some of the disappearances that Reeg was sent to investigate. There’s no information about this in the campaign, but the GM can come up with a few NPCs and make sure to point the players to a particular faction in town all the missing people were associated with. This would ensure the players take an interest in the more mundane troubles of the town as they’d have a reason to look into the activities of the suspected cult.

Act II: There’s not really a lot of mystery going on here. The players confront the cult leader, fight a big monster, and learn there’s an even bigger threat in the wilderness nearby they need to confront.

Act III: This is the big showdown with the big bad. The players encounter a completely new NPC they had never heard of who is allied with the big bad. Since this person was masked, one of the PCs guessed, “I bet this is Agent Reeg!” which would have been awesome. If you run this campaign, make it Agent Reeg. It’s more satisfying narratively and it’s better than introducing an unnamed NPCs for the players to fight.

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