One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Do Zombies Dream of Steam-Powered Sheep?

Over the Easter weekend I borrowed my brother-in-laws Deadlands Reloaded books. The first campaign I personally ever ran was, as it’s referred to today, Deadlands Classic. This was back when it was just one hardcover book with everything a Marshall and/or Player needed to play the game.

All this is to say that I’m no stranger to what Deadlands is all about, and that I was just looking for a refresher course on the setting, and the changes using the Savage Worlds rules. This in turn led to Monday night and my dreams being dominated by cowboys and undead. The dreams weren’t anything worth repeating. Just the kind of weird nonsense that reminds you that you’re in a dream, and you might as well just roll with it.


It feels as if a bullet has impaled my brain with a Deadlands campaign written all over it. The words on that bullet burn in an infernal red glowing script that only the Devil himself has the patience or inclination to inscribe. My mind has been infected with the blue prints for a Savage Worlds Deadlands campaign, and come Hell or high-water I’m going to need to run it if I ever want to get the poison out.

After reading just a little of the Deadlands books I realized just how over whelming the setting is. There’s just so much detail. I almost hesitate to say TOO much detail. It’s that double edge sword of trying to give your reader everything they need to run a campaign rather than not enough. The problem is that it means that MY Deadlands campaign will end up off the reservation. Not a bad thing by any means, but just that it’s going to conflict with what’s considered cannon in the supplements. To which I say fuck cannon and the horse it rode in on. But that’s just me amigo.

I have a few ideas for how I wanted to handle this campaign. Things will start out normal enough. The Posse is gathered for some reason or another. I haven’t figured out this part too much just yet. Perhaps they will work for one of the Rail Barons, a Government agency, or some other seemingly mundane outfit. They start doing normal jobs that involve normal people. The first few forays would be a more or less straight up western adventures, with maybe a little bit of super science thrown into the mix, but otherwise fairly standard stuff.

Then shit starts to get a little weird. Like ogres, onions, or that tranny prostitute you "accidently" picked up, the layers begin to peel away revealing that things aren’t as normal as you first assumed they were. Subtle strangeness begins to crop up again and again and force you to start questioning what in the world is really going on here. At some point, like Neo or Sarah Connor, you cross the inevitable and invisible line. It is the point of no return and once it is crossed you find yourself sucked down the Rabbit Hole. You’ll forever be a changed person and there’s no going back to "normal".

Like I was saying Deadlands has a pretty complex history and story-line. While having all this info is nice I find it a little intimidating and even over whelming at times. I will most likely use portions whole cloth and other stuff I will change to suit my own needs. I’m just hoping Shane Lacy Hensley doesn’t send the RPG Police to my house, beat me up, and take my books away when he finds out.

So here’s some of the things I wanted to do/explore with this campaign:

  • Chinese Tong Gangs and an ancient power hungry sorcerer leader ala Big Trouble in Little China
  • An Illuminati/Freemason conspiracy
  • The Shan, Mi-Go, and some other stuff ripped from Call of Cthulhu
  • Undead, lots of undead.
  • The PCs begin the campaign seeking a new and better life. They arrive in a newly formed and growing California boomtown. They find themselves embroiled in the affairs and politics of the town. The chance at both fame and fortune become directly linked to the success and preservation of the town, its people, and its interests. Soon the PC's find themselves entangled in a web of horror and conspiracy. It falls to them as pillars of the community to sort through the lies and treachery and fight back the shadows of things "Man was not meant to know".

And that’s what I have so far. But I can feel it all there, lurking heavy in my mind. This could be the mother of all campaigns for me. The Magnum Opus that I have always wanted to run, yet have never been able to succeed at. If I write it, they will play…


  1. Deadlands is pretty cool. Some of it felt a little bit thrown together in the sense that I don't know how it all relates to its alt history pivot point, but in a way those sorts of quibbles seem beside the point.

  2. I hear you Trey. Yet theres some sort of mystic to the whole thing that just keeps pulling at me.