Deadlands: Good Intentions by Libertad!
IntroductionOriginal SA post
“Love me some magical steampunk cowboys.”
This was a popular copypasta on Amazon reviews for various Deadlands Reloaded books. I could not tell if the person was trolling, for although anonymous he was a Verified Purchaser for many of said books. But strangest of all was the fact that said copypasta was not on Good Intentions, the very sourcebook which contains perhaps the highest amount of magical steampunk cowboys in all of the Deadlands material.
For those just tuning in, this is the fourth and final part of an epic adventure quadrilogy known as the Reckoner Series, dedicated to the downfall and/or deaths of the setting’s greatest villains. After the finishing of the Last Sons back in 2012 Pinnacle Entertainment’s resources were running thin among various projects. To do the second half of the series justice they pulled out individual KickStarter projects for Stone and a Hard Place and Good Intentions. Both funded leaps and bounds beyond their minimum goals, and earned a host of tie-in support material and adventures.
The theme of Good Intentions is Pestilence, representing the smog-choked steampunk environs of the Mormon nation of Deseret. The corporate businessman/mad scientist Dr. Darius Hellstromme works on a secretive project measuring the ambient Fear Levels in the region, all leading up to a grand conspiracy which will shake the fledgling nation’s foundations to its knees. Foreign US agents and the Mormon Church’s secret police all have their own bones to pick with the good doctor. But said factions’ end goals are not necessarily mutual, thus making for a tangled web of spy vs spy.*
*Or like the Last Sons, that’s the intent.
In terms of structure the adventure is known as a Plot Point Campaign, the Savage Worlds system’s equivalent to a Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder adventure path. But in addition to a series of main quests known as Plot Points there are optional events, missions, and locations known as Savage Tales. Where it differs from its predecessors is that all of said content takes place within the borders of a single domain: Utah/Deseret. There’s not as much travel between far-flung locations, and in fact expects the PCs to have a “home base” in Salt Lake City. Like its predecessors it has a free PDF showcasing the “player friendly” section of the book, which we’ll be covering for our first post.
The Tombstone Epitaph
The Tombstone Epitaph is the primary in-game newspaper of the Deadlands setting, whose outlandish “believe it or not” tales of supernatural events and conspiracies cause many to dismiss it as yellow journalism. But those in the know regard it as a mostly-accurate resource for the dark secrets of the Weird West.
To surmise, it is October 1882 and as of last year the Union and Confederacy settled into a peace treaty with the formal recognition of the latter’s borders. Last week both nations would extend the same gesture to the Mormon state of Deseret. Immigrant laborers from both countries, and Hellstromme Industries’ contracts with said countries to make use of its transcontinental railroad, point to an uncertain yet promising future for the Latter-Day Saints.
Dr. Darius Hellstromme is the most famous denizen of the country, and whose innumerable inventions brought myriad wonders to the populace but at the expense of safe conditions for workers and widespread pollution. Workers’ strikes are put down violently by masked thugs, and there’s little the LDS Church can do on account that Hellstromme Industries employs a huge portion of their nation’s citizenry. The section is peppered with other human interest stories and rumors, from the near-completion of the massive Mormon Temple, excitement for a brutal sport known as Skullchucker, and a professional group of people who hunt giant subterranean burrowing worms known as Rattlers.
The final page of the Epitaph is a cool section of in-game advertisements done in the style of late-nineteenth century periodicals. I really like this touch: the previous Reckoner Series’ Tombstone Epitaph issues had these as well, but only in the form of “Help Wanted” adventure hooks for Savage Tales. I kind of miss those, but with how few Savage Tales there are in this Plot Point Campaign that makes sense in context:
This details all the new player-friendly material which is not equipment for Good Intentions. It is quite heavy on the magic, especially a reworking of the Blessed arcane background. Some of the new edges include Scrapper where you start play for free with a limited number of steampunk pseudo-cybernetic augmentations; being multilingual via the Gift of Gab; having an ironclad Secret Identity; and Master Crafter, where you can hastily build Infernal Devices at a portion of the cost provided you have a working blueprint.
METAPLOT ALERT The writers at Pinnacle Entertainment are playing up a new major bad guy in the setting to take the role of the Reckoners’ 4 main servants. Known as the Cackler, the stuff he does in a tie-in comic changes how certain kinds of magic work in the setting circa Stone and a Hard Place. Long story short, practitioners of EVIIIIL MAGIC find it easier to cast spells with fewer Power Points, but Blessed are no longer the most OP Arcane Background in Deadlands on account of the Almighty’s forces being forced to retreat somewhat.
Our two new Arcane Backgrounds include the post-Cackler Blessed and the Metal Mage. The former are non-denominational holy men and women who can call down miracles, while the latter are hucksters and mad scientists who discovered that evil spirits known as manitou provide both of their traditions’ powers and thus learn to blend the two styles together. Metal mages are extremely rare, and only a dozen exist within Deseret as the apprentices of the huckster-scientist R. Percy Sitgreaves.
Before the events of the Cackler the Blessed had virtual access to every power on their list and did not have to pay Power Points to fuel their spells, albeit they suffered a penalty on their spellcasting skill based on the spell’s rank. The reworked Blessed works much like its original version, save that they use Power Points like everyone else and are limited in how many spells they can learn. In exchange they have a unique ability known as Divine Intervention where they can call down amazing abilities with the spending of a Legend Fate Chip.*
*A Fate Chip is Deadlands’ metagame currencies and comes in four varieties of increasing power: white, red, blue, and legend.
Metal Mages are an Arcane Background of their own rather than being two combined together, and are kind of overpowered. They have access to most powers on the mad scientist and huckster spell list, including some otherwise exclusive spells such as Hunch and Trinkets. Their Backlash manifests as a mythic beast or totem animal known as a daemon, which can only be triggered on a result of snake eyes on the spellcasting skill die, cannot be averted with fate chips, and takes the form of a Huckster’s Backfire. Their other two unique features include the ability to supernaturally manifest a mad science device with its own Power Point supply akin to the Gadgeteer edge a limited number of times per gaming session, and the ability to convert unrefined ghost rock into more efficient fuel cores.
To elaborate, a Backlash is the negative effect which occurs when you roll a 1 on the spellcasting skill die of your relevant Arcane Background. Blessed suffer a Crisis of Faith and temporarily lose access to miracles, mad science gadgets blow up in a damaging radius, etc. A roll of snake eyes indicates a natural one on both said skill and the d6 Wild Die. As the Wild Die is rolled in conjunction with most PC actions, this exponentially decreases the probability of a Metal Mage’s Backlash in comparison to other Arcane Backgrounds.
Divine Intervention is a new “last resort” power the forces of good bestowed on the Blessed to make up for their overall lessened presence post-1881. A Blessed’s player who has a Legend Chip can spend that Fate Chip and roll a Faith skill check with a penalty specific to the form of Intervention. Failure causes varying levels of personal consequences (Crisis of Faith, lose all Power Points, lose the former and the Fate Chip, etc) but on a success the heavens themselves shake!
The 11 Divine Interventions are akin to mega-spells in their power and scope. Some have durations lasting in days, some have range and area of effect which can span regions, and some can even impose permanent debilitations on a target. Some of the Interventions include various forms of Divine Wrath which can dim the sun or rapidly destroy a town/region’s food supply over the course of days; the ability to Deny the use of a single skill which is treated as untrained when used by the target; become a Peacemaker where you grant +5 Armor to those in a wide radius and force an opposed Spirit roll for anyone to take any hostile action; or summon the trumpeting Walls o’ Jericho which can wrack the foundations of buildings and other large objects with Armor-ignoring massive damage.
It wouldn’t be a real steampunk adventure without a healthy heaping of new equipment violating the laws of God and Man, and this section delivers in spades! All of the below gear already exists in the 1880 Smith & Robards Catalog product, but a choice selection of ones in line with Good Intentions’ “steampunk and spy games” feel are included.
Augmentations are Deadlands’ version of cybernetic implants. Far from prosthetic limbs, they include various sorts of body modifications, and those who install such gear are known as scrappers. But the “cybernetics eat your soul” trope is limited to a one die decrease in Spirit, with the primary strain and maladies of a more physical nature in the form of Drain. Basically a character’s maximum Drain is equal to their innate Toughness, and when said Toughness drops below that value the scrapper suffers Fatigue whose magnitude is based on the difference.
There’s no mention either here or in the 1880 Catalog of what happens if someone installs augmentations with a greater total Drain than their body can support, but I presume it has the same effects.
Augmentations are grouped based on the affected/replacement body parts. Arms include Mechanical Arms, Metal Forearms, and Piston Arms which can increase your Strength die type for actions related to said limb, and in the piston’s case grant you a powerful unarmed strike. Arm Attachments & Enhancements include the implanting of Firearms and Infernal Devices into the limb, Clockwork Hands and Finger Tools to aid with coordination of delicate tasks, Grapnel Launchers and Reeling Devices for vertical movement and dragging, and so forth. Ear replacements come in the form of either Echo-Locators for reduction of dim lighting penalties or Sound Enhancers to grant bonuses on auditory Notice rolls. Eye replacements do similar things for visual senses such as Microscopic or Telescopic Lenses.
Head augmentations are the most invasive and have high Drain, but can install Piston Jaws and Venomous Fangs, an armored Skull Plate to guard against headshots, or even a Cranial Gyroscope which grants a permanent +1 to Agility, Fighting, Riding, and Throwing rolls but can impose reduction of mental faculties. Legs and Leg Attachments grant Strength and Pace bonuses for the base augmentation, but can be outfitted with Spring Heels or Double Motivators to increase mobility further. Finally, Torso augmentations are purely defensive in nature: they range from Abdominal Armor which grants a nice +2/+4 Toughness based on whether it’s light or heavy, and Bellows Springs and Snorkels to assist in respiration in hostile environments.
Infernal Devices are basically gadgets and powers of a mad scientist whose manitou-ridden dreams have coalesced into something which can make actual sense for the general public. Instead of Power Points their fuel source is usually ghost rock and they can be used by virtually anyone. The list of said equipment is a short two pages in comparison to the Augmentations, but include some useful gadgets such as armored hats, dusters, and vests; an underwater diving suit; noiseless shoes, owl-eye goggles, and tethered satellites for reconnaissance work. There’s a section of Elixirs and Tonics which can boost the imbiber’s physical capabilities, provide minutes’ worth of clean air via hydrated air tablets, and healing unguents and liquid courage to ease the pain of physical and psychological wounds.
Shootin’ Irons, Melee Weapons, & Vehicles are limited to a pair of two full-page tables. The weapons include reprints of Chinese martial arts weapons from the Flood, nifty novelty weapons such as acid guns, smoke pellets, net-launching guns to restrain targets, infinite-shot lightning guns with a long charging time and “grounding” stakes to limit movement, and normal firearms disguised in mundane wear such as hats, canes, and parasols. The vehicles include material from the Deadlands Player’s Guide such as autogyros and steam wagons, but also new vehicles such as motorcycle velocipedes, steam carriages and mining carts, multi-person air carriages, and one-person whirligigs.
Thoughts So Far: The new rules really do a great job of reinforcing the feel of “magical steampunk cowboys.” Many gamers agreed that the original Blessed was overpowered even in Reloaded, and I like the new version and its Divine Interventions. It came at the expense of the introduction of a replacement OP caster, although dialing down the Metal Mage’s summonable gadgets and perhaps replacing its snake eyes backlash with something more reasonable should put it in line with the other spellcasters.
The new gadgets are fun, and I really like the Scrapper edge and augmentations. The archetype kind of gears towards a combat bruiser with options such as Venomous Fangs, but I can definitely see a “steampunk cyborg spy” archetype with limbs containing hidden compartments and telescopic eyes.
Join us next time as we delve into the Marshal’s Territory of Deseret, exploring strange locales and the maladies of Pestilence’s Realm!
PS I know that in finishing up the Last Sons I said that I’d do Stone and a Hard Place next, but the honest to God truth is that said adventure is the lowest-rated of the Reckoner Series IMO. For that reason I’m saving it for last.
Marshal TerritoryOriginal SA post
To start off this section, we delve into the life of one Darius Hellstromme. And how it is love, not money, which is at the root of the Four Servitors’ evil:
At its heart, Deadlands is a love story. You read that right. All the Servitors’ tragedies were somehow exacerbated by love—Grimme’s love for his fellow man, Raven’s love for his people, the love forever denied Stone—but in Hellstromme’s case the link is central and ongoing. Hellstromme’s mad quest to rescue his wife’s soul from Hell, although fated to failure (for now), ends up dooming humanity to suffer a literal Hell on earth.
Well, shoot—we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We have to go back to Hellstromme’s beginnings in England to truly understand the brilliant madman he’s become.
Well technically Servitor-Grimme was a facsimile of the real one powered by his 13 unholy apostles, but that’s neither here nor there.
Darius Hellstromme was born in London during the latter years of the Industrial Revolution. He was a smart boy with a knack for machinery and landed a job at his uncle’s textile mill. Said uncle insisted to the rest of the Hellstrommes that Darius’ future could be further improved with a military education, and he was enlisted in the military at sixteen years of age. As a Royal Engineer he oversaw many construction projects in occupied colonies from Afghanistan to Egypt. Hellstromme met the love of his life, Vanessa Weatleigh, in China, and she served as a moral and inspirational center in the young officer’s life. This fairytale romance would not last, for while in India her husband became more separated from her due to his work in weapons designs. Vanessa fell into depression, and neither of them were able to adequately express their feelings or understand each other. This lead to several bitter arguments, with Hellstromme accusing her of sabotaging his livelihood.
Vanessa fell ill to a tropical disease Hellstromme was unable to cure. When Sikh soldiers stormed their East India Company base, he fought for not just his own life but that of the woman who he finally realized he could not bear to be without. It was all for naught, as she committed suicide by poison. This inciting moment, along with the fruitless violence wrought from the British Empire’s misguided attempts at “civilizing the natives,” made him disillusioned with war. He deserted his post and escaped on a cargo ship, wandering the earth in search of meaning and the possibility of mastering Death itself in hopes of meeting Vanessa again.
In 1863 the Reckoning indirectly touched Hellstromme’s thoughts, filling his mind with countless equations which solved themselves. The discovery of the miracle fuel known as ghost rock in the Americas pointed him towards his destiny. The violent and shattered landscape of California proved unsuitable for building a scientific empire, even if it was home to a bountiful supply of the substance. But when word spread of ghost rock veins within the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, the good doctor found his bastion.
Exiled in a resource-poor desert brimming with dangerous rattlers, the Mormon pioneers were on literal shaky footing. But in 1870 Dr. Hellstromme quickly earned their respect with the creation of the horseless carriage steam wagon, the first vehicle able to outrun the wormlike beasts. This made it possible for the Mormons to trade and settle farther territories and thus gained the goodwill of Brigham Young and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Hellstromme even converted to the faith to further ensure the Mormon’s trust, but he never took another wife, must less several, in all his time in Deseret. His heart was still reserved for one.
During this time Hellstromme founded his namesake company and turned Salt Lake City and other towns in Deseret into ultramodern settlements with marvels unseen anywhere else. The capital gained electrical grids and widespread indoor plumbing, and the Nauvoo Legion was outfitted with handheld Gatling firearms and steam-powered vehicles to guard themselves from outlaws, hostile Gentiles, and other threats both foreign and domestic. He also heavily wheeled and dealed in the Great Rail Wars, making various alliances with the political power players of North America to eventually build the first transcontinental railroad and gain exclusive ghost rock contracts with both the Union and Confederacy.
Hellstromme got rich, very rich, from all this. But the wealth and power was not a means to an end on its own. During his years of study he came across various terrible secrets of the world. Hellestromme learned of the various supernatural maladies which swept the world in recent history and the palpable Fear they created. But worst of all was the discovery of the fate of his wife Vanessa’s soul, as well as those of all others who committed suicide: they were in Hell, suffering unspeakable, never-ending torment in what is known as the Wood of Suicides.
By making use of rail lines infused with ghost steel and various laboratories experimenting with ambient Fear in localized areas, Hellstromme began funding ways to breach the mortal and metaphysical worlds. He even managed to lead a Wasatch train into Hell once, before inadvertent sabotage and demonic hordes forced a retreat. Now his rail lines are beginning to form complex geometric runic patterns across the Weird West, with Salt Lake City as its nexus. Hellstromme hopes to open a permanent gate to Hell here so that he can mount a series of expeditions to save his beloved. That said process involves transferring her soul into the body of one of his female foremen is something the good doctor mentally compartmentalizes.
Naturally, the Reckoners and the forces of darkness are counting on this, where they’ll subvert Hellstromme’s gate to lead an invasion force of their own on Earth!
What I’d Change: Although it’s the crux on which Hellstromme’s “Good Intentions” are built, the writers neglected to address a very big “Wall of the Faithless” size cosmological issue here: In Deadlands, perfectly moral and ordinary people who commit suicide go to a place in Hell reserved for them. Although evil spirits known as manitou can kidnap souls in the Hunting Grounds in Deadlands, the adventure does not specifically elaborate on whether this is an actual cosmological decision on the part of the Almighty/Creator/God/etc or a subversion of justice by the Reckoners and other entities of evil. Instead there’s implications that Vanessa and others may in fact be in a “Deadland” of the Hunting Grounds, but you’d have to read other sourcebooks to make this connection.
But one way or another, this is great grist for the mill in terms of Hellstromme’s actions for a Game Master to exploit. Although he cares only for Vanessa, if I ran this Plot Point I’d personally have him spin this as seeking to commit a sense of cosmic justice through the use of science. Not unlike a scientist developing a vaccine, he’d advocate that we can use knowledge to eliminate suffering on Earth, so why should the afterlife be any different? The negative fallout of actions wrought from his earthly schemes are but dust in the wind compared to the magnitude of torment wrought by lifetime's’ worth of everliving souls from countless civilizations.
Unfortunately Hellstromme’s motivation and his relationship with Vanessa is never discovered through the Plot Point until it’s directly spelled out by an NPC late in the adventure. This is a story element which will be far stronger if sprinkled throughout the campaign, allowing PCs to put the pieces together and see what drives him to do all this.
Oddly placed after Hellstromme’s life story is a brief section on prominent factions within Deseret, from rail barons and outlaw gangs to allied organizations which can provide help to the PCs during the campaign. Unfortunately of the six allied groups, only two of them make any regular appearances: the Danite secret police of the LDS Church and the Agency of the United States in the form of a helpful spy Nevada Smith. The Black Chaplains, the Confederacy’s Texas Rangers, the Explorer’s Society/Twilight Legion, and Sheriff Eli Waters of Salt Lake City either don’t make an appearance or are present in one sidebar encounter or Savage Tale at most.
We get six new rules material appropriate for adventures in Deseret. The first one we have covers the GM’s side of Augmentations, such as a list of legitimate and underground operators for the PCs to hire along with a Mishap table on what goes wrong during a botched surgery. After that we have rules for what happens when an individual runs afoul of the LDS Church and finds their name Blacklisted in the Deseret News. The theocratic nation uses public shame as a source of enforcing moral behavior where the law does not, imposing a big -4 Charisma* penalty check along with an equal penalty to Faith in the case of Mormon Blessed. Ghost Rock Fever is a progressive disease for people who spend too much time near the stuff, gaining penalties on most rolls and possiblly spontaneously combusting if they get snake eyes on a Vigor roll.
*a secondary attribute which modifies the roles on Persuasion and Streetwise skill checks
Relics o’ Deseret are unique magical items tied to the history and folklore of Utah and Mormon Culture. I won’t go over them all, but some of the more interesting ones include cursed Kirkland Bank Notes which afflict one with poverty and cannot leave one’s posession unless you spend it on something;* Joseph Smith’s various personal items such as his scrying Peep Stone, his cap and ball pistol which can supernaturally aim for an enemy’s heart with a Faith roll, and the stones Umim and Thummim which can let one see through lies, illusions, and disguises provided the stones’ wielder is a Mormon.
*the general populace in Deseret are aware of said bank notes’ curse
Skullchucker is a popular sport favored by the Gentile (non-Mormon) population. It is a team-based competition of five members each who attempt to steal each other’s skulls and throw it in the mouths of skull-shaped statues. Two team members known as Skullcrackers are unable to touch their own team’s skull but are armed with padded armor and clubs or staves to beat up the other team, while the three remaining team players are known as Skullchuckers who can pick up and score with a skull but cannot use weapons.
Industrial pollution from Soot fills the air of Salt Lake City, giving it its more popularly-known name: the City of Gloom. It is highly toxic but slow-acting, infecting the lungs of citizenry to cause respiratory problems. Although the GM is encouraged to use this sparingly for PCs, a Vigor roll must be made for every month a person lives in town, with bonuses based on their level of long-term facial protection and Mormon Blessed may substitute their Faith die. The first failed result permanently lowers their Vigor die by one, and the next failed roll imposes the Ailin’ (Major) Hindrance. Said Hindrance imposes a -2 on checks to resist Fatigue from physical exertion, and a Vigor roll must be made at the end of every game session or less they’ll die the next time they fail a Fatigue check.
The soot’s effects are reflected in the setting. Most citizens wear masked bandannas if poor or respiratory masks if of means, creating the sensation of a faceless city. Mormons are less likely to become sick, which simultaneously encourages Gentiles to convert but also makes said group resentful of the Mormons’ well, blessed health.
Good Intentions, in both the setting and the adventure serial, is very city-centric. A lot of this section focuses on the City o’ Gloom and its surrounding environs, which is by far the most populated territory in Deseret. There are still many rural areas and small settlements to explore, but unlike the Flood or Last Sons the relative smallness of Deseret means that PCs are rarely too far from anywhere that travel is an issue.
The section gives a brief outline over Deseret’s government: it is a theocratic democracy, meaning that the head of the nation is also the Head of the LDS Church. Counties and towns elect their own mayors and marshals. It is not illegal to belong to other faiths, and Deseret boasts a large population of Gentile immigrants as well as Paiute and Shoshone who practice their own indigenous faiths. But the law of the land and the heads of state derive policy and morality from Joseph Smith’s teachings. Although courts are not supposed to favor Mormons over non-Mormons, judges are biased in favor of the former.
We have a sidebar detailing a brief history of Mormons and some of their more well-known religious and cultural practices. A lot of the information can be easily found on Wikipedia, although the major differences are that Deadlands excised the culture’s more racially problematic aspects. Instead of believing that Native Americans are descendants of a lost tribe of Israel, the earliest Mormon settlers believed that they themselves were said descendants. No mention is made of the Negro Doctrine or racial preferences for converts, and the Church is on good relations with the Paiute and Shoshone tribes...only for the text to contradict itself when it mentions that the latter tribe is not well-liked because they do yearly raids where they set fire to crops and kill everyone else they come across.
City of Gloom: This is by far the most technologically advanced city in the world. Whirligigs and autogyros make regular patrols around the skies, the streets are lit with electrical lamps, steam wagons are just as common if not more so than horses and carriages, and electrical streetcars provide for mass public transit. Factories smelt iron and produce the latest goods of New Science, and it’s not uncommon to see scrappers with metal prosthetics working in factories or as sportsmen. The neighborhood of Junkyard forms the dense “core” of the city but is culturally a settlement of its own, surrounded by outlying suburbs arranged in a grid-like pattern.
Interesting places in the city include a Mormon cemetery whose ground is supernaturally sanctified from foul magic, a city tithing office rumored to be under holy protection that literally boils the blood of would-be thieves, a ruined steel mill inhabited by a noisome slimelike monster called Sludge, an orphanage run by a woman who drains the blood of children for black magic rituals, and the Salt Lake Tabernacle which is haunted by the Lost Elder whose scratching of the walls foretells the death of a powerful Mormon.
Junkyard: Special enough to get an entry of its own, this mostly-Gentile neighborhood is where the city’s unwashed masses live and breathe with more than a little difficulty in both regards. Dirty, dangerous, and with streets of varying levels of quality, it is the necessary evil of Deseret whose labor and toil fuels the New Science living standards and innovations for the rest of the country.
Interesting places in the neighborhood includes a maze of pipes and catwalks known as the Steel Sky which blots out the real sky in some parts of Junkyard, an arena which holds boxing matches for both normal fighters and scrappers, an asylum which unbeknownst to the staff is above the secret lair of the mad surgeon Dr. Gash who experiments on abducted patients, specialized saloons catering to distinguished clientele such as mad scientists and sports players, Smith & Robards Showroom displaying all their latest items, and a local office of the Tombstone Epitaph whose owner Stacey O’Malley is a strong supporter of local labor unions and sister of the famed Lacy O’Malley.
One thing to note is that under the entry of one of the local gun shops it mentions that Deseret is under a trade embargo with the Union and Confederacy. This seems odd on account that both nations very recently formally recognized Deseret’s claim to nationhood, and Hellstromme Industries holds a ghost rock trading contract with them.
City o’ Gloom Environs: The outskirts of Deseret’s capital include some important and vital businesses along with a few interesting locations. The Smith & Robards Compound is perched up in the Wasatch Mountains and contains the local Denver-Pacific Rail Depot, while Hellstromme has a private compound and manor of his own near the Salt Flats. Hellstromme has a hangar containing various flying machines, and his hired foreman Ms. Mary Jones was ordered as a “mail-order bride” from Boston. She bears a striking physical resemblance to the late Vanessa Weatleigh and in fact is why Hellstromme chose her for his Hell Gate project. Copper quarries, a Gentle graveyard, and the New Empire Mill provide respective vital services for the City of Gloom.
Corrine: This middle-sized settlement is almost all Gentile and thus has an “ungodly” reputation among Deseret’s polite society. It is home to a local Masonic Temple which is trying to make connections among the rich and powerful in Deseret. Corrine’s many saloons, brothels, gambling halls, and other vices are a draw for Mormons looking to blow off steam but is tolerated by the Church as an “out of sight, out of mind” social release valve.
Devil’s Canyon: This place gets its name from the rumored monstrous guardian which looks over a lost Aztec treasure stolen by Conquistadores. The rumors are true, and the small fortune of gold is watched over by a nest of vampire-like nosferatu.
Fort Bridger: Located outside of Deseret’s borders proper, this Union resupply point is the last port of entry before crossing into Mormon country. The US army maintains a guard here, and their presence is a continuous sore spot between the two nations on account that the fort has harbored criminals on the run from Deseret.
Kanab: This small farming village is home to a large sandstone with wavelike patterns etched onto its surface. The boundaries between the physical and spirit worlds are thin here, and the LDS Church stationed a Blessed experienced with the supernatural to keep watch over it.
Lakepoint: Originally meant as a lakeside tourist attraction, the presence of underwater monsters soon turned the place into a near-ghost town. The creatures still infest the waters, and the Lake House Hotel is home to squatters and inhabited by a bogie man who terrifies the local children.
Long Drop Canyon: This deep rift in the earth is heavily mined by round-the-clock prospectors. Due to its precarious foundations its bottom and center is filled with the bones of dead miners, some of whom reanimate as monstrous skeletons when the living poke their noses around.
Mexican Hat: Nobody knows why the town is called this, although the peculiarities of the name are not what’s on its inhabitants’ minds. In 1873 a horrible disease caused townsfolk to waste to skin and bones before tearing each other to pieces. Being located close to the Arizona border, the Confederacy’s Texas Rangers rode in and put the town to the torch, making the organization violently hated by the rest of the country. To this day the town remains a charred ruin, and it is common practice for the Nauvoo Legion to haul captured Texas Rangers here to lynch.
The disease outbreak was the result of Hellstromme capturing live specimens of ravenous undead known as faminites from California. He released them into Mexican Hat to chronicle what would happen, and the end results are that the disease was “a bit too effective.”
Mouth O’ Hell This bounty of ghost rock was managed by Hellstromme Industries before a malfunctioning smelter killed the workers in a flood of molten metal. This was no accident, but intentional sabotage ordered by Hellstromme himself who wanted to better conceal a backdoor to one of his most secret underground lairs.
Nephi: This farming town used to be nice and quiet before a gang of outlaws known as the Outcasts started harassing the settlement. The local Sheriff managed to fend them off for now, and its steam-powered Infernal Devices made a state-of-the-art irrigation system for the otherwise arid landscape.
Ogden: This town’s home to the largest firearms manufacturer in Deseret, owned by one Jonathan Browning. It has a mixture of Mormon and Gentile citizens, and “vice trades” are limited to a single street by local ordinance.
Overlook Hotel: This would be a fine place to rest your heels where it not for the staff. Owned and run by a local branch of the Whateley family, these are the kin left behind while the rest moved to the city of Gomorra in California. The family’s infamous for its dabbling in black magic, and they display various “creepy hick” behavior such as the mother/sister who constantly carries an axe around to cut chickens, or the grandfather who then sucks the blood from their stumps. The Whateley’s teenage daughter Marguerite is the only one of her local ilk capable of using magic, and she can communicate with animals and send some of the more venomous ones into the rooms of sleeping guests.
Unlike the previous Plot Point Campaigns we covered, this is the breadth and scope of the Whateley’s role in Good Intentions.
Provo: This town is home to Brigham Young Academy, which specializes in engineering and New Science. It is a favorite home away from home for President Brigham Young and various Black Chaplains, so local outlaws tend to steer clear of the place.
Skull Canyon: This isolated canyon is said to be home to tunnels which stretch for miles, and local folklore claims that a Lost Legion of the Nauvoo vanished here in 1875. The canyon’s home to a colony of 50 rattlers maddeningly hoping to create a hybrid species by infusing their queen with mashed up humans. Their attempts thankfully bear no progress so far, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous!
St. George: This hot and arid town is home to Deseret’s major cotton supply and a grand temple the rival of the one in the City o’ Gloom. Brigham Young and high-ranking Mormons get together in a social group known as the Sunday Night Academy here. It seems to be a front for discussing theology as well as the rise in the supernatural since 1863, but in private it is a means for them to meet with members of the Order of St. George. This latter group is the secret arm of the Roman Catholic Church’s monster hunters, and although they disagree on a great many issues they do agree that the forces of evil are at work in the Weird West. The Society’s a way for them to lend each other information and covert aid.
Adventures in Deseret
A mainstay of every Deadlands Plot Point Campaign, the tailor-made Adventure Generator is intended to create the founding blocks of a short adventure. It is done by the drawing of playing cards followed by the rolling on a unique table. Although several results give us some unique Mormon Steampunk flair, quite a few details from the earlier Plot Point Campaigns have found their way here.
If you draw a Clubs card, you get an Obstacle, which can take the form of an industrial accident, congested traffic, and the like. Drawing Hearts gives you a single NPC or group of them. We get a colorful assortment ranging from drunk miners spoiling for a fight, scientists, spies, pickpockets, etc. Diamonds provide a Fortune, such as a valuable Relic, a discarded weapons cache, a deposit of ghost rock, and so on and so forth. Spades give us Varmints, various supernatural terrors which are up to no good and causing Fear in the area.
This section ends with two unique tables: the first one is a d20 table for features and obstacles encountered when traversing the Steel Sky of Junkyard, and possible Complications made while on errands for Smith & Robards delivery service. The PCs end up working for Smith & Robards during the Good Intentions Plot Point Campaign, thus its inclusion.
Thoughts So Far: There’s a lot less locations in Good Intentions, although it makes for a more tightly-focused setting. The relics centered around Mormon history and folklore are highly appropriate to the mood and feel. There’s a bit of local oddities and adventure hooks such as the Sunday Night Academy and Devil’s Canyon, although the settlements outside the capital don’t feel like they have as much going on in the realm of interesting conflicts and encounters.
Hellstromme’s motivations make him the most interesting of Deadlands’ Big Four in that he’s not a gleeful servant of death and misery like Grimme or Stone. In fact, he’s unaware that he’s indirectly serving Pestilence, and the whole rescuing his wife’s soul from Hell can make for some good role-play fodder and moral dilemmas. I do admit that some details stretch his “good intentions” credibility more than a bit, such as unleashing a faminite plague to see what will happen or destroying an entire mine just to cover a secret passage. Even the ghostfire bombs back in the Flood may have been justified as “needing to do what’s effective, not moral, in war.” This book and the Deadlands’ Marshal’s Guide sets him up as a more self-deluded scientist who refuses to look at the enormity of what his devices have wrought on the world.
Join us next time as we cover the first half of the Good Intentions Plot Point Campaign!
Plot Point Campaign, Pt. 1Original SA post
Good Intentions Plot Point Campaign, Pt. 1
Good Intentions, as well as Stone and a Hard Place, break off from the first two Plot Point Campaigns by starting the PCs at Seasoned instead of Novice rank.* It also provides recommended ranks for specific Plot Points, with Veteran rank by Plot Point 5 and Legendary by the final eighth adventure. For character creation there isn’t much in the way of recommendation besides Texas Rangers needing to keep an extra-low profile considering most of the populace despises them.
*Savage Worlds’ equivalent to experience levels
What I’d Change: Good Intentions misses out on the fraught conflict of the double agent genre where one must balance the two sides’ goodwill and making yourself useful without making it seem like you’ve gone rogue. Regardless of the PC’s true allegiance or who they work for most of the adventure progresses as normal, making assumptions that the party will be friendly to the Agency, work for Smith & Robards, and being deniable assets for the Danites without any conflicting loyalties being a hindrance. If I were to run this game, I’d have three factions prominent for the PCs to aid. I’ll provide examples in this campaign of how said factions’ goals will clash and in some cases give orders which may possibly complicate their existing quest. To what extent does the party risk alienating their patrons, and when? Good help is hard to come by, but you don’t want your benefactors to think you’ve “gone native” and joined the enemy either.
On the plus side, I’ve have it so that gaining enough of a faction’s trust can work in the PCs’ favor later on down the line, with NPC allies to spring them out of danger, the gifting of restricted and expensive equipment, and safe havens for when you’re on the run.
United States: Operates via the Agency in Deseret. Goals: Establish economic and military dominance in the Western Territories, undermine the Mormon nation’s regional influence.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Is the law in Deseret, but primarily operates via the Danites in this PPC. Goals: Ensure the safety and security of Deseret as an autonomous nation, expand the Church’s influence and membership, restrain and regulate the excesses of New Science. Undermine Hellstromme Industries without risking economic havoc due to high standard of living the company generates.
Smith & Robards: Operates via company employees and hired help. Goals: Become the New Science power player in the West by crippling or destroying Hellstromme Industries. Ensure profit for shareholders and CEOs, seize upon innovations and trade secrets in New Science to gain an edge in the marketplace. Continue business with Deseret and the United States provided their money’s good.
1. We Got the Fear!
Our tale begins one day in the City of Gloom during an unseasonably warm October. The opening boxed text does a good job of setting up the ambient sights, sounds, and melting pot of humanity before all hell breaks loose. A nearby steam carriage crashes, and a heavily-augmented scrapper with an embedded Gatling gun emerges and starts opening fire at the crowd.
As a first encounter it’s not very hard. The scrapper’s an Extra, but he has a huge Strength score and piston jaw making him dangerous in melee, and his Gatling rifle can fire off two attacks at no penalty if he stands still thanks to an edge. When the PCs subdue him a pair of Danite agents take notice of the party’s fine fighting skills. Next morning each one of them receives a handwritten note offering them free lunch from a Mr. Ames claiming to represent the Denver-Pacific rail company. This is actually Jeb Morgan, a high-ranking Danite, and he wishes to hire the PCs to retrieve an unknown liquid believed to be in a Wasatch war train and disguise it as a robbery. They’re even nice enough to provide $150 each up front along with some dynamite, a fuse, and fake ID documents for the mission.
PCs who did their homework before the meeting can find out that Morgan’s cover identity as Mr. Ames is not a DP employee, and/or that the gentlemen present during the lunch meeting carry concealed revolvers. Morgan will be impressed if they point this out, and admit that he’s working for someone more powerful but the money’s just as good.
Hellstromme’s war train is armed to the teeth, but the rail warriors onboard are drunk as skunks due to celebrating a recent victory in the Great Rail Wars. The locomotive is carrying liquid Fear which the PCs are tasked with retrieving, although a dead man’s switch is designed to blow the cargo car it’s in if the train stops for more than a few minutes, leaves the tracks, or said car detaches. The adventure presumes that the explosion will happen, causing a dramatic yet cinematically non-lethal explosion. Every PC will be affected by the fumes of raw Fear and experience furtive glimpses of their worst nightmares. Spiritual manitous will torment each of them one on one, and can be resisted via said PC’s trademark or best skill.
The liquid Fear and its evidence vanished, but a partially-destroyed logbook has enough detail to note that it picked up said cargo near Mexican Hat. Jeb Morgan will still pay the PCs $200 each for finding a lead in addition to their $150 each up front. I’d like to note that this is a “cash-heavy” adventure in comparison to the other Plot Point Campaigns, and the money gained here is at the lower end of rewards. It makes sense given that Deseret is economically prosperous, and mad science devices in Deadlands are quite expensive to procure.
2. Vex Not Them Ghosts
Several weeks later Morgan will contact the PCs again to follow up on the leads in Mexican Hat. He’s willing to give a slight history lesson on the place for those not in the know. It’s a long way south and the PCs may run into a patrol of 23 suspicious Nauvoo Legionnaires; as the Danites are a secret organization and have an almost-mythical place in Mormon folklore, trying to pull rank in this way will only make the soldiers burst out in laughter.
The town itself is desolate and the 13 people still here bear haunted looks in their eyes. They are aware of Wasatch activity in the region but refuse to speak of it, but a successful Persuasion reveals that the company name is disliked around these parts. At night the ghosts of those killed from the fires and faminites manifest; they are unable to harm the living but do their best to scare the party in a variety of grisly scenes reminiscent of their deaths. The townsfolk are aware of them but have no idea how to put them to rest, although burying the ashes of the dead where they’re found and exorcism/sanctify spells can work. Not only does this put PCs in Mexican Hat’s good graces, it can be used to introduce players to Tale Telling, a unique game mechanic where the Fear Level can be lowered by spreading good news of evils put to rest.
Investigation from grateful townsfolk and/or archives of the burned newspaper house reveals the location of the Wasatch Roundhouse deep in a canyon known as the Valley o’ the Gods. The place is abandoned, the laboratory in the basement eerily empty of equipment. Poking around the place puts the PCs in the crosshairs of spectral X-squad ghosts who died from on-site Fear-related accidents, as well as an invisible ghost by the name of Dexter Crawford. Said spirit is one of the major instigators of Hellstromme’s delusions, executed and left behind in Hell when he stowed away on the doctor’s failed dimension-traveling train expedition. He can only be seen via some spell or device that can reveal invisible people such as Detect Arcana, but otherwise never makes an appearance again until the final adventure.
The adventure ends when the PCs report back to “Mr. Aimes” and share their findings.
FACTIONS: PCs working for the US government will receive word to abscond with the lynched bodies of the Texas Rangers and deliver them to a contact at the Arizona border for proper burial. Taking them down without earning the townsfolks’ trust will cause a scene if discovered, and Nauvoo Legionnaires who find PCs with the bodies will presume them to be Rangers in disguise!
PCs working for Smith & Robards can get some goodwill for the company in Mexican Hat by helping put the ghosts to rest. As Wasatch is despised and the only other rail line, they’ll be more than happy to discuss plans for being part of a Denver-Pacific rail spur going through southern Deseret.
3. Industrial Espionage
This adventure’s the first which puts the PCs in contact with the Agency, the spiritual successors to the Pinkerton Detectives who joined the US government in the Deadlands universe. Their organization caught word of the party’s exploits via legendary Agent Nevada Smith, who arranges a meeting with them by posing as a pushy, annoying old lady eager to reward them a meal* in a restaurant’s private booth for helping her across the street. After his facial disguise literally melts off, he introduces himself and tells the PCs that they’re being used by the Danites, who in his words are very real and very bad. He wants them to continue working for them as double agents, and to sweeten the deal presents the party with the location of one of Hellstromme’s secret labs near the Mouth o’ Hell cave. PCs who are Confederates and/or Texas Rangers that balk at being a US patsy will be informed of Twilight Protocol** being in effect, saying that sending anything they learn to their respective capitals is in everyone’s best interests.
*this seems to be a recurring theme in the PPC
**METAPLOT ALERT: As a result of the Cackler Going Bananas, the Agents and Texas Rangers are expected to coordinate efforts in regards to supernatural goings-on and New Science definitely qualifies. It’s an in-game way of getting parties containing Agents and Texas Rangers to stick together and not slit each other’s throats.
The rest of the adventure is a dungeon crawl as the PCs approach the Mouth o’ Hell. The aboveground facility is guarded to the gills with an 80 foot tall crane made of ghost steel with an attached air carriage providing surveillance, guarded by over two dozen troopers and automations. Amore subtle way in includes going across a canyon by repairing some defunct machinery to extend a mechanical bridge.
What I’d Change: The repair check has a penalty due to old equipment, but I’d allow a bonus or automatic success if the PCs can steal some mad science tools from outlying buildings in the facility. That way the party doesn’t have to fight or avoid nearly three dozen soldiers and automatons if they fail the repairs, but there’s still a risk of being caught.
The Mouth itself is pitch-black, filled with 4 feet of water in most places, with deformed pseudo-statues of dead miners encased in solid metal popping up everywhere. A pair of abominations known as Metal Monsters were put here by Hellstromme Industries to stand guard, and although Extras they are tough and immune to anything that doesn’t deal Heavy Damage (bundles of dynamite, certain powers, etc). The secret passage leads to a section of Hellstromme’s Plutonian Express underground railroad and abandoned depots. The ambient Fear in the tunnel manifests as random sounds, erratic flickers at the edge of one’s sight, light sources dimmer than they should be, and such.
The functional Fear Laboratory the PCs eventually find is fully-staffed by a small team of scientists and X-Squad guards. Here a dozen prisoners abducted from around Deseret are subjected to torturous tests where they’re strapped into chairs, forced to experience terrifying visions from a television-like device while test tubes drain literal liquid Fear out of them. All of the lab equipment is highly sensitive and attuned to surrounding emotional resonance, and the PCs’ arrival throws it all into whack. At a dramatically appropriate time the machine malfunctions and converts the Fear into a massive Earth Terrormental* which rampages throughout the complex.
The Terrormental makes for a nice boss battle. It can meld and burrow through the ground and has your expected high Strength and Toughness with a good slam attack to go along with it, but is immune to all forms of attacks as long as it is in contact with natural earth or if struck by a hero who is also supernaturally burrowing. One of the lead scientists will try to escape, and PCs who catch up to him can learn about the Fear process but not what Hellstromme wants it for as the staff doesn’t know.
For their efforts Nevada Smith takes custody of the scientist once they return to civilization and pay them $600 each. What happens if said scientist dies or escapes the adventure does not say.
FACTIONS: For more Faction opportunities, the notes and Fear process will be of value to anyone. Smith & Robards will want the PCs to sabotage the crane with explosives to put a damper on Hellstromme Industries’ construction in the area. One of the prisoners may be someone of value to the LDS Church and thus the Danites want them back alive. The US mission is already the default for this Plot Point, so the others are more side treks for getting into said organizations’ good graces.
What I’d Change: Have it so that if the professor escapes the PCs may be able to find out the information he knows from research notes which are also at risk of being destroyed by the terrormental. Otherwise they’ll have to track him down or learn a watered-down version from one of the prisoners.
4. Crackin’ Skulls
Several weeks after their last mission Jeb Morgan meets with the PCs in a black steam wagon. This time the Danites learned that an ex-Hellstromme employee who may know about the Fear labs is now playing on a Skullchucker team. Morgan does not know who this person is or why they left. The PCs are to go undercover by joining a team (or sponsoring one, or going on as doctors, and so on if they are not the sporty types) in an effort to get close to them and see what they know.
The majority of this adventure is an open-ended investigation with multiple leads and some role-playing. The skullchucker teams are gearing up for a tournament with a $5,000 prize pot, so it takes some fancy Persuasion for relative newbies to prove their worth. The sports players of all teams are defensive about their private lives, so failing a Streetwise roll in asking around can make future checks harder as word spreads about “nosy types” or even an all-out brawl at worst. Leads further narrow down the teams sponsored by Hellstromme Industries to rule out leads, and that the Factory #12 Falcons recently got a new player. Said player is Edwina Till, who is actually on the opposing team of the PCs!
But this is not a straightforward Where’s Waldo? adventure. Remember that scrapper the PCs took down in the first adventure? Well he was a skullchucker player himself, and his teammates are out looking for revenge! They will try to ambush the party at a most inconvenient opportunity. Also complicating matters is that Hellstromme learned the identity of the PCs by now, as well as suspicion that they might be looking for an ex-employee who knows too much. A Manniken, a prototype automatan disguised as a human, will attempt to assassinate the former employee. The manniken does not know the identity of the player either, and will target someone they believe the PCs to be contacting suspiciously during or after the Skullchucker game, rushing in and firing poison darts.
Edwina can tell the PCs that she and a bunch of other workers were being forced to dig out a huge cavern in an unknown location (blindfolds were involved), and she and some laborers escaped by rigging a boiler to overheat.
Whether Edwina survives or not, the PCs are now wanted men by Hellstromme Industries andboth Smith and Morgan will warn them as such. This means that during intervening Savage Tales a Hellstromme minion will arrive to attack or inconvenience the PCs at the earliest opportunity whenever the GM deals a black Joker card to an NPC. In the City o’ Gloom this happens whenever the GM deals anyone a Joker of either color.
FACTIONS: For Faction activities, Smith & Robards may want a PC to showcase an arena-legal New Science device or augmentation during the tournament to advertise its function. The Agency may want to leverage blackmail on a Skullchucker player to throw a match by planting a threatening letter in one of their lockers undetected. Said player’s also a Freemason mage, so their belongings will be warded with a magical alarm that summons monsters from the Hunting Grounds if compromised.
Thoughts So Far: The first adventure starts a little shifty for otherwise heroic PCs by basically committing a train robbery, but otherwise does a good gradual build-up in showing that Hellstromme Industries is up to some dirtier-than-usual deeds. There are multiple avenues for investigation and snooping around which I like, although the adventures’ major weak point is that the Agency and Danites never really work at cross-purposes which blunts the “double agent” feel quite a bit. I also like how monetary rewards are the default for this Plot Point Campaign: the Flood and Last Sons all too often had NPC patrons expecting the party to risk their necks for free. The Skullchucker chapter was very strong, for it could resolve in different ways. Een if a side plot, the monetary consequences for winning the tournament can net the party a new Infernal Device or three.
Join us next time as we wrap up the second half of the Plot Point Campaign!
Plot Point Pt 2Original SA post
Good Intentions Plot Point Pt 2
Terrors O’ Detroit
METAPLOT ALERT In order for the Confederacy to gain international recognition and thus smash the Union blockade, President Jefferson Davis realized that slavery confounded this as it made his nation a pariah state to much of the world. In order to gain the aid of the British Empire he emancipated all of the slaves. How this was done in spite of being in direct violation of the Confederate Constitution and thus risking impeachment is because reasons, but the end result is that the British invaded from Canada in the North and annexed Detroit as part of a two-pronged pincer attack against the Union. Although peace has settled between the two Americas, the Motor City’s liberation wasn’t part of the peace talks. As of this Plot Point the United States decides to settle the matter on its own and conducts a joint effort with Wasatch troops to take back Detroit.
The saloon the PCs visit is backed to the brim as a performer sings verses from Ode to the West Wind. This very friendly actor reveals himself to be Nevada Smith, and he’s got some hot new info! The good news is that they found the identity of one of Hellstromme’s old buddies from his military days, an engineer by the name of Lucian Vholes who’s rumored to be into devil summoning. The bad news is that he’s now in war-torn Detroit helping the British occupation, and that Hellstromme’s aid to the Union is a pretext for getting their hands on him. With little time to lose a Smith & Robards pilot known as 600 Pound Sally is ready to fly the PCs all the way there in her souped-up super-gyro to give Vholes a hasty extraction!
Due to the Sioux Nation’s anti-technology field as of the Last Sons’ completion, she’ll have to make a slight detour which can end up with a few encounters during the days she stops and refuels at S&R waystations. If any of you were wondering the flight logistics.
FACTIONS: If the PCs are on the out and outs with the Agency, the Danites will give them this mission instead. But their motives are different, for they have even less love of the dark arts. They want the party to assassinate Vholes and destroy any of his research notes so as not to let his secrets fall into Hellstromme’s hands, whereas the Agency wishes to take him alive.
Sally lands outside Detroit due to risk of being shot out of the sky, so the PCs will have to go by foot. The city is far from easy to navigate, with many roads blocked off by the rubble of crumbled buildings and soldier-operated checkpoints. After potential encounters with ghouls and British platoons the PCs can find Nuppenau House currently serving as Vhole’s home. Although hastily packing to flee the city, four bound quilled devils are there to guard him from danger. If the scientist is subdued they can learn from him or his research that he was working on ways to open up a portal to Hell by collecting Roman soil believed to have once directly touched that infernal realm. He has a huge inert portal-like device in his house to prove it he dubs the Hell Hole. Vholes suspects that Hellstromme’s being manipulated by a spirit known as Dexter Crawford, one of his former associates. He does not believe Hellstromme to be wicked, but that he’s being led down a dark path by said specter.
Then a group of X-Squad soldiers on jetpacks bust into the house and open fire on everyone. Although the adventure gives conditions for failure and how many rounds it will take, the adventure’s resolution presumes that Vholes rigs his hell portal to blow up, and that Nevada Smith wil try and fail to disarm it.* The PCs escape out the building to be picked up by 600-pound-Sally. The fate of Vholes is the only thing that can change; he can be taken alive by the PCs and turned over to an Agency safehouse, get killed, or escape from the fight on his personal whirligig.
*He dramatically swoops on in to aid the PCs during the firefight.
What I’d Change: First I'd make it so that Vholes tells the PCs about Hell being a facsimile of the Deadlands in the Hunting Grounds and that its vision changes depending on the viewers' religious beliefs, as described in Last Sons. He'd also mention that he's noticed evil spirits known as manitou stealing innocent souls as a means of addressing the cosmic dilemma of the Wood of Suicides.
I'd also make the PC’s actions in the house fight dictate the outcome. If the hell portal is not destroyed by the time they leave then it falls into the hands of Hellstromme Industries. During the final Plot Point adventure Hellstromme’s device will be even more foolproof as a result and thus harder to shut down. If Nevada Smith survives then he’ll go into hiding for a while. He won’t be heard of again until the final adventure when he joins the PCs as an Ally to stop Hellstromme once and for all. If Vholes is captured by the PCs and turned over to the Agency, he’ll create a mad science trinket studded with infernal runes. This will be one of the items delivered to the party via Nevada Smith’s steamer trunks, and can act as an “overloading agent” to the Hell Gate during the final Plot Point. It will make the destruction of said contraption faster by several rounds.
At this point Hellstromme will want the PCs dead more than ever. The drawing of cards from the last Plot Point intensifies where a 5 or higher sends a team of manniken assassins after them whenever they’re in the City o’ Gloom without a disguise.
6. The Ghost of Rail Wars Past
Between Plot Points 5 and 6 the PCs will be granted a safe haven at Smith & Robards’ compound. If they accept they can gain some employment by making aerial deliveries of said company’s mad scientist gadgets all over the Weird West. Most of the KickStarter stretch goal adventures for Good Intentions are meant to take place in this interim.
Stacey O’Malley, of the Deseret branch of the Tombstone Epitaph, will contact the PCs with an urgent request. A labor union activist by the name of Syd Mallory and her allies were arrested by Wasatch rail agents and will likely be executed. If refused she’ll play on their responsibility by pointing out how she kept Hellstromme off their tail.
An important note: offscreen Mallory formed a labor union during the Skullchucker quest to distract Hellstromme’s agents from looking too close into the party’s activities, but otherwise makes no direct mention earlier in the Plot Point Campaign. There’s a lot of behind the scenes sidebar stuff for each adventure to explain what respective factions are doing in the interim, but in Mallory’s case the PCs may very well likely have never heard of her.
The X-Squadders have Mallory and her people hostage in a seemingly-abandoned train station. If rescued they tell the PCs that Wasatch is looking for a former employee by the name of Captain Gideon Robertson. Rifling through the train station’s records reveals blueprints for an underground Plutonian Junction to reach Salt Lake City in less than a week.
This is too convenient. The kidnappers were instructed by Hanuman, Hellstromme’s second-in-command, to let slip their plans on Gideon who was one of the NPCs the party met back in Mexican Hat. Via a subsonic recording device implanted in one of the hostages, Hellstromme agents are listening in and hope that someone will blab his location.
If the PCs get back to Mexican Hat in time, they can question Gideon on his relationship with Hellstromme. He was one of the rail warriors who accompanied the scientist during their first excursion into Hell, and infodumps an abridged version of his employer’s life story from the Marshal’s section and Hellstromme’s relationship with his dearly departed wife. But he also reveals that a stowaway huckster by the name of Dexter Crawford inadvertently caused the train to crash somewhere off course. In order to escape the infernal realm a human sacrifice was needed, and Hellstromme was more than happy to take out his anger on Crawford for ruining years’ worth of planning and expenses.
Gideon has on his person a map of the City o’ Gloom, with Wasatch rail lines surrounding it highlighted to reveal a pentagram. This is Hellstromme’s second attempt at Operation Hell Gate, but with far worse consequences.
The final encounter of this adventure occurs when a small army of steam carriages, automatons, and X-Squadders encircle the town of Mexican Hat, opening fire indiscriminately with Gatling weapons. A pair of auto-gyros carrying incendiary bombs will drop their payload on the few remaining buildings. They’ll be here ahead of the PCs if they inadvertently revealed Gideon’s location, and if trailed they’ll arrive shortly after. PCs who were thorough in both regards have enough time to talk to Gideon and prepare for an attack.
Also saving Gideon’s life pays off later in the Plot Point Campaign too!
FACTIONS: If the PCs are particularly valued by one or more factions, said organization will send Allies to provide aid during the siege of Mexican Hat. Smith & Robard auto-gyros can drop packages with Infernal Devices, Danite sharpshooters will shoot the auto-gyro bombers out of the sky, an Agent may plant a bundle of dynamite underneath one of the steam carriages, etc.
7. Hellstromme’s Secrets
At this point in the campaign the major factions are coming out to help the PCs in a more direct manner. The Danites assign one of their Black Chaplains to act as their protector from afar, being discrete if possible but jumping in when dramatically appropriate to help them out of a pickle. The Reckoner Pestilence will sic a herd of demonic bulls known as Los Diables to track down and kill the party. As for the Agency, Nevada Smith sent one of the PCs a pair of steamer trunks on two different days. The first contains a key and a sheet of tin with rectangular holes punched into it with the Words “Teller” and “23” stamped on the top portion. The second trunk is unlocked by the first one’s key and contains an autobiographical dime novel titled Nevada Smith and the Teller of Secrets. Placing the tin sheet over page 23 reads out a secret message: to go into Hellstromme’s personal Compound, access a secret elevator when he’s away while he’s celebrating the completion of the Plutonian Junction, and that the password is “Phlegethon.”
The location of the Hellstromme Compound is public knowledge, but is a walled enclosure and heavily guarded. PCs who follow Smith’s instructions find a hidden button in the hangar which reveals an elevator with a loudspeaker. If the PCs do not answer the correct password when asked the now-shut elevator will flood with knockout gas. Barring being Harrowed or immune to poison the PCs will lose consciousness and imprisoned within the Compound’s Biological Research Level. The required Vigor roll cannot avoid this, only determine how long they’re down for the count.
The area below the compound contains Hellstromme’s most secret labs and is a multi-level yet short “dungeon crawl.” The Staff Level has scientists and soldiers; the Garage Level holds more scientists testing out experimental weapons and vehicles; the Biological Research Level holds captured monsters, human patients, and a distiller of liquid Fear; and finally the Brain Factory holds the process for the creation of Hellstromme Industries’ famed automatons. A herd of zombies kept in rooms have their brains extracted and put inside a canister lined with explosives in the event of unwanted tampering. Said canisters are shipped out to various factories and placed within the housing of said robots.
The PCs need to break into the offices of the Biological Research Laboratory to find what they need. Hanuman, Hellstromme’s second-in-command, has the key and is on this level. He will hit an emergency release to set the monsters free as well as sound an alarm, forcing the PCs to tangle with him, the abominations, and X-Squad reinforcements which arrive over the course of several rounds.
Sometime after the smoke from the firefight clears, the PCs are at liberty to look through the office’s files on Operation Hell Gate. Pieces of information are doled out based on the number of successes and raises, but the gist of it is that Dr. Hellstromme infused train tracks with ghost steel and liquified Fear to form a massive pentagram around Salt Lake City. This is part of a ritual to open a permanent portal to Hell underneath his own headquarters. There’s also information that he seeks to find and bind the soul of his dead wife Vanessa into his foreman Mary Jones, whose own soul will thus be cast into Hell in exchange.
What I’d Change: the adventure talks about it in a sidebar, but the zombie brain secret for automatons is one of the company’s most closely held secrets. It will prove ruinous to Hellstromme’s fortunes if publicized, and the man himself will stop at nothing to kill those who found out the truth. I’d make it so that the knowledge can be passed onto any of the allied factions to either use as leverage, to design their own automatons independently, or to release the knowledge to the public and thus ruin Hellstromme Industries’ stock. It will not matter until after the final adventure, but it can make a difference in the geo-political economic sense.
8. The Door to Hell
This final Plot Point is the threshold of no return. The timetable for Hellstromme’s dread ritual is in three days or whenever the GM thinks would be just enough time for PCs to lick their wounds, gear up, and gather a few allies. The Hell Gate is beneath the headquarters of Hellstromme Industries, which itself is guarded by countless rail warriors and machines, forcing a stealthy entry. If Gideon’s still alive he knows a way to get them inside with no skill checks needed!
The climax of this campaign is preceded by a half-mile elevator ride down into an artificial cavern, the very same one Edwina Twill helped mine. We get some thematic boxed text on a huge robot-filled chamber where a huge ghost rock-infused ring glows with occult symbols. Dr. Darius Hellstromme himself is inside a neary transparent glass dome operating controls with a copyright-friendly control glove. The mad doctor will pay them no mind as he continues his labors, leaving his war drones and clockwork tarantulas (which can channel Hellstromme’s mad science powers through their bodies) to make work of the intruders. The dome itself has a very high 20 Toughness and the adventure assumes that this will render him untouchable to the PCs…
...except that there’s a power Harrowed can get which can make them incorporeal and “ghost” through physical objects. Yay for not-so-untouchable metaplot NPCs!
If the PCs survive Hellstromme will give a genre-appropriate villainous speech, dramatically announcing how he expected the PCs to be here, how they have the privilege to be among the first witnesses of a scientific breakthrough which in due time will allow humanity to transcend death and suffering, and how their efforts are in vain as he already accounted for every possible variable and that they live only because he wills it.
At this point the PCs must role-play out a Social Conflict with Hellstromme to get him to see the error of his ways. It is done via a series of opposed social-related skill rolls with modifiers based on how good a job the persuader does in-character as well as suggested talking points.* But there’s a catch: if Hellstromme wins an opposed skill roll, he will inflict his Touched special ability which allows him to make a PC believe something that he himself believes on a failed opposed Spirit roll. In this case the PC will argue in favor of Hellstromme, that opening the Hell Gate is the most noble and logical course of action, until they break free of the mental influence.
*bring up knowledge of Hellstromme’s past, questioning the morality of putting Ms. Mary Jones in danger, etc.
The next scene happens regardless, but the PC’s margin of victory here does make a difference in how quickly Dr. Hellstromme manages to overload the Hell Gate. But even on a success shutting it down is not an option, and then Hellstromme pulls an Ozymandias:
Boxed Text posted:
“I cannot shut it down. The process began almost an hour before you arrived. Did you really think I would allow you to pierce my sanctum if you had any hope of altering the outcome?”
Suddenly a dismal world is visible beyond the Hell Gate: a sullen forest of gray, dead trees mired in a fetid swamp. This can only be the Wood of Suicides. In the trees’ crumbling bark, faces writhe in eternal agony. Unholy beasts and demonic forms caper and leap among the trees, continually snapping off dead branches and causing the souls trapped within the trunks to moan in agony.
Slowly, the demonic creatures turn and regard the Hell Gate, finally perceiving it as a portal to the living world. Great ropy loops of drool dangle from their toothed jaws as they advance.
“Vanessa! VANESSA! I’ve come to rescue you, at long last, my one and only love!”
A woman’s face will appear on one of the trees, but when the entity steps out of the trunk it is not Vanessa at all but the specter of a man wearing a fancy suit who PCs may recognize from Plot Point 2 if they caught a glimpse:
Boxed Text posted:
“Hello Darius! Remember me? It’s Dex Crawford. The innocent bystander you murdered to effect an escape from the very gates of Hell. The gates are open now, you wrinkled blowhard. On behalf of my new friends, I thank you for your help. We will bring about a new age of mankind…it’s extinction.
“You may as well stop fiddling with those knobs and dials, Hellstromme. Vanessa isn’t here anymore. She hasn’t been for quite some time. When you showed your hand and revealed your heart’s desires, she was taken somewhere very secret, very safe…and quite painful. Knock-knock! Dexter’s home.”
Hellstromme’s voice shouts at you through the loudspeaker, torn by rage and sadness. “You there! Hold back the tide! I shall endeavor to undo this unholy debacle.”
This is the Final Boss Battle of Good Intentions, but instead of fighting Dr. Darius Hellstromme he is aiding them against a demonic invasion! It will take him either 13 or 13+1d6 rounds for him to overload and destroy the Hell Gate depending on the results of the Social Conflict, and during this time waves of demons will emerge from the Hell Gate’s portal every round.
What I’d Change: give some of the PCs control of Hellstromme’s clockwork tarantulas if they’re having trouble holding back the tide. These ones can also channel Hellstromme’s mad science powers, which can make for an interesting turn of events for players who did the other Reckoner Series adventures. I'd also make it so that going over the portal to rescue the tortured souls to be a possibility.
Statwise Dexter Crawford’s a ghostly Huckster specializing in offensive and debuffing spells. He’s immune to nonmagical attacks, can become invisible at will, and can only be laid to rest if his corpse is somehow retrieved from Hell and given a decent burial. As for the devils, they come in three varieties: a single Wild Card satyr-like Devilkin possessing a host of Black Magic spells, quill devils* whose spine-covered bodies can erupt in a cone of thorny blasts, and Plague Devils whose mere touch can sap one’s Strength and Vigor.
*earlier encountered in Lucian Vholes’ house in Detroit
Once the rounds are up, the Hell Gate begins to melt and sink into the earth below, causing any remaining unholy abominations to wail in despair. A pair of activated war drones will help the PCs clean up any stragglers, after which they’ll aim their guns at the PCs, not firing but standing still as Hellstromme exits his protective dome:
Dr. Hellstromme posted:
“In fewer than five minutes, you have undone decades of planning and study, years of construction, and months of mental preparation. In a single stroke, you have dashed all the hopes and dreams that sustain me to glittering shards. My life’s work lies in ruin. And yet…the only words I can think to offer you are these:
“I must retire to further study, in the hope I one day come to terms with and comprehend what has happened today. You may see yourselves out.”
He then returns into his dome, which roars to life and rolls away like a vehicle into the labyrinthine depths.
In the aftermath of this Plot Point Campaign, the power of Hellstromme Industries’ headquarters is shut down and abandoned, and looters from Junkyard soon strip the place bare unless the PCs got to any undefined treasures first. Dr. Hellstromme retires to a secluded life on a private estate, and his company and Wasatch Railroad continue functioning as normal. By the 20th century the already-reclusive man vanishes from the public eye to parts unknown.
As for the PCs, they may be called by the Danites or Agency to mop up any escaped devils or take advantage of the knowledge of Hellstromme’s secrets, but if they want to hang up their spurs and follow the good doctor’s example in retirement, that’s fine too.
FACTIONS: The “brain in a jar” secret, along with the Hell Gate notes, can cause several things to happen depending on who the PCs give the evidence to. The LDS Church will use it as pretext to seize the assets of Hellstromme Industries and nationalize it. They will replace Hellstromme with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. People who worked on the Hell Gate project will be arrested, possibly granted clemency depending on the circumstances of involvement and their willingness thereof.
If the Hell Gate notes are given to the United States, they will publish it in their newspapers as part of an anti-Mormon propaganda war. This will cause Hellstromme Industries’ stock to plummet and Deseret to undergo an economic depression. The evidence will be regarded with mixed feelings: those who didn’t like Hellstromme are confirmed in their biases, but many whose jobs and livelihoods depended on the company view it as the USA finding yet another excuse to oppress them. US-Mormon relations will deteriorate as Deseret finds its sphere of influence in the Weird West limited. Smith & Robards will step in buy up the stock, but not before major damage is done.
If the zombie brain and/or Hell Gate notes are given to Smith & Robards, there will be much internal debate within the company over what to do, but they will be used to make further developments in automaton/extraplanar technologies. In due time they will gain an edge over Hellstromme Industries as the premiere New Science corporation. Wages and working conditions will be better than Hellstromme’s business, but given the dangers of ghost rock and pollution business will overall continue as usual.
Thoughts So Far: As far as the main Plot Points go, this adventure rates above Last Sons but below the Flood. It was shorter than both but really followed on its themes of Steampunk & Spy Games, Hellstromme’s plots really did feel like that of a mad scientist with an understandable motivation, the fate of important NPCs could be decided by the party’s actions barring one exception, the encounter-card mechanics representing Hellstromme’s manhunts encourage the PCs to take a low profile, and the ample monetary rewards and Infernal Devices on many NPCs do a good job of making Deseret feel like a more serious Wild Wild West.
The Plot Point Campaign’s weak points are that the double agent aspect never becomes a source of conflict, and there are no mentioned consequences for what happens if the Danites discover that the PCs are passing info along to a US spy. More than a few adventures felt a bit “dungeon crawl” heavy in infiltrating secret labs, which may or may not be to all gaming groups’ desire. Hellstromme’s ambitions for the Hell Gate are hinted at gradually throughout the adventures, but his motivation is put in one big infodump by Gideon in Plot Point 6 which felt a bit too sudden and telling over showing. The opportunity to go into said gate themselves to free the suicide victims, or even find a resolution for Vanessa’s spirit, is never given as an opportunity which may be a downer to many gaming groups.
PS Interestingly, an in-game explanation of the Reckoning or the Servitors is never given or alluded to in the Plot Point Campaign or the Savage Tales. For all intents and purposes Hellstromme is a ruthless megacorp CEO whose own loss drives him to undertake terrible courses of action.
Join us next time as we cover Good Intentions’ Savage Tales!
Savage TalesOriginal SA post
Besides a central city home base, Good Intentions is a bit of an odd bird in its approach to adventures. It is the lightest Plot Point Campaign on Savage Tales too, with 8 total in comparison to the 20-plus average of the older three. Four side adventures and a pair of “one sheet” mini-encounters were released as KickStarter Stretch Goals, meant to be run in conjunction with Good Intentions or possibly on their own. As those are their own products I will not be covering them for this review, but minus the one sheets are larger in scope than the ones provided here.
Early Birds: Innovations in New Science helped Mormon pioneers outmaneuver the rattlers on the salt flats, but the creation of dynamite launchers, wheeled landships, and autogyros make it possible now to hunt them! No fans of the “enemy of my enemy” adage, various companies eager to bag the most rattler hides have turned their Gatling and harpoon guns on each other in a series of skirmishes known as the “Worm Wars.” But the rattlers are intelligent, and see value in letting their tormentors weaken each other’s numbers before going in for the kill!
This quest opens up when the PCs are out on the Salt Flats and spot a lone man dying of thirst and heavily wounded due to his New Science glider making a rough crash landing. What he does not tell the party unless they ask is that he is Paul Sibert, a notable individual singlehandedly responsible for starting more than a few “Worm Wars” of his own. A rival group of hunters have been tailing him in a landship, armed with rifles and Gatling guns who will try to get the party to surrender with their superior range and relative lack of cover on the PCs’ part due to the flats. Angry at Sibert and wanting revenge, they have no intentions on offering mercy in the event of a surrender, and after a few rounds of combat 10 rattlers led by a legendary species of its kind known as the Blood Worm attack the ship en masse.
The ship will be torn apart, its crew devoured by the abominations in a feast of blood and screams, and the PCs are forced to retreat to a rocky outcropping safe from the worms’ range. Surviving hunters will come up here, too, too shocked and traumatized by the previous events to fight. The rattlers will wait underground, hoping that the lack of food and blazing heat from the salt flats will cause the survivors to make a desperate run.
The adventure mentions that the rattlers will go after PCs with vehicles, but it’s railroady in that it doesn’t take into account the possibility of an autogyro or steam wagon outrunning the rattlers and wearing them down in hit and run tactics. The rival hunters will attack the PCs’ vehicles in the initial fight, but steam wagons can be quite tough.
For those not in the know, rattlers are one of the most physically powerful monsters in Deadlands. They are giant tentacled worm-like monstrosities over 120 feet long. They have 24 Toughness and Heavy Armor, making them immune to conventional attacks and firearms that don’t deal heavy damage, and they can burrow through earth 4 times as fast as the average human in Pace. Furthermore, they add their +13 size to an area of effect slam attack, meaning that they can very easily incapacitate most PCs even when rolling low damage. Their only major weakness is shooting a nerve cluster in the nexus of their mouth-tentacles at -6, which hits them at a much more manageable 11 Toughness. All rattlers but the Blood Worm are Extras in this adventure, so one good shot can cinematically down them.
For the next 3 days the party must find ways to avoid dying of thirst and starvation while fending off random encounters or find their own way to kill or drive off the rattlers. If they survive for three days a glider by the name of Crazy Pete will come to help save them. He has 10 sticks of dynamite as well as a Mad Scientist with the Blast, Deflection, and Fly powers.
If both Sibbert and the surviving worm whalers make it back alive, this will usher in a sense of mutual understanding and cause an end to the Worm Wars. But if either Sibbert or the worm whalers die, this causes their acquaintances to blame the other side and lead to a renewed set of Worm Wars.
Graveyard Follies: The crux for this tale is open-ended, centering around an undefined item the PCs need being buried with its last known owner in the Gentile Graveyard. The grave has already been robbed, and investigation can discover a discarded note signed by Gregory Tremaine. The man’s name is well known in town as a reclusive scientist who lives on a remote mountaintop. The graverobbers can also be followed and tracked to a steam wagon full of exhumed bodies, but none of them are their quarry and learned they were hired by a Junkyard scientist.
The first lead to Tremaine is in a rickety shack built on the literal side of a mountain; the doorknob is trapped with an electric current and fragile floorboards are triggered to plunge an unlucky soul 100 feet. The scientist is reclusive but not the culprit, and gives them an electrostatic gun and knives for their trouble. Following the Junkyard scientist lead turns up a burn ward who hires gravediggers to provide her with corpses to experiment on in hopes of developing a medical breakthrough.
Both scientists point to a Dr. Stark as the likely possessor of the MacGuffin corpse, and he lives in a creepy mansion overlooking the Gentile Cemetery. If confronted he’ll reveal to them that he was researching ways of reanimated dead tissue by stitching them together. Stark’s “creation” went wild and fled into Junkyard, with a demolished laboratory to prove it. Only after tracking down and doing away with his “Frankenstein’s monster” creation will the PCs be allowed to rifle through the lab’s adjoining sepulchre, where they can find the MacGuffin they’re looking for among the belongings.
Or at least that’s what the adventure assumes in the “Aftermath” section. What’s to prevent PCs from not trusting the creepy doctor and searching the house themselves?
In the Meantime: A Harrowed Texas Ranger by the name of Frank McMean was killed by the Nauvoo Legion and came back from the dead with his possessing manitou firmly in control. He’s taken to stalking and setting traps for people going through southern Deseret, and the PCs may be unlucky enough to cross paths with him. Stats are given for falling rock traps and rockslides along with Survival or Tracking rolls to find a way out of the twisting canyon that is his home base.
Statwise McMean is a veteran ranger with a d12 in Strength, Vigor, and Shooting making him one tough customer. He has a high 11 Toughness, Improved Hip-Shooting to fan the hammer, and Improved Block and Improved Dodge to make him more easily be able to avoid melee and ranged attacks.
The Lost Loco: Whether as acting as a delivery team for Smith & Robards or hired by Nevada Smith or another interested party, the PCs get word that Dr. Hellstromme’s personal rail runner was abandoned in the underground tracks within the territory of the Sioux Nations. As a result of the events of the Last Sons Plot Point Campaign modern technology no longer functions within said nation’s borders. After discovering an underground railroad tunnel in the earth, the PCs are tasked with following the line with 8 horses and rope to pull it out and all the way back to Salt Lake City.
The abandoned section of tunnel has become darker and more dangerous since the US-Sioux War of 1881, filled with random encounters of demons, shadowy night horrors, will o’ the wisps, and other creepy things. The rail car itself is inhabited by 8 clockwork tarantulas who are inert and “on hold” until the car leaves the Sioux Nations’ borders, at which point they activate and attack the party.
Shooting Starr: Bonita Rose, the leader of the Outcast gang, was arrested and thrown in the Ogden town jail. Sheriff Eli Waters has a job for the PCs: Rose is being offered a full pardon by senior officials in the LDS Church if she can help authorities track down and capture Utah Starr, leader of another outlaw gang known as the Scorpions who split from the Outcasts. The Church hopes to kill two birds with one stone by getting two outlaws where they can see them and retract the formers’ pardon.
The PCs need to search the wilderness and follow the train tracks in order to find the Scorpions. During this time they can learn more about Rose, how the split was a result of the Scorpions taking pleasure in killing and not being in line with the Outcasts’ role as “revolutionaries against Brigham Young’s tyranny.” Utah Starr travels with no less than 18 fellow outlaws in a mixture of steam wagons, velocipedes with sidecars, and horses.
The Savage Tale presumes that Bonita will escape, either absconding with a vehicle during the fight or convincing the PCs of her just cause. The bounties for Starr and the Scorpions are still honored, even if Bonita Rose evades capture.
What I’d Change: It’s rather odd that the Savage Tale expects the PCs to be sympathetic to Rose, considering that the default Good Intentions and Deadlands setting in general casts President Young and the LDS Church in an overall positive light. The false pardon is more in line with a corrupt government and morally grey setting, and given that the PCs may be working with the Danites against Hellstromme they may not wish to bite the hand that feeds them if they find out about the plot.
Under the Mountain: Another “Smith & Robards Delivery” sidequest, the PCs are hired to investigate the tunnels under Mount Necessity to deal with a gremlin problem after a spiked increase in device malfunctions within the compound is traced to the source. The party is in over their head in that 200 gremlins live here and attack in groups of 1d6 per PC. Statwise they are small, weak creatures who can inhabit devices to make them malfunction more often. They come in a variety of colors which have their own additions to the base stat block, and if the PCs retreat due to their overwhelming numbers then S&R will request further expeditions to clear them in waves.
Valley o’ the Hungry: When the PCs travel through the Valley of the Gods near Mexican Hat, likely as part of Plot Point 2, they encounter a group of miners in distress chasing a jackrabbit to no avail. Up closer they’re revealed to be faminites who attack the party. However they are not “true” members of the species and cannot infect the PCs. Following their trail via tracking can find 12 more of them, and further tracking can find the two “true faminites” eating bats in a nearby mine.
Who Stalks the Lurkers: A gang of masked thieves calling themselves the Lurkers have been known to rob strangers at knifepoint in the Steel Sky, taking advantage of rumors regarding monsters of the same name attacking people. The sheriff arrested two suspected members who turn out to be teenagers and claim innocence. They get an unlikely defender in the form of a Twilight Legion monster hunter who wishes to recruit the PCs to find the “real Lurkers.” During the hunt the party gradually gathers more and more strange bedfellows also pursuing a similar quarry, from fellow Lurker gangsters to a crusading Baptist preacher.
The adventure concludes when the PCs find the monster-Lurkers to be behind the attacks and somehow prove their existence (corpse, camera, etc). The Reckoner-resurrected corpse of “Buffalo” Tom, the monster hunter’s old professional partner, also comes in to attack the party for revenge. Not a Harrowed but a unique undead, Tom has a war club, a velocipede, and a Sharps Big 50 rifle along with some high attributes and skills. But considering that the PCs’ party size is most likely effectively doubled from NPC Allies, I can’t see this being a challenging fight.
Thoughts So Far: The Savage Tales are a mixed bag. Most of them are straightforward combat encounters without much variance. Early Birds and Graveyard Follies have by far the most content, while In the Meantime can make for a nice “hunter becomes the hunted” feel with clever use of traps and terrain. Lost Loco and Who Stalks the Lurkers are railroady point A to point B resolutions, and Valley o’ the Hungry is more of a side trek triggered for Plot Point 2.
Join us next time as we cover the final chapter of Good Intentions where we see all of this adventure’s new monsters and NPCs!
EncountersOriginal SA post
This chapter contains new NPCs and monsters found in the nation of Deseret, along with a list of existing Deadlands monsters highly appropriate to the region. The new monsters are a mixture of mad science gone wrong and Mormon folklore. Entries which are Wild Cards are marked with (WC) to denote their special status.
Alleycat: In 1872 a new line of mechanical cat toys were the latest thing in Salt Lake City. The alleycats were an attempt to cash in on the craze by making ones modeled off of Hellstromme’s automatons. Said constructs gained sapience, killed their owner, and live as dangerous ferals in Junkyard. Statwise they’re glass cannons, small and weak but with claws and the ability to steal the breath from unconscious targets.
Automaton, Prototype (WC): These are customized steampunk robots designed for more specific tasks by Hellstromme. The Mannikin are ones which can pass for human and shoot virus-filled plague darts. They do not stand up to close inspection, so they wear heavy hats and coats when in public. Statwise they are meager infiltrators, with little offensive capabilities besides a fist attack and few skills but a high (9) Toughness.
War Drones are improved versions of conventional automatons, dispatched only on missions of the greatest importance. Statwise they are big hulking mechas with a powerful Steam Gatling that can make 4 attacks per round at no penalty, a huge 16 Toughness, and a claw attack which deals a big 1d12+1d8+2 damage if in close combat.
Both prototypes, like all automatons, have zombie brains implanted in their heads and explode if incapacitated or tampered with.
Evil Tree Spirit: When local lumber companies began cutting trees down in a haunted grove, the evil spirits animating the flora began fighting back! These monsters are large and tough like real trees, and their branches can hit targets up to 2 hexes away. They can fire wooden splinters as an AoE cone attack and animate 2d6 slivers of surrounding curved wood as minions. Both the tree spirit and the silvers take double damage from fire attacks.
Faminite: The original faminites were created by a spirit of hunger which ended up in California on a crashed Chinese junk. Most of them went extinct after the death of Reverend Grimme as detailed in the Flood Plot Point Campaign, but a few managed to be rounded up by Hellstromme for experiments. Statwise they are classic walking dead zombies, but capable of normal movement and can manipulate fine tools such as firearms. Those they even nick with a bite or claw risk becoming infected within 24 hours unless the patient gains magical healing.
Gargoyle (WC): A pair of gargoyles designed to decorate the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City vanished. People suspect they were stolen, but the truth is that they came to life and are breeding in a mountain cave. Statwise they are immune to all forms of magic save miracles from a Blessed, can fly three times as fast as a regular human can run, and have thick hides for a 10 Toughness and punishing claw attacks. Gargoyle Young’Uns are smaller, weaker versions of the default, but can fly four times as fast as a human running speed and are Extras instead of Wild Cards.
Lake Hellion Swarm: Soot and pollutants from the industrialism of New Science led to strange mutations in the Great Salt Lake’s brine shrimp. Lake Hellions are six inches long and can suck the life force out of people. A leviathan known as Briny by the locals in Lakepoint is the only thing keeping their numbers down. Statwise they are a swarm, meaning they are affected best by area of effect attacks and bludgeoning weapons if the water’s shallow enough. Their life-draining attack results in Fatigue on a failed Vigor roll which can turn the murdered into various forms of undead.
Lurker: The Reckoners took advantage of residents’ ambient fears of the Steel Sky, creating four-armed spider-like humanoids to menace people. Statwise they are nimble creatures with a Pace of 10 (normal humans have 6), can automatically walk on walls and ceilings in all but the most adverse of conditions, can attack with claws four times a round, and can shoot restraining webbing as a short-range attack.
Mountain Meadows Ghost: The Mountain Meadows Massacre is one of the most shameful chapters in Mormon history, and the victims of the slaughter still linger as spirits. They now take revenge on all Mormons by visiting the City of Gloom at night, appearing as living people at first before dropping their guise to swarm lone Mormons. Statwise they are immune to nonmagical forms of damage, gain a +1 on grappling rolls when attacking in groups, but otherwise have no special weapons or attacks beyond their fists and the manufactured ones they can procure. The spirits cannot be exorcised, and only by finding their bones and burying them in sanctified ground can they be put to rest.
Oreway Skulker (WC): Miners crushed in industrial accidents have a knack for coming back to unlife: their shattered forms crawl about like spiders, and if they sneak up on an enemy they can make a called shot to the head at no penalty. Statwise they can move their normal speed on walls and ceilings, and ranged attacks suffer a -2 penalty to hit their spry bodies.
Rats: The pollutants of the City o’ Gloom and the dread influence of the Reckoning gave rise to many varieties of deadly rodents. We have Big Rats which are the size of small dogs and carry debilitating diseases, Junk Rats are infused with bits of iron and scrap they inadvertently ate and possess immunity to all forms of magic and magical weapons, and Mutant Rats are covered in slime and ooze and can infect bitten targets with Ghost Rock Fever.
Salt Rattlers have already been covered earlier in the Early Birds Savage Tale.
Sludge (WC): This sapient toxic slime possesses a hatred for all human life, taking care to attack its hated prey via ambush and ones in small groups. Statwise it can attack enemies up to 5 hexes away with multiple grappling tentacles, is immune to all attacks save disintegration, fire, and “matter-destroying” attacks, and can break off pieces of itself as smaller humanoid blobs known as Oozers.
Oozers are weaker, humanoid-shaped versions of Sludge which have a lifespan of three hours, and possess a childlike, curious intelligence.
Salt Stalker (WC): These humanoid-shaped elementals can be found on the Salt Flats outside the City O’ Gloom, preying on unlucky travelers with fluid-sapping touches. Statwise they can burrow as fast as a human’s normal speed, their mere touch can cause damage, can perform an AoE mass dehydration attack which can cause Fatigue, and take damage from heavy doses of water or if they lose contact with the salty soil of the Flats.
This section details generic NPC archetypes our heroes are likely to encounter within the nation of Deseret. They include tough factory workers able to kitbash together devices, Nauvoo Legionnaires who are typical soldiers, noncombatant scientists, Skullchuckers who oddly have an average d6 Strength, Wasatch Rail Agents who can dish out pain with Gatling pistols via some choice edges, and Veteran X-Squad Troopers who are hardened Hellstromme employees equipped with a mixture of Infernal Devices and a single Mad Science power.
There are two Wild Card NPCs in this section. The first statblock is for a holy roller Blessed: they are usually Christians (Mormon and Gentile) in the Weird West but can be of other faiths. They have defensive-focused powers but can stand up to trouble with d6 Fighting and Guts;* they possess the Champion edge, which grants +2 damage and Toughness when damaging or being damaged by the supernatural forces of darkness.
*Deadlands’ “bravery” skill
The other Wild Card is a Danite stat block, representing the secret agents who do anything it takes to safeguard the LDS Church’s interests. They have an above-average d8 in every Attribute and a good array of skills both combat and utility. Each one is equipped with a Danite’s Badge attuned to them, granting them and any blood relatives who wield it the Champion edge as detailed above.
Both fictional and historical, these men and women of import are without exception all Wild Cards.
Black Chaplains: These famed figures of the Nauvoo Legion not only exist, they are four Blessed called in only for the missions of most dire importance. They all have their own statblocks but are tough as nails warmage types who use a mixture of protection, buff, and some offensive spells. Their equipment includes a variety of firearms along enchanted and silver bullets to use against more resilient monsters.
Brigham Young: This man may be the only head of state in the Deadlands universe who is a good guy.* President Young genuinely places the welfare of Deseret’s citizenry first and foremost, which is why he’s been covertly tangling with Hellstromme all this time. Statwise he’s a Blessed, but not just any Blessed: he uses the pre-Cackler Rules, meaning he has access to all of his powers at will albeit at a penalty to the Faith roll based on said power’s rank. Beyond this his stats prioritize social skills over combat ones, with exceptional d10 to d12 in the relevant areas of expertise.
*if you don't count that he oversees the murderous Danites and is implied to have authorized the Mountain Meadows Massacre based on one of the relics from the Makin' Heroes chapter.
Edna Jacobs: This sweet old lady is a Confederate spy who uses her local eatery as a “watering hole” to gather information for her superiors in Richmond, Virginia. She has a noncombatant statblock, with a Knowledge (Baking) d12 to show for it.
Hanuman: Hellstromme’s second-in-command may not be a Mad Scientist, but he’s no slouch when it comes to running a business centered on the trade. Statwise he is heavy on knowledge and social skills but has disguised weapons such as a hat gun and rifle cane in the event of trouble.
Jeb Morgan: The Danites’ second in command below the LDS Church, Morgan is a proactive agent more than willing to kill anyone he suspects of being dangerous to him and his operations. He has some leadership edges and the Secret Identity one, and possesses a saber relic of Captain “Fear Not” Patton. Said Captain is one of the Danites’ earliest heroes, and the saber deals 2d8 plus the wielder’s Strength die in damage.
Leonitas P. Gash: This demented doctor gave up a cushy position at Deseret University to push the boundaries of New Science augmentation beyond social mores and ethics. His manitou-ridden mind has gone insane with the many insights gained. Statwise he is a skill-heavy Mad Scientist with lots of Power Points and a mixture of social and magical edges, but his 4 Toughness makes him extraordinarily frail.
Nevada Smith: The PCs’ most reliable Gentile ally, this legendary agent’s exploits have been featured in more than a few dime novels. This doesn’t hurt his cover as few people know his real face. He is a skill monkey par excellence, possessing a d10 in most of the ones in the default Savage Worlds rules. He has a lot of edges as well, specializing in making the most of said skills. He gets a massive 1d12+12 on Persuasion checks made to disguise himself thanks to a high Charisma* and a high-quality disguise kit.
O.P. Rockwell: The “loose cannon” of the Danites isn’t the most pious of members. He is fond of whiskey and takes orders when it suits him, viewing President Young’s duel with Hellstromme as a circus act. He is one of the best killers in Deseret, which is why he hasn’t been let off or given a dirt nap. Statwise he’s a ranged fighter with d12+1 Shooting and a host of gunplay-related edges such as Duelist and Speed Load.
R. Percy Sitgreaves: The spiritual father of the Metal Mage Arcane Background, he helps publish the Smith & Robards Catalog at his printing house while secretly training other disciples in Thaumaturgical Diffusion. Statwise he specializes heavily in Knowledge skills. He only knows four powers which manifest as physical devices such as the bolt power taking the form of launched metal shards.
Sheriff Eli Waters: This lawman of the City O’ Gloom is a loyal Mormon, but he’s not fond of the Danites and views them as too liberal in the use of force. He sometimes oversteps his boundaries and gets involved in cases assigned to them; President Young resents the man for this, but he has not asked for his badge yet on account that Waters is beloved by the Gentile population. Statwise the sheriff has keen eyes with d12 Notice and d10 Tracking, and some typical cowboy skills such as Fighting, Guts, Riding, and Shooting ranging from d6 to d10. He rides in a steam carriage instead of a horse, but the rest of his equipment are typical firearms.
Six-Hundred-Pound Sally: This skilled auto-gyro pilot got her name from the time she loaded 600 pounds worth of people onto her vehicle to save them from a zombie horde. She is one of Smith & Robards’ best mailmen. Statwise she has a diverse mixture of combat and social skills with amazing d12+2 in Piloting and Repair.
Concluding Thoughts: Good Intentions is short, but it has the makings of a good cloak-and-dagger adventure. Its greatest weak points are primarily plot-related as well as the small number of Savage Tales. This last part can be ameliorated with the inclusion of the KickStarter stretch goal adventures, but as those are separate products this is not necessarily useful to Game Masters on a budget. The player-facing and setting material are fantastic, especially for Deadlands groups with an interest in Mormons and Mad Science. Although the “plot point book” for the Blessed, the default adventure does not exactly showcase said arcane background’s best features and the Mormon folklore material doesn’t show up as often as I’d want in the main campaign. That said, it rates above Last Sons for having a stronger focus and sticking to its themes, and as such is easier to change and alter the more warty parts of the plot.
Join us next time for the most classically Spaghetti Western of the Reckoner Series: Stone and a Hard Place!