The Blessed!

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: The Blessed!

Before we dive into the guts of the various arcane backgrounds, we need a basis of comparing their opportunity cost . Without it, we can't compare the cost and benefit of these backgrounds to one another, or to making a non-magical character who has higher physical stats, or the like. I'll keep it simple, I promise, but if you really don't care I guess you can skip to the frog siren emote further down.

I use a lot of math in this, because it's important when it comes to comparing options. If something has a chance of failing and that's used as an excuse as to why it's more effective, it's important to be able to tell if that chance is 50%, 5%, or 0.05%.

Characters in Deadlands have randomly generated stats, based on a card draw. Each player draws twelve cards, discards the two lowest that are not deuces, and assigns the ten remaining cards to the ten stats: Deftness, Nimbleness, Quickness, Strength, Vigor, Cognition, Knowledge, Mien, Smarts, and Spirit. The card translates into a number of dice... aces and jokers are d12, kings and queens d10s, nines, tens, and jacks are d8s, deuces are d4s, everything else are d6s.

What's interesting about this character generation system is that it's extremely likely (79.7 %) that you'll get at least one ace or joker, so you'll probably be amazing at at least one thing. Still, even though you're very likely to get one superb stat, you're very unlikely to get five or six.


Chance of no aces or jokers in a 12 card hand:
(48! / 36!) / (54! / 42!)

Chance of exactly five aces or jokers in a 12 card hand:
(6 * 5! * 792 * (48! / 41!) ) / (54! / 42!)
0.1 %

Chance of all six aces and jokers in a 12 card hand:
(6! * 924 * (48! / 42!) ) / (54! / 42!)
.003 %
The suit of the card you draw determines the number of dice rolled, which never matters except for maybe strength so we'll ignore it.

Deadlands has point based character generation. You get a number of skill points equal to the die size of your Smarts, your Knowledge, and your Cognition added together. You also use these points to buy advantages, and get more if you take disadvantages. They're spent one by one to

I'm going to assume that a random theoretical character will want to put their highest three die steps in Smarts, Knowledge, and Cognition unless they have a reason not to. Since putting a high die in a different stat lowers the total number of points, for the purposes of comparing the relative power of characters, I'm just going to assume that the first stat a character wants to move (probably a d12) will lower their total skillpoints by 4, and each subsequent will lower them by 2.

Here's a few non-arcane combat builds to get us started.


High Deftness, High Quickness, High Cognition, High Nimbleness (8 skill points, Cog costs nothing because it generates skill points)
Shootin: Pistols 5
Quickdraw: Pistols 5
Dodge 5
23 points is about three quarters of what a starting character can expect to get, but this character is frighteningly effective. He probably goes first, he probably acts multiple times, and guns do a lot of damage in this setting. The high Quick Draw means he can challenge people to duels at high noon, which is both crazy fun and a great way to murder people. The high cognition means he notices trouble, so he's always the first one with iron in his hand, and the last. The high nimbleness and dodge means he doesn't die, but because he's probably used his best cards on deftness or quickness he's not amazing at it or anything.

Vaguely Racist Indian Brave

High Strength, High Vigor, High Nimbleness (8 points)

Fightin: Axe 5
Dodge 5
At only 18 points, the Brave can actually do MORE damage than the gunslinger can blow for blow. He won't get as many actions (read: attacks) but he hits harder, can take more hits, and is just as nimble as the gunslinger. Also, there are a number of advantages you can get to up the toughness of this guy, most notably Brawny and Sand. Because this guy costs a bit less, you can take a few nice advantages without pricing yourself out of basic skills, like horse riding, or courage or the like.

Most mundane builds will look like this. A few really good stats, amazing at one or maybe two. If you wanna be a talker, you take a high Mien and Cognition, get a few social skills at 5. If you want to be an investigator, take a high Cognition, get a scrutinize skill of 5, and take every advantage that boosts your notice checks. And so on, and so forth.

Arcane Background is an advantage that costs 3 character points, and makes your character magical in some way. You can't take it more than once, so you can only be one kind of wizard.

Blessed: Everything That Is Wrong With Roleplaying Restrictions

Blessed means your character draws magical power from a faith in a higher power. No religion is the 'right' one, but all blessed characters are religious leaders of some sort or another. Their miraculous power is based off of the Faith skill, which is in turn based off of the Spirit stat.


High Spirit (4 points)
Faith 5
Arcane Background: Blessed (3 points)
That's only 12 points, a sizeable investment but not overwhelmingly so. You can very easily be blessed and slap "big beefy murder machine" right on top by layering it with, say, Brave. Both would be only 28 points

The downside of the Faith skill is that it's possible to lose it. Whenever a character sins, they have to roll their spirit. Because they almost certainly have a d12 in Spirit, this is not a very onerous check, unless they omitted a mortal sin like murder not in self-defense or adultery. And if they fail this check, their faith skill drops by 1 point. In short, unless the GM sets out to make the priest "Fall" (Ha ha! The bartender slipped some beef into your stew, on FRIDAY! Suck it, Catholic!) or the player makes a habit of ignoring quest hooks, their faith will never, ever drop.

A starting character gains a number of miracles equal to their Faith skill (5). Miracles generally take a single action to invoke, and have no cost. Here are some examples.

Holy Roller . Roll 5d12 against a target number of 5. If you succeed (99.65% chance) you or another player get to roll an extra die on your next skill check. If you hit a target of 10, (77.2% likely) you get to roll one additional die and add it to your highest result on any check, which is... well, it's huge.

Protection . Opposed Faith (5d12) vs Spirit roll against any supernatural opponent. Only the most ludicrously powerful evil monsters have a spirit above about a 3d8. If the blessed wins, the monster is completely unable to touch or attack the blessed in any way. Claws, spells, guns, all are completely stopped.

Smite . Roll 5d12, on a 5, raise your strength by one die step. on a 10, by 2. on a 15 (you reroll 12s and add 12 to the result, so you can get a 15 on 5d12 about 30% of the time) you raise it by three, and so on. This means if you are playing a Blessed Brave, your strength of d10 or d12 can be raised up to anywhere from a d12+2 to a d12+6 very reliably. Combined with Protection, a blessed is both immune to the attacks from monsters and able to crush their heads with one hand, for only 12 points, and with three other blessings left to choose.

There are only 9 blessings total to choose from in the main book, but those three alone mean that for a very modest point investment a blessed character is the most combat effective character, almost immune to supernatural opponents, and at least reasonably good at everything he or she tries to do, all in exchange for keeping kosher.

Interestingly, while the blessed DO have a healing miracle, it takes a while to use and for serious wounds there's a non-zero chance that the blessed will just suffer the same injuries as the patient.

The Blessed Splatbook: Turning Bent Into Broken

So, before the splatbook blessed were pretty amazing, especially against supernatural opponents. But they tended to be melee characters because of how great Smite was, and there was a lot they couldn't do.

The splatbook starts out with a big section on the religious beliefs of various religions and what does and doesn't constitute a sin in, say, Taoism. Awesome, great stuff. It also gives some uses of the skill Profession: Theology, which is good because without the splatbook it's kind of useless, but none of it is necessary if you want to play a priest who doesn't tend to a flock, but rather one who walks into the night with a bible in one hand and a torch in the other.

Then we get to the new miracles. Remember, there is no cost to invoking a miracle, and rarely any penalty for failure. Nine times out of ten, the blessed can just try again.

Benediction Prevents the first wound someone would get that day. Affects basically one party. For reference, five wounds is enough to kill a man.

Cloak Basically lets the blessed's faith score (5d12) substitute for the sneakin' skill.

Dervish For several rounds, this miracle doubles the number of melee attacks the blessed gets, and gives a bonus of one or more to the blessed's fightin' skill.

Confession Opposed Faith (5d12) vs. Spirit check. Spirit rarely is above about a 3d8 for anyone except certain types of spell-casters. If the blessed wins, the target is incapable of lying to him.

Strike Blind The Save or Die of deadlands. Opposed Spirit vs. Vigor roll, but the target gets to add 2 to his vigor check. Still pretty hard to beat a 5d12 with what is unlikely to be your highest stat. If it hits, the target is blinded for three rounds, which is a pretty long time in any fight that involves guns. They're at -6 to everything, which is ludicrously huge. And if they make the save, the blessed can just blind them again next action.

Two Places The blessed creates a perfect duplicate of himself, anywhere within 500 yards. He can perceive normally through both duplicates, and the new one can do anything the original could, but is intangible. It can use spells, perceive, walk through walls, make social checks, scout, and so on. Also, the duplicate is completely invincible.

There are a bunch of not very power, extremely thematic powers, like the ability to calm stormy weather or the ability to turn sticks into snakes. They're not overwhelmingly powerful, except for the fact that there's no cost to using them--nothing's stopping you from throwing poisonous vipers into the bandit lair literally all day to flush them out.

Anyway, the real problem with Fire and Brimstone is that it introduced gifts. You can take a gift in place of a miracle--they are basically really good advantages, permanently on with no roll. This means that if you want to just get some nice advantages, you could go Arcane Background 3, Faith 5, and NOT put a high stat in spirit, saving four points. And for only 8 character points, you'd get five moderately powerful advantages, which would probably cost you 16 points or so, so that's a 50% savings in return for the crippling, crippling disadvantage of wearing a black collar.

Some sample gifts that don't rely on spirit:

Charismatic The blessed gets +2 to all mien rolls (social skills) to influence people or intelligent monsters.

Humility The blessed is immune to overawe, ridicule, and bluff. All attempts to do these fail.

Insight +2 to all cognition checks. This is the basically the same as having a cognition die four sides larger.

Lionhearted +2 to all guts checks. Failed fear checks have sharply reduced effects.

Piety -2 to the region's fear level, basically +2 to guts for every member of the party, also nerfs the most powerful monsters.

Spiritual Giant Makes the character larger. Combined with the normal advantage Brawny, this is basically 25% less damage from all sources.

Vitality +5 to all rolls to resist disease. You get a chance to resist normally unresistable diseases, like faminite exposure, or lycanthropy.

Wisdom +2 to all smarts checks, all knowledge checks, and all skills that use either of those stats. This would be absolutely astounding except for the fact you can't be a mad scentist AND a blessed, so it's merely really really good.

Zeal Choose one attribute. You have +2 to all rolls based on that attribute for the rest of the adventure. This can stack with Wisdom or Charismatic, which means a Zealous Charismatic blessed is almost certainly a better talker than someone who just happened to put a d12 in their Mein stat. Stack it with The Voice, The Stare, Mean as a Rattler, and Ugly as Sin, (two of those are disadvantages, so that's a net GAIN of points) for a total of +12 (!!) to overawe checks. This would allow a blessed character with a high Mien to reliably tell zombie terminator Stone to piss off--and he might even do it. Certainly mere mortals like the president, Zombie Lincoln, Texas Rangers, or highly experienced player characters would wet themselves and run off.

But wait! What if you don't want to choose between having a high Mein and a high faith? Just take the miracle Chastise and use your faith AS your overawe skill! You don't even have to pay the cost of having a high mein stat, just hit them with the ole' fear of god and be better at it than any mere human could hope to be.

Guardian Angel All shootin' attacks against a player are at -2.

Finally, Refuge O' Faith DOES rely on your faith score, but is amazing anyway. You get to roll your faith (which if you're faith primary, is 5d12) in place of the dodge score against bullets and arrows, or as a fightin' score against melee attacks. Yes, for the price of one of your miracles you're as hard to hit as if you had put your highest stat in agility and maxed out two defensive skills. For one miracle. No cost to use. At all times. No primary blessed should pass up on this gift, and the Blessed/Brave hybrid is only 23 points now because we just saved 5 by taking Refuge O' Faith.

Again, these are not amazing because they are supremely powerful, but rather because they are astoundingly cheap . Refuge O' Faith is not better than having a dodge of 5d12 and a fightin' of 5d12, but it is considerably easier to get. Any character is more powerful for less points by being blessed. If you're not going to play a caster of another background, you get to choose between following god for your own, cheap ends, or nerfing your character out of shame.


So if we give a blessed a high agility, spirit, strength, vigor, and quickness, then a faith and fightin' of 5 each, and finally give him Dervish, Smite, Refuge O' Faith, Zeal, and Spiritual Giant (with Brawny for afters) you get a priest who can walk into an army of the dead lead by vampires and supported by Ghost Rock golems, and beat them all to death with a broadsword. He dodges gunfire with his amazing 5d12 dodge, as if he had sunk 15 points. Plus, gaining a new power is only 5 bounty points (exp) which is pretty darn cheap, so you can layer this dude up with all the other flat bonus to roll gifts and miracles. All that for only 22 points... less than the gunslinger, but he does more damage and is way tougher.

While a large number of blessings lean towards melee effectiveness, there are still really cheap boosts to pretty much any role through gifts. The gunslinger would be a better gunslinger if he took arcane background: blessed, and the gifts Zeal, Insight, Guardian Angel, and Hardy.

While I have no problem with characters being able to do this, point for point, a blessed will always, always, always be better at his field of expertise than ANY other option. When the rest of the party is fighting zombies, the blessed will be choke-slamming vampires. When the rest of the party is fighting vampires, the blessed will be shattering golems with his bare hands. When the rest of the party is fighting golems, the blessed will be about ready to fight Stone. And lose because the DM doesn't have the book with Stone's stats and has just been told to kill any PCs who try, but still.

What's good about blessed

The miracles that aren't buffs to existent skills are all pretty good. For 12 points you can have a max faith blessed with five miracles, and give that character five interesting miracles. The ability to calm inclement weather, sanctify holy ground against monsters, swap ability scores with one of your friends (here, old man--borrow my strength), cure diseases with a touch, and walk across chasms or water as if there was a floor there? I'd say that's worth about 12 points--a sizable investment, with enough left over to be really good at something. These are undoubtedly miraculous, useful powers that don't invalidate the rest of the party, and are cheap enough to let the blessed also be a gunslinger, or a fighter, or a charming face, or a sneaky thief. And that's good stuff for an RPG staring a posse of heroes!

Also, for experienced blessed there are the "Divine Intervention" miracles, which are basically super-miracles... make the whole party fly, stop all combat in a sixty yard radius, permanently befriend an animal, fill a town with frogs, that kind of thing. I like these because they cost a resource , you can't just use them always forever on everything. Every time the blessed saves the day in a big way (completes an adventure arc) they can use ONE of these powers, ONCE. Which seems just about perfect for a big flashy super-power to me.

All the powers that are just, "Do what someone else can do, better" can suck a dick.

What arcane background should I cover next? We've got Hucksters, Hexslingers, Mad Scientists & Alchemists, Indian Shamans, Blood Mages, Houdoon, Aztec, Anahuac, and Martial Artists.


posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Hucksters!

The fluff for the Blessed is pretty simple... their faith gives them magic powers with no drawbacks, complete with miracles that let you ask questions of a higher power. But because all religions can get them, this doesn't prove the existance of God or anything.

Hucksters actually get a backstory.

Once upon a time, before the reckoning and the huge influx of magic, being a wizard was really really hard . This wasn't bad, exactly. There weren't a lot of werewolves, and very few lich, so the wizardly arts were not in high demand. Besides, the Cackler was basically an invincible terminator zombie wizard, and having magic wouldn't stop him from killing you if he hated you, so the English had pretty much no magical tradition.

Then London boy Edmond Hoyle, born 1672, moves to India in 1691 to basically oppress the Indians for economic benefit, a fine profession for a British gentleman. He spends two years getting to know the locals, and then a giant tiger started eating people. Hoyle decides to camp out at a nearby shrine to Kali, patron goddess of NPC antagonists. Sure enough, it turns out the tiger was a were-tiger! So Hoyle shoots it in the heart, killing it. Even in the fluff, the universal answer to monsters in Deadlands is to shoot them.

Edmond Hoyle, Weretiger hunter spends the next six years trying to study the black arts, but he can't learn the inner secrets of sorcery without joining a evil cult, and he just isn't OK with human sacrifice. He spends the six years after that back in England attending university. Surprise surprise, the college academics turn out not to know much about black magic, either! So he takes the logical next step, moving to Constantinople and doing research for five more years. Here he finds many ancient tomes that describe how the world used to be full of magic and monsters, but now it isn't. Thanks , Jordrava, you jerk. The only way to get magic now is through selling your soul and human sacrifice, which even after seventeen years of chasing his dream Hoyle isn't willing to do. But he has an idea--he'll gamble with the demons, betting his own wellbeing against their magical power.

The first experiment is a failure, resulting in quite a lot of fire and Hoyle being chased out of the country for being a witch.

Escaping to Vienna, he takes on a young man named Ernst Johann Biren to be his interperter. Biren sneaks a look at Hoyle's books, and falls in love--but he doesn't have those same qualms about human sacrifice. The two men spend the next year studying the books. Then one evening, Hoyle tries out his first spell--one designed to heal a lame begger's broken leg. Biren tries his first spell a half hour later--to give the begger the black plague. Hoyle gives a lame old man the ability to walk again, while Biren kills a half million people. Score one, forces of darkness.

Hoyle didn't know that Biren had been studying the books, so he's convinced HE started the plague. Depressed, he burns his notes and becomes a badass mercenary, spending the next decade drifting from army to army shooting men and weretigers dead. In 1720, though, he hears about another outbreak of the black plague, which just happened to start in a city just after the mysterious "Count Biren" mysteriously appeared, mysteriously. Hoyle chases Biren up and down Europe, until he has a showdown with his apprentice in 1722. They have a badass magical duel that Hoyle loses because he's cast two spells, ever, one of which was a heal a broken leg spell and the other of which didn't work and set his house on fire. Meanwhile, Biren has spent the last thirteen years casting plague spells on pretty much everyone. Hoyle is given the plague and dumped in a ditch.

Then Hoyle is rescued by Gypsies.

Nursed to health by the gypsy leader, a wise old woman, Hoyle comes to the conclusion that if you play by the rules, demons will not give as much power to a nice guy as they will to an asshole who is spreading diseases. So he invents a new kind of spell, based on a four point system.

Demons won't give power to a nice guy unless that guy sells his soul.
But you can probably get that power on loan if you only bet your soul.
So he'll invent magic spells where you gamble your soul against the effect you want.
Also, he'll cheat so he always wins.

Thus, he invents a form of magic based on playing magical poker against demons, cheating, and getting free magical power out of it. And as long as those tricksy demons don't interfere with the game somehow, the caster gets free magic at no cost, and it is perfectly safe. This takes him ten years.

Meanwhile, Ernst Johann Biren murders Russian emperor Peter II, marries his sister, and is named Grand Chamberlain. Hoyle decides he doesn't want to be anywhere NEAR Biren before he's ready for a rematch, so he flees to England. Worried that someone might read his notes (again) and become the evil plague ruler of Russian (again) he encodes his notebooks to look like card game rules, with spells hidden in the examples of play, in carefully placed typographical errors, in the odd irregularities in the index, and so on. Also because he spent so much time gambling with demons, Hoyle got a reputation as the best damn card player in England.

1740, and Hoyle gets a letter from a mercenary buddy from his mercenary days--the buddy suspected that this Biren fellow was a sorcerer of some sort, and about to seize Russia through military coup. Didn't Hoyle murder weretigers or something? Can you help? So Hoyle decides it's time, heads off to Russia, and stops the coup by personally beating the fuck out of Biren. Hoyle decides to stay in Russia until the execution, and is dismayed when Biren is shipped off to Siberian. So he goes to Siberia himself and, surprise surprise, Biren's made a ice-themed evil empire out of ice demons and prisoners. So Hoyle kills everyone and returns home, two years after he's left.

Back in England, one of his Nephews had found his magical notes. He bound them up and published them as A Short Treaties on Whist . Surprise! Arcane secrets were now on sale in finer book dealing establishments across the country. Crappy, unreliable magic secrets. Magic secrets missing key steps, like how to cheat so the demons don't kill you.

Hoyle is pissed, and realizes the only way to keep amateur arcanists from using this book to summon demons that kill them is to write a new, better book with hexes that don't suck. So he writes Hoyle's Book of Games , which has much more functional spells in it, spells that don't have glaring errors. Then he leaves Europe entirely, having had enough of this shit. He spends the rest of his days wandering North America teaching Indians how to lose to him at poker. Even before the reckoning, a cunning man could study one of Hoyle's works and learn the spells the great gambler had invented. Casting them was very difficult, but the chances of being borked by a demon was likewise low, because evil was sealed away at this period in time.

Then the reckoning, Raven kills the elders, magic flowed back into the world, lots more hucksters blah blah blah Deadlands setting.

Huckster Crunch: Core Rulebook

All hucksters need to pick up the Arcane Background: Huckster edge for 3 points, and have no excuse not to get five ranks in Hexslingin' for the maximum of five starting hexes. In earlier editions of deadlands, each hex was a seperate skill, but someone in design realized that that was ridiculous. The current total cost for being a skilled Huckster is only 8 points. This sounds great, and it is--but hucksters rely on their mental stats to cast hexes. This means a huckster tends to be a thinky character--you can put your high stats in mental attributes so you're an amazing huckster, or you can put your high stats in nimbleness, quickness, and deftness so you're a skilled fighter, but probably not both.

You can get one or two high mental stats and only grab hexes that use those stats, and be a competent something else on top. Hell, you can go flat out Deftness/Quickness primary eyes of death gunslinger, and then drop eight points on being a huckster on top of that, if you go for the small magical effects. But the attribute synergy is best if you make a fast talking, quick thinking huckster over a hardened killer. Either way, Hucksterism is probably the cheapest route to magical power.

To cast a spell, the huckster rolls hexslingin'. The attribute used differs based on the hex. If at least one die is a 5 or higher, the huckster draws five cards from a 54 card deck. For every 5 higher than the target number (in deadlands terms, a raise) the huckster may draw one additional card. So if I roll lucky and get a 15 (happens about one time in five on a 5d10, or one time in three on 5d12) I would get to draw seven cards. Jokers are wild, build the best possible poker hand, and if you beat the miracle's hand threshold the hex is cast. Black Jokers, however, are miscasts and mean the demons you're gambling with have managed to cheat right back at you, the GM will consult the miscast table. In setting, the hand of cards you drew magically appears in your huckster's hand, then disappears. This is why so many hucksters dress like stage magicians--so they can pass off the disappearing reappearing cards as slight of hand instead of witchcraft, and not get hung.

This is the best goddamn magic system in any RPG ever. Moderate chance of serious borking means you won't just cast Corporeal Tweak to give yourself two bonus dice on every single action, but while the miscast table includes some seriously bad results, none of them are character sheet ruinously bad, so if you gamble with devils in moderation you'll do OK. The effects have tremendous variety, but unlike the D&D wizard you don't get them all, so you can get cool effects without being overwhelmingly powerful. And best of all, it's just fun casting spells by drawing poker hands. Turn the cards over one by one, and you can get the whole table chanting, "Club! Club! Club!" And then you get that fifth club and the reporter's mien jumps from d10 to d12+6, and he just blows the doors off the courthouse and your party is found innocent on all charges and also the Judge invites you to come to his house for soup and plothooks.

The core book has sixteen hexes to start with. Here are some!

Corporeal Tweak, Corporeal Twist, Mind Tweak, Mind Twist . All cast off of smarts, with a minimum hand of a pair. Choose one attribute, must be mental or physical accorind to the spell. If cast, the tweak spells raise the stat by one step, and the twist ones lower it by one step. Better poker hands raise or lower the stat by more. Basic buff/debuff stuff, they have broad utility because each spell can be used on five different attributes. They last as long as the huckster is concentrating on them, or if he's willing to pay one wind for every six seconds. Wind is exhaustion damage, basically, the average character has maybe 14 or 16.

Phantom Fingers . Based off of Spirit. Telekinesis, 25 yard range, costs 1 wind every six seconds. The hand needed is based on the size of the object you wand to telekinesis, ranging from ace high for a baseball, a flush for a loaded wagon, all the way up to a Straight Flush for a manor house or a Royal Straight Flush for a goddamn train. Fuck yes, put your soul on the line and bet on being able to throw trains at people, Hucksters are amazing.

Earshot, Private Eye . Based off of cognition, need a pair. Look through someone else's eyes, or hear through their ears. If they know about the occult, a spirit roll lets them notice you're there, and a spirit contest with the huckster will let them toss him out. If you can't see them when you cast the spell, you need an object they've recently handled to use these hexes.

Helpin' Hand . Based off of Smarts, heals target of one wound. Hand needed is based off of how wounded the target is... pair of jacks if it's a minor laceration, all the way up to a straight if they have critical injuries. Hucksters can't cure maimed limbs no matter what.

Call O' The Wild . Based off of Knowledge, need at least a two pair. Summons nearby wild animals to do the huckster's bidding, as long as he concentrates. Better hands get better animals... two pair gets 3d6 rats, but a flush gets 1d4 bears.

Soul Blast . Based off of Spirit. Roll using the same number to hit with this blast attack. With a pair, it slightly winds the target. A pair of jacks does as much damage as a pistol. The damage scales up as the hand improves, doing about as much as a rifle with a three of a kind, as much as some dynomite at a flush, and as much as a couple of howitzers at Royal Flush. A dead man's hand (black aces, black 8s, jack of diamonds) automatically kills.

Trinkets . Based off of Knowledge. Pull a small, inexpensive object out of a pocket... a match or stamp for an ace, all the way up to a pistol or a specific playing card for a pair.

Shadow Walk . Based off of Smarts. Step into a shadow, step out of a different nearby shadow. Hand determines range... ace high basically gets you to the other side of a wall, while a straight flush carries you up to a mile away. Probably the best infiltration/exfiltration option available to living player characters.

These hexes are great without being overpowered. The tweak spells in particular seem like they'd lend themselves to abuse, but if you cast a hex before literally every skill check you WILL get some black jokers and that WILL fuck you over. And being a huckster is priced about right... at only 8 points total, you can be a huckster and be something else, which is good... you never want gambling with demons to be your plan A. Any huckster PC is a cunning, competent man who has a dark power that they can fall back on, but the skills so they rarely NEED to. A huckster can be part of a party without overshadowing it, their hexes support without overwhelming, and they're just goddamn fun to play.

God bless hucksters! God bless Deadlands!

Huckster Splatbooks

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Huckster Splatbook Support

Hucksters and hexes

The original Huckster splatbook was for Deadlands 1e, so... who cares. This was back when each hex was a seperate skill, so (A) Hucksters didn't get very many of them, and (B) they were even more unreliable. Yes, not only was every spell based off of one of five stats (instead of all miracles based on spirit) each was learned as an individual skill (instead of all miracles being cast with faith). They fixed this in the 2nd edition core book and no one ever looked back.


Hucksters didn't ever get a book of their own in second edition, I think. There's a fair number of two or three hex boosts here and there, and the subclasses Metal Mage and Hexslinger/Shootist, but it wasn't until near the end of the product line Hexarcanna showed up. Hexarcanna book was just a big ole' collection of bringing old arcane content up to date with the newer Deadlands rules.

The best addition the Huckster gets are 'tricks,' which are minor hexes. Roll Hexslingin, divide your largest number by 5, and draw that many cards. Did you get a red card? The spell is cast! Did you get a black joker? You actually get a Smarts(7) roll as a saving throw against the backlash! Otherwise, take 2 wind damage. Wind damage can be healed by taking a sixty second sitdown. Also, for the cost of just one hex, you can learn three tricks!

The downside is, tricks suck. Here are all of the normal tricks.

Finish . Polish something up real nice. Even something as large as a chest of drawers!

Fooled You ! Creates a small, two dimensional illusion about the size of a playing card. It can't move. It can be used to create an illusion of paper money, as long as you don't have to pick it up off the table or anything. Also it explicitly can't do fingerprints.

Mirror . Create a 2" diameter mirror in your hand. Now you can look around corners! In your MIRROR! Fuck yeah!

Pick me Up . Cast this on a glass of whiskey. That whiskey now restores 1d6 wind. You know, the wind you can heal by sitting down for a minute. Buuuut it also makes you as drunk as 1d6 glasses of whiskey.

Startle . Tickles the back of an opponent's ear. Gives humans a -1 to guts checks, or a -2 to handle animal checks.

Tinhorn Shuffle . Throws a deck of cards into the air. Woooooo! It's super distracting! Someone who isn't you gets a +2 to steal stuff for one round. And then you get to explain why you're throwing cards at people!

Oh, Hucksters . The moment you turn your back on ludicrously dangerous daredeviltry, you just get so unimpressive .

It also has a bunch of new hexes, and I will share the fun ones with you. Most of them are pretty unimpressive, except for Black Cat , which lets the huckster force any trait or aptitude roll to be rerolled, ally or enemy, on a two pair. They get a +2, which is nice or bad depending, but mostly it's good for when the DM rolls to hit, a die explodes five times, and suddenly that rifle shot is doing 11d10 damage.

Cardsharp is hilarious. You cast the spell as normal, the magic cards appear in your hand as normal, but they don't disappear. Instead, you can throw them at people. They're not a significant improvement over throwing knives unless you get an impressive hand, but they are everything you want a poker themed wizard to fight with.

Fifty-Two Pickup has you toss a deck of cards into the air. Then several thousand more cards show up and start spinning about the place. Upside: very effective smokescreen. Downside: You are very obviously a witch.

And finally, best spell Hell's Bargain . Sure, blessed get a divine intervention that ressurects the dead, sure Shamans get a power that they'll never be able to use that does the same. But if you cast Hell's Bargain on a person who died last round, you sharply increase the chance that demons will come out of the hunting ground, reanimate the corpse to do their evil bidding, and turns your formerly dead companion into a kick-ass gritty antihero. Normally a player draws from one to six cards from a shuffled deck upon death (depending on experience) and if they get a joker, they're possessed. With Hell's Bargain, they draw anywhere from one to twenty-seven (!!) additional cards. Still, chances to use this hex are limited to when your allies die. And who learns a hex to make zombie monsters? Villains, that's who.

Metal Mages

I think these guys are originally from City O' Gloom, but I'm not sure. They're reprinted in Hexarcanna, and are basically people who took Arcane Background: Huckster AND Arcane Background: Mad Scientist, under the assumption that if you're going to take one magic discipline that drives you mad and blows your head up, you might as well take the other one, too . Normally if you take one arcane background you can't take another, but since Hucksters and Mad Scientists are both ignorant honkies gambling with demons for power, I guess it's alright.

Fluff is simple enough. A mad scientist named Sitgreaves is doing some thinking one day, about how sometimes it seems like someone is whispering how to build giant death machines into his ear. He also thinks about how lots of other mad scientists are saying the same thing, and how every invention he or someone else makes using ghost rock tends to blow up and maim people, and how even the benign inventions involve lots of whirling blades, and how a huckster friend of his explained that he literally gambled with demons for knowledge of secret spells that sometimes backfired.


Anyway, Sitgreaves realizes that the 'demons' that 'gambled' for his friend's 'soul' were the same people whispering how to build unreliable, dangerous machines designed for killing people into his ear. And that meant...

That he was a huckster too ! Brilliant! Time to invent some hexes and distribute them to everybody!

Did I mention he was a mad scientist?

So Sitgreaves invents a bunch of unique hexes and tricks, encodes them Hoyle style into the latest Smith & Robards New Science Catalog. These are all hexes useful for a mad scientist, allowing him to analyze chemicals, melt objects, provide so-so protection from gunfire, invent things faster, that kind of thing. The hexes are all weaker than the huckster hexes, but the tricks are much better, including one which is basically Immobile Rod, the spell. If you can't find a use for a floating doorstop you haven't played enough RPGs.

Then Sitgreaves barricaded himself into his lab where he invents new offensive and defensive hexes to protect himself from the cow he occasionally sees stalking him. The Cow knows he's going to save the world with his spells! But the Cow is going to try to stop him.

The Cow must die .

Starting Metal Mages can learn tricks from Hoyle's Book of Games or the 1877 Smith & Robards New Science Catalog , but not both. After a character's in play, they can get a copy of the other book (presumably after learning it exists) and learn spells from either discipline. They have a bunch of spells that act as sizable boosts to their mad science game-play mechanics, so if you're alright with gambling your brain, they can be very useful.


Originally called Shootists, or maybe Hexslingers, they later became known as Hexslingers, or maybe Shootists. The first one was Doc Holliday, the west's most famous tuberculosis riddled gambler / huckster / dentist. He went west for the climate, and stayed to gun down zombies. One day, he decided to cast a hex while his hands were full of guns, and instead of a hand full of poker cards his guns crackled with electricity. Then he blew away zombies much better.

Alexander Graves, Hand Ketchum, the Texas Rangers, and other famous people besides took up Holliday's art, and now stalk the west shooting monsters, sporting awesome moustaches, and occasionally blowing up Huckster style.

Hucksters can't learn gun-hexes without a Shootist BFF. Shootists can't decrypt Hoyle's Book of Games without a Huckster to help them out. Also, instead of hands of cards, Shootists get cracking weapons. Otherwise, the two groups are mechanically identical.

Shootist hexes are.... well, they're alright. There's a bunch of spells that let you turn one type of ammunition into another, or muffle sound, or reload a gun in about the time it would take to drop that gun and draw a new one, shit that isn't worth the chance of madness. There are some solid, middle of the road self-buffs that are as boring as they are unremarkable. And there are a few fun ones.

Liberated Ammo reloads your gun with ammunition from someone else's gun on a pair of Jacks, that's super. Magnum Force only needs an Ace, but the better a hand you get the more damage your gun gets. A good hand on a rifle and you're basically firing a howitzer, it can get a little silly. Also it lasts for several rounds, so take your time picking apart that fortified building. And finally, Silver Bullet lets you shoot monsters you can't normally shoot, which is nice if your gimmick is shooting things.

Like Huckster, Shootist is a cheap thing to pick up, so it's simple to layer on top of Gunslinger without giving up literally every other skill. The downside is that being a good gunslinger requires, at a minimum, really high Deftness, high Quickness, decent Cognition, decent Vigor, and decent nimbleness, while being a Shootist requires high smarts, high spirit, and probably other high mental stats as well. Because it's such a bitch raising your stats in play for anyone but zombies, Shootists are definately the paladin analogues. And if you want to play a Shootist the way they're intended, as members of the Texas Rangers, you'll also have to spend points on their access to the ranger armory and law enforcement privilages, and that high Mien you'll need to be a ranger everyone doesn't giggle at... you'll be lucky if you have enough points left over to ride a horse.

They do wreak some truly impressive carnage in a fight.

All the Huckster varient, like the Huckster itself, are great backgrounds that make for fun characters. The Metal Mage double-dips into self-destructive magic and will almost certainly wind up a drooling wreck, but before then he'll dive into a junk-pile, leap out in his junk mecha, and wrestle a mojave rattler to the ground, while the Shootist will walk the lonely path of a driven lawman, punching holes in offending hills and probably requisitioning devices designed for blowing up several square miles of zombie infested woodland. And the main Huckster honestly benefits from the playing card themed hexes that were oddly missing from the original book. Good job, Hucksters. Go take back the west from that poorly understood threat!


posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Shamans!

Oh, those poor Indians. Even mechanically, the White Man's dumping all over them.

Although all Native Americans are more spiritual than the white man, what with knowing about spirits and demons and the like (Indians are the only people who automatically start play knowing about evil spirits) some are double spiritual. These are known as Medicine Men, and they can freely talk to spirits.

Shamans don't cast magical spells themselves, but rather get the spirits to do things for them. This is a two step process--first, the Shaman generates Appeasement by performing a Ritual , like dancing, shouting, making a sand painting, or whatever. Then the Shaman immediately spends this appeasement on a Favor they ask from the spirits.

Simple enough. The system falls apart on two points.

One, it's actually pretty costly to be a shaman. Let's do a fake build.

Shaman Template
Stats of some description?

Arcane Background:  Shaman (3 points)
Ritual: 5 (5 Points)
3 additional rituals (9 points)
Shamans don't have a specifically important stat--each ritual is based off of a different stat, some physical, some mental. The seven rituals in the book are based off of six different stats. The cost comes in when you pick your ritual--unless you want to ONLY be able to appease the spirits by dancing, you'll need several. Hell, you'll probably need several in any case, for reasons that will become apparent quickly. But in any case, we've spent 17 points before choosing good stats just to invoke any favors of noticeable size.

Maim . Cut yourself to show you're serious, based off of Vigor. Inflict a minor wound (one full wound... remember, five wounds is almost dead) for three appeasement, but you have to make a difficult roll. If you want the target number for your roll to be lower, you have to permanently injure yourself. As in, slice off a goddamn finger . Takes one action.

Scar . Do wind damage to yourself, roll Ritual Vigor. Get a permanent scar, after using this ritual three times you get the disadvantage Ugly As Sin. Gives one appeasement, takes one action.

Tattoo . Takes several hours. Roll vs. Deftness, gain two appeasement. If you use this ritual too much, you run out of skin to put tattoos on.

Pledge . Tell the spirits they're bros. Gains one appeasement, takes one action, based off of knowledge.

Paint . Based off of cognition, takes about an hour or two, this is body painting. Grants two appeasement.

Dance . Based off of nimbleness, takes several hours, grants one appeasement.

Fast . The big money ritual, this is the only one that gives more appeasement if you roll well. Based off of spirit, it gives 3 or more appeasement on a ludicrously high roll. Takes several days.

Fortunately, you can perform multiple rituals in a row. So, a shaman can quickly get one appeasement by doing a quick pledge, and usually can get one appeasement quickly. After that, if he's in a pinch it's time to lop off body parts, or I hope he has a few hours to play around with doing silly things for small appeasement gains. Also, appeasement can't be stored , so the instant he's done performing rituals, it's time to spend everything and get the favor.

A shaman knows as many favors as he has ranks in Ritual (five). What are his choices?

Earth Speak, Guiding Wind, Speed of the Wolf . Gain comically small bonuses to tracking, throwing a single item, or movement speed per appeasement. A shaman might use one action to pledge, a second to slice off an ear lobe, a third to draw his knife across his face, and then a fourth to throw the knife. He'd get a +4 to hit with that thrown knife. Meanwhile, the gunslinger has taken eight pistol shots.

Strength of the Bear . Appeasement spent boosts strength for six rounds point per point. You have to use it as soon as the ritual is complete, so unless your enemy patiently waits for you to dance for two hours first, you're limited to Pledge, Maim, and Scar again. Give up your first three actions in combat to gain a strength four steps higher. Not bad, exactly, but not great either.

Lightning Strike . Costs two appeasement, deals 3d10 damage, plus an additional 1d10 per appeasement point. After scaring, maiming, and pledging, deals 5d10, as much as a single shot from a large bore rifle. Also, you can only use it during thunder storms.

Spirit Warrior . Actually almost good. Grants a +2 to fighting OR dodging OR shootin' Bow, for four hours, but you have to use painting first to paint yourself up all pretty, which takes anywhere from ten minutes to two hours. Taking longer makes the roll easier, but doesn't make the effect stronger.

Medicine . For 1 + number of wounds appeasement, heals a subject. So to heal someone seriously injured, a shaman might have to do a dance, give them body paint, scar himself, and pledge to the sky to heal those four wounds. This would take, at a minimum, an hour and ten minutes. On the outside, it could take ten.

Shapeshift. Four appeasement points. Turn into a perfectly normal animal, if it isn't too large. Gear is dropped. Lasts a few hours, but if the shaman returns to human form he can't go back to animal form without generating another four appeasement. This means if he wants to show up and deliver a cryptic message to a champion, turning back into a eagle and flying away is predated by some screaming and wrist-slashing.

Vison Quest . A query for information. Costs anywhere from 2 (will the crop be successful?) to friggin' 10 (if we raid that camp, will there be a nasty surprise waiting?) appeasement to cast. Given the cost, this ritual is almost entirely dependant on a long fast, so I hope you don't need that information this week.

Pact . Costs twice as much appeasement as a different favor, but lets you store that other favor and invoke it later. The good news is, this lets you dance/paint/tattoo for combat favors, at a gruesome exchange rate. The bad news is, until you use that stored favor you're at -2 to all other rituals to get favors.

There are some others, who cares. Shamans get to choose between getting minor effects in a few actions at the cost of injuries, getting minor effects hours from now, or doing both and getting moderate effects. The only power that's really good is Shapeshift, and maybe Medicine. The rest are tremendous wastes of effort and time, when you can usually get the bonus some other way much more easily. For example, you can get much larger bonuses to accuracy by aiming

Non-shaman Indians

The only good thing about these rules is that non-shamans can learn rituals. They can only learn one, and only learn one favor, and that favor can't have an appeasement cost of more than one... which rules out Spirit Warrior, which is the only good combat spell they get. But an Indian can shout out to the spirits for a one step increase to strength, I suppose, that's nice.

An Indian who uses Pledge to invoke Gift of the Wind gets a +1 to hit with a thrown weapon or a bow on his next action. A white man who 'draws a bead' for one action gets a +2 to hit on their next action with any weapon. Also drawing a bead doesn't require a roll or a unique skill.


Shaman Splatbooks

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Shaman Splatbook Support

Ghost Dancers

This splatbook fixes shamans. Hell, it over compensates. Shamans can have the power of hucksters with the reliability of the blessed in a narrow field of expertise.

Basically a set of guidelines for playing an all indian party, it leads with a list of reference materials to check out if you care even a little about historical accuracy, because this zombie + chinaman + railroad setting is not big on the details. Little things, like the fact the injuns have a nation slightly larger than the confederacy, stick out. But it starts with, "Everything in this book is a gross simplification." That means you can't be upset with the contents.

I'm looking at you, Homeless Poster. Glitterbomber .

Anyway, skipping all this setting malarky and on to the fixes.

Guardian Spirit

If you don't start play with a spirit who follows you around and assists you, you can literally buy one from a Shaman who's got a spare kicking about, for money. Non-shaman injuns can get them, but they're limited to level one. A shaman can buy one of up to rank five. Unfortunately, once again each ritual is purchased as a separate skill.

New Shaman build

Various Stats

Arcane Background         3 points
Four rituals at skill 4  16 points
Guardian Spirit: 5        5 points
That's a downright painful 24 points, and also accounts for eight of your maximum of ten advantage points. A full on, unrepentant shaman is good at talking to the spirits and not much else. Maybe fighting? Maybe talking.

But a Guardian Spirit lets you store appeasement points, up to it's rating. So this shaman can walk around with five points stuffed into his spirit. Also, there's no limit on how you can accumulate these points, so you can just stand around screaming about how goddamn enthusiastic you are about serving the spirits, pledging over and over. Then you can pull out those five appeasement points--and each guardian spirit has a certain favored kind of medicine (favors, basically) they can grant. Bear spirits grant strong earth medicine, Turtle grants strong blessing medicine, and so on.

If you spend the appeasement on the favored medicine, it counts double . So a fully loaded Bear guardian spirit grants ten appeasement when called upon, and takes five actions of shouting like a lunatic to refill.

Some costs: Full heal a paraplegic with multiple gunshots: 6 appeasement. Cure mental disadvantages, such as those granted by unlucky hexslingin' or being a mad scientist: 6 appeasement. Mind control a bear, 6 appeasement. Tell a nature spirit to murder everyone inside a town, 5 appeasement. To be fair, that last one also requires a spirit roll.

Other types of medicines have their own goofy effects. Ghost magic lets you blow up things like Hangin' Judges for 8. Visionspeaking lets you enter the Hunting Ground, or ressurect the dead for 10. War has some uncapped per appeasement multiple hour bonuses. Empty out a wolf spirit and toss the good old Pledge/Scar/Maim triplet on the end, and that's fourteen appeasement. Uncreative types could just slam that all into Spirit Warrior, and get a +14 (goddamn) to fightin' rolls, which is basically three free raises, and it would last four hours.

If you need to just empty wolf into 10 points of Strength of the Bear, it'd boost a strength of 3d8 to a goddamn 3(d12+16) which is... well, it's considerably stronger than anything else in setting. Or you can dump 14 points into Turtle's Shell, the strongest rifle available, a hunting magnum rifle, would drop from 5d10 damage to 1d4. Anything weaker would be ignored. Both Strength of the Bear and Turtle's Shell only last four rounds, but since spirit warrior lasts hours, you could invoke it, pledge the spirit to full again, repeat twice, then fill it up, find an enemy, and bust out bear's strength for +20 sides to your dice, +10 to fighting, +10 to throwing, and +10 to dodge. This is in a setting where an average guy rolls 3d6 in a fistfight, and a world champion boxer might roll 5d12, keep the highest.

Where is your god now, Blessed ? Hell, give me prep time and I can kill goddamn Stone with a starting character, his stats are only 10d12+10.

The book introduces a bunch new favors (but they're called medicine now) so there's a wide selection of choices. Also, shamans get more medicines when they start play, and they get unique magical powers when they invoke their guardian spirit by paying fortune chips. Also there's a much wider variety of rituals to gain appeasement, which by and large take less time and grant more appeasement than the ones from the original book. For example, War Cry. War Cry is exactly like Pledge, but it's easier and has no behavior restrictions and you get a +1 if you, at the table, shout like a lunatic.

The new generation of shaman don't share the Blessed's low point cost, but radically surpass them in power. And while they can't match Huckster's flashiest effects, even the best hands on Huckster buff spells grant +5 die steps, while it's relatively simple to get +14 steps with a bear.


posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Well, we wouldn't want to get the groups sexing up submissive women for reproductive purposes and the groups sexing up submissive women so they can experience sexual choice confused .

Let's talk about a lame Deadlands arcane background instead.

Deadlands: Anahuac!

Earlier I listed these as separate from the Aztec arcane background, but it isn't. From the book South o' the Border , where they're the predominant arcane background in Mexico known as the Aztecs, and later in Lost Angels where they are chumps who hang out in the Spanish Quarter of Lost Angels, the city run by the religious figure Grimme, the servitor of Famine. The first book is obsolete, and also dumb... basically, they were shamans with no guardian spirits and not as many favors available.

The Anahuac are the children of Catholic Spaniard/Aztec Aztec parents, and as a result their faith is all over the place. Grab any three mexican religious ceremonies, roll 'em into a ball, and there you have it--they're not big into blood sacrifice, but they sure love their golden headdresses and their little candy skulls. They're also all about the community, which means people come to them with problems plot hooks and concerns more plot hooks.

Like the splat-book enhanced shamans, Anahuac get a patron related advantage. Called Patron Saint, it can store up to five appeasement and lets the Anahuac spend fortune chips for unique effects, just like guardian spirits. Unlike guardian spirits, they don't have a favored brand of favor they provide double mana for, so it's a little harder for one to gain fifteen appeasement at a moment's notice.

The Anahuac gain appeasement through rituals, just like the shamans do. Their selection of rituals is different, but they have Prayer to spend an action to generate an appeasement analagous to the shamanic Pledge or War Cry, so they can still refill their saint to full power by mumbling in the corner for a little bit. The other rituals are nice if you need to stack up, I guess.

They have a pretty good favor list!

Spook , Screaming Skull Scare chumps screaming into the distance. The more appeasement you spend, the better. Spook has better returns per appeasement spent, screaming skull requires an actual skull and is hilarious.

Protection Exactly like the blessed power to fend off supernatural threats, but it costs one appeasement a round. This means the Anahuac has to spend at least one action every round praying. Slightly less broken!

Ash Mark Grant the protection power, to someone else, for twenty four hours. Costs 1 appeasement. At least they have to roll their own faith to use it, which is probably very low.

Summon the Dead , Control the Dead Conjure forth the dead to serve you! If they're not in the afterlife (undead) it has a limited range, but it's unresistible. Harrowed murdering people and escaping laughing into the night? Conjure his punk ass in front of you and make him carry your stuff. Bitch. The dead won't answer the summons for a few days, though. Also be careful: Control the dead involves a contested Spirit roll. If the priest loses, the dead gets to command him .

Guise . Disguise spell. Surprisingly not broken, just cool.

Hummingbird . Summon one hummingbird per appeasement point. They attack your enemies!

Possession . Four appeasement, experience their senses. Eight appeasement, control their actions. Notable only in that a patron spirit can only hold five appeasement, and the prayer only grants 1, so you have to get two more appeasement from a much slower ritual, like painting, holding communion, or doing peyote tablets and watching the colors. You can't just seize someone's body in combat, it's almost fair.

And a bunch of other random pseudo-blessed powers, for 13 in total. No healing, no ressurection.

Anahuac are a very safe arcane choice, with pretty much no way to screw yourself over short of failing to control the spirit of Charlemagne you called up from hell. They lack any good combat blessing miracles, unless you're blown away by combat hummingbirds, and Protection/Ash Mark can both fail, meaning that in play an Anahuac is unlikely to render the rest of the party obsolete. Aside from the ease with which they can refill their appeasement pool, I have no objections to this arcane background and place it with reverence at the same tier I place Hucksters, Enlightened, and Mad Scientists: Playable.

Oh, and before we wander too far on, I want to back-peddle some on shamans. If you're not hell-bent on maximizing with a Wolf Spirit, War Cry, and a d12 strength build, they can be a welcome addition to a party. In the campaign I ran, the New York detective eventually went on a spirit journey and picked up a low ranked guardian spirit, a bear wearing the uniform of the postmaster general. He only ever learned one appeasement ritual, Tobacco , in which you smoke for five minutes. He'd cast visionseeking favors to help him solve supernatural murders by pacing back and forth, smoking. Then he'd fight by punching dudes in the jaw with his strength of 3d8, above average but not heroic. Stick to the low end, non combat stuff and a Shaman can be a lot of fun.

Mad Scientists

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Mors Rattus posted:

I'm down with the dedicated gunner being as good as the caster. That's cool. I'm down with the magic-less beatstick guy being as good as the casters. That's also cool! The Blessed are way too powerful, and most of the other core options...well, most of them, you'd be better off just focusing on some mundane skill with those points; hucksters are actually more of a danger to themselves the better they get because the more cards they draw, the greater the chance they draw the Joker. Same with mad scientists, but at least they can get really, really cool devices out of it with some regularity - they just go nuts. Shamans, though...

Basically, being the dedicated mundane stompy guy is flat better than most of the magic, from a sheer effectiveness perspective.

When it comes to murdering people, the dedicated gunner is better than the caster. Except the gunner caster, of course. And Shaman Sayjin Level 3 or above. Also blessed. Or mad scientists who's inventions are big guns, but those have their own complications.

Also, come to think of it, even a Smite happy blessed or a 14 appeasement wolf shaman busting loose with full strength of the bear isn't going to do as much damage as a 4d12 well built gunman with a sniper rifle. The west was won with iron and gunpowder. Magical effects can do a lot of damage, but they can't murder as fast or as long as a gunman. And a Shootist/Hexslinger can outperform a gunman, but they tend to pop like balloons trying.

Which means there's only one Arcane Background that wreaks more havok than a Buffalo Soldier...

Deadlands: Mad Scientist!

The fools at the academy of New Sciences said your science was too new! What's wrong with an auto-barber that uses parts from the living dead to function? And sure, it decapitated that grad student, but he wasn't talented or anything. And then Professor Jeffe shot you with his auto-bronzing chicken launcher, a device which dips a chicken in bronze, rapidly cools it, and launches it at you just as the temperature changes cause it to shatter into fragments of flechette and delicious, delicious nuggets, only lightly contaminated by insanity causing ghost rock residue. Only your automatic barber machine saved you, because of it's odd malfunction of identifying chicken shaped objects as heads in need of a haircut. Maybe you shouldn't have made it's occular sensors out of the eyes of an undead chicken rapist? No matter! Now your invention is destroyed, and you have to live in a rathole apartment in Junktown, hiding from Hellstromme's terrifying X-Squadders with nothing to keep you company but the rats. Junkyard ratbites give you super-tetanus, by the way--the iron in your body collects in your joints and hardens into metal spikes that nail your bones to one another, immobilizing you completely. Maybe it's time to build some sort of small mechanical man to march into the walls and do battle with the vermin within!

Soooo goddamn mad.

Earlier Homeless Poster talked a bit about the Reckoner evil plot to destroy the world with Ghost Rock, an evil mineral made from the souls of the damned. See, every mad scientist just happens upon enough ghost rock to get them started in their career. Maybe they find a vein of it close to the surface. Maybe some gets dumped in their front yard after a carriage accident. Maybe they just go to a scientific university and get some assigned to them. But then the Reckoners stop giving it away free. If an aspiring scientist wants more, they can buy it at 100 dollars to the pound, or they can go west and mine it themselves. Most choose option B.

Then they start inventing. All mad inventions are inspired by manitou, which is why so many of them are scary war machines. The rest are merely dangerous--one of the adventures has a hair cutting machine that sucks your hair up into a tube that contains a whirling blade, perfectly slicing your hair to the desired length. Or slashing up your scalp. Other common inventions include vehicles--the steam wagon and the auto-gyro are both exemplary devices. From furnaces that occasionally burn down the building they're in, drugs and plague cures with horrible side effects, or just good old fashioned dolls that come alive and murder you in your sleep, if it's a bad idea, a mad scientist can make it!

I've been loosely trying to rank these guys against each other, but that all breaks down for mad Scientists. Ranking just doesn't work with them, because there are almost no rules for what their inventions can do. The short answer is, "Anything." The long answer is, "There's a chart to act as guidelines, but mostly it's whatever you can talk your DM into letting you do."

High Knowledge, Smarts   (0 points, you want these high anyway)

Mad Science:          5
Science: Engineering: 1
Science: Chemistry:   1
Science: Biology:     1
Tinkerin':            5
Arcane Backround:     3
Mechanically Inclined:1
16 points, which stings a bit. You're not gonna be blowing the doors off the place without your mechanical door blowing device. Also consider the Edges Belongings (lots of money) and Dinero (an allowance) so you can afford to build all this crap.

Mechanically Inclined gives a +2 to inventing and building inventions. It's pretty much a must have.

Making an invention is kind of a convoluted process. First, decide what it does, and how it works. Everything must involve ghost rock. Fortunately, Ghost Rock is the best at everything--if not used as a fuel, it can be combined with iron to make Ghost Steel, which is lighter and stronger than steel, or it can be ground into a powder and used medically, or mixed with phosphates to create flash powder of unusual brightness, or mixed with copper to make copper wires that double as simplistic logic circuits. Nifty stuff, ghost rock. Then, roll Mad Science to invent it. You need an appropriate science skill as well, but you don't need to roll it so it can be pretty low. Engineering is a good fallback, for guns and cars and stoves and things, but chemistry can be useful, biology is essential for medical inventions, and if something falls into two categories you need both . I strongly suggest Engineering/Chemistry for a starting mad scientist, unless you have a theme going.

After you roll Mad Science against target number five, which you can do once a day, you draw five cards from a shuffled deck, plus one more for every raise you got. Then you consult the chart, and see if you got the hand the chart suggests assigned by the GM.

Lookit that fucking chart. It's actually pretty hard to make even a basic invention unless you blow the doors off of your roll and draw eight or nine cards. The good news is, Jokers are wild! Bad news is, black jokers are bad again. And with a hand of six, that's one black joker every nine attempts to invent something. While a Mad Scientist will probably try fewer inventions than a Huckster will cast spells, his table is worse--there's no damage or stunned or resistible effects. Every single result on the Mad Scientist botch table is mental illness.

Anyway, once the scientist gets the hand he needs, the device is invented. The Gizmo Construction chart shows how long it takes to build one of the device. Technically, anyone with the blueprint can make the invention. The Scientist can just have Mad Science and the background and ditch tinkering entirely, relying on assistants or companies to build his invention. The components of the invention are up to the GM, and may involve rare or unique items the party has to go get, like bodyparts of humans or undead, ancient magical jewels, the cloak of a Hangin' Judge, whatever.

Finally, the invention is complete! DM assigns all stats and effects of the invention. The invention also gets a Reliability rating, which starts at 10, and goes up by 2 for every raise gotten on the Mad Science or the Tinkerin' roll, to a maximum of 19. A starting character can expect inventions of roughly 14 to 16 reliability.

Every time the invention is used, roll 1d20. If you roll higher than the reliability, the device has gone catastrophically wrong. This is the real drawback to mad science, not the madness, which is basically just flavor. Even the best built devices still fail constantly. A failure has a 2 in 7 chance of being 'minor', a 2 in 3 chance of being 'major', and a 1 in 12 chance of being 'catastrophic'. Minor failures tend to mean the invention is useless for a while. Catastrophic failures tend to cost eyeballs. Again, all this depends on the invention in question (tanks explode for way more damage than cameras) and that in turn relies on the DM's judgement.

You may notice there are no guidelines for how much damage inventions should be able to do, or what their limits are, or how much they cost. This is entirely a negotiation between player and DM, although there are a fair number of sample inventions scattered in the main book, in Smith and Robards, in the Texas Rangers book, in Collegium, in City O' Gloom, and in The Agency. Mad Scientists can be the most powerful characters in setting, or they can struggle to catch up to original shamans. Play with one relies almost entirely on what you can get away with.

Fun class!

Junkers (from Hell on Earth) are better, though. And Alchemists don't give you as many options, but have much better rule support.

Mad Science

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Mad Science!

There's no real guidelines for what mad science can do , but there are some example inventions. So let's look at a sample of those.

Player's Handbook

Epitaph Camera , two pairs. Instant camera. Extremely reliable, only blows up about one use in two hundred and forty. Ironically, most people don't believe they exist due to their high price tag and rarity in the East, so the fact that the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper keeps printing photographs of people fighting monsters convinces literally nobody.

Gatling Pistol , three of a kind. Shoots three bullets a shot, or in other words, does less damage and has less range than a rifle. About the size of a revolver, though, and is an awesome crank powered pistol with six rotating barrels. Each shot has a one in ten chance of malfunctioning... most malfunctions are just jams, but a catastrophic failure breaks the gun and shoots you.

Bullet-proof armor , three of a kind. Gives two levels of armor, which reduces the 3d6 of a good revolver to 2d4 damage. Extremely reliable, and even catastrophic failures don't hurt the user.

Rocket Pack , Flush. Lets the user fly about. About the size of a small cast-iron stove, which is basically what it is. The signature device of the Buffalo Soldiers, these devices let them defeat the Apache warriors that had their fortress under siege. Each time you fly using one, it has a 10% of failure, and a catastrophic failure makes the pilot fly 5d20 yards and then explode. Godspeed, brave soldier! The Union thanks you!

Thus far, useful devices but not exactly game-changing. Steampunk, really... take normal shit and slap gears and brass onto it. Everything works a little better, a few cool vehicles.

Lone Star, Texas Rangers

Apparently the Texas Rangers have no interest in Mad Science. Their go to scorched earth weapon, the Congreve Rocket Artillery, is an actual thing. Yesh, when a Texas Ranger needs to reduce a quarter mile to smouldering ash, even then they don't turn to a mad scientist. The rangers get most of their armaments from Britain, who thinks America having a civil war is hilarious .

Improved Whitworth Rifle , presumably just a pair or two. This rifle shoots hexagon-shaped bullets using a unique powder charge, which is pretty cool. It's also got a 50% range bonus. But it does mediocre damage (terrible for a mad science device) and has a 10% per shot of jamming, which probably means the barrel's fused. Rarely, it blows up.

Whitworth Nightvision Scope , no guidelines given. Triples the rifle's range, good but not great, eliminates low light vision penalty, but you have to aim for an action for every shot. 15% per shot of failing, which at best breaks it. At worst, it explodes (damn that ghost rock fume filled focusing lens!) damaging your head.

Supernatural Phenomena Survival Kit Special Rounds . These are the pinnacle of the Texas Ranger's understanding of current monster hunting science. In other words... they're silver. And that's it.

The Agency -- Men in Black Dusters

Now we're talkin'! Here are the spy tools and guns used by the spy guys. Bear in mind that for these guys, the gatling pistol is standard issue. Dying to scientific misadventure is not uncommon for the Agents.

Voice Projectors , flush. Earbuds and short-range radios to keep a team in touch. 95% reliable per job, but when it fails, it fails big... maybe demons infest it and start passing wrong orders between the team.

Sleeve Dagger , Wrist Dagger . Pair. Whip out your arms and weapons fall out of your sleeves into your waiting hands! Awesome. Win quickdraw contests like a cheating fuck boss. Very reliable, only rarely tosses your weapons at the feet of your enemies.

Agency Shotgun . Flush. Four barrel belt fed rotary shotgun. Does a downright silly about of damage at short range. When it fails, it fails big-- shredding itself or the user..

Ecto-Plasmic Calcifier . Full house. Turn ghosts into stone. Uses a unique firearms skill to operate. When it fails, sometimes it turns the operator into a ghost.

Agency Black Duster , pair. Doesn't even give a full rank of armor, just reduces taken damage slightly. Covers the entire body, is fairly light, and is rife with secret pockets. Like most non-powered armor, malfunctions just mean reduced protection until it's repaired.

Automatic Key , three of a kind, looks like a pistol with a half dozen lock picks sticking out of the barrel. Unlocks things. On a malfunction, breaks itself, the lock, or both.

Field Boot , two pair. These boots are swiss-army boots, full of saws, air pumps, explosives, lighters, compasses, reversible soles (so you can disguise your traks), and four (count them!) boot knives, two of which are double hidden and spring loaded. Malfunctions send the agent tumbling over or nails him to the ground. Or just stab him in the foot.

Rocket Grapple , two pairs. Pneumatic grapple launcher. Doesn't retract, won't let you be batman. Malfunctions jam/explode, boring really.

Fear Engine . Full House. About the size of a chest of drawers. Measures the fear level of the surrounding area, and reports the results on the Terror Alert Scale . Great plot-related device to give the players feedback on how they're doing combatting the forces of evil . Failures arn't that bad, except the catastrophic failure. Then it explodes and releases the evil it's been analyzing, actually raising the fear level of the surrounding area. Why aren't the Reckoners mass-producing these?

And dozens of other fun toys besides. The Agency book is the go to for spy gear and pseudo-realistic geegaws for the mad scientist who wants to make small, easily disguised tools.

Smith and Robards

The catalogue for Smith and Robards, Professior Darius Hellstromme's greatest competitors. Unlike Hellstromme, who mainly fills government, military, and mormon contracts, Smith and Robards sell their inventions to anyone who can pay. I think I'll stop listing malfunctions--just assume they're jam or explode for most of these.

Vehicles . From autogyro to zeppelin, air, land, and sea, Smith and Robards have a solution. The ones that are powered by ghost rock are priced pretty effectively out of player hands--- a pound of ghost rock costs a hundred dollars, after all. Not great if you're trying to cross the country, and what else are you going to do in your personal airship? Stick with the hand-cranked ones powered by ghost-steel springs. Fun fact: people use autogyros to hunt for Rattlers by dropping dynamite on them from the sky. Rattlers are not the Reckoner's most successful monster.

Clockwork Torpedoes , two pairs. Big, big damage. Nothing special here, I just think they're cool.

More goddamn armor , three of a kind. Smith and Robards introduces armor level 3 (but you look like a walking pillbox). Costs about ten thousand dollars for a full suit. Personally, I think there's usually a better way to handle a few dozen soldiers than armoring up and trying to tank them all at once. Someone'll just throw dynamite at you. On the plus side, you can install a gun in the hat!

Mechanical Skeleton , Full House. Remember the cargo lifter from Aliens? Yeah! Requires a unique driving skill. Occasionally overloads, causing it to spasm wildly, badly damaging the pilot.

Rocket Boots , Straight. Like a rocket pack, but smaller, less fuel, and much more likely to smash you into a wall. Optional extra: Rocketeer helmet. Maybe mankind's greatest achievement?

Smith and Robards posted:

Experienced users have reported traveling as far as 300 yards with few injuries!

Ghost Rock Detector , straight. Finds ghost rock deposits by burning particulate matter found in the air. May cause ghost rock deposits to explode.

Spirit Camera , Flush. Take photographs of your friends, see their dead relatives lurking behind them! Instant headliner for Ghost Hunters. May attract the vengeful dead.

Flapjack machine , Two pairs. An oven that automatically cooks breakfast for you every morning. When it fails, it flapjacks everyone in a ten foot radius.

Electrostatic Weapons , anywhere from three of a kind for a knife for a straight for a shotgun. Adds electricity damage to your attacks, but needs to be pumped like a super-soaker.

Vapor Cannon . Turns your cannon into a ghost-rock cannon! Combines huge damage with clouds of ghost rock smoke, which may cause cancer. Occasionally explode, killing all operators.

When it comes to big, flashy inventions with powerful effects, the Smith & Robards catalogue is the go-to place. For the inventions of their rival, Dr. Darius Hellstromme, they're mostly in the gamemaster section of the City O' Gloom book. In short, he makes differently branded equivilents of anything Smith and Robards does, and the two companies constantly accuse each other of stealing ideas. Also, he makes mechanical men that can perceive their surroundings and make decisions, which impresses every other scientist. He does this by making their decision making center out of a zombie.

The Collegium

The third big mad science organization, unlike Smith and Robards or Hellstromme's Black Wasatch, the Collegium isn't in it for money. They're a genuinely scientific academic organization made up entirely of insane, paranoid tinkerers who jealously guard their secrets and hunt down and destroy anyone who doesn't agree with their open source blueprints ideals. Which is why there's been relatively little innovation coming from their California operation relative to the number of scientists they have. They do have a lot of members, so they maintain their own product catalogue to get the funding they need to fund their dumb scientific misadventures.

They have invented some impressive top end devices, so it's the book to consult when you want guidelines for absolutely ludicrous devices.

Tethered satellite , Full House. This satellite orbits the earth at an astounding two thousand feet. First, it's launched by rocket. As gravity pulls it down, one set of fans turns due to air resistance, which generates the power needed to move a second set of fans, which lifts the satellite. This isn't a perpetual energy machine, of course--it only stays up for about two weeks. Uses mirrors and lenses to reflect a perfect image of the surrounding terrain to the operator, below. Can be piloted remotely using the cable hanging down to pass it telegraph instructions.

Visual Scale , flush. You can measure the effect the gravity of any object you can see has on this device, and then do the necessary calculations to find the object's mass.

Perpetual Landship Full House. Uses it's own motion to wind the springs it needs to move itself. Entropy can be a bitch, though, so it uses sails as a secondary motive source to round out the waste.

Whirligig , Full house. Like a rocket pack, but a helicoper pack instead, so you can hover. Better range, cheaper to operate, worse speed, looks sillier.

Dynamite Launcher , Flush. Use dynamite as your primary combat option! This devices burns ghost rock and uses the pressurized fumes to simultaneously light and explosively launch sticks of dynamite at your enemies. What could go wrong?

Light Enhancement Pistol , Full House. Looks like a telescope with a pistol grip. Light enters through a one way mirror, and is trapped in a tube made entirely of mirrors. Since light has no mass, the amount of light inside builds up until you 'fire' it by flipping open the far end, releasing a tremendous 'light bullet' which can have amazing power! Critics say that it deals no more damage than a rifle, and occasionally explodes due to light build up, but we point out it is the perfect assassin's weapon, as the bullet travels too fast to trace the path back to the gun, which is itself completely silent.

Bullet Repellant Clothing , Full house. Emits a unique magnetic field that only repells lead. The larger the bullets being shot at you, the more effective the clothing is! Warning, occasionally polarity may reverse.

So, the inventions in The Collegium are all on the goofy end of the scale. But the big ones are the developments by the dastardly Dr. Leonitus Gash. Run out of Junkyard for his experiments against nature, he developed the terrifying compound X-19, which uses secret ingredients that allows people to subconsciously control implanted mechanical devices! With it, a device can be implanted directly into a man and become part of his body. Robot arms and skullguns are possible given a supply of X-19... without the compound, man/machine interface is impossible.

Dr. Gash still makes the best augmentations, but other people have started cranking off knockoff brands. All you need is to scare up some of the doctor's compound and you can replace a cripple's missing leg---or give a boxer an enormous brass punching arm covered in whirling saw blades.

So, what is X-19? Oddly, it wasn't invented by Dr. Gash... it's the creation of Baron Lacroix, voodoo threat of New Orleans and owner of one of the nation's largest railroads. He didn't know of its scientific properties, and simply would douse corpses in the stuff to turn them into zombie slaves. Nowadays, he's goddamn pissed that mad scientists keep trying to steal his zombie goo, and he sends killers after anyone who knows what the stuff really is. One clever scientist made a knockoff compound, identical in every way except it won't let you implant mechanisms in Harrowed and it can't make zombies.

Dr. Hellstromme has his own way to combine machines with screaming victims. He doesn't know the secret behind X-19, and doesn't really care either.

Anyway, once you've gotten yourself a new mechanical arm, and a small ghost rock boiler installed in your chest to fuel it, you can get all kinds of devices installed in you. Yes, they reduce your spirit score as you slowly replace parts of your body with machines literally designed in hell. But you can get sub-dermal armor plating and spring feet, so stop whining, you baby.

Dr. Gash intended these devices to be simple replacements for unfortunate miners who had suffered injuries digging for ghost rock. But now they've got claws and guns and batman hook hands and autopickers and skull mounted scuba tubes and internal gyroscopes and dick-mounted cattle prods and Deus Ex pop out shades and poisonous fume emitters attached to the lungs. There's no way to replace lost senses, yet--auggers can't have new eyes or new ears, just improvements to existing ones.

Look at how goddamn western this setting is!


posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Alchemy!

Alright, having gone over the rules for Alchemy, they're a lot less interesting than I remember. I suppose I'm spoiled... I ran a campaign where the runaway champion was a strength 2d4, vigor 1d4 Chinese medicine man who was bound by the winds of fate to only travel west. He regularly dominated the scene, saved the day multiple times with his ornery racism, and finished the campaign by beating Stone on a contested strength roll and piledrivering him out of reality. Suck it, zombie terminator! You're no match for a cranky old man

Anyway! Alchemy is just re-flavored Mad Science. Same mechanics--choose an effect, roll chemistry to get a hand size, draw that many cards, and if you get a poker hand of sufficient value you've invented a recipe. Then later you roll alchemy to brew it, based off of a target number defined by the complexity of the potion. Tah-dah! The resulting potion even has a reliability number, just like an invention--any potion has a flat chance to malfunction when you drink it. This is entirely left up to the DM... no examples are given.

So far, Alchemy is just Mad Science but only with chemicals. What does it get special? Mostly, guidelines.

Guidelines for how hard a given effect is to brew, for example. Alchemists rule the school for buff effects for one simple reason--they can make potions to spec and hand them over . So when my photographer climbs over a fence and infiltrates the Black Wasactch railroad depot, he can sit on that +nimbleness boost to stealth until he really needs it, like when the Memphis Belles roll in, looking for trouble.

Elixers also have pricing guidelines. On the table above, you see a section labeled Philosopher's Stone... this is the go-to material for Alchemists. Each ounce of it is made of one ounce of Ghost Rock and one ounce of the alchemist's blood. This deals semi-permanent wind damage, which heals slowly--in general, this maens an alchemist can make only one ounce of stone a day, although he can bunch it up. This puts a kind of savage hard cap on the number of potions he can make--if he gets unlucky with the amounts of stone his formulae take, he might be limited to one decent potion a week . Alchemists need downtime in a big way, but they don't need to be working hard in a lab--the philosopher's stone can be whipped up in a crucible over a campfire. They're not disqualified from being pioneers, but they can't participate effectively in a fast-moving game without occasional in-universe breaks.

Best feature of alchemy: the pricing guidelines. Remember the five cards you make your poker hand out of? They also define the ingredients used. Each card is a different ingredient, with the suit determining the number of ounces you need, and the value defining how expensive it is. A two through an seven is a cheap ingredient like salt, baking soda, or alcohol, priced at 5 cents an ounce. An eight through a queen means an uncommon ingredient, which require a visit to the druggist, like laudanum, cyanide, or cocaine, and these cost around a dollar an ounce. Rare ingredients, like gold, silver, or ghost rock, are ten dollars an ounce, and come from kings or aces. A joker (which you almost need to get a good hand) is an exotic ingredient, like Harrowed cranial fluid or water from a specific geyser. Generally an alchemist has to quest for this stuff, but it might be available for a few hundred bucks an ounce.

What this means is that an alchemist might invent a potion of +1 die step strength with a straight of high value cards, and it needs to be made of three ounces of gold, two ounces of ground money, four ounces of opium, an ounce of bone marrow, two ounces of pineal gland fluid from a mojave rattler, and six ounces of philosopher's stone. And then that alchemist might decide to invent that exact same potion a second time, in hopes of getting a less silly list of ingredients.

The price of the ingredients (ignoring any jokers) is almost never the restrictive factor compared to the amount of philosopher's stone a potion takes. But it's still cool .

Drawbacks of an alchemist are the same as a mad scientist--each invention attempt has something between a 1/8 and 1/9 chance of causing insanity.


posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Enlightened

Deadlands may be the only western setting where the Chineese are the least mystic of the races. This is due to relatively little support. They just don't get the adventure paths of strange eunuch warlocks and screaming demon soldiers, and instead are mostly oppressed workers for the railroads or mad science corporations. Yes, yes, the 'Emperor of the Americas' Joshua Abraham Norton may be the prisoner of one of the more ambitious chineese Warlords who is convinced that means he owns the country now, but they never really did anything with that. Also the majority of the warlord's influence came from having warships and cannons.

What they did have was the enlightened , super-competent fighters. With the reckoning, people who had dedicated their lives to the martial arts found that their ch'i gave them supernatural abilities. There are a variety of fightin' styles for a martial artist to choose between, none of which have any in-game effect.

I can't tell if the person who wrote the Hexarcana book is a savant genius at game design or crammed so far up his own ass he's forgotten that martial artists are meant to see play at an actual game table.

Tai Chi posted:

You focus something called your ch’i , or internal energy, which then allows you to smack your opponent halfway to Philadelphia and back. Your internal organs are also in exceptional shape, and can move around inside your body to avoid taking wounds when you suffer a shot to the gizzards. (You gain no actual game benefit for this effect, but that doesn't stop you from constantly bragging about it.)

See? The guy clearly knows something about game design.

Enlightened baseline cost

High Vigor, Strength, Nimbleness, Quickness, Spirit   12

Arcane Background:  Enlightened                        3
Martial Arts Training                                  3
Fightin' Martial Arts: 5                               5
Fightin' Dedicated Skill                               5
Dodge: 5                                               5
Ch'i: 5                                                5
38 points... friggin' OUCH. You might need to take some disadvantages just to pay for the core competency, let alone to have ANY OTHER SKILLS. That's assuming you want to be good at kicking the shit out of people, and that you want at least one unique skill--something like a weapon to use instead of your bare hands, or Throwin' Bullet if you take the bullet flinging power, or Flying Guillotine if you take the flying Guillotine power. Yes, certain enlightened powers require you to take a dedicated skill to use them.

It's not all bad... for the ranks in Martial Arts, you get five Maneuvers, special combat techniques. Disarm lets you take an opponent's melee weapon if you successfully defend. Eye Gouge lets you give someone a -4 to everything (!!) if you hit with two raises. Flying Kick lets you take your entire movement as a single leap, borderline supernatural and a hilarious way to fly through a crowd to nail someone in the back. Get Up lets you ignore being prone. Ground Fighting lessens the penalties for being prone and is lame. Head Butt lets you make stunning attacks but does wind damage. Lock lets you do arm locks that inflict substantial penalties on all by the most vigorous of human opponents. Spin Kick is a good old fashioned trade to-hit for damage option. Sweep deals no damage but almost always hits and prones. And People Throwin lets you use judo tosses as an active defense, and explicitly doesn't work on giant snake monsters.

If that's plenty for you, you can drop the high requirements on Spirit and Vigor, as well as the Ch'i, Arcane Background, one of the fightin' skills, and only spend 21 points for a character who merely kicks a tremendous amount of ass in a fight. You can still gap thirty foot ravines to smack some dude in the face with your foot, and in the end, that's what's really important.

But if you want the supernatural stuff... then you need to pay for the enlightnentment, the ch'i, and the spirit and vigor. Ch'i is a spirit skill that you roll against to use any Ch'i power, and with a high spirit and ch'i skill you'll almost always succeed, but why do you need a high vigor?


Each player has a number of strain points equal to the die step on their vigor die. A character with a vigor of 3d4 has 4 strain, while a character with a 1d12 has 12. One point of strain is healed for each hour of rest.

Obviously, a high vigor is important for an enlightened martial artist, but he probably won't put a d12 in it, because he needs strength to do damage, Nimbleness to actually hit, quickness to close the distance between himself and his enemies. In practice, a martial artist will have a vigor of d8 or d10, or 8 or 10 strain. They're spent to use the various Ch'i abilities, which he gets one of for each rank of the Ch'i skill... five.

What options do they have?

Abundance of Pecking Birds Shoots a bunch of arrows. This lets you make multiple attacks all at once. There's no limit to the number of shots, but each one costs 1 strain. It costs 1 strain to do nothing special, 2 strain to shoot as fast as a normal guy with a gun. 3 strain will let the archer keep up with a gunman fanning. If the archer blows all his strain in one go, he can do pretty impressive damage. Once. And then he gets no special powers for the rest of the day. And it won't be effective against anything with armor. Or as good as chucking nitroglycerin. A little safer, maybe.

Because it's a bow power, the martial artist probably wants shootin' bow as his unique skill.

Blood of Gold Sit quietly in a corner and spend a number of strain equal to the injury to a location to heal that location. Takes an hour and five strain to heal a critical wound, at one location. Won't heal maimed injuries, absolutely the slowest form of magical healing except for brewing a heal potion from scratch. Better than no healing at all.

Cobra Strike Pay one strain, lose your action. Each time you get a new action, you can take it or pay one more strain. If you take the action, it must be the strike, which gets +2 to hit and damage per action pocketed. Basically the aim action, except it costs strain, it must be used in melee combat, and it comes with a minor damage bonus. Also if you ever draw a black joker for initiative, fuck you you lose all your actions. Super terrible.

Closing the Gate Recover a few d6 of wind, stun damage. Costs one strain, takes one action. Not bad in a wind-based fight (i.e. a brawl) but probably a waste in a knife or a gun fight.

Crane Guides the Arrow One strain, free action. Lets you modify the hit location table slightly. Cheap, effective, reliant on using a bow or throwing weapon.

Crumbling Dam Costs 2 strain to try to use, unarmed attack that deals no damage. If (If!) it hits, the target loses 1d4 strain, plus another 1d4 per raise. Because there's a chance to miss, using this power probably costs more strain than it causes in damage. Useless against non enlightened.

Devastating Ape Strike Unarmed only. Lets you add the result of a Ch'i roll to an unarmed attack for 1 strain. That's the bonus damage of the highest of 5d10 or so to a unarmed attack, which is easily one or two wounds. Radically better than Cobra Strike.

Dragon's Claw 2 strain a round, costs one action to activate. Grants one level of armor piercing for success, one more for each round--realistically, you can expect two. Not bad against the rare armored targets. Can't be used with weapons, which do enough extra damage as to effectively BE two levels of armor piercing.

Fangs of the Serpent 4 strain. Acts like Crumbling Dam, only you gain half the vigor they lose. A martial artist needs to have at least half their vigor remaining to try this, and it probably won't pay for itself.

Flying Claw Lets you use the Flying Claw melee weapon on a target as far as twenty five yards away. Meanwhile, the party sheriff is using a gun. Costs 1 strain per shot. If you do wound someone with the Flying Claw, you can make a contested Strength roll to prone them at your feet, scorpion style, which is pretty cool. Requires the Flying Claw skill to use.

Flying Crescent Lets you use the flying crescent melee weapon on a target as far as 25 yards away. The sheriff's gun hasn't gone anywhere. Costs 2 strain, and doesn't let you pull the enemy to your feet. Profoundly inferior to a gun. Requires the Flying Crescent skill to use.

Flying Guillotine Always uses the Flying Guillotine skill, you can't even make an attack with it without spending 4 strain. Always takes a -6 penalty to hit due to a called shot to the head. The flying Guillotine is a razor hoop with spring-loaded blades and a wire mesh net. On a successful hit, decapitates an opponent. They get no save, so they better make a dodge roll against the initial to hit. You have to unload the head from the bag before you can use it again. A sombrero provides a bonus to defense.

Fury Fans the Flame When they martial artist gets a raise on his to hit, he can spend 2 strain to get an free bonus attack. Thus, you have to spend at least 4 strain to get an advantage over the free bonus attacks you get for using a gun, and it's easier to get multiple bonus attacks by using a revolver and fanning. A great way to blow all your strain at once and be mediocre for the rest of the day.

Gimmick Weapon 2 strain. Use a found object as if it were a big boy weapon. Lets you pretend to be jackie chan... except for the fact it lasts one round. And you have to spend the first action that round posing with your weapon, spinning the ladder round and round in a flashy display. Which makes you more like Jackie Chan I suppose.

Hell's Thunderclap 1 strain, you can only use it after you hit an opponent in the head with a normal attack. Replace the tremendous amount of damage you do from a headshot with a penalty to all actions for a few rounds.

Jade King's Stance Super intimidating stance. Anyone looking at the character quakes at his majesty. Because it costs 2 strain +1 a round, I hope you don't need to hold them off for long. Seconds, sure. Half a minute? Hah, hell no. Gives a minor bonus to the Overawe skill while it's active.

Leopard and her Cubs Harmonize your chi with your party. Costs 2 strain plus one strain for each person you want to affect. Effectively reduces damage taken by 25%, for one round... one more strain for each additional round. Less effective on people who are already tough. Very easy to blow your entire supply of strain on a single round of protecting your dumbass allies. I hope you don't get in two fights on the same day.

Mantis Punch 2 strain. Deal no damage with a melee attack, but on a hit instead roll your Ch'i against their vigor. For success and for each raise, lower one of their stats by one die step. This lasts one round, +1 round per chi.

Many Arms of the Spider 1 strain per action you have. Get all your actions at once. Doesn't increase the number of actions you get, because you lose actions you would get later, you just get them all at once. Mediocre.

Merciful Sparrow Lets you roll your Ch'i in place of your dodge against a single ranged attack, by kicking something in the way of the shot. Costs 1 vigor. Downside: Not better than dodge for defending yourself. Upside: You can absolutely use this power to block shots aimed at your allies, and if it fails they still get to dodge normally. Pretty useless for one-on-one though.

Mind of Quicksilver Spend an action to copy someone else's chi power. Costs 3 strain and one action to learn their power for one round. Then you have to pay the cost of their power to use it. And the action. Probably need to pay the strain for keeping it around for another round, because you just spent two actions this round and how many do you think you'll get anyway. And one strain for maintaining the power itself. So that's 5 strain, plus the strain cost of the copied power, which is almost all of your strain for a minor effect. Only useful when you're fighting alongside or against an enlightened. Situational, expensive, bad.

Monkey goes to the mountain 3 strain. Roll C'hi, multiply by 2.5, jump that many yards. Wildly, wildly expensive. Also, it implies that a skilled, well trained martial artist can do an impressive jump three times. Won't let you act out a scene from Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger, but maybe lets you do one cut of action.

Palm of Prevention 2 strain. On a hit with a non-damaging attack, your opponent loses an action or two. Great if you're outnumbering a dangerous opponent. Expensive and bad if you're outnumbered or evenly matched. Small chance to make them run away crying.

River Flows Uphill 1 strain, lets you change the hit location of an attack that hits YOU. Super great for getting random crits to the head or gizzards to hit somewhere less lethal. Completely useless against called shots.

Seize the Pearl of Death 2 strain, lets you easily catch bullets with a Ch'i roll. Active defense like dodging, but much more reliable. You can throw the bullets right back as a free action, and they deal full damage--which means, ironically, the way a martial artist does the most damage is with a rifle. Yes, you can throw cannon balls back at people. Yes, that is awesome. No, it is useless against all forms of magic, including hexslinger charged shots.

Smoke Parts for Iron 3 strain, lets the martial artist punch targets normally immune to physical attacks. Costs 2 strain per round to maintain. Even an extremely vigorous martial artist can spend four rounds each day fighting ghosts. Meanwhile, the soldier is using an actual magic weapon (Cortez's saber, maybe) and is chopping chosts up all day long.

Ten Foot Punch 3 strain. Lets the martial artist make a single ranged unarmed attack, reaching about ten or twenty yards. Meanwhile, everyone else uses guns and doesn't spend 3 strain on every shot.

There are a few more, but I'm bored.

Reasons Enlightenment is excellent, well crafted gaming mechanical support

It stacks on top of Martial Artist, which is already a very robust choice. A martial artist can kick ass all day long, and enlightenment lets the martial artist layer a few bonus effects on top of their bread and butter punches and kicks. Plus, in an actual game the huckster, the shootist, and the original shaman are all going to cast, at most, two or three spells. The Enlightened guy also casts two or three spells as well--oriental themed spells. He'll heal all his wind in a fight in a bar, then later in the day blow most of his vigor harmonizing with the party to protect them from a stick of dynomite hurled at their feet. Finally, he'll catch a shell fired at him from a howitzer and throw it back at the team , and then strike a pose as they blow up. Maybe he uses a flying claw as a weapon--he doesn't have to pay strain to use it against targets within ten feet. And he doesn't have to pay vigor to be a ass kicking awesome oriental badass.

Reasons Enlightenment was clearly drawn on the wall in poo

What do you mean I can jump high twice a day? Oh, three times if I put a d10 in vigor. You think I'm made out of d10s? I need high strength, spirit, quickness, nimbleness--and if I want to raise a d8 to a d10 during play, that costs THIRTY GODDAMN EXP. Raising skills is one thing, but raising attributes is hard . Any build absolutely reliant on a high vigor is hard to use because vigor is not an easy attribute to put to work.

So I can do something moderately impressive twice a day. Nevermind that about half the combat options already exist for every tom, dick, and harry who picks up a gun. About half of the powers are incredibly marginal bonuses. The other half are all either wildly situational or need yet another skill at level 4 or 5... Flying Guillotine is a skill that costs 4 vigor to try to use, at a -6 penalty. Merciful Sparrow requires you to be in an area with rubbish on the ground. Flying Claw and Flying Crescent both let you turn melee weapons into mediocre ranged weapons. Any claims of enlightenment being more subtle than wearing a pig iron on your hip fly out the window when you walk around with a ten foot pole with a long iron chain and a scythe at the end.

Also the only thing worse than save or die powers are die powers. Flying Guillotine, as written, lets you one-shot Stone. He can't dodge if he doesn't have an action left, so wait for the round to wrap up and then cut his goddamn head off. Blammo, earth saved.

And being an enlightened martial artist is SO GODDAMN EXPENSIVE. You can't be that and, oh, sneaky. Or charming. Or an excellent athlete. Almost all of your points go into an arcane background that doesn't let you throw trains or punch dragons in half. You're a combat monster and nothing else, which does nothing to make a character compelling in a horror setting. By limiting a character's options to punch and kick, you're really crippling their ability to get involved in the setting.

I have profoundly mixed feelings on enlightenment. The powers just seem so--blah. The martial artist becomes exhausted after only seconds of fighting. And then I wonder if I'm just complaining that the relatively good game balance of the top end martial art powers only being useable once or twice a day ruins my verisimilitude , and how long it will be before I start posting on RPGnet about the realism of encounter powers.

I certainly wouldn't mind having a enlightened in a game I ran, but I certainly wouldn't play one. It would just be so goddamn frustrating, leaping up to the top of a tree to scout the surroundings for soldiers, and then leaping down and announcing it was time for me to take a six hour nap.

Blood Mages

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Let's finish up Deadlands so I can move on to Rolemaster .

Deadlands: Blood Mages!

Another thing Deadlands did right (Deadlands does a lot of things right) is that when they decided to cash in on this Cee Cee Gee thing that all the kids were playing, and make the events of the CCG canon with player performance at official tournaments deciding the course of the story, it all happened in one town off in the ass end of California. More importantly, the events of Doomtown had pretty much nothing to do with anything. Which meant that people who didn't play the CCG (like, oh, me) didn't miss out on setting important information!

We missed out on setting important information because they didn't bother to fucking publish it, instead. (Deadlands does a few things wrong, too)

Anyway, after the CCG storyline was over, Pinnacle released Doomtown or Bust.

This book summed up the general plot of the CCG and was an interesting setting splatbook for running a campaign in the town of the CCG, Gomorra. Who named Gomorra? They should change it, it can't be good for trade. It included the evil plan of the dastardly Whateley family, a group of inbred evil bankers who serve the demon Knicknevin and gain magic powers from their corrupt bloodline and human sacrifice. Most of them were black mages, their golden child Nicodemus was a huckster who always drew the hand he wanted because Knicknevin thought it was hilarious watching lesser demons lose at poker, and none of them were playable.

Then a year later they release The Black Circle: Unholy Alliance. It's mostly GM information about a secret clique. The first group in this circle is the Whateley family, the evil welsh bankers and blood mages who have tremendous magical influence but no real long term goals because their demon master has been killed. The second is Black River, the railroad run by Mina Devlin, best female supervillain ever. She and her witches are locked in the great rail war, the race to be the first company to build a railroad across the continent. She's also a pokemon trainer. And finally, there's Bayou Vermillion, another participant in the great rail war. The Bayou Vermillion company is led by Baron Lacroix, a giant black man with a skull painted on his face. Three guesses as to his favorite form of cheap labor! Also he was causing oil spills off the coast of Louisiana before it was cool.

But wait! Surely the reckoners have told both Mina Devlin and Baron Lacroix that if they don't win the rail war they'll be killed! How could they ever be in a serious alliance? And yes, the Black Circle is a crappy alliance, that can stay an alliance for maybe two months, but it's just stable enough to make life hard on the PCs.

Also helping the Circle not immoderately fall apart to infighting is the fact that it's basically run by the Cackler, who's best described as, "Stone but a bigger dick."

Anyway, Black Circle included rules for members of the Whatley family who looked at their frog-eyed, inbred relatives, down at their own webbed toes, and then at the pile of corpses out back, and decided being evil was bullshit. As PCs, you can no longer gain magical power from human sacrifice, and instead draw energy from your own blood to cause magical effects less flashy than those available to NPCs.

Arcane Background:  Blood Mage             3
Whateley Blood                             3

Blood Magic:  5                            5
Eleven points. Dirt cheap! You can pick up the Apt Pupil edge for 2 points to get an extra spell if you want to go full on blood magus, and there's certainly a good selection of spells for them. Still, the primary advantage of blood magic is that you can layer it onto anything else. A blood mage / newspaper reporter for example, and you've got an investigative character who has a very powerful edge.

Blood Magic uses the strain rules like Martial Arts does, but most of the powers cost much less strain. Not only does this mean that a Blood Mage can use his powers more often, but it means he doesn't have to rely on a high Vigor the way a enlightened martial artist does. Also, since his powers tend NOT to be full on combat powers with a per-round cost, in play you'll find yourself using them a lot.

The downside is that every time you want to use a spell, you need to cut yourself. Not only is this high profile in a setting where you want to hide witchcraft, but it causes wind damage. Stacked with the relatively low combat utility of blood magic and that you take wind damage in combat naturally from being hit, and this means that Blood Mages are really, really bad at full on warfare.

They get a really rugged selection of spells, though. The standard issue protection knockoff that costs strain per round is called Balk , they get a bog-standard crappy heal effect called Cauterize that replaces wounds with bitchin scars, they get a shitty attack spell called Crimson Fire that costs 5 strain to do as much damage as a rifle, a turn undead and monster called Expel , all the standards. But they get some really unique effects, not powerful but extremely useful and reliable. Stacked with the fact that Blood Magic has no chance to explode in your face and drive you mad, and it becomes a very, very useful for a huge variety of situations.

Decompose ages objects by the decade, good for weakening doors, destroying bodies, or making counterfit things. Necrology gives a full autopsy report, complete with the corpse's name and closest living relative. Pox and Blood Curse are good old traditional debilitating curses. Window to the Soul lets you spot mages, lies, and the undead by staring into someone's eyes. Soul Sight lets the mage look into the hunting ground from the real world, and see invisible or non-existant creatures. Shallow Grave creates undead minions. Scuttle lets the mage move at full speed while prone, climb walls like a spider, and hide under dressers or crawl between bars. Heartseeker enchants a knife for a minute or two, supplementing the mage's weak melee skills.

Another interesting spell is Lightning Rod . Only one strain, and an easy cast, and any spell being cast hits the Blood Mage instead of the original target.

But by far the best spell available to Blood Mages is Faustian Bargain . By cutting themselves seriously--actually causing a wound, not just wind loss--they can regain some of their strain. Pay your way in blood, and you can keep slingin' spells all day long.

Creepy, play effective, they don't overwhelm the other party members, they all tend to have a 'normal' skill set, and they have awesome hats, the Whateley Blood Mages are a great addition to Deadlands.

Big finish up next: Black Magic! The shit that players can never use.

Black Magic

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Black Magic

This one will be short because black magic is dead simple .

There are a list of spells in the Marshal's Handbook. They all come with no flavor--evil mages all cast Bolt O' Doom, but the boneless indians beneath the Mississippi shoot bolts of river mud, while the gold filled zombie preacher haunting an old mission spits bullets of molten gold at people.
All spells are automatically cast successfully, because the Reckoners look after their own. If it's an attack there's a to-hit or a contested spirit roll or something, but the spell is cast successfully no matter what.
Individual black wizards may have special rules, but they are also always super simple.
Players can never ever ever ever ever learn them, shut up.

Almost visionary in its own way, Pinacle was a decade ahead of WotC when it came to NPC abilities. The evil spellcasters have their own spells, which they cast independantly of player abilities. They don't have complicated mechanics to keep track of, because that shit's annoying. They don't have a chance of giving their evil little speech, casting flight, and then falling over with a brain aneurysm to a bad roll. You don't track their strain and give them bonus vigor based on the ambient fear level.

When the evil flying, hex-slingin' witch needs to fly away, she just does . No explanations. No excuses.

A few of the NPC groups do have unique rules. Mostly this is just background stuff... the Whateleys have to practice blood sacrifice to cast spells. At this table, this means when you search a Whateley basement it's full of corpses, and when you meet a Whateley blood mage for a showdown, his hands are covered in blood and he's licking the skull of some freshly murdered Texas Ranger or something. There arn't rules for tracking the blood volume and average viscosity of their magical energy, because that would be a goddamn pain in the ass, especially considering NPC power levels are always nailed at a certain point--namely, exactly where the GM wants them.

The best example of bonus rules are the Wichita Witches, the fel minions of the dastardly Mina Devlin. Each witch knows the spells of any other witch who happens to be within fifty feet, and for every three witches nearby she gets a +1 to all her spell levels, to a maximum of 5. This means two things... one, players will find divide and conquor tactics not only useful but downright essential to dealing with the witches, and two, thirteen of them will wipe the floor with just about anything, even if individually they're extremely weak with one or two spells each at an extremely low level. But both of these arise naturally from a very simple special ability that doesn't give the GM a lot of shit to keep track of.


New Shamans

New Anahuac
Blood Mages
Hexslingers (They rise once they start gaining huckster hexes)

Old Shamans
Old Anahuac

--Best Worst Best--
Mad Scientists

So, yeah. There's no real baseline for how strong a caster should be. The rules tend to be scattered across multiple splats, and if the GM shows a moment's inattention a player might roll up with a super sayjin instead of a cowboy. But you can't argue with the imagination shown, and the five main caster mechanics (Huckster, Enlightened, Mad Scientist, Shaman, Blessed) show four imaginative, easy to play with systems and one boring generic 'because god says so' set of rules. Deadlands is a crunch system, to be sure... it's difficult to make a wizard who isn't directly supported by the of the rule systems... but with a gloomy, adversarial game master keeping the PCs in line, wizards and mundanes alike can find lots to do and a roughly even power level.

Deadlands is amazing and Homeless Poster needs to get to talking about the setting, goddammit.

The Unity

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

I've been a pretty fierce Deadlands apologist. The setting is great, I've said! The magical powers are interesting and the mechanics dovetail with the setting! Combat and non-combat characters live in harmony! Ignore that stupid crap, stick with it! It's amazing! The metaplot isn't the problem! It's all the adventure's fault!

How bad do these adventures get?

Deadlands: Hell on Earth: The Unity

This adventure is set on Hell on Earth, part two of three of the deadlands system. The metaplot of deadlands is actually pretty solid--a war fought across two timelines where heroes struggle to stop a remorseless, inhuman evil that turns our fears into monsters and sends zombie superman back in time to kill our greatest warriors before they accomplish anything. The Unity is another bridge adventure--set at the end of the Hell on Earth arc. After the heroes have played a part in saving everyone in the twisted, Mad Max future, everything comes to a head and there's a tremendous battle between the beleagued forces of good and the many, many armies of evil that surround them--including the mutants hell-bent on genocide, General Throckmorton's army of zombie cyborg war machines (like tanks, but with flight and darkness powers), several honest to goodness Reckoners, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Along with the return of the fabled savior of the mutants, there is no reason this shouldn't be a pants-shittingly amazing adventure.

Part the First: Getting the Adventure Rolling

First, this is the end of the Hell on Earth campaign setting. So, obviously, you can't just grab a stack of pregenerated characters and run 'em through--they need to be tied to the world, involved in the goings-on of the game world. The adventure says a good baseline is to have run the party through the adventures, The Boise Horror and Urban Renewal first... this will mean they're tight with the leaders of the Iron Alliance, AKA the last remaining human culture of any measurable size not run by sociopaths. So, to get an idea of the kind of heroic accomplishments Deadlands HOE assumes you'll achieve, let's look at those.

There's also a few sidebars about running the adventure with an evil party or a not famous party, which basically can be summed up with the phrase, "Really? You know this is supposed to be a heroic game, right? Well, just throw them into the first scene and then have everyone super impressed with them and start treating them like heroes because of their performance there."

The Boise Horror

The Templar are a really interesting group--they're basically paladins, wielding magic swords. Magic artifacts are indestructible enough, and humans are rare enough that basically every member of the Templar can have a historically significant, magic sword, and they work in teams of one or two to slay demons. But there aren't very many templar, and most survivors in the deadlands are jerks, so they have to find out who's worthy of their assistance. So they dress up as beggers and beg for food, to see if anyone feeds them. Then they shoot themselves in the foot, stagger into town, and cry pitiously that raiders are attacking the nearby town of Goodsprings, to see if the town grabs rifles and sets out to save their fellow man, or if they just slam the gates and wet themselves. Then they cast off their robes, say, "Ha ha! I was a templar all along!" and laugh as everyone falls over themselves offering them gifts to please, please help.

This system worked fine for a while, but eventually the templars schismed between two groups--the white templar who would help anyone, but demand payment for services rendered from morally bankrupt towns, and the black templar. The black templar traditionally execute the mayor, hand out guns, and say the townfolk are going to earn their assistance by leading the charge on a nearby raider camp slash monster den slash mutant church.

The white templar think the black templar are violent sociopaths, and that the world needs genuine heroes, not opportunistic mercenaries. The black templars think the white templar are hopelessly, dangerously naive, and that no hero should die protecting sinveling cowards who aren't willing to risk their lives to help others. At first the two groups coexisted well enough, but they were all close friends, which meant that whenever a white templar died protecting a town full of cowards who had been kidnapping nearby survivalists to feed to the vampire den outside of town, a good friend of a black templar (and goddamn hero) was dead, and the black templar thought it was the cowards' fault. So the black templar would round them up and drive them into mutant camps to earn their forgiveness by dying to protect others, and the white templar would be pissed that the sacrifice of their friend to protect this village had been made meaningless. So the white templar would set out to stop that black templar asshole forcing screaming, crying civilians to carry a gun into a radioactive monster-filled hellhole, and---

Well, by the time the campaign is set, it's gotten pretty bad. I think this is a great setup--two factions in a bitterly antagonistic world, disagreeing on how to handle a bad situation. No right answer (do you lay down your life to save people unwilling to save others?) and the highest stakes imaginable, because the fifty-odd templar are some of the few people on earth who have a chance of defeating the most powerful monsters, who unchecked will just wander about eating entire settlements. This is a great setup for heroes--a real problem, esacerbated by human emotion, no 'right' side, and if they can bring the two sides together, they can do a lot of good in a world that sorely needs it--plus, the world's most famous badasses will all tell everyone how great the heroes are!

The Boise Horror is the adventure where the two warring factions of the templars are reunited. This reunion isn't through a recognition of a superior moral code--no concessions are made to either side. The fallen aren't avenged, and a new plan for how to manage the limited resources of the templars isn't made. Instead, a single demon is defeated and a single magic sword is retrieved. This sword is retrieved by an NPC, a flavorless, boring white templar who lost it. It turns out that the black/white schism was caused by the demon, so when he retrieves his lost ancestral sword, all the black templar switch and become white templar, instantly deciding that dying to protect sniveling cowards is just and right.

The party's role in this adventure is to help the world's most flavorless paladin defeat demons. They do no negotiation, no serious investigating, and deal less damage than he does in combat.

What a waste! Why not an adventure where a templar PC becomes the guy to reunite the factions? Why not have an adventure where a non-templar PC winds up in charge, because they recognize neither side would ever be able to submit to the other, so they need a third party to take over--but that third party has to prove themselves of the very highest moral calibur? Why not anything at all other than some NPC no one cares about gets a sword no one cares about and suddenly the very real problems the two factions have with each other are gone?

Do you guys want more about the Boise Horror, or for me to move on to Urban Renewal?

The Boise Horror 1

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Maxwell Lord posted:

A postapocalyptic western horror game spun off from a period western horror game ends in an adventure which includes the Space Rocket Yamato by way of WH40K.

Our hobby, ladies and gentlemen.

God bless it! I'll fight any man who says the problem with Deadlands is that your cowboy winds up fighting psychic space zombies on the Yamato in the future.

Deadlands: Hell on Earth: The Boise Horror

Backstory! Maybe this should have been in the Templar book, but I guess it's a good idea to have this information in the adventure where it's important superfluous.

Shortly after the bombs fell, there was a man named Simon. He had a magic sword and a tabard he made with a cross on it. He, and four of his companions, spent weeks tracking a demon who could possess people, change shape, and modify memories. Eventually they met an old woman, "Granny Butterworth," who told them the demon was named Baphomet, was a genuine from-hell demon, and that one of the heroes would die if Simon made the wrong call at crunch time. Also she fortold that Simon's good deeds would turn to trash if he let his companion die.

Anyway, the heroes eventually find Baphomet, who was possessing a few dozen people with guns. During the fight Simon cuts everyone possessed in half with his sword. This includes a little girl. Then one of Simon's friends gets hurt, and Simon steps over him to cut the demon into bits instead of laying hands on his friend.

I guess he was a magical paladin templar at this point? Good for him.

Anyway, between cutting a girl in half and not healing his buddy in the fight, Simon let doubt into his own mind--and because he felt doubt and guilt in all that killin', Baphomet was able to hide in his brain.

Anyway, now a monster stalks Boise, Idaho... no one's ever seen it, because Baphomet apparently has a 100% kill rate. Baphomet hasn't used his position hiding in the head templar's brain able to appear anywhere nearby and kill nearly anything to stop the Templars from forming--and as a result, the greatest heroic organization in the world was founded by Simon, a man with a malevolent demon in his head, a demon that can possess people and erase memories. Which makes me wonder why no one has gotten possessed, collected all those magic swords, and jumped off a cliff with them.

Anyway! Out in Boise, poor waster settlers are getting possessed and being made to tear themselves apart, alive. Because this is right near where Templar high command is, everyone thinks the templars are kind of bitches... if they can't stop whatever's tearing people to bits, what good are they for the rest of the world? This is an excellent question that is never answered.

Meanwhile, the city of Junkyard is in trouble.


This is the same Junkyard that adjoins Salt Lake City back in the core Deadlands setting. Basically, a hundred years back the Mormons started bitching about the ludicrous amount of polution coming out of Junkyard. Dr. Darius Hellstromme, the world's greatest mad scientist, responded by building a giant dome over the city with electrical fields to catch all the clouds, because he was the world's greatest mad scientist. Then he put an airport on top of this dome, again because he was the world's greatest mad scientist. And when the ghost rock nuclear exchange happened, it turned out the force fields absorbed the force and radiation of atomic warheads, again because he was the world's greatest mad scientist. Today Junkyard is the last remaining intact city, although if you touch the dome you instantly die of ghost radiation. The good guys live there, mostly because there's nowhere else to live.

They've got problems--foremost, General Throckmorton, who runs the Combine, which is basically a collection of pre-apocalypse war machines, almost all of which are run by a zombie brain. Basically, grab a harrowed, the free willed zombies in setting, cut off the body, and replace body with a tank. Besides the armies of tanks and fighter planes and cyborgs, he also has a lot of normal humans, basically wasteland raiders only better equipped.

So, Ike, leader of Junkyard, has decided the best way to stop the combine from rolling in, killing everyone, and stealing all the technology left in Dr. Hellstromme's laboratories in Junkyard is to ally himself with everyone else who isn't an evil shit. In short, the templars, the chamber, and the schismatic cult of doom. All nice guys! The chamber is a collection of junkers, who are really cool guys but pretty unimportant to this adventure so fuck 'em. The schismatic cult of doom are mutants who see themselves as the natural evolution of mankind, but DON'T want to kill all humans--this is as opposed to the dogmatic cult of doom, which thinks evolution needs a little prod. And the Templar are the topic of the adventure.

How will Ike bring together these three wildly different groups, each with their own agenda and personal problems, to the negotiating table? Could one, small group of heroes be the key to

oh no, sorry, he did that already.

All the good-guys are going to have that summit.

The Actual Adventure Begins!

The adventure starts with Simon preparing to go to the summit. The PCs are his trusted personal assistants. Do the players not have an in with the head honcho of the wasteland's greatest heroic organization? The adventure suggests you fix that by running a different adventure.

Now it describes Boise, heart of virtue. This entire town is under a ghost rock maelstrom, a perpetual storm where pure evil exists in a self-perpetuating sink of monsters and nightmares. The Templar have mostly cleaned it up, though, so when you walk into the maelstrom you see a pretty nice town and some surrounding farmland, although the sky has a very dramatic whirlpool effect if you look up. The fear level is 3, which is damn low for the Hell on Earth setting--again, the NPC Templar have done a lot of work cleaning this part of the world up.

There are some nice things here in town--most notably, one of the vendors is selling bones of a dead Templar. Owning a bone of Johannes Faulk gives you a +2 to ALL OPPOSED ROLLS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE FOREVER. Wrasslin' a snake demon? Trying to seduce a lady? Resisting mental influence? Fuck yes a femur will help with that! Apparently if the Templar find out this guy's selling these bones they'll be pissed--me, I'd weaponize the fuck out of that corpse. Understand that these scraps of bone are literally some of the strongest artifacts in Deadlands. +2 to anything that's opposed---that is to say, anything difficult---is just absurd. A party that doesn't deck itself out in bones is a party that hates success. Why some random not famous Templar's rib has more magical mojo that Cortez's sword, Mina Devlin's diary, or the golden spectacles of Joseph Smith is never explained.

There's descriptions of the temple, the graveyard, the quarters, bla bla bla. Who cares, it's stupid. Nothing notable is at any of these locations, just imagine a generic encampment from Fallout 3 and move on with your life.

Anyway, Simon calls the party to his side and thanks them for their assistance

What? You're supposed to run an adventure BEFORE this one? Yeah, fuck that noise, they can't be bothered to put that on page one, I can't be bothered to wind this rabbit hole back any further. Long story short, the Reckoners have made it super clear that any Templar can use any infernal power they want, for free. This is because using infernal powers makes you evil. Occasionally a Templar falls to temptation, one went nuts and began hanging people and killing other Templar. The party has to hunt his ass down, kill his army of evil bats, his second army of evil bats, his army of wasteland bikers, and his loyal Anti-Templar minions. Then you stab him with a magic sword, which as I've said before, the Templar have no shortage of.

To get the specific magic sword you need to kill him, you, and I'm not making this up, return to Templar HQ and borrow it from their magic sword collection.

Modeen the Destroyer, commander of the Anti-Templar and all around nice guy.

This adventure is pretty drab, and is mostly the party rolling about the wasteland killing bats and bandits. There are some helpless villagers to save, who gives a fuck. There's only one notable section.


For once, we're turning you loose to kill off one of the Big Bad guys. We've got even bigger tales to tell of the Templar, and Modeen's actions in this adventure have already served their purpose. If he dies, that's fine.

Two things.

One, Modeen's 'actions' are mostly him rolling about the wilderness with his bats and his bikers and hanging people. For a force of ultimate evil, he sure doesn't have much going on.

Two, not killing the badguys is bullshit. I ran a Deadlands game. The party killed Baron La Croix, James Biren, Robbards of Smith and Robbards, and the younger Stone. Player agency, bitch! It rules!

Anyway, back to The Boise Horror , which I am theoretically talking about. Simon thanks the players for deep sixing The Destroyer, talks about how important it was for you to stop his deep and feindish plans of hangin' dudes from trees, and then tells you you have a secret mission with great importance. This secret mission, which he does not and will not explain, but which he does natter on about for four paragraphs of canned text, is to tag along when Simon goes to the Junkyard conference to talk to Ike about maybe starting trade relations and combining military power. The players will not negotiate for the Templar, and probably will not be invited to listen in, but Simon doesn't want to make the trip alone because he's in ill health.

Although the players are not told that their extremely important mission is an escort from one of the safest places on the planet to another one of the safest places on the planet, an NPC is provided... a young Templar named Carlton. Carlton's role in the story is to guess enthusiastically that it might be a better adventure, to attack General Throckmorton's HQ and save the world, or to eliminate the remaining anti-templars, or to retrieve an artifact that would let the Templar fight the four horsemen directly. Basically, anything as long as it sounds more radical than the truth.

Things actually start happening

Of course, Simon has nothing for the PCs to do , so they go to sleep. That night, they're awakened by the sound of a man screaming in agony. It's Warren Moran, completely generic citizen who gets one scream out just as he tears out his own throat! The party shows up to investigate, but are beaten to the scene by detective Fred Biletnikoff, librarian of the Templar. Fred Biletnikoff has been doing investigation into the strange murders in the area, and thinks the demon Baphomet is responsible! He's also identified the demon's MO, and was able to find the body seconds after Moran died. Then he fled the scene, after verifying there was no monster to tear the guy to bits and that it was almost certainly possession.

The next morning Simon reveals his epic quest for the party... to tag along when he goes to Junkyard to attend the important character conference. The PCs are, of course, not invited into the meeting, but he needs bodyguards and his dozens of elite magical warrior subordinates are all busy fighting monsters, saving settlements, and retrieving magical swords.

End of chapter one.

Party accomplishments thus far: Went to sleep, heard a scream.

Fred Biletnikoff accomplishments thus far: Identified the demon, a killer who everyone else thinks died decades ago. Figured out the MO, predicted the next killing. Found evidence the monster has no physical form. Made connections between Simon's flagging health and the demon's appearances.

The Boise Horror 2

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Deadlands: Hell on Earth: The Boise Horror

Maybe I was unkind with the summary of player actions at the end of chapter one. They are allowed--nay, encouraged , to do some investigating. But they're not allowed to find out anything important. If they blow the doors off some rolls, they find out that the footprints on the scene (Fred's) are not the murderer's, which eliminates a possible red herring but brings no-one any closer to solving anything.

Chapter Two

At dusk the next day, Carlton the overly excited, Biletnikoff the protagonist, Franklin the shitty detective, and Simon the secretly evil meet up with the party and head out on their journey to Junkyard. It takes everyone six hours of hard travel through grueling wasteland conditions, while keeping their identities a secret (mostly because Templar love disguises almost as much as magic swords) and staying on high alert. Nothing attacks or interferes, though, and the troop reaches the randevu point without incident. Simon is old and sick, but preservers.

This is where they introduce Simon's stats. First, there's a half-page of explanation that Simon should under no circumstances die during this adventure... Baphomet isn't going to kill his golden goose, and no random fluke of grenade scatter should off him. It also warns against letting this NPC dominate the story--fair enough! That would be bad.

Then we get his stats. He has every Templar power at max rank, every Templar gift at max rank, near superhuman charisma, spiritual strength, intelligence, nimbleness, quickness, and a vigor that exceeds human limitations, about thirty points worth of advantages, and a magic sword that gives +6 to hit and damage and heals Simon with every blow. His simple rags conceal infantry armor suitable for a front line soldier, and his wind is above the human maximum.

But be sure not to let him take the spotlight off of the REAL heroes! [sub](To be fair the text says the statblock doesn't show the fact that his ailing health means this overland journey is doing a number on Simon. I'd complain that they gave a weak old man with failing health a vigor of d12+2, but then everyone'd make fun of me in grognards.txt for caring about verisimilitude.)

After six hours of walking and two hours of waiting, the party's ride arrives... a 170 yard long dirigible, the most subtle and inconspicuous vehicle available to the Templar. The 40 yard long, two story cabin hanging from the frame blends seamlessly into the sky with the help of dozens of enormous searchlights, and the banks of cannons and missile launchers make the giant sky battleship look unimportant. Not only is this the second largest aircraft in the world, it's name, SKY RAIDER 1, is only written in twenty foot tall letters twice--once on each side.

SKY RAIDER 1 is captained by Howard Phelps, who cheerfully greets Simon by name and gets confused when Simon initiates a phrase-response sign countersign security procedure. He apologizes for being a dumbass, then tells the party (and all the nearby sky pirates and Templar) that he's a shit spy who instantly trusts the party because, when confronted with a super-heavy air carrier twice the length of a football field, they didn't simply open fire . They must be friends!

My Advice to Simon

Simon. Buddy. Pal. You are literally the greatest hero in setting, I am sure you have saved the life of at least one Junker. Find a bombed out old Cadillac, maybe one with some nice chrome trim. Get your Junker buddy to conjure forth the soul of the Cadillac to possess the body of the Cadillac. Replace the engine with a ghost rock reactor, in which case you'll be able to drive from Boise to Junkyard for about a pound of ghost rock. Conversely, put in a spook-juice reactor, which is even EASIER to get fuel for, plus you can drink the fuel if you ever want to get pissed. Also have him put some lasers on the hood of your car. They won't be as dangerous as you are with your magic sword, and your back seat full of Templar with more magic swords, but magic lasers are rad as fuck.

Fucking drive to Junkyard.

You won't kill yourself hoofing it over magical death terrain, you can take a handful of bodyguards and just ditch all these dumbass sky pirates, you won't be dealing with a captain who just runs his mouth constantly about his secret missions, and most importantly, you won't be riding the highest profile vehicle in existence . Even if your car had chrome fins and spinners, I think less people will know about your movements than if you take the most famous, largest, most heavily armed airship in the world.

Back to the plot!

The Airship crashes like a bitch

Yeah, we knew this was coming. See, General Throckmorton isn't stupid. He's been keeping an eye on Junkyard, and has seen that Ike is kicking up security for some event... and that representatives from the Chamber and the Schismatic Cult of Doom have arrived, but the event hasn't occurred yet. Also SKY RAIDER 1 has flown towards Boise! I wonder if it's getting Templar .

The players get a grand tour of the SKY RAIDER 1, so they learn just how amazing and invulnerable it is. There's three pages of two column text describing all the facilities and armor and weapons and on-board aircraft are available. After the players wade through all that shit, three hours after the players takeoff, the airship is attacked by several zombie fighter aircraft, which are like modern fighter-planes, only they have magic powers too. Also Throckmorton can knock out the skyship's radar and prevent missile locks, so the sky pirates are boned. Fortunately he wants to capture Simon alive, so the SKY RAIDER isn't simply destroyed, and there's a brief firefight between the raptors full of cyber-zombies and the heroic sky pirates.

The heroes are invited to take part in this fight if any of them happen to be pilots. If they made their characters for the 99% of the time that a campaign won't be set in the air. If they ARE pilots, they're more than welcome to leap into the cockpit of an ultralight and fight figher-jets. Their guns are worthless, but each plane has a single fifty pound bomb that would work! Now just drop a bomb on a moving jet .

Somehow the pirates manage to drive off the enemy aircraft by, er, bombing them, but not before several cybernetic zombies are dropped onto the envelope. The pirates split up to fight off the cyber-zombies--the heroes get to fight off a couple of really nasty enemies. This is the first real fight of the adventure. When the party clears the first wave of enemies, more are dropped onto SKY RAIDER 1 from above--yes, this is a fight that can't be won.

Anyway, the sky pirates suggest escaping the fighter jets and flying robot zombies by rappelling off of the airship and to the ground. SURELY we will be safe there, as opposed to fifty feet higher up! This is a fighting retreat situation... someone has to stay behind and fight the automatons while the PCs and Templar escape. The adventure suggests Dennis, a Templar who I honestly do not remember being mentioned previously in the adventure, but if a PC wants to die a heroic death while everyone else shimmies down ropes to the safety of the ground below, go for it.

Once the heroes and Simon reach the ground, the raptors and automatons give up and fly away. None of the pirates saw the PCs and Templar leave, so no one bothers to pick the party up.

Now it's time for a four day march across the desert, with Simon cheerfully telling stories about past glories. In practice, this is an opportunity to introduce the story of how Simon defeated Baphomet so many years ago, but let one of his closest friends die in the rush to slay the demon. He doesn't mention bisecting the little girl.

Fun fact: One of the NPC Templar, Franklin, has been replaced by Arnold Jackson, a combine spy zombie with the ability to change his appearance. He travels with the party, getting basic facts about the Templar wrong because no one bothered to give the shapeshifting assassin information about the group he would be infiltrating, and he's missing some pretty basic information--like, oh, Templar have magic powers. He's literally unaware that the Templar can do things like heal the injured. After four days of travel, right outside of Junkyard, he receives radio orders to kidnap Simon. He tries to kidnap him by sapping him with a stun shot, slinging him over one shoulder, and legging it. A brief fight erupts, but Arnold can't be taken alive or tortured for information--he dies in glorious, relentless combat, but under no circumstances hurts Simon.

Things the Sky Pirates have accomplished: Driven off enormous military assault with crappy equipment and iron testicles. Killed dozens of automatons. Traveled to Junkyard in about half a day.

Things the Players have accomplished: Bailed out of a crashing airship that subsequently failed to crash. Killed two or three automatons. Stopped a lone, ill-informed, unsupported zombie with no plan from kidnapping Simon. Traveled to Junkyard in about half a week.

The Boise Horror 3

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

The Boise Horror, Chapter Three

Not Much Happens

When we last left the party, they had defeated a lone cyborg with no plan and no intentions to kill anyone. Now they're right outside of Junkyard, about to enter the city that always glows, at about 3AM because Simon insists on traveling at night.

A short distance outside the gates, they're ambushed by Combine soldiers. These soldiers are disguised as wasteland raiders, but they've got night vision goggles, kevlar armor, and assault rifles. There are twice as many raiders as members of the posse, including Simon and Biletnikoff, so if there are four players there are twelve ambushing soldiers shooting at the party from an elevated position where they have cover, and the two NPC Templar have no ranged weapons more effective than semiautomatic pistols. These soldiers aren't elite or anything, but they're still twelve reasonably good shots spraying exposed pedestrians down with automatic weapon fire. This is a really, really good place to TPK.

Oh, all combine equipment is rigged to explode if non-combine soldiers use them, so no loot for you.

Assuming the party's combat monster defeats the raiders, the party can walk up to the Junkyard gate, where bored Junkyard Militia guards have been watching the fight. If asked why they didn't do shit, they just cite policy not to get involved in wasteland altercations, which pisses Simon off thoroughly--White Templar and Black Templar basically agree on one thing, and that's it's everyone's duty to help a human defend himself from an aggressor. Were he a Black Templar, Simon would immediately execute the militia sergeant and march the rest of them off into the wilderness to find death or glory eliminating a clutch of were-elephants or something, but instead he just grumbles.

Once the guards realize who the party is (people they thought died in the SKY RAIDER 1 fight) the party gets fast-tracked past security, getting expediated passage through the lines, a quick scan to make sure none of them are secretly cyborgs (and if they are, an interview) and finally a personal welcome from Ike Taylor, leader of Junkyard. Then the party retires to the Junkyard Hilton, the nicest hotel available, and are given tickets to see the Skullchucker game--basically basketball, but you don't have to dribble the skull and you're expected to use your cybernetic attachments to non-lethally disable the other team. These attachments include jackhammers and buzzsaws.

That night (I guess the next night? So the party arrives and does nothing in Junkyard for a day) there's a terrible scream. The Boise Horror has struck again, making a man with a chainsaw hand cut himself to pieces. The party can follow the screams and maybe fast talk their way into investigating the crime scene before a cop chases them off, examines the crime scene for thirty seconds, and then blames it on CHUDS.

Biletnikoff also investigates the screams. He was the first on the scene, and left before anyone else got there, because he's apparently the goddamn Batman.

Things the party achieved this chapter: Killed a bunch of random dudes.

Things anyone else achieved this chapter: Baphomet killed a guy, I guess.

The Boise Horror 4

posted by Mystic Mongol Original SA post

Evil Mastermind posted:

The problem was that they seemed to have the whole history arc of the setting plotted out, and were more concerned with showing said arc instead of making sure it was fun for the PCs. (c.f. "The Unity", which is tied in my mind for "lowest point of the entire line" with the end of the Lost Colony Companion.)

Really! I actually felt the end of the Lost Colony Companion was a high point in the series after years of amusement park ride adventures, and I look forward to your contrasting viewpoint if I make it that far.

The Boise Horror

Guess what, Chapter 4 is the end

Let's wrap this shit up.

First, it's time for the goodguy confrence, which is probably the high point of the adventure, even if the players don't have shit to do during it. The various factions meet with Ike in a building just crawling with Junkyard militia to discuss working together to stop the Combine. Ike says he'll do it, the Collective says they'll do it, the Schismatic Cult of Doom says they'll help, then Simon gets to talk.

He gives a long rambling speech about how the Combine is evil, and needs to be stopped, but after a while switches over to talking about how wasteland raiders are evil, and need to be stopped. The only difference is how many guns they have, and if the road gangs had military hardware they'd be as bad as the Combine. Then he says that Junkyard could totally be hunting down and executing thieves and robbers in the waste. Ike says that no, that would be impractical, he's got a city full of people to protect and he can only do that by setting very clear borders--and if that means bandits can chill just outside those borders and rob people, that's unfortunate but that's life, and anyway if everyone doesn't band together to stop the Combine everyone will be too dead to care about thieves. Simon gets real angry at this attitude.

Simon posted:

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."

Everyone looks confused at this, because no one has the faintest clue what the hell he means. Simon leaves, Biletnikoff chases after him, and Nik asks the party to see if maybe they can convince Simon to help save the world.

Simon's pissed because Junkyard's failing to live up to the Templar code of ethics, which can be summed up as, "If you see someone fighting to defend themselves from monsters, fucking help them you shit." It's a fine code, and Junkyard absolutely doesn't live up to it, bowing to the political realities of needing the trade and occasional militia protection of armed thieves to keep the city safe from the army of soldiers trying to break in and steal all of Hellstromme's inventions. It's probably the only really well thought through part of the adventure--Simon's got real beef with the Junkyard, which is completely unable to demonstrate the basic human chivalry both Black and White Templar demand from anyone who needs their help. It'll take a lot of work to get these two sides to see eye to eye, even though they're both good guys--it's this fractured good guys setting that Deadlands is so good at.

Unfortunately, the problem will be resolved with a fight against an unrelated demon.

So, party goes to argue with Simon about helping save the last remaining city. If they're convincing, they can get Simon to go back to the negotiating table to debate with Ike some more. if they're not convincing, they simply spend several hours butting heads with the stubborn Templar. Either way, the rest of the day plays out and Simon eventually falls asleep from exhaustion. The players have accomplished nothing this chapter, by the way.

That night, there's another murder mystery. Someone locks himself into a broom closet with the only keeps to it and kills himself gruesomely. Fortunately for the old man, he dies of a heart attack before he can tear himself to bits, so he suffers less than the other victims did. Players can investigate (and learn there's basically no way anyone else killed the guy), then the cops show up and chase the players away.

Next day, more good guy summit, which is interrupted about an hour in when the Combine attacks. They've set up a distraction to draw guards away, and replaced other guards with combine soldiers, so they basically control the hotel. First the players know about the attack is when the Drone Cyborg fires a few gas grenades into the room, and the two Automatons shoot up Dr. Ray (representative of the Collective) and Rexing (representative of the Schismatic Cult). The players get a fight against ten trained soldiers, two automatons (big scary robots) and a drone, a bigger scarier robot.

After two or three rounds of fight, Simon decides to get involved and cuts an automaton in half with his sword. Automatons explode when killed. This explosion deals 6d20 damage in a system where 30 damage kills most people. So the players are really badly messed up and probably have to rely on armor and spend a handful of fate chips to not TPK on the spot. I hope they didn't spend too many chips not dying from the automatic weapon fire of thirteen dangerous opponents! The drone grabs the prone form of Simon, and rushes off with him--the other automaton and the solders have all been wiped out by the explosion.

The only survivors of the conference are Lary Rexing the doomsayer, who uses his magic to heal the party, Ike Taylor and his bodyguard, and finally Biletnikoff, who despite being a feeble old man with no combat skills wasn't super hurt by the grenade to the face.

Ike asks the party to go get Simon back... he can't send his guards because right now, it looks like a lot of his guards are secretly combine soldiers. Biletnikoff hands the party Simon's +6 sword to them (a magic sword that heals a user equal to damage dealt, this is an absurdly good item) and asks them to hurry.

The only shortcut open to the party is if they happened to learn about Buck masters during one of the many previous fart about in town periods they had nothing to do in. He helps them make tracking rolls to find their way through the subway system slash sewers beneath Junkyard. The trip through the sewers is pretty simple... make tracking rolls, admire the beautiful subway graffiti, and get attacked by Moorlocks. Six times. At a minimum. Each attack has three more Moorlocks than there are party members, and are almost guaranteed successful ambushes. At least they've got crappy weapons.

Finally the party reaches the secret Combine base deep beneath the city. Everyone is dead! The automatons are leaking blood from every joint, the guards who had chips in their heads have exploded heads, the guards without chips have been torn to pieces and strewn about like confetti. The party arrives in time to watch the Drone rip it's own head off. Phelps, the mastermind behind the whole attack and kidnapping of Simon, is vibrating in the corner. As the party watches, he explodes into a spray of blood and circuits.

Simon is standing in the middle of the room.

Baphomet posted:

Ah, more playthings. I have hidden too long in this mortal shell. I'd forgotten how good it was to exercise my full power!

Simon turns into Baphomet, a big goat demon. Then the demon's face turns back into Simon's.

Simon posted:

I've been played a fool for years. I can see now the monster has been hiding in my body and ravaging the innocent. Now, it wants to make a mockery of everything I've stood for.
My anger let the beast into my soul. I can't undo what has been done, but I can do one thing.
I will hold the monster here with me. When it dies this time, it dies for good. Now--it falls to you to end this once and for all!

The demon's face turns back into Simon's. Then there's a fight. Baphomet doesn't do very much damage, compared to, oh, dozens of men with automatic weapons. He also gets bonuses to evade ranged attacks, but since his weakness is a supremely powerful magic sword the party just got, it hardly matters. Basically if the party didn't wipe fighting all those automatons or those packs of Moorlocks they're not going to die here. Baphomet is slain, hooray.

There's a lot of guns here, but most of it belongs to the Combine, which means it will explode if the players try to take it. If the players take stolen militia weapons, Ike wants them back when you hit the surface.

Moorlocks attack on the way out, too.

Biletnikoff greets the heroes when they reach the surface, and reminds them not to tell anyone what happened down there--Simon's name brings hope to many, better for him to die fighting the Combine than be killed for secretly being a demon. A Templar named Jo shows up to take over negotiating for the Templar... she approves of the alliance, unlike Simon, and vows to help stop the Combine..

From then on, whenever the players are standing firm against insurmountable odds, they can spend fate chips to call on the spirit of Simon to get some pretty OK bonuses. Ike pays everyone 2000 bucks for killing all them Combine. Jo gives the players 'I helped the Templar and all I got was this lousy tabard' tabards.

The end! No Moral.