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From 842 reviews

Deadlands: The Weird West

Adventure Edition


Publisher Description

Savage Worlds is a Fast! Furious! and Fun! rules system for any genre of roleplaying game.

Create your own setting, convert an existing one, or pick up one of our amazing settings like DeadlandsRippers, or 50 Fathoms. The rules give players plenty of depth to create their characters and keep bookkeeping to a minimum for the Game Master. If you’re looking for a game that’s fast and easy to set up, run, and play, Savage Worlds is for you!


A "Cowboys and Zombies" Weird West Game [ edit ]

Deadlands was an RPG/setting that surprised just about everyone.  Created in 1996 by Shane Hensley (who is now the CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment Group), Deadlandst was originally intended to be a limited run product for a short-duration campaign ... but the world became so popular PEG had no choice but to develop it into its own product line.

Deadland is not your typical Wild Western environment: instead, it's a "Weird West" setting.  Hensley got the idea for "cowboys and zombies" after seeing some artwork for a product for another RPG (Vampire: The Masquerade).  He quickly developed those ideas into a setting with an alternate timeline, where a sort of demonic apocalypse occurred in 1863.  Most of California fell into the sea, magic entered the world, zombies came to life at the battle of Gettysburg, and so on.

Players in Deadlands can play gunslingers, shaman, mad scientists, and more as they explore the unusual world of the Weird West. Because Deadlands been released for several systems, you can do so either using its original rules, a 2017 "20th Anniversary" edition of them, older variants for D20 or GURPS, or (the most modern version) for Savage Worlds, another PEG RPG.

The Savage Worlds rules are recommended for most gamers, both because they are newer than the Deadlands rules, but also because they're both spiritually and literally a successor to them.  You see, Savage Worlds itself was based off a Deadlands miniature war game (which itself was of course based on Deadlands' rules).  As such it's essentially a faster playing version of Deadlands than the original, something even its creator would tell you himself:

At the end of the night, when we were all kibitzing about how cool the [Savage Worlds] game was, the comment everyone kept making was how awesome it was that the game handled a huge firefight with 20 combatants with machine guns blazing and explosives flying—and at the same time handling a very detailed scuffle between two individual combatants (the fight between the medic and Doc Bronx).

We started about 7PM, made characters, had two big fights, took our time doing some awesome roleplaying with the NPCs of the villages and between our own characters, and chatted for at least an hour about the last of a few cool GM rules we’d been playing with. All by midnight. 


Savage Worlds, Adventure Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

As with most games, Savage Worlds characters have attributes, in this case five of them (essentially the D&D attributes, without Charisma).  Attributes are measured as a die type, so a weak character would have a d4 Strength, while an incredibly strong one would have a d12.

Players can also select a race for their character (or remain human to get an extra edge), and a number of skills.  Just as with attributes, skills have die-type-based ranks.  Raising skills higher than their associated attribute costs double, but otherwise there are no restrictions, so you can make a cowboy/hacker/biologist if you so desire: there are no class limitations.

Finally a player selects Edges, which provide special benefits to the character, similar to feats in Dungeons and Dragons or advantages in GURPS .  To gain edges characters can take on hindrances (similar to GURPS disadvantages).  Every edge costs the same in Savage Worlds (no varying point costs like in GURPS), and there are only two levels of hindrances (Major and Minor; one major or two minor provides an Edge).

There are also a somewhat limited number of hindrances and edges compared to some other generic systems, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing.  While it does mean less customization options, it also means new players can review their options much quicker, speeding up character creation overall.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

To succeed at an action in Savage Worlds, you roll a die based on the associated skill, and then also roll a separate "wild die" (a d6).  Either dice can "ace" ("explode"), which means that if you roll the maximum number on the die, you get to re-roll it, and add the result of all the rolls together.  You can then choose to keep either your original die or the "wild" one (whichever rolled higher), and if that die's result is 4 or greater (after any penalties), you succeed.

Players also start with "Bennies", and can earn more during play through good role-playing.  These "Bennies" can be used to re-roll any roll, giving characters another chance to succeed at critical actions.

Combat [ edit ]

When it comes to combat, Savage Worlds uses a deck of regular playing cards to determine who goes in what order.  The higher the player's card, the sooner they go in initiative, and if a player gets a joker as their card they can go at any point (and also get a bonus to their rolls that turn).

Between it's wild dice, "aceing" (ie. exploding) dice, bennies, and jokers, and various other factors, there are a lot of ways to succeed even when your skills are low, although of course higher skills are clearly a benefit.  All of this leads to a system that's more "fun" and cinematic, but also a bit less realistic, and also potentially more "swingy" (compared to, for instance, a system like GURPS).

Not Your Typical Western, But Still a Whole Lot of Fun [ edit ]

Deadlands has been released and re-released over the course of 20 years, using not just one but several different RPG systems.  In that time its products have won nine Origins Awards, including one for Best Roleplaying Game Supplement for the Savage Worlds Deadlands: Reloaded book.  And there's one simple reason for the game's longevity and fandom for such an extended period: the setting itself is just a lot of fun.

Parts of Deadlands will still feel incredibly familiar to fans of the Western genre, and indeed many gamers would list the RPG as their #1 "Western RPG".  At the same time, its post-apocalyptic, horror and magical elements combine to make Deadlands a world that's entirely new and different for your group to explore.  If you're looking for the spirit of a Western, but a whole lot more besides, Deadlands will likely be perfect for you.

And if you're still not sure what to think of Deadlands, you may wish to check out a free one-page adventure for it available from Pinnacle: Giants in the Mist.  The adventure revolves around the party stopping a fight between a town of settlers and a tribe of Native Americans (by discovering the secret horror at the root of the conflict), and offers a perfect introduction into the world for a GM considering it.