Dane's review of Deadlands modules

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Dane's review of Deadlands modules

#1 Postby Marguerite » Thu Jun 24, 2004 3:24 pm

Hi everyone! At long last (and thanks to Dane's constant pestering) here's the reviews he did of several Deadlands modules. Sorry about any formatting problems; as a player I can't read past the "Here There Be Spoilers" warning.


Iltis wrote:Perhaps you can help me. I wanna buy some Adventures -
Bloody Ol' Muddy, Canyon o' Doom and Ghost Busters - can you give me a rating how good they are? Perhaps some short commentary about it?

I have run a lot of the prewritten stuff over the years. Here is my
opinion of them (Rated 1 for poor to 10 Excellent). This list is in
chronological order according to when I played them. BTW, not all of them are in hard copy: I will try to give you the best info I can on where
they can be located. And to anybody else: if you have the online
locations for some of these I'd really appreciate it! Finally, posse members should keep from reading these – they are spoiler filled.

Special thanks to Marshal Lambert’s
for researching where I got this stuff. In addition, I would really
like to thank Marshal Black for his invaluable input and suggestions,
especially when pointing out gaps in my reviews. Several of his excellent
ideas and thoughts appear here as he is much smarter than I! :D

Session time: Refers to an approximation of how long it can take
a posse to complete the scenario. This is ballpark, people, not
Rating: My opinion on a scale from 1 (unplayable) to 10
Focus: The major aims of the adventure: what the posse will be
Fear Level: A horror rating loosely based on the most excellent
of Mine
by Kenneth Hite (pp. 11-14). Horror levels range
from none, little, some, or much.
Synopsis: A very brief introduction to the adventure itself.
Review: My opinions of the scenario and what makes it bleed.
Results: How did my posse do and what did I do to make it a
success for my group?

A brief disclaimer: I in no way intend on
presuming that I am qualified to give a professional opinion regarding
the works of other authors. All ratings are based on playability, ease
of use, consistent editing, and all around “coolness.” In other words:
don’t take my word for it: buy them all and form your own opinion! Of
course, all materials listed here are the sole property of their
authors and of PEG, Inc. Finally, these reviews do not reflect the official
views of the authors or PEG, Inc. I hope that covers

This Harrowed Ground
Author: John R. Hopler
Location: 1009 Marshal Law Screen
Session time: 6-12 hours
Rating: 7
Focus: Mystery, Combat
Fear Level: No terror, a little dread, a little gore.
Synopsis: Revenge is a dish best served cold. Your posse
arrives in Pawnee Rock, a town on the verge of its 10th anniversary
celebration. The celebration is soon marred by several murders of the town’s
more notable citizens. Is a returning group of murderous bandits to
blame, or do the town’s founders have a dark secret that’s come back to
haunt them?
Review: This is an excellent little scenario. A copious amount
of background information and a nice variety of NPC’s give this
adventure a meaty role-playing texture, providing a great amount of plot hooks
for a creative GM. The mystery involved can be dense though – you
might need to create and hand out more clues for a posse having trouble
putting the story together. In addition, the dearth of interesting
characters and background information can be a bit daunting to new Marshals.
The climax of the piece provides for a possible TPK if the posse has
not solved the important parts of the mystery. Without good support from
the Marshal, especially in the mystery aspect, an inexperienced or
clueless posse will die, or worse.
Results: My posse needed a little creative “extra” help in
solving the mystery. We were all a bit new then, so the story did not
culminate logically and was anti-climactic. However, it is remembered
fondly and was a great “outing.”

No Thanks, I’m Stuffed
Author: Tom Cashman
Location: Internet Location:
Website (Formatted Word Document)

Session time: 4-6 hours
Rating: 7
Focus: Mystery, Combat
Fear Level: Some terror (a real good moment of horror), little
dread, little gore.
Synopsis: Never bite off more than you can chew – you could end
up stuffed! An angry mountain lion is the slightly offbeat
introduction to just another small boring town in the middle of nowhere, or is it?
The posse members have their plates full when one of their own is
selected for special treatment.
Review: A nice little scenario meant for a single night’s
playing. A quick hook of combat is followed by a strange little mystery that
quickly degenerates into one of the more “disturbing” adventures we’ve
played. If you play things right, the climax should be a horrific
money shot. The story is a bit short on background and location, and the
NPC’s come off a bit like cardboard if you’re not prepared. This is a
nice little adventure to pop in anywhere where you need some extra
gristle to liven things up a bit.
Results: My posse came back to this one twice: they missed the
mystery the first time entirely! Poor NPC playing on my part did not
help, but they were dense to start out. When they came back to a
deserted town, they were hooked! The climax of this adventure is still spoken
of to this day, and it induced a few nightmares as well. Now that is a

Ticked Off!
Author: PA Posse
Website (Formatted Word Document)

Session time: 4 hours
Rating: 8
Focus: Mystery, Combat
Fear Level: Some terror (a real good moment of horror), much
dread, some gore.
Synopsis: You can try to bury your troubles, but in Deadlands
your troubles will bury you. When a terrible storm hits the area, the
posse is trapped in an abandoned mining complex. The posse must
investigate strange disappearances and, in turn, learn the true meaning of
being ticked off!
Review: An excellent little tale, also meant for a single
night’s playing. If you’ve seen any Aliens movie, then this scenario
should be familiar to you. With little background information and no
NPC’s to speak of, this adventure could have left one gagging for it.
However, simplicity of design leaves a lot for a creative GM to fill in
and makes it ultimately flexible for the posse’s needs. A fairly
strait-forward climax makes the payoff a little dull, but creativity will
win the day.
Results: We played this one in the dark with oil lamps. If you
use the first horse right, you will go a long way to building up the
necessary dread in this adventure. Keep your antagonist hidden until the
very last possible moment. If your posse is willing, like mine was, it
will be a creep-fest with an explosive ending! To flesh out the
background, I borrowed several mundane items from PEG’s Dime Novel,
Perdition’s Daughter. Additionally, I made the final lair a ghost rock
repository with Fear Level 5 connotations.

All That Shimmers… (Parts I and II)
Author: Dylan Craig
Internet PEG Library
Session time: 5-8 hours
Rating: 9
Focus: Travel, Mystery, Combat, Save the Damsel
Fear Level: Little terror, some dread, some gore.
Synopsis: The love of money is the root of all evil, but power
is certainly a close second. The posse investigates the theft of a
device that could make anyone rich! The mystery takes them from Boulder
to Denver and on to Aspen. Along the way, the posse learns that the
thieves want something more than money and will stop at nothing to get it.
It is a race against time, and the posse does not have much.
Review: An excellent adventure centered around the environs of
Denver, Colorado – The Queen of the West. Meant for at least two
sessions, All That Shimmers… runs along at a great pace and offers a
broad selection of NPC’s and locations to keep the action rolling. The
antagonists are excellent, and it is a shame that we do not get to
spend much time with them. But, at least it is quality time. The build up
to the climax mixes dread and foreboding in nice portions, culminating
in a harrowing underground escape that should leave burn scars for any
self-respecting posse member.
Results: Getting all the background information into this one
was a bit tricky at first, but the results were great. The posse ended
up saving the day, but was not able to save the hostage – a terrible
tragedy that I hammered them with repeatedly. The escape was the best
portion of the adventure for us, but there was a copious amount of
role-playing possibilities to keep the persuasion rolls interesting.

Comin’ Round the Mountain
Author: John Goff
Location: 1101 Marshal’s Handbook
Session time: 4 hours
Rating: 6
Focus: Traveling, Mystery, Protection, Combat
Fear Level: Some terror, some dread, little gore.
Synopsis: In Deadlands, if something bad is going to happen,
then it seems to happen invariably on a train. The posse takes a
non-descript wintertime train trip over the Rockies. The train, which happens
to be filled to the brim with interesting passengers (including the
infamous “Satan’s Cabana Boys” and Allen Seyberth’s cameo appearance), is
attacked and disabled by a group of hard up bandits. This is bad, but
things get worse when an Agency pet project goes AWOL. Mayhem ensues.
Review: Good for a single night’s playing, or a couple of
sessions. The scenario provides a bountiful assortment of NPC’s for players
to interact with and protect, while providing the GM with either red
shirt fodder or reappearing plot hooks. With little background, the
adventure is easily plopped into any travel plans from one side of the
Rockies to the other, before or after the Cauldron. However, the scenario
suffers from a weak climax due to a lack of dread (extra work for the
GM) and a relatively powerless fear monger. John Goff did provide
updated information for the Husker, but I am not sure if it is still on the
net. If you are interested in getting it, I can email it upon request.
Results: Since my posse wanted to go West before I wanted them
to, (see: Abracadabra, and an Arab Cadaver this adventure offered
the perfect opportunity to cause them trouble and get them back to
Denver. The NPC’s were interesting, but difficult to handle at all times.
Also, it was a fun challenge to create the necessary level of ongoing
dread that needed to accompany the mystery. The climax was a terrible
mess with an underpowered critter that lasted a mere round of combat.

Abracadabra, and an Arab Cadaver
Author: Tony Lee
Location: 1005 Hucksters & Hexes
Session time: 4-6 hours
Rating: 6
Focus: Travel, Protect the Artifact, Combat
Fear Level: Little terror, little dread, no gore.
Synopsis: A wealthy fop, a train of priceless artifacts, and an
angry Arab sorcerer – a recipe for fun. The posse is hired to protect
the famous Dillenger Museum Train. After a botched robbery, things go
smoothly until they arrive at the little town of Red Rock. Dillenger’s
desire to “bring social enlightenment to the masses” and other events
(Arab zealots, the walking dead, a Salt Rattler angry about its
nickname) conspire to make the posse’s life difficult. At the end, all Hades
breaks loose as the posse tries to keep Dillenger alive and a certain
relic out of a very bad man’s hands.
Review: First off, hats off to one of the most creatively named
scenarios in the lot. An interesting adventure with some potential, it
has an open ending that can be tricky if not prepared for. Of course,
an unprepared posse, or low-power characters, will be nailed at some
point of the climax due to high-powered antagonists. There is a mystery,
but a single good roll can deduce its essential information – not a lot
of Scooby Action there. Also, there’s not a lot of life off the train,
but a creative GM can use this as an excellent opportunity to allow
posse members to get from “point A to point B” in an interesting manner.
A sprinkling of NPC’s and locations make this an average, if ho-hum,
role-playing opportunity. Dillenger, by the way, makes for a great
recurring NPC “guest star”, as he shows up in Canyon of Doom.
Results: The action was fierce enough to keep my posse
interested. Getting them on the train proved to be very difficult (we
interrupted it with Comin’ Round the Mountain), so they returned to
finish the adventure after initially meeting Dillenger, making it a two-part
thing. It was shallow role-playing, but allowed me to introduce
Dillenger as a long-term NPC.

Night Train
Author: John Goff
Location: 9002 Night Train
Session time: 4-6 hours
Rating: 9
Focus: Mystery, Combat, SURVIVAL!
Fear Level: Much terror, some dread, Major gore.
Synopsis: Ask not for whom the train toots, it toots for thee!
This is it, the legendary and dreaded PC Train of Death, the
penultimate über-PC destruction scenario guaranteed to separate the quick and the
dead. The posse comes across the deserted Barlowe Station. Clues from
there lead them on to Varney Flats, a small town in the middle of the
wide open nowhere. Just as the PC’s begin to piece together what is
happening, “what’s happening” happens to them! If there happens to be any
survivors, there is the Weird West version of a car chase, followed by
the hijinks of fighting the sanguinivorous minions of the Reckoning.
Review: In the first heyday of Deadlands, there were the dime
novels. They were published and gamers knew they were good. Perhaps the
most well-known and legendary of all the dime novels was Night
, and this legend is well deserved. This scenario can work for a
long single night’s playing or wreak a bloody two-part punch over a
couple of sessions. There a few NPC’s (mainly for chumming purposes), but
the beauty of the scenario is the setting and mood. For those who like
their adventures a shade of dark crimson, like their coffee, this can
be a veritable waking nightmare, the blood splatter reigning supreme
over namby-pamby role-playing. Once the action starts, it does not stop
until the story is drained dry. The adventure itself has strong
background inferences, especially for the Rail Wars in the Disputed Lands, and
lends itself strongly to supporting any continuing Rail War based plot.
However, all is not well in the dark: this adventure is high-powered to
say the least – weak characters or inexperienced players will be in for
a serious world of hurt. Again, the mystery surrounding the true
nature of the vampire threat itself can be very dense, leaving posses
groping for ways to effectively deal with the antagonists. Marshals would do
well to clue in naive posses who need extra help, unless the players
really love to draw new characters every session or two.
Results: My posse dreaded this adventure – they heard of it
before I ever pulled it from my bookshelf. A funny fact is that they
actually played it twice. You see, they missed the train the first time.
It whistled into town while they were well outside of the place.
Needless to say, I could not leave it like that, so I tried it some time
after. They all survived the adventure the second time, but that was my
fault in that I liked them too much. GM’s will need to gauge the power
of their posses to handle this thing – unless, of course, you want a
TPK! Again, I tried to make the climax interesting by building dread, but
heck, you can not go wrong with vampires!

Forbidden God
Author: Tim Brown
Location: 9006 Forbidden God
Session time: 5-8 hours
Rating: 5
Focus: Mystery, Combat
Fear Level: Some terror, much dread, little gore.
Synopsis: There are some things in the world that man was meant
to meddle with, but it seems that some people are not taking the hint.
The posse is hired by a mad scientist to investigate several murders
that have taken place on his new-fangled automatic transit steam wagon.
Bandits perhaps, but that seems insane in the middle of the Great Salt
Flats. Things take an ugly twist when the posse’s curiosity leaves
them stranded in the desert and a long-dead injustice resurfaces.
Review: A nice little Dime Novel, Forbidden God allows
the posse to experience one of the most inhospitable locations in
Deadlands: Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Flats. However, it suffers from
several weak points: a creative Marshal will need to do some work to
get it all to roll. A quick sweep of a hook, few NPC’s, and limited
background moves the posse from role-playing right into the middle of the
action, assuming you have a willing posse. This adventure could be
short-lived by a group who is unwilling to stake their lives on a piece of
new science – but they can’t be gullible all of the time. Timing the
events (which are defaulted to the late night or early hours) can be a
pain if the posse is a logical thinking group. Marshals should be
prepared with a better explanation provided by the text.
Once the action starts, claustrophobia and the long-dead undead (and
not just humans, by the way) serve to pack a fairly strong one-two
combination of fear and pain. That is, of course, if the Marshal is willing
to do some creative redesigns of the undead bit-players. Be sure to
keep the Swarm rules from the RVCII book close to your hands.
Again, the adventure is very setting oriented – the sense of dread derives
not from NPC/PC relations but from the vastness of the trouble the
posse finds itself in. Another group of possible plot holes are the
Spanish-oriented clues – unless you have a posse member able to read or speak
Spanish, then much of the flavor of the work is lost. Marshals will
need to crutch the players if this is the case. However, the climax is a
knockdown drag-out battle royal fit for any rough and tumble group
frustrated by such pathetic concerns.
Results: We had a pretty grand time with this one. First off,
the red herring of the lightening gun was pretty much ignored – they did
not really bother with it. Then, after our resident harrowed got
gnawed on – a relatively rare occurrence – things progressed into what
appeared to the posse to be the standard dungeon crawl. Silly posse! The
climax was satisfying, but I twisted the trip back to Salt Lake City by
destroying the conveyance. That was one long walk/crawl back home, but
offered a great opportunity to have fun with salt rattlers!

Adios A-mi-go
Author: John Wick & Hal Mangold
Location: 9007 Adios A-Mi-Go
Session time: 5-8 hours
Rating: 9
Focus: Mystery, Combat
Fear Level: Much terror (several moments of horror), much dread,
some gore.
Synopsis: A wise man once said that things seem darkest before
they go pitch black. This is yet another entry in the Dime Novel
adventures by PEG, Inc., but this time the posse is treated to a crossover
made in Hades. Call of Cthulhu has long been known as the
premiere setting in horror genre RPG’s, and mixing it with Deadlands
offered a unique and invigorating opportunity for Deadlands players and
marshals alike. A temporal rift traps the posse in the little town of
New Jerusalem, a place that is farther from no place than any place has
ever been. Its residents, as charming as melted milk duds during the
day, become downright unwelcoming when the sun goes down, forcing the
posse seek out what has caused such a transformation of both the town and
its residents. With the help of a couple
people-who-aren’t-what-they-seem types, they make a discovery that spans the dimensions beyond our
world and the Hunting Grounds.
Review: If you like a dark and disturbing scenario, this is your
adventure, baby! It has it all the ingredients that Hite and co. (see:
Nightmares of Mine) suggest for horror role-playing: familiar
tropes such as the bad place, the grotesque, the thing from beyond, the
zombie, along with the requisite dread, terror, and gore. You name it
you got it! As a plus, it is a much darker place to visit than your
typical Deadlands romp (with the possible exceptions of Skinners or
The Mission) which offers a superb amount of grist for the
horror-style marshal’s mill. The posse trips into New Jerusalem with no
hint of trouble, and there is not much in the way of background. This
makes the adventure ultimately flexible: it can be placed anywhere and
anytime you feel the wicked desire to put your posse through Hades. It
also offers the additional bonus of placing a surviving posse anywhere
and in anytime you want them at the end of the adventure. The
antagonists, as the CoC label suggests, are truly horror-inspiring minions of
darkness: they are meant to be feared rather than destroyed. Oh, and let
us not forget those juicy brain-canisters.
Still, the text has one annoying fault. There are several glitches in
the “bad people’s” stats that can make this a frustrating exercise for
a Marshal. All antagonists have 1 die of Quickness – they are often
relegated to standing and drooling (I, myself, just cheated and pumped up
those stats).
Results: We still talk about this one, three years after playing
it. Developing the sense of helplessness and hopelessness was the key
to our outing, and that really stuck in the player’s minds. Dread and
terror are hand in glove with this adventure, and the NPC’s creepy
back-stories should help convey the nihilistic role the posse’s existence
encompasses. And, playing it with only a little candlelight in the dark
really helped the mood on this one.

Independence Day
Author: Chris Snyder & Matt Forbeck
Location: 9001 Independence Day
Session time: 4-8 hours
Rating: 7
Focus: Mystery, Avoiding Bloodshed, Uphold the Law, Combat
Fear Level: Some terror, some dread, some gore.
Synopsis: The Fourth of July and a Centennial Celebration: two
great reasons for going all to pieces with excitement, or horror if you
happen to be celebrating in the Deadlands. This Dime Novel/Scenario
takes place a few days preceding July 4, 1876 in the Disputed Lands
(Dodge City, Kansas). The posse is hired by that well-known law enforcement
duo: Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. It seems that the tensions from
the protracted Civil War might just be a little more raw during the big
celebration, and they need the extra guns to keep them from boiling
over. However, annoying Temperance ladies and dumb-as-rocks Civil War
antagonists take a back seat when a legendary killer known only as “The
Butcher” goes on the rampage.
Review: The greatest challenge to this adventure is to figure
out if you can get your posse to hit its mark on July 4th, 1876. While
important to the story, though, it is really only essential that the
holiday itself be in the mix. The year is quite inconsequential as
Confederates and Unionists in Kansas really do not need too logical of an
excuse to kick each other’s cans. There are many colorful NPC’s to
provide story background and rich role-playing opportunities, especially when
free-gunning PC’s must rise above violence to solve their problems.
Red herrings practically swim upstream in this adventure, and the mystery
to be solved can be a doozy for a posse who shoots first and asks
questions later. The scenario may be a bit too open for players, in that
there may be too many choices for some. All this aside, this is a strong
little firecracker of an adventure that introduces the perfect
recurring villain in the Butcher, as well as providing other NPC’s from the
fiction section (Hank Ketchum and/or Ronan Lynch).
Results: My posse had a difficult time at first, but with
Ronan’s help were able to get right on track. Otherwise, it was an
unremarkable adventure for us.

Devil’s Tower Trilogy: I. Road to Hell
Author: Paul Beakley and John Hopler
Location: 1016 Road to Hell
Session time: 6-12 hours
Rating: 8
Focus: Mystery/Investigation, Combat, Chase the Relic
Fear Level: No terror, little dread, little gore.
Synopsis: That which is begun is half done. While in Salt Lake
City, the posse is hired by Darius Hellstrome, head of Hellstrome
Industries, to find the stolen diamond known as the Heart of Darkness. When
the posse investigates, and they do not really have a choice, they find
suspects galore from the shadowy Danites to a group of big-time
criminals known as the Tremendez Gang. When the cards are all finally dealt,
the posse learns that there might be even greater forces vying for the
coveted black diamond.
Review: The first volume of the epic Devil’s Tower
trilogy is a heavy investigation and role-playing smorgasbord. It is here
where the posse gets to experience the seamy underside of Junkyard and
Salt Lake City, running into the Danites, the Navoo Legion, the local
“Mormon Law,” rogue Indians, dangerous hucksters, insane scientists, a
lady assassin with a wickedly bad sense of humor, and machine/human
combinations that make Frankenstein look like Barney Fife. It is highly
advisable to utilize the City O’ Gloom boxed set to really get the
feel for the place, especially if the posse insists on returning time
and again.
Ultimately, the posse is introduced to the joys of the McGuffin as the
Heart is no longer in SLC but has gone to the mysterious Stone in Lost
Angels. What this volume lacks in blood-chilling horror it more than
makes up for in an intricate web of suspects all tied to the diamond.
Role-playing is a definite must here, with gun-happy posses shut out in
the early innings. The whole thing climaxes in a bloody battle to find
the final clues, however. Overall, it is a strong way to start an epic
Results: My posse kept it together pretty well, with a great
battle at the end. Leaving some of the Tremendez gang alive provided
another recurring set of villains that still haunt the players to this day.

Devil’s Tower Trilogy: II. Heart of Darkness
Author: Hal Mangold
Location: 1017 Road to Hell
Session time: 6-12 hours
Rating: 10
Focus: Mystery/Investigation, Combat, Rescue Attempt, Chase the
Fear Level: Much terror, Much dread, Much gore.
Synopsis: Nothing but a small fish in a big pond. Following
the clues found in the Tremendez Gang’s hideout, the posse embarks for
the famine-wracked city of Lost Angels for a meeting with the mysterious
Stone. However, they are thrown a curve when they find that Mr. Stone
is no longer a free man. After some investigation and with a little
help from a friend, the posse must enter the maximum-security prison
known as The Rock to rescue Stone and the Heart of Darkness. Upon
returning to the mainland, the future of the Maze and the Heart become much
darker as a double-cross ruins the party.
Review: The second volume of the Devil’s Tower trilogy is
strongest entry of the three. It is here that the posse has the
opportunity to be thrown into the middle of the big events of the Deadlands
meta-plot. They meet Stone for the first time. They get to explore the
bowels of the true heart of darkness known as Rock Island Prison.
Finally, they bear witness to the pandemonium of Bloody Sunday, perhaps one
of the most significant events in the Deadlands history to date.
The city of Lost Angels is possibly the most potentially sinister of
locales in the milieu, offering a bleak combination of religious zealotry
and abject misery, and this adventure makes good use of several key
facets of it. If you do not happen to own a copy of The City of Lost
(1019), this scenario will still shine, but not to its fullest
dread-inducting measure. NPC’s abound, making role-playing an integral
part of the story. Investigation balances well with action, and all
aspects of horror can be found here in abundance. A savage bloodletting
and vicious plot twist ends the adventure with that same sense of bleak
loss that any good “middle” section of a trilogy should.
The only real problem is Stone himself. If the posse has ever heard of
or dealt with him, they will no doubt be very hesitant to assist anyone
in freeing him. Playing off the herring that he might not be harrowed
at the beginning of the adventure might hook broad-minded posses.
Overall, this is a great yarn that will be remembered for some time.
Results: Due to a couple of absences, I only had two players
take part in this scenario in one long sitting (12 hours). It was a
session loaded with dread, punctuated by moments of terror, which was
perhaps one of the best I have ever had the opportunity to participate in.
Dread is a key element in this scenario: with the proper application of
dread, the horror elements were punctuated and enhanced. There were
several scary moments that left the players a little shaken and off
balance throughout. Through skillful role-playing, and a bit of good luck,
they managed to get into and through most of The Rock with little
trouble. The ending was brilliant, as they were not expecting the plot

Devil’s Tower Trilogy: III. Fortress of Fear
Author: Matt Forbeck
Location: 1012 Fortress o’ Fear
Session time: 6-12 hours
Rating: 6
Focus: Sneak n’ Peek, Combat, Chase the Relic, Meta-Plot
Fear Level: little terror, some dread, little gore.
Synopsis: Have gun, will travel through time. Dejected at
losing the Heart of Darkness to treachery, the posse soon learns that their
troubles might not be just their own. A gun-toting law dog from the
future shows up to drop one of the biggest bombshells of the milieu: the
identities of the Reckoners and foreknowledge of their insidious plans
for the world. Armed with a new-found sense of purpose, and a really
big gun from the future, the group chases down Stone on a moving train,
where shooting the hostage take on a whole new dimension. Then, it is
off to Devil’s Tower in the Sioux Nations to return the Heart of
Darkness to a place where it will not cause trouble. Of course, Devil’s
Tower is the Deadlands equivalent of the Roach Motel: characters check in,
but they don’t check out. Other-worldly critters stand in the way of
the posse’s plans, and Stone reappears to make the final moments of the
trilogy – several hundred feet above the ground – a nail-biting
Review: After the buildup of the previous two installments, the
final volume of the epic Devil’s Tower trilogy serves as a
sluggish ending. Background and role-playing opportunities present
themselves regularly, especially with the meta-plot-busting Jackie Wells,
gunslinger of the future. The information she carries is a
paradigm-shifting experience for the players, so GM’s need to consider how much they
want to let out of the bag.
The chases are fun, as is sense of impending doom, but the main
weakness is the alien culture in the Devil’s Tower itself. Depending on how
the posse members enter the monolith, the scenario can really bog down,
degenerating in an extended and sometimes dull dungeon crawl. The fact
the aliens look like a bunch of Uruk-Hai does not help matters much,
giving the place a Keep on the Borderlands feel to it. A creative
GM can develop the feeling of the place beyond the text with a little
work. The climax occurs at the top of the mesa, pitting Stone against
the posse for the Heart. If played to the logical conclusion (Stone
being nigh indestructible), the players should be drawing for new
characters by evening’s end. Overall, it is a functional, but not brilliant,
Results: Again, my posse kept it together pretty well, with a
great cliffhanger of battle at the end. I was left flat with this
scenario, especially with the often dull “dungeon levels,” annoying aliens,
and a flaccid denouement. However, my players enjoyed it and have
several fond memories.

Well, this ends part one of my reviews post. I’ll get another out as
time permits. When it does come out, you can expect to see the

Strange Bedfellows
Savage Passage
Ground Zero
The Canyon o’ Doom
Ghost Busters
And more…

Thanks for reading!

Game on,

Dane :freak:

Posts: 244
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 1:45 pm
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Re: Dane's review of Deadlands modules

#2 Postby Marguerite » Thu Jun 24, 2004 3:31 pm

Same disclaimer as above re: formatting. Dane, if you want to re-send me a version with tags I'll copy it in.
Edited 06/25/04 to fix formatting concerns. Thanks for the new copy, Dane!

Iltis wrote:Perhaps you can help me. I wanna buy some Adventures -
Bloody Ol' Muddy, Canyon o' Doom and Ghost Busters - can you give me a
rating how good they are?
Perhaps some short commentary about it?

This is Part II of a series of online reviews of Deadlands
prewritten adventures. If you have not had a chance, you ought to take a
gander at Part
to read up on all that has come before.

Just a reminder: posse members should keep from reading these –
they are spoiler filled.

Again: special thanks to Marshal Lambert’s
for researching where I got this stuff. In addition, I would really
like to thank Marshal Black for his invaluable input and suggestions,
especially when pointing out the huge gaping holes in my reviews. Several
of his excellent ideas and thoughts appear here because he’s a wild and
crazy guy! :D

Session time: Refers to an approximation of how long it can take
a posse to complete the scenario. This is ballpark, people, not
Rating: My opinion on a scale from 1 (unplayable) to 10
Focus: The major aims of the adventure: what the posse will be
Fear Level: A horror rating loosely based on the most excellent
of Mine
by Kenneth Hite (pp. 11-14). Horror levels range
from none, little, some, or much.
Synopsis: A very brief introduction to the adventure itself.
Review: My opinions of the scenario and what makes it bleed.
Results: How did my posse do and what did I do to make it a
success for my group?

:splat: A brief disclaimer: I in no way
intend on presuming that I am qualified to give a professional opinion
regarding the works of other authors. All ratings are based on
playability, ease of use, consistent editing, and all around “coolness.” In
other words: don’t take my word for it: buy them all and form your own
opinion! Of course, all materials listed here are the sole property of
their authors and of PEG, Inc. Finally, these reviews do not reflect the
official views of the authors or PEG, Inc. I hope that covers

Under a Harrowed Moon (Strange
Bedfellows, Ground Zero & Savage Passage)

Author: Matt Forbeck
Location: Strange Bedfellows (DL 9003), Savage Passage (DL
9004), Ground Zero (DL 9005)
Session time: 9-15 hours
Rating: 5
Focus: Mystery/Investigation, Combat, Planar Travel, Prevent a
Cross-World Apocalypse
Fear Level: little terror, some dread, little gore.
Synopsis: Beware the full moon; madness stalks under its pale
blush. Another crossover scenario, this trilogy of dime novels
introduces players to the world of Werewolf: The Wild West. The posse
gets involved with a plot that spans across the worlds as an insane Garou
attempts to forge a planar bridge between his home, through the Hunting
Grounds, to our world. He believes that by introducing the power of
the Weird West’s nature sprits to the Savage West, the Indians there can
finally gain the strength to fight off their white oppressors just as
the Sioux and others have done here. With the help of the enterprising
Dr. Darius Hellstrome, the bridge is a real and deadly possibility.
Strage Bedfellows introduces the PC’s to a new brand of
deadly: the Garou – not your garden variety of werewolf by any stretch.
After investigating a couple of strange deaths around the small town of
Desmondville, the posse eventually ends up in Monument Valley. There,
they find that Dr. Hellstromme has set up shop, including duping some
local Apache tribes for guard duty. The plan is to detonate a very
powerful ghost rock bomb – a precursor to the terrible devices seen in
Hell on Earth – and collapse the fabric of reality. Stormwalker, a
Garou with an insane mean-streak a mile wide, believes that this will
create one-half of his “bridge.” The posse must stop his plan before it
is too late.
Savage Passage, the middle installment, finds the heroes
“slipping” into the Savage West to follow the rogue Garou, Stormwalker, and
muck up his plans. However, a brief yet vaguely gory investigation
quickly escalates into a vicious underground battle. If the posse happens
to survive, a cave full of dynamite provides an explosive situation
that creates one-half of Stormwalker’s bridge.
Ground Zero begins with the defeated posse returning to the
Weird West a few days after the events in the first installment. Back
in Monument Valley, the posse finds that Hellstromme has sent
reinforcements – hired gunmen and automatons – to protect the project. With half
his bridge built, Stormwalker will stop at nothing to follow his plan
to the end – including sacrificing every living creature in the area.
Somehow, the heroes need deal with these new guards, put down an
intensely goal-oriented Garou, and defuse the bomb (again) to save the day.
Otherwise, boom!
Review: The author’s own words sum up this scenario nicely:
“…this is a lot looser of an adventure than you might be used to seeing.”
A conversation that has existed since the early days of game mastering
is the debate over player free will. Some believe that a strict plot
sequence enhances role-playing by providing an organized and
recognizable story arc, eliciting creative role-playing through a pre-set
understanding of the way things work. Some believe that railroading, for the
sake of story, limits creative role-playing – the world is wide open and
the posse can explore its dark corners at their leisure.
These Dime Novels fall squarely in the second camp in their
composition, but are still limited to a preconceived ending to create a
cohesive story thread. Therefore, Marshals, especially neophytes, should very
much consider how they will approach this adventure and prepare
accordingly – these texts are an exercise in minimalist writing. For
instance, the 62-page second volume module only consists of four pages of
scenario information (not including the NPC stats). Additionally, there are
only two NPC’s with delineated stats, and the stats for these are
poorly organized due to limitations in printing. For instance, marshals
must keep a separate scorecard for Stormwalker’s stats as they are smeared
over two pages of text!
Furthermore, the Garou and Deadlands characters do not translate
from world to world. The Lupus, or wolf, form of the Garou lacks a terror
score (check out wolves in RVCI for details). The listings of stats
for clawing or biting damage are inconsistent from one module to the
next. Finally, straight-up Deadlands characters are in for a world of hurt
when compared to their Savage opponents. Due to limitations in the
story arc – the need to travel to the Savage West by “stepping sideways”
and the sheer deadliness of the Garou in their home setting (no AB’s
there, folks)– the posse will need at least one Garou ally, if not more.
It’s just plain ugly.
Again, weak posses beware: Stormwalker is a fuzzy killing machine
that can alone snuff an entire posse if given the upper hand. In
addition, other powerful Garou (Savage Passage) and automatons
(Gournd Zero) make this little trio a high-powered affair.
There is a copious amount of background information that does help
propel the scenario. There is little in the way of horror or gore, but
dread abounds if the game master plays his or her cards right. The
story portions of these Dime Novels, though, are actually quite good.
They are evocative, well written, and provide a gold mine of material to
bolster these anemic scenarios. GM’s are best advised to pull plot
information and NPC’s from the story section of each novel to flesh out the
very bare bones adventures.
Results: If you are going to run this one, your watch words will
be “preparation” and “borrow.” My wife ran this as her first foray
into game mastering. That was a big mistake. She made a good try at it,
but it ended up being a massively large mess. Even additional research
into the Savage West did little to bolster this adventure. She
included set pieces from the story portions of the books to give the scenario
some meat, and her NPC’s were well used. However, the players did
exactly what the author “did and did not” intend – they turned their backs
on the whole problem in the last installment. When faced with a deadly
Garou and automatons, who could blame them. In taking over the
adventure at this point, I found that I had to bend like a pretzel to
cobble together some sort of logical ending. Thank goodness for dream

Ghostriders in the Sky
Author: Angel Leigh McCoy
Location: Marshal Law Screen (DL 1009)
Session time: 4-6 hours
Rating: 4
Focus: Investigation (i.e., rumor mongering),
Fear Level: no terror, little dread, no gore.
Synopsis: Ladies and gentlemen, posses of all ages! The circus
has come to town, and they want your money! A mad scientist – “mad”
meaning both insane and angry – needs money to finish his greatest
invention, a weapon of potentially apocalyptic proportions. His henchmen, a
collection of freakish ex-circus performers called “the Newts,” do his
bidding without question. Their modus operandi is simple: rob a
bank using their boss’s deadly acid guns, then ride away. At first
glance, this seems an overly simplistic plan, but the gang has never been
caught. Their horses’ tracks just end in the dessert, and there is no
trace of the thieves, earning them the imaginative sobriquet of “The
Ghostriders.” The posse stumbles on the mystery – a $5000 reward awaits
the capture of the elusive Ghostrider bandits – and must track down
this group of misfits and their elusive leader before he wreaks havoc with
his secret doomsday weapon.
Review: A fairly deep and thoughtful section of background
information starts the scenario well. A GM should understand what the
stakes are (even though the marshal gets to develop Higgabottom’s doomsday
weapon) and what the emotional thrust of the adventure ought to be.
However, the substance of the adventure itself fails to rise to the
challenge of the setup.
The first act of the scenario sets up the mystery in Planterstown, a
sleepy little settlement in Utah. Attempting to draw in the posse, the
flimsy and paper-thin mystery attempts to serve two parallel functions.
First, it leads the posse into the second act: the discovery of the
Newts’ hidden lair of New Tomorrie and the eventual showdown with Dr.
Higgabottom. The second is to illuminate the terrible past of Planterstown
and the residents’ bigoted rejection of the circus people, thus trying
very hard to give the Newts and their disfigured scientist a suitable
rationale for “the revenge on normal society” shtick. A noble idea, but
its execution is lackluster as the mystery consists of two-bit random
events and a D&D-esque “Rumors” chart. The actual action of the piece,
the expected bank robbery, happens off-stage at night. Unless the PC’s
are guarding the place, they get to participate in the chase and
another brief session of clue gathering.
The second act encompasses the posse’s attempt to find New Tomorrie and
deal with the Newts once and for all. Two options – peaceful or
violent – are outlined, leaving the meat of second act to consist of a mere
half-page of text. Stats are given for the Newts and their box-canyon
lair, just in case the posse decides to open up on them. Thus, the
adventure is fairly weak and flaccid, a watered-down whisky shot without
impact or substance.
Results: This was a one-night stand for my posse – afterwards,
they smoked a collective cigarette and never called back. I fiddled
with it a little, but it was a minor bump between the two scenarios that
bookend it here. A GM will have to be creative to give this scenario
some substance, especially the second act. I set it up by have the
posse find several small towns in the vicinity with either the wanted
posters or a robbed bank. By putting the pieces together, they concluded
that Planterstown was the place to be. Otherwise, it was a forgettable

The Crucible
Author: John Hopler
Location: Smith and Robards (DL 1004)
Session time: 5-9 hours
Rating: 7
Focus: Investigation, Role-Playing, Combat
Fear Level: little terror, some dread, little gore.
Synopsis: The Civil War just got a little nastier! Tired of
the continuing irritation caused by the dreaded Flying Buffaloes,
Confederate President Jefferson Davis forms a business partnership with Mina
Devlin – the Rail Baroness in charge of the Black River RR. Their
target is the Buffaloes’ headquarters, the Union’s “secret” Fort 51 – by
cutting off the fort’s supply lines, Davis can get rid of a major threat
to his ghost rock supplies, and Mina gains a material advantage over her
chief competition in the area: the Denver Pacific RR.
Either as DP guards or unsuspecting passengers, the posse quickly finds
itself tossed right into the middle of the intrigue as devil bats
attack them while the train zips across a trestle and gorge. A veritable
army of NPC’s dwells in the train, and the posse members have their hands
full sorting out the whole mess. It’ll make them miss zombies.
A “bandit” attack, led by a Confederate steam tank, disables the train
and traps the posse at Fort Clark, a key outpost along the rails
leading to Fort 51. More NPC hijinks ensue as an unknown assassin begins to
pick off the Fort’s inhabitants one at a time. As deadly forces begin
to assemble, resentment and suspicion threaten to prevent the fort’s
soldiers from defending the important link to Fort 51. Only the posse
stands in the way of total chaos.
Review: This scenario is a role player’s dream. A dark twist on
the perennial “murder mystery” coupled with a supporting cast of at
least a dozen delineated NPC’s; this adventure has examination and
cross-examination as the main course for the evening. It is top-heavy with
soap opera-like intrigue: a love triangle, an unwanted pregnancy, an
angry parent, liars, cheats, bullies, and a traitor are only a few of the
pieces of excitement to be found here. To keep score of all of these
fronts while maintaining a fresh personality for each will challenge an
experienced marshal, while new marshals could very well become buried
Many posses might dismiss such fare, but proficient interaction is
crucial to the posse’s success. For example, lackluster investigation by
the posse to uncover the assassin will lead to severe problems in the
last act, as the murderer’s intent is to break down the chain of command
and destroy morale. If the posse fobs of the civilians, they will
loose valuable help when the spit hits the spam. Speaking of spam, even
helping to make dinner – a chore many female posse members will resist in
this male-dominated military installation – could be the single thread
that helps or hinders the posse in the end.
With the exceptions of the bats, and the eventual uncovering of the
true nature of the assassin (hence the chief source of dread for this
scenario), there is little combat until the last act. Depending on the
results of the posse’s role-playing, this could be either a tough
challenge or a complete wipe out.
The scenario’s chief weakness is such a heavy dose of NPC interaction.
If a posse is not up for it, then the adventure can quickly degenerate
into a tedious exercise that lacks any entertainment value. A GM whose
strong suit is not role-playing multiple personalities will also have a
tough time here. The players will have to stifle yawns as an
unprepared GM looks over his notes repeatedly looking for that missing piece of
Results: I was fortunate to have a posse that was really looking
for a role-playing opportunity when I ran this. First off, preparation
is a must. I used a laptop to keep track of all the scenes and
NPCs throughout the scenario. I would also suggest using index cards
to keep information checklists for what each NPC has divulged to a
player or players. Preparation is also necessary because you have to
incorporate as many red herrings into the plot as possible. The greatest
challenge for the marshal is to build sufficient dread by keeping wraps on
Mina Devlin’s mole: she might stick out like a sore thumb to
quick-thinking posses. Finally, we had to keep the pace of the game going at a
brisk run. With players trying everything to get information,
the action can get pretty tedious if you let them hijack your timetable.
Since you’ll be using Mina’s signature Wichita Witches, be sure to
catch some of the information found in the Black Circle sourcebook
for some additional powers and flavor for playing the dark ladies. We
enjoyed this one – the mystery was enthralling, and they especially
enjoyed the interaction.

Canyon o’ Doom
Author: Hal Mangold
Location: Canyon o’ Doom (DL 1028)
Session time: 15-25 hours
Rating: 8
Focus: Exploration, Investigation, Traveling, Combat
Fear Level: some terror, much dread, little gore.
Synopsis: Where are we going this summer? We’re going to the
Grand Canyon!
Several years ago, Major John Wesley Powell explored one of the most
awe-inspiring natural wonders in the United States: The Grand Canyon. He
went there three times in the Deadlands universe: 1869, 1871, and 1873.
It was during this last voyage that the whole expedition was lost,
disappeared as if swallowed by the earth itself. In fact, that was not too
far from the truth.
The reemergence of a trio of artifacts – a dagger, a weathered journal,
and, most importantly, a bone talisman – from the Powell expedition’s
final ill-fated journey rouses the Explorer’s Society into commissioning
a new expedition to the Grand Canyon. There are others, though, who
are very interested in making it there first in order to find an ancient
power buried within the bowels of the canyon. Using all their dark
resources, these enigmatic conspirators will stop at nothing to get the
tools necessary to do so.
The renowned Rutherford Dillinger (see: Abracadabra, and an Arab
), proprietor of the famous Museum Train, is in Salt Lake City
to make the Explorer Society’s announcement and calls a press
conference to present the Powell artifacts. The meeting starts well, but is
thrown into chaos when gunmen try to steal the battered relics. After
playing an important part in stopping the robbery, the posse gets to meet
the expedition’s leader, the adventurer archaeologist Dr. Edgar
Haskins, and his constant companion, Sophie Miller. Haskins invites the posse
to join the expedition to improve security for the duration of the
Soon, they are all on a train racing to the small township of Cedar
City, Nevada. A passel of passengers – primarily members of the press –
vies for the posse’s attentions. During the trip, a cat burglar
attempts to put his paws on the Powell artifacts, but enters the wrong room –
the posse’s room. Upon their arrival in Cedar City, the overland trip
to Cliffside begins. The journey is an eventful one as the desert
heat, a run in with the famed Buffalo Soldiers, a deserted town, an
impromptu encounter with a ghost rock convoy, and crazed coyotes make a long
trip seem much longer.
The expedition’s arrival in Cliffside, a large mining town on the
canyon’s edge, heralds the posse’s return to civilization. They have plenty
of time to explore, as Haskins’ equipment is delayed by a week. During
the week, the posse has the opportunity to gain information about
events in the area, weather an attack by giant bugs, and otherwise prepare
for the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, the persistent opponents
attack Haskins and Sophie during their midnight walk, hoping to take one of
the Powell artifacts – a talisman of unknown purpose.
Even after this unexpected adversity, Haskins will not be discouraged,
and the expedition begins the arduous journey down the Colorado River.
Long days, white water, more giant bugs, a bandit gang, and the
stifling summer heat make the recent overland trek seem like a walk across the
street. However, things get even stranger when the last people to see
Powell alive, the Havasupai, tell Haskins of the latter’s disappearance
into the caves below Havasu Falls. Haskins decides that exploring the
caves is essential, and the expedition rests in preparation for the
excursion below ground. The caverns below hold not only the answer to
Powell’s disappearance, but also ancient and newer evils as danger lurks
behind every corner and within every shadow. As the expedition moves
further into the bowels of the earth, the posse and Haskins finally
encounter their powerful antagonists and uncover an ancient magic that
predates the Reckoning itself.
Review: Arguably, the Grand Canyon and its environs are some of
the most beautiful and majestic natural treasures in the United States.
The place is ripe in history and is veritable geological roadmap of the
ancient earth. Therefore, page for page, Canyon of Doom is
perhaps the most picturesque and boasts the largest scope of any scenario
written for Deadlands.
The grand scope of the adventure encompasses most of major genres
characteristic to Deadlands: role-playing, exploration, mystery solving,
traveling, and combat. There is an opportunity for everyone to do
something and participate in this adventure. The level of detail – especially
with extra research by a dedicated Marshal – provides the posse with
some of the most tangible and colorful descriptions of locations. The
grand finale is a knock-down revelation, a direct connection to the very
roots of the Reckoning and the key the weird events engulfing the West.
Interesting NPC’s abound – Haskins and Sophie provide wonderful foils
to the posse when times are tough, and, if overwhelmed, Taoist Kwan can
play cavalry to save the day.
However, the scenario has some drawbacks. The number of NPC’s that run
the length of the scenario are a source of irritating paperwork for the
Marshal. Having Haskins, Sophie, the throwaway Kwan, Cain, and Wilks
can provide real chaos behind the screen during a combat.
The story’s length is a two-edged sword. There are copious amounts of
detail. The traveling portions of the adventure (i.e., the
overland route to Cliffside, the river ride down the Grand Canyon) can be
overwhelming for an under-prepared Marshal and can threaten to bog down
the pace of the whole adventure. Marshals need to keep the plot’s pace
in mind, and a liberal glossing of some of the trip’s aspects might
help keep things moving along.
The Cliffside portion can also be a major slowdown, especially for a
posse unwilling to interact with the town’s environs. There is key
information to be found here, making the role-playing essential, and
Marshals should be prepared with contingencies. The events in Cliffside are
supposed to take a week’s time, but Marshals should be prepared to play
with the time schedules listed to keep player interest high.
The caves can devolve into a typical dungeon crawl scenario – long on
getting treasure and short on atmosphere. The final confrontation is,
as always, a high-powered affair – and especially dangerous because most
posses will arrive there in less than pristine physical condition.
Nevertheless, this excellent scenario should be a lengthy and grand
adventure, and a memorable quest.
Results: My posse did well, and was involved in the whole
scenario, from start to finish. The most memorable part was the ending.
Gaining an insight to the inner workings of the Deadlands universe served
to further bolster my posse’s feeling of accomplishment. A tremendous
amount of time was spent on this foray, and my group was really jazzed
to have survived it. Many changes happened to my group because of this
trip. I used too much in the traveling portions of the scenario –
enchanted with the real world detail I could describe – and often left my
posse bored or plain overwhelmed with description. However, if I were
to do it again, I would have researched the Grand Canyon and its
surroundings more thoroughly. I would have provided pictures of the locations
(even the named rapids) to my players to make things more real.
Overall, it was a good experience and a great adventure.

The Mission
Author: John Goff
Location: Fire and Brimstone (DL 1011)
Session time: 4-8 hours
Rating: 8
Focus: Mystery, Combat
Fear Level: some terror, much dread, some gore.
Synopsis: The posse must investigate why a group of religious
folks, known as the Disciples of Discipline, has not made contact with
civilization in some time. Leaving the tiny settlement of Pueblo Viejo
(Old Town), AZ, the posse quickly finds itself seemingly alone
in the middle of the vast wilderness. However, there are others are
watching their actions very closely.
After a couple of days travel, the posse comes upon a astonishing
discovery: an adobe mission in the middle of nowhere. There are no signs of
life, corpses litter the open area inside the circular wall, and each
of the interior buildings bears the scars of battle. And then, there
are the remains of that oddly located bonfire in front of the chapel
doors. As the posse investigates, it becomes apparent that a massacre took
place here only a month before, the possible culprits being the local
It is during this investigation, and subsequent interment of the dead,
that the nightmares begin. Vivid blood-soaked images ravage a posse
member’s mind, showing her horrifying images of the massacre and
imparting important clues about the mystery that surrounds the place.
The next day, a cadre of bandits looking for easy pickings confronts
the posse, asking some odd questions and itching for a fight. Their
leader, a deserter from the French Foreign Legion, is a wealth of
information when relieved of his friends and provided with the proper
motivation. If the posse decides to stay, the nightmares become worse – even
begin taking on a life of their own.
A second visitor visits the Mission soon after: the Apache responsible
for the deaths of the Disciples. The war chief gives the posse the
last pieces of the puzzle.
This conveniently coincides with the culmination of a dark plan, as the
resident cult leader finally tips his hand. As his undead minions
storm the posse en masse, one of the posse members becomes a target
– the final sacrifice to open a portal to the very pit of Hell itself.
Review: As the author suggests in his brief introduction: “this
one’s not for the squeamish.” This adventure, located at the back of
Fire and Brimstone, takes some advantage of the rules given for the
Blessed and their cultist adversaries. However, inclusion of a Blessed
character is not necessary to play the scenario, but certainly add an
extra, if not essential, spice to the proceedings.
With the exception of a brief tussle during the middle acts and the
violent conclusion, this adventure is about solving the dark mystery that
permeates the mission and its environment. As written, the scenario is
dark, bloody, and reeking with potential nightmare material. If ever
there was an opportunity for a Marshal to indulge in the overtly
sinister and evil, this is the adventure with which to do it. With a little
extra “artistic license,” a creative Marshal could create a
horror-ridden scenario that veritably oozes blood at the corners.
The yarn does have some shortcomings. Posses who are unwilling to be
“creeped” also might not appreciate sitting around while the antagonist
hits at them from hiding. However, the author provides several
alternatives to keep posses interested in the events at hand.
The central issue of the sacrificial dagger is the weakest link in the
chain of nightmares that plagues the posse. A previous reviewer
suggested that it was just too obvious that this was the antagonist’s
“Achilles’ heel.” I believe that the opposite is also true: there is not
enough information about this. Coupled with the illogical unfolding of the
last “money shot” nightmare, the posse’s understanding of how to deal
with the cult’s leader might be very far from the mark. Marshals will
need to gauge how their posses will handle the clues, and move to assist
or confuse as necessary.
Results: This was an excellent little adventure when my posse
played it. Perhaps the only place I diverged from the author’s version
was to add more details about the feel of the place, or its
construction. For instance, the trapdoors found throughout the place were just
trap doors. When my posse entered into the tunnels, the air was
noticeably frigid. The walls were damp and encrusted with fungi, and the air
was malodorous to the extreme. The doors themselves were studded with
rusted passion nails (the heraldic term for the nails used to crucify
Jesus) and the leather pull handles and hinges were fashioned of human
skin. Granted, this is very intense, but the players’ horror and
revulsion were palpable across the table. Marshals, of course, know their
groups well enough to gauge how far to take such scenes and should plan
appropriately. My group never forgot those nails…

The Last Stop
Author: John Hopler

Session time: 4-6 hours
Rating: 7
Focus: Mystery, Protection, Combat
Fear Level: some terror, some dread, little gore.
Synopsis: While the posse is traveling West by train, a
barricade of rail ties forces it to stop in the dead of night. Tensions run
high as the passengers ready their weapons and take cover in preparation
for the worst. When nothing happens, further investigation reveals
that events have taken a strange twist. It seems that the ambushers
themselves were ambushed. Several clues lead to some startling revelations:
the ambushers were Hellstromme gunmen, and they were looking for a
passenger on this very train. Just as suspicion begins to sink in, the
train is attacked by, of all things, desiccated zombies! During the
ferocious battle, one of the passengers mysteriously flees into the desert,
while a Frankenstein-like horror claims a young lady as its prize and
escapes into the cover of darkness. The posse is left with several
options: follow the creature’s trail to save the damsel, track the
stranger, or head to town to get help.
Review: This is a demo adventure that serves as a brief
introduction into the twisted world of Deadlands. It can also serve as a nice
embellishment to an otherwise dull train ride (as if there was any such
thing) through the deserts of the Southwest. The beginning chunk of
background expository neatly and efficiently sets up the adventure. Of
course, the Marshal can easily modify the incidental details to fit the
adventure into almost any setting; just as long as the posse is riding
a train somewhere. The adventure provides a few named NPC’s for color
commentary on the train and as possible allies for the posse to rely on
in case the undead minions of the main antagonist overwhelm them. The
lifting the Creature’s infatuation from various sources
(Frankenstein and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) might seem a bit cheap to
experienced posses, but does add a some plot texture to what could have
been a dull little scenario. The first part of the adventure deals in
liberal amounts of both investigation and combat. The final portion is
primarily close combat, and taking down the Creature presents a stiff
challenge to both new players and vets alike. Overall, this adventure
might be a bit too simplistic for veteran posses, but is a reasonably
well balanced introduction to the setting.
Results: My posse enjoyed this little foray as a side trip from
the usual geopolitical upheavals they were immersed in at the time. I
made very few modifications to the adventure, but found that the undead
minions (especially in the close quarters of the last chapter’s climax)
were a serious challenge.

Ghost Busters
Author: Lucian Soulban
Location: Ghost Busters (DL 1031)
Session time: 12-15 hours
Rating: 8
Focus: Travel, Investigation, Puzzle Solving, Combat, Save the
Fear Level: some terror, much dread, some gore.
Synopsis: Portions of Gomorra lie in ruins as the town tries to
recover from the demon Knicknevin’s rampage. In the aftermath of the
battle, a series of mysterious events leaves the resident Agency
operatives out of action and their leader, Andrew Lane, also known as “The
Ghost,” missing. Lane is the head of the Western Bureau of the Agency,
and both his organization and the Texas Rangers want him found. Now!
Either the Agency or the Rangers (depending on the group’s affiliation)
give the posse the onerous task of tracking Lane down and returning him
to Gomorra. The hunt takes the posse through the ruins of Gomorra,
introducing them to several of the local notables.
The next stage of the chase leads the posse to the ruins of
Sacramento’s wealthy neighborhoods, collectively known as Rat District. There,
they attempt to meet the local Agency operative, a religious philosopher
with a twisted sense of privacy, and end up dealing with a passel of
angry gremlins. From there, they take a jaunt over the Sierra Nevada
Mountains, hopefully not during winter (table for the Donner Party?).
They arrive at the boomtown of Virginia City and find that the Ghost has
already blown through. After a brief meeting with a mortally wounded
Agency operative, the lone survivor of the Ghost’s bloody ambush, the
posse gets to have its own taste of an ambush. It seems that there are
those who would like to see a public airing of the Agency’s dirty
If they survive, the posse must hasten to reach Salt Lake City before
the Ghost reveals everything. However, they come upon a train blocking
the tracks in the Nevada desert. Filled to the brim with horribly
murdered passengers, some of whom are hungry for brains, and one crazed
religious zealot, the train offers the last few clues in a wide-ranging
investigation. Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, the posse must somehow
contact the enigmatic Agency operative known as Nevada Smith for
assistance. Then, it is time for a final confrontation with the Ghost
Review: The Devil’s Tower Trilogy was a grouping of
three interrelated and important scenarios. During these adventures, a
posse could have an indirect effect on the events shaping the Deadlands
setting. They got to become involved with Dr. Darius Hellstromme and
Junkyard for the first time, witnessed first hand the horrors of Rock
Island Prison and Reverend Grimm’s Bloody Sunday, and learned what resided
within the monolith known as Devil’s Tower. Ghost Busters is
the first installment of a second but “unofficial” trilogy that also
includes Rain o’ Terror and Dead Presidents. This second
series differs from its predecessor in three essential ways: they are
connected in a tangential sense, they are high-powered affairs requiring
veteran PC’s, and the posse’s actions directly affect the main setting.
They are, in essence, about making history, and the posse’s success or
failure determines which path this history will take.
Ghost Busters is a gauntlet, plain and simple. There are mysteries to
be solved, and black hats to be put down, all for the sake of making it
to the next stage. It is like a season of Survivor with ravenous
undead (now, wouldn’t that get ratings). The background information of the
piece is fairly complete, considering that the information is contained
within multiple Deadlands sourcebooks. For this adventure to be its
most vibrant, Marshals should really have the requisite books handy:
Doomtown or Bust, The Agency, City o’ Gloom, and
The Maze. And, that’s just for the settings and background! In my
opinion, add Rain o’ Terror (q.v.) to this list for a more
thorough description of Sacramento and its immediate environs. This
adventure center on Agency ties: if your posse does not have an Agent (or
Ranger, for that matter) then an Agency NPC might be the best solution
to this dilemma.
The Gomorra section requires a fair amount of preparation: the clues
here run in a rough order, and the trail can start only in a couple of
set places. The posse is in for some real frustration if the Marshal
needs to refer to the book every ten minutes to keep track. The author
lists the essential locations in alphabetical order, rather than in the
order of clues’ appearance in the plot. A visit with Gomorrah’s own
Nicodemus Whateley is the epitome of creepiness.
The second section takes place in Sacramento, one of the cities in the
Great Maze that got the short shrift for setting. Using Rain o’
to expand Sacramento is necessary here, as most posses will not
go directly to the Rat District upon their arrival. They tend to take
care of the necessities of life – a bath, a hotel room, supplies, saw
bones – then move back to the core of the adventure. The Rat District
is an ugly place, and the posse must deal with a lynch mob before
getting to the meat of this chapter. The remainder of the chapter is a
gauntlet of traps, and is dungeon crawling at its most strange. If the
posse is without a religious character – the traps contained here are all
religious based – a handy throw away NPC is provided to help. The traps
themselves are very creative, but the Islamic root of them might bother
some posse members. However, it does give a blessed character
something to sink his or her teeth into. The final confrontation here elicits
memories that 80’s classic film, Gremlins. Again, very creepy
if presented well, and mad scientists should have a field day here.
The trip over the Sierra Nevadas is not included in the adventure –
that is left to the GM’s imagination. Though a sad omission, just
glossing over the trip keeps the intensity and dread high and fast paced.
Virginia City itself is, again, a brief encounter, some investigation, and
a fire fight. The disabled train in the Nevada desert is the
adventure’s horror moment, with zombies and body parts flying like there is no
tomorrow. The whole “damsel-in-distress sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing” ploy
is an over used cliché in Deadlands modules, and veteran posses may not
fall for it if they have seen it before. Marshals should be prepared
for this. The resulting combat is a high-powered fight, and an
unprepared or weak posse will have their heads handed to them.
Salt Lake City is the other section of the adventure that requires some
additional preparation by the Marshal. The trail of clues that has led
the posse across half the continent suddenly dries up and becomes a
needle in the steel haystack of Junkyard. The single strand is Nevada
Smith. If the posse misses this, or does not think to follow it through,
then the Marshal must be prepared with contingencies. Frankly, the
whole section with Smith can be pretty dull. The change in genre, from
gauntlet to super-spy, is a jarring shift with Agency characters wholly
in mind. Most straight-shooting gunslingers may not like skulking and
The final show down of the adventure is hard-hitting and brutal. The
Ghost, being harrowed, is a tough opponent to begin with. However,
posses may not be prepared with how challenging he is when coupled with the
environment of shadows and steam he has chosen as a killing ground.
Again, Marshals be warned: if played to his fullest potential, the Ghost
should be able to take down a posse of five or six handily. Oh, and
there is NO cavalry, but the Marshal would be well advised to have
something waiting in the wings if an intact posse is a goal.
All in all, this adventure is strong in several ways. It is grand in
scope and consequence. A vigorous plot propels it forward. For the
most part, dread and horror punctuate the plot in short sweet bursts. It
offers several opportunities for participation by many character
archetypes. However, its dependence on Agency or Ranger operatives may still
leave other players feeling left out in the cold. The quality of the
mysteries run the gamut, ranging from the strange (Sacramento) to simple
(Virginia City) to the complex (Gommora) to the inane (Salt Lake City).
Results: My posse liked this one. Most of it was memorable for
them. I fortunately had an Agent in my posse, and that made the whole
adventure run fairly smoothly. If I hadn’t had one, I would have used
an NPC – it would have been too difficult to try to do it any other
way. My posse was mulch at the end of this adventure. Playing Andrew
Lane, with the harrowed powers Claws and Ghost, was an awe-inspiring
moment for my group, and humbling too. Next time, I would have played up
the sheer destruction caused by Lane’s attacks to try to clue in the
posse sooner.

Author: John Goff
Location: Worms! (DL 9009)
Session time: 5-8 hours
Rating: 6
Focus: Mystery, Combat
Fear Level: much terror, much dread, little gore.
Synopsis: They’ll let you in, but they’ll never let you leave
alive – at least, not until after some minor genetic engineering! The
posse finds itself in the middle of a slippery situation in the tiny
town of Hilton Springs, Nevada. It seems that the local marshal is in way
over his head with a series of unsolved disappearances. He approaches
the posse for assistance in dealing with the case. The list of
suspects is small, and investigation of the various leads sends the posse into
the desert after a group of desperate petty crooks. The key to the
mystery seems to be the local town drunk, who has been yanked underground
to a seemingly certain doom. However, the tables turn, and the hunters
quickly become the hunted as the posse discovers that all is not well
under the Nevada desert. Though they may see the sun again, there is no
Review: In retrospect, the series of Dime Novels published by
PEG was, if you will excuse the pun, a novel concept. The idea of
combining a short adventure with a novella offered a fresh way to approach
the venerable prewritten adventure. Much like the Deadlands setting, the
Dime Novels have always had a unique tenor of their own, a sort of
synergy. Rather than burying the Marshal in the minutia of static
descriptions of NPC’s and critter statistics, these mini-adventures encourage
the GM to explore and shape the mood of a scenario. Though not always
successful in a technical sense, as with the Under a Harrowed
trilogy(q.v.), the fiction serves to complement and enhance
the scenario.
Worms! is a Dime Novel that offers some good atmosphere, but
also presents some deep pitfalls as well. The adventure begins with a
“typical” investigation that, if well administered by the Marshal, should
foster a mounting sense of dread. Producing the felling of dread will
need extra support (using details garnered from the novella) due to the
seeming transparency of the investigation – the investigation tends to
run a little thin at points, especially with the Tuller child’s
eyewitness account of her parents’ demise. The main “townie,” Marshal
Parsons, is a rare self-deprecating NPC who is willing to say, “I have no clue
what’s going on and I’d sure appreciate the help.” He sets the tone
for the examination of the environs in and around Hilton Springs: a
mild-mannered and under-the-radar investigation that bares a deceptively
routine facade. In another twist, the token group of low-life bandits is
an underwhelming force. GM’s might find this juxtaposition a welcome
opportunity to steer posses in all sorts of directions, then slap them
upside the noggin when the true menace bears it slimy head (or, lack
thereof). Finally, Marshals need to be prepared for the simple fact that
any posse worth its salt will not go underground after a Mojave
rattler, rescue mission or no rescue mission.
And, it is this antagonist – the namesake of the piece – that brings
the adventure down. Assuming the posse takes the investigation portion
seriously, the scenario does set up the antagonists reasonably well.
However, it offers too little ammunition to help the posse in dealing
with the problem (with the possible exception of a utilitarian, if
cold-blooded, murder). Once they return to town from the underground portion
of the adventure, the leviathans will easily overwhelm a posse without
some means of stopping them (e.g., explosives). The intended
important objective of saving the town is rudely shoved into the basement
as survival scuttles to the top of the list. Weak or foolish posses
will be worm fodder, especially if the GM plays it to the hilt.
Results: The investigation portion was a real nuisance. It
initially seemed that the posse would drag it to its logical extremes,
examining every dark crevice and corner. Once over that hurdle, they
grudgingly went underground. A prepared GM must use as much descriptive
color as possible, or the adventure could otherwise devolve into a
simplistic dungeon crawl. Since I utilized darkness and oil lamps at the
table while playing the underground portion, my posse had the extra
motivation to become spooked. They wasted the module-supplied dynamite at
this point. Errantly surmising that the den of the worms was a location
to be destroyed, they build a charmingly destructive bomb to blow it all
to Hades. As a result, the big fight at the end was a total wash out –
they survived with several injuries and no chips. Then again, they
managed to drive the rattlers off, but the town and its residents were a
total loss. This was one way to eliminate fear levels, I suppose.

Rain o’ Terror
Author: Anthony Ragan
Location: Rain o’ Terror (DL 1034)
Session time: 12-18 hours
Rating: 7
Focus: Investigation, Politics (gasp!), Combat
Fear Level: some terror, much dread, some gore.
Synopsis: Yup, it’s a super-destructive ghost rock-powered
explosive device in the hands of over-eager religious zealots bent on world
domination! The Maze is in the throes of Referendum Fever as its
residents gather in Sacramento to vote. The issue: with who will California
align itself – the Union, the Confederacy, or would Independence reign
until one of these can muster enough to destroy the other? In the
midst of the election, a dark power sets a plan in motion to destroy
Sacramento and snuff out thousands of lives. With the blame falling squarely
on the Union, the most powerful of the three blocs, the resulting chaos
will present a good chance to grab even greater power within The Maze.
The keys to the plan are a group of mad scientists, an airship, and a
device of unknown destructive power.
Meanwhile, back in Salt Lake City, Dr. Darius Hellstromme employs the
posse to escort one of his most annoying scientists to observe the
testing of Project Ghostfire. The Project is located in the town of
Gamorra, and the resident cadre of mad scientists known as The Collegium is
eager to start the testing. The posse and their employer, Dr. Pillman,
are transported to the Maze via the Proletariat, a vast airship
captained by the insane anarchist Belgian, Fineas Von Landingham. Talk
about a potent recipe for disaster!
Soon after, things really begin to get ugly when both the
Proletariat and the Project Ghostfire are stolen. After a couple of red
herrings, the posse tracks the airship to Sacramento, where political
shenanigans are in full swing. Somehow, the posse must piece enough clues
together to track down the stolen airship and stop the mad plan to
detonate Project Ghostfire before it is too late!
Review: This is a nice scenario that starts well, gets a little
weak in the middle, and finishes with a bang. There is a prodigious
amount of background information giving the Marshal a thorough
understanding of what events have led up this moment in the Maze’s troubled
existence. There are a few good hooks that lead into the meat of the
adventure, and it begins at a brisk pace. By the end of the first act, the
posse members have met their link to the Collegium (Von Landingham) and
have lost their direct supervisor (Pillman). The first act’s major
plot hole is the need to railroad the posse into leaving Pillman to follow
up on an obvious red herring. Average to smart posses will not bite
that bait, and the alternatives presented for dealing with defiant
characters are thin at best.
The second act, which takes place in Shan Fan, is also strong. Again,
posses must be led in this direction if they wish to find vital clues.
These clues go against the usual grain: they do not lead to Project
Ghostfire directly, but help the posse to identify the hijackers and
gather evidence. This evidence gathering is perhaps the most invigorating
part of this adventure – the prime goal of the posse is to prevent the
explosion of the bomb. However, a secondary goal – and a vitally
important one as well, especially to pro-Union and Agency PC’s – will be the
exoneration of the Union of any wrongdoing. The background and
denouement clearly delineate the several overlapping layers of success or
failure and suggests the consequences of poor investigation/evidence
Act Three is weakest in the adventure. Taking place primarily in
Sacramento, this chapter relies too heavily upon the posse’s willingness to
meddle in the political events of the Referendum. This is a great
opportunity for a posse to become involved in affecting the meta-plot of
the campaign. However, if there is a lack of interest then this chapter
is a potential game buster, as the posse might become too frustrated
with the lack of available leads. Conversely, it could also serve to
frustrate the Marshal, as he or she, in essence, will have to handout the
vital clues necessary to lead into the next act. The posse has no
independent means to determine its own fate. Therefore, his chapter
requires a balance: how far and how long will the Marshal be willing to
string the posse along (developing dread and a little frustration as a
result) before finally giving them the key to move on.
The final two acts deal with the discovery of the Proletariat
and the subsequent battle to get to the bomb before it goes off. This is
the Posse-Killer portion of the scenario; a devious Marshal can kick
the whole posse into a world of hurt with ease. Two other story
weaknesses become apparent during the last chapter. First, the timing of the
“bombing run” is completely dependent on the Marshal, who should either
prepare a strict timetable or be willing to be flexible. The easiest
is to have the posse show up “in the nick of time,” but this is
dependant on the actual date of the election in your campaign timetable. A
second issue is the lack of a strong human antagonist. The chief
antagonists of this plot are time and Project Ghostfire. The
human elements defending the bomb are essentially big speed bumps – there
is little personality for these guys. Within the confines of the
scenario itself, there is very little opportunity to build up these
adversaries (Magnus Greel and Franklin McDowell). Their deaths or triumphs
will hold little value unless they are played up a little more, and that
will be extra work for the Marshal.
Overall, though, this is a challenging scenario, and it provides ample
opportunities for the posse to become involved in one of the major plot
developments in the world. In the hands of a prepared Marshal, it can
also be a devilish thrill-ride against time and frustration.
Finally, the Marshal should be well prepared to deal with a “free”
airship (especially if Von Landingham dies) and a rogue bomb at the end of
the adventure! Several useful tidbits are available in The
Results: My posse survived – barely. Several aspects of the
adventure left them very frustrated. First off, they disliked Pillman to
a large degree. Against their better judgment, they grudgingly took
the initial bait and stormed after the Maze Rat red herring. The led to
a case of “once burned, twice shy” – they refused to investigate all
avenues of inquiry (Shan Fan Sally’s, for one) in Shan Fan, and that left
them high and dry in Sacramento. They literally spent the first two
days in the city wandering and hoping something would happen to point
them in the right direction. They were not even remotely interested in
the politics, and I let them dangle until they were ready to just ride
off and leave the city to its supposed fate. Dread was quite easy to
build, especially when they theorized that Project Ghostfire was large
enough to cause a second Quake. It could not, of course, but that goaded
them to continue their investigations. The fight on the airship was
especially vicious (especially with Von Landingham dead) and left most of
them near death with no way to fly the ship. Somehow, they made it.
For a denouement, I used Dr. Kipplestein (the Collegium head) and
Jacynth Ambrose (Hellstromme’s representative and the posse’s de facto
boss) to eliminate the dangling “airship-with-a-bomb” problem. It
worked very well. Overall, a very good experience.

Well, this ends part two of my reviews post. The next one will be
interesting in that my posse has not played them yet. So, I’ll make some
predictions on how good they are and how they might turn out. See you
next time for…

Dead Presidents
Guess Who’s Comin’ to Donner?
Pass the Salt
Heart of the Matter
Cold as the Grave
Cray Canyon Cold Snap
Trouble at Table Rock
And more…

Thanks for reading!

Game on,

Dane :freak:
Alea Iacta Est!

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