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Is it just me or is there a lot less conflict in the new version of the setting?

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  • Is it just me or is there a lot less conflict in the new version of the setting?

    Okay, I haven't followed the Deadlands metaplot much lately (maybe I'm just salty there's no official Eagle Wardens), so I don't know how much of this Morgana Effect stuff was detailed already and how much is new in the new edition. But... it seems like these in-universe retcons removed a lot of the sources of conflict from the setting, and didn't replace them with anything. Like, Servitors are no longer a problem, and that's fine, I disliked how literally every thing that happened or didn't happen was the intentional plan of the Reckoners. It took the focus off of how humans can be evil and how supernatural evil is not something totally separate from this, and I think any horror story should be able to focus on that.

    Except... they seem to have taken the single largest source of human evil out, too?

    The previous version of the setting was defined by bloody conflict. The USA and CSA were locked in a cold war, and their open or clandestine conflict was everywhere. They fought over the Disputed Territories, they desperately struggled for Ghost Rock resources, they undermined each other at every turn, partisans for each side wanted bloody retribution -- the conflict underpinned most of the setting. A major source of the horror in Deadlands was the horror of the war itself that was smoldering or raging throughout the world, everything from the intentionally evil Black Regiment to the rage of an agglomeration of corpses left to rot on the battlefield. The war and the violence thereof was a reason for human beings to do all sorts of terrible things the players could interact with, a backdrop and cover for the supernatural evil flourishing in its wake, but now there's just... a lot less of it and it's a lot more minor.

    Did I miss something? I mean, that's always a possibility. But from what I can tell without the Civil Cold War there's just a lot less conflict in the setting, and thus fewer opportunities and types of story to tell. The ending to the history section makes it clear that we're supposed to be "rooting out bad seeds in local towns and settlements before they take hold", but there seem to be a lot fewer ways to DO that, a lot fewer places to go, a lot fewer hooks to hang your story on, without a larger conflict driving the setting. Even if you want to cut the specific old sources of conflict for one reason or another (the Servitors going is a good idea, the CSA being morally equal to the Union is a hard sell for anyone), they should be replaced with something else.

    And if they were replaced with another source of major defining conflict and I missed it, it would be a good idea to center those things a little more clearly.

  • #2
    The major rail companies are still at each other's throats, for what it's worth.

    Comment


    • #3
      The continental scale conflict is gone, but all the other sources of conflict are still present, and they drove all the horror that wasn't on a formal battlefield. And without that conflict, the U.S. government cannot justify having hundreds of thousands of troops - meaning garrisons are often under their listed strengths, and far too small to secure all the lands under their control.

      The Rail Wars are still going, as the various railroad companies battle over rights of way, contracts, and undercutting each other. With Union Blue and Dixie Rails bankrupted and restructured as Empire Rail and Lone Star, both companies have something (profitability) to prove to the world. Kang's Iron Dragon is still the only line through Sioux territory, making it an obvious target for anyone wanting to compete in the lucrative northern lines. Wasatch Rail won the exclusive ghost rock contract with the USA, but that means everyone wants to take them down a few notches. The various sides may not field small armies in pitched battles, but they raid, skirmish, sabotage, and spy constantly.

      The various law enforcement agencies are in a brutal competition to secure resources by "securing" their jurisdiction. They all understand that monsters are bad, but they all want to expand their budgets, get more resources, get more personnel, and get more authority so they can do their jobs better. The best way to convince politicians to do that is to show results every day. Capture criminals, destroy monsters, and not let the other agencies steal the spotlight. Between the Agency, the county Sheriff, the U.S. Marshals, the town marshal, and the various territorial Rangers (Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, etc.) there are at least four agencies that can claim jurisdiction on any case.

      Criminals are all over the place, especially the wilder areas that house wealth. The Great Maze still has a ton of piracy, claim jumpers, and hungry bandits. The Great Basin has bandits, military raiders, and various leftovers from the Stanta Anna invasion. The Great Northwest is still plagued by man-eating monsters, legendary winters, displaced settlers-turned-bandits, Kang's pirates, Whateley blood magic, and ghost rock contamination that turns folks bloodthirsty. The Great Plains have rail bandits, various raiders, monsters in the grass, and unusually large bandit gangs. Deseret is in open opposition to the USA, with no interest in being absorbed into their larger neighbor; add in the giant underground monsters that infest the area, the vicious industrial espionage by and against Hellstromme Industries, and the various tensions (class, religion, rights, wealth, etc.) around Junkyard and you've got a powder-keg that can blow at any time. Indian Country has formal treaties with the USA, guaranteeing their independence, but the US refuses to honor most of those treaties and objects strongly when the tribes enforce the terms; the remains of various outposts, battle fields, massacres, and ghost towns house further horrors. The Wild Southwest hosts the ongoing guerilla war of Geronimo, massive cave networks of monsters, the conspiracy-theory centers of Roswell and Fort 51, and all the stupid violence that surrounds the various boom towns.

      Ghost Rock is still a massive source of conflict. While the US government is the main customer, they typically buy it from mining companies. Which means that the various mining companies, wannabes, and backers constantly fight over claims, mines, and shipping of ghost rock. Along with less valuable resources like gold, silver, coal, oil, etc.

      On the supernatural side, the Civil War already made its contribution. There are thousands of battlefields filled with hundreds of thousands of corpses, any of which can spawn walkin' dead, vengeful spirits, portals to the Hunting Grounds, man-eating beasts, or a dozen other classes or nightmare. The pernicious evil of ghost rock is already an accepted part of life, an absurdly valuable resource for folks to fight over, and is still believed to be the main path to technological domination. The many parts of the US had eleven years of violent independence, with another dozen years of reconstruction and bloody reunion, to spawn their own new nightmares, myths, and grudges. The many veterans of that conflict know, and fearfully accept, that mass death will be accompanied by the risen and vengeful corpses of the dead, quietly spreading that superstitious fear across the land. The various Indian nations had twenty years to rebuild their magic into a force that could keep a powerful western nation at bay. The desperation of the west coast ensured that no national policy stood in the way of massive numbers of Asian immigrants, who brought their own traditions, superstitions, terrors, and magics.

      The conflict of the Civil War is gone, removing the nation-scale conflict of the setting. But the Civil War was never the driving conflict of the setting. It was background material, a voracious maw to consume resources, lives, and youth - not a conflict central to the stories of the Weird West. It didn't define, it merely framed. The defining conflicts where the inner struggle over how to deal with you fellow humans. At its core, Deadlands isn't a war story, it is a love story. That's why Deadlands works just fine after the war is over.
      I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

      Comment


      • #4
        The Rail Wars are explicitly over. There's a heading called "The End Of The Rail Wars" in the history section where Wasatch blew up Lost Angels to end it. The rest of the book describes that there are other rail companies but does not frame violent conflict between them as being "a thing". If it's supposed to be a major driving conflict, the book doesn't communicate that at all, so that falls under "a good idea to center those things a little more clearly".

        Everything else you describe is an extremely local phenomenon, not an over-arching conflict. The Coyote Confederation and the USA may fight but if you aren't near that then it won't matter. There's the conflict over Ghost Rock in the Sioux Union (and I think their whole "spell to disable technology" thing is extremely racist but that's probably for another topic) but outside of the Sioux Union it doesn't matter. If you aren't near Deseret, the Deseret issue won't matter. Etc. "There was a Civil War but now it's over" is worse for all of the things you list that rely on the ghosts and wounds of the Civil War then

        Everything you list was present in the previous version of Deadlands, but it now lacks the over-arching conflict that gave it omnipresence and urgency. The Civil War was absolutely central to old Deadlands -- it wasn't the central conflict only because the game wasn't about solving it. The Civil War affected every single thing that was happening in the old Deadlands. It underpinned the entire setting, it framed every conflict, it fed every act of violence directly or indirectly. It's a huge part of what the game was about, even if it wasn't the single most important piece, and the fact that it was this omnipresent conflict was crucial to how Deadlands was structured. And in its place there is now nothing.

        And these secondary conflict sources are, again, not center-framed and not communicated to the reader very well if at all. The history section of the book is how you know what this alternate history setting is about, what sets it up. And the whole back end of that history is "Here's how this major threat was removed. Here's how this major threat was removed. Here's how this major threat was removed. Here's this mysterious antagonist whose only effect so far is to have removed a lot of conflict from the world and you can't use as a source of conflict because you know literally nothing about her. Now, the large organizations that were fighting each other now work together and are focusing on clearing out smaller local-level threats."

        It doesn't center any big conflict or driving force. The part that tells you what this setting is all about communicates something to the player: this setting is a lot less threatening and has a lot less conflict than it used to. A person who needs to read that section, who does not go out of their way to find the information you did and put the same emphasis on it, will walk away with the conclusion that most of the problems in Deadlands have been solved, because all of the most recent history is about the supernatural problems being solved, and now the game is just about mopping up the remnants. They have to go to descriptions of individual areas -- players are not even supposed to read those even though we all know they will -- to get an idea of driving conflicts and all of those are local.

        Also, those local entries do not communicate the things you say they do. Let's look at Deseret as an example. You say:
        Deseret is in open opposition to the USA, with no interest in being absorbed into their larger neighbor; add in the giant underground monsters that infest the area, the vicious industrial espionage by and against Hellstromme Industries, and the various tensions (class, religion, rights, wealth, etc.) around Junkyard and you've got a powder-keg that can blow at any time.
        And you look at what the book tells you about Deseret, in the section about Deseret, and this is not what it says. Junkyard is framed as a crappy place to live because it has a "rogue's gallery" of prospectors and out-of-work soldiers, and the workers are trapped in "wage slavery" and engage in bloodsport... but there's nothing saying or alluding to it being a powder keg that is about to blow, an urgent source of impending conflict instead of a self-contained problem. It mentions that Joseph Smith didn't intend to join the Union and that's it, nothing about open opposition or that being a source of conflict. The Deseret setting section says that Hellstrome Industries is doing fantastic business and that it's overcoming its main rival Smith and Robards in the delivery business and that's mostly it. Every source of conflict or tension is glossed over or presented in past tense. I open the book that tells me about the setting, I go to the section about Deseret, and it does not tell me that any of these things you listed are a source of conflict. It doesn't even describe any tension.

        What's the very next section? Indian Country, talking about the Sioux Union. Where it describes sources of conflict in a way that constantly minimizes it. Ravenites want to sow conflict and discord and hate the Old Ways! Sitting Bull was a Ravenite! And unmaksing him created the Black Hills War! And then that war ended when Sitting Bull was defeated and that problem is now solved. The Sioux don't like the white man coming in and violating their no-technology ways, but they have extremely well-defined borders and rules that both sides honor and the USA is explicitly not trying to break or usurp because they know there's no point. According to the part of the book that should tell me about this, there's no larger effort to get into those sacred lands teeming with profane ghost rock beyond "this one idiot got some mix of cocky and drunk and tried his luck" and then the only thing that happens to him is he gets dragged back to Deadwood naked instead of kicking off any larger conflict. Miners are allowed to stay on their claims. The law enforcers of Deadwood "do their best to keep the peace and keep violence to a minimum", there's an admission that it doesn't always go the way they like, but the conflict is presented in a way that minimizes it and the only source of conflict listed is "errant drunks". Deadwood as the book describes is not a powder keg at all.

        The Coyote Confederation is the most violent area with the largest source of over-arching conflict and violence, but it only has what I would consider the bare minimum level of acknowledgment of conflict. The Confederation is restless, the Union is powerful and right next door, and chiefs seek to unite the people by giving them a common enemy. And then the section stop talking about that. It goes into a description of how the Confederation was inspired by Raven but no description of how that affects what his puppet "Coyote" does as its leader. Then it describes two locations to be exemplary of the area, neither of which anyone is fighting over. Nothing about Perry is relevant to or creating problems outside the Perry city limits. Nobody is contesting Quivira, it's not a powerful magical resource people fight over, people barely know about it.

        The sections of the book that are here to tell you what the world is like, and what it is about, constantly minimize or neglect sources of conflict. The sections on each individual area are short, they have to only communicate the most crucial information, and that crucial information is to minimize sources of conflict and present them as past-tense. You have to read between a lot of lines, refer to a bunch of previous edition material, and go against what the book seems to be communicating to find all these conflicts, none of which are doing nearly as much work as the Civil War was anyway. This is not a thing you can require people reading the core book to do. You need to communicate what the setting is about and what to do and what it is, and this book is communicating "there is much much less conflict than there used to be and there are not many sources of important conflict".

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        • #5
          One of the main points of this version of Deadlands is that there is no overarching conflictm current big mega plot going on. The point is small local conflict and horror. There is no civil war cold war but in clasic deadlands that was usually not something that the players were ever involved in. The great rail wars are over but their are flashpoints (see the entire section on the great rail, wars pg138-143) and constant conflict between the different railroads. A marshal does need to look at the fear level guide on pg 8t and then look at the Gazzeter starting on pg 114. The west is still new, it is untaimed. Settlers are still fearful of Indian raids, of being attacked by bandits. The fireside stories of things that go bump in the night are real and not just produce of an over active imagination.

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          • #6
            ...I am going to have to assume you mean "meta plot", except that isn't what meta plot is, either. The book is absolutely full of meta plot. The Civil War isn't meta plot, it's a setting detail. Meta plot is specific events that happen over the course of the game that come in and change what the setting is. In the old WoD, he adventures of Samuel Haight were meta plot, because as new supplements came out he did things that changed the setting without your players. The fact that Werewolves were at war with the forces of the Wyrm is not meta plot, unless the book dictated exactly how that war would play out at each step.

            The histories of what happened in each PPC, those are accounts of meta plot (here is the adventures these other characters went on, in detail, that changed the setting), and they don't need to be in the book. The Civil War is not meta plot, it is an underlying theme. Nearly everything that went on in the Weird West tied into the Civil War, and that source of conflict is gone, and in its place is nothing. The book that we are looking at and talking about does not communicate to the player sources of conflict. The book minimizes conflict and presents it in the past tense. The Gazetteer describes problems as exclusively local, minimizes their importance and impact, and presents conflict as a thing that happened in the past tense. The Fear Level guide on 85 provides vague outlines of how creepy things are and only for Fear Level 6 does it provide an actual source of conflict, which is "monsters run rampant". If Fear Level is supposed to be the driving force of conflict, the thing that tells me what Fear Level is should tell me how that works instead of saying how spooky the unspoken things are. Why not give tangible examples of bad things that happen that serve as a barometer, like "this is when people start forming cults to sacrifice people to appease dark spirits" or "this is when evil magic is pervasive enough that ghoul colonies can get started"? Instead of just saying the things that happen are this level of spooky?

            This is the core book of the game. This needs to be written for people to be introduced to the setting. As presented, according to its defenders, this setting doesn't have significant conflict without reading between a bunch of lines and bending over backwards. Werewolf the Apocalypse, the other game I used as an example, is not a good game. It's not a good setting. But it tells you what the conflict is and how your characters can interact with it, instead of describing a bunch of places with no fighting and then going "ooh, there's also spooky stuff". When they rebooted the game into Forsaken, they got rid of the entire old conflict the game was about because it was dumb, and they replaced it with something new, and they told you how that conflict permeated the setting, was relevant to your characters, how it affects you and how you interact with it. This Deadlands isn't doing that crucial work. The level of conflict in the setting has drastically gone down, and you don't need to have played the previous version to know that, because a substantial portion of the history section is devoted to telling you that. It talks vagaries and generalities about spookiness and then everything it describes has little to no conflict and little to no means for the GM to create some.

            Comment


            • #7
              So since you are familiar with WoD I will talk about so rif those.
              VtR 2nd ed: this has the Stryx as a possible major antagonist but in most vampire games it is about the political in fighting.
              In WtF 2nd ed you have the idigam but just like the stryxs most games will revolve around controlling your territory fighting ridden, claimed, host or spirits.
              in HtVyou just fight monsters of the week with no real over arching theme.

              The setting for Deadlands is the same of any western genre but they added horror elements to it. Fear level is not a barometer of what is going on, instead it is a barometer of how much people realize what is going on and how much in influences their daily lives. In every city there are thieves, and murderers. There are monsters that lurk on the outskirts of every city and lurk in the shadows of some cities. You can have evil cultists anywhere you go.

              in the northwest you have pirates, wendigo, werewolf along with spirits of famine. It si colder the woods are darker and the cities are being slowly corrupted or just taken over by Kangs forces. In California you have more pirates, cultists, severe famine, and sea serpents. In your desert areas you have cultist, you have outlaws, rattlers. You have Hlestrom testing sites. As you venture further south you get vampires, undead, outlaws and bandidos. Whenever you venture near a railroad you have the chance of a rival railroad sabotaging or attacking the areas.

              I have been playing deadlands since it first came out and while the cival war being at a stand still raised tensions it didn't really influence any PPC or any adventure that came before.

              I think I once the Gms guide to Horror at Headstone Hill will give you a greater understanding but if you look at the previous PPC look at all of the Savage Tales, this is more the focus for Deadlands now.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Wanderingmystic View Post
                So since you are familiar with WoD I will talk about so rif those.
                VtR 2nd ed: this has the Stryx as a possible major antagonist but in most vampire games it is about the political in fighting.
                In WtF 2nd ed you have the idigam but just like the stryxs most games will revolve around controlling your territory fighting ridden, claimed, host or spirits.
                in HtVyou just fight monsters of the week with no real over arching theme.
                And in all of those it clearly communicates the conflict and what it means and how it is omnipresent and how your character interfaces with it. It's also in a setting that is built from the ground up to be about this and doesn't have a giant hole shaped like an over-arching conflict.

                V:tR is built around the politicking of other vampires trying to screw each other and maybe diablerize each other. This conflict suffuses the whole game; most of the time the game talks about things your character can interact with, it presents it in terms of how it fits into this paradigm of vampire conflict. Here's the Invictus, here's the Carthian Movement, here's the Lancea Sanctum, here are the fundamentally different things they want to make happen that won;t rule out two of them working together in a party but makes their overall goals opposed. Here's the vampire power structure with the Prince and all that, here's the kinds of things they make people do, here's the kinds of schemes and power plays at work beneath them. Everything about the Vampire setup is "here is what interpersonal conflicts look like and do and are created by".

                WtF has the idigam as a possible background threat but is focused on your local territory and protecting the Gauntlet. And it details all the kinds of things that will face your territory, the sources of conflict, what forms those conflicts are likely to take, how your character interacts with and is affected by them. Here's these azlu and beshi-whatevers, here's what they do to your land, here's what it looks like. Here's how Spirit-Urged and Spirit-Claimed work and what they are likely to do. What they did not do is take the cosmology of Apocalypse, which was completely dependent on the Wyrm, and then take it out to replace it with nothing. They built up something new around it.

                HtV is about monsters of the week and everything in the book about how your character works is about how you deal with monsters of the week. It tells you what they do and the various forms of conflict they drive. How you have to deal with them other than directly attacking them, how it is a long and difficult process to work to get to the pint where you can take them down and what that process looks like. It details the city of Philadelphia in the back, and that city is full of monsters doing bad stuff that makes problems for the Hunters. This description does not talk about how great things are in Philly and how consistently sunny it is, and then just say "but there may be some spooky things hiding there, pardner!"

                Those games know what they are about and center the conflict. When they tell you about the world they tell you about the conflict and why it is important and how it will affect you. This new Deadlands doesn't do that. It says "there is some spooky stuff out there, pardner!" and then minimizes sources of conflict and presents conflict in the past tense. It's not Dungeons and Dragons, an acceptable answer to "where is the conflict here" is not "in the monster manual", which is what you say when you list off the types of monsters in each region. Hunter is built around making that work, its emphasis and mechanics and focus make that work, and Deadlands isn't built the same way. Deadlands has a huge Civil War-shaped hole that is filled with nothing, it has greatly reduced the sources of conflict and replaced them with nothing, and the sources of conflict it does have, the ones that were all present in the previous edition but had more company, are presented in a way that minimizes them. It wants to have its conflict be "about" something and doesn't have the focus to let that conflict be local enough that it only matters because it's your home and doesn't want to have anything wider than a local issue that would allow a conflict to be about something.

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                • #9
                  So some of this is in the current book some has been talked about throught all the books of deadlands reloaded, in general the game assumes that your posse is or becomes a member of the Twighlight Legion. The Twighlight Legion has been around since the time of Camelot (that we know of) This secret society has been fighting supernatural evil through the world over the ages. In Deadlands current time the Twighlight legion uses the Exploreres society, a group started in England of explorers and hunters who travel to the ends of the earth, think Allan Quarterman. There is also the Oder of St. George a holy order made up of all Faith's who has seen supernatural evil and actively fight it. Now in the states the twightlight legion have made their presence known to both the Rangers and the Agency in an attempt to help put a stop to the evils going on there.

                  The twighlight legion serves as a story hook for why the posse are going around fighting evil. This is not the only option for people however, it is just as easy to play a group of hired guns, or even town forefathers. If your posse is not a member of the twighlight legion then you don't know of any conflict, you think the west is as presented in the front of the book, it is only as you live longer and see more that you realize all is not what it seems. If you were playing in a CoC game then you players would no nothing about the supernatural until you saw it and it drove you insane or killed you. In some ways deadlands is the same, it is a basic western until you finally realize that outlaw you have been loo,ing for is really a ghoul and has been eating some of the local settlers. Supernatural conflict has been ramped up but as to what exactly is in each place is up to the marshal. The human conflict is mans greed, it is the outlaws who run rampant, the pirates raiding. It is the bitter hatred that has built up over the years. If you want to know more look at any western for inspiration of what atrocities man is inflicting upon themselves.

                  You said this isn't d&d so we can't just look at a monster manual but this is a 196pg book with 50pg devoted to a monster manual, and 10 pg devoted to generating encounters for your posse. Also please remeber that this book is 130+ pages less than any WoD book. Also there is a sand box campaign guide still to come and a players guide with a section dedicated to tips for marshals running a game.

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                  • #10
                    On top of all that, if you want to you can have the civil war still going. It will be at my table.
                    Like what you have read in someone's post? Hit that like button and let everyone know.

                    I run Deadlands Reloaded. One of my players writes an incharacter blog here --> http://ballgownsandbattleskirts.blog...deadlands.html

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                    • #11
                      I am a bit with IlzmerZolond on this one. I like that the civil war is over, I also like why Pinnacle did that. But something big is missing. Some big thing. It doesn't have to be in the foreground, it doesn't have to be something that we'll be fighting (in the first couple of PPCs), it just has to be there pulling the strings. Something other than there are monsters everywhere. I also like that this isn't the reconners anymore, but something is still missing. As long as the PPC are fun and make sense that'S not an issue, but for self made campaigns something might be missing.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        This edition of Deadlands reminds me of how the setting was presented in the original core rulebook, where there was very little detail given about the actual world, other than saying, evil entities known as the Reckoners are driving the Fear Level up so that one day they may walk the Earth. Years went by before it was revealed that the Reckoners were the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Stone didn't have a name yet, he was just a cool looking dude on the cover of the book. Darius Hellstromme was just some random villain NPC in the sidebar examples. I'm pretty sure Grimme was never mentioned. The only one who was talked about in any kind of detail was Raven. When more details about these players were finally revealed, they were never statted out because the players were never meant to engage with them.

                        As for the Civil War, prior to the Morgana Effect, the Civil War officially "ended" after the events in Dead Presidents, which was published way back in 2001. The race to complete the transcontinental railroad ended at the beginning of The Flood, which was published in 2008. The setting hummed along just fine after those were resolved. As others have mentioned and as this book points out, the Rail Companies are still at each other's throats as they expand their networks, leading to sabotage and open violence. Even a retconned end of the Civil War still leaves plenty of material to mine. It's not hard to imagine roving bands of Confederate Raiders who never gave up the cause, who may be living, dead, or somewhere in between. Ten years of open war is going to leave a lot of hard feelings and wounds that would still be raw, even 13 years later. The Reconstruction Era in the real world was not exactly a bed of roses, it's pretty easy to imagine how much worse it would get in a world under the Reckoner's influence.

                        Originally posted by IlzmerZolond View Post
                        The Fear Level guide on 85 provides vague outlines of how creepy things are and only for Fear Level 6 does it provide an actual source of conflict, which is "monsters run rampant". If Fear Level is supposed to be the driving force of conflict, the thing that tells me what Fear Level is should tell me how that works instead of saying how spooky the unspoken things are. Why not give tangible examples of bad things that happen that serve as a barometer, like "this is when people start forming cults to sacrifice people to appease dark spirits" or "this is when evil magic is pervasive enough that ghoul colonies can get started"? Instead of just saying the things that happen are this level of spooky?
                        You have it backwards. Fear Levels are a feedback loop. Cults drive Fear Levels up, they're not caused by the rise of Fear Levels, same with abominations. Abomination shows up, Fear Level goes up, which spawns/draws more abominations, causing the Fear Level to rise, spawning/drawing more abominations, etc.

                        To drive it home, the central conflict of Deadlands was always about stopping the Reckoning, the Civil War and Rail Wars were just background dressing. In the official metaplot, the players never even had an influence on the end of the Rail Wars, it was just something that happened in the background. And as others have pointed out, they're trying to condense a setting that has spawned thousands of pages of material into a single 192 page book. There just isn’t enough space in it to do what you’re asking. Maybe in the grand scheme of things, they would have been better off splitting it into two books, a Player’s Guide and a Marshal’s Handbook, but I’m sure that would have just delayed the publishing even more, and it would probably be contrary to Pinnacle’s stated goal, which was, reframe the setting around scattered small events aimed at stopping the Reckoner's influence where it crops up, not sprawling meta plots. I’m sure there are plans to support the setting for years to come, and those sprawling Plot Point campaigns are somewhere in the works, but for now, we’re going to have to use our imaginations.

                        For whatever it’s worth, I sold my current (post announcement that Civil War was going to be retconned out, pre-COVID) group of players on the Deadlands setting by telling them it was a steampunk alternate history with magic and strange new creatures and rumors of monsters, and they were all in. They don’t even know about the meta struggle against the Reckoners.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by stadi View Post
                          I am a bit with IlzmerZolond on this one. I like that the civil war is over, I also like why Pinnacle did that. But something big is missing. Some big thing. It doesn't have to be in the foreground, it doesn't have to be something that we'll be fighting (in the first couple of PPCs), it just has to be there pulling the strings. Something other than there are monsters everywhere. I also like that this isn't the reconners anymore, but something is still missing. As long as the PPC are fun and make sense that'S not an issue, but for self made campaigns something might be missing.
                          There is something. The Cackler and Morgana le Fey.
                          The Cackler is a harrowed some 1600 years old? 1400? 2000? Whatever. He's really old, really tough, has really powerful magic, and he's got a few cults devoted to him and Morgana.
                          Morgana is an ancient sorceress to rival Merlin, who forged a path through time to be in the world again. The only other beings we know of who have forged a path through time are the Reckoners themselves, which gives us a range for her power.

                          And while the Servitors are handled, the Reckoners are still lurking in the Hunting Grounds. Patient and plotting, waiting for some fools open to becoming their new Servitors.
                          I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.

                          Comment


                          • ellipses
                            ellipses commented
                            Editing a comment
                            ValhallaGH check out pg. 80, where they detail lowercase "s" servitors.

                          • ValhallaGH
                            ValhallaGH commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Ah! I missed those two paragraphs. I was wondering when PEG was going to introduce numerous servitors.
                            Thanks ellipses , and I apologize to Wanderingmystic for being wrong.

                          • Wanderingmystic
                            Wanderingmystic commented
                            Editing a comment
                            @VahallaGH on pg 148 they talk about lesser servitors and how the recknors are creating them after the defeat of their major Servitors. Also in classic the head of Bayou Vermilion was a servator. While I agree they are not as prolific as they are in HoE they do exist and are a great way to bewf up a main mortal villain you might have.

                            The cattle rancher who keeps hiking up their prices causing people who cant afford it to starve might become a famine servator. If that same rancher sold tainted and spoiled meat they might become a pestilence servator. Gene Hackman's character in The Quick and the Dead might be a war or death servator. Anyone who spreads large amounts of fear and terror could become blessed by one of the Reckoners even if they didnt know it.

                        • #14
                          Originally posted by ellipses View Post
                          It's not hard to imagine roving bands of Confederate Raiders who never gave up the cause, who may be living, dead, or somewhere in between. Ten years of open war is going to leave a lot of hard feelings and wounds that would still be raw, even 13 years later. The Reconstruction Era in the real world was not exactly a bed of roses, it's pretty easy to imagine how much worse it would get in a world under the Reckoner's influence.
                          "It's not hard to imagine" is not an acceptable answer to "where is the conflict in this core book". You don't have to imagine what kind of conflict defines the world of a vampire or shadowrunner, because those things are centered and presented to the players in terms of how they interact with it and shape the world. The previous edition of Deadlands didn't say it was "not hard to imagine" because it told you how the Civil war drove conflict and what forms it took.

                          probably be contrary to Pinnacle’s stated goal, which was, reframe the setting around scattered small events aimed at stopping the Reckoner's influence where it crops up, not sprawling meta plots. I’m sure there are plans to support the setting for years to come, and those sprawling Plot Point campaigns are somewhere in the works, but for now, we’re going to have to use our imaginations.
                          I am saying this reframing doesn't work well, and that the Civil War isn't a metaplot. If this book (with no Civil War but detailed descriptions of the PPCs, the events of the Cackler, and what the Prospector was up to) is their end product of "no sprawling meta plots", the only conclusion is that PEG doesn't know what a meta plot is. The original 1e Deadlands adventures were the definition of meta plot, and it wasn't because there was a backstory or setting, it was because they were full of "look at these cool other characters who are doing all the cool things". The descriptions of the adventures of other characters in this core, of things the player characters will never interact with, are meta plot. Description of a conflict that feeds every single aspect of the entire setting the players interact with is not "meta plot".

                          Comment


                          • ValhallaGH
                            ValhallaGH commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Minor point: I never saw the inherent conflict in Vampire. It seems to have been basically the same as in any human group, i.e. some people just gotta cause drama.
                            Shadowrunners have an ounce of inherent conflict - runs are criminal activities and someone will be trying to stop your crimes, probably with violence.
                            Both of those are still minor conflicts on the scale of "local troubles" that you object to here.

                          • ellipses
                            ellipses commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I'm kind of at a loss here. The core conflict of Deadlands has always been, stop the Reckoners, save the world. That hasn't changed. The Reckoners are still active. Maybe in your games, your posse interacted more heavily with the Union/Confederacy conflict, but this conflict has never been central to the setting, and almost never comes up in the official adventures, to my recollection (Independence Day off the top of my head, and you could easily sub in angry ex-Confederates for actual Confederates, Rain of Terror probably doesn't work at all, Dead Presidents would require significant revision [my plan would be to make evil Jefferson Davis CEO of Lone Star rails, which he uses to funnel weapons to disaffected ex-Confederate Raiders]). Deadlands could have easily worked as presented today as when it was first published in 1996, and while it's hard to argue with the franchises success, keeping the Confederacy alive in the original 1e Deadlands was, in my opinion, a mistake.

                            If you want to get hung up on how we define metaplot, be my guest. I can only think of one 1e Deadlands adventure that fits your definition of meta plot (Jackie Wells, ugh). But even if you have all the same players, their individual characters/posses probably never interacted with each other as they went through the separate plot point campaigns, which, to my mind, still fits the definition of a metaplot.

                            I'm also going to have to echo ValhallaGH here. Admittedly, it's been a long, long time since I've read a Shadowrun book, but, Be a Hired Hun for Amazon isn't much of a central conflict compared to Save the World from Apocalyptic Evil. I'm not qualified to speak to the World of Darkness since, frankly, I never saw the appeal of the setting at all, but to each their own.

                            So I guess I'll just ask, what would you replace the Central Conflict with, were you in Pinnacle's shoes?
                            Last edited by ellipses; 07-07-2020, 03:58 PM. Reason: forgot about Dead Presidents despite mentioning it earlier

                          • IlzmerZolond
                            IlzmerZolond commented
                            Editing a comment
                            The Civil War underpinned the entire setting, and now it is gone with no replacement. Similarly to this complaint, without the Civil War the book does not present a major source of conflict and minimizes the sources of conflict it has. Shadowrunning is 1: about The Little Guy vs The Mega Corp but 2: centered in the presentation of the setting so that it's unambiguous what the game is about and how this conflict is pervasive and what it means to you and how you interface with it. Shadowrun doesn't have a giant gaping hole in the shape of the Civil War and doesn't spend a bunch of time in the history section detailing how major threats and sources of conflict were removed with no replacement.

                            Similar example from another game: unlike the Apocalypse-Forsaken transition, the jump from Mage: the Ascension to Mage: the Awakening involved stripping out the over-arching conflict (Mages vs Technocracy) and replacing it with pretty much nothing, because the group that could have been the antagonists were heavily de-emphasized. The game talked about how bad the Abyss was and presented things that were "not too hard to imagine" as threats -- and the major complaint everyone had about that game was, well, it was "why in God's name are the section headers in gold text on a white background with a thin calligraphy font" but in a close second was "Okay, what am I supposed to DO with this?"

                            What would I do, without bringing back the Civil War and not bringing back ovepowered Reckoners? "We won the Civil War but we are losing the Civil Peace". The nation had splintered apart even further than in our timeline, across a much greater area, and didn't nail the reunification. Worse still, the driving threat that unified each side is gone and they can go back to sniping at each other. America has an order, but it's incredibly tenuous and barely in control and the people living inside of it can't or won't understand how to keep it together. The Reckoners have retreated from overt power, but are now opportunistic -- they leap on opportunities for internal strife like a pack of starving dogs on a pork chop, aiding the ones responsible, throwing in creatures to make things worse. Back East is turning into a kleptocracy, and the further to the frontier you go, the more you get people acting as if they run their own little fiefdoms, carrying out every grudge they had, stabbing their neighbor in the back so he won't stab first.

                            And then you don't say "the job of PCs is to solve social problems," you illustrate how this pervasive mistrust is the backdrop for the conflicts of the setting. The Territorial Rangers and the Agency despise each other, not because they support different nations, but because it's a jurisdictional pissing match where both sides se the other as hopelessly corrupted. Our Deseret section doesn't say "Hellstromme Industries is doing great and is now outperforming Smith and Robards" without describing how incredibly paranoid against industrial sabotage of competition they are, cracking down brutally on anything that looks like a competitor if you squint at it. The Mormons don't like this at all but can't object because of how much their military is dependent on Hellstromme's tech and their paranoid fear that the US is going to invade so maybe they have to strike first. I would not have the area around Deadwood clearly delineated for who can go where in an agreement everyone knows and honors, I would have the Sioux Union constantly moving the boundaries to try and better prevent wildcat miners from treading on holy ground, I would have them brutally execute trespassers, I would emphasize that the law enforcement of Deadwood simply cannot stop guys from running off on their own past the boundaries to where they know the good strikes are OR going to kill Sioux for revenge, and thus the "tomorrow we may die" feeling of debauchery in Deadwood is explicitly driven by something, the fear that maybe the Sioux will get fed up with all this and just wipe them out. And of course you show the monsters, the ones infiltrating the Rangers and Agency to keep the paranoia alive or sabotage their efforts, the ones trying to sabotage Hellstromme to justify their brutality or destabilize Deseret, the ones chucking ghost rock on holy ground and murdering miners who were within the boundaries, ensuring that whatever the outcome of their actions, if they are allowed to complete them, will amplify humanity's self-destruction and mistrust. That's why you have to stop them and nobody else can.

                            This is a central, unifying theme, a central conflict that isn't the Civil War, but it's what the game is ABOUT. It's the driving force of conflict, it's the human evil that the supernatural evil enhances: "The Reckoners aren't going for Generic Spooky Pardner, they are trying to help civilization rip itself to pieces, and that is what you're here to stop". And I would center this conflict in the presentation -- make it explicit that the characters are probably part of the Twilight Legion instead of just mentioning how cool they are, then focus on "this is the specific over-arching thematic goal (we must hold civilization together), this is how you interface with it (stop the monsters that enable and draw out the worst of humanity's malice and fear), here is how that is likely to manifest (examples of this process in the Gazetteer locations)." This justifies moving around to all these locations so you can care about problems for reasons other than "this is where I live", because it is a part of the greater conflict of the setting. It makes the Legion about something on a thematic level. It tells you why this matters and how it ties together.
                            Last edited by IlzmerZolond; 07-07-2020, 04:04 PM.

                        • #15
                          I think you may be missing the point of the new edition, then. One of the major stated goals was to tone down the meta plot specifically so that we could make our own plots more freely at the table.

                          When you have an overarching conflict, it's hard to play more than 3 sessions without running into it. At which point the meta-plot infects or replaces whatever plot you had envisioned originally. There is less free design space.

                          By focusing on multiple, localized plots with a vague, invisible background, you give yourself and your players more permission to say things like "Shan Fan is turned into a dragon by Famine and seeks to consume all of California" or "The Freemasons have infiltrated multiple rail companies and have taken the West hostage."

                          Or, alternatively, you can reject any notion of a "main" quest and instead focus on small adventures like bounty hunting, monster killing, personal revenge, etc.

                          That's what people wanted from Deadlands. Not a setting that required you to play through 4 official Plot Point Campaigns to fully understand what was going on.

                          Comment


                          • IlzmerZolond
                            IlzmerZolond commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I don't understand how people can keep saying this, like, your own statement is in direct contradiction to the book. The Civil War has nothing to do with metaplot. You don't need a single droplet of metaplot to understand the Civil War any more than you need metaplot to understand the Chi War in Feng Shui 2, or the Runner vs Corp motif in Shadowrun.

                            You say the point is to have a setting that doesn't require you to play through 4 official Plot Point Campaigns to fully understand what is going on. The core book in the previous edition, alone, adequately explained the Civil War and framed it as the underpinning of the conflict in the setting. The history section of this core book details the events of 4 official Plot Point Campaigns so we can fully understand what is going on!

                          • MichaelDawn
                            MichaelDawn commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I don't find my statements contradictory. Though I do agree with the frustration that huge parts of the book are dedicated to explaining cool events that somebody else already did, those sections help explain why the setting is the way it is and spark ideas of what might happen next. And you could easily ignore them and just read the excerpts on each location. No need to remember or mention the Servitors to your group at all.

                            But perhaps I should have used the term "central tension" or "central conflict" instead. The problem here is that you seem to want the book to tell you what the central tension of the setting is, and many others simply want the book to tell us what conflicts exist so we can decide which one is central to our group. I, and others, felt like the capital "S" Servitors created conflicts too strong to ignore, so there was little reason to do anything other than start with The Flood and run the PPC's in order.

                            Of course, if you prefer the way Deadlands: Reloaded handled the central conflict, you can always just use the Marshall's section of DL:R with the updated player's info from DL:WW. Cleaner ruleset with the already familiar setting info. You change what you want without changing the things you didn't.
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