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Savage Worlds GM Screen Inserts
by Stephane G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/14/2013 22:50:10
Cool illustrations no matter what setting your using. The pages with the tables are clear & concise, thus avoiding the need to look it up in the rulebook. If the players can see the combat options, then they may be more inclined to use them in game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Worlds GM Screen Inserts
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Deadlands Noir: The Old Absinthe House Blues
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/13/2013 23:09:38
The Old Absinthe House Blues isn't a bad adventure. But after the Red Harvest adventure of the core book, I found OAHB to have less noir and be less intertwined with the New Orleans of Deadlands: Noir. Particularly with the investigation and bayou locals, it felt like something close to a Call of Cthulhu adventure, without the highly thematic mythos.

The adventure is also more linear than I'd like. The adventure breaks down into three acts: investigation in New Orleans, convincing the locals in the bayous, and a climactic fight against some thugs some high cornfields. But the investigation requires the players to follow a particular path, and the bayous has an encounter with an undefeatable creature. A game master may have to rewrite the adventure to add more flexibility.

On the plus side, the adventure is adaptable. Because it's not deeply connected to the Deadlands: Noir version of New Orleans, and the focus is roleplaying over mechanics, new players (and even game master) can get into the adventure without knowing much of Deadlands: Noir New Orleans, nor must they use the Savage Worlds game system. The adventure has also been designed to allow other adventures, such as personal scenarios, to be played between OAHB acts. Since the adventure starts in New Orleans, the gamemaster can easily introduce OAHB elements into the New Orleans-based Red Harvest adventure of the core book.

At around 30 pages, it can be printed on the laser printer without changing the toner. However, I would recommend playing out the core book adventure first, and seeing what other Deadlands: Noir adventures come out later.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Noir: The Old Absinthe House Blues
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Deadlands Reloaded: Grim Prairie Trails
by Sean F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/10/2013 18:26:44
SEAN'S PICK OF THE DAY: Deadlands fans still wanting to wander the Old Weird West will be happy about this one. New monsters, classic creatures and archetypes, and lots of adventures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Reloaded: Grim Prairie Trails
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Deadlands Noir
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2013 23:52:19
Introduction

Alexander L. has written a fantastic review of Deadlands Noir, so, instead of assuming you're incapable of reading his review, I'll some additional comments to add to it.

*****

Do you need Deadlands: Reloaded?

No, but you should be familiar with the Deadlands setting. But, since Deadlands: Noir takes place in the Depression, certainly none of the characters will care about some history lesson from a century ago. They're too busy trying to find a dime for their next meal. The Deadlands weirdness works well as the underbelly of the city, so players unfamiliar with Deadlands can easily play player characters who are discovering things they shouldn't know.


Do you need Savage Worlds?

You should. About a third of the book includes Deadlands: Noir rules for Savage Worlds, stats for important NPCs in its New Orleans setting and a bestiary of Deadlands critters you don't want to tussle with.

The Savage Worlds RPG and miniatures skirmish game system support cinematic gaming very well. The Deluxe PDF edition is ten dollars and really can be used for more roleplaying games by itself. The earlier Explorer's Edition can be found hardcopy for ten dollars or less at the OLGS. You can also get the Savage Worlds: Test Drive edition free on DriveThruRPG or the Pinnacle games site. You're welcome.

Of course, with this being Noir, your players will be investigating and roleplaying more than hacking and looting. So, if your players are obstinate, adapting Deadlands: Noir to your system of choice isn't impossible.


Is this game only for Deadlands players?

No. This game could have been equally called Noir: Deadlands. Deadlands gives the game a unique flavor, but can be suited for your playing group's taste. Investigative Call of Cthulhu players will also enjoy this game, as Deadlands: Noir supports adventures where something spooky lies underneath the story.

In fact, most character types have changed, and some eliminated entirely. Blessed, sykers, and martial artists are rare so will be covered in the Deadlands Noir: Companion. Indian shamans exist, but not in the urban landscape of Deadlands Noir. Mad scientists evolved into patent scientists. Hucksters were hunted down, with those remaning becoming Grifters. Voodoo, however, has risin in New Orleands, allowing players to play shamanistic characters. And the Harrowed are still there. Savage Worlds supports designing characters based on skills, not classes, so players always have the option of playing their favorite noir character idea.


What if I don't want to run premade adventures or don't want to set Deadlands: Noir in New Orleands?

Okay, maybe this book won't work out too well for you. There *is* a two-page mystery generator you can use to create your own adventures. But about a fifth of the book is dedicated to a seven-adventure campaign, with the shorter mini-adventures usable between these adventures. New Orleands (and its corrupt factions) is the only city covered in this book. See the Deadlands: Noir Companinion for additional cities.

*****

Web Support

As of this writing, the Deadlands: Noir KickStarter is still shipping dead tree versions of its books, so it's not too surprising that the only support are some premade characters and a character sheet. The premade characters are definitely worth looking at. Deadlands: Noir mentions miniatures and printable and purchasable maps of the adventures in the PDF, but I couldn't find mention of them on the website.


PDF Format

One irritation I have with PDFs is that many of them make a PDF of the book, and that's that. IMO, Since PDFs have an unlimited page count, and material that couldn't be included in the dead tree version because of printing costs should be included. Also, PDFs allow printing of individual pages. The artwork includes mug shots of NPCs. So Pinnacle could have included NPC picture profile handouts for the GM to print and cut out for the players to see whom they were dealing with. Also, since Savage Worlds supports miniatures gaming and they have the full-body art of the beasties, I would have liked to see paper miniatures included with the PDF.

Conversely, a 145 page grey-color intensive coffee-table PDF is not something you want to print out. No printer-friendly version is included. Entries for NPCs and beasts have widows and orphans (ie. a one-page entry for a beast will start at the bottom of one page and go to the other side). Artwork that looks purdy in the electronic coffee table book consumes ink and toner when you have to print out the page it's one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Noir
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Savage Worlds Deluxe
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2013 23:20:14
Savage Worlds is a generic cinematic simulationist RPG, with miniature skirmish rules. Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorer’s is the newest edition, providing an update to the third printing of Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition. Savage Worlds is published by Pinnacle Entertainment, with settings Evernight, 50 Fathoms, Necessary Evil, Rippers, Low Life, Deadlands: Reloaded, Tour of Darkness, Necropolis, and Weird War II. Just under fifty companies have been licensed to create product for the Savage World game system.

The Rules

Each character has attributes and skills, collectively called traits. Traits are represented by a type of die, such as d8. Whenever a character performs a Trait Test, they roll the appropriate Trait die, add modifiers, and try to reach a Target Number, typically a 4. If two characters are in a conflict, they each make an opposed Trait Test, with whoever rolled the higher number winning out. A character also has a Race, Derived Statistics, Edges and Hinderances (advantages and disadvantages), and Gear. Additional rules allow cooperative rolls for characters, and group rolls, for Extras.

Sounds typical, right? Well, Savage Worlds adds a number of cinematic rules to the standard "skill roll vs. target number" mechanic. Aces allow "exploding dice", where an additional die roll is added if a die's highest number has been rolled. For every 4 points above the Target Number the hero achieves a Raise for the roll, for additional effects, such as additional damage. Every hero roll includes a d6 Wild Die, whose results can be used in lieu of their regular die roll. Bennies are "plot points", allowing a Trait reroll, and taking the better of the two. And so on.

Initiative is a slightly gimmicky deck of playing cards, with each hero and his allies, or GM group of whatever being dealt a card. Highest rank goes first. Jokers, however provide a temporary bonus and allow the hero to go at any time during the round. A Hold allows a hero to wait on another character's action, and interrupt with a successful Agility contested roll. Player Characters can either Move their Pace of 6 inches, or Run an additional 1d6 inches, with a -2 Trait test penalty.

A Melee Attack is simply an opposed roll of Fighting Skill vs. Parry. Ranged Attacks are a Shooting Trait Test, with Target Numbers of 4 for short range, -2 modifier for Medium Range, and -4 modifier for Long Range. Additional rules allow multiple targets. Melee Damage is the character's Strength die and weapon's damage die. Ranged Damage is the weapon's damage die. Damage dice can also Ace (explode). Total damage is compared to the defender's Toughness, and can have raises.

You've probably seen that crunch before, but the next cinematic mechanic is damage. No abstract hit points here! Characters are either Shaken, Wounded, Incapaciated, or Dead. If the damage roll was successful, the target is Shaken, but each raise causes a Wound. If the character was just an Extra (such as a minion), he's out of the combat. Each wound means a -1 on Trait Tests, and three wounds means Incapacitated. Keep a benny around to soak damage: make a successful Vigor roll to shake off those wounds! Or spend a benny to automatically stop being Shaken. Additional rules cover situations such as Aiming, Area Affect Attacks, Breaking Things, Called Shots, Hazards, etc. Tests of Will is a great cinematic mechanic, in which heroes can Intimidate the bad guys, or Taunt the behemoth.

Dramatic Tasks have their own mechanic. A standard Dramatic Task requires five actions (rounds) and five successes. Dramatic Tasks are typically difficult (-2 Trait modifier), but other characters can cooperate. Just don't draw a Club for your action, or the GM will inflict a -2 Complication, with disasterous results!

Horror and mythos game masters will like the Fright Table. The Fear mechanic is a Spirit attribute trait check. A horrific scene can cause a character to be Shaken. Something from the mythos will have worse effects! Both can result on a roll on the Fright Table, ranging from a useful Adrenaline Surge, to a Charisma-penalizing streak of white hair, to a heart attack!

Additional rules include Interludes (breaks between adventures), Mass Battles (eg. Mars invades Earth), Social Conflict, and Vehicles.

An entire chapter is dedicated towards Powers (magic, psionics, super powers, weird science) using a power point system, and detailing specific powers. Another chapter is Game Mastering advice. The Bestiary chapter has both Abilities (similar to Edges and Hinderances) for creatures, and sample beasts. The book ends with several unconnected "One Page Adventures" designed for a single session of climactic play, plus some templates for area effects.


Buyer's Guide

I do recommend first downloading from DriveThruRPG the free Free RPG Day Test Drive rules, which come with a modern day horror adventure. The additional mechanics in the Deluxe book can be intimidating, and the Test Drive rules provide an excellent framework for new players and game masters. The pdf download of the Deluxe book does not come with a printer-friendly version, so if you don't plan to bring your iPad or laptop to the game table, also check your OLGS for the hardcopy Deluxe Explorer's Edition, for about $10. The Deluxe Edition has some updates, but the two editions are still compatible, and rules changes are on the Pinnacle website. Pinnacles Entertainment has the Test Drive, additional adventures, and other support for Savage Worlds.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Worlds Deluxe
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12TM: Fear Effects: Savaged edition
by SJ B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2013 16:14:54
So far the best purchased Ive made on RPGNow!

So useful and full of variety and awesome flavorful options!

Thank you so much for offering this :)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
12TM: Fear Effects: Savaged edition
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Deadlands Fiction Anthology 2: For a Few Dead Guys More
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/17/2013 10:23:55
The combination of Horror and Westerns does take a little getting used to. The Foreword to this volume, written by Joe Lansdale, explains the appeal of both genres and how they might work when mixed together. Deadlands explores these themes, mixing elements from TV shows, movies and comic books in a bizarre, but workable, adventure. The fiction in this volume explores the living and the dead, good and evil, drama and humor.

There is a nice two-page introduction to Deadlands just before the stories begin. It offers up information on the arrival of the Manitous and the points at which the supernatural invaded the West. This primer is invaluable for those unfamiliar with the backstory of the Deadlands and makes reading the stories much easier.

The short stories that make up this volume are fitting to the world of Deadlands, and range in quality from very entertaining to pointless. Obviously part two of a three-part series of anthologies, some of the tales in this volume are continuing stories, which then go on to finish up in the next volume. Some introduce interesting characters, ones that might make great antagonists for a group of Deadlands PCs. Exploring different regions of the Deadlands, these tales offer a variety of mysteries and pit the protagonists against foes both supernatural and mundane.

Lucien Soulban’s “No Man’s Law” offers a tale of young Eli Woodrow, a stagecoach robber who is way out of his league. Eli gets himself caught in the middle of a mysterious plot and a nasty doublecross. The best parts of this tale have nothing to do with the supernatural and everything to do with human greed and sin.

Zach Bush offers up a ghost tale of sorrow and vengeance called “Nuna Daul Tsuny” about atrocities done to a Cherokee girl who now haunts the plains seeking her lost innocence. Tragic and eerie, this story proves that not all horror in the Deadlands is about gore and monsters.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Fiction Anthology 2: For a Few Dead Guys More
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Solomon Kane
by Paul H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2013 05:06:57
The Soloman Kane Savage worlds system is as good as all the other Savage world settings. The rules and die conventions are easy to understand.
Combat for novice characters can take a while to play out. Here is an example. Our last combat, This involved 3 players, the combat took two sessions totalling approx., 3.5 hours. Player 1 who was on a -2 for wounds from a previous combat, spent the entire 3.5 hours entangled in a tree, because he kept on getting poor dice rolls. Player 2 Was up against 2 zombies, which he had to fight on his own.
I am player 3 was up against two robed figures, during the start of the combat I got wounded giving me a -1 penalty, about 1.5 hours into the combat one of them conjures a snake. My character has a minor phobia of snakes giving me another -2 penalty making a total of -3. This also causes me to be Shaken, Due to -3 I keep failing to recover from the shaken state and due to poor die rolls from the GM it is.5 of hour before my character is bitten by the snake. I then have to make a vigour roll at -2 for the poison with -1 for being wounded, I fail and become incapacitated, I then have to make a 2nd vigour roll which if I fail I will die. I failed but the Gm is not playing the rules as they are written, so I spend the next 1.5 hours trying to recover from this snake bite finally lapsing into unconsiusness.
It also could do with more detail on Poisons and Diseases and there recovery.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Solomon Kane
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Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorer's Edition
by David S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2013 12:08:24
Very well written, clean, concise, to the point, with just the right amount of fluff. The design notes really help to get a better understanding of why rules were created the way the were.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorer's Edition
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Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion
by jonathan a. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/08/2013 00:50:24
The Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion is very useful for creating and running Fantasy based SW settings.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion
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Rippers: Death on Dartmoor
by Tim H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2013 16:34:33
Over all the plot is interesting, with enough twists to throw the unwary off track. Some aspects are a little troublesome in that if the party is lacking a particular skill, it's difficult to advance the story. (someone with Tracking is virtually a must!)

The story itself is engaging, and the NPCs well-fleshed, with plenty of specifics but enough room to allow for GM creativity.
The challenges of the case are such it will not be an easy walk, requiring the full range of combat, social and investigative skills to deal with them.

Aspects of the timing becomes tricky if the party dallies much at all, but they won't know that until the window of opportunity has already closed. Tying in the right culprits into the right places may prove a bit of a challenge for those not of an investigative bent. Combat has the potential to become overwhelming if the group has "kicked the hornet's nest" too hard.

All in all, it's an interesting case for even experienced Rippers, though newer groups would do well to bring numbers.....

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rippers: Death on Dartmoor
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Weird War II
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/04/2013 07:06:04
Review originally posted at FlamesRising.com - http://www.flamesrising.com/weird-war-ii-sw-review/

Tabletop RPGs were born from historical minis gaming. Going in the reverse direction seems to be difficult in RPGs. Unless, of course, you add a supernatural element. Western gaming lay dead until Deadlands came along with a potent mix of zombies and steam guns. It’s no surprise that the company made famous by that game, Pinnacle, might try a similar formula with other times in history. They made a successful foray into the d20 OGL with Weird War II, smashing together the horrors of war with the horrors of legend. Weird Wars are poised to become a brand within Savage Worlds, with rumored entries including Rome and the Crusades. Launching the line felt like a good time to revisit Weird War II, which is available in Print and PDF for Savage Worlds.

The setting is a pretty basic mash-up: take World War II, add zombies, vampires, werewolves, and cultists to taste and stir. It differs from Deadlands in that the fantasy and horror elements don’t change up the world in big ways. Things are more low key, and the Office of Special Intelligence is much better at keeping a lid on the existence of creatures. Players are also less supernaturally aided. A Haunted vehicle can be taken as an Edge, Russian soldiers can eventually be trained to be psychic soldiers and chaplains can use faith to turn the undead but that’s it. More often than not, the PCs will have to use their wits, guts and whatever equipment the U.S. Army gave them to kill the monsters the Axis Powers unleashed.

The Savage Worlds version offers a good fit for the setting and system. Though human is only playable race, there are dozens of branches of military that fit a similar function. The base assumption is that the group will be made up of a unit with a commander and his men. Other options exist, for those who might want to patrol the seas looking for a phantom U-boat or partisans and resistance fighters behind enemy lines. Some Edges even offer traits that play to national stereotypes like unflappable Brits and friendly Frenchmen.

This is a full-color PDF that combines much of the material from the original d20 line. There are chapters devoted to many of the fronts of the war as well as a general overview. The PDF is full color, using artwork from previous books as well as vintage artwork from the period. A few changes from the original Weird War have been made. Players no longer have access to magic. Some of the sillier monsters were removed. The O.S.I. is now interested in covering up the supernatural instead of controlling it. The changes are minimal but fans of the original should take note.

The presentation in the book is top notch. Pinnacle is known for its flavorful core books and this is no exception. Everything is in full color. The art is a mix of vintage posters, authentic photographs and spooky paintings. Each of the chapters is broken up into a different campaign. These campaigns have subtle but different looks and keep things from getting too boring. The presentation makes coming up with adventures as easy as flipping through the book with the History Channel on in the background.

World War II is a huge subject to cover. Material from the original line made it into the book but not all of it did. There are points where it feels like concentrating of a specific theater might have been a better idea. the writers are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about their subject. Focusing in a specific area might have allowed the book to really nail the feel of being a frontline soldier as well add mixing in some strangeness to battle. Unless the group is made up of people looking to play multiple World War II campaigns, a lot of the book could go unused once the players blow up Hitler’s necromancy lab once and for all.

Each theater gets a chapter that details the soldiers, equipment and creatures that fit in the area. But the space each theater takes up leaves little room for one of the best parts of Savage Worlds books. Plot Point campaigns are one of the most well-liked bits about these core books. They offer a campaign structure condensed to be flexible. This book doesn’t have an overall campaign, instead choosing to go with short hooks in each campaign and random encounter generators. It’s disappointing since the authors show a love of history and seeing what they could come up with for an epic campaign would be interesting to say the least.

The book is filled with stats for tons of equipment from the era. Guns, artillery, tanks, airplanes, boats and more get statted out for whatever campaign might need them. In addition to the stats, many of the items get callouts in the text to discuss a little bit of history. The equipment also expands the field of battle, allowing for dogfights over Britain or tense sub encounters in the north sea.

Bottom Line: If you want to shoot Nazis, zombies, or, even better, Nazi zombies, sign up to deploy with Weird War II today

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Weird War II
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Deadlands Noir Companion
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/18/2013 21:27:13
One of the things that I really, really enjoyed in Deadlands: Noir was the amount of work that the team put into building New Orleans as a playable setting. The setting was extremely thorough, breaking down the various locations, NPCs and plot hooks that the players can run into and can easily fuel several campaigns.

The Deadlands: Noir Companion takes that aspect of the game, and spins it off into FOUR new settings, each one taking place in a different point in time. With Chicago (1927), Shan Fan (1939), Lost Angels (1946) and The city of Gloom (1950).

Each of these settings is complete, with discussions on life in each setting, notable locations, a random location generator, Savage Tales, a Plot Point Campaign and the Men and Monsters of each city. Needless to say, this is the book that will give Deadlands: Noir the kind of legs it needs to fuel years of gaming.

But aside from the settings, the book also introduces a few new elements to the Deadlands: Noir game. Fans of the Arcane Backgrounds will be pleased to see that The Blessed and Sykers coming back into play. Meanwhile, martial arts fans get something to enjoy with the Kung Fu Edge tucked into the Shan Fan chapter.

Needless to say the same infectious enthusiasm from the Deadlands: Noir corebook is present in the Companion. While most of the material is more useful for the GM as opposed to players, the few mechanics invovled do present new avenues for players to try different characters from more unique backgrounds.

The idea of each setting taking place in a slightly different time period is also an inspired decision, as it shifts the tone of the games from the Prohibition to World War 1 and even post World War 2.

---

The Deadlands: Noir Companion is an excellent expansion to the already amazing core book. It expands the setting through both time and space, giving pleny of opportunities to run the entire gamut of sordid stories that Noir is known for. I'm constantly impressed by the quality of the books for the Deadlands line, and I have to admit that now I'm secretly hoping for a Hell On Earth Reloaded Companion sometime in the future.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Noir Companion
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Deadlands Noir Companion
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/18/2013 08:10:47
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/03/18/tabletop-review-deadlan-
ds-noir-companion-savage-worlds/

I’ve really been enjoying Deadlands Noir so far. It’s a nice mix of horror and detective work. It’s Call of Cthulhu, but with more mundane horrors and an emphasis on pulp action rather than antiquarian studies. I loved the core rulebook, I enjoyed the first adventure for the system, The Old Absinthe House Blues, and even found the two short stories (Tenement Men and Blood and Roses) to be fun little diversions. With four straight solid releases for the Deadlands Noir franchise, I had to wonder how long they could keep the streak of quality alive. Unfortunately, the streak ends here, with the Deadlands Noir Companion. While not a terrible release by any means, it’s definitely a turn for the worse, as it does a lot of things wrong and kind of sucked my enjoyment of Deadlands Noir out with one fell swoop, thanks to the multitude of bad decisions made here.

Let’s start with the first and most obvious one. When your PDF costs twenty dollars, it better be a weighty tome indeed. After all, Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition clocks in at over five hundred pages, and it’s $29.99. Deadlands Noir is less than half the size, and only ten bucks less. Now Pinnacle does overprice their PDFs, so this is really no surprise here, but it’s also a big no-no when the companion for a setting or system costs more than the core book. Deadlands Noir is only $14.99, so the companion, regardless of size, should be roughly the same cost. Anytime a companion is more than the core book, a red flag is being waved.

The second big issue is that the Deadlands Noir Companion commits the cardinal sin of being all over the place with dates and locations, thus locking in the metaplot in too tightly. This sort of thing is what the aforementioned V:TM did back around Third Edition, and it’s sad to see Pinnacle making the same huge mistake less than half a year into the spin-off’s release. Even worse is that where Deadlands Noir was mostly hands off from things like other Deadlands, spin-offs such as Hell on Earth, the Deadlands Noir Companion locks Hell on Earth into rigid metaplot continuity meaning, that it is GOING to happen instead of being a possible future for the setting. Whenever a metaplot is forced this heavily on players, they become passive participants in their own game unless they jettison the metaplot completely. I hate to keep bringing up White Wolf as an example, but the parallels are too eerie here. All the complaints about Third Edition, where PCs took a back seat to the metaplot and published adventure NPCs is ringing all too true here, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A good metaplot is written in such a way that players feel they can affect it. A bad one leaves them going, “What’s the point? Everything is already determined.” Where Deadlands Noir was in the former, the Companion is unfortunately in the latter.

The problems compounds further when you see exactly what you get in the Deadlands Noir Companion. There are four distinct locations, which is a great idea, because Deadlands Noir only provided information for New Orleans. However, things quickly go to pot when you realize these four cities are all in different decades, and none are in the same time frame as New Orleans in Deadlands Noir, which is set in 1935. This means you can’t string even TWO of these locations together without advancing time in some way, and there’s no real way to, say, pick up and move from one location to the next in the same time frame without a serious amount of work on the GM’s part. This means the vast majority of people playing a Deadlands Noir campaign will find the Companion interesting, but ultimately unusable. That’s extremely bad, and you have to wonder what the guys at Pinnacle were thinking when they ever considered going down this road, as it is neither smart nor accessible.

So here’s a list of what you get. There’s Chicago circa 1927, Shan Fan (San Francisco) circa 1939, Lost Angels (Los Angeles) circa 1946 and The City of Gloom (Salt Lake City) circa 1950. Again, due to the gaps in the time line, you can’t really use any of these locations in conjunction with each other OR New Orleans, unless you move up your campaign several years each time you want to change locations. This is just a terrible design idea in practically every way possible. We could look at things in a positive light and say that we now have five small locations to run campaigns in instead of one – but we’re still stuck to specific time periods for each. What the Companion should have done is list all four locations and how they are in 1935, so as to be compatible with Deadlands Noir‘s default time period and locale, OR it should have been one big timeline running from the 20s to the early 50s, which would then allow far more creative freedom in regards to where you set you campaign and allow for travel between locations.

So is there anything actually positive to say about the Deadlands Noir Companion? Well, about half of the collection is extremely well written. I enjoyed the Chicago and Shan Fan sections, and there is a lot to work with in either location. The Chicago section is really the only one in the book that actually has a Noir feel to it, while the Shan Fan locale is highly unique and offers some really interesting situations and characters for people new to the Deadlands universe, while longtime players of the Weird West version will enjoy seeing how things have changed in Ghost Rock Central. Lost Angels is… okay. Movie Town is well done, but the division and contrast between that and The Holy City kind of shreds the Noir feel, and the entire section falls completely apart by the end, leaving you to wonder why it was even written in the first place. See, so much of the Lost Angels section revolves around Sister Judith. She is the focal point of the location, the mood, the theme and the city itself. Everything written to let you effectively use the location of Lost Angels revolves around what she had done and is currently doing. In this aspect, everything is solid, cohesive and really well done. In fact, I would have said seventy-five percent of the book is well written, but the big long multi-chapter adventure at the end completely destroys all the quality work that was done here. Why? Because Sister Judith DIES AT THE END. This is truly terrible, because it pretty much renders the entire Lost Angels section moot. It’s one thing to have a portion of a supplement or sourcebook because unusable or incompatible as a product line goes on, but this is honestly the first time I’ve ever seen it happen in the SAME BOOK. Who is running quality control over at Pinnacle? This wouldn’t be so terrible if somewhere in the section gave GMs information on what the city will be like or run like after Judith’s death, but no, the adventure just ends and it’s off to The City of Gloom. This is so ill thought out, it’s hard to believe this Companion is written and edited by the same great team that did Deadlands Noir, but it is in fact so. Effectively, the Lost Angels section is little more than a series of adventure seeds where the others allow you to re-use the settings even after you play the adventures contained within. This wouldn’t be so bad if the adventure seeds weren’t the majority of the section, but they are. The actual description of Lost Angels is twenty pages, and the seeds and mini-chronicle take up thirty-seven. OUCH.

The City of Gloom gets even worse because there is no Noir at all, even though, you know, this is part of the Deadlands Noir line. Instead, you have a section that has far more in common with the bad atomic age sci-fi/B-horror movies of the 50s. This is obviously what the writing team was going for here, and that’s fine, but when I pick up a product that has NOIR in the title, I guess I expect NOIR, and not something that would have been great MST3K fodder. When the entire section, and even the final core adventure, revolves around one of the big bads from The Weird West, who has since died and been reborn into a giant robotoic body housing his undulating brain in glass tubing, well, that just defenestrates even the slightest facet of Noir that you could hope for. As well, this section, more than any other really, slaps the GM and players with the feeling of “Screw your campaign, this is OUR game and you will have it unfold the way we want it to,” right down to locking in certain characters as unkillable or untouchable because they show up in Hell on Earth. Look, a well written RPG book is meant to guide or suggest things to a GM and let them formulate their own ideas and scenarios. It’s meant to let them make the game all their own. Unfortunately, Deadlands Noir Companion does the exactly opposite, ESPECIALLY with The City of Gloom. I can’t tell you how much I hated the constant references to a future that they are saying IS going to happen, when it should be written in a way that suggests this could happen, but the GM doesn’t HAVE to go that route if he or she doesn’t want to. Add in the fact the section is a mix of bad sci-fi and even worse Cold War espionage adventures and you have a combination that soured me on the whole affair.

The thing is, Pinnacle would have been better off selling these four locations as separate PDFs that players could pick and choose from. They would feel a lot more flexible and optional that way. Unfortunately, the whole is actually less than the sum of the parts here, and all four sections combine to give the feeling of a rigid, inflexible campaign setting, where it doesn’t matter what the PCs do as everything is already predetermined in the end and players are just along for the ride. The Companion feels so completely alien and opposite to the core Deadlands Noir book, it’s not even funny. There you were, just given suggestions and occasional allusions to what happened in other Deadlands settings with no attempt to make you feel like you needed to be familiar with AND own said variants. The Companion, however, goes for a hard sell that these other Deadlands settings are not just recommended, but almost needed, which is in poor taste.

For twenty bucks you are getting an expensive PDF that will do far more to turn you off to Deadlands Noir than anything else. Only one of the sections is actual Noir infused, and another is a weird Noir/morality play hybrid that completely destroys itself by the end. Another is a well done 20s Kung Fu-esque piece, and the fourth is just terrible in pretty much all aspects unless Noir somehow means to you Cold War Era shenanigans and terrible sci-fi bits that neither you nor your players will be able to take seriously. It’s unfortunate, because there are some quality adventures and/or writing in this collection, but taken as a whole, the Deadlands Noir Companion just does too much harm to the campaign setting and to push players away – which is exactly what a setting companion SHOULDN’T DO. It should accentuate, not destroy, what was already built. If you’re fine dealing with locations where everything is laid out for you and your players, to the point where you will feel like you are merely rolling dice instead of actually role-playing, you might have a more positive outlook on this book, but for me, the Deadlands Noir Companion is pretty much a bunch of my pet peeves rolled into one big mess.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hell on Earth Reloaded
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/10/2013 12:48:36
http://www.teilzeithelden.de
--------------------------------


Hell on Earth Reloaded beschreibt die schlimmste mögliche Zukunft, die aus der Welt von Deadlands Reloaded erwachsen konnte. Ob hier nur die Welt oder auch das Setting zerstört wurde, verrät euch Marc heute in seiner Rezension

Die Welt ist zur Hölle gefahren und die Wenigen, die dieses neue Zeitalter erleben müssen sehen sich einem täglichen Überlebenskampf ausgesetzt, der mit jedem Tag härter wird. Das entstellte Gesicht der Erde hat eine Menge Hässlichkeiten parat, die dem typischen Überlebenden buchstäblich das Leben zur Hölle machen können – zumindest für die paar Sekunden, die ihm noch bleiben. In diese Welt wirft uns Hell on Earth Reloaded, das Nachfolgesetting zu Deadlands Reloaded.

Erscheinungsbild

Das zweite Savage Worlds Setting, das sich mit Deadlands befasst, präsentiert sich dem Leser sehr ansprechend: Das Hintergrundlayout ist in einem dezenten graugrün gehalten und durch Endzeitelemente wie Seitenüberschriften in abgenutzter Straßenschildoptik aufgehübscht. Die Lesbarkeit ist ausgezeichnet und der Text ist ansprechend strukturiert.
Auch die Seitenleisten mit zusätzlichen Informationen fügen sich angenehm in das Seitenbild ein. Die grafische Gestaltung macht einen guten Eindruck. Die Darstellungen reichen von gut bis atemberaubend, nur die aus der Classic-Reihe übernommenen Bilder bleiben hinter dem neuen Qualitätsstandard etwas zurück. Insgesamt hinterlässt der Settingband einen ausgezeichneten Eindruck, der mit zahlreichen atmosphärischen Bildern punkten kann. Einige Bildentscheidungen, wie zum Beispiel die Abbildung eines Untoten aus Deadlands Reloaded wirken allerdings eher willkürlich und stören die ansonsten einwandfreie Gestaltung.
Technologisch ist das vorliegende PDF auf dem aktuellen Stand der Technik. Index und Inhaltsverzeichnis sind voll verlinkt, es existiert ein Inhaltsverzeichnis in digitaler Form und von dem von jeder Seite aus zurückgegriffen werden kann. Ein klares Lob an die Autoren: Auch im Text erwähnte Referenzen auf andere Teile des Buches sind verlinkt. Das sieht man momentan noch eher selten und bringt einen klaren Mehrwert.

Inhalt

[box]ACHTUNG: Dieser Abschnitt enthält Spoiler für die Geschichte von Deadlands Reloaded![/box]

Die Welt von Hell on Earth Reloaded ist die schlimmste mögliche Zukunft, die aus Deadlands Reloaded erwachsen konnte. In Deadlands Reloaded befreit ein wütender Schamane mit seinen Gefolgsleuten die Geister und Dämonen der ewigen Jagdgründe, welche sofort damit beginnen, durch das Wirken von Monstern, die Erde in einen schrecklicheren Ort zu verwandeln.

Durch die Einflüsterungen der Manitous erlangt die Menschheit Kenntnis von immer fortschrittlicheren und grausameren Möglichkeiten, ihre Mitmenschen unter die Erde zu bringen, was die Konföderierten Staaten von Amerika in die Lage versetzt, den amerikanischen Sezessionkrieg nicht nur zu verlängern, sondern sich auch den nördlichen Staaten gegenüber zu beweisen und als separater Staatenbund fortzubestehen. Dies animiert weitere Staaten wie z.B. Utah und Kalifornien, welches bei einem fürchterlichen Beben in ein Labyrinth aus gefluteten Canyons verwandelt wurde, ihrerseits die eigene Souveränität zu erklären. Als wäre das nicht schon schlimm genug nutzen auch die Indianer Ihre Chance und bilden eigene Stammesgebiete. Die Sioux-Nationen im Norden und die Coyote Konföderation im Süden befinden sich jeweils mitten im Staatengebiet der USA bzw. der CSA und splittern den Kontinent weiter auf.

Der Konflikt zwischen den beiden amerikanischen Nationen kommt nie zu einem kompletten Stillstand, sondern ist ein durchgehend existierender kalter Krieg, nicht zuletzt wegen einem neuentdeckten Mineral, dem Geisterstein, einer unheimlich kraftvollen Energiequelle. Dass die Dampfschwaden, die dieses Mineral bei Verbrennung ausstößt, wie Totenschädel aussehen und der Stein stöhnende Geräusche von sich gibt, ist zwar verstörend, wird aber als notwendige Übel angesehen.

Die Welt war also über 200 Jahre lang von einem kalten Krieg zweier Supermächte beherrscht, die ihre Staatengebiete leider direkt nebeneinander hatten. Dieser Konflikt eskalierte im Jahre 2081 nach der Ermordung der US-amerikanischen Präsidentin endgültig zu einem atomaren Weltkrieg, der beinahe die gesamte Weltbevölkerung auslöschte. Die eingesetzten Bomben, sogenannte City Buster waren verbesserte taktische Atomsprengköpfe. Diese verstrahlten nicht nur die direkte Umgebung und zerlegten alles in einem Radius von bis zu zehn Kilometern, sondern waren mit der Kraft wütender Geister ausgestattet, die einen Großteil des Lebens in einem Umkreis von 50 Kilometer auslöschten, ohne der Infrastruktur dabei zu schaden. In einem Umkreis von nahezu zehn Kilometer um die Einschlagstelle bildeten sich sogenannte Geisterstürme, welche das Gebiet darin von der Außenwelt abschnitten und bis heute bestehen. Man kann zwar durch diese Stürme hindurch gelangen, riskiert dabei aber, sich entweder eine Mutation einzufangen oder psychisch oder physisch verletzt zu werden.

Das alles ist aber noch nicht das Schlimmste: Durch die geballte übernatürliche Kraft dieser Bombeneinschläge wurde die Erde schlagartig in einen düsteren Ort verwandelt, physisch, aber vor allem auch spirituell. Auf diese Chance hatten die Abrechner, finstere Entitäten aus Deadlands Reloaded, gewartet. Endlich konnten Sie, nach Millennien der Wartezeit, selbst in Gestalt der apokalyptischen Reiter Fuß auf die Erde setzen. Sie erschienen alle an unterschiedlichen Orten im amerikanischen Westen, rotteten untote Heerscharen um sich und fielen mit diesen über die unorganisierten Überlebenden her, bevor sie nach Osten über den Mississippi hinweg aus dem amerikanischen Westen verschwanden.

Hell on Earth Reloaded setzt 2099, 18 Jahre nach dem Ende der Welt und drei Jahre nach den Ereignissen von Hell on Earth Classic ein. Für die meisten Überlebenden ist alles, was wir als technische Errungenschaften kennen und schätzen gelernt haben, nur eine schwächer werdende Erinnerung, nur einige Privilegierte können vereinzelt noch darauf zurückgreifen.

Die meisten Überlebenden haben sich in gut bewachten Überlebendensiedlungen zusammengeschlossen oder machen die Straßen in gewalttätigen Straßengangs unsicher. Wer das Pech hat, sich eine Mutation einzufangen, wird von den Normalos in der Regel ausgestoßen (oder direkt auf Sicht erschossen). Diesen traurigen Seelen bleiben meist nur die unwirtlichsten und gefährlichsten Orte, um sich ein eigenes Refugium zu errichten.

Reisen ist, dem Weltuntergang sei Dank, unheimlich gefährlich, einerseits wegen oben angesprochener Motorrad-Gangs, andererseits wegen allerlei Getier, das dem abenteuerlustigen Überlebenden ans Leder will. Wenn beides gerade nicht greifbar ist, sorgt Mutter Natur mit tödlichem Wetter für Abwechslung. Nahrung und Vorräte aufzutreiben ist ein Kernproblem der verbliebenen Bevölkerung und da die Ruinen früherer Großstädte 18 Jahre nach dem Fall der Bomben immer noch der wahrscheinlichste Fundort dafür sind, gehören diese zu den tödlichsten Plätzen des Wasted West.

Die Welt ist zur Hölle gefahren und das Einzige, was zwischen den Schrecken dieses neuen Zeitalters und der Menschheit stehen sind mutige Helden, die bereit sind, das Böse zurückzudrängen.

Charakterklassen

Der Settingband liefert eine große Anzahl möglicher Charakterklassen und gibt Ideen, welche Rolle ein Überlebender in der Endzeitgesellschaft einnehmen kann. Neben den nichtmagischen Charakteren, wie zum Beispiel dem Ganger, dem Revolverheld, der Gesetzeshüterin oder der Geschichtenerzählerin stehen dem Spieler auch übernatürliche Fähigkeiten zur Verfügung. Doomsayer gehören dem sog. Cult of Doom, also dem Verdammniskult an.

Sie sind ohne Ausnahme Mutanten und stehen auf dem Standpunkt, dass die Mutanten die nächste Stufe der Evolution sind. Sie verfügen über die Macht, Strahlung ihrem Nutzen zu unterwerfen. Im Spiel darf man nur der Häretikerbewegung des Kultes folgen, welcher anders als der ursprüngliche Kult nicht aktiv das Ableben der normalen Überlebenden im Sinn hat.
Die Junker sind die Evolution der verrückten Wissenschaftler. Anders als ihre Vorgänger warten sie nicht darauf, bis sie ihre Einflüsterungen erhalten, sondern gehen aktiv in die Geisterwelt und mischen die dortige Geisterwelt so lange auf, bis sie bekommen was sie wollen.
Die Syker sind Psioniker mit furchteinflößenden Kräften. Aus unbekannten Gründen fallen allen Sykern die Haare aus, daher sind diese Ex-Soldaten schon von Weitem zu erkennen.
Eine interessante Komponente bringen die Templer ins Spiel: Der Gründer des Ordens, Simon Mercer wurde Zeuge, wie ein Gesetzeshüter sein Leben für eine Horde Überlebender wegwarf, die sich weigerten, ihm zu Hilfe zu eilen und beschloss, die Templer zu gründen. Auch sie sollen die Überlebenden vor den Schrecken des Wasted West bewahren, aber anders als die Gesetzeshüter sind sie nicht dazu verpflichtet. Jeder Templer darf selbst entscheiden, ob und wem er hilft und mehr als ein Templer hat sich als Mutant oder Bettler verkleidet in eine Siedlung geschlichen, um den Charakter der Menschen zu erkunden. Besonders an den Templern ist, dass alle ihre Kräfte, mit Ausnahme von Heilung, nur auf sie selbst gewirkt werden können.

Die letzen im Bunde sind die toxischen Schamanen, eine Weiterentwicklung des Schamanen aus Deadlands Reloaded. Diese haben sich mit den Geistern der Verschmutzung (Müll, Schlamm, Smog und Strahlung) verschrieben und verwenden Ihre Kräfte, um entweder Verschmutzung aus der physischen Welt in die Geisterwelt oder umgekehrt zu übertragen.
Aus Hell on Earth Classic bekannte weitere mystische Hintergründe wie zum Beispiel die Hexe oder der Bibliothekar wurden entweder komplett entfernt oder stehen nur noch als nicht magische Charakterklasse zur Verfügung.

Aufbau

Das Buch ist, wie in den Deadlands Settings üblich, in die Teile Player‘s Guide, No Man's Land und Marshal's Handbook, also einem Teil für die Spieler, einem Teil für die Spieler übernatürlicher Charaktere und einem Teil für den Spielleiter eingeteilt. Der Spielerteil besteht knapp zur Hälfte aus einer allgemeinen Einführung in den Wasted West und stellt die wichtigsten Orte, Fraktionen und Persönlichkeiten vor.

Anschließend steigt der Spieler – hoffentlich, inspiriert durch die Vorgeschichte – in die Charaktererschaffung ein. Diese begleitet den Spieler knapp aber ausreichend durch den Charaktererschaffungsprozess von Savage Worlds. Den größten Teil nimmt die Ausrüstungsliste ein, die neben allerlei Tötungswerkzeug auch Fahrzeuge und Regeln zum Aufmotzen derselben bereithält. Der Abschnitt schließt mit einigen Settingregeln für Hell on Earth ab.

Das No Man's Land enthält zu allen oben angesprochenen mystischen Hintergründen eine kurze Beschreibung über den Ursprung des Hintergrundes, gibt Hinweise und Tipps zur Darstellung und wird mit einigen besonderen Vor- und Nachteilen bzw. Kräften abgerundet. Die Ideen sind allesamt interessant und jeder Hintergrund verspricht ein spannendes Spielerlebnis. Man merkt an dieser Stelle deutlich, dass es sich bei dem Setting um eine Adaption eines bestehenden Systems handelt. Hell on Earth Classic Puristen werden aufgrund der vereinfachten Mechanik wenig begeistert sein, tatsächlich trägt dies aber zu einem schnelleren Spielablauf bei. Die Beschreibungen der Hintergründe sind praktisch die Essenzen ganzer Bücher, die diesen mystischen Hintergründen gewidmet wurden, was es den Autoren erlaubte, jedes Kapitel inhaltlich sehr dicht und interessant darzustellen.

Der Spielleiterteil nimmt über die Hälfte des Buches in Beschlag. Zu Beginn werden Sonderregeln des Settings nochmal erläutert. Hier sind insbesondere die neuen Regeln zum Thema Wetter und Mutationen interessant. Den Rest des Handbuches teilen sich die ausführliche Weltbeschreibung sowie das Bestiarium.

Fazit

Der Hell on Earth Settingband präsentiert sich auf gewohnt hohem Niveau. Es gibt wenig, was man an der Form des Buches kritisieren könnte, einzig der etwas wilde Mix zwischen neuen und alten Grafiken schadet der ansonsten ausgezeichneten Gestaltung dieses Bandes.

Die Welt selbst wird fesselnd beschrieben und die Information zwischen Spieler- und Spielleiterwissen ist klar abgegrenzt. Das führt aber auch zu doppelten Sätzen und Passagen. Das ist aber selten ein Problem und erspart das eine oder andere Mal lästiges Zurückblättern

Wirklich schade ist, dass weder eine Plot-Point Kampagne, noch Savage Tales im Settingband enthalten sind. Dies war bei Deadlands Reloaded zwar auch der Fall, hier wurden jedoch zeitnah One-Sheet Abenteuer nachgereicht. Hell on Earth Spieler warten hierauf bislang vergeblich.

Das Preis/Leistungsverhältnis ist mit 24.99 USD im Hochpreissegment angesiedelt und ist mit dem Inhalt kaum noch zu rechtfertigen. 20 USD wären ein fairer Preis gewesen.
Insgesamt erhält man mit diesem Settingband ein grandioses Endzeitsetting, das jede Menge Potential mitbringt. Gerade die Mischung aus Horror und Endzeit mit einem gnadenlosen Wild-West Feeling funktioniert überraschend gut. Die Elemente ergänzen und verstärken sich zu einem tödlichen Mix aus gnadenlosen Gefechten, coolen Sprüchen und finstersten Bösewichten. Allerdings bleibt es dem Spielleiter überlassen, eben diese Welt mit Leben zu füllen, da man vom Settingband im Stich gelassen wird.

Unsere Bewertung

Erscheinungsbild: 4/5 Stimmige, zum Setting passende Optik. Alte Grafiken nicht mehr zeitgemäß
Inhalt: 4/5 Hervorragendes Setting, leider ohne Kampagne
Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis: 3/5 Für einen Settingband sehr teuer
Gesamt: 4/5 Hell on Earth setzt frische Akzente im Endzeitgenre und überzeugt durch eine düstere, zugrunde gerichtete Welt.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hell on Earth Reloaded
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