For a long time, I've wanted to run a "Deadlands Reloaded" campaign, but with the weirdness factor dialed down considerably: The supernatural just isn't special anymore, if NOTHING EVER HAPPENS in the setting without a werewolf or the walkin' dead or some other weirdness being behind it all. As such, what I really had been wishing for was some sort of a framework for a wild west setting/campaign WITHOUT all the weirdness ... and then, maybe, once I let the heroes go through a few more "conventional" western adventures, I could slowly reveal something more sinister and strange going on.
Well, when I related such a wish to a friend, I was directed to look into the works of Dog House Rules for a starting point. I'm glad I took a look!
First off, the important thing to clarify is that this IS NOT a Deadlands supplement, and it most certainly IS NOT a "plot point campaign." As written, it's a resource that could be used for a conventional western adventure using the core Savage Worlds rules ... but it could also just as easily be used as the backdrop for more strange goings-on in a Deadlands campaign. The sample town of "The Flats" is presented as loosely based upon the historic frontier town that sprang up around Fort Griffin, though quite a bit of artistic license is taken to fill in gaps in the historical record (and there are several author's note sidebars to underscore which elements have more historical grounding, whereas others are invented to serve an adventure role, as a heads-up for the GM). Colorful floor plans are included of various buildings of interest in the town, and a separate document includes blown-up versions of the floor plans -- with or without 1" grid -- at a scale useful for miniatures gaming.
The organization is very location-based, as each "chapter" proceeds to spell out, in detail, what can be found at a particular business, who works there, and details about other "colorful characters" who can be found there regularly, their relationships with others, and so forth. In addition, there are multiple "plot hooks," some tied to specific characters, some more generally associated with the location iself. In keeping with the /possibility/ that this could be used for Deadlands Reloaded, there are a few adventure hook suggestions for ways to introduce more of a supernatural twist to each hook.
It's also important to note what it is not.
It is NOT a "dungeon module." A GM cannot sit down at the table a couple of hours before he's due to run a game, skim through, and immediately launch into an adventure. There is a considerable amount of cross-reference, as there are various interactions (or POSSIBLE interactions) between various of the town's inhabitants, most of them presented as potential adventure hooks, and it's up to the GM to determine wihch of those options are actually true.
It's also not a "plot point campaign" of the sort featured in many of the Savage Worlds setting books. While there are plenty of optional adventures and "forks in the road" provided that could be used in a series of adventures for the heroes over the course of a campaign, there's no overall "plot," or anything pushing the heroes toward a final, climactic confrontation with the "big bad."
Rather, this is more of a tool for the GM to help flesh out a number of wild-west city locations and the NPCs who work and live there. It could be used to bring to life the core town that a group of PCs is using as a base of operations, or else the individual locations could be used as "seeds" for something more interesting than just another "generic" hotel, church, saloon, bank, store, jail, or theater that happens to be the backdrop for the adventure of the week.
In that role, I found it to be an entertaining and useful read, full of all sorts of possibilities for more conventional western adventures (and more than a few optional hooks on the weirder side, catering to more supernatural settings such as "Deadlands"). The map tiles are beautifully done, and by themselves they're worth the price of admission; I've printed them onto cardstock and glued them down onto mat board, using them as the basis for some gunfight scenarios. A third included document, the character reference, is also handy in that it provides short, organized profiles for a number of NPCs of varying importance in the scenarios presented -- they can easily be printed off separately and used as a quick-ref by the GM at the table, or cut out and used as handouts for scenarios where players have to form a "posse" out of local NPCs, and temporarily take stewardship of them for larger miniatures battles. (The more important NPCs also come with illustrations.)
Overall, I found this to be a very useful and inspiring resource for my not-so-weird-western game scenarios using Savage Worlds rules. Given the two-part title ("Frontier Towns: Fort Griffin"), I can only hope that this is the first of some sort of "Frontier Towns" SERIES of releases, because I could certainly use more.