Categorized | RPGs

Deadlands: The Last Sons RPG Review

Posted on May 4, 2012 by spikexan


Available at RPGNow.com

    Pinnacle Entertainment brings Deadlands’ fans a monster tome (337 pages/no ads) that focuses on fleshing out Native American characters. There is also a bit of metaplot going on with Raven and his schemes. Coupled with the apparent removal of a major threat, the book has a very “new” feel to it, similar to what Shadowrun captures with its constant updating calendar.

    Despite its size, the book is truly a supplement, a gorgeous supplement loaded with all the bells and whistles one expects from a corebook.

    The layout follows the Deadlands format by starting with fourteen pages of the Disputed Lands edition of the Tombstone Epitaph. Here in the fictionalized reporting, readers get a glimpse of where the setting has taken its twists and turns. From there, the players’ section takes up only 26 pages before the rest of the book (minus five pages for an index) is devoted to the Marshall. Again, this is a supplement and this off-kilter distribution of material proves it. I personally don’t care if players read the whole book (everybody at the table should have one in a healthy gaming society) , but I’m a big believer that it does take away a bit of the fun.

    The “look” of the layout in terms of art is fantastic. The bulk of the book has a lush, yet subtle back splash. It depicts a canyon landscape at the bottom of each page that morphs into the open Western sky and then morphs again into some mapping layouts. The sidebars (and there are plenty) are well-placed throughout the read without making readers forget the entire purpose for the sidebar while they read it.

    The artwork was mostly a win for me, but it did have enough misses for me to comment.

    This book is a full-color bad boy, the kind I would recommend buying in its dead tree glory rather than cramming it into your portable library (Heck, do both!). I think the book’s color is where the artwork went wrong for me. Deadlands started out as a black and white line with an artwork akin to cowboys and comic books. I liked it in a very EC Comics sort of way. The artwork in this book should feel the same way, but doesn’t. Something about the coloring just jacked it all up for me. One exception is what I consider to be the oddest single page in this book (Pg. 31). It’s a black and white piece showing two bikers against a locomotive. Something about the piece just works, even though it really shouldn’t. I should mention that Deadlands: Reloaded’s artwork didn’t distract me as much as the artwork here.

    What about the writing? Well, skipping directly to the “Makin’ Heroes” section will give readers a wealth of material to use for creating Native heroes. There is a solid list of available tribes and a blurb for each (the book points out that true research needs to go beyond a game book). There are new Edges like “Gallows Humor,” new Hindrances, and new Powers. Powers gets the most treatment as patron spirit powers are detailed.

    Next is a section on gear. While this section starts out favoring the Last Sons’ side of things, it is when it kicks into the spy gear of the Agency that it becomes interesting. James Bond meets the Old West as players get access to exploding pocket watches, false playing cards, and Black Dusters.

    At this point, the book is devoted to the Marshall’s Section, which is broken down into six meaty bits. First, the metaplot is updated as evil experiences a major setback. Then, as the realizations of what has happened sinks in, the section on setting rules becomes very effective.

    For example, let’s use the seven deadly sins for a moment as an example without giving away anything from this portion of the book.

    In Game X, the world’s worst enemies are scions of the Seven Deadly Sins. For the purposes of the story, Greed has gotten very powerful, so powerful there are minor rule changes to affect anything related to wealth. There are Charisma adjustments, morality rolls regarding money, and so forth. This is exactly what Last Sons offers in the second portion of the Marshall’s Section.

    Strange Locales comes next and, with the changes to the landscape this supplement provides, there are some excellent strangeness to uncover. Some familiar towns no longer…behave the same way. Some character types will not be happy about the changes (a good reason not to let the players read this going into the campaign). Most of this section provides great examples of the writers mixing fact and fiction in interesting ways (Just ask a certain 16th President/Vampire Hunter).

    The rest of the Marshall’s Section is devoted to one-shot adventure seeds and campaigns.

    There are a wealth of stories to be told in this new setting and the writers saw fit to pen out a few for fans. There are 100+ pages devoted to various adventures, making it the biggest component to the book. I obviously ain’t gonna tell you anything about them expect that the campaign is deadly, deadly.

    It’s more fun to play in these scenarios rather than just read ‘em.

    As a long time fan of Deadlands, I enjoyed this book because it shook the living Hell out of the setting. Good games do that, which I guess means this is a good game. It’s a massive addition to the setting, one I think came later than expected. Maybe it was just being fashionable.

    My scores for the game are:

    Artwork: Four out of Five Dice (layout and cartography pull out a high score)
    Writing: Five out of Five Dice (like the shake-up/like the rule amendments to said shake-up)
    Overall: Five out of Five Dice (Great Supplment/Fun Read)

    Review by Todd Cash

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