#RPGaDay 2016 Day 11 – Game Affect

Lots of stuff going on, both professionally and personally. I can’t talk about a lot of it, but I can say that the contracts are out to the various freelancers for the next full module from Cut to the Chase Games. Work is also progressing on a few 0 modules, which is exciting. But let’s get on with the #RPGaDay 2016 post for the day!


11) Which game most affected the way you play?

A surprisingly tricky question couched in a simple form. I’ve played a lot of games over the years, but for the most part I’ve gravitated towards the big ones – D&D in all of its forms and Call of Cthulhu being the big ones. And while I love D&D and owe much of my personal experience and growth to it, I’m going to say the game that has most affected the way I play is the original Deadlands.

Deadlands was my first major deviation from AD&D and it opened my eyes in a lot of ways. I first came upon the game on a high school band trip to Chicago, where we stopped at a huge mall on the city’s western outskirts (truthfully I don’t recall the name of it). The mall had a small game/comic shop, and on its shelves I found a brilliantly hued orange book with a provocative image of an undead gunslinger on the cover. I picked it up, flipped it open, and discovered an introduction by THE MAN himself, Bruce Campbell, inside. I purchased it immediately on these merits.

I remember clearly returning to the hotel and flipping through the book, admiring the artwork while my mind raced with the crazy combination of horror and western (and I still love the epithet “spaghetti western with meat!” the book proposed in the short marshal’s section). This would have been 1999 so the book would have been the revised 2nd edition, though I didn’t know that at the time at all.

Deadlands sat on my shelf for a few years, and I think it was the summer of 2001 (after graduation) that I finally dove into the book and mechanics and started up a game. That first session was a bit rocky, and the original Deadlands rules (now referred to as Deadlands Classic) were a bit fiddly. I don’t recall the scenario itself, but I know it was one out of one of the books I had.

I was tantalized and my players were hooked, but we decided to get a few more people together and try it again. I picked a different scenario to start with out of the “Fire & Brimstone” supplement. I think the scenario was called “The Mission” and took place at a Spanish mission where something had gone horribly wrong. We played one night in a friend’s basement as the posse saddled up to figure out what was going on.

That session was fantastic. I pulled the players to the side and described their visions as they explored the haunted mission, which as I recall had something terrible in a well. The game allowed me to tap into visceral horror images and it backed up that feeling with game mechanics.

Deadlands showed me many things. For one, it was the first game I ran where the rules for the GM (the Marshal) were “allowed” to be simple. Voodoo rites, ancient sorcery, black magic, it all used the same simple rules for the Marshal (whereas for players there were different subsystems for hucksters and the like). The game taught me as a GM the basic principle of KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! This would become an invasive part of all my games going forward.

It also married the setting to the game mechanics, and for my money no game has done it better since or before. A deck of cards was used for initiative, poker chips were used as “fate points,” and colored paper clips kept track of health by body part. Sure, things could get a little fiddly, with a character’s Wind going down with every hit, but truthfully I ended up ignoring a lot of the things that didn’t quite work at my table (Wind I just forgot about most of the time!). The game worked beautifully, and it really kindled in me a love of western movies (and rekindled a love of horror movies too!).

I haven’t played Deadlands Classic in a long time, and the company (Pinnacle Entertainment) released a streamlined version of the game called Savage Worlds in 2006 that I’ve been played a lot of over the the years. And Savage Worlds took a lot of the principles of KISS and applied them to the system as a whole, which works very well, but if I were to head back out on that ol’ dusty trail I think I would go back to the classic rules. Savage Worlds sacrifices a bit too much of the grittiness that I fell in love with for a more pulpy feel, which works very well for a great many settings – but for me, it just fails to capture that Deadlands feeling I fell in love with.

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