Deadlands: The Weird West
Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc., 1996
What you get/need
Concept - 6
Take a typical western movie and throw Lovecraft into the directors chair and you've got the concept for Deadlands. The year is 1876, the American Civil War still rages on, and Cthulhu-esque monsters roam the plains (and mountains, deserts, etc.) I'm just happy there's finally a decent western RPG out there, much less a horror-filled western!
Character Creation - 5
Makin' Heroes is whut it's all about, pard. Character creation is fairly simple, and yet has a certain charm. The game uses not only dice, but playing cards (not trading cards!) within the creation and the game. You've gotta play the hand yer dealt! That's right, for those who've gotten the pun, the cards determine your character's traits! Nifty idea, and more fun than just rolling dice for randomness! Traits (or attributes) are not simple numbers, they're dice. For example, a nimble young varmit might have himself a d12 nimbleness, but only a d6 strength. Get it? Good. Adding certain traits together gives you your aptitude points, which you distribute amongst the skills you desire or need. And of course if you need more points you can always get some hindrances, like Big 'Un for those folk who're just larger than most!
Playability - 5
I tried to restrain myself for saying this, but sometimes I've just gotta be me! It's the White Wolf system premise done right! Rather than hoping all your dice are "successes" when you roll for an action, you only need hope you have no critical failures and that one die makes it to the top! In Deadlands when dice are rolled for an action you simply take the highest die. This means that if you have a high skill level you really do have a better chance of succeeding!
Writing - 6
Well placed charts, little puffery beyond the into, and easy to understand. Deadlands is the perfect example of how a game-book should be written! While the titles of sections and paragraphs are written ala the "old west" the main reads of the book are standard faire English, so yer eyes don't go all hayward on yuh. This 224 page book is an example of how the other game books should be written!
Highs - A fresh look at wild-west systems, excellent writing and artwork, good success/fail system.
Lows - Suits for "table-top" gaming with all the dice, cards, and poker chips needed. No interior artwork by Brom.
Final Call - Perfect for Cthulhu & Silverado fans alike!