Deadlands Homebrew Playtest 2

There are a few homebrew rules I made that deviate from the Cypher System rulebook: they’re setting specific stuff like the various magic systems, doin’ stuff on horseback, which is a big part of the genre and reloadin’ guns which we tested in session 2. While they fit the feel of the ol’ Deadlands game, they’re a bit granular for Cypher – Cypher System is more of a broad strokes and low rules kind of a game.

But Shootouts are central to a Western game and in a prolonged gun battle there should be a sense of urgency, which I hope the Reloadin’ rules add to. Players have unlimited ammo, functionally, bookkeeping is for other games. So ammo tension has to come from the limited magazines and not your total fund.

Recap: you declare how many rounds you want to load, that’s your target number (I.e multiply it by three and try to roll under that on a d20). Pass, you succeed, fail you only get one in. It’s a simple mechanic, so it isn’t injecting a whole bunch to remember. The gamble and the all-or-just-about-nothing aspect favours tension over realism, but this ain’t Twilight 2000 compadres.

Rolland tested this out last night as he was working an over-under shotgun during a zombie attack. Unfortunately his rolling was on brand and he fucked up two reloads… OF A DOUBLE BARREL SHOTGUN. This meant he got one shell in and had to decide whether to forgo shooting next turn to load another or just blast away. As it turned out he alternated between pistol shots and shotgun blasts in a way that was thematically EXACTLY WHAT I WAS GOING FOR. I think the idea will get a bit more of a test when someone is trying to stuff their six-shooter in the heat of the moment so we’ll see how it goes then.

There wasn’t much chance to see Hexes or Horse-ridin’ at work last night as they don’t have their horses yet and Bartimus’ Hexes aren’t combat oriented.

Part 2: Hot Coach to the Sheep Station.

The posse found themselves trying to make a fast getaway with a slow cart, with a US Marshall-led posse presumably forming up behind them and their relief horses nowhere in sight. As Curly and Rubber Dan discussed their desperate options, a fast moving four-horse stage came into view.

Curly wasn’t one to usher these folks into a life of crime… but he also believed that they were bank robbers… so… Rubber Dan thought robbing the stagecoach was their best bet of getting quickly away from a vigilante posse likely to come in guns blazing. But the not-actually-desperadoes, um… never actually robbed those banks. Probably.

Lewis was keen to not add a real reason for a hangin’ as he seeks to clear his name soon and Callie had seen her share of bloodshed so was keen to avoid more at this crossroads (figuratively and literally). But they did need that stagecoach.

Lewis surveyed the land around the crossroads and found about the only decent bush for Callie to hide behind and sent the two cowpokes up the hill to look busy setting up a camp while he went downhill to look like he was collecting firewood. Barring an unusual number of guns aboard the stage, this should successfully split the shotgun messenger’s attentions.

This left Bartimus looking nonchalant in the cart blocking the road, and unarmed Mars out on the road to flag down the stage peaceable-like. Talking to people is certainly Mars’ strong point, but he mostly blew this interaction.

The stage driver was suspicious but didn’t start blasting’ so Bartimus, playing the part of Mars’ supervisor, took over. They were, in fact, Federal agents and had to requisition the coach because there was a high level… you know what, it was film flam, it probably didn’t even make sense at the time. But it was laced with enough juicy bones that it piqued the interest of Theodore Gaslin, one of the passengers and gentleman of the press. To Theodore, Bartimus revealed that there was a presidential conference happening here in the neutralish ground of Wyoming that could end the Civil War officially.

The other passengers (Mr Corbin, Ms Collingwood, Mr Prestatin) being hustled out of the coach were indignant, but I mean, when the peace of the nation… both nations… is at stake, who dares put their convenience first. And after all, Cheyenne was a short distance in the cart. Prestatin was having none of it though.

This is bullshit, he loudly declared, watching the wool being pulled over everyone else’s eyes. Bartimus stuck to his story and when the suspicious cowpoke levelled his smokewagon at the huckster’s head, Callie – hidden this long while amidst the scrubby bush up the hill a bit – sighted on his pistol and took her shot, maybe busting a few of his fingers, but most importantly, putting the gun out of his hand and ending that tiresome stubbornness of his.

The only downside (if you don’t count half a dozen witnesses to a swindle) was that they ended up taking Theodore with them and he tried to eke details out of his new fellow coach mates.

Well, they were back on the road to Laramie and making much better time and in a bit more comfort. But Curly and Rubber Dan still weren’t happy – too much time had been lost and their chances of taking this team of horses and coach across the rough country to Big Dan’s camp were fading.

They discussed alternatives. They weren’t much bothered about the marshalls, as they thought this coach was fast enough to maintain their lead. But traveling at night in a coach wasn’t their idea of safe. But a camp in the open would likely be found by any following posse. Rubber Dan suggested that they go to the Sheep Station – an abandoned shearing and storage barn not too distant. Curly was less enthusiastic, on account of the poor reputation of the ruin. All the better, argued Rubber Dan, for that would keep prying eyes at bay.

Reluctantly, Curly concurred and they made their way to the Sheep Station as the last of the sun slipped over the western horizon.

The sheep station consisted of a number of rotting corrals and a tall two and a half storey building, broad enough at the base to drive a wagon into and with a lofted area for storage with rusted pulleys and fraying ropes.

They explored a bit, found two functional lanterns but only enough oil for a few hours, some rope and a cracker box with some moderately worm-eaten crackers that were probably three years old.

They were all famished, having subsisted on bread and water for a week, but no one was hungry enough to eat the crackers. Callie set up some snares, but they were struck by the absence of wildlife in the area. There weren’t even signs of animals.

They set watches for the night, to keep a weather eye out for the marshalls. But most of the night passed peacefully. Most of it did anyway.

Within a few hours of dawn, the Sheep Station was swarmed by shambling dead things. Their presence drove the horses wild and filled the onlooking accidental-outlaws with fear – they were dead men, hands replaced with rusty shears and hooks, heads replaced by the putrid skulls of sheep. The rotting things poured into the sheep station, stumbling through the windows and breaking open the door in the rear of the building.

The posse responded with gunfire – their supply of bullets largely limited to what they had in their guns at the time, although they had looted a small stash of whiskey and shotgun shells from the coachman’s box. Curly and Rubber Dan got stuck in, Gaslin cowered in the stagecoach, while Mars made his way into the rafters and started swingin’ the ropes and pulleys around, whacking sheep-zombies.

Callie, Bartimus and Lewis fought on the ground as the sheep zombies closed in, shears snapping shut on flesh. The horses were flipping out, but Bartimus manfully defended them.

Bashin’ the fiends seemed to work better than bullets, but most wanted to keep further than arm’s length. One of the  Mort-Ovines struck Rubber Dan to the ground and fell upon him and as the cowpoke tried to kick the horror off him, Mars plugged it in the chest, accidentally blowing Rubber Dan’s toe off.

But those were the dying moments of the fight. The remaining sheepheads fell to the ground and began to putrify, their long delayed decay suddenly catching up to them now that the evil spirits within (that Mars glimpsed) vacating the losing side.

They had vanquished the horrors of the Sheep Station, but was the place cleansed of whatever curse had befallen it?


I offered Noe the opportunity for them to have this little pocket of Deadlands cleansed, purified, exorcised. She declined and took the XP instead. This was an on the fly decision that I’ll think I’ll work into the rules: win a Deadland encounter and you get a choice; make the world a safer place or profit personally. Should they ever return to the Sheep Station, they’re going to find it one step nastier as the curse has been allowed to fester.

I hope this choice doesn’t come back to… haunt them.