Yesterday, I ran the first session of my new Deadlands campaign, and it was a day of firsts for me and my players. It was my first session of Deadlands, my first try at Savage Worlds, the first time this particular group of players have gamed with each other in the same team.
Before I get to the actual play, let’s take a look at the dramatis personae for this session:
The Crew of the Amos (PC Names in Blue):
- Nines “Nine Lives” McGee - The Captain of the Amos and leader of the team of PCs, Nines is a man unused to the frippery of “civilized society” back east. Nines is also a Huckster, one of the wizards of the Weird West who tussle with the Manitou for power.
- Dr. Frank N. Stein – The crew suspects that the good doctor doesn’t remember his real name. This highly talented mad scientist has a host of devices, from newfangled bullet-proof armor, strange modified pistols, and his fearsome teleportation array.
- Shea “Shenanigan” O’Bannon - Is a one-armed gunslinger whose lightning fast draw has never failed him in a one-on-one duel. A man of few words and a dark past, Shea serves as the group’s strong arm.
- Lady Noir / Celeste Wayne – Celeste Wayne was a high society darling who created the celebrity alternate persona of “Lady Noir” a traveling Saloon Girl who brought in business to an establishment in exchange for a cut of the profits. What people don’t know is that Lady Noir travels in order to keep one step ahead from her jilted husband, who would stop at nothing to get his wayward wife back.
- Dr. Sebastian Wayne – Celeste’s older brother, and a dignified and educated doctor who graduated from medical school, Sebastian gave everything he had to find a way to bring his sister as far away as possible from her abusive husband, and currently serves as the Amos’ on-board doctor.
- Elizabeth “Lizzie” Mayhew – Cheerful and childish pilot of the Amos. Lizzie doesn’t seem at all fazed by the activities of her employer and companions but displays an almost prodigious ability to pilot and navigate the Amos through the length of the Mississippi.
- Samuel “Cookie” Freeman – An escaped slave (or “self-made Free Man”) who stumbled into his employ in the Amos, Samuel is a remarkably intelligent and physically imposing man with a kind demeanor and a fierce love for food and freedom. Serves as the ship’s cook.
NPCs for this session:
- Will “Weasel” Arvendale – the young and rancocious ‘businessman’ who is one of the many ones who are ready to purchase, sell, or offer business opportunities to smugglers and the like.
- Cody “The Atkin’s Boy” Atkins - Nines’ very own errand boy. Whenever he needs something to buy and doesn’t want to be seen around town. Nines gives him enough money to care for his li’l sis.
- Ash Williams – A cruel, sadistic Pinkerton Agent hired to handle the security detail for the Golden Nugget Casino.
- Robert Nathan - Owner of the Golden Nugget Casino.
- Filthy Vaughn - The assumed name of a Mexican Bandit who has some mysterious ties to Shea’s sordid past.
New Orleans, the Sunday before the Mardi Gras. Nines and his crew find themselves meeting Weasel who had an interesting proposition for them… the theft of a handsome sum of money from the Golden Nugget Casino. It would seem that the Casino was to send its funds to a bank outside of New Orleans, and hatched a plan to make sure that nobody in New Orleans would be able to steal it… by disguising the armored carriage as one of the floats of the Mardi Gras, and following the parade route. In the chaos and riotous festivities of the event, none of the revelers ever think of harming the floats after all.
And so Weasel tips Nines off on this job, for his usual cut of the proceeds. Armed with that information the team hits the ground running with phase one: Information Gathering.
Shea runs into Filthy Vaughn, and the two exchange notes on the float, and Shea gets a tip that the pinkertons are hiding an armored carriage so just plain shooting the thing is unlikely to do any harm.
That done the team goes off to the Golden Nugget, banking on Lady Noir’s reputation to strike a deal. Lady Noir had been in hiatus for quite some time, and the Mardi Gras was the perfect opportunity for Lady Noir to make her new debut as the “Queen” of the Mardi Gras on the float of the Rex Krewe, sponsored by the Golden Nugget. Robert Nathan, the owner of the establishment was hesitant at first, but some fancy persuation from Nines and Lady Noir made him give in to their offer, with the additional clause that Lady Noir spend an additional week as a special attraction for the Golden Nugget.
Wit that done, the next order of business was to get the team close to the float. Nines bargained for a place near the float to serve as “protection” for Lady Noir, something contested by Robert Nathan because he’d already hired the best men in the business… the Pinkertons. Unwilling to let that little detail detern them, the team bargained for a little demonstration of skill to take place the next day.
Dr. Stein on the other hand, was busy meandering about in the city, whereupon he stumbled into a congregation of churchgoers of colored folk from the Zulu Krewe, and in his own er… enlightened way, managed to gain their trust and insight to their motivations.
The next day the group swings into action, with Shea proving quite well that he can outshoot a Pinkerton man, cementing the deal. Nines heads off to case the site where their plan of execution would take place.
Lady Noir under the pretense of wanting to see the float ahead of time to color coordinate her outfit, takes Dr. Stein with her as they survey the float. They arrived to see how it was constructed, the materials used and how the armored carriage inside operated, all while Dr. Stien was doddering about in his seemingly eccentric manner while Lady Noir kept people busy.
Shea on the other hand visits Filthy Vaughn in the brothel (in the midst of a good time) and tells him that the group is letting Vaughn’s crew make the heist, no strings attached. Vaughn, confused, and er… caught with his pants down, grew suspicious for this visit.
The team gathers and makes one last round of fact-checking when they found a hitch in the plan… the Mexican bandits that Filthy Vaughn will be leading is going to make grabbing the money difficult. Too many variables that can go wrong, risks that they couldn’t take.
Nines and his crew decide to take a double-cross, by sending Cody off to help spread a rumor. In order to throw off the other bandits, the team makes it look like Lady Noir will be wearing a priceless heirloom worth even more than the sum in the Vault, giving Filthy Vaughn a reason to suspect that he’s being set up. Greed willing, the mexicans will go for the necklace, long enough for Dr. Stein to use his mysterious Teleportation array invention and zap himself and the safe with the money to a pre-determined drop off point.
Shea hies off back to the brothel and pays the prostitutes a handsome sum to make sure that information on the necklace is leaked to Filthy Vaughn while they er… service the Mexican.
Dr. Stein visits the members of the Zulu Krewe in the evening and rallies them, giving them vital information on when the Rex Krewe intends to start the parade, making sure that the voodoo fire and snakes themed float of the Zulu is right behind the Rex float, giving the overall impression that decadence and wealth will only lead to damnation,a moral lesson that the Zulu Krewe were only excited to take advantage of.
With the preparations complete, the Mardi Gras commences the next day with all the players in place. Lady Noir has the false jewels around her neck, sitting on her throne in top of the float in the parade. Dr. Stien is following, in costume, appearing as another reveller. Shea is in the crowd, ready for any trouble, while Nines is alongside the carriage, ready for the predetermined signal.
As soon as the parade hit the French Quarter, where the teleportation drop point was placed, things were put in motion. Dr. Stein’s contacts in the Zulu Krewe have fire breathers move in a little too close, setting fire “accidentally” to the float.
Lady Noir moves , taking the float’s Rex with her off the flaming float, even as the Pinkertons try to keep the horses from bolting and dragging the flaming float / armored carriage with them. The Pinkerton guards from the carriage exit, carrying the safe with the money, firing warning shots to keep the crowd from getting too close as they wait for backup to arrive.
Filthy takes this opportunity to move, his men shooting down some of the Pinkertons as he goes for Lady Noir and Shea pointing a gun to Shea’s head and cursing him for the double-cross.
While everyone was busy with the mexicans, Dr. Stein moves, empowered with a Quickness Hex from Nines, and teleports behind the Pinkertons, next to the save, and teleports away with the mark.
Nines comes to Shea’s aid, disarming Filthy Vaughn with a trick shot, and firing at a second bandit. Shea draws his own gun even as Vaughn tries to escape into the crowd, nailing him in one shot and killing the bandit leader.
The Pinkertons regroup, trying to figure out what the hell just happened, fighting back the bandits who fled at the fall of their leader, and lamenting how they could have possibly lost a heavy safe full of cash.
With the chaos that ensued, the team made their exit and made sure that there were no loose ends. Vaughn was dead, the pinkertons didn’t see who took the money, and the team was spotted trying to protect the helpless Lady Noir, and couldn’t possibly be involved in a robbery attempt.
For their first time playing together this group did pretty well. There’s a good mix of play styles and strengths, with sufficient amounts of combat capability mixed with social ability. The setting was new to most of them, and some don’t have a lot of exposure to the Western genre, but the players found their sea legs swiftly.
This scenario wasn’t so much a tactical game as much as one that dealt with Social Dynamics. Several key relationships came in as key points:
- Antagonism between the Rex and Zulu Krewes, exploited by Heineken (Dr. Stein)
- Competition between the Mexican bandits as fellow thieves, manipulated by Mappy (Shea O’ Bannon)
- Winning the trust of Robert Nathan, the owner of the Casino and getting their inside woman into Mardi Gras, perpetuated by Rick (Nines)
- Manipulating the Rex, the Pinkertons, and hatching the false Jewelry fake out, hatched by Silver Countess (Lady Noir)
The group also showed a good handle at making complex plans, though there was a need to patch up a few holes along the way. Overall it felt like a Western version of Ocean’s Eleven meets Firefly meets Secret Six.
Well, the Savage World’s system is fast, but I must admit that we weren’t able to fully test the combat system. That said, the skill rolls were definitely tense, as all of us were much more comfortable with the implied safety net of a dice pool. Still Aces occured frequently enough, and the raises really mattered.
I like how the playing cards worked in initiative, making it very easy to keep track of initiative order. Rick commented that he really liked the luck heavy aspect of playing a Huckster, and relying on the Deal with the Devil rules to be able to power his spells.
There was a good spread of skills and abilities so the players didn’t feel redundant, and each got a chance to put their character powers to use and got their time in the spotlight.
My only gripe with Savage Worlds is the Area of Effect powers. I know they had printable templates for Small, Medium and Large blasts, as well as the cone, but it would be fantastic if they gave the radii and dimension of these templates as we didn’t have the table space for a 1″ scaled battlemap, and since my copy of the game is on PDF, I can’t just measure on screen and get an accurate measurement.
I thoroughly enjoyed the use of the Adventure Deck, and how it added a measure of player editoral ability, letting them insert a “My character is cool and here’s why” moment in any session without necessarily derailing everything that I’ve planned. In fact, after people draw their Adventure Cards, I find myself looking for ways to let them play these cards in my scenario.
Those are my thoughts on the game. I’d like to invite my players to go ahead an post their own thoughts on the game and how it turned out for them in the comments field, and I’ll have to get cracking on scribbling on the notes for the next session.