To steal a quote from Starcraft 2, “Hell, it’s about time.”
What made the Deadlands universe so compelling wasn’t just the fact that it had a quirky blend of Wild West meets horror, but the writers took it way beyond the Weird West. The best example of this is the Hell on Earth line of the Classic Deadlands game, which brought the Weird West way into the Wasted West, a post-apocalyptic nightmare future world where many of Deadland’s original echoes remained.
For old fans of the setting, getting Hell on Earth back updated to the modern Savage Worlds ruleset is a godsend. Ever since Deadlands Reloaded! was released, the first question on everyone’s lips was, “Where’s Hell on Earth?”
Thankfully, Hell on Earth Reloaded was just released by PEG, and there was much rejoicing.
But onto the review:
First off, let me say that Hell on Earth Reloaded isn’t a stand alone game. It requires the Savage Worlds corebook to play.
What Hell on Earth Reloaded does provide is a complete setting to go crazy in, with radiation cults, mutants, templars and enough weirdness to make Arkham Asylum look like nursery school.
The book itself is divided into three major sections:
- The Player’s guide, which details the setting, character creation, equipment and setting specific rules. Anyone with a familiarity with the Savage Worlds rules will be able to pick this up and get building a character right away without skipping a beat.
- No Man’s Land, which details the setting-specific Arcane Backgrounds for Hell on Earth. Old fans will recognize the Doomsayers, Harrowed, Junkers, Sykers, Templars and Toxic Shamans. Each of these Arcane backgrounds has a full treatment, with history, methods and beliefs, as well as their Edges and Powers.
- Marshal’s Handbook, which is the GM’s only section with rules specific to running the game, and is chock-full of setting secrets that players have no business knowing for the sake of preserving the mystery of the Hell on Earth setting. There’s also a region-by-region breakdown of the crazy things in the setting. My greatest frustration in this review is the fact that I can’t talk about the juicy secrets and crazy elements in the book lest I spoil it for other GMs who are going to be springing it on their players.
Hell on Earth is an alternate future of the Deadlands setting, but thankfully the game doesn’t need you to be familiar with Deadlands in order to play. Hell on Earth takes on the burden of educating a new reader into the setting. This is a great thing, as this means that people who might not have any interests in the Weird West (though I can’t imagine why) can still go in and enjoy the full experience of the Wasted West.
Part of the draw of the Wasted West has always been the artwork and aesthetics, and Hell on Earth Reloaded has managed to knock this one out of the park. The layout is clean, appealing and readable, and the artwork is top-notch. Every character portrait in the game makes me want to build a character and start playing.
The PDF itself is very useful, with bookmarks and a hyperlinked table of contents. Plus, for those who want to save on printer inks, the PDF also has layers that you can turn off to strip the pages down to just mere text. It’s a perfect example of the kind of best practices that I’d love to see other PDF publishers adapt on a constant basis.
With a solid setting, compelling character concepts, crazy plot hooks and powered with the Savage Worlds system, Hell on Earth Reloaded is a solid entry into the official settings of Savage Worlds. It’s been a long time coming, but the wait was worth it.
If you’re even remotely interested in Deadlands, Post-Apocalyptic settings or unique settings, then Hell on Earth is a must have in your collection.