If there’s a genre that seems like a perfect fit for Deadlands, it’s the Noir setting. Taking place after the default Western-genre setting of Deadlands: Reloaded! but not quite as far in the future as Hell On Earth, Deadlands Noir presents a new and exciting spin on the 1930′s.
In an interesting twist, the game takes place in a much smaller stage. Rather than the Weird (or Wasted) West, the game takes place in the setting’s take of New Orleans. I find this to be a good choice, as the Noir genre is inherently bound to the city. There’s a sharp focus involved in the honing of this supplement, and one that shows in all the design decisions. Everything from the skill list to the sample character concepts oozes style and substance appropriate to the genre. Some are also cleverly renamed from their Weird West counterparts, such as the Patent Scientist, and the Grifters.
The highlight of the book for me is the chapter on New Orleans, which includes a gorgeous and very evocative map of the city, and a detailed look at the various locales. The chapter is practically dripping with plot hooks, and I can see a campaign of Deadlands Noir going for a long, long while.
In a nice touch, the book goes on to discuss the nature of Investigation in the Deadlands Noir setting. This is the kind of information that is golden to GMs, as it helps those who aren’t quite so familiar to the setting to adapt accordingly. Rules on interrogation, patter and even tailing a target are all presented in an easy to understand fashion.
The GM section makes up a huge chunk of the book, and for good reason. It goes into great detail on the secrets of the setting, as well as providing advice for running games in true Noir fashion. The GM Guide to New Orleans presents NPCs and the current state of New Orleans as it relates to the people that inhabit (and control) it. An extra section for how to create Mysteries is particularly inspired as well, helping those who are new to this particular style of storytelling to create one with little difficulty. It takes the form of a random generator with multiple lists involving Hook, Event, Perpetrator, Motive, Evidence, Location and Twist. It’s very nice and I can see it getting use even outside of Deadlands.
The book also includes Red Harvest! A campaign-length mystery that will suit any group, and features a ride through a lot of New Orleans’ set pieces, and with plenty of opportunities for getting into trouble. If that’s not enough, there are also a smattering of Savage Tales, mini-adventures that can be incorporated to Red Harvest! or any Deadlands Noir campaign.
Finally the book finishes with a thorough Rogue’s Gallery and a series of excellent maps of various buildings, a cemetery and other interesting locales for encounters.
Few supplements hit all the right spots in the same way that Deadlands Noir does. It has literally everything you could need. An evocative setting, excellent GM advice, interesting and varied Character concepts, an adventure, gorgeous maps, all with an easy to read layout and excellent artwork to go with it.
Savage Worlds is a very popular system, and books like Deadlands Noir are an example of just why that is. I think that Noir continues with the trend of excellence that Pinnacle has been known for.
Definitely a must have for any fans of the genre, the system and the setting.