Advance Scout

Guided by his dimensional compass, the Scout roams the infinite universes, ever treading from world to world and plane to plane, seeking the latest tidings of new RPG-related releases...

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! This week I've got me a hankerin' to tell y'all about Fire & Brimstone, a new supplement for Deadlands by Pinnacle Entertainment Group that gives Marshals and posses (that's GMs and players) the low-down on playing characters who are blessed: these are religious-type folks whose power of faith grants them all sorts of miraculous abilities in return for their walking the path of righteousness. And holy paragons of faith are much needed in the Weird West, where the walking dead and other abominations regularly threaten the safety of normal God-fearin' folk.

For those unfamiliar with Deadlands, here's a very quick summary of the game's background. In the Deadlands world, an Indian shaman named Raven led a ritual in 1863 which released the Manitous (evil vengeful spirits) to roam the world. As a result, strange and horrible creatures have sprung up almost ovenrnight, and spirits that feed on human fear have helped to extend the duration of the Civil War, which has been fought for 15 years now and still drags on. The Sioux, taking advantage of the Union's troubles, have formed their own nation in the Dakotas. A great earthquake, also caused by Raven, has shattered California, turning much of it into a region of rocky canyons and jagged cliffs called the Great Maze. And a strange new substance has emerged called "ghost rock," which has mystical properties and can be used to power all manner of bizarre technological wonders.

Blessed characters in Deadlands are those who have a strong faith in their religion, and so receive special powers, such as the ability to perform miracles. Fire & Brimstone provides game information on the blessed, including basic outlines of several religious faiths. Bible-thumping preachers aren't the only blessed folks in the Weird West; posse members can be anything from Orthodox Jews to Shi'ite Muslims to Zen Buddhists, and more. Each religion has its own tenets to which the blessed character must adhere, and if the character transgresses by not following the path of his religious beliefs, his own faith can suffer, resulting in the loss of his divinely-granted abiities.

Fire & Brimstone contains a section which details more than 60 miracles which blessed characters can perform, with effects similar to those of spells in traditional fantasy-based games. The consecrate armament miracle can be used to empower a weapon to harm unnatural creatures (in case, for instance, there's a werewolf at the door and no silver bullets in the house), the battle hymn can be performed to inspire allies and boost their courage, last rites can keep the dead from returning to life, and so on. To perform a miracle, a blessed character must make a faith roll against the miracle's target number. Some miracles are more difficult to perform than others, but in any event you want your blessed character to have as much faith as possible, to increase the chances of a miracle's success.

Also included in Fire & Brimstone is a section that details gifts, which are an all-new option for blessed characters. Gifts are also manifestations of a deity's power, but they are a little different than miracles, in that they only effect the blessed character himself, and they don't require a faith roll to activate. Gifts are powers that are constantly in effect, in return for good service and continued devotion to the faith. A couple of examples: the beast friend gift allows the character certain bonuses when dealing with animals, and divine providence allows a player to re-do a dice roll and have a chance to avoid bad results that are usually unavoidable.

If blessed characters are successful in events that have a wide-ranging effect on large numbers of people (lowering the Fear Level of a region by defeating a fearmonger and spreading word of the victory among the inhabitants of the region), they could earn a Blessing, which allows them either to gain a single use of a miracle that they don't already possess, or to call upon divine intervention, which can have magical effects similar to miracles but are usually much more powerful (and harder to accomplish). Again, characters with high faith are most likely to succeed in making a call for divine intervention. Fire & Brimstone contains 20 forms of intervention for characters to hope for.

Also included in this sourcebook are descriptions of religious relics that can be introduced into a Deadlands campaign, and a "Marshals-only" section, which covers the ins-and-outs of refereeing blessed characters. There's also a small adventure included which the book says will "send shivers down even the most pious spine."

I haven't played Deadlands yet myself, but the game materials I have read have been very interesting, with respect to both the game mechanics and the storylines, and I have spoken with several people who currently play the game. One of them told me that "everybody and his dog is running Deadlands," and while I can't verify the dog part of that, it's true that this game of the Weird West has become very popular. So take a look at it, if you haven't checked it out before, and if you have, you can pick up Fire & Brimstone to make the most of your blessed character. Scout out.

I'd be much obliged if ya' sent me some e-mail an' let me know what ya' think o' this area, pardner. Since this area is just starting out, any comments or suggestions you may have are especially welcome. You can send the Scout mail if you want to see a particular game covered here, or if you have a complaint, or even if you just want to say hi.

a.k.a. Scott T. Watkins

RPG Scout