“Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it”

Last night was the much-anticipated (by me, at least) Halloween RPG Night. The purpose of this annual tradition (actually, it only happens about every other year, but I like to think of it as an annual tradition) is to get together with friends, eat enormous amounts of Halloween candy, and play a one-shot, horror-themed roleplaying game of some sort. And now, through the miracle of blog technology, I shall provide you with a rambling report on the festivities.
In sum, it was a success–people had fun, much candy was eaten, and the RPG was played. My original plan was to provide a bag of stale tortilla chips and some salsa as the evening’s snack, but Michele trumped this several times over by preparing caramel apples, popcorn, several bowls of Halloween candy, and apple cider. Have I mentioned that she is amazing? If I haven’t, allow me to state for the record: Michele is amazing.
Stocked up with Halloween-themed food, we proceeded on to the RPG. This year, we played Deadlands: the Weird West. Deadlands is a quirky game, set in an alternate-history Wild West where unspeakable horrors wander the plains, the Rail Wars are fought with gatling guns and sorcery, and grizzled, six-shooter-wieldin’ law dogs dispense indiscriminate justice out on the frontier. I had originally been wavering between running a Name of the Rose-style Dark Ages Cthulhu game and a Ghostbusters-style Orpheus game, but decided on Deadlands because I knew several RPG newbies would be playing, and I figured it’d be easy to jump right into a game based on well-known Western archetypes. (Plus, we watched The Magnificent Seven and Unforgiven not long ago, and I was in a gunslingin’ mood).
So Deadlands it was. I bought a PDF copy of the rules from RPGNow, printed out some cardstock miniatures, and was good to go. It was a lot of fun–everyone really got into the pulpy feel of the game, and it worked well despite the fact that none of us had ever played it before and were learning the rules as we went along. The cast of characters was great: Calamity Kate (Michele, playing a lassoo-wielding buffalo girl), Jahab (Steve, playing the world’s most over-the-top hell-and-brimstone preacher), Sherriff Sassafrass (Lindsey, who reminded us from time to time that it rhymes with ‘kick your ass’), and Victor Victoria (Heather, playing a hex-slingin,’ spell-castin’ huckster). The adventure was short, and consisted of the characters experiencing a train ambush and then laying the smackdown on a bunch of desert zombies. Good times.
One of the really neat things about Deadlands is that it uses playing cards and poker chips (in addition to dice) to resolve certain things in the game. During fights, everybody draws cards from a normal playing-card deck, and then you “play” your cards at the appropriate times when you want to take an action. You can use poker chips to gain certain advantages during the game, such as rolling extra dice or avoiding damage. The game’s magic system actually involves building a poker hand; the better your hand, the more powerful the magic you can cast. These sorts of elements really added to the game’s ambience and were a lot of fun. In fact, I liked the playing-card combat initiative system so much I’m thinking about using it in other games, although it does seem best-suited for a Western-themed game.
So all in all, it was a great way to spend the night before Halloween. It helped that the weather yesterday was perfect–lots of wind, and lots of bright autumn-colored leaves gusting about. Happy Halloween from our gaming group to yours!

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