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Deadlands: Blood Drive (Savage Worlds) by Pinnacle Entertainment Book Review

Write on: Thu, 20 May 2021 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 463

4/5

DEADLANDS: BLOOD DRIVE is a hardback edition assembling three adventures written for DEALANDS: RELOADED (Bad Times on the Goodnight, High Plains Drovers, and Guess Whose Coming to Donner). The adventure follows the player characters as they attempt to move 1,000 cattle across the territories of the Weird West in order to arrive at a plot of land that he's purchased to build a ranch.

Deadlands has always been set in the Wild West but they have often avoided dealing with some of the most traditional of cowboy activities. John Goff manages to rectify this with the carefully researched story of how cattle drives are performed, the kind of territory they move through, and what sort of encounters they're likely to have. There's plenty of Wild West weirdness in the book but the focus is mostly on exaggerations of real life things like quicksand, rattlesnakes, stampedes, and rustlers.

Basically, the player characters get hired to provide protection for a herd of cattle owned by Bill Sutter and his niece, Abigail Morton, of the "Lazy S" cattle company. There's a lot of fun to be had on the trails with a sort of random encounter check feel to the whole thing that has since been lost from mainstream Dungeons and Dragons. The cowboys and cowgirls run across all manner of weirdness in their journey with the perhaps weirdest being when they encounter a rocketpack wearing spy's corpse as well as the Men in Black. Technically, it was the US army but they really should have used the Agency there.

Blood Drive features expanded rules for things like herding cattle, horses, spooking herds, and other things that will be useful in campaigns that involve the most iconic creatures of Westerns outside of horses. There is also, a giant mechanical undead bull monster like the kind on the cover that I almost think deserves its own adventure. You could easily use these three adventures separately, run them as a mini or full campaign, or mine them for individual adventure details.

Despite being updated for the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition of Deadlands, there's no real changes involving the disappearance of the Confederacy. The biggest change is the fact that the Confederacy is no longer occupying Roswell, New Mexico. As such, the PCs might hesitate to gun down Union soldiers the way they might not have in the original book. The book focuses much more on the rival train companies that are struggling for supremacy in the region than North or South. Indeed, I'd argue you could probably stick to only one train company menacing the PCs and the adventure wouldn't change.

I do have a few faults with the campaign book and will share them now, though they aren't enough to make me regret my purchase. The first of these is the fact the adventures are relatively low stakes and depend on the assumption the PCs will want to take a month-long journey across the Wild West to drive cattle for $50 a month. While this is fine for pre-generated PCs, it is a little unlikely if the PCs are gunslingers or mad scientists. If I were to run this adventure, I'd probably give the PCs a reason for this like there's a famine in the Mazes and they're going to be saving lives by getting this herd to them quickly. This is actually stated in the background but not something the PCs know. This impacts a few of the plot points but would add an urgency that isn't there in the book.

Second, the characters are a bit on the archetypal side with very few surprises. The evil cattle rustler, the vengeful Native wizard, and the evil cattle baron are decent enough villains but could use a bit more polish. I feel like adding a central storyline or hidden enemy to the campaign tying them all together would make the work hang together better. Maybe Bill Sutter is a former outlaw and they're his ex-partners or someone is trying to drive him out of business by making sure this cattle drive is an utter failure. The character To'sarre does have a past with Bill but it's not properly explained to the PCs and would benefit the story if he sat down to do it after the first few attacks.

In conclusion, this is an entertaining adventure and very much on the low-key side of things rather than the big epic plot point campaigns of Reloaded. Well, it's technically also Reloaded but you know what I mean. Blood Drive is perfect for setting the stage for more personal tails of horror and Wild West shenanigans. I feel it could have used a bit stronger motivation and some more flavor in parts but it is still a great supplement.

Available here

Last modified on Thursday, 20 May 2021 17:50
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/