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5 easy Deadlands plot points / adventure seeds

Updated on June 30, 2011

Deadlands is a great setting - both for d20 and Savage Worlds - that will let you use just about any western plot hooks or horror adventure seeds. Here are five of my own plot starting points for Deadlands: Reloaded...

1. Off The Rails

I started my Deadlands campaign with the excellent Cray Canyon Cold Snap - it seemed to fit right in with the theme of the world, and let me concentrate on learning the system! However, there's no reason why you couldn't slip it in anywhere in a campaign.

The PCs are on a train, things go wrong... you get the idea. The main antagonist is pretty creepy, especially if he just won't die! We had a pretty memorable scene where Berstock ran along the roof of the train while the PCs tried to shoot him from below...

Where to go from here: How do the heroes get back to civilisation? Do the Rail Baron's cronies come after them to question them about the events? Reward them? Offer them a job..?

2. Rustlin' Deaders

The town's cattle are going missing - and the players volunteer (or are "encouraged") to help.

When they eventually track the rustlers down, they find a refugee camp full of the town's dead - reanimated as Harrowed. Women and children too. Talking to them in a civilised way reveals that they're afraid to return - what would their loved ones think? - and need the meat to survive...

Do the heroes slaughter them all (again) anyway? Help them? What if the town Sheriff told the players not to come back 'til the thieves 're dead??

Where to go from here: If the PCs slaughter the colony, do they come back again as walking dead to terrorise them - leaving whatever force reainimated them in the first place to be taken down? If the Harrowed are brought back to the town, and reintegrated, how do the population receive them? Don't forget, the manitous can still take them over and wreak havok, even if the deaders mean well...

3. Keep Yer Friends Close...

Play this one if any of your party is Wanted, even for a minor crime somewhere far away - and especially for a major crime somewhere far away!

Somehow the PCs meet / befriend / save / are saved by a Ranger or Agent; this will depend on whether your cowpoke is wanted North or South of the Mason-Dixon line! How do the players keep the outlaw's identity / crimes secret from a powerful potential enemy - particularly if any of them have a Big Mouth or Lyin' Eyes..? The details are up to you, but this is an opportunity to have all kinds of fun at your outlaw's expense - play it up, drag it out, and have fun with this one.

Where to go from here: If they do get found out, what happens? A shootout? A duel? If the outlaw wins, will this bring a whole heap o' trouble down on our hapless heroes? Does the Agent "ask" the posse to do some particularly dangerous work for him/her? Do they get the opportunity to save him/her from a terrible fate in order to get a blind eye turned, or even a pardon..?

4. Dream a Little Dream

Ah, the power of dreams. If you want to run one of Pinnacle's excellent one-sheet adventures, or an interesting adventure of your own devising, why not make it into a dream sequence? This is something I'm considering using a lot in my own campaign.

Benefits include: not having to get the players to where you wanted them, not having to worry about narrative continuity, not having to worry about things being too over-the-top or horrific, plus it's an easy way to get a break from campaign planning - simply slot in someone else's adventure...

Where to go from here: Does death in the dream mean actual death, or does it mean waking up in cold sweat and screaming for your mother? Could the dreams be omens, or clues as to what the PCs should be doing? Why not have the posse defeated - in gruesome style, of course - in a dream, only to run into the same location / scenario in "real life" later on. Facing a recurring nemesis in reality who's defeated you over and over again in dreams would make for a pretty climactic battle...

5. A Stranger Comes to Town...

...And Things Get Weird. It's a classic. The stranger can ride in on a pale horse, or turn up dead in the middle of the street when the town wakes one morning. The "weird" can be anything - children going missing, poison in the water hole, spoons bending, animals running away from town, the dead rising...

Where to go from here: Is the stranger the cause, or fighting the cause? It's just as easy to make her a lone preacher hunting down a vampire as it is to make her the vampire - but of course the finger of suspicion would generally be pointed at her by the townsfolk! What if the PCs were "the stranger," new in town when the weirdness kicks off..?


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