This review originally appeared at http://rptroll.blogspot.com/2012/07/review-last-sons-deadlan-
Pinnacle continues their release of Deadlands’ plot point campaigns with Last Sons, adventures in War’s domain. The story picks up with The Flood left off taking your posse into the Disputed Territories of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and the Sioux Nation.
For those those of you not up to speed on the Deadlands setting, below is a little alternate history.
Come the Reckoning
Monsters once roamed and Magic was commonplace on the Earth until the North American Shamans sacrificed themselves to ensure humanity was safe from the evil spirits inhabiting the spirit realm they called the Hunting Grounds. The Old Ones, as the shamans were called, sealed the Hunting Grounds keeping the spirits, both good and bad, separated from the physical world. This left the Native Americans at a disadvantage when the technologically superior Europeans arrived to colonize the western hemisphere.
We all know the history. Some settlers preferred to take the land they wanted rather than look for another plot. The fact that land was inhabited by the natives was a problem solved with enough bullets and gunpowder. Several tribes were completely wiped out as the Europeans and their African slaves moved west.
One such tribe was the Susquehanna. A young, talented shaman named Raven saw his tribe wiped out by a band of white men. His hate for the white man never cooled. Raven found other natives and preached war and retribution against the white man and his evil ways. He drew others to his cause that lost their tribes to the white man’s expansion. They called themselves the Last Sons and moved Heaven and Earth (literally) in search of revenge.
The Last Sons passed into the Hunting Grounds and undid the Old Ones spiritual barrier. The spirits, both good and bad, were free to roam the Earth once more. The most powerful evil spirits, called the Reckoners, took on the form and function of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and sought to turn Earth into a mirror image of their home, the Deadlands.
To accomplish this task, the Reckoners spread fear across the world. The power from that emotion allows them to Terrorform sections of the physical realm into Deadlands. Once enough has been Terrorformed, they can walk the Earth and collect the fear personally.
On July 3rd, 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg was in full swing. The Last Sons emerged from the Hunting Grounds victorious and the spirits were released from their bonds. General Lee lost the battle, as he did in our history, except the dead rose from the battlefield covering his retreat. The Reckoners, especially War, knew a continued Civil War was in their best interests and so they kept either side from a decisive victory. In the world of Deadlands, USA and CSA exists with an uneasy ceasefire with large swaths of the Americas remaining as ‘Disupted Territories’. This is War’s Domain.
Return to the Old Ways
Once the spirits were released, the Native Americans had access to their nature spirits again. Shamanistic magic flowed granting the Indians powerful weapons to use against those who would take their land. They congregated in two areas.
The Sioux Nation formed to the North in the Dakotas after the Battle of Washington in 1872. Since the Union had other troubles, they decided to let the Sioux have their territory and entered into the Deadwood Creek Treaty. No one tribe or chief could unite all the Sioux so the Wicasa Yatapickas, or tribal council was formed. There are four Wicasas appointed by the tribes to speak for the Sioux Nation.
The Wicasas insisted their people keep to the old ways foregoing the white man’s technology. There are many who consider this insane and believe the Nation needs guns and other technology to survive in the white man’s world but they don’t say this loud or often unless they want to be expelled.
The Coyote Confederation formed in Oklahoma under the mysterious, hooded war chief known only as Coyote. The Confederation consists of multiple tribes and is generally on good terms with the CSA. The Old Ways aren’t as popular in the Confederation since some of the tribes still war upon one another.
The Disputed Territory
Kansas, Colorado, and the part of Oklahoma that’s not part of the Coyote Confederation make up the Disputed Territory. After the Civil War ended, both USA and CSA agreed to withdraw troops from those areas until the populace decided which country to join.
Bloody Kansas had an active guerrilla war even before the Civil War started with Confederate “Border Ruffians” from Missouri fought Unionist Jayhawkers for the hearts and minds of the Kansas settlers before the war to get the state to side with either the North or South. Far too often this battle turned into an actual shooting war between the two groups. That pattern continues during the Last Sons’ plot point campaign. Dodge City is the primary local in Bloody Kansas.
Colorado is a little different. They don’t really see the need to join either side and can take care of their own business, thank you. Both nations claim Colorado as their state but neither is in much of a position to do anything about. Things would be pretty calm if not for the Great Rail Wars.
Denver is the center point to many destinations and at least four separate rail lines are attempting to make their way out to the Ghost Rock mines in California. Colorado lies right in the path.
Another Big Piece to a Big Setting
Last Sons is another gargantuan volume in the Deadlands setting. Much like The Flood, it takes one of the Reckoner’s Domains and sets the characters against the plots and plans of that Reckoner. In this case it’s War.
Since you’re in War’s Domain, you need to understand that peace and understanding aren’t the norm. As the Marshal, you’ll have to force conflicts a bit more than usual. That Persuasion roll just might be a little harder in the Disputed Territories or the Indian Nations.
Also intolerance is everywhere. Whether you’re a white man in the Indian Nations or a Johnny Reb in a Union controlled area, you’d better expect folks of different persuasions to be unfriendly. Likewise the Disputed Territories are ground zero for the Great Rail Wars. Expect the Rail Barons heavy hands everywhere.
Whereas The Flood covered new ground for the Chinese martial artists, Last Sons covers the Native Americans. Your campaign will be greatly assisted if at least one of your characters is either an Indian or sympathetic to their cause. To that end, the book gives you several options for Indian characters and lots of information about the various Indian tribes found throughout America in the 1880s. You have your choice of the following archetypes.
Berdache - you’re a male but dress in women’s clothing and are usually an artisan.
Chief - you’re the leader of a village or tribe. You’ll have the Noble hindrance.
Priest - you’re a caretaker of your people and holy relics and places
Medicine Man - like a priest but your specialty is courting favors from spirits and embarking on vision quests to solve problems.
Scout - you’re fast, stealthy, and wise in the ways of survival. Your skills are in high demand just about everywhere in the Weird West.
War Leader - Part Shaman and part Warrior you specialize in the spirit magic of battlefield victory.
The Hunting Grounds are another large part of this work. Last Sons gives full stats for the spirit critters you’ll likely encounter along with setting rules particular to the dimension. Much like the Christian concept of Heaven and Hell, the World Tree can be pleasant or downright dangerous depending on where you go.
There’s another large section on the Union and Confederate Secret Service (Agents and Texas Rangers) including large sections containing new equipment. Getting that equipment is free but it’s far from easy and is often greatly depending on Rank.
The Plot Point Campaign
There are 9 plot points to the Last Sons’ campaign and, much like The Flood, Last Sons is a BIG story. It helps to have Legendary characters at the end for the last big battle but not to worry. If you’re starting out with a Novice posse there are plenty of Savage Tales to help with their advancement before the end.
As mentioned before, many of the principle characters, both good and bad, are Indians so you’ll need to coax your posse into adopting a kindly attitude toward the Red Man. If not they’re in for problems. Of course, nothing says the the journey to the land of tolerance can’t be part of the posse’s adventure.
The only odd thing to the plot point is the epilogue. While you're told you don't need to run it, it's in there and seems a little odd. The players participate in the end of Rail War II which is important to the setting but a little out of place in the overall adventure. If your posse made it through The Flood, you'll find the Rail War adventure eerily familiar.
By the Numbers
Last Sons has the following attributes for those of you just judge a product’s worth by size of its content.
337 Pages filled with
More information about American Indian tribes, territory, and equipment than you ever wanted to know
1 New Hindrance
7 New Edges
1 New Power (and a very important one at that)
9 Point Campaign
36 Savage Tales
21 Strange Locals
15 Corporeal Nasties
21 Spirits (both good and bad)
5 new Human encounter types
9 Servants of War
31 Notable Folks
That’s a lot of content!
If you want to play an epic campaign, Last Sons is the book for you. You’ll also want to pick it up if you place an Indian or Secret Service character in Deadlands. The Savage Tales can be used in any Deadlands campaign if you’re not interested in the Last Sons Plot Point.