Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/02/11/book-review-deadlands-noir-blood-and-roses-savage-worlds/
Blood and Roses is a short story that came about as a result of funders meeting one of many stretch goals for Deadlands Noir when it was first pitched over at Kickstarter. I’ve loved everything released for Deadlands Noir so far, be it the core campaign setting or its first adventure, The Old Absinthe House Blues. In fact, Deadlands Noir was a close contender for our “Best Campaign Setting” award in our 2012 Tabletop Gaming Awards. If only it hadn’t been released so very close to the end of the year. Ah well, if you’d like to learn more about the setting, feel free to check out my reviews of what’s out so far. If you’re just here to get the scoop on the dime novel, then keep reading…
Blood and Roses is a very fun short story that hits all the typical Noir clichés. Smart mouthed unflappable protagonist? Check. Femme Fatale? Check. Mysterious MacGuffin? Check. Intimidating man from a powerful organization? Check. The ability to turn one’s own blood into an acidic mystical weapon? Chec….wait. That’s not normally in a Noir story! Which, of course, is where the Deadlands aspect comes in, and what really makes the story stand out from the more generic Noir style stories penned every day. Take our main character, Jacob Toso. He’s not a private dick, but a piano player who works at various locations around the Big Easy, tickling ivories for pay. Before the story even gets going, Toso is advised by a not so mysterious stranger to keep his nose clean and not to help out a young lady. Of course, Toso hasn’t even met the lady in question, piquing his curiosity and thus making him far more willing to help an acquaintance by the name of Gretta once she actually does show back up in his life.
From there, the story hits all the bases you expect from a Noir tale. You have an item everyone wants, a dead body here or there, involvement by the local crime syndicate, a Nazi or two, and of course, a few betrayals along the way. Because it’s Deadlands though, the story wouldn’t be complete without a bit of magic and some otherworldly horror along the way. In this case, you have a gris-gris bag that acts as the MacGuffin in this tale, and a very subtle homage to The Dunwich Horror, which might be missed unless you’re a big Call of Cthulhu or Lovecraft fan. The story wraps up nicely and left me hoping that this will be the first of many dime novels featuring Mr. Toso, although I’d like to see a full-fledged Deadlands Noir novel as well, considering the core line has a few out there.
For those looking for game mechanics, you’ll find that the last page of the PDF is Jacob Toso’s stats, so that your players can encounter him in-game as an NPC (hopefully a friendly one…). About the only bad thing I can say about Blood and Roses is that $3.99 is rather pricey for a nineteen page story, especially when only fourteen of the pages are actual story, and all of the art is reused from the core setting book. The price alone makes it hard to recommend to gamers who didn’t get this for free via the Kickstarter campaign Pinnacle had for Deadlands Noir, especially when you can get full adventures or supplements for a system for that much these day. Heck, you can even get full digital novels for your e-reader for the same cost. Although Blood and Roses is a very fun piece that makes me want to read more about Jacob Toso and his continuing adventures in the Big Easy, you probably shouldn’t pay more than $1.99 for this due to its brevity, especially if you are new to the setting or are just looking for some RPG fiction to pass the time. The only people that will find it worth the current cover price are people like myself who adore Deadlands Noir.
Again, I really enjoyed the story, but when a digital short story costs almost as much as a full length paperback, it’s a bit overpriced. Here’s hoping we’ll get a sale or price drop soon so everyone can enjoy this. It’s a great gateway into Deadlands Noir and you don’t need to know anything about the setting or even tabletop RPGS at all to enjoy it.