Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hell on Earth Reloaded - Review

The rebirth of Hell on Earth took about ten years. The Unity for original HOE was released in 2002,  this book was released as a PDF in 2012. In that time Savage Worlds has become a reasonably popular system used for a wide swath of campaign settings and Deadlands Reloaded has seen an ever-growing set of supporting material. Some of us were wondering when HOE was going to get the full treatment and it finally arrived that year. In short: It's a really nice presentation of the setting.

First, it's a full-color hardback with a mix of new artwork and familiar art from the earlier version. It's a step away from the lurid green cover with the comic book/indie album cover look and that's fine. While the old ones certainly stood out on the shelf (like a biohazard warning) the new look is more ... mature. I like it.

First up is background and some history. This version covers in condensed from the whole thing with the Reckoners from Deadlands on up through the metaplot of the previous edition with the events of The Unity and the battle now known as the Harvest. There is also a quick tour of the wasted west - power groups, major towns, etc.

There is a section on character creation which is pretty standard for a savage worlds campaign book - edges, hindrances, other details relevant to the setting. There is also gear, vehicles, and the specific setting rules for Hell on Earth. Once the "applies to everyone" material is handled, there are sections on each of the arcane backgrounds - Doomsayers, Templars, Sykers, Toxic Shamans, and Junkers. Even the Harrowed are openly accepted as a standard character type in this version which is probably appropriate although I do miss the old approach of it being a sort of prestige class you earn by getting killed. The only thing missing from this section from the old is rules for Cyborgs but they weren't in the old core book either. Regardless, it is more than enough material to create a party with diversity and niche protection if that matters to your players. All of these "special" types come with some baggage from being what they are (in Hero terms think hunteds, honor codes, physical/mental disads) so being an otherwise normal guy with some skills and maybe a car or a nice gun is certainly an attractive option.

After the character stuff there is a nice long section on the world - cities, towns, fear levels, random encounters, notable NPCs, and the general flavor of each area or location. Some have changed quite a bit from the old version, some have not. It's a solid length for running a game without over-detailing the areas.

Monsters - the bestiary covers all the standards of HOE: automatons, doomsayers, walkin' dead, wormlings, and cultists plus NPC versions of character types like junkers and law dogs along with the more monstery things like maze dragons, blood wolves, and devil bats. It looks pretty thorough to me.

This is a strong setting with lots of options for characters and a lot of things to do. This plus a $10 copy of the Savage Worlds rulebook makes for a complete game with a ton of potential. If you played the original version and have some interest in running it again, it's definitely worth considering. If you have any interest in post-apocalyptic games, it's worth a look.

What about someone totally new to this, maybe someone who never played the old versions and maybe doesn't play Deadlands Reloaded either - what's in it for them? Well, if you like the idea of a western with cars and motorcycles instead of horses, automatic weapons instead of six-shooters, robots and mutants, robots, road gangs, and cultists instead of bandits and Indians, then look into it.  Think of it as a modern or near-future western with "powers' added on. You also need to like the Savage World rules to make the most of this. Assuming that it interests you and you like the mechanics then this is definitely the version of the game to get - don't worry about the old stuff as you don't need any of it to be up to date nor do you need it to run or play the game. It is a complete version of the setting.

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