General Information

Deadlands is a genre-mixing alternate history roleplaying game which combines the Western and horror genres, with some steampunk elements.

Deadlands features a unique way of creating playing characters for the game. Instead of spending character points, or randomly rolling dice, a character’s abilities are determined by drawing cards from a standard 54-card poker deck (jokers included), which determine the character’s Traits (their basic attributes). The game also uses dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20), and a set of red, blue and white poker chips.

In a Deadlands game, the Game Master is called The Marshal, and the players are called The Posse.

To perform an action a player rolls for successes with a handful of dice and hopes that at least one of the dice rolls the Target Number or higher. Rolling the highest possible number on any of the dice is known as “rolling an ace”, and that die may be re-rolled, with the total being added to the initial roll value. In most cases only the highest single die’s value (with “aces” added) is compared to a target number. For each five points over the target number the character is considered to have a “raise” which typically makes the character’s action more effective. When attacking someone, raises give the attacker more control over where on the victim’s body the blow or bullet strikes. When attempting to quickly reload a gun, each raise allows another round of ammunition to be loaded in a single action.

Spell Casting

Players with huckster characters use a deck of playing cards in addition to dice to cast their spells (hexes). A successful skill check allows the player to draw five or more cards and makes the best possible poker hand with those cards. The strength of the hand determines not only whether the hex was successfully cast, but also the strength of its effects. In the game world, this mechanic is explained as the huckster literally gambling with a magical spirit in order to get it to do his or her bidding — a high ranking poker hand means the huckster has won, and the spirit casts the hex as desired; a low ranking poker hand results in failure. Both jokers are present and wild, increasing the chance of a good hand, but the black joker means that the spirit does something harmful to the huckster.

Blessed characters can use their faith to invoke miracles – they pray for their patron to grant their request. The miracles are usually protective or restorative in nature, although there are some for attack. The difficulty of a given miracle (the amount of faith required by the patron for their assistance) can vary. For example, a priest seeking to heal a gunshot to the stomach would require more faith than if he were trying to mend a broken arm. Although the basic miracle set is predominantly Christian in nature, one of the extension sourcebooks includes miracles from other religions, and some of those are not permitted to Christian player characters.

Native American shamans cast spells by making deals with spirits. This happens in three stages – the shaman asks for a favor, performs the ritual that tradition demands for that favor, and then his skill is tested by the spirit. If he succeeds all three, he earns “appeasement points” according to how well he succeeded. If he earned enough points for the favor, it is granted. If not, his work was in vain.

Action Decks

Instead of rolling for Initiative, the players make a “speed” roll on the bones — the exact number and type being rolled determined by each character’s stats — and then draw a number of cards from a community playing card deck based on the results of that roll. The Marshal then calls out card values, starting from Aces and going all the way down to Deuces. The card’s suit (in reverse alphabetical order) indicates who goes first if the same value of card is drawn.

Fate Chips

Along with Bones and Cards, characters get Fate Chips which are typically poker chips, although colored stones or coins can also be used. These are drawn from a hat or some other container that the player blindly chooses at the beginning of play. Each player draws a certain number of Fate Chips at the beginning of the game from the Fate Pot, modified according to player actions and Marshal preference. Fate chips can be spent for in-game bonuses such as bonus dice to use during certain rolls, or the prevention of physical damage. The Marshal can draw chips as well for enemies to use.


At the end of a gaming session, players can cash in unused Fate Chips for Bounty Points. These are like Experience Points in other systems and are used to improve Traits and Aptitudes. The Marshal may also award additional Bounty Points at the end of the session for completing the mission objectives and any exceptional role-playing that had been done on behalf of a player.

Instant rewards for roleplaying

Marshals are also encouraged to reward players with instantaneous rewards for good role-playing. During character creation players can choose “Hindrances” (disadvantages) such as Big Britches, Bloodthirsty, or Big Mouth. When a player role-plays this Hindrance well, the Marshal can reward them instantly with a Fate Chip. This has the effect of promoting and encouraging role-playing.

Maps of The Weird West

Deadlands map
Deadlands   railroads
California map

Deadlands - The Great Maze