Deadlands - A Guide to the Wild West RPG

The year was 1996, and Deadlands was crowned as Best Graphic Presentation for a Roleplaying Game Supplement and many others accolades in the Origins Awards. 

The game's logo featured an undead character holding two shooters, and the title tells you what kind of game you should be expecting. No one thought that this peculiar game would win such an award.


With all the buzz surrounding Deadlands, how did it win such a prestigious award, and what is with the game that makes it so unique and fascinating that it continues to have a cult following up to this very day? Find out more about this Wild West RPG.

Deadlands - A Guide to the Wild West RPG
Image Source: Dice Breaker

What is Deadlands?

Deadlands is a melting pot of different gaming genres. It is a combination of Western history action and horror genre with some elements of steampunk mixed in. The game was published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group and was released in 1996.

During the game's development, the idea was to bring horror elements into the Western cowboy genre. Cowboys and zombies had nothing in common, and during that time, it was quite a risk to develop something that may not blend well together. 


While it was uncommon to merge two different genres, something great came out of Deadlands. After the first draft of the entire game, the designers went on to work and got approval from Pinnacle's top brass. 

The journey to the game's development soon started, and the rest was history.


The game is set in an alternative universe that follows the Wild West's same themes known as the Weird West. Throughout the entire game, players would wander off to many areas of the land that features different regions of the United States. 


These areas include the wild frontiers of Arizona and, in later expansions, the Deep South, Mexico, and even the country's Northeastern area. The story follows a group of Native Americans to drive off the European settlers from the land and perform a ritual. 

The ritual summoned evil elements and entities that engulf an entire region. The more fear the area has, the more it morphs into hideous images such as corpses and monsters. As they are called, the Reckoners aims to fill the world with fear until they can cross between the spiritual realm into the physical realm. 

Players will have to take on various roles such as Lawmen and Gunfighters to stop the Reckoners from overwhelming the land with fear and evil while also learning who is behind all of this.

Deadlands - A Guide to the Wild West RPG
Image Source: Dice Breaker

Gameplay and Features

Character creation is based on different backgrounds, such as bounty hunters, gunslingers, preachers, greenhorns, saloon gals, and many more. There are also special characters, including Hucksters who cast hexes, Mad Scientists and their steampunk machinery, The Blessed who perform different miracles, and Shaman who seeks to commune with spirits.

Deadlands features a different progression system for the characters in the game. Player's abilities or traits will be determined through drawing cards that have their attributes in them. The game's Game Master is The Marshal, while the players are called The Posse.

Players will have to roll a handful of dice to perform their actions and perform their next move. When players can hold back the fear emanating from these areas and defeat the Reckoners, they earn a Legend Chip, allowing them to bring back a bit of the history into the story. 

Players who defeat monsters also gain Grit, which features their resolve and courage. 

Fate Chips

The game also features an item called Fate Chips. Fate Chips are drawn randomly from the Fate Pot at the start of the game. 

These chips can be used in different ways, such as preventing physical damage or spending them for in-game bonuses to help you throughout the game.

Reception and Awards

The game was received well even though it had some complex gameplay mechanics. Hardcore fans of the role-playing genre were at ease with the complex rules of the game. To no surprise, the game continued to dominate the charts, and in 2006, a sequel called Deadlands: Reloaded was ordered.

Throughout the years, the game continues to amass many fans in the world. In 2017, the game received another update after almost ten years from the last one. The game has received praise for its blend of Western and horror genres that match the Western playstyle.

All in all, the game has won the Origins Award a whopping eight times since it was the first release. Many of these awards include Best Roleplay Adventure, Best Trading Card Game, Best Role-playing Rules, and many more. 

Up to this very day, people are still playing this highly complex yet very entertaining and immersive game.


One of the many things that Deadlands was known for was its attempt to push the fantasy genre's boundaries. The blend of Western and horror into the gameplay made the role-playing game and its storyline so seamless that everyone could enjoy playing it. 

Every roll of the dice brings something new to the game, making it very exciting to play.