wandering the deadlands

I woke up before the dogs this morning, opened my eyes to the blue/grey light of six am sliding though my blinds, and listened to birds singing in the yard.

Marlowe stretched and rolled over to rest against me. Watson jumped up into the bed and wrapped himself around my head, and Seamus snored at my feet. I lay there for a few minutes, soaking in the feeling of being in my own bed, in my own home, with my pets around me, knowing that I’m heading north of the wall tomorrow to sleep in a hotel for four nights. I can’t complain — I’m not staying with Craster — but I do love my house and all who live inside it ever so much.

I arched my back, felt my ribs crack and blinked sleep out of my eyes. I eased myself out of the bed so I wouldn’t wake anyone up, and walked into my kitchen, where I began to prepare my morning coffee. I’ve recently converted to the Chemex, and though it takes a little longer than the Aeropress, it’s worth the wait, and the ritual of the whole thing pleases me.

While I waited for the hot water to drip through the grounds, I heard footsteps in the hallway. Anne came out and said, “What are you doing?”

“Making coffee.”

“Why are you awake?”

“I don’t know. I guess my body decided that it had all the sleep it needed … so here I am.”

Marlowe walked out, her little feet clicking against the floor, and joined us in the kitchen. She looked up at Anne and wagged her tail.

“Good morning, little Marlowe Bear,” Anne said, petting her. Marlowe wagged her tail faster.

I poured my coffee and took it into the dining room, where I had left my Deadlands Marshall’s Guide open last night. I picked up reading where I left off, coffee warming and waking me up.

Deadlands is a setting for Savage Worlds. It’s a “Weird West” setting where players live in an alternate version of 1879 America where the Civil War isn’t really over, but a cease fire holds, most of California has fallen into the ocean due to a great earthquake, and all kinds of weird and terrifying monsters roam the countryside. I’m going to start a Deadlands campaign for my group in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been preparing, figuring out what parts of the world interest me, where I think my friends would enjoy exploring, and what sort of big story I want to take them through over the next few months. It’s the first time I’ve run a campaign since the 80s, and I’d forgotten how much work goes into the whole thing. My brain is tired from all the information I’ve been cramming into it, and I feel a pleasing mental fatigue that I normally only experience when I’m working long hours on a movie or tv show.

My imagination has been working overtime as a result, and though I can’t remember any of my dreams, I wake every morning with an unsettled feeling, like a soft sort of dread from whatever Dreamlands I visited while I slept. It’s not unusual for me to have full-blown nightmares when I’m away from my own bed, and I must admit that I’m a little anxious about what waits for me in the dark Canadian nights of the next few days.

Anne went into the living room and Marlowe snuggled up against her on the couch. In our bedroom, I heard Seamus’ collar jingle as he woke up. Outside, the birds continued to sing. I sipped my coffee and turned the pages.

It’s cold for Los Angeles today, gloomy and even a little misty at time. I imagine that above the grey clouds and beyond the heavy mist that clings to the mountains, our universe is being constructed, much like the Deadlands that I’m building in my head.

25 thoughts on “wandering the deadlands”

  1. Props to you for being able to get out of bed when puppies are cuddled all around you. My dude Pirate likes to snuggle right up against my back and I have arthritis in my spine, and it’s SO comfortable (he’s a lab mix and ~75 lbs so he’s nice and solid as a pillow too) that even if I feel like I’ve had enough sleep I usually want to just lie there and be comfortable and cuddly.

    (Well. Until he starts dreaming and running in his sleep and kicks me in the ribs, anyway. :) )

  2. I envy you, and your players. Some of my fondest gaming memories involve Deadlands campaigns I ran and played back when Pinnacle first released the system and world. There’s nothing quite like that old west feel with the added horror elements sprinkled in.

    Enjoy the campaign building, and leverage those occasional nightmares you can recall. I look forward to the updates you’ll post. I’m living vicariously through you until I can get a gaming group going here in Aussie land, or until I get back to the States and reconnect with the old gang.

    Blog on, brother. And be careful on the other side of the wall. Winter is coming.

  3. I played in a Deadlands campaign when it first came out (’96 or ’97?) and it was good fun, not just because of the setting but also because of new mechanics like using poker cards.
    Will you be posting snippets of your campaign or turn it into a story perhaps?

  4. Wil,
    You sure can paint a picture with words.
    I miss gaming, but with my old group being in another state…it’s not likely I will get to play until KantCon in KCMO in July. There will be so much win there…and a newly single me. (my choice)
    When dealing with nightmares, I’ve found that writing them down right afterwards gets them out of my head so I can sleep better for the rest of the night.

  5. A morning at the Wheaton’s sounds so poetic and peaceful…

    My morning contained coffee, but it was wedged somewhere between making school lunches, locating escaped shoes and the frenetic skirl of shooing sidekicks out the door. It was cold and sad when I actually got to it. Someday, I too shall have hot coffee and be able to read during daylight hours! But not yet…

    (P.S. Frenetic Skirl is my Drop Kick Murphy’s coverband.)

    1. After the spring equinox, the further north you go in the northern hemisphere, the more minutes of daylight you experience during the day. Canada has MORE daylight than LA for 6 months out of every year.

      Unless you’re in Vancouver.

  6. Anne: “Good morning little Marlowe Bear”. I was flooded with memories of Felix the Bear. How you so enjoyed being on his “rotation”. I had tears in my eyes when I re-read “Let Go”, the story of Felix the Bear from March 29, 2005.

  7. Heh — Nadia P beat me to it; If you’re concerned about the dark, come up to Anchorage — sunset tonight is at 9:49, but it’s twilight until at least 11.

    Honestly, although I very much welcome the arrival of spring and summer, it makes it really hard to sleep sometimes. I think that’s why I see tanker trucks of Red Bull and Monster Energy drink roaming our streets with tap handles punched into the sides. Maybe that should be a public safety function here, like they used to spray for mosquitos back in Texas, they could just drive around and fill the air with aerosolized energy drink in the early summer mornings.

    1. I remember visiting Scagway many years ago in July. I was in a motel at 2 a.m. trying to sleep and kids were outside riding around on bicycles. I asked someone, ” When do these kids sleep ?” He said, “We sleep in the winter time.”

  8. If you like running Deadlands, there’s something I’ve been thinking of doing that extends the setting quite a bit. There are currently 3 settings in the Deadlands universe: Deadlands, Deadlands Noir, and Hell on Earth: Reloaded. A Campaign could be set up so that the descendants of the characters in Deadlands are the characters in Deadlands Noir, and the same for Hell on Earth. Have story elements that tie back to the player’s previous characters as the stories progress.

    And I too enjoy your way with words!

  9. Just so you know geeky Canadians truly appreciate the sacrifice you are making leaving your family to come see us. My roommate is there and will be getting your autograph for me. The weather looks unseasonably warm for this weekend. I hope you enjoy your time there!

  10. Deadlands is one of my favorite settings..Classic, not Reloaded. I played in a game for years..Jessica Winters, my huckster was part of an outlaw gang that moved into Gomorrah, ca (between Sacramento and Shan Fan). She quickly developed an invincibility complex, made enemies with most of the “evil” locals, lost her left arm in a hex-slinging duel against Nicodemus Whateley… Ah, fun times.

    I then ran a continuation of the story for a couple years. Complete with a Mad Scientist, Harrowed Agent, and the wife’s gambler/scoundrel. He had been Shanghai’d in the original campaign, and was an “old hat” in the game i ran… acquaintances with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and several other fictional heroes… The group even met The Ghost, aka. Undead Abraham Lincoln, and performed a few tasks for the former President.

    Tons of fun to be had in a Deadlands game. If you were in Vegas, I’d invite you to our game (that i will be starting again as soon as our newborn is just a tad older)

  11. Hey Wil,

    Just read your deadlands post, and you said you hadn’t ran a campaign for years so i thought id share a DM tip that i found to be one of the most useful i’d ever read (i wish i could remember where i’d read it)

    Don’t sit on your ideas, more specifically if you have a cool idea – work it into your story for the next session. Consigning it to the ‘when we get to a good point’ often means there never will be a good point, your players will have moved on in either level or game focus and that cool idea will just sit there forever unused and lonely.

    So yeah, got a cool idea? make it happen asap, otherwise thats all it is i guess, a cool idea.

  12. Wil,
    I’ve been reading your blog for years. You are a master craftsman in the way you set the mood, tone and emotion. Over the years, it seems as if your love of your wife, Anne, has grown greater. Either that, or your writing is better – or BOTH!

    You’re a very lucky man, Mr. Wheaton!

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