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[Let's Read] Deadlands Back East: the South


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Am I alone in being okay with the CSA existing purely as a source of villains and evil plots?

I mean, it gives an immediate, "Let's fuck these guys over" baddie.


I am invincible?
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I'll try to post more later, but for now, that's not how politics works. That's not how anything works. And the absurd chain of events and political developments required to establish a slavery free Confederacy is rather telling, in and of itself.


Knight in tarnished armor
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2. The Front Line States

Although Bleeding Kansas sees heavier fighting, it is already covered in great detail in other Deadlands works, so this chapter covers the ones east of the Mississippi. The following three states see the heaviest fighting with Union soldiers.

Virginia, the Old Dominion

The Epitaph reader would’ve included West Virginia, regarding it as an occupied territory, but due to said situation is only able to cover its original eastern neighbor.

Virginia’s home to the Gosport Navy Yard which is the lifesblood of the Confederate Navy, and recent developments in the CSS Hunley prototype submarine and its swashbuckling gentlemen officers led to popular tales in newspapers and dime novels.

True South: Submarines in the American Civil War: Although Deadlands’ ones are ghost rock-powered steampunk ships, the real-world submersibles of this era were small, cramped hand-powered contraptions. As of 1866 only 5 of them existed in the world (mostly in Europe). The CSS Hunley saw practical use in sinking vessels, but met its end in an explosion likely due to a malfunctioning torpedo.

Beyond this, other strange events in Virginia include a group of bandits tossing experimental gas weapons into homes to loot the families’ unconscious remains, ships disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle that Northern muckrakers attribute to Confederate witchcraft, colorful UFOs spotted at night near the lead mining town of Wytheville, and a mysterious spate of murders around the town of Saltville.

Marshal’s Territory: An ancient portal device beneath the Bermuda Triangle provides a gateway to stars and planets beyond known space, causing all manner of unearthly weather. The “mad gasser” bandits are lead by a mad scientist who created an experimental sleep gas to become the ultimate burglar. The UFO spotted near Wytheville is the result of a dentist-turned-mad-scientist working on an air carriage he stole from his business partner. The culprits behind the Saltville murders are a unique strain of vampires who absorb salt nutrients from their victims.

Kentucky, the Bluegrass State

A state of many faces, Kentucky’s western half sees heavy river trade along the Mississippi. Its central portion has been turned into barren wasteland from Union offensives, while its mountainous east is isolated from much of the world. General Sherman razed the city of Louisville and now the ruins act as a Union supply line. The charred remains are still inhabited by some creature feeding off of the burnt corpses.

One of the most famous people here is General John Hunt Morgan, who earned a great reputation among Kentuckians for his courage and keen tactical mind. The fact that he narrowly escaped a Union cavalry ambush while being court-martialed by fellow Confederates for “being a loose cannon” only further added to his rebellious mystique.

Marshal’s Territory: Unsurprisingly, General Morgan is now a Harrowed, an undead whose body is shared by two souls: an evil spirit known as a manitou and the soul of its original owner. Although he still leads volunteer forces against the Union, he is on a self-imposed exile due to the unpredictable nature of his manitou half. The Louisville Beast is a transformed human by the name of Mark Metzner who creeps among the ruins of his hometown and ambushes Yankee soldiers to kill and eat.

Tennessee, the Volunteer State

The book notes that Memphis and western Tennessee have been extensively detailed in another sourcebook, so it’s only covering the east. Specifically Knoxville and Nashville, the latter of which gets the lion’s share of the state’s word count. The city is a major railway in the region, and home to prestigious medical colleges. But unfortunately the presence of Yankee soldiers in the 1860s tarnished the Athens of the South with a new scourge…


Now known as the City of Sin, wiley temptresses in Smokey Row ensnare men and their hard-earned money by the thousands! The spread of STDs manifesting in welts is taken as evidence of God’s divine wrath, and the Epitaph writer is inclined to agree.

True South: Legalized Prostitution in Nashville: In spite of the Tombstone Epitaph’s moralizing, the temporary legality of prostitution had an overall beneficial effect for both sex workers and clients. Due to a high number of widows and women who overall lost secure financial holdings, the world’s oldest profession grew with the onset of young male soldiers coming into towns. What made Nashville different was that initially the government tried to forcefully expel its sex workers due to the spread of STDs from the occupation which bedridden countless soldiers. When that didn’t work, and the exiled white prostitutes were replaced with black women and thus contributed to the far greater “sin” of race-mixing, the riverboat-bound ladies of the evening were welcomed back into Nashville.

Provost Marshal George Spalding decided that if prostitution cannot be rid of, then the next best thing is to ensure that both sex workers and soldiers could satiate their desires in a safe and sanitary manner. Hospitals and free healthcare was set up for the former as long as they submitted to weekly health checks, and those found ill would be treated at said hospitals. Many soldiers felt elated when escorts touted licenses and literal bills of clean health.

The other major feature of Nashville is the Cumberland Queen riverboat, home to high-stakes gambling tournaments and a secret organization of Hucksters known as the Court who serve the Reckoners. Nashville’s most prominent attorney is Howell Beasley, whose family made a fortune off of the cotton (slave) trade and hosted an extravagantly wealthy wedding. He’s running for city councilman against a black lawyer James Napier, and his deep pockets are making him well-to-do in the city.

Marshal’s Territory: The red welt “STDs” are actually curses from a succubus seeking to spread fear and terror by casting blame on sex workers. Howell Beasley is the leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret society of Reckoner-supported white supremacists who seek to return to the slave days of yore. Howell’s using his funds to expand the Knight’s influence in Nashville, and views Napier’s candidacy as a threat to the social order. He’ll resort to all manner of dirty political tricks to secure a victory, including assassination if need be.

Our last major feature in Nashville, and this chapter, are the city’s famed Machine and Powder Works, known simply as “the Works.” The efficiency of the mostly-black workers is second to none due to their gratefulness to General Cleburne, and the betrayal of the Union:

On New Years’ Day 1863, Nashville slaves fled their masters en masse, believing themselves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, but to their anguished surprise, Union authorities forcibly returned them to their owners.

Unbeknownst to them, Tennessee’s Union governor Andrew Johnson exempted occupied portions of the state from the Proclamation, and Nashville’s Negro population never forgot this betrayal. Almost two years later, a shattered Federal army fled to Nashville after crushing defeats by General Cleburne’s Confederates at Spring Hill and Franklin. Slaves knew of Cleburne’s promise, “Whosoever joins with me, I shall set free,” and many prayed for his triumph to win their freedom.

The Battle of Nashville eliminated the last vestige of Union authority in Tennessee, and afterwards Cleburne proved as good as his word. While it made him enemies among Nashville slave owners, the city’s Negroes rallied to his side, including many who now labor at The Works. As a result, every attempt to sabotage The Works has been thwarted by the workers themselves, and Cleburne’s army wants for little in the way of materiel. It’s the least they can do, many say, to repay “The Stonewall of the West.”
True South: African-Americans in Tennessee: Let’s get one thing straight first. Andrew Johnson was a huge asshole and a significant barrier to social progress during his Presidency. And while Tennessee under his watch did exempt the state, this decision was soon overturned on account that slavery was a clear and present danger to the Union. Additionally, many African-American troops in the state who joined the Union Army at the time gained some increased social standing, although sadly this did not last post-war.

Once again an otherwise sorta-progressive action by the real-world Union is erased so that Deadlands’ Confederacy can gain the fictional moral high ground!

Thoughts So Far: At a mere 8 pages, this chapter’s surprisingly light on details. Beyond Nashville we only get a skeleton view of said states’ culture, terrain, and historic places. Most of the word-count is devoted to strange events and localized goings-on. While in keeping with the Weird Western flavor does not do a good a job at making the states feeling uniquely different from the West, or the rest of the Confederacy for that matter.

Join us next time as we venture to the Carolinas!


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I was thinking to myself, “Portals into space? That doesn’t feel very Deadlands!” And then I remembered the space-portal that shows up two hundred years later. I guess this counts as foreshadowing?

Also, is the fact that the robbers with the experimental technology got it from a mad scientist really a twist worthy of putting to paper? If the big reveal is literally the first thing anyone would think of, maybe time to go back to the drawing board, yeah?


Registered User
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I was thinking to myself, “Portals into space? That doesn’t feel very Deadlands!” And then I remembered the space-portal that shows up two hundred years later. I guess this counts as foreshadowing?
There's actually a fair amount of science fiction horror throughout the Deadlands modules -- the aliens who live inside Devil's Tower, for example. The Tremors movies were also very influential on the milieu.


I am invincible?
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Wow, that Tennessee/Cleburne plotline is super ugly. Not content with having the Confederacy emancipate its slaves, seemingly with little opposition, now the book is saying they're better abolitionists than the Union. That's awful.

Oh, and the former slaves keep working out of gratitude. Also pretty awful.
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