That's right, "with Foreword by Bruce Campbell" I was vacillating back and forth about whether to buy this book, but Bruce Campbell sold me on it. But hey, if Bruce Campbell isn't enough for ya, you can have my take on it for what it's worth.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY is an anthology of stories to support the DEADLANDS game universe. I believe that there is a new DEADLANDS game based on the Savage World system, so let me be clear that all references are to the DEADLANDS of the late '90s .
Gaming fiction has 3 goals:
1. Be worth reading on its own. Most fiction in general has this as a goal, but some gamelines believe their fans will buy any old crap just because the game's name is on the line. Also, a lot of gaming material has the dilemma of being overly self-referential, posing a barrier to being enjoyed except as a game supplement, or rehashing a lot of material already covered in the game manuals, thus alienating the target audience. THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY is sort of in the middle of this scale. A lot of the stories involve characters meeting famous and important persons from the game line, or using magic based on poker (which is very hard to follow until you've played the game some). On the other hand, the stories that dealt with revenants like "Hate:Part 3" and "Boneyard Train" don't require game knowledge to be understood.
2. Flesh out the core setting. One of the reasons that gamers buy game fiction is to better understand their game. Sometimes developers use the fiction as part of the canon, and sometimes it is non-canonical but representative of the game world. While I learned more about the DEADLANDS world by reading THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY , it's a little light on details. Famous people and places make more of cameo appearances here (especially "Out of the Frying Pan"); I guess it mostly helped me to better grasp the atmosphere of the DEALANDS world rather than learning anything specific about it.
3. Excite people about playing the game. This is the real point of game fiction - to increase sales of the game itself. After reading THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY , I was more interested in playing DEADLANDS (even though it is a dead system) than before. The core book threw a lot of ideas out and spent no time developing them (that's what splatbooks are for), so having some game fiction available makes the rules and tidbits in the game seem more concrete.
In the end, I decided on 4 stars because the stories were decently interesting and made me want to buy more DEADLANDS products. As a stand-alone anthology, I would probably rate it a 3; there a re a lot of in-house references going on and some plots are only interesting if you care about the game.
Since there is no scan of the book stored at Amazon, I'll list the table of contents:
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
-Foreword by Bruce Campbell
-"Out of the Frying Pan"
-"Dead to Rights"
-Playing the Game"
-"The Snipe Hunt"
-"Harmony Gap has a Bad Day"
-"No Good Deed"
-"In Search of Mr. Beaseley"
-"From as Fever" by Shane Lace Hensley