Note: I was contacted by Andres Salazar, the creator of Pariah Missouri, and was freely given a copy of Book 1 to review, and the preview of Book 2. Just so ya know!
Pariah Missouri is a graphic novel series written and created by the Decade Brothers: Andres Salazar and Jonny Hill. Book One is available for purchase and Book Two is currently being kickstarted. Why am I talking about this? Because I’m interested in the Pariah Missouri Role-playing Sourcebook, for your RPG pleasure!
Pariah Missouri takes place in a slightly weirder Wild West of 1857. The story features a Pinkerton agent, a gorgeous Lady, a shape-shifting Native America, and a voodoo-casting Freemen Negro. When you add in a deliciously evil cast of powerful villains, some fun accents, character bits, and absolutely gorgeous art, then you’ve got a surprisingly fresh take on supernatural fiction.
I will mention the art quickly, under fear of it consuming the rest of this review. The art is absolutely gorgeous! There are lots of great examples on the Kickstarter page, but you can see that it rides a fine line between gritty and colorful. I couldn’t stop thinking that the entire thing had been painted with tea stains; and as an avid tea drinker it captured my attention and pleased my eyeballs.
Sometimes the action gets a little crazy, and the artwork seems to bend and twist along with the insanity. While it adds to the sense of turmoil and confusion, I had a bit of trouble keeping up with some of the more intense scenes. But I’m not a huge comic book guy, so perhaps my brain just had trouble following the panels.
Again, I’m not really here to review the Comic Book. I think it looks beautiful! I also enjoyed the characters, who seemed to embody their cliches while remaining interesting and engaging. From start to finish, this book was a fun, exciting ride through a chaotic and weird world showcased by the story, art, and writing. In conclusion, this series is dripping with style, and feels great, if that makes sense.
Let’s move on to the RPG possibilities, shall we? Here’s where I am excited.
Now, as a disclaimer, I’ve never read nor played Deadlands. The two seem similar thematically, and I don’t think I could explain the differences with any reasonable accuracy. Instead, if you already have Deadlands, consider this Sourcebook as a great resource for your games.
The Sourcebook comes complete with some characters, locations, villains, monsters, and my favorite: maps! The details about which systems the sourcebook will be tailored for are limited, so I’m going to assume that everything will be system agnostic. As a GM, I would eat this up. Mix and match characters, blend some of the history, steal a few monsters, and butcher the maps to no end. Quality maps are hard to come by!
If you’re anything like me, then you work best with a base. Most of my games start with a video game, book, or movie that form the basis of the game. I steal some tropes, a few locations, and mix in some of my own stuff. Some of the ideas and tropes in this universe would be a great way to mix up your historical rpg, or add some variety to your traditional fantasy rpg.
Also, this is slightly off topic, but it applies in this case. In the comic books, many of the powers, characters, and mumbo jumbo are understated. What I mean by that is that very few things are explained to the reader. I really like doing this as a GM, since it preserves the mystery and wonder in the players. It’s the difference between: “Jean pulls a strange vial from his pocket, pours it onto the rifle, and hands it back to Hy with a glint in his eyes” and “Jean uses his Vial of Madness on the rifle, granting it the Confusion trait.”
Since the comic book itself sees no need to offer in-depth explanations, I would hope that the sourcebook sticks with the tone. While some stories thrive from a well-explained magic system (like Mistborn or Fullmetal Alchemist), Pariah goes the Numenera route by presenting the story from an outsider’s perspective. The characters know how everything works (or at least how their own powers work), but the reader is left in the dark, left to wonder and admire the amazing feats being performed on the pages.
I really enjoyed reading through Pariah Missouri. Although I don’t often read or play westerns, but the addition of spiritual chaos and the engaging characters pushed me to blaze through Book 1. Before I knew it, it was over, and set the stage for some new villains and challenges in Book 2. I might have to pick this up. Even if I don’t, it’s got my brain thinking, and now I can feel the wheels turning, and inspiration firing.
If you’re a fan of westerns, definitely check them out. And if you need some unique western or spiritual material for your games, then this will certainly provide you with some good fodder for your GM prep.