Converting Deadlands to Exalted

   While we were playing the Dualistic Exalted Campaign, we happened to spend some time in the Deadlands Wasted West setting. Naturally enough, that meant that we needed some way to convert characters – so here we are: a set of rules for converting Deadlands characters to Exalted rules.

Deadlands Character Conversions

  • Nature : Selected to suit the character
  • Virtues : Normally Conviction or Valor 3, others at 2. Willpower starts at 5


Converts From
































Each +2










  • Nimbleness and Knowledge are not used.
  • Using the normal card-draw system this gives an average of 25 attribute points versus 22 for normal Heroic Mortals. However Deadlands characters don’t get any free backgrounds.
  • Add (Guts + Grit)/3 to Willpower
  • Essence defaults to 1. It may be increased to 2 for characters with Grit 4+.

   Aptitudes convert to Abilities as follows. Divide the highest score among those listed by two to convert:

Academia, Science


Animal Wrangling, Riding, Teamster

Ride/Animal Handler

Artillery, Quick Draw, Shooting, Speed Load


Arts, Trade, Tinkering


Climbing, Swimming


Bluff, Disguise, Performing, Persuasion, Ridicule, and Tale-Telling









Brawl or Melee

Filching, Gambling, Lockpicking, Slight Of Hand, and Streetwise




Leadership, Overawe





Bureaucracy or Computer


Awareness or Investigation





Tracking, Scrounging, and Survival


Finishing Touches:

   Any character with Faith knows a minor protection ritual. More advanced Arcane Backgrounds allow the use of a particular field of Deadlands Magic, below. Each individual spell, miracle, or other effect known counts as a separate ritual. Two backgrounds – Psyker and Doomsayer – include an active essence pool. Sadly, as a rule, Deadlands characters can only have one magical affinity, and use it as a base for their effect die pools. Deadlands rituals are inherently Quick.

Creating Heroic Deadlands Characters:

  • Gain access to the Academics, Computer, Drive, Engineering, and Firearms skills. May not take the Artifact, Familiar, Knowledge, or Manse backgrounds, or the Lore or Occult skills. May take the Experience background at a maximum level of 2 if, and only if, the character background justifies it. Get 18 bonus points.
  • Nature: Chosen normally. Not usually stressed much.
  • Attributes: All have a base of 1, 6/4/3 points to spend. No more that one at 5 – and a cap of 4 is recommended. +1 per 4 bonus points spent.
  • Abilities: 22 points. No more that one at 5, but no other restrictions. +1 per 2 bonus points spent, +1 speciality per bonus point spent or +2 per ability point spent.
  • Virtues: All have a base of 1, 5 Points to spend, may not go above 3 without spending bonus points at +1 per 3. Virtues will not be stressed; deadlanders may opt to ignore them and default to a base will of 5.
  • Willpower: Defaults to sum of two highest virtues or 5 if virtues are ignored, +1 per 2 bonus points.
  • Backgrounds: 0 Points, +1 per bonus point, 5 Max.
  • Flaws: Maximum of -10 points, GM approval required. Gain +1 bonus point per -1 point of flaws taken.
  • Merits: +1 per bonus point spent. Rituals cost cost 2 points each. No maximum.
  • Essence: 1. 2 for +10 bonus points, 3 for +25. Mortal characters do not get an essence pool unless they take relevant merits.

Conversion Notes

  • Aptitudes in Deadlands correspond to Abilities, and superficially have the same 1-5 range. However, since Deadlands characters can raise aptitudes without limit and hit “professional” at 4 instead of 2, the level of a deadland aptitude is divided by two when converting it to Exalted Abilities. More importantly, Abilities are a lot broader than Aptitudes. If more than one is listed for conversion use only the highest.
  • Edges and Hindrances translate directly into Merits and Flaws. The two systems even have the same 10 point limit on Hindrances/Flaws.

Deadlands Magic

   In theory, magic is pretty straightforward; you take some essence motes, you shape them, and you turn loose your effect.

   Of course, there are practical complications.

   You can get power from your own willpower or mote reserves (an essence pool or “strain”), from nonsentient sources (ghost rock, radiation, mystical artifacts, ley lines, etc), or from spirits. Personal motes and those from spirits are generic. Forces can only be used to power effects appropriate to the force in question.

   Characters with Essence Pools work normally. Whether you call it motes or strain, those mortals who have spent years learning to channel essence usually recover a mote an hour. Channeling external energies requires an affinity (“arcane background”) and a willpower check. A success powers your spell. On a botch, the energies run wild through your body.

   Ghost Rock can fuel almost any effect, but a botch incinerates you and traps your spirit in a new chunk of Ghost Rock. Simple failures result in a bout of Ghost Rock Fever if you fail a (Resistance + Stamina) roll. Ghost Rock provides 6 motes of essence.

   Radiation is used to blast and transmute things. Botching results in a mutation. Radiation provides 0 motes in clean lands, 3 motes in most of the wasted west, and 6 in major radioactive areas – although those present their own dangers.

   Hexcraft forces a spirit to give you power through a contest of wills. If you win you get power. If you lose by three or more or botch, the spirit gets to do what it wants – and even benign spirits don’t react well to being forced. Minor/Major/Grand spirits (Wills of 2-5, 5-8, and 9-10) provide 3/6/9 motes. For random backlash roll a die: 1 Drain 1d6 XP, 2-3 take 4d bashing damage, 4 take 4d lethal damage, 5 knocked unconscious, 6 drain all your essence motes or temporary will if no motes, 7 you go mad for a week or two or are briefly possessed, 8-9 the spirit twists your spell according to its whims, 10 the spirit uses some power of its own or sends something after you. Hexcrafting can be used in Creation, but the place is so spirit-dominated that it’s pretty much suicidal.

   Blessings are granted by willing spirits on the same scale as Hexcraft. Spirits of Light include nature spirits (minor, and hard to find in the Wasted West), powerful totems (major) and even gods (grand). Sadly, they want favors-in-advance, although Major and Grand spirits do count worship and general good deeds for their faithful, and only help relevant effects. Still, nothing goes wrong – and you don’t expend your favor – if you botch. Spirits of Darkness will work with those who serve their evil purposes, but can’t restrain their malevolence. They don’t make an opposed roll, but will inflict (vicious!) backlash if you botch. They also don’t like letting others use their power (reduce their effective level by 1).

   Harrowed Powers are basically just spirit charms. The Harrowed have access to the full essence pool and recovery rate of the spirit in them however. They may have one of their own as well.

   Mystical Artifacts, Ley Lines, Nodes, and Times can have essence pools and recoveries of their own. These can usually be tapped by anyone who happens to have access to them, but are extremely rare. A botch usually results in a level of damage and in your spell going out of control.

Special modifiers include

  • Interventions are the direct acts of Grand spirits – parting small seas, raising armies of the dead, etcetera. Mortals may be able to ask for such a thing if they have a link with a spirit and have a major favor coming. Don’t count on it.
  • Mad Science Gadgets embody a very specific spell effect and absorb any resulting Ghost Rock backlash. Sadly, they malfunction (d10: 1-7 Minor, 8-9 Major, 10 Catastrophic) if the user fails the will roll to activate them and always blow up on a botch. The design is the hard part; it takes a passable theory and an extended engineering roll (at a difficulty set by the GM according to absurdity) with 12 total successes. A botch along the way results in gadget backlash, as shown below.
    • For random gadget backlash roll a die and become: 1 Absent Minded, 2 Deluded, 3 Paranoid, 4 Phobic, 5 Schizoid or 6 Possessive. If you roll higher the device 7 is possessed, 8 brings Bad Luck, 9 draws sprits, or 10 gets a +3 on the roll when it malfunctions.
    • Thaumotech Devices are advanced Mad Science Devices that don’t need activation rolls and therefore never malfunction or burn out. On the other hand, you have to know the effect used (learning it as a ritual with a chance of mental backlash) and must roll willpower and suffer gadget backlash both when creating the initial design and when building one.
    • Alchemical Elixirs are simply chemically-based Mad Science Gadgets. They malfunction a lot less drastically, but you can only make one dose at a time.

Shaping the effect

   Since Deadlanders don’t have access to the general Occult ability or to the Thaumaturgic Sciences they must buy each effect as a separate ritual. Most cost 1-3 motes or one willpower to use and are only available to those with a particular affinity (for example, psykers get telekinetic and telepathic effects while priests get wards and power against magical evils). Each extra mote from an external source grants an extra success. Characters may combine one sentient and one nonsentient source; this produces the most powerful results, but subjects the user to the dangers of each source used. Effects are simply built using the general thaumaturgy system.

   Classically Mad Scientists use Ghost Rock, Psykers use Essence Pools, Doomsayers use Essence Pools and Radiation, Hucksters use Hexcraft, and Black Magi, Shamans, Templars, and the Blessed use Blessings.

3 Responses

  1. […] to Exalted Conversions: Characters and Magic, […]

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