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In Deadlands:Reloaded, it's possible for characters to become Harrowed. In short, this means the character has died and been re-animated by an evil spirit. It's up to the GM to decide when this spirit tries to take control of the character's body.

Are there any rules for when or how often a spirit may try to take control of the character? If there are no rules, what are some suggestions for when the GM should have the spirit try to take control?

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In original Deadlands, we always play it that a Harrowed would lose control at the worst possible moment screwing the PCs as much as possible. Not sure if Reloaded is any gentler than the original though. –  valadil Jun 14 '12 at 15:46
    
I really like this view, as it fits with the spirit's desire to cause as much mischief as possible. –  Toast Jun 14 '12 at 15:53
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I haven't read that section of the book in depth, but based on just the description in the question I'd go with "Whenever the spirit has an opportunity to advance its own agenda" (this would, of course, necessitate the GM figuring out what that agenda is up front). –  Quentin Jun 14 '12 at 16:25
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

The rules for this are on page 21 of the Marshal's Handbook. In summary:

  • the GM decides when an 'interesting' time would be. Generally this is when you can cause as much havoc as possible, bearing in mind that the manitou won't willfully endanger the body they are hosting. Anything that will increase chaos, fear etc could be on the cards.
  • you then pay a fate chip of any colour, and an opposed spirit roll is made with the manitou one dice higher than the harrowed. This roll is modified by the Dominion modifier.
  • if the manitou wins, they have control of the body for 1 hour.

My general approach is not to overuse this. Make sure that the times you choose to try and take control are those which are likely to cause the most problems, fear etc, and this will ensure that it has the greatest impact on the way the other characters in the posse treat the harrowed and it's likelihood to lose control. There's nothing quite like a good dose of paranoia to make a Deadlands session interesting!

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Generally speaking, I figure that if you aren't doing it to cause lots of problems to your players that you're following the Roger Rabbit principle..."Only when it's funny". But as Phil says, don't overuse it. When I ran classic, I usually rolled once every other session at the most. –  Bigeshu Jun 14 '12 at 21:23
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Deadlands Reloaded, p. 130:

Manitous don’t generally interfere in a hero’s day to day life. It’s just not interested in whether he orders whiskey or beer, for example. That said, if a demon sees an opportunity to spread a little fear around, it’ll jump on it faster than you can say “Amen.”

Just remember that a manitou won’t knowingly endanger its host, because if a Harrowed dies, the manitou dies along with him.

So, once the marshal decides the Manitou can raise some fear or havoc and not get got, the Marshal antes the fate chip. The Manitou has a spirit a die type higher than the character, but the player gets to add the dominion modifier... Spend them if you got them, because you want at least a +1 dominion. (Why? Because the difference of a die-type is an average of +1... See below.) So, if you can, you want to push your roll up. Note also - your extra d6 for being a PC is a bit of a help, but it's not as important as the dominion modifier.

If, after an hour, the Marshal isn't done, he can automatically extend that hour with a fate chip. But first, he's GOT to win control. And you do not have to let him...

Now, if the PC wins, A bad GM could simply try again the next round. A good one will instead give the PC time to leave the situation, first. The rules don't require it, but since Dominion lasts an hour, simple fairness implies winning lasts an hour for either side. The rules don't state any such thing, but it's not a bad measure.

Some rough stats

 Die Type:      d4  d6  d8  d10 d12
 Average Roll:  2.5 3.5 4.5 5.5 6.5

 Comparison: PC D4+1 vs Manitou d6  Open ended Subtable
 P   Manitou                        P   Manitou
 C   1  2  3  4  5  6               C   7  8  9 10 11 12  
 2   P  T  M  M  M  M               6   M  M  M  M  M  M
 3   P  P  T  M  M  M               7   T  M  M  M  M  M
 4   P  P  P  T  M  M               8   P  T  M  M  M  M
 5   P  P  P  P  P† ‡               9   P  P  P† T# §  §§
 ====================               ====================
 11 P, 9 M, 3 T...                  5.25 P, 2.5 T, 15.25M, 1 undecided...
 † Because of open ending, the player's 5 is 5+1d4, thus never being a tie.
 ‡ Because of open ending, it's actually 5+1d4 vs 6+1d6 - see the right side
 # Because of open ending, Tie minimum, 75% chance of P win
 § 25% chance of M, 25% T, 50% P
 §§ Looks grim for the Player, but it's doable

 Final odds of 1d4+1 vs 1d6 to a single open ending level of calculation: 
 P 269.25/576 = 46.7%
 T  74.50/576 = 12.9% 
 M 231.25/576 = 40.1%

Ok, on to the next level...

 Comparison: PC D4+2 vs Manitou d6  Open ended Subtable
 P   Manitou                        P   Manitou
 C   1  2  3  4  5  6               C   7  8  9 10 11 12  
 3   P  P  T  M  M  M               7   T  M  M  M  M  M 
 4   P  P  P  T  M  M               8   P  T  M  M  M  M  
 5   P  P  P  P  T  M               9   P  P  T  M  M  M  
 6   P  P  P  P  P  ‡               10  P  P  P  P† T# §§
 ====================               ====================
 P 14 T 3 M 6                       P 7.75 T 3.25 M 12
 P 343.75/576 = 59.7
 T  75.25/576 = 13.1
 M 156.00/576 = 27.1

Similar tables can be worked out for 1d6+1 vs 1d8, and 1d8+1 vs 1d10. I'm not doing so right now, but know that it's really quite potent to add 2, and adding 3 is insanely good. The extra d6 for being a PC is not figured, but also adds a lot of chances. (I could do the math, but not at 03:30hrs...)

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