Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Retro Review - Pulp Western - Silverado (Spectros, #1) by Logan Winters For Your Old School Campaigns

Years ago, I had an opportunity to pick up a bit of the Doctor Spectros pulp western occult series. This is a rip roaring pulpy Western adventure that really does prey on all of the tropes of Western pulps.Everything from the bank robberies, to the vile villain owning the town, the damsel in distress, the bank robbery, etc. its all there. But all is not as it seems because this pulp novel has far more in common with Doc Savage then the tales of the high west. This is really a weird western setting book & the character of  Doctor Spectros is a  throwback to the Thirties Western pulps. The books pull on a number of minor occult/mythological tropes drawn from popculture more then any really historical occult traditions.

  The book is a part of a series of Westerns that came out in the early Eighties, the plot is a boiler that throws the reader into the world of the late Eighteen hundreds someplace in the middle of the imaginary West of yesteryear. As a first piece of fiction in a series this book set's the tone and does a good job at what it is. The plot is like a combination of a Marvel 1970's Dr.Strange comic crossed over with a bit of a Western.

For years and time unknown, the master magician Doctor Spectros has pursued the evil conjurer Blackschuster. Somewhere, sometime, Blackschuster and his savage cohort abducted Spectros' only love, the beautiful Kirstina. They keep her in suspended sleep inside a crystal coffin. Now in the Old West, Spectros is closin in. Accompanying Spectros in his rattling medicine wagon are a slim, handsome gunslinger and ladies' man, Ray Featherskill; a mute giant named Montak; and a timeless eastern Moor, Inkada. There is also Spectros' magnificent, silver-maned stallion, Khamsin.But Blackschuster cleverly eludes them, and Spectros is forced to use his ultimate weapon of wizardry: for short periods of time, Spectros is able to physically change himself into Kid Soledad, the King of all Gunfighters! And the showdown is on!"

There's a ton here to use and raid from Doc's helpers/minions to the mutant freaks that are 
Blackschuster's right hands. This isn't a fantastic series, its entertainment pure and simple and would easily fit into an AD&D/Boot Hill crossover or even a Deadlands style world with a bit of work.

What Spectros gets right is a fast set of NPC characters who can easily be inserted into a game setting. The war and rivalry between
Spectros & Blackschuster creates ripples in both their minions/helpers this effect can and does drag others into their web  of adventure. This is a quick way to drop PC's right into the middle of a magic mini range war/gun battle between both characters forces. The word here is very low keyed and low powered, there's a ton of unresolved elements that a DM could spin into other more exciting encounters and adventures.
The book series is a mix of pop culture alchemy, occultism, a dash of Orientalism, and cooked over an open flame of Dr. Strange comics.
That's exactly the point of mining Dr. Spectros, the potential here for more then the sum of its parts. So its got plenty of elements  but there are far more things that can be done here with the material if you need a fast resource for a pick up Western game.

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