Sunday, February 12, 2012

With Extra Pulp

One genre I enjoy, but never really play much with, is the Pulp era.  Now I love the horror that comes from this time, and I watched a lot of movies filmed in and about this time.  So I do have a fondness for it.  But if I am going to pick up a historical game it will be either the Dark Ages, or the Victorian Age.  I tend to overlook the pulps.

I am much the lesser for it I think.

There is something about the pulp era that screams (yes screams is the right word) Adventure! Suspense! Action! Thrills! all with exclamation points too.

Here are some games I have been exploring over the last few years.  I have more, but this is a good batch.

THRILLING TALES: Omnibus Edition
I will admit that the Pulp Era is not one I seek out to either read or play games in.  I see the appeal and every interaction I have had with the material has been a positive one.  Thrilling Tales then is no exception, except for the fact I might actually seek out to play this one more often.
Physically this book is very nice. The layout is clean and easy to read.  The art is very evocative of the time and my first thought was the old Universal movies from the same time frame (and movie still from the serials was really nice).  That is a very good thing in my mind.
I loved the time line of the 30s.
The game is designed with d20 Modern in mind and I think it is a very good fit.  I love the minor changes like renaming the core classes to something more "Pulpy" and addition of the Seduction skill, something I pushed for in other games.
There are a bunch of new advanced classes appropriate to the era. If you have ever seen a movie, serial or read a book from this era then the cast will look very familiar.
The section on weapons and gear is great, and perfect for any pulp-era game, not just a TT one or even just a d20 one.  What I liked most about it is it is full photos and illustrations.
This is followed by sections on how to run a Pulp game and a wonderful section on Villains.  Again the villains section is great for any game in this era or even a supers game in any era.  Besides any game with a Nazi Vampire cult leader as a villain is an instant win in my book!
Speaking of which, all of chapter 8 is devoted to the only human enemy everyone can openly hate and kill without moral repercussions; the Nazis.  Not so much a history of the Nazi, but a a history of the Nazi-as-a-boogeyman; the all-Enemy.
The Thugee likewise get a chapter, but I am sure this is due 100% to Temple of Doom.

The book ends with a Random Adventure generator.  Which is 100% appropriate to this sort of adventure era.  Watch the old serials, it sometimes looks like they were rolling on a similar table while writing the scripts.   A bit of tweaking and this could work for any era.  Replace Nazi with "Drow" or "Soviets" or "Dark Cabal" and you get the idea.

All in all this is a great game and one that makes me want to play some two fisted pulp adventures!
5 out of 5 stars

Forbidden Kingdoms is one of the first d20 Pulp games I ever owned.  In many ways it is the yardstick I compare other pulp games to.  Sure I had Call of Cthulhu, which is sorta a pulp game, but it is more "Call of Cthulhu" and it's own thing than it is a pulp anymore. Forbidden Kingdoms (either version) is actually one of my more favorite Pulp era games. It is also the game that helped me see the value of D20 Modern.

Forbidden Kingdoms: Babbage Edition
FK is a great pulp-era game based around d20. It was very different than anything else out at the time and just a really fun read. The art is great and the game rules are a solid re-working of the d20 system to fit that Golden Era after Victoria and before WWII.
5 out of 5 stars

Forbidden Kingdoms: Modern
Forbidden Kingdoms: Modern is a slimmer version of the full FK book. This one uses the D20 Modern rules to cover the heavy lifting and leaves the rest of the book to focus on what is just Forbidden Kingdoms.
The Pulp Era is not one I spend a lot of time playing in, but it certainly tailor made for adventures. You have many of the advantages of a modern society and still have large areas of land that mysterious, unknown and ready for imagination.
The background information covers the end of the Victorian age till WWII and has a great overview of history. Not perfect of course, but perfect for a game.
If you like the Pulp era or any of the books that came out then, then this is a great game to have. I am using it for the history sections and the adventure hooks alone.
4 out of 5 stars

Weird Adventures
Weird adventures is, in my mind, a mix of things that usually do not work with me.  Pulp era heroics with Fantasy adventure and a sorta-semi-Earth like world.  Usually this is enough to turn me off of a game.  But here it seems to work well.  Very well.

So WA is a Pulp era game. Though not really OUR pulp era, but one on a world very similar to our own.  Not WoD similar-but-darker or even D&D world like but not alike.  This is our world with some odd distortions.  Sorta like the world of a pulp era comic.
We know that the creators of D&D and FRPGs were heavily influenced by the pulps.  What if that influence was more heavily felt than say the fantasy ones or the the Tolkien ones.  We might end up with some similar to Weird Adventures.

Now this book is designed as a fantasy campaign world. So it is not by itself a playable game, you need other rules in order to play it.  The book is written as system neutral, but obviously the prime influence here is older D&D.  Both Ascending and Descending ACs are given in the handful of monsters.

What I like about the book is that these different elements mix and merge so well.   Fantasy Adventure and Pulp Adventure seem to be two sides of the same coin.  I love the layout and look of this book too.  They made to remind the reader of a pulp era magazine and it works well.

The art is fantastic really.  The piece with the adventurers in a tomb with a beholder is fantastic.
The monsters were all great. I loved the Hill-billy Giant.

There are somethings though I didn't care for.
While I can see why they did it, I don't like some near-Earths.  This is not a deal breaker.  I like it for example in most Supers games.  I think I would have rather have used it with a real earth.
While it is designed for any game, I would have liked some more crunch.  At the very least give me some rules for guns.

I think it would a solid addition to any older D&D or the clones, and even a solid addition to any Pulp Era game.
4 out of 5 stars

Pulp Zombies

A "Zombie world" for the All Flesh Must Be Eaten game.  This one focuses on the two-fisted action adventures of the 1930s.
A special emphasis is given on the mystical side of the pulps and of course Nazi Zombies.

Even if you are not a fan of this era, there is a lot of good crunch that you can add to your AFMBE, WitchCraft, Armageddon or Conspiracy X game.

4 out of 5 stars


Trey said...

Thanks for the review, Tim. Glad you liked it. Seems like there are a couple of games here that Weird Adventures would be a gooding setting for.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I do like it. The only issues I had with it were I wanted a Real Earth history. But that is not to say I can't do that on my own!

You did a great job.

Trey said...

I can understand that :). Though my goal specifically was to do a secondary world. Why should Medieval fantasy be the only kind to take place in imaginary places? Of course, that's not to everyone's tastes either.

Thanks again.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I have been thinking.

What would say Pulp Greyhawk look like? Or even the Pulp Realms.

I think my issue is the not-quite-Earth. I tend to go "Earth just as we know it but a secret history" or "some other planet all together".