Advice on pulp RPG systems

David Johansen

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No worries, I’d rather shove a chainsaw up my ass then use PbtA for...anything, really.
To fully understand this comment I'd need to know exactly how much you like shoving a chainsaw up you ass. As a percentage of course!

Mind you Rolemaster's really a steeply stepped curve rather than a linear percentile as its open ended rolls broaden the range from 01 - 05 and 96 - 00.
 

zcthu3

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We played Hollow Earth Expedition for a bit. Beautiful books, great setting. Some of the rules were a bit sketchy. If I remember correctly, (This was some time ago. So if I'm wrong about this, please correct me.) damage factors into the "to hit" roll. So the bigger weapon always does more damage and hits more often. It was wonky.
”Damage” fits into the “to hit” roll as the actual intent is that there is no “to hit” roll but rather a combined “hit and damage roll” opposed by a combined ”Dodge+Soak” roll. The “damage roll” is (Stat (Dex or Strength)+Skill+(Size)+Weapon ‘Damage’) and is opposed by a defence roll comprising (Dex+Body+(Size)+Armour). The idea is that it speeds up combat but I agree with Ronin that it can result in situations where a big gun can make up for a lack of skill.

You can separate out attack and damage rolls (and dodge and soak rolls) easily. In practice however, I found it didn’t really add anything other than to slow down combat resolution, so went back to combined rolls fairly quickly.
 

cranebump

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With Pulp, you’re going to want to pump up the drama. And you’re probably not going to want to be slowed down with fiddly math (or much map at all), charts, detailed equipment lists, or someone’s unused chainsaw. You’re going to want some narrative punch. With that in mind:

BoL/Dicey Tales (Or Everywhen) can do it, though whipping up big bad guys requires more time than the next two. Has a lengthy list of Traits, pos and neg. so, takes slightly longer to character generate because players will likely be perusing the list for awhile.

PbtA. Succeed with consequences is very pulpy. Gear is abstracted. Has a mechanism for ongoing wounds (-1 to a stat). If you need to create archetypes, you can use Class Warfare. And someone’s probably hacked it for you already (I know there’s some Cthulhu versions out there).. Chargen is a snap. Everything is in the playbooks.

FATE. Can adjust the Stress/Consequence dials. Can make it swingier with d6-d6 or other dice methods. Can simplify Fate Point system or redesign to fit your needs (I imagine you can ignore it, as well, but you’ll need a means to make aspects work without the activation economy). Everything is created using the same method (organizations, NPCs, vehicles-everything). Can use Accelerated traits or go with skills. Can amend skills, add to, use broad groups, etc. flexible and easy. Can substitute d6’s for special dice.

Didn’t mention SW because critter creation is not as easy on the fly (for me). But if you know the system well, it seems an obvious choice.
 

Savage Schemer

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I imagine you can ignore it, as well, but you’ll need a means to make aspects work without the activation economy.
Just push it back towards Fudge, where they behave more like Gurps-styled gifts & flaws (which is how they started out back when Fate was openly acknowledged as a Fudge build), and don't need a meta economy to function.
 

Savage Schemer

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”Damage” fits into the “to hit” roll as the actual intent is that there is no “to hit” roll but rather a combined “hit and damage roll” opposed by a combined ”Dodge+Soak” roll. The “damage roll” is (Stat (Dex or Strength)+Skill+(Size)+Weapon ‘Damage’) and is opposed by a defence roll comprising (Dex+Body+(Size)+Armour). The idea is that it speeds up combat but I agree with Ronin that it can result in situations where a big gun can make up for a lack of skill.

You can separate out attack and damage rolls (and dodge and soak rolls) easily. In practice however, I found it didn’t really add anything other than to slow down combat resolution, so went back to combined rolls fairly quickly.
Precisely this. I know a lot of groups don't like it, but frankly if you're going to play Ubiquity, you need to be resolved to see it as a feature rather than a bug.
 

David Johansen

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I imagine a chainsaw up the ass would be a lot worse in Rolemaster than PbtA, if only because of the crit table.

JG
The Chain Saw Attack Table is in the Tech Law Robotics Manual and doesn't cover the full range of fantasy armor types. However you're going to need at least a 'C' critical and a '66' to get it up your ass. A successful Ambush static maneuver on the Subterfuge Attack Static Maneuver table will let you move your critical roll by one point per Ambush skill rank.
 

finarvyn

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I imagine a chainsaw up the ass would be a lot worse in Rolemaster than PbtA, if only because of the crit table.
And both would be worse than the original boxed set of OD&D, as all weapons there do 1d6 damage. :grin:
 

Raleel

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In cortex, you would probably be using your chainsaw d8 to make an up the ass complication, which would be a fairly serious complication. With some effort, you could shove it in farther and step up that die and maybe complicate them out.
 

Tulpa Girl

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No worries, I’d rather shove a chainsaw up my ass then use PbtA for...anything, really.
To fully understand this comment I'd need to know exactly how much you like shoving a chainsaw up you ass.
I imagine a chainsaw up the ass would be a lot worse in Rolemaster than PbtA, if only because of the crit table.
Chainsaw up the ass sounds more like F.A.T.A.L. than PbtA but what do I know?
In cortex, you would probably be using your chainsaw d8 to make an up the ass complication, which would be a fairly serious complication. With some effort, you could shove it in farther and step up that die and maybe complicate them out.
hlhusort7dw41.jpg
 

Ronnie Sanford

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”Damage” fits into the “to hit” roll as the actual intent is that there is no “to hit” roll but rather a combined “hit and damage roll” opposed by a combined ”Dodge+Soak” roll. The “damage roll” is (Stat (Dex or Strength)+Skill+(Size)+Weapon ‘Damage’) and is opposed by a defence roll comprising (Dex+Body+(Size)+Armour). The idea is that it speeds up combat but I agree with Ronin that it can result in situations where a big gun can make up for a lack of skill.

You can separate out attack and damage rolls (and dodge and soak rolls) easily. In practice however, I found it didn’t really add anything other than to slow down combat resolution, so went back to combined rolls fairly quickly.
This is insightful... Hollow Earth Expedition uses Ubiquity (spic?) correct? RIght now I am considering buying two books despite saying I would get one. I am doing my research but HEX and Savage Worlds are leading. Part of HEX's appeal is the setting that comes with it.
 

Chris Brady

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Personally I prefer Savage Worlds because of how simple a lot of the systems are. Is some of the math wonky? Sure, but so far in ALL my games, it hasn't detracted from the fun.
 

zcthu3

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This is insightful... Hollow Earth Expedition uses Ubiquity (spic?) correct? RIght now I am considering buying two books despite saying I would get one. I am doing my research but HEX and Savage Worlds are leading. Part of HEX's appeal is the setting that comes with it.
Yes, HEX uses Ubiquity (it was the original outing for the system), and is fully compatible with the other Ubiquity games.
 

zarion

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This is insightful... Hollow Earth Expedition uses Ubiquity (spic?) correct? RIght now I am considering buying two books despite saying I would get one. I am doing my research but HEX and Savage Worlds are leading. Part of HEX's appeal is the setting that comes with it.
HEX is awesome! I love how easy and quick Ubiquity plays. The supplements for Hex are also fantastic. Revelations of Mars is probably my favorite one, but Secrets of the Surface World and Mysteries of the Hollow Earth are also superb as well. HEX is a fantastic game, I really wish I could get it on the table more often. I 100% recommend it!
 

Ronnie Sanford

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I may end up with HEX for normal pulp things like Indiana Jones and Savage Worlds for playing games like The Shadow. Back when I bought Magic World (2014 or 2015 I think) I came close to buying Savage Worlds instead. I went with Magic World because it did gritty better than Savage Worlds (which is most of my games), it wasn't swingy, and it was compatible with years worth or BRP stuff. Ultimately I would probably prefer to pupl up BRP but I am not sure how.
 

Ronnie Sanford

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HEX is awesome! I love how easy and quick Ubiquity plays. The supplements for Hex are also fantastic. Revelations of Mars is probably my favorite one, but Secrets of the Surface World and Mysteries of the Hollow Earth are also superb as well. HEX is a fantastic game, I really wish I could get it on the table more often. I 100% recommend it!
Yeah I was looking at the core book plus Secrets of the Surface world (predominantly for the psychic powers). There are a lot of supplements for HEX and SW that sound good.
 

3rik

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HEX consists of four books (core, surface, hollow earth, mars), a screen and IIRC one book of scenarios and that's it.

Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes
I own and have played MS&PE. I enjoyed it, but the system is very deadly. I personally think pulp adventure as a genre calls for somewhat higher chances of survival.
 
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The Butcher

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Two of my pet peeves in this thread:
- “Pulp” as synonymous with a genre (usually “men’s adventure” pulp)
- A ton of responses not addressing the OP’s chief comcerns

I love you guys but seriously

How is this kind of thing handled in pulp games?
For most games, not at all. You’re told to improvise.

Which are best for doing what I am describing?
Honestly? From the bottom of my heart?

Mythras.

Which are best in general?
I guess it really boils down to how you want your players to behave.

Some systems use “protagonism” or “dramatic editing” or “stunt” mechanics to encourage risk-taking behavior from PCs, by mitigating said risks.

It’s one way to go about it and judging by the responses seems to be quite popular; I myself have played plenty of Savage Worlds where the bennies flowed like rain so people could feel at home doing the stupidest things. And that’s what made me sad — some players were using the Do Something Cool cards I handed them to do stupid things like charging gunmen.

Since then, my dalliance with the OSR (both as player and GM) left me with a greater appreciation for sharp-toothed peril. So I’d still use Savage Worlds but probably be stingier with bennies (and it’s really cool how easy it is to modulate the grit via bennies) and maybe use “gritty damage” rules and a few other optional gewgaws.

Using Mythras for pulp is really cool if you want to benefit from the beautiful combat system. You can use again a few tricks to modulate grit, like beefing up starting PCs and maybe even transplanting some optional rules from Pulp Cthulhu or Astounding Adventures.

Not familiar with any D&D-derived rulesets, but decades ago we played Masque of Red Death (the AD&D2-powered Victorian Gothic Earth action-horror spin-off) and it. Was. Awesome! Very pulpy, or cinematic, or whatever it is kids are calling high-octane games nowadays.

I don’t want to come across as the “system doesn’t matter” guy (it absolutely does) but I do believe there are a great many ways to skin a cat. Know your GMing style, know your players, know your ruleset and give ‘em hell. Wanna be Doc Savage or Conan? Frickin’ earn it.

Cheers and good gaming!
 

cranebump

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Just push it back towards Fudge, where they behave more like Gurps-styled gifts & flaws (which is how they started out back when Fate was openly acknowledged as a Fudge build), and don't need a meta economy to function.
You could, yes. You do miss out in the other uses of points, I.e.,narrating aspects and so on. However, this could be included for succeed with style results. I’ve been toying with something like this for a few months, since I like Aspects, In general. My idea was to have a list of “Facts” (Aspects) with associated traits, for example:

Jim Slade, hard-boiled PI
Stats:
Physical: Agility +1, Strength, Speed, Toughness +3
Mental: Insight+2, Knowledge +1, Rapport +1,
Will +2

Detective (Clues, Interrogation, street contacts)
Scrapper (fists, iron jaw
War Vet (marksmanship)

Roll +Stat. When a Fact applies, +1. If an associated Trait from the same Fact applies, +2.

Results tend to be higher across the board, at least when a character plays to strengths.
 

Ronnie Sanford

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Precisely this. I know a lot of groups don't like it, but frankly if you're going to play Ubiquity, you need to be resolved to see it as a feature rather than a bug.
Good to know. One guy on the net suggest attack rolls are really likelihood of hurting someone rather than likelihood of hitting someone.
 

zarion

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Good to know. One guy on the net suggest attack rolls are really likelihood of hurting someone rather than likelihood of hitting someone.
Like D&D! Narrate it that way too! Like D&D and how they say an attack roll isn't a single swing of the sword but several seconds of swinging weapons and defending with a shield. In HEX it's the PC ducking in and out of cover and blasting several rounds at the Nazi. At least, that's the way I always narrate HEX and D&D.
 

Ronnie Sanford

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Just push it back towards Fudge, where they behave more like Gurps-styled gifts & flaws (which is how they started out back when Fate was openly acknowledged as a Fudge build), and don't need a meta economy to function.
If I am guessing right gifts and flaws are the key things I’m interested in and these could be added to a BRP game (yes I know it wouldn’t be BRP anymore).. Can you give examples of what type gifts and flaws exist in Fudge? Also how well suited would Revolution D100 be for this type thing. I could see the dynamic skill system being a plus because you could better denote key assets (like Indiana’s whip).
 

Gringnr

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HEX consists of four books (core, surface, hollow earth, mars), a screen and IIRC one book of scenarios and that's it.


I own and have played MS&PE. I enjoyed it, but the system is very deadly. I personally think pulp adventure as a genre calls for somewhat higher chances of survival.
A very good point.
 

3rik

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Any easy ways to make it less deadly?
We all survived the one-shot. I know the GM "did stuff" to make that happen but haven't asked him about the details. I think he just fudged and handwaved the shit out of it.
 
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3rik

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The actual pulp stories could be any genre. But that really isn't what pulp as a game genre implies, nor would it be a particularly useful RPG descriptor if it did. I guess it's the exciting writing style of the pulps we're trying to emulate somehow when we're calling a game pulp.
 

CRKrueger

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The thing people don’t realize when they’re talking about the “Pulp Genre” is that Pulp Heroes survive the same way every other hero in every book ever written for any genre survives - Literary Protagonism and Plot Immunity that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any genre.
 

Gringnr

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So when y’all say deadly, how deadly on a scale of 1 to 10 if Mythras & BRP are about a 6?

Never played Mythras, and it's been an age since I played CoC, but MSPE is based on Tunnels & Trolls 5th. T&T was very much in the "oh, well, just roll another one" camp of early RPG design. In T&T, this was mitigated somewhat by the fact that in melee, the "losing side" could distribute damage however they liked, thereby taking advantage of characters with better armor/higher CON (T&T's Hit Points). With a greater focus on missile combat, i.e., guns, MSPE exposes characters to potentially deadly amounts of damage (which, like missile weapons in T&T, are aimed specifically at one character) far more frequently than T&T. And T&T was already like' "fuck it, it takes five minutes to make a new character." For a beginning character in MSPE, most guns can be deadly, and some are just not survivable, period.
 

3rik

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The thing people don’t realize when they’re talking about the “Pulp Genre” is that Pulp Heroes survive the same way every other hero in every book ever written for any genre survives - Literary Protagonism and Plot Immunity that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any genre.
I think using pulp to indicate a literary style or the material upon which it was printed is not very useful in an RPG context. I think, by now, we can agree what pulp as a genre more or less means and just stick with that when talking games.
 

The Butcher

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What is the definition then? Acknowledging that Men's Adventure magazines are only one kind of pulp.

JG
Pulp, like anime, is a medium.

In elfgamespeak it's been conflated with the men's adventure genre, which was a very popular genre of pulp fiction, much like anime in RPGdom almost always means shonen anime.
 

cranebump

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I think using pulp to indicate a literary style or the material upon which it was printed is not very useful in an RPG context. I think, by now, we can agree what pulp as a genre more or less means and just stick with that when talking games.
Yup. Besides, that whole Literary Potagonism thing in pulp=overcoming the odds, is simulated in pulp systems by bennies and Fate points and all that. Of course a character’s fate in literature is determined by the author. In an RPG, the author is a cooperative affair (with the player having primary “authorship,” especially in stereotypical pulp high adventure.
 

CRKrueger

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I think using pulp to indicate a literary style or the material upon which it was printed is not very useful in an RPG context. I think, by now, we can agree what pulp as a genre more or less means and just stick with that when talking games.
Oh, it’s plenty useful, as shown by cranebump’s reply:
Yup. Besides, that whole Literary Potagonism thing in pulp=overcoming the odds, is simulated in pulp systems by bennies and Fate points and all that. Of course a character’s fate in literature is determined by the author. In an RPG, the author is a cooperative affair (with the player having primary “authorship,” especially in stereotypical pulp high adventure.
Nothing in the settings of any Pulp Hero require a Narrative RPG to simulate. All the narrative elements simulate is that you’re authoring a story, if for some reason, you wish to add that to your Roleplaying. That, again, has nothing to do with any genre. Many of these elements that are supposedly needed for Pulp Games aren’t. They’re only necessary if you’re viewing things from the idea of Roleplaying inside a story with a specific literary genre.
 
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