Advice on pulp RPG systems

Gringnr

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Just curious how is Justice different than Pulp Hero? Which is more pulpy? Which is easier to learn?

I can't really speak much to that, except to say that JI is based on Hero 2e and PH is based on Hero 5th. PH is inarguably more comprehensive. Each version has its fans, and I suspect age may play a part in that.
 

Ronnie Sanford

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I can't really speak much to that, except to say that JI is based on Hero 2e and PH is based on Hero 5th. PH is inarguably more comprehensive. Each version has its fans, and I suspect age may play a part in that.
I have played a good bit of Champions 4th and 5th edition. I wonder how different 2nd edition is?
 
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James Gillen

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I can't really speak much to that, except to say that JI is based on Hero 2e and PH is based on Hero 5th. PH is inarguably more comprehensive. Each version has its fans, and I suspect age may play a part in that.
Pulp HERO is based on 5th, so has a lot more options. It also allows for reverse-engineering "Pulp Powers" in a way that was not really possible in pre-4th Edition versions of the rules, so that works IF you're already familiar with the system. If you're not, there's no reason you can't just stick with Justice, Inc.
Pulp HERO does have rules for Heroic Action Points (HAPs) which are about as close as HERO ever got to a hero point/narrative/'dramatic editing' system.

JG
 

Ronnie Sanford

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Pulp HERO is based on 5th, so has a lot more options. It also allows for reverse-engineering "Pulp Powers" in a way that was not really possible in pre-4th Edition versions of the rules, so that works IF you're already familiar with the system. If you're not, there's no reason you can't just stick with Justice, Inc.
Pulp HERO does have rules for Heroic Action Points (HAPs) which are about as close as HERO ever got to a hero point/narrative/'dramatic editing' system.

JG
Hey thanks! It’s been 20 years since I played Champions but I think I remember most of it.
 

Gringnr

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Pulp HERO is based on 5th, so has a lot more options. It also allows for reverse-engineering "Pulp Powers" in a way that was not really possible in pre-4th Edition versions of the rules, so that works IF you're already familiar with the system. If you're not, there's no reason you can't just stick with Justice, Inc.
Pulp HERO does have rules for Heroic Action Points (HAPs) which are about as close as HERO ever got to a hero point/narrative/'dramatic editing' system.

JG
Hey thanks! It’s been 20 years since I played Champions but I think I remember most of it.

IIRC JI told players to consult Champions for gadget rules. There were some psychic powers, but I think it was pretty limited in that regard compared to PH.

That having been said, JI is an absolute joy to read. It oozes atmosphere, and even the section on languages is fun to read. Sadly, I've never run or played it, but I always keep a copy at hand. Currently, I have a reading copy, and a sealed, mint condition box set.
 

Ronnie Sanford

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IIRC JI told players to consult Champions for gadget rules. There were some psychic powers, but I think it was pretty limited in that regard compared to PH.

That having been said, JI is an absolute joy to read. It oozes atmosphere, and even the section on languages is fun to read. Sadly, I've never run or played it, but I always keep a copy at hand. Currently, I have a reading copy, and a sealed, mint condition box set.
Sounds like the 5th edition book is the preferred one. I already bought two different systems; Hollow Earth Expedition and Two Fisted Tales so I’m not likely to buy any more rules at the moment but I did buy a whole bunch of adventures (like 50) from several companies including Hero Games.
 

Toadmaster

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I have played a good bit of Champions 4th and 5th edition. I wonder how different 2nd edition is?
The major difference is the 2E / 3E era games (Espionage, JI, DI, FH) were made to be complete games. Although easily modified, they were not the tool box games that 4E and later are. This makes JI much simpler to teach / learn because the rules are specifically made for the genre, not generic rules made to fit including some rules that have no place in the genre.

In actual play there are some differences but not huge. The major change is during Chargen and the way the rules are looked at. 2E and 3E had not yet adopted the idea that powers drive everything, so in many cases there are just rules on how something like a flashlight or a car works, not rules on how to build one in the game. Champions was somewhat separated with different costs and ways of doing things than in the heroic level games.

A major difference was perks, these are basically minor powers (these worked a little more GURPS advantages although they actually predate GURPS by several years). For example if you have a character with eidetic memory, that is a perk. It is premade ability, with a flat cost and rules on what it can do right there in the description. In 4E+ it would be created with a power, there would be advantages and limitations involved, there would be GM and player interpretation on how to build it and use it. Basically 4E+ made every genre work like Champions.

The Non supers 2E and 3E games were RQ or CoC, 4E + is BRP or Mythras. Not good or bad but those earlier games had a tighter focus making them less complex.
 
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Ronnie Sanford

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The major difference is the 2E / 3E era games (Espionage, JI, DI, FH) were made to be complete games. Although easily modified, they were not the tool box games that 4E and later are. This makes JI much simpler to teach / learn because the rules are specifically made for the genre, not generic rules made to fit including some rules that have no place in the genre.

In actual play there are some differences but not huge. The major change is during Chargen and the way the rules are looked at. 2E and 3E had not yet adopted the idea that powers drive everything, so in many cases there are just rules on how something like a flashlight or a car works, not rules on how to build one in the game. Champions was somewhat separated with different costs and ways of doing things than in the heroic level games.

A major difference was perks, these are basically minor powers (these worked a little more GURPS advantages although they actually predate GURPS by several years). For example if you have a character with eidetic memory, that is a perk. It is premade ability, with a flat cost and rules on what it can do right there in the description. In 4E+ it would be created with a power, there would be advantages and limitations involved, there would be GM and player interpretation on how to build it and use it. Basically 4E+ made every genre work like Champions.

The Non supers 2E and 3E games were RQ or CoC, 4E + is BRP or Mythras. Not good or bad but those earlier games had a tighter focus making them less complex.
Thank you. I had always wondered about the differences in editions even when I was playing 4E in the early nineties.
 

Toadmaster

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Thank you. I had always wondered about the differences in editions even when I was playing 4E in the early nineties.
Beyond the bits I mentioned actual mechanical changes were more focused on point costs, and some tweaks. The biggest change that I can think of was range, 1-3E it was a -x per x inches -1 every 3" was the standard, and could be bought up or down, a snub nose pistol would probably be -1/2", a rifle -1/4 or 5".

This works for shorter ranges, and makes more of a difference between weapons but the penalty per doubled range used in 4E onward really is better in my opinion. Shotguns in DI and JI were completely different, and would have been complicated to build with a power, but they made shotguns unique and represented their very deadly but rather limited nature very well. They were essentially autofire attacks, but instead of the die roll determining the number of hits, it was a factor of range.

If you like the HERO system there is good stuff to mine from these older games. My ideal HERO rules set would be based on 4E with some bits pulled from 2/3E and 5E with lots of premade stuff to choose from. The 5E supplements though are some of the best written for the game.
 

TristramEvans

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So would an example be using dramatic editing to put a shotgun under a bar during a bar fight? If not could you provide an example or two?
lol, I've previously made an elaborate argument against that exact example:


I wouldn't always consider establishing an unknown variable the same as world-editing. Certain things exist in a Shroedinger's Cat-like state until they are established. In your example, you have a pre-determined, fleshed-out exceptional saloon with a specific backstory created by the GM. Many times, this is simply not the case. The GM is, upon receiving questions or coming up with off-the-cuff descriptions, establishing the environment in the moment. And within this, all characters make assumptions based on their perception of reality, just as in real life. For example, if I hop over a small stream (I'm not talking about an event that would necessitate a roll, just a simple action as I walk along), I do this because of my assumptions about reality, i.e. the way gravity works, that the ground on the other side of the stream is as capable of supporting my weight as the ground I'm on, that the wind is incapable of influencing my forward momentum, heck even the concept that "if I step in water, my feet will get wet." When people talk about the desire for "verisimilitude" in an RPG system, this is essentially the same as saying "a system that reinforces/supports my basic assumptions about reality." My point being, those assumptions are not in and of themselves either immersion-breaking, nor "world-editing."

But let me illustrate why, even if the GM has preconceived plans for a world that contradict the player's expectations this doesn't mean the player saying "I jump behind the counter of the bar and grab the shotgun" needs to disrupt immersion...

Say I leave the house and get to the skytrain system, "I reach in my pocket and take out my train pass." I use this example because 1) this is an automatic assumption for me at this point,and 2) its not something I mentally think about before leaving the house., but even more importantly 3) because every once in a while, maybe once a year or so, for some reason I have a sudden shock as I realize that it isn't where I expect it to be. Sometimes I accidentally put it in my wallet next to my credit cards after refilling it, sometimes I change my pants in the morning and forget to do the change-over of pocket contents, or they are still sitting in a pile on my bathroom counter because I got distracted. Or it may be that its just completely gone and I have to assume it fell out of my pocket at some point. But the assumption that it was there is still there. (In this example you could exchange the train pass with "house keys" or even "wallet" and I think pretty much everyone can identify with this situation).

So to apply this to the example, a character living in the Old West makes the assumption that behind the bar at any given saloon, there will be a shotgun. This fits the perception of reality of the character. So them saying "I jump behind the bar and grab the shotgun" is not a third-person narrative act of world-editing, it is simply acting on this assumption. And 9 times out of ten, their assumption will be correct, and play goes on, essentially skipping the unnecessary OOC interaction with the GM. But even, say, the aforementioned scenario that you presented is the case, and the GM knows that in this particular saloon, there is no such shotgun. So you have the following response:
Player: "I jump behind the bar and grab the shotgun"
GM: "Much to your surprise, there is no shotgun! No firearm of any sort! All you find behind the bar is a Bible."
So here, not only do we have the GM establishing the background he'd come up with, subtly hinting at a detail that hints at the reasoning, but we also have an in-game recreation of that momentary shock of reality not meeting up with the character's inherent assumptions.

They are watching a movie in their heads and they are part director at the same time as they are experiencing things from the character perspective. You could even argue he's immersed IC, the problem is, he's not immersed into the setting of the GM, he's immersed into the GM's version of the setting in his head
That is completely unavoidable, to the point I'd say its an inherent aspect of RPGs. A GM can narrate things, they can give descriptions, they can act out NPC's adopting voices and mannerisms, they can even provide pictures and audio, but ultimately all of this is filtered by each player's imagination. What each player pictures of gameplay is going to be completely unique. This doesn't mean they are "playing director", it is necessary to turn descriptions into a visual reality to fill in the details. And creating this visual reality is, at least for myself, the entire point of immersion.
 

James Gillen

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lol, I've previously made an elaborate argument against that exact example:
Yeah, well, that's exactly why you would need a game mechanic for the player to establish something that doesn't exist by default. This is also a big issue with narrative games, at least in my opinion.

JG
 

Brock Savage

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One thing I do when deciding on a fantasy pulp/action system is asking whether the system supports things like a character leaping on a monster's back and holding on for dear life while stabbing the shit out of it with a dagger. If Conan did it most of the characters are going to want to do it at some point.
 

Mankcam

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One thing I do when deciding on a fantasy pulp/action system is asking whether the system supports things like a character leaping on a monster's back and holding on for dear life while stabbing the shit out of it with a dagger. If Conan did it most of the characters are going to want to do it at some point.
Yep and I know some will disagree, that being the nature of a forum, but the 2D20 system does a decent job at emulating a pulpy genre.

I have two games that use 2D20, John Carter of Mars and Conan: An Age Undreamed Of, but I have only managed to play the later

The Momentum Point thingy is a prominent part of the game, but one I find really helps emulate the pulpy flavour of the characters in this kind of setting.
Overall the game is not rules-lite, but it's not too crunchy either. It's more or less about the same crunch as D&D 5E or CoC 7E. but that's neither here or there.

The way the action scenes flow really lend themselves for encouraging a cinematic play style, reminencinent of the Conan setting as well as the old Arabian Nights movies and such.

I have played a few rpgs that I thought were good for Pulp settings. This is probably the best so far for having game mechanics that stimulate that classic action flavour. It would probably work well if Modiphius bought the Uncharted franshise and used the 2D20 system in something like that.
It's probably not something that works for a gritty, simulationist setting, but it seems to be hitting alot of beats for my rollicking sword & sorcery game.

As I have said elsewhere, it's not 'one-size-fits-all' kind of game mechanics, but so far it seems to work well with pulpy settings :thumbsup:
 
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Gringnr

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I'm a fan of the system, and may have a bias. But I've often thought that James Bond 007, with its cinematic ruleset and "weighted in favor of the player mechanics", would be a great fit for all kinds of unrealistic modern action. Pulp, Hong Kong bullet ballet, even cinematic western.
 

Mankcam

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I'm a fan of the system, and may have a bias. But I've often thought that James Bond 007, with its cinematic ruleset and "weighted in favor of the player mechanics", would be a great fit for all kinds of unrealistic modern action. Pulp, Hong Kong bullet ballet, even cinematic western.
I think there was an indie version of that system called 'Classified', it was not Bond anymore, but it did focus on action and espionage
 

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What make Pulp Fantastic so good? Is it really better than what we have been discussing?
It's broadly an adaptation of the Dr Who rules - so it's essentially 2d6 plus stat plus skill: you compare the result to the static difficulty or the opponents check. Success or failure gives a sliding scale of outcomes based on the degree of success (or failure). Combat action follow the Dr Who process - talking, doing, moving and fighting in that order. Damage is taken directly from Attributes. Story points of course to influence out comes.

Where the game really appeals to me is the long list of Traits that characters can have, which play to lots of Pulp tropes - standard stuff like "crack shot" but also things like Gadgeteer, Hypnosis, Super Amalgamated (one for Doc Savage fans), Weird Tech, More Than Human, Psychic, Cloud Mens Minds and even "Robot".

Add a section on the world of the 20s & 30s (including fictional places like Maple-White Land), a timeline from 1901 to 1939, a slew of organisations/secret societies, weapons, vehicles, rules for inventions and gadgets, creatures and creature creations, a chapter of classic-style pulp villains, crypts and supernatural horrors and an appendix of ready to play archetypes and you're good to go...

The bad stuff - it could be better laid out, there's no index (though the contents pages are good) and it has a lot of typos. I'm bitterly sorry to never got a second edition and is now unavailable
 

Ronnie Sanford

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One thing I do when deciding on a fantasy pulp/action system is asking whether the system supports things like a character leaping on a monster's back and holding on for dear life while stabbing the shit out of it with a dagger. If Conan did it most of the characters are going to want to do it at some point.
Seems like a fair expectation!
 

AsenRG

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One thing I do when deciding on a fantasy pulp/action system is asking whether the system supports things like a character leaping on a monster's back and holding on for dear life while stabbing the shit out of it with a dagger. If Conan did it most of the characters are going to want to do it at some point.
Well, most games would do a good job of that. Use your bonus action to grab/restrain it, whatever the system allows, then stab it (with bonuses to hit and damage since you're behind it with a weapon that works great for killing from behind, and the back is less protected in giant apes as well) while holding on for dear life - literally. You only have to establish with the GM that until you fail, the enemy is at disadvantage. Simple, easy and I arrived at it by just contemplating the situation:thumbsup:.
 

xanther

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.…

How is this kind of thing handled in pulp games? Which are best for doing what I am describing? Which are best in general?
I like count success type dice pool systems for this. They give a flexibility and ease of use to do theses things. Just simply the more success's one gets / applies, the crazier and more far out stuff you can do. A way to avoid having to list things or track a degree of difference with a d20 or even add dice.

So a pulp hero has a lot of dice, or a few automatic successes, or some resource or ability to get success's. Many ways to get them up in the number of successes.

So for Indiana Jones' whip use:
1 success = hit with whip;
2 success = hit hand with whip;
3 success = grab gun in hand with whip,
4 success = pull gun from hand with whip,
5 success = pull gun from hand with whip and flip it back to your own hand....etc.

You get the idea. One can easily incorporate movement and maneuvers in here as well, just having them use up a success to incorporate.

Also with he above, compared to some difficulty or target number, it is on a sliding scale, not all or nothing.

Say with a d20 or some other numerical scale you say you want pull the gun from his hand to yours, so you'd need to roll a 20 the referee says; so what happens if you roll a 17? Are lesser effects possible or is it all or nothing, swing big and you either hit or miss?

With the count/apply success mechanic various degrees of success are built in.
 

xanther

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One thing I do when deciding on a fantasy pulp/action system is asking whether the system supports things like a character leaping on a monster's back and holding on for dear life while stabbing the shit out of it with a dagger. If Conan did it most of the characters are going to want to do it at some point.
For me and a dice type pool mechanic, the character would have a pool of dice to use in this situation. Many ways to do it, the general idea being that a "success" you rolled would need to be applied to do the "key" steps in this action.

So:
1 success to leap onto the back,
1 or more success to keep from being bucked off,
1 success to stab...extra success to increase damage, aim etc.

There are many ways to capture the overlap between movement and attack here...you are also not limited to just doing this...or wedging it into a free action, reserved action, extra action, etc....or as above an all or nothing roll.

Also, how one decides to apply/use their success can provide tactical decision making options for a player...and aid in emulating the action in pulp fiction.

For example, perhaps the first "turn" the character gets only 2 success, what do they do?

Do they:
Use 1 to leap on the back, and 1 to stay on, hopping next turn to get a stab in? (See this kind of action all the time in the movies)

Or do they:
Use 1 to leap on, and 1 to stab but then they fall off taking fall damage? (You see this all the time in the movies as well)

Or...are you Conan, and get 6 successes and use 1 to leap, on 1 to stay on, and 4 to drive your dagger through it's eye ( 1 to hit, 1 to aim for the eye, and 2 for extra damage) deep into its brain for death dealing damage (your high Strength giving you a large damage per success applied.) :smile:
 
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zcthu3

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For me and a dice type pool mechanic, the character would have a pool of dice to use in this situation. Many ways to do it, the general idea being that a "success" you rolled would need to be applied to do the "key" steps in this action.

So:
1 success to leap onto the back,
1 or more success to keep from being bucked off,
1 success to stab...extra success to increase damage, aim etc.

There are many ways to capture the overlap between movement and attack here...you are also not limited to just doing this...or wedging it into a free action, reserved action, extra action, etc....or as above an all or nothing roll.

Also, how one decides to apply/use their success can provide tactical decision making options for a player...and aid in emulating the action in pulp fiction.

For example, perhaps the first "turn" the character gets only 2 success, what do they do?

Do they:
Use 1 to leap on the back, and 1 to stay on, hopping next turn to get a stab in? (See this kind of action all the time in the movies)

Or do they:
Use 1 to leap on, and 1 to stab but then they fall off taking fall damage? (You see this all the time in the movies as well)

Or...are you Conan, and get 6 successes and use 1 to leap, on 1 to stay on, and 4 to drive your dagger through it's eye ( 1 to hit, 1 to aim for the eye, and 2 for extra damage) deep into its brain for death dealing damage (your high Strength giving you a large damage per success applied.) :smile:
That sound very much like the system in 7th Sea 2nd Edition - you roll Stat+Skill based on your approach to the scene and then spend raises (groups of dice totalling 10) to do things, deal damage, avoid damage, take an opportunity etc.
 
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