Adventure Street Omnibus
Pulp is the literary equivalent of "junk food:" It is not high art, but it is a lot of fun nonetheless.
What Are Pulp Adventures?
Pulp adventures take their name from the publishing method of choice for the popular press from, say the turn of the century to the 1950's. Cheap paper made of pressed wood pulp was used to print magazines affordable to the working class. These magazines covered a wide range of genres: science fiction and fantasy, horror, detective mystery, globe-trotting adventure, sports, wild west, and even romance.
No matter what genre was featured, there were some near-universal conventions: clear-cut heroes and villains, an insidious plot, a mystery, "deathtraps" and the triumph of the Right over the Wrong.
Pulp magazines were published regularly from the 1920's through the 1950's, peaking during the 30's and 40's. Eventually, paper quality improved, but because the stories were all written along a certain style, the name "pulp" became associated with the adventures themselves rather than the medium.
Pulp authors wrote stories featuring simple, almost visceral themes such as good vs. evil, order vs. anarchy and the like. As gritty as the stories could become, they almost always offered an escape from the grim realities of the day. Although they were simple stories in terms of theme, often they featured rather complicated characters. The "heroes" of hard-boiled detective pulps were hard-drinking, chain-smoking, skirt-chasing, acid-tongued insomniacs. The protagonists of gangster pulps were, well, gangsters. But no matter how rough such anti-heroes were, there was always something redeemable about them, which again fits in with the underlying black-and-white themes.
Many readers, when discovering the pulps for the first time, are shocked to discover that the pulps are often full of latent and sometimes overt sexism and racism. This can be blamed on the fact that they are products of their times, in which gender roles were very rigid and anyone who differed from the average "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" template of an "All-American" was either locked into subservient roles or held in deep suspicion, or both. Pulp Heroes Pulp heroes in general are "All-American-Boy (or Girl)-Next-Door" types. They are not motivated by a desire for personal glory, but by an almost overdeveloped sense of right and wrong, justice, and fair play.
As an example, take a look at the personal code of Doc Savage, one of the greatest pulp heroes:
Let me strive every moment of my life, to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it.
Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.
Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do.
Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.
Pulp heroes stand as paragons of clean living, education, and morality. Although they appear on the surface to be the "hometown boy or girl done good," there is a presence about them, a charisma that causes them to stand out from the crowd.
They are not superheroes. That is, they are not "endowed with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man." Rather, they are highly trained, educated and motivated. They succeed not because they have super-powers, but because they are determined, clever, and possess a strong moral character.
To roleplay these heroes, the player must 'buy in' to the concept that the PC is deeply committed to preserving the ideals of Western (specifically American) civilization. These ideals of justice, fair play, humility, 'stick-to-it-iveness,' ingenuity, humor, and, when necessary, self-sacrifice.
Players should not expect to be showered with wealth at the end of a successful adventure or campaign. Rather, their reward is the satisfaction that they have helped humanity.
The best way to really get the most out of Risus is to customize your character's clichés. Here is a great article that explains how clichés work, and may give you a good idea for how to put your character together.
Character Creation Guidelines
Typically, Characters using the Adventure Street Omnibus series of pulp settings will use the standard Risus character creation rules. In other words, players will have 10 dice to allocate among various clichés. There is a limit of 4 dice allocated to any one cliché. I personally like the idea of an rpg where regular, ol' fashioned six-sided dice stolen from an old board game can be used to play, so Funky Dice will not be used. As players create their characters, they might want to add a Hook and a Tale. A Hook is a character flaw, a physical/mental/social disability that the GM could use to his great advantage. A Tale is just what it sounds like: a detailed background story that breathes life into your character. Hooks and Tales each give a bonus of one (1) die that can be allocated among either clichés or Lucky Shots or Questing Dice, which are explained below. Language skills must be specified in either the clichés or in the tale.
A player can elect to use one cliché die to buy three Lucky Shots. These 'shots' allow the player to add one die to any roll that the character really, really has to make. Questing Dice are similar, with two glaring exceptions: A player can buy five (5) Questing Dice for every one cliché die he spends, and while Lucky shots can be applied to any roll, Questing Dice must be applied to a task related to a specific Quest that the character is engaged in. This will be explained in more detail with the sample Character from Ripping Air Yarns.
If a player decides to forgo Lucky Shots and Questing Dice, he may choose to Pump a cliché or Double Pump one. These rules are carefully explained in Advanced Option II of the free Risus Rules .
Finally, in Adventure Street Omnibus, Boxcars and Breakthroughs from the Risus Companion are used. If a player rolls the dice for any given cliché, and they all come up sixes ("boxcars"), he may roll the dice again adding the second total to the first. If he rolls boxcars again, he continues as above.
Adventure Street Magazine Titles:
Daring Adventure Tales - Default Pulp Setting
Ripping Air Yarns - Air Pulp Setting
Stellar Space Magazine - Sci-Fi Pulp
Strange Western Tales - Weird West Setting
Weird Crime Tales - Supernatural/Horror/Gangster Hybrid
©2004-2005 by Hank Harwell. This work can be distributed freely so long as the following conditions are met: All credit is given to those individuals who have contributed material.