Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Weird Adventures, Justice Inc. and Gamer ADD

I came late to Trey from Sorcerer's Skull party for his forthcoming pulpy game supplement, Weird Adventures. Rest assured though that I'm staying until he shouts at me to get down off his table and calls me a cab.

Since early this summer he's been busy pumping out a visually-rich, highly-imaginative stream of posts that explore the high weirdness of his pulp-era fantasy world setting.

With nice spins on old archetypical character classes familiar and dear to many of us who play older edition D&D (“Tough Guy” for Fighter, “Man of Faith” for Cleric and such forth); a Femme Fatale table stand-in for the infamous “Random Harlot” DMG table; and a host of other stylized goodies I am likely to not only buy when it comes out—but actually run it.

That last statement is not one I make lightly as it entails breaking a vow I made when I started my current tabletop Hill Cantons campaign; namely that I wouldn't succumb to that abrupt, semi-frequent urge to jump ship to other systems and campaigns. I have noticed with approval others on the blogosphere making similar vows and I generally have agreed with the notion that the most fulfilling gaming often comes through the long-lasting, nuanced fun of running a consistent campaign.

Back in the early 80s after the first couple years of seeing only my first RPG love, D&D, I went on a rampage of gaming promiscuity. Any game my piece-rate allowance could afford I bought and we played for about 1-3 months before we stopped returning her calls and jumped on to the next game. In quick succession there was Traveller, Boot Hill, Top Secret, Bushido, Champions, Runequest, Gangbusters, and Star Frontiers (only one date, sorry with the last two). Many lawns were cut in these years and much manic play entailed. Not one of those campaigns was as fun as that first long D&D one. 

So why even think of breaking that vow, right?

Well, mostly because the very last game, I purchased before drifting out of the hobby for two decades felt like “the one that got away” (to stretch that belabored imagery once again). Justice Inc. was a great, if quick-to-fade-away game put out by Hero Games in 1984. Though mechanically it was essentially the same Hero system cookie-cutter (and thus unremarkable), it's 1930s-oriented pulp source material hit a nerve with me.

The boxed set came with a nice Campaign Book that was not only devoted to the usual run-of-the-mill period detail, but more excitingly to a 20-page run down of all the sub-genres of pulp fiction in that time period. It inspired my first real gaming-literary fever run (now something quite familiar). That summer in the mid-80s, I pored through used bookstores and musty libraries to find Doc Savage and other pulp novellas.

A few other things fueled this sudden mad infatuation: the afternoon runs of old, syndicated news reel-like shows from the 30s on a failing Dallas UHF channel; a brief fling in 1981 with Crimefighters, a free RPG shoehorned into Dragon Magazine #47; and the release of a wonderful JI supplement, Lands of Mystery.

That last bit deserves a bit more attention as I think it is one of the best campaign supplements I have ever read. Rather than just selling you a pre-packaged setting whole cloth or mundane world-building suggestions (that you could likely better get out of a geography, history, or folklore textbook), it read more like a system-less literary guide to the whole genre of Lost Worlds ala H. Rider Haggard and Edgar R. Burroughs. Instead of just trotting out cardboard NPCs there were lists of all the archetypes for characters in these campaigns from the Great White Hunter to the Callow Youth. Suggestions on how to present lost world campaigns with varying genre convention bits were explored in customizable, yummy detail.

Alas for all this love I never actually played the damn game. Soon after designing a crazy-quilt setting that pitted island-hopping boat-plane flying heroes against the perils of shadowy cults, flying saucers, dinosaurs, Cthuloid nightmares, vine-choked lost temples, etc. I just simply walked away from the hobby for a good long time.

Thus why I wait by the phone. Patiently.  


  1. Thanks for the plug, Ckutalik! I'm glad Weird Adventures has found an audience...and I certainly hope the supplement meets folks expectations.

    I've never actually played a pulp game myself, though I've come close many times, and own a number of pulp games/supplements. Maybe this is scratching that old itch for me.

  2. I was hooked on Trey's blog even before his first City/Weird Adventure post. I'm a huge pulp fan and do plan to make use of his setting in some fashion as soon as I get my grubby little monkey hands on it. Fortunately, I'm running a dimension-hopping game, so I don't have to disrupt an existing campaign to do it.