Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Set Up

Our setting is New York, 1938. Your character is a larger than life adventuring pulp hero in the tradition of the Shadow, Doc Savage, the Phantom Detective, The Spider, Tarzan, the Lone Wolf, Flash Gordon, Captain Future, etc. Your character is the do gooder sort, who lives to battle evil and defend the innocent from the predations of the wicked.

I've decided to go with the recommendation in the SAVAGE WORLDS Explorer's Edition, with one twist, as recommended in the PULP TOOLKIT, for character set up: set PCs up as Novice characters, then take 12 advances, to bring your character to the borderline of Heroic/Legendary. (The 'twist' recommended for Pulp Heroes is to get rid of the 'one attribute raise per Rank' restriction, which I'm happy to do.)

To recap standard character set up:

Every character starts with a d4 in each attribute, and has 5 points with which to raise them. Raising a d4 to a d6, for example, costs 1 point. You’re free to spend these points however you want with one exception: no attribute may be raised above a d12.

You have 15 points to distribute among your skills. Each die type costs 1 point as long as the skill is equal to or less than the attribute it’s linked to (listed beside the skill in parentheses). If you exceed the attribute, the cost becomes 2 points per die type. As with attributes, no skill may be increased above d12.

Human characters get one free Edge, and you should all be human characters. You can take further Edges by balancing them out with Hindrances. You can take one Major Hindrance and two Minor Hindrances. A Major Hindrance is worth 2 points, and a Minor Hindrance is worth 1 point.

For 2 points you can:

• Raise an attribute one die type (you may raise your attributes before purchasing

• Choose another Edge.

For 1 point you can:

• Gain another skill point.

To this, I'm going to add, every time you take an Advance, you may, if you wish, give your PC another Major Hindrance or two Minor Hindrances, and use those points as well. These additional Hindrances should represent things that could have occurred to your character over a long and storied career.

Every 5 points accumulated grants a hero an Advance. An Advance lets a character do one of the following:

• Gain a new Edge.

• Increase a skill that is equal to or greater than its linked attribute by one die type.

• Increase two skills that are lower than their linked attributes by one die type each.

• Buy a new skill at d4.

• Increase one attribute by a die type.

Instead of Minor Hindrances, GM will award the same points as a Minor Hindrance for Stylish Trademarks, such as the eerie, trilling sound that Doc Savage involuntarily whistles when he is amazed, or the platinum domino mask shaped badge carried by the Phantom Detective to prove his identity to police. This will be something that adds flavor to your character and distinguishes them from anyone else.

Players in this scenario don't need to worry about starting money. You can basically have whatever equipment fits your character concept -- if you're a rich world traveling philanthropist like Doc Savage who also happens to be a brilliant multi-discipline scientist, you can have a skyscraper headquarters with an armory and lots of lab space. If you're a millionaire newspaper publisher who dons a domino mask and a black fedora to fight crime as the Melodramatically Named Good Guy, well, you can have a major metropolitan newspaper and a secret closet in your penthouse apartment like the Comedian's where you keep all your gear. Etc, etc. If you're an ex cop who was thrown off the force when a crooked politician pulled some strings, who is determined to balance the books with your fists, your gun, and your blackjack, well, you probably don't own much besides your fists, your gun, and your blackjack... but if you want to take a bulletproof vest, too, I won't kick.

Established, near legendary pulp hero/adventurers are rarely living at a subsistence level; all that globe trotting and all those souped up, bulletproof sedans cost a nice chunk of change. That's not to say you need to be rich to be a nearly legendary pulp hero/adventurer, you could be a former Texas Ranger who doesn't own anything he can't pack into the saddlebags on his motorcycle, cruising into the big city with a six gun and a lariat, looking for the little sister of your dead best friend, to fulfill a vow you made as you cradled his bullet riddled body in your arms one night on the edge of the desert. Or something. I'm just saying, whatever equipment fits your character, you can have... barring, of course, stuff that will make it much too easy for the scenario to be any fun, like an advanced alien computer with all Earthly knowledge programmed into it, or something equally buzz harshing.

Use your imaginations, make a character you'll enjoy playing, equip yourself well. Anything can happen.

Some suggested Pulp specific Hindrances and Edges, from the Pulp toolkit:

Sample Hindrances

Glass Jaw (Major)
Your hero has a glass jaw and can’t take a solid hit He suffers a –2 penalty to Soak rolls

Xenophobic (Major)

Whether because of simple ignorance or from past dealings, the character has a dislike of all cultures other than his own and finds dealing with them unpleasant at best He suffers a –4 penalty to Charisma when dealing with foreigners Openly voicing his xenophobic beliefs, something he finds hard to control, may lead to confrontation or ostracism.

Sample Generic Pulp Edges

Bring ’Em On! (Combat)
Requirements: Novice, Agility d8+, Fighting d8+, Notice d8+
Opponents never get a Gang-Up bonus in combat with the hero, no matter how many there are facing the hero

Explorer (Professional)
Requirements: Novice, Vigor d6+, Survival d8+
There are two extremes of climate in the world, and this character has endured them both and lived to tell the tale He gains a +2 bonus to Survival rolls In addition, he has a +2 bonus to Vigor rolls made to resist the effects of hot and cold environments.

Femme Fatale/Ladykiller
Requirements: Novice, Attractive, Persuasion d8+
The hero or heroine (or more likely, villain) is a stunner, and knows how to get the best out of the opposite sex by using his or her charms The character may use Persuasion as a Test of Will against members of the opposite sex, pitting their looks and charm against a foe’s Smarts. The character may add Charisma bonuses to her roll as well.

I Have One (Weird)
Requirements: Wild Card, Novice, Luck
Heroes are only human Sometimes they forget things, like torches, rope, ray gun batteries, and the like Once per session the hero may “suddenly remember” that he has a much—needed piece of equipment on his person The item must be capable of being stored in the character’s pocket or a bag and the Game Master has the final word on what can be found (for example, finding lockpicks the guards missed to aid an escape from prison may be acceptable if it fits the story). This Edge is not usable during cliffhangers.

Improvisational Fighter
Requirements: Seasoned, Smarts d6+
This Edge requires you to be using the improvised weapons from the Pulp Gear Toolkit Heroes often find themselves fighting with pieces of equipment or furnishing not designed for combat A character with this Edge has a knack for using such improvised weapons, and does not suffer the usual –1 attack penalty when wielding them.

Iron Jaw (Combat)
Requirements: Novice, Vigor d8+
The hero can take a hit with a baseball bat like he was a brick wall. He gets +2 to Soak rolls.

Slugger (Combat)
Requirements: Novice, Fighting d8+
The character is handy with his fists and has defeated more than his share of villains armed with melee weapons. He never counts as an Unarmed Defender.

Sucker Punch (Combat)
Requirements: Novice, Agility d6+, Fighting d8+, Intimidation or Taunt d6+, First Strike 16
The character doesn’t know the meaning of the words “fair fight ” If he succeeds in a Test of Will against an adjacent opponent, the character receives a free Fighting attack. This attack does not incur a multi action penalty.

A couple of Hindrances just for the pulp era:

WILL NOT KILL (Minor) The PC will not take a human life, even in self defense, and goes to great lengths to prevent doing so, including always employing nonlethal damage.

ALTER EGO (Minor/Major) At Minor level, the PC has an alternate identity that they adventure under and that, for whatever reason, they go to great lengths to keep others from identifying with their real identity. At Major level, the PC has an actual split personality and is unaware that under certain conditions, he or she becomes their alter ego. Player may specify these conditions; for example, whenever the 'normal' identity sees others in danger, or whenever the 'normal' identity is physically threatened or frightened for his life, the normal identity will 'black out' and change to the alter ego.

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