Users Guide: The Pulp Genre

The following article is a continuation of the Genres in Gaming series of articles written to help players and GMs determine which games are available within the genres they want to play. The lists of systems contained throughout or by no means exhaustive. All game systems are listed within the sub-genre as I understand from the knowledge I have. If they are improperly categorized, please post a comment further explaining what the sub-genre should be and why.

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So what is pulp?  Pulp is a hard genre to define.  Pulp is virtually anything and everything it wants to be.  It’s a fairly distinct style that is easy to see but sometimes difficult to explain.  You could think of Pulp as being the type of story you would read about in the early 20th century.  Or maybe a high adventure film where the hero is trying to save a wondrous item from falling into the wrong hands.  Or maybe it’s a spin on World War I officers after the war had ended.  Whatever it is, the genre still remains popular after about 100 years of publication.

(Modern) Pulp

While Pulp is in itself a genre and a sub-genre, I’m using the term Modern as a loose way of describing the Pulp publications that have a system or setting that takes place either in the modern time, a modern location, or simply devoid of the extra fantasy or science fiction elements. This is where grand adventures are to be had within the depths of the known planet or maybe a remote island of unknown origins filled with vicious creatures. While the (Modern) Pulp sub-genre may take most (if not all) of its influence from the pulp fiction and magazines of old, they have definitely grown from the simple stories into complete systems designed around the experience to be had.

One thing to distinguish (Modern) Pulp from other systems and settings is the way a hero is presented.  They may be a common person with great knowledge and grand aspirations, or possibly a grand hero who appears bigger than life, or maybe they are great inventors with ideas that everyone around them laughs at.  The key is that they don’t have to fit a “standard” mold such as the great warriors in Fantasy or the power-armored marines in Science Fiction. But there always seems to be something heroic about these characters, although no one else may know it.

The following systems are representative of (Modern) Pulp and may have numerous published supplements. Each one is noted as the game system, game setting (where applicable), and publisher displayed as: System – Setting (Publisher).

Hero Pulp

Another sub-genre of Pulp is the heroic-style system or setting called Hero Pulp.  This often focuses on a single character (or a group of them) that are performing heroic deeds through the use of technology, feats of strength, or determined will. Hero Pulp should not be confused with a superhero setting in that the heroes are do not possess superpowers but rather perform heroic deeds through the use of various technologies or heroic abilities.

The following systems are representative of Hero Pulp and may have numerous published supplements. Each one is noted as the game system, game setting (where applicable), and publisher displayed as: System – Setting (Publisher).

Science Fiction Pulp

The Science Fiction Pulp sub-genre is a little easier to define.  Take the same ideals of (Modern) Pulp and add in great elements of science fiction (such as high technology) or place the setting in space. While these may seem very similar to Space Opera, the difference is the Pulp look and feel of the system or setting that sets it apart.  The technology is often lower (if not much lower) than standard Science Fiction, but there are still grand adventures to be had as with many other Pulp publication.

Science Fiction Pulp could sometimes be deemed as a Victorian-style Science Fiction except that the setting itself is not designed around the Victorian era nor does the system require it.  The Victorian reference is more in the style of dress, mannerisms, society, and beliefs. This difference keeps these types of systems and settings from being placed into the Alternate History sub-genre.

The following systems are representative of Science Fiction Pulp and may have numerous published supplements. Each one is noted as the game system, game setting (where applicable), and publisher displayed as: System – Setting (Publisher).

Stay tuned for the continuation of the Genres in Gaming series of articles as I delve into the Modern genre.

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