Tag Archives: indie

The Name’s Fiction, Pulp Fiction – why we owe cheap fiction of the past a debt for the glorious genres we love today

Say ‘Pulp Fiction’ and most people think of Tarantino’s 1994 cult movie – the violence, the disgust, the horror of it all. Little will they know however of it’s working title; Black Mask, or what that even means. I’ll tell you what it means, but first let’s look more at what the true pulp fiction was.

According to dictionary.com the definition of pulp fiction is:

“Fiction dealing with lurid or sensational subjects, often printed on rough, low-quality paper manufactured from wood pulp.”

Pretty simple really, no set genre, not set style just cheaper printing and sensational content. But there is a history here and it’s quite cool – younger generations will have no idea what it was all about. Until now.

The pulps as they were also known as were counter to the slicks, glossy well made magazines for richer audiences. Despite the Americanisms, pulp fictions claim descendants from earlier styles and formats of literature; the penny dreadfuls of Britain and dime novels of the US. From these simple fiction papers came some powerful genres; those of us who love horror, fantasy and science fiction owe a lot to the pulp literature of the past – before the rise of those genres we only had pulps. And what a legacy to share.

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Despite their massive popularity of the time, it was never easy for early authors to become accepted writers; some famous authors of fantasy, such as Robert E. Howard never truly made it big in their lifetime, posthumous success becoming more common. Even Lovecraft, who spawned an entire sub-genre of cosmic horror by himself only managed to gather a few dollars for much of his extensive work, which are now more popular than ever across all forms of media from literature, film and game platforms of all kinds.

Indeed, many famous authors began or boosted their careers with pulp fiction stories: Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain even H.G Wells, the father of science fiction.

Pulp fiction covered everything from gritty westerns, dark crime thrillers, exotic fantasy and exceptional science fiction; all of which fell under weird fiction or some sort or other. But these weird tales grew into genres of their own, providing us with film noir and sword & sorcery, among others.

It wasn’t all great though. Often pulp magazines portrayed highly sexualised women in peril, a dashing hero nearby to risk his life in an attempt to rescue such a damsel – I’m not sure that sort of cover art would stand up in modern times, with good reason given the rise of equality since the 1950’s and the sexual liberation of women in the 60’s.

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Yesterday’s Sunrise

The rise of pulp fiction and its earlier descendants came primarily from financial reasons: the price. Quite simply, it was affordable fiction in a time before the internet, computers and films. It was your only escape that wasn’t the theatre, alcohol or underage pregnancy. You may be forgiven for wondering why the appeal seems to be lost in modern times.

Yet, at the height of pulp fiction there were millions of copies printed monthly, with some publishers boasting more than 300 pulp titles at a time, some from as early as the 1920s. The market truly was booming. The sensation didn’t stop in the US; the UK had its own share of pulp fiction, appealing to the young and the poor. You didn’t talk about which celebrity was fumbling their way through a dance-off, you talked about the characters and the situations of the latest pulp fiction. You probably had more in depth conversations about it too.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, IF Worlds of Science Fiction, and Unknown were all leading the market in Britain, spanning decades (with artwork a little less sexualised, although still present).

Inevitable Fall

It was not to last however. In Britain and most of Europe, the succession of two world wars left a shortage of paper material, forcing publishers to reduce the size of their prints and limit their publications to several times a year. What was monthly was now quarterly and this had a knock-on effect for the industry, which we are still suffering from now: it is hard for new writers to be read.

Not being noticed forced some authors into writing novels instead and a reduction in sales meant that publishing houses had to be picky about who they took on and what they published. Prime content became everything. It all started to feel very ‘safe’ and perhaps stale.

The effect is still felt somewhat today in that it is still incredibly hard to become a published author and make a living from it. Sure, as a consumer the content we have is better but the ideas are not as fresh, daring or fringe-worthy. And lets only mention briefly that now everything comes in the form of a trilogy of trilogies. Finding a single story novella is pretty hard in the bookshops of today!

Even self publishing is hard, at least to make your goal financially viable.

Gone is the golden age of the pulp writer.

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Dost the Embers Stir?

Let’s be clear and honest though; reading a short story is fun! It doesn’t take an age, it is valuable time with oneself and is usually cheap – no huge investment. You can buy a small novella for less than £5 and that’s all you need – no TV or monitor, no subscription to Netflix or Amazon, nothing electrical at all (unless you’re reading at night).

But perhaps the best news of all is that there’s still hope. Hope that with the rise of online pulp houses like ThePulp.net and New Pulp Press who sell e-fiction for as little as $3-$6, there’s still a place to hide away from the world and live the life of your favourite (anti) heroes.

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So back to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction; the working title, Black Mask was a US pulp magazine in the 1920s covering dark, gritty and corrupt crime stories. There was plenty of gore, violence and sex to fuel the 1994 movie, summing up the Tarantino’s tastes nicely.

So we’re going to have a go at bringing you some pulp fiction of our own, with a blog to run alongside it with our notes, plans and sketches to give you an idea of how much shit we put ourselves through! (I may have had a drink or two of Port).

Competitive Actions & combat, how we see it rolling out for CC’s Pulp RPG

So, you’re rolling dice pools to hack your way through door locking systems or swinging through trees on ropes to escape cannibalistic war-bands. You come to a stop, realising that you’re surrounded on four sides and it’s time for you and your friends to face the enemy in an extreme gun fight…

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How does it work?

Pulp RPG is about normal people in extraordinary situations, fighting to survive or rid the world of evil! But there’s danger in the hills and the forests are alive with terrors. You’ll hope you want to go first!

Today we’re going to look at combat, focusing on competitive rolling and the initiative sequence.

Initiative works differently from what most players may be used to; the players party and the games master each select a character from their sides of the combat. That character / non-player will then choose which attribute they want to base their initiative roll on. This is important because the character that wins the initiative roll will only be able to commit to a skill of that attribute.

We think it works because seizing the initiative is not always about how fast a person can move, like in some dexterity / celerity initiative systems. It could be as simple as pulling a trigger, outwitting an opponent or just being damn lucky. Since all starting characters will have a single attribute at 4 dice, it means that no one will be selected repeatedly for their high dice pool – it will come down to what action they wish to take.

When the winner of initiative is determined, the winning player goes first. After this point, the initiative is handed back and forth between each side of the combat until the last character or non-player has taken their turn.

It’s a little less natural but it allows for a little bit of planning without spending precious minutes deciding what combo of abilities the party wants to use, and since the roll is performed each round, it essentially stops initiative being one sided.

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How do we roll competitively?

It’s as simple of rolling your dice pool and counting the successes compared to that of your opponent. Using your physical attribute with your close combat skills? Simply declare your action, roll your dice pool and compare the results to that of the opponent’s dice pool. If the result is an equal number of successes then the combat is a stalemate, if you beat their number of successes you score the hit, maybe with added bonuses.

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OK, lets bloody some noses!

Damage will vary depending on what your weapon of choice is. Currently every weapon in the game will come as a standard unit with applied tags. Tags can add to the damage of the weapon depending on the target, add bonuses to abilities and provide role-play opportunities. A great example is the whip, in the hands of our protagonist, Tom Raider Jones:

Whip – Hand Weapon (tags: prehensile, slashing).

Not great against a single Nazi zombie:

Creature – Humanoid (tags: zombie, military training, well equipped, Will of the Fuhrer, Inexorable.)

That about sums up our little sojourn into the combat of Pulp RPG, tomorrow we’ll be looking at a couple of things from the games master point of view, looking at the categories and tags of players and monsters, with a little more depth to the weapon tags and damage in Pulp RPG.

J.D Ferris

CC’s Free Pulp RPG – Peeking at Character Creation and why it’s easy to pick up

Today we’re going to give you a sneaky look at character creation for CC’s Pulp RPG.

There are a few very simple criteria about how we design things, here’s the major one; character creation must be simple and swift so as to be friendly for your new players, yet possess infinite customization with levels of depth for your more experienced players. To tackle this problem, we considered all manner of mechanics but we’ve settled on a few solid ones.

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So, let’s get into it…

There are four attributes which will be familiar to players of RPGs but we’ll go into a  bit of detail here. The power level is unlike most styles of RPGs and since most pulp fiction characters are simple humans we feel the need to stress this. In Pulp RPG there are four main attributes that make up a character:

The physical attribute describes your athletic ability as a whole; shooting requires physical effort to aim and stay steady, running long distances is tiring, swimming through river rapids is difficult, and holding open a stone trapdoor requires technique and brawn – all these describe your physical attribute, sort of a doing statistic.

Intellect covers elements from academic learning, logical reasoning, to understanding sciences and engineering. Recalling ancient lore, deciphering complex codes, repairing a vehicle and understanding schematics – all these describe your intellect attribute, a sort of thinking statistic.

The charisma attribute describes your social acumen. Being heard over an argument, convincing others to help, wooing another person or calming a spooked horse. Charisma is almost always a competitive roll and acts like your characters presence in the room..

Finally, the luck attribute – which is used during the game to turn aside a poor result, avoid catastrophe or really hammer home a good shot. The luck attribute is also rolled in games sessions where pure chance can make you feel lucky, such as when determining which character is going to be targeted by an enemy. In these situations, rolling the dice of the luck attribute means the lowest score loses the contest and becomes the target of the attack.

Luck also plays another important part during the game for the little things; is that guard looking in my direction? Roll your luck dice pool and let’s see how fate decides! In this way, the excitement can be shared by the players and the games master without derailing the story or side stepping role-play.

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At character creation a player decides which of their attributes will be their characters best, good, average and poor attributes, which confer 4 dice, 3 dice, 2 dice and 1 dice respectively to their dice pools. It may sound a little restrictive but at character creation it can be very quick to decide what sort of character you wish to play and gives each character a known balance. The infinite customization comes in the next section; character skills.

Character Skills

We’re still working on the skills a character can take, but the idea is relatively simple; you choose your skills based on a broad spectrum of a life role or profession. A character has several skills depending on their Intellect attribute. Here’s an example based on a character who is a farm worker:

  • Farming Know-how – crop rotations, irrigation systems, flora and fauna knowledge.
  • Mechanics – the ability to repair or modify vehicles on the farm.
  • Animal Welfare – to care for livestock in all forms with simple veterinary skills
  • Firearms – to guard and protect the land or livestock from predators or thieves.

Its important to note that skills are not specific to any single attribute, instead they are fluid meaning that a physically weak character may be able to think their way out of the box.

Getting across a cavern is rarely a simple physical task, sometimes you have to use brains to determine the best point to jump, the right angle and speed to jump from, be warned though; if you stretch the concept too far and you risk the idea backfiring; try and suggest you can charm your way across is doomed to fail!

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That about covers today’s development blog. Over the next couple of days we’ll give you some insight into basic and competitive rollinginitiative and combat.

Stay tuned and we’ll give you some more meaty bits as the week comes to an end!

J.D. Ferris, C.C