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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Game Day: Mashing the Weird Pulp

by Ken Newquist / May 3, 2008

Our long-discussed, long-delayed Weird Pulp campaign should invade our gaming table sometime this month or next. The game will feature myself and occasional Nuketown commenter Erilar team-GMing a 5-6 episode campaign set in the mid-1930s. The Nazi threat is only just beginning to rear its head, and full-out war still hasn't broken out in Europe.

A group of adventurers attached to a National Geographic-style exploration society are racing around the world investigating lost ruins, battling unspeakable evils, and -- of course -- battling with fascists hell bent on world domination. The whole thing will be powered by Savage Worlds, which half our group fell in love with at GenCon 2007.

Erilar's writing the inaugural adventure, and I'm taking session #2. I've had a vague idea of what I've wanted to run for months, but it's only in the last week or so that the idea gelled into something useable.

A Tale of Two Times

The idea from the start was to run a tomb-raider like scenario, with the players exploring a ruined temple in Mexico. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the hook or the ultimate goal would be.

Then I got to thinking about how I want to write an demo adventure for the Savage Worlds-powered Pirates of the Spanish Main, and it hit me: write two scenarios, one piratical, one weird. In the first, privateers during the Age of Exploration follow a treasure map to the ruined temple. They confront the guardians of the temple, and if they're lucky, steal away some of its gold.

That adventure, and the tales it spawns, then becomes the hook for the Pulp Weird episode. Now our heroes have to return to the self-same complex, delving even deeper into the ruins in a race to ... well, revealing any more would be telling, and since I know my players are likely reading this, I won't do that. But suffice it to say, I think it's going to be pretty damn cool.

The thing I like most about this, as a play test, as campaign sessions and as con games, is that it allows you to compare and contrast the two eras. In the early 1700s, the players arrive by boat and travel overland, armed only with flintlock pistols and sabers. In the 1930s, they arrive by dirigible, and are armed with automatic weapons. In the Age of Exploration, they face the temple with torches; in the Pulp Era, they're got flashlights.

Players should get a sense of the range of Savage Worlds from playing the game, and in all three cases -- playtest, campaign, and con -- that's exactly what I want.

Sources of Inspiration

The music in heaviest rotation while I'm working on these adventures is The Mummy soundtrack. While the setting -- Egyptian Africa vs. Aztec South America -- is entirely different the music still has that great, pulpy, high adventure feel to it. I may use some of the less overtly Egyptian songs for the game soundtrack. I'll likely mix in a track or two from 300 as well, though again, they'll need to be the less-overtly Middle Eastern of the songs.

The Indiana Jones trilogy is an obvious source of inspiration, and I've been watching them while exercising at the gym. Other sources include The Mummy and Hellboy, both of which offer the kind of weird pulp feel I enjoy.

Finally, as far as the Savage Worlds rules themselves, I've found the Savage Heroes web site (www.savageheroes.com) to be an excellent resource, particularly the Savage Beasts [PDF] by Butch Curry. It's chock full of dinosaurs, undead and other nasties that I look forward to throwing at our players.