Mugshots of the 1920s – Photos for CoC or Pulp games

Polyhedral Nonsense

Here’s a good resource for running a RPG in the 1920s. It’s a collection of mug shots from 1920s Sydney. They’d make great portraits for players & PCs for Call of Cthulhu, pulp games, or any 1920s based game.

Apparently, the New South Wales PD had a really great photographer back in the day. The pictures are, of course, more than a little sad.

Honestly, I hesitated before I shared these. These are all real people who lived and died, and happened to have their picture taken on one of the less fortunate days of their lives. None of them actually signed up to be image fodder for some strange future fantasy game.

However, real world stuff, be it actual history or thinly disguised history, gets pulled into games all the time. Also, I didn’t unearth any of these, they’re public records on a museum website. Why did using these…

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Weird Books for Gamers II: Dr. Eckener’s Dream Machine

Here’s a book about Zeppelins that would be useful for any pulp RPG.

Polyhedral Nonsense

41JYH16CWCL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re running any RPG set in the early 20th century, it’s only a matter of time before a Zeppelin or other airship shows up. There aren’t a lot of living people who have actually traveled on an airship, so it’d be helpful to have some idea what traveling in one was actually like.

Dr. Eckener’s Dream Machine: The Great Zeppelin and the Dawn of Air Travel (Goodreads)

This book is the story of Dr. Hugo Eckener, who started out as a reporter covering the airship industry, then eventually became an airship captain himself and ended up as the head of the Zeppelin company.

In his time, he was world famous. He commanded the Graf Zeppelin in the first (and only) airship flight around the world.

The best parts of this book are the detailed descriptions of the voyages of the Graf Zeppelin. Here’s some highlights easily usable…

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Noir Hack: The Straight Dope – House Rule (with new character sheet)

Crossposted from Polyhedral Nonsense

Polyhedral Nonsense

47e9c9116aa4f6b6da212fc05aec1885For my one-shot of the Noir Hack, I created a new house rule called the Straight Dope. It’s based on the Flashlight/Smokes idea from the Cthulhu Hack.

The idea is to model the social connections a character might have for particular institutions, that they could use to get information or make things happen.

Each community a character is connected to will be given a usage die. Every time the connection is used the usage die will be rolled normally.

For example – a player is searching for “Geronimo” Johnson, a notorious bootlegger, who is hiding out somewhere in the city. The player has D8 Straight Dope connection with the underworld. They can use that information to get a clue or at least some information. They will roll that usage die normally to see if their connection is downgraded.

Once a Straight Dope connection is used up, the player…

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Noir Hack – New Classes: Reporter, Citizen, & Swell

Crossposted from Polyhedral Nonsense

Polyhedral Nonsense

I’ve just tried running a one-shot of Noir Hack, the film noir version of the OSR RPG Black Hack.

To prepare for my game, I created a few new classes.


Ink-Slingers, Gossip Columnists, Muckrakers

Starting HP: d8+4
HP Per Level/Resting: 1d8
Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: Any
Attack Damage: 1d6 Armed /1d4 Unarmed or Improvising
The Darkness: d8

Special Features

  • Rolls with Advantage on CHA tests to wheedle information out of people.
  • Rolls with Advantage when researching public or private records.
  • Rolls with Advantage during an investigation to notice small details that others might miss.

Leveling Up

When Reporters roll to see if their stats increase, they roll twice for either INT or CHA.


Silk Stocking Crowd, Upper Crust, The Well-to-do, Fat Cats

Starting HP: 1d4 + 4
HP Per Level/Resting: 1d4
Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: Any
Attack Damage: 1d4 Armed / 1 Unarmed or Improvising
The Darkness:…

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Boxing Slang for Pulp adventures

circusfistsGiven the prevalence of boxers and ex-boxers in pulp fiction. I’ve found it useful to keep these boxing jargon dictionaries handy whenever I run a pulp game:

The image is from Circus Fists (link to actual story)  – a fun Robert E. Howard story about his boxing sailor hero Sailor Steve Costigan.

Costigan would make an excellent PC in any pulp game.


Justice Inc. – Character Sheet

justiceI’ve got an old copy of Justice Inc., the Hero System Pulp game that’s been sitting on my shelf for years. The PDF of the game recently became available, so I’m thinking about giving it another try. It’s a little crunchier than the games I usually play, but I still get a little twinge of nostalgia from the old Hero games, so I’m planning on running a few one-shots.

To prepare for my game I’ve created a fillable PDF of the character sheet. It’ll do most of the basic calculations for the characteristics and totaling up the disadvantage and skill costs.


To test it I used the sample character at the beginning of the Justice Inc. book – Derek Harrison III






The Black Bat (Hollow Earth Expedition)

This is my third version of the Black Bat. This time I’ve statted up the Black Bat and friends using Hollow Earth Expedition. To match the pulp abilities of the Bat, I’ve given him a lot of extra experience for buying talents and skills.

Anthony Quinn, The Black Bat

Archetype: Vigilante Motivation: Justice
Body: 2 Charisma: 2
Dexterity: 4 Intelligence: 4
Strength: 2 Willpower: 3
Size: 0 Initiative: 8
Move: 6 Defense: 6
Perception: 7 Stun: 2

Style: Health: 5

Skill Base Levels Rating Average
Stealth 4 4 8 4
Athletics 2 2 4 2
Investigation 4 2 6 3
Crimes 4 2 7 3+
Intimidation 2 2 4 2
Firearms 4 2 6 3
Brawl 2 2 4 2
Bureaucracy 4 1 5 2+
Drive 4 1 5 2+
Science 4 1 5 2+
Chemistry 4 1 6 3


Dark Vision (Custom) – Can see in near total darkness, as if it were daylight. No darkness penalties.



Contacts (Law Enforcement): +4 Contact Bonus


Criminal (Under Suspicion from Sgt. McGrath)

Silk Kirby

Archetype: Criminal Motivation: Justice
Body: 1 Charisma: 4
Dexterity: 3 Intelligence: 3
Strength: 1 Willpower: 3
Size: 0 Initiative: 6
Move: 4 Defense: 4
Perception: 6 Stun: 1
Style: Health: 4
Skill Base Levels Rating Average
Stealth 3 5 8 4
Disguise 3 5 9 4+
Con 4 4 8 4
Streetwise 4 2 6 3
Larceny 3 1 4 2
Drive 3 1 4 2
Brawl 1 1 2 1
Firearms 1 1 1 1


Contacts (Criminal Underworld) +2


Criminal – Former Criminal

Jack “Butch” O’Leary

Archetype: Adventurer Motivation: Honor
Body: 4 Charisma: 1
Dexterity: 2 Intelligence: 1
Strength: 5 Willpower: 2
Size: 1 Initiative: 3
Move: 7 Defense: 5
Perception: 3 Stun: 5
Style: Health: 6
Skill Base Levels Rating Average
Brawl 5 5 10 5
Athletics 5 3 8 4
Intimidation 1 3 4 2
Drive 2 2 4 2
Melee 2 2 4 2


Staggering Blow

Carol Baldwin

Archetype: Adventurer Motivation: Love
Body: 1 Charisma: 6
Dexterity: 2 Intelligence: 3
Strength: 1 Willpower: 3
Size: 0 Initiative: 5
Move: 3 Defense: 3
Perception: 6 Stun: 1
Style: Health: 4
Skill Base Levels Rating Average
Con 6 1 7 3+
Diplomacy 6 3 9 4+
Empathy 6 3 9 4+
Investigation 3 3 6 3
Firearms 2 2 4 2
Drive 2 2 2 2



The Black Bat (OneDice)

This is a continuation of my post on the Black Bat. Here are the stats for the same characters in OneDice Pulp. Clearly we have a lot less detail to work with, but I think I’ve still managed to capture the essence of the characters.

Anthony Quinn – The Black Bat

Strong 2, Clever 2, Quick 3
Health 6, Defence 9, Move 30
Skills Sneaky 2, Shooting 1, Bruiser 2, Investigation 1
Talent Dark Vision

Silk Kirby

Strong 1, Clever 3, Quick 3
Health 3, Defence 9, Move 30
Skills Disguise 8, Shooting 1, Bruiser 1, Drive 1, Dodgy 1
Talent Doppleganger (+6 to disguise)

Jack “Butch” O’Leary

Strong 3, Clever 1, Quick 3
Health 9, Defence 9, Move 30
Skills Drive 2, Bruiser 4, Intimidate 2
Talent Martial Artist (+2 to Bruiser)

Carol Baldwin

Strong 1, Clever 3, Quick 3
Health 3, Defence 9, Move 30
Skills Investigation 1, Perception 1,  Negotiate 1, Sneaky 1, Psychology 1, Research 1
Talent Contacts

Next, I’m going to get a little ambitious and try to create the same characters in a more complex system – Hero Games’ Justice Inc.

The Black Bat (Spirit of the Century)

I’ve been trying to replicate some old pulp characters in various RPG systems. My main goal is to get familiar with a few game systems I’ve only had a chance to skim. My plan is to try creating the same characters in a few different systems.

It also gives me the excuse to read a little deeper into the pulp literature, especially some of the more obscure figures.

I’m going to start off with a character I like, along with the system I’m most familiar with:

The Black Bat, as generated in Spirit of the Century.

blackbatThe Black Bat is a somewhat obscure figure, despite the fact he had 60+ stories. He came a little later than some of the more famous heroes. He first appeared in Black Book Stories in 1939, and ran to 1953.

With his black costume, cape, and, obviously, the name, he seems very similar to Batman. His origin, however, is lot closer to the Batman villain Two-Face.

In the first story, “Brand of the Black Bat”, Anthony “Tony” Quinn is a successful, incorruptible district attorney. During the trial of a gangster, an assassin hurls acid in Quinn’s face, scarring his face and blinding him.

A mysterious woman offers him a secret operation to replace his eyes, and restore his sight. It succeeds, not only restoring his sight, but gives him the ability to see in the dark. He continues to pose as a blind man, donning the mask and cape to become what the second book – “Murder Calls the Black Bat” describes:

He had become a Nemesis, a dark blot of shadow soon feared by every man who lived by violence or by his wits, and now was a scourge of the underworld of crime.

Anthony Quinn – The Black Bat

Superb (5)   Stealth
Great (4)      Investigation, Alertness
Good (3)       Fists, Guns, Athletics
Fair (2)         Burglary, Contacting, Intimidation, Deceit
Average(1)   Drive, Resolve, Science, Endurance, Resources


  • In Plain Sight (SOTC 197)  SOTC: Spirit of the Century rule book
  • Master of Shadows (SOTC 197)
  • Shadowed Strike (SOTC 198)
  • Deadly Shadows (SOTC 198)
  • Uncanny Awareness (STOTC 410) STOTC: Strange Tales of the Century supplement
  • See in Dark (Unofficial Stunt – Darkness aspects can not be used against Quinn, can see normally in anything more than total darkness)


  • Fake Blind Man
  • Famous D.A.
  • War on Crime
  • Under Suspicion from Sgt. McGrath
  • Must protect his friends
  • Enemy of the Underworld
  • Marks criminals with the sign of the Bat.

Like many pulp heroes, the Bat has loyal companions. First, his loyal valet, and former con man Silk Kirby.

“And Silk had become invaluable to Quinn, since not only was he a reformed burglar whose loyalty to Tony Quinn now approached fanaticism, but he was also an ex-confidence man, glib as the best in that racket.”

Daniels, Norman A.. The Black Bat Omnibus Volume 1 (Annotated)  Altus Press.

Silk Kirby

Former Criminal, Tony’s Valet
Superb (5)    Deceit
Great (4)       Burglary, Alertness
Good (3)        Guns, Drive, Fists
Fair (2)          Stealth, Athletics, Contacting, Resolve
Average (1)   Investigation, Rapport, Intimidation, Sleight of Hand,


  • Clever Disguise (SOTC 135)
  • Mimicry (SOTC 135)
  • Master of Disguise (SOTC 136)
  • Criminal Mind (SOTC 129)
  • Hidden in Plain Sight (STOTC 422)


  • Criminal Past
  • Loyal to the Bat
  • Former Valet

He also had the aid of the bruiser Butch O’Leary. A brawny, but dim ex-boxer who was one of Quinn’s most loyal companions.

“…a tremendous hulk of a man who had attracted Tony Quinn’s notice during a bank robbery when Butch had leaped at a machine-gun armed thug who was in the act of mowing down a score of bystanders. Quinn had known at once that Butch was a man he could trust”

Daniels, Norman A.. The Black Bat Omnibus Volume 1 (Annotated) . Altus Press.

Jack “Butch” O’Leary

Superb (5)   Might
Great (4)     Endurance, Fists
Good(3)       Athletics, Resolve, Drive
Fair (2)        Alertness, Rapport, Weapons
Average (1)  Stealth, Empathy, Contacting


  • Brawler (SOTC 150)
  • Herculean Strength (SOTC 171)
  • One Hit to the Body (SOTC 146)
  • Mix it Up (SOTC 151)


  • Slow-witted
  • Strong as a Bull
  • Selfless Bravery
  • Former Boxer
  • Loyal to the Bat

The Bat’s last assistant and love interest was Carol Baldwin, the woman who arranged the operation to restore Tony Quinn’s sight. :

“She was Tony Quinn’s dream of feminine perfection come true. She, alone, had given him back his sight and restored his peace of mind. Her own father had been shot by a criminal. …. It was the healthy corneas from his eyes that had been transplanted in Tony Quinn’s. And her father’s dying wish had been that she in some way ally herself with forces that opposed crime. For this reason she had become Tony Quinn’s capable and trusted assistant.”

Daniels, Norman A.. The Black Bat Omnibus Volume 1 (Annotated)  Altus Press.

Carol Baldwin

Superb (5)    Rapport
Great (4)       Empathy, Investigation
Good (3)        Deceit, Resolve, Contacting
Fair (2)          Stealth, Athletics, Alertness,
Average(1)   Drive, Fists,  Guns


Popular Gal (SOTC 182)
Best Foot Forward (SOTC 181)
Five Minute Friends (SOTC 182)


  • War on Crime
  • Kidnapping Magnet
  • Murdered Policeman Father
  • Loyal to the Bat
  • Tony Quinn’s love interest