OneDice Pulp

I’ve been playing with the OneDice Pulp system by Cakebread & Walton

OneDice is a light, simple system in which everything that happens is resolved by a single roll of one six-sided die. (hence the name). There are a couple of OneDice books available for various genres.

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I won’t go into too much detail on the rules, but they’re pretty light and can probably be picked up quickly.

Characters have 3 Abilities – Strong, Clever, and Quick (Weird is an additional choice for super-powered characters). You get 7 points to assign to each item.

Health, Defense, and Move are all calculated from the Abilities

There’s a list of skills. Players can assign 6 points to various skills.

There’s a list of talents – exceptional abilities – that the players can choose from.

Running the game is pretty simple – when undertaking the action, you roll a single six sided die and adds his appropriate ability score and skill level. If you equal or exceed the difficulty level of the task, you succeed. If you’re competing against someone else, your opponent will make a similar roll. The high value is the winner.

GM’s stuff

The GM’s section starts off with the standard “What is Pulp?” intro. It’s short, just a few pages, but does hit all of the high points of the pulp genre. It’s probably not great for people new to pulp, but it’s a decent overview.

The rest of the section contains more practical GM material, discussing how to set up hazards, assign experience, run chases, and a few other optional rules. There’s also a list of monsters and other opponents, and a list of 1930’s style vehicles.

Pulp Earth

The Pulp Earth chapter is list of possible settings for pulp games. Essentially it’s just a list of possible places and locations for adventures. All of the usual suspects are here – the South Seas, Antarctica, Lost Worlds, Hollow Earth, etc. Each location has a few sentences describing possible scenario ideas for each, none of it in any great detail. If you know pulp, nothing here is new, but it’s probably a good resource for newer GMs.

Pulp Skins

Most of the book is geared towards a 1930’s Hero Pulp style of game, but they do provide a few alternate worlds (“skins”, as the book put it). Each has a list of creatures, equipment, and some alternate rules. Note that all of these are short, only a few pages each.

There’s a Horror section with detailed Sanity Rules and a list of monsters.

There’s a Science Fiction section with some new skills and creatures. It aims to replicate Buck Rodgers\Flash Gordon style science fiction.

The Sword & Sorcery section – essentially just a list of monsters. It briefly names a few fictional kingdoms, but it’s nothing you couldn’t make up on the spot.

Summary

Basically, I’m favor of this book. It’s clearly written, and the rules, though very light, are pretty logical and easy to remember. Though none of the setting information is detailed in any way, there are a lot of stats for monsters, characters, and vehicles ready to go. I wouldn’t run a long term campaign with OneDice, but I think it’s great for quick games and one-shots.

One other plus for me – the book is small (6 x9″), and only 100 pages. It’s easy to throw it in a a bag and run it as a one shot. It’s also nice not to need any special dice.

 

Spirit of The Century (Part 4) – Pulp Advice

The last part of the Tips & Tricks chapter discusses a number of topics, all related to keeping a pulp tone in a game. It’s a little too wide-ranging to talk about in any detail, but some of the following ideas are discussed:

  • Keeping the action on a clock
  • Providing clues to players
  • Insuring everything is action-oriented
  • Proper use of clichés
  • Creating  deathtraps
  • Building mysteries
  • Framing scenes
  • Using montages and cut scenes

All of it is good well-thought advice to “Keep it Pulpy“, as they put it. Once again, this whole chapter makes the book a must buy, purely for this chapter.

Spirit of The Century (Part 3) – Pickup Games

The heart of the Spirit of the Century (SOTC) book, and I think the best reason to pick this up, is the chapter on how to run a pulp adventure. It’s geared to SOTC, but the ideas and advice would work in any pulp game. This chapter – “Tips and Tricks” – justifies the purchase of this book for any pulp GM.

It starts out describing how set up a Pickup Game – a quickly organized game, where you don’t know what adventure you’ll be running or how many players you’ll have beforehand. Then it describes the various approaches of running a Pickup Game. The following are just a summary of the approaches:

Structured Pickup Game

This method all of the story beats you’d find in a pulp adventure – Endangering the Characters, Certain Doom, Twists, etc. with a description and several examples of each. The idea is that the GM would create or improvise each of these things, and tie them all together at the end.

Aspected Pickup Game

In comparison, the Aspected Pickup game is a lot more loose. Instead of working out a plot beforehand, the GM sets up Decision Points – dramatic moments where the players are forced to make a choice. These would be based on the aspects of the characters. For example, if a character had a Secret Identity aspect, the GM might put the player in a position where they had to risk revealing their identity to save a friend from mortal peril. This method has the advantage of  pulling in players to the action. It will require a lot more improvisation on the part of the GM.

Dynamic Pickup Game

First, you set up the hook – the thing everyone in the story interested in. In movie fan lingo, they would call this a McGuffin. Next, you decide what NPCs are after the item, and what they’re willing to do to get it.

That’s it. They cover this in more detail, and tell you how to flesh out the plot, but that is the basic structure.

What do I use?

When I’ve run my SOTC games, I’ve generally been using a combination of Aspected and Dynamic styles. I usually have a few hooks and NPC’s prepared, but I also have scenes designed to test the players specific abilities and aspects. The first method – Structured, seems a little too railroad for my taste.

 

Spirit of The Century (Part 2) – The Background

The basic concept is that the players are all members of the Century Club, a global organization with chapters around the world. Publicly, it’s a group of rich adventurers and explorers. Secretly, it’s controlled by the Centurions, a group of exceptional individuals who here all born on January 1st, 1901. Most of the players are expected to be Centurions. The background hints at other, more powerful kinds of Centurions, and a mysterious ancient linage to the club itself, but the details are left to the GM.

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Comic fans familiar with Warren Ellis’s work might have heard of this idea before. Many of his characters in his Authority and Planetary comics had the same trait. They were called Century Babies in his work, but the basic idea was similar. The pulp characters Ellis introduced in Planetary #1  are pretty much perfect Spirit of the Century characters.

The Century Club concept makes a good starting point for a pulp campaign. If you’re just starting out with pulp, I think I’d recommend it. I’ll admit, that though I’ve been running Spirit for the last few years, I’ve never used it. If you’ve got a good handle of the pulp archetypes and stories, it’s not absolutely necessary.

Spirit of the Century (Part 1) – Rules

My go-to system for pulp adventures is Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century. It’s based on their FATE system.

sotc-220If you’re not used to FATE, it can be a big adjustment form more traditional role-playing games. It’s a much more narrative system, better suited to simulating genres and quick play than more mechanical systems.

The advantage to this is that it’s a lot easier to set up a quick encounter by using the aspects feature in FATE.

Aspects are just a quick means to describe a property of a place or person. This applies to everything in the game, including the PCs. Aspects can be  physical, mental, or just genre-based. Anything that would affect the story.

If i need a band of cultists quickly, I can just say they  have the aspects Fanatical Cultists, Protect Idol at All Costs, and Can only Fight in Packs. That’s all the information I need to run an encounter. (there are some other stats, but they’re quite simple to make up)

I can create a place quickly, by just listing a bunch of aspects – Shadowy Corners, Rickety Stairs, Crates of Weird Artifacts, etc.

I won’t go into details of how it all works, but the aspects aren’t just for flavor, they have an actual mechanical effect in the game. There’s a good intro at https://fate-srd.com/

The full Spirit of the Century rule set is at http://www.faterpg.com/dl/sotc-srd.html

The nice thing about SOTC is that it’s ridiculously easy to make up a scenario quickly. It’s specifically designed for “pick-up” play, so you can run a game with little preparation.

On the con side: FATE can take some getting used to, and it helps to have the special FATE dice, though ordinary six sided dice can be used.

SOTC is currently out of print as a paper version, but the PDF and E-book versions are still available.