One of the genres that have seen quite a lot of renewed interest in recent times is the pulp genre. That statement is true and not true at the same time. Why? It’s true because you hear a lot more talk about pulp games or games with pulp elements but if you look a bit closer, you notice that there has always been a strong pulp influence in gaming even if you didn’t call it that way.
So, what is Pulp anyway?
Pulp magazines were inexpensive fiction magazines that were widely published from the 1920s through the 1950s. Pulp magazines featured stories from many genres including fantasy/sword and sorcery, science fiction, detective/mystery, horror/occult, western and many more. Noteable writers that have written “pulp stories” include Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Mark Twain and H. G. Wells.
So the pulp genre is much bigger than most of us would believe. I think most people cringe when authors like Isaac Asimov or Mark Twain are called “pulp authors”, including me, but that’s what they wrote. And the pulp genre is probably defined more by its format and not the quality of writing. A recurring element were brightly colored covers with motives that more often than not featured a scantily clad damsel in distress.
Pulp in roleplaying
When we look at the list of authors that wrote pulp stories, we notice that a lot of games could be called pulp genre games. But usually we limit the pulp genre to games inspired by the more blatant features of this broad genre. Usually pulp genre games copy the artwork style from magazines like Amazing Stores or Phantom Detective even down to the price tag. The classic pulp genre roleplaying game focusses on fantastic stories, two-fisted no-nonsense characters and epic vistas. Especially Exile Game Studio’s Hollow World Expedition and Evil Hat Productions’ Spirit of the Century come to mind. So why seems there be a heightened interest in this genre recently?
For one the pulp genre was always one of the favorite gaming genres even when we didn’t call it that way. Even D&D or Traveller have been strongly influenced by pulp magazines. Since H.P. Lovecraft’s stories appeared in pulp magazines, too, even horror games like Call of Cthulhu are in fact pulp games although almost all features I listed before are missing. Another factor is the internet. In earlier times most people just didn’t know what was out there. I know groups who played D&D ad infinitum without ever knowing that there were other games, other worlds, other genres out there. The internet changed a lot of that. And people are getting tired of the same old game again and again.
And it seems the old pulp stories are old enough now to feel fresh and vibrant again!
So, what are your favorite pulp games? As always I love to read your comments, so please speak your mind using the comment section below!