'Course, the other problem is finding players who want to use these older games rather than flavors of the month.
When you say "Gunsmoke," most people think "Western." Yet audiences were surprised by it when it debuted on radio in 1952, as it was unlike the Westerns that had proceeded it. In fact, the writers had pulled a fast one, presenting the tropes of hard-boiled detective fiction in Western drag. Matt Dillion was a lonely, isolated man whose nobility was compromised by his ongoing relationship with a local prostitute, Miss Kitty. His adventures were grim. Sometimes he failed. The bad guys got away unpunished. The good guys died instead of being rescued at the last minute. The producers claimed it was Western adventure for adults; but really it presented Western adventure through the world-weary eyes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
You can do the same in your "mandatory" elves and hobbits game. Fantasy, like science fiction and superheroics, is amenable to all sorts of genre-bending. You've just got to keep it subtle. If your player-characters are up against foreign spies and saboteurs -- and why wouldn't they be? -- it's just as easy for the villains to be representatives of a Roman-ish or Spartan-ish evil empire as Imperial Japanese or fascist Germans. Mad science, super weapons, mutant creatures? Sure, why not? You've already got evil sorcerers and "science for science's sake" alchemists running around. Urban adventure has become a fantasy standard; who says Los Angeles and San Francisco have a monopoly on corrupt officials, hired goons, and insidious crime lords? Fantasy heroes often travel to strange new lands; lost worlds adventures are a no-brainer. Ditto, trading in strange ports and battling pirates. Keep the focus on solving problems and solving mysteries rather than on dungeon crawling; on the other hand, Allan Quartermain and Indiana Jones weren't averse to treasure hunting. Ditch the dragons and wandering monsters, keep the crazy deathtraps, give the PCs human opponents to deal with. Westerns? Fantasy folk settle the frontier, herd cattle, have to get them to market, must fight off rustlers and savage tribesmen just like anyone else. Sheesh, since some fantasy settings include winged mounts and flying ships, you could even sneak in some pulp air combat adventures. Much of it is a matter of attitude and presentation. It may be a while, if ever, before your players realize they've been in a pulp adventure campaign instead of a vanilla fantasy one.
Steve Devaney's "The Skull of the Sleeper" in A Nation Ransomed is an excellent example of this. It presents itself as a fantasy adventure. In reality, it's an old-fashioned South Pacific pulp yarn worthy of Louis L'Amour and L. Ron Hubbard. Leave the scary natives intact, replace the wizard with a mad scientist, give your PCs fedoras and pistols instead of swords and breastplates, and you're there. Only, you'll be doing this in reverse.
Thanks for the advice, but I should rephrase, perhaps, to be clearer: I have zero interest in "fantasy" settings, elves, magic items, dragons, and the rest. It could be the greatest plot ever conceived, but I wouldn't want to run it as I find those trappings incredibly boring. I have such little free time, I'd rather read a book than play a fantasy game just to get some RPG larks in. I'm odd man out in the RPG world as I have never been interested in the most popular setting for RPGs. Tough row to hoe, but so be it.
I'm sorry. And I understand. I've played pulp, superhero, science fiction, and cartoon games exclusively myself. Fantasy role-playing was considered evil in the late '70s and early '80s when I got involved, so alternate genres were a way to get my "weirdness" past my parents. Even though I played Traveller instead of D&D, they still worried that I'd turn out to be the family warlock. Call of Cthulhu would have been a non-starter. One look at the cover and ...
(Sigh. They always knew where I was and what I was doing. I didn't roam the streets, didn't get involved in crime, wasn't drinking or doing drugs, wasn't getting the high school cheerleaders pregnant, etc., etc. Grumble. Grumble.)
I've been (re)watching Disney's Gargoyles with my daughter. It's essentially superheroes with bat wings instead of capes.
Last edited by seneschal; September 7th, 2013 at 19:53. Reason: Add comments
My first experience with Pulp gaming was from the March 1981 issue of Dragon magazine. A twenty-odd page mini-RPG by David Cook, called Crimefighters. It was quite amazing how much he packed in to those pages, and I've used parts of the game (Contact Career Table, Experience Types, Vehicle Damage chart) over the years. The basic stats were based on 1D100 rolls. Ran a couple adventures with Crimefighters, but at the time lacked the experience and resources to really to run it properly. It was fun though.
I would go on to pick up Justice Inc. which is an excellent resource, but I never cared for the Hero game system all that much. Years later, I ran a tweaked version of Superworld, which I called Pulpworld. Set in the early 1930's it lasted about five adventures. It was very much a minor super hero type of roleplaying, not the detective stuff. I also grabbed a copy of Daredevils and all the modules, that I know of, for it. Actually, I even have a copy of the old FGU Gangsters RPG.
There are online resources now, and running a pulp period game would not be all that difficult. It is a harder sell to players if they feel they have to know about the history and historic events versus a modern day setting or fantasy where everything is wide open. I have felt for decades now that I want to run games other than the fantasy stuff, as everyone is doing that. Mildly surprised I am not alone in feeling that way.
Of course, I would default to some version of BRP to run most any game, as I can't be bothered to read and learn a new game system. The only recent exception to that being Supers! which is a simple game system. All this reminds me that I need to pick up a copy of Astounding Adventures too.
Last edited by ORtrail; September 11th, 2013 at 07:48.