Or – "What’s With The Pulp Stuff, Buddy?"

By Howard "Masked Avenger" Whitehouse

I relived those ages of horror and torment in the green-gold room: I saw again the malignant dwarf – A hashashin" Weymouth had told me. "They belong to the Old Man of the Mountain – Sheikh Ismail." I heard the creature’s dying shrieks; I saw the dacoit return, carrying his bloody knife.

Sax Rohmer, The Daughter of Fu Manchu, 1931

I was looking at the cover of a magazine from my grandfather’s time. Aircraft of the First World War swirled around the sky. The Allied flyers were clean-limbed and determined. The Germans employed a considerable number of skeletons to man the basket of a barrage balloon. The owner of the magazine and I agreed that there was much about WWI that had been hushed up, and he showed me similar covers in which Oriental panthermen, monstrous creatures, and a small man dressed like a banker all threatened an American pilot known as "G-8." This was not your everyday hero of the air. I was at something called "The Fantastic Pulps Show", money was leaping out of my pocket, and a stack of cheap novelettes written in the thirties went home with me.

Pulp. High Adventure. Men in snappy fedoras and dangerous dames, with blazing .45 automatics in one hand and a knife in their shoe. Chinese criminal masterminds and their minions. Men of Bronze who carry small explosive charges hidden in their back teeth. Beings who wish to destroy the Earth, or at least New York City, or subdue the populace with mind-numbing drugs to do their fiendish bidding.

What on earth can it all mean?

It’s the world as seen in cheap magazines and low budget movies from the 1920's to sometime in the Fifties, when television and comic books took over. Film Noir, hard-boiled novels, pulp magazines with Charles Atlas advertisements in the back, that sort of thing. A world where most of Africa, Asia and South America are covered by impenetrable jungles, where Southern California is inexplicably dark and rainy, and where most of Canada is under an ice-cap year round. A world where private eyes fight hoodlums, but where heroes–often cunningly disguised by wearing a tiny silk mask, which fools even their closest friends–save the world from ambitious mad scientists, laughably inept aliens and, quite often, the Germans. A world with garish posters featuring a lot of Colt automatics, green gripping monster hands, and women in far too much mascara and far too few clothes for respectable tastes. Read by flashlight under the covers, saved your pennies for Saturday morning cinema.

"Pulp" requires that you see the world through the eyes of a certain sort of audience. Often it’s a fifteen year old American kid in 1934; at least, that was who Lester Dent–the writer of the Doc Savage books–was aiming at. What you need are simple heroes, evil opponents, and a good deal of gee-whiz science. Geography can be vague, history ludicrous, but as long as it moves fast and good wins out, that’s all fine.

If you were a hard boiled writer–Dashiel Hammett or Raymond Chandler, for example–the audience was older, less innocent, but still looking for a world where good people stood against evil–even if you couldn’t find a doctor who wouldn’t drug you and lock you at his private sanatorium. This style demanded strongly defined heroes and villains, although the more sophisticated heroes might be fairly jaded, and have their own bad habits. Actually, everyone has bad habits, as well as regrets, debts and losing bets.

Pulp is, in many ways, the successor to Victorian Adventure (of which I have written in these pages). It begins after WWI, in a world that was different in many ways from the one that had gone before. Popular entertainment focussed on the new movie industry, and film stars became a new royalty. Writing styles became brief, slangy, action-oriented. Whereas Britain had been the cultural centre of the English-speaking world, now it was the United States. If Victorian Adventure spoke in the voice of Wells or Conan Doyle, Pulp sounded like Jimmy Cagney. It was flashy, garish, neon-lit. It didn’t have a lot of class, but it had nerve. And Pulp Adventure Gaming is based on those premises. It’s wild, frantic stuff, without a lot of concern for realism. Its only demand is to be true to the conventions of the genre. So fire eight times with your revolver, and pass the popcorn. We may not live to see the credits.

Where It All Comes From

"Pulp" simply refers to the cheap pulpwood paper that popular low-end magazines were printed on up until the 1950's–as opposed to the "slicks" that went for a more prosperous audience. Pulps were done on the cheap, with fantastic, gaudy cover art and a lot of short stories and brief novels in tiny print inside. There were all sorts of pulp magazines: Westerns, Detectives, Jungle Adventure, Gangsters, "Spicy", Sports, "Tales of the Orient", Love-story, Aviation, War, "Fantastic", "Shudder" with names like "Black Mask" and "Dime Detective". Writers like Dash Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury and E.E. "Doc" Smith began their careers as pulp writers–almost everyone with a typewriter in North America tried to get published in the pulps, often under many names and in different genres than you’d expect. What’s a baseball story by Robert E Howard like? Is Conan at the plate yet? Will anyone collect the western stories of L. Ron Hubbard? Are there any unpublished H.P. Lovecraft Ranch Romances? Most pulp writers used aliases, and many authors named on the cover were actually several different people taking turns to knock out "The Spider" or "The Shadow."

There’s a British school of thrillers from the same period that have pretty much got lost under the genteel murders of Agatha Christie and the wonderful Dorothy L. Sayers. Leslie Charteris’ "The Saint" was urbane, yet deadly. John Buchan (The Thirty Nine Steps) was a master of chase scenes, while towards WW II Eric Ambler began to write dark, brooding spy novels. But the popular stuff, written at amazing speed–which shows, badly–is by Edgar Wallace, Dornford Yates, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Sax Rohmer and "Sapper". It’s more reliant on left hooks than bullets, fast sports cars and railway carriages, and often has a nasty streak that sits badly on the polite manners of the heroes. Somehow, to modern eyes, a tough PI in Los Angeles can get away with a mean streak of what we’d call anti-semitism, homophobia, racism and sexism better than a man with an Oxford education. But that’s just the modern world looking back, and there’s no percentage in playing critic. It’s better to poke holes in everyone equally. As Dr. Fu Manchu would tell you.

And there’s adventure stories aimed at a juvenile audience, which is sometimes deliberately stated–"Boy’s Own Paper," etc–and sometimes not. Tarzan and Doc Savage almost certainly had a younger audience than The Continental Op, and you can usually tell from the tone of the writing what’s what. Biggles, intrepid British aviator over four or more decades, he was always the boy for me. Wizard prang, Algy –-

The movies offered high art and low cost entertainment. The "art" part, which came to be known as film noir, stems from a school of cinema where, despite having high-falutin’ colour technology available, everything was shot in very stark black and white, with deep shadows. Actually, it was French critics that gave it the name; everyone doing in the inter-war years just called it "hard-boiled". The hallmarks were tough talk, bad faith and two-timing anyone who can be two-timed. Sometimes there’s a hero, a white knight on the Chandler model; sometimes everyone is mired in moral quicksand. Have a look at classic movies like The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity or Touch of Evil.

At the other end of the spectrum both in style and audience were the ‘B’ movies and Saturday morning serials, made cheap and fast, with cardboard characters in front of plywood scenery. In between it’s Boris Karloff in the original The Mummy, the Tarzan movies....

Gaming "Pulp"

Pulp, like Victorian Adventure, can be approached from more than one direction. You can treat it as a historical period, with sensational overtones. You can treat it in the same way you’d approach a fantasy game, with expected stereotypes, and a consistency that comes from the rules and conventions of the genre–Private Eye, Jungle Adventure, Sword-and-Sorcery, Spicy, or whatever.

Real Life in the inter-war period was not good for most people. There was revolution and civil war in Russia, more of the same in China, Spain, and elsewhere. Germany’s fragile democracy collapsed into Naziism. Mussolini’s fascists took over Italy, and made war in Libya and Ethiopia. Iraq and Palestine rebelled against British administration. Most of Europe was dirt poor after the Great War, and what little prosperity there was – mostly in the USA– was undermined by corruption and organised crime. Then the Depression came, and everyone was in trouble. It’s not a fertile period for heroic, two-fisted gaming, you’d have thought. In fact, our sources in film, books and magazine chose largely to ignore reality completely. You can wargame the Russian Civil War, Franco’s attack on Madrid or the Italians in Libya, but it’s not likely to be Pulp. It’s likely to be grim and gritty, which is fine, but, well, not Pulp.

There are some real events that offer fertile ground, however. The North West Frontier of India was still ablaze with tribal risings, and the addition of aircraft and armoured cars on one side, and magazine rifles on the other, actually gave an advantage to the tribesmen. The French were fighting in Morocco and Syria. The US fought a lot of little wars in the Caribbean, mostly supporting their own fruit companies against the local peasants–of course, the spin doctors turned that around!

Sensationalism was almost the watchword of the brash 1920's when it came to what people were interested in. Indeed, it almost surpassed itself in the dreary, hopeless 1930's. It was a time of much publicized heroes, like Lindberg, or the traveller (it was hard to be an explorer anymore) Richard Halliburton. Flyers were intent on establishing records of any and every kind. Gangsters hung out with film stars, and vice versa. They wore $1000 suits in yellow silk, and courted the press. Colonel Fawcett managed to get himself lost (permanently) in the Amazon. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb–and the "curse" associated with it–caused a wave of fascination with all things ancient Egyptian. Rudolph Valentino finished T.H. Lawrence’s work in making Bedouin Arabs fascinating to westerners, in an exotic, unreal sort of way. Dinosaur hunter Roy Chapman Andrews managed to parlay his genuinely scientific expeditions into Mongolia into a money-making, highly publicized enterprise. There were cameras everywhere. There were movies everywhere too, and the fifteen year old kid from Iowa could be excused if he wasn’t sure why Tarzan of the Apes was not out there looking for the missing Colonel.

Now, this is "pulp reality", where celebrity heroes and villains engage in things that are dangerous– often pointlessly so–for public voyeurism. Everyone is bigger than life. Some pulp reality games might involve:

Pure Entertainment. The next step on from "pulp reality" is to add those elements that, well, any fifteen year old would endorse. Take a plot item from the list we’ve just looked at. Let’s go with Chapman Andrews, who many have identified as "the real Indiana Jones". Reading the excellent biography, Dragon Hunter, it becomes clear that Andrews used neither whips or dynamite as key tools in excavation. He only shot one person –himself, accidentally, in the foot. His problems with the Chinese warlords were mostly about having the right papers, and were solved with negotiations rather than gunfire. He was looking for fossils of many kinds, most of which were not nearly as sensational as the newspapers made out. So, we ask ourselves...

Great! So you can see, we’ve really improved this whole "researchers from a museum" thing into something you’d want to read about in a 25 cent magazine with a lurid cover.

Pulp Heroes are a step away from dreary reality. Ordinary heroes with powerful fists and Colt .45's are excellent in their own way, of course, but disguised vigilantes with secret identities, and possibly secret hideouts are better still! Think of them as being the forebears of superheroes, with capes and masks but without the spandex and the underpants worn outside.

The Shadow, hero of print, radio and later on, the silver screen. Black fedora and cape, blazing automatics, dead criminals. He has a vague but immensely powerful ability to "cloud mens’ minds", so that they can’t see him.

The Spider is the next step on from the Shadow, a man whose personal demons have pretty much taken over his crimefighting efforts. Bob Murch suggests that he be regarded like a random artillery round; he arrives through the skylight, blasts everyone around him, then leaves again. In one issue of his magazine, he leads a hobo army against the evil forces that have overtaken the USA.

The Phantom Detective is an urbane, society man who (donning the little black mask) fights criminals. A bit dull, really, but he remained in print for two decades.

Gaming any of these really just involves taking a gangster game and adding a spectacularly effective hero figure, who can arrive and leave with incredible speed, shoots absurdly well, and apparently receives no wounds, ever. No problem there.

Doc Savage – the Man of Bronze – does without the disguise, but (through training, exercise and really good genetics) have a mixture of superhuman skills and fantastic, self-invented gizmos. Doc also has a crack team of five genius sidekicks, whose main function is to need rescuing. They communicate in "ancient Mayan", wouldn't you?

Doc operates world-wide, so is an adventure hero in every possible setting. On a scale of 1-6, Doc rates a "9" or so in most skills, so once again, he is disproportionately powerful. However, he seldom kills anyone, preferring to knock them out and send them to (get this!) his private reform institution in upstate New York. It has been pointed out, however, that Doc’s enemies frequently end up dead in fortuitous accidents, so it’s not all trips to rehab.

"Operator 5" is Jimmy Christopher, an American secret agent who is the key to defending the republic against the massive invasion of "The Purple Emperor", ruler of a strangely multi-ethnic, but savage, empire bent on world domination. Managing to combine "yellow peril" paranoia, grand strategy and stupid headgear all in one place, these late 1930's stories fell out of favour when audiences noticed that there were real enemies out there that were far more interesting than the Purple Empire.

What little I have read in this series is more like a military/resistance theme than the usual crimefighting or defeating mad villains. If you like the idea of America being overrun by Asian Fascists (I mean "playing a game", not actually) with a ridiculously effective hero leading the resistance, this might be a spin off version of WWII skirmish gaming.

Heroes of the Air included G-8 (a fighter pilot/spy who, with his two buddies, defeated the Germans in 1918), Dusty Ayres, and the really bizarre Terrence X. O’Leary and his Warbirds. If you think that air pulps should be relatively straightforward, with machine guns and Immelman turns providing the excitement, you’d be wrong. In short order, there were the Kaiser’s zombies, leaping Chinese villains, and incredibly hokey horror and Sci-Fi elements.

What you need here is a workable set of WWI dogfight rules, with an addition of quite absurd horror and fantasy elements. Once you have decided that Eastern assassins can, in fact, jump from plane to plane with knives in their teeth, it’s just a question of adding some extra rules. To counter this extra detail, you can ignore many of the real differences between plane types, as pulp authors had little concept of actual technical performance.

Pulp Fantastic! Beyond the realm of the masked and unmasked heroes, who fight for good in the same world that we inhabit (as long as we inhabit it in 1933), there is what will come to be called "Science Fiction" and "Fantasy". This is Buck Rogers (first seen in Amazing Stories in 1928, before he hit the comic books), and Captain Future, who intersected with the present day to save America (a lot) when a president who seems very like Roosevelt calls on him. Pulp-era science fiction is wonderful in its naivete, all bubble-helmet spacemen, babes in brass bikinis, and monsters with huge staring eyes. Most of us are familiar with various science fiction wargames, usually set in techy worlds of "hard SF" or dystopian universes like Warhammer 40K. Pulp SF games – and I’m only imagining here –ought to have a playful, golly-wow feel to them, with amazing (read "completely unconvincing") scientific discoveries, aliens that we of a later time would simply laugh at, and a good deal of fist-fighting inside glass bubbles. You have to like that.

The other direction that the wonder pulps took was fantasy, a very mixed bag of Robert E. Howard’s Conan and others, Edgar Rice Burrough’s various worlds, oriental tales and anything both horrific and too big to crawl out of a crypt (we’ll get to that next). Fantasy wargaming flirted with the Conan-type of world in the 1970's, but somehow the savage worlds of brawny barbarians was overwhelmed by the sub-Tolkien legions of elves and orcs. Time for a revival, by Crom?

The "Shudder Pulps" were horror tales. At the literary end, we have H.P. Lovecraft and his followers, with the well-developed world of the Cthulhu mythos. These have survived and been built upon to form almost a genre in itself. At the other end, it’s the grasping giant hands and bottle-blondes in nighties. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Horror is quite hard to game because, er, we aren’t frightened. We saw that monster come out of a box, and we remember buying it at a toyshop and repainting it from the nasty green plastic thing it was. My most successful horror games have been "double blind" affairs where the players only saw things when they jumped on their characters.

"Hard Boiled" is pretty much the opposite to the "wonder" pulps with their proto-SF stories. These are gritty crime stories, aimed at an older audience, without zombies or gripping green hands, and a fairly tight hand on the young women in lingerie. Magazines such as Black Mask defined the private eye/detective genre that we all immediately connect with Bogart, trenchcoats and rainy nights in L.A. Games in this genre will have a strong role-playing component, require few figures but lots of cars, small scenes of city streets and deserted roads through canyons. Visibility is shockingly poor at all times, and the protagonists may well be drunk at any time of day. Snappy repartee is crucial. I love this stuff!

Gaming Hard-Boiled action is essentially a variant on the historical gangster and cop sort of game. Obviously, the Private Eye is essentially a lone wolf, and will need a certain amount of unfair advantage to stay alive. He should be beaten up and left in alleys rather than killed. There will be femme fatales, occasional friendly cops, and villains who decide they like to have him around. We don’t know why.

The Yellow Peril and other Threats to Civilisation were tremendously popular. The Victorian fear of Chinese domination (at a time when China was as weak as it has ever been) extended into a world of "Oriental" supervillains, and their Chinatown minions. Fu Manchu was copied as Wu Fang and Dr. Yen Sing. The Shadow and the Spider found Eastern adversaries in many stories. Even Hammett had to feature an Asian villain in The House on Turk St. In response, there came a few Asian good guys like Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto.

For gaming purposes, the Yellow Peril offers not only traditional Chinoiserie, with sorcerers and assassins and men with really big fireworks, but a whole new generation of Tong gangsters, Eastern Science, and a real new enemy–Imperial Japan.

Western Adventure was a staple of the Pulps. This was a West that somehow segued strangely between the 1870's and the present, so that the whole USA west of the Mississippi featured cars, and radios, and cowboys with sixguns and Indians on the warpath. Many of the cowboys sang, as well, and orchestras played from behind a large cactus. My friend Patrick Wilson, of Oklahoma City, thinks this is remarkable, as he recalls no rampaging Redmen during his childhood, but I suspect he’s just a few years too young. A variant of the western is the North-West Romance, which features lone red-coated Mounties taking on mixed breed villains with bad French accents. Apparently biracial parentage was a cause for criminal behaviour in itself.

There’s all kinds of Western gunfight rules out there. A Pulp version should simply feature more heroes shooting guns out of villain’s hands, and sudden "Modernisms" like a carful of gangsters taking on Sitting Bull’s feather-bonneted hordes (who may appear Italian or Mexican, as movie extras might).

The Undead Arisen! Zombies, mummies and skeletons are really central to the world of Pulp Horror. There were really ideal for the silent cinema, of course. So, Pulp is an ideal opportunity to get the skellies out. You really don’t need an excuse.

Weird Science is at the core of so much Pulp. The period after WWI provides us with a great deal of what we think of as the ordinary devices of the modern world–cars, radios, working aircraft–so, unlike the world of Victorian Adventure, you can buy a Ford rather than rely on your crazy inventor uncle to build something wacky. However, the very ordinariness of these things means that it takes an extra level of scientific effort to impress us. When it’s the heroes doing it, it’s "superscience", with Doc Savage’s submarine, and the Spider’s planes, which are somehow better than normal. There’s not much of the Tom Clancy tech-speak in Pulp; the writers don’t (can’t?) explain very much in the way of engineering detail. Villains, of course, rely on a more malign spirit of massive devices designed to inflict death, and, of course, conquer the world. There’s almost no limit to the scope of these machines.

Movies, Books, And Stuff


Read any old Pulps you can find, in original or reprint form. There are plenty of cheap reprints of Doc Savage and the Shadow, at the very least. Look for Chandler, Hammett and a few others in the mystery aisle of your bookstore – or Buchan, Wallace or Charteris if you like the English style. Second-hand bookshops are often the best for this stuff, as it is considered dated by the publishing industry – fools!! In recent years the Fu Manchu novels have been collected in four omnibus volumes, while several anthologies of mostly crime stories have appeared – ‘Pulp Action’, ‘A Century of Noir’.

Modern novels in the pulp style vary from Barbara Hambly’s Bride of the Rat God which has a pure pulp plot) to Max Allan Collins superb Nathan Heller PI series, which starts with True Crime and deals with actual people and events from the 1930s onwards. Tom Bradby’s The Master of Rain is a thriller set amongst the corruption of 1925 Shanghai, as is Bartle Bull’s The White Russian (AKA ‘Shanghai Station’). Paul Malmont’s The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril features actual period pulp writers in the midst of the adventure.

Pulp Culture, by Frank M Robinson and Lawrence Davidson (1998), is a big, glossy book of magazine cover art, with a fascinating linking text. It has a back cover illustration showing two Chinese assassins landing on G-8’s biplane in mid air, which is just what we like to see.

Don Hutchison, a Toronto enthusiast, wrote The Great Pulp Heroes a survey of characters from Doc Savage and the Spider, through Operator 5 and flyer Dusty Ayres, to obscurities like Tarzan knock-off Ki-gor. Highly recommended. Hutchison also compiled two books of Yellow Peril tales (It’s Raining Corpses in Chinatown and It’s Raining More Corpses in Chinatown) and Scarlet Riders, Canadian Mountie stories.

There are, of course, all sorts of non-fiction books about gangsters, cars, weapons, historical events and such-like.


Watch classic (good or bad) movies on Channel 109 at 4 in the morning. Go to the video store and look for anything with Cagney, Bogart or Edward G Robinson. The Big Sleep (1946) is one of my favourite films of any genre. You’ll probably have to seek out a specialist mail order dealer for Saturday morning serials and B-movies. More recent films that I’d recommend are –

The Indiana Jones movies. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles were made for TV and are too darned educational for their own good, but still worth a look.

The Mummy, it’s two sequels, and The Scorpion King (which is hokum of the highest order)

The Phantom (1996) and The Shadow (1994).

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, from 2003

Mobsters, Hoodlum, Miller’s Crossing, The Man Who wasn’t There, Chinatown, The Newton Boys as period pieces. Big Trouble in Little China for Pulp feel in the present day. O Brother Where Art Thou? For the fun of it. Anything with zombies.

Websites To Peek At

The Pulp Net will find pretty much anything Pulp-related.

The Pulp Gallery is all about garish covers.

The Pulp Magazines Project is scanning in old copies of Pulp Magazines for you to read online.

Figures and Stuff

I use 25/28mm figures, so I know about them best. I’m not saying you can’t use anything else. I just can’t comment on anything else.

Pulp Figures are the work of ace two-fisted sculptor Bob Murch. So far he has made a variety of excellent figures for his ‘China Station’ locale – US navy, tong members, German marines, Chinese warlord soldiers – plus sets of ‘sinister spies’, ‘dangerous dames’, gangsters, Neanderthals, adventurers, rocketeers and Pulp heroes whose names have been changed. http://www.pulpfigures.com/

Copplestone Castings by the excellent Mark Copplestone feature three lines that you might want to look at. "Back of Beyond" is mostly about Central Asia in the 1920s, with Bolsheviks, Chinese, savage archaeologists and the always-popular yetis. "High Adventure" adds things like dogsleds, Amazon explorers, bears and – wait for it – penguins. Damn, that curdles the blood. Lastly, "Return to Darkest Africa" adds to the huge range he began with The Foundry.

Castaway Arts are an Australian company, who come to our notice for their excellent French Foreign Legion and opponents, and also the only known model of the Ark of the Covenant carried by priests (pack ACC022 consists of 1930’s Germans suitable for carrying the re-discovered Ark…).

Steve Barber Models have a line of 25mm gangsters and G-men, which are a little smaller than the present style – I mount ‘em on a penny, then glue that to my usual steel washer base, to add height, like elevator shoes. They also have a range of cavemen.

Iron Wind Metals are the current incarnation of venerable US fantasy maker, Ral Partha. For our purposes, look at the twenty figures of cops, gangsters and adventurers.

RAFM are a long established Canadian company whose Call of Chtulhu range (from the sinewy hands of Bob Murch) feature not only nameless creatures from other worlds – as you’d expect – but useful 1920s humans from cops to escaped lunatics. The character sets are usually variants on the same persona in the three stages of beginning character, experienced, and completely insane.

Wargames Foundry have huge and vast ranges from ancient times to cyberpunk, but most useful for our purposes are the Darkest Africa range, Colonial India (for Pathans and Indian troops) WW2 for those pesky Nazis and – this may just be me – Trojan Wars and European Bronze Age for Atlantis and Conan types.

Eureka from Australia specialize in the unusual –the weird. If you want 20’s flappers, cultists in robes (my favourites – what’s a game without cultists) and all sorts of mostly Victorian oddities of steam and bicycularity, this is the place to go.

Brigade Games are the US importers for several fine lines, but are especially noteworthy for their own ranges of WWII Pulp Horror, gangsters and adventurers, as well as WWI figures and vehicles for Europe, Africa and the Middle East fronts. Uniquely, Lon Weiss offers a Pulp era ‘Caribbean Empires’ line with US Marines, Sandinistas, Haitian zombies and Jivaro headhunters. Brigade are strong on all sorts of zombies, various experiments by Nazi scientists, and vampire-fighting nuns.

Old Glory also have massive ranges. Probably for our purposes the WW1 range (with downed pilots of several nations!) and the deliberately Hollywood ‘natives’ from the pirate and Africa lines are of most interest.

The related WEST WIND company makes an excellent range called "Gothic Horror" – mostly Victorian-ish – with zombies and werewolves, yetis, mummies and cultists.

A href="http://www.rlbps.com" target="blank"> RLBPS is Bob and Ann Bowling, US dealers in British miniatures, who carry Copplestone, Steve Barber, Honourable Lead Boiler Suit and others. Good people.

NORTH BAY GAMES AND HOBBIES, the finest game store in the frozen Arctic, supplies Canadians with Copplestone, West Wind, Old Glory and others. Recommended service.

In a larger scale (35mm) GRAVEN IMAGES has interesting ranges including Cliffhanger, Gotterdamerung and Disturbia miniatures. The Cliffhanger line includes Emperor Ming and Flash, Mongo trooper, Officer of Ming's Guard, Frankenstein's Monster and Large Rearing Deep One.  Gotterdamerung offers lots of WWII Russian and German zombies as well as an SS Officer levitating with the Spear of Destiny!  Disturbia has nightmarish Nazis and several interesting figures of a voodoo persuasion. NORTH STAR's Project X range is 1/48th scale, but offers more WW II zombies and figures in power armour that, given the size of some 28mm ranges, might still fit in with the others.

Automobiles for this period can be found as diecast models, ranging from very cheap to collector-grade expensive. I try to compare potential purchases to a 28mm figure, since scale is often a bit questionable; the issue is whether it looks acceptable. I have a lot of vehicles by Lledo – more vans with advertising than anything else, which I usually paint over, and some cheap toys bought second-hand. Replacing the ugly wheels with better ones (RAFM’ll sell you a pack) and a paint job does the trick. Matchbox ‘Models of Yesteryear’ vary in scale from around 1/40th to 1/55th, and I use them as I see fit (because the boss’s Packard ought to be big) Recently, Sloppy Jalopy has made some metal trucks in kit form in 1/48th scale, slightly overscale, but useable.

Aircraft are easily found in 1/48th scale plastic kits, and are often a little underscale to fit the boxes (this is how the toy industry works). More sturdy and substantial are the die-cast metal planes; I thank Dave Markley for the Grumman Goose he let me have. Occasionally diecast planes in 1/60th scale can be found. Again, scale is largely in the eye of the beholder. Toy planes from WWII are available – mostly fighters but with a P-38 that screams ‘experimental plane from 1938’ - under the brand name New Ray. These are cheap and made in what amounts to a plastic diecast style.

Buildings often have to be scratchbuilt, although ‘O’ Gauge model railway items can be found that work – the doors are usually a bit massive, but otherwise they look good. I’ve seen whole 1920s period American skyscrapers in this scale, which look impressive indeed. Steve Barber Models has a speakeasy over a hardware store. A fine range of card buildings, both interiors and exteriors, can be found in Patrick (TVAG) Wilson’s ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Mean Sets’.


There’s not as much in the way of rules for Pulp as there is for Victorian Adventure. In the 1970's there was some interest in the fantasy end of Pulp. Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age by Lin Carter and Scott Bizar was published by FGU in 1975. John Carter, Warlord of Mars Adventure Gaming Handbook was released by Heritage Models, Inc. in 1978 with the copyright held by ERB's estate. Primarily a miniatures rules set, it had RPG elements as well, as did SPI's 1979 board game John Carter Warlord of Mars. TSR's Warriors of Mars; The Warfare of Barsoom in Miniature was strictly a miniatures set of rules and the first of the lot in 1974. These are, sadly, now found only in the collections of older gamers. My thanks to Joe Gepfert for this information.

Chris Peers’ Contemptible Little Armies rules for WWI have been followed by his lists and variations for 1920's Central Asia, Back of Beyond. These provide for a fairly traditional wargame between units, together with some character-oriented material. Chris knows his period very well, as always. The rules are fast, enjoyable, and fairly bloody.

Savage Worlds by Pinnacle Entertainment is a broad-era set that covers everything from pure fantasy to two-fisted adventure. I’ve not played them, but what I have seen looks good.

Rugged Adventures, available as a download from the Pulp Figures website, is an in-development set from Bob Murch and Kurt Hummitzsch. I’ve played with the designers a number of times, and recommend it for fast-paced action with a number of units per player. Their "China Station" games are a marvel to behold and play in.

To Be Continued by G.A.S.L.IG.H.T. is a set from the creators of the popular G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T, and requires those rules. Oriented towards creating an ongoing 12-episode serial, the writers, Chris Palmer and Buck Surdu, show an evident love for the B movie genre.

.45 Adventure by Rich Johnson of Rattrap Productions is a fairly detailed set of small-scale skirmish rules supported by Rich’s enormous enthusiasm. The basic rules have been followed up by two supplements so far (Dragon Bones and Amazing War Stories) and a small range of character figures. Thumbs up!

Lastly, I’ll mention my own Astounding Tales!, released by The Virtual Armchair General. This is a set of deliberately simple character-driven combat rules with some RPG elements. It is meant to be played in a free-form, frantic paced fashion. It covers mainly the hard-boiled/high adventure end of the Pulp spectrum. I think Astounding Tales! is fantastic. But then, I would, wouldn’t I?