The rules for Pulp! the RPG are light and the character sheets are small, so while playing the game the most important thing is a player’s imagination and interpretation of their Traits. When I was designing “Scentia Besieged From Within and Without” I wanted to make the best product I could and thus spared no expense (drinks are great gamer bait) in assembling playtesters, and by the time things were done I had actually had the benefit of three separate groups who were willing to put Scentia through its paces. Not only did this allow me to make sure that encounters functioned and that the adventure could stand up to the tendency of player characters to Do Something Crazy but it let me see multiple interpretations of the pre-made characters I had created for it.
Let us take a look, for starters, at Cyrus! Cyrus’s Edge is ‘Earth Magic’, meaning that any time his intent has something to do with earth magic that it gets a +3 bonus on the dice roll, so like all Pulp! characters Cyrus want to use his Edge if at all possible. The schools of thought on Edge creation tend to run one of two ways: very specific to force the player to get creative in order to use it and make it interesting, or very broad to see how broad the player’s imagination can take it. Earth magic is quite the broad term, so I suppose I wasn’t surprised to see it taken so many ways. The first player to take Cyrus out of the gate made good use of sinkholes to drop the party’s enemies out of the fight, and from time to time used rock spikes shooting upwards to impale foes. A second player from another group got particularly risky when the group had rock overhead, collapsing passages and using walls to create obstacles for the party to use as temporary defensive Assets. The last time that Cyrus was played was particularly interesting, as the player used Earth Magic to create a rampaging golem and then made the case for Earth Magic to include the ground’s magnetic field to snatch metallic plot items.
To say that the villains were surprised at that last one, never mind I myself, would be a huge understatement.
Cyrus saw a lot of play and is thus one of the better examples, but every time characters were taken out into the field they were a little different than he or she was before. Corrigan Ashbeard’s ‘Playing With Fire’ manifested as relatively normal fire spells in one case and empowering items with fire in another (mostly arcane empowerment but including simply using the Edge as an excuse to having built up a tolerance, lighting Corrigan on fire with lamp oil, and charging towards the enemy). Brug’s “Summoner of Spirits’ (note that this is one of the more specific Edges) was originally used mostly in combat to summon animal spirits to attack, but the next player had a much more utilitarian view of the Edge, talking to spirits to scout ahead and to interrogate fallen foes. And Kale, oh Kale. The first player used “Dirty Fighting” much the way I expected him to, with cheap tricks and flash bangs and smoke grenades and low blows. The second version of Kale? Well, let’s say he put the ‘Dirty’ in ‘Dirty Fighting’ and just leave it at that.
These characters were largely unchanged throughout the playtesting phase, at least in terms of their Edges. Corrigan started off with “Fire Magic” before being changed to make it interesting and to differentiate him from Cyrus, but by and large these particular characters were functional from the get-go. But instead of running four different characters I got to experience what were, between them all and including all their incarnations, essentially nine different characters. Every player brought something new, and I was always in for a treat even though I’d theoretically seen everything my own adventure had to offer.
That’s one of the strengths of Pulp! the RPG. It lets you make up things as you go and use your creativity instead of a book of rules and numbers to make your character. So don’t take your character sheet at face value. Look over your Traits and use that imagination of yours. You’ll have more fun coming up with something interesting and winging it, right?
And your GM will always have something new and fun to experience, too!
Seamus T Conneely