What is Pulp Fiction?Edit

Pulp fiction is so named because it really started in the cheap magazines (printed on ‘pulp’ paper) between 1896 and 1957.

It is the early successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century. While many magazines were known for their lurid, exploitative, and sensational subject matter best many respected writers wrote for them.

The Feel of Pulp FictionEdit

Despite the pulp hitting its zenith in the 1920s and 1930s the stories weren't limited to that time period as demonstrated by Conan the Barbarian, Barsoom series, Zorro, and many others.

While the stories could take place in any time the genre and so many stories tended to be set in the then present day though the era of the Old West was also popular.

What makes a Pulp Fiction campaign?Edit


Pulp adventurers get around! Any scenario may take them across continents and into exotic cities. There will be some encounter at each locale which leads the party to the next place. Even if they are limited to a particular location (like Zorro or Dick Tracy) they are always moving around.

Fast paceEdit

No long surveillances are necessary. Despite the frequent appearance of archaeologist characters, there is no chance of a slow, methodical approach. Pulp adventures move fast – one afternoon’s research in any library is all it takes to find enough information to take the party on to the next stage of the adventure. No matter how long they spend thereafter, they will not find answers to further questions until the time is right.

When the party needs to travel to the next locale, they get there – unless their rivals interfere with their transport. Trains, boats, even the comparatively unreliable aeroplanes of the time are reliable when carrying pulp adventurers. Except when the GM decides that it would add to the tension to have their transport break down so that they need to find/steal something else – but that will only happen towards the climax of the adventure, when the heroes are racing to interfere with the bad guys’ plans. Never when they are merely traveling.


Many pulp fiction scenarios pit the heroes against rivals seeking the same goal for nefarious purposes. Generally the rivals have far superior resources to the adventurers or work in secret (usually pretending to help the adventurers).


A good GM never has ‘random encounters’ in a pulp fiction setting. Any encounter will advance the plot. In the Lost World, a party may be attacked once by a Tyrannosaur so that the PCs can experience how powerful they are, but thereafter they will not be attacked again unless the ‘monster’ is being controlled by the villains’ experimental mind-control ray or something similar.

Technology and MagicEdit

The effect of Technology and Magic on the action should be minimal. Technology and magic beyond what is "normal" for the setting should be rare, in control of the adversaries, or the MacGuffin everybody is look for. There can be exceptions (such as Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) but even there were limitations).


  • GURPS Cliffhangers captures the pulp fiction flavor while focusing on the 1920s and 1930s