Category Archives: Pulp Adventures

Playtest Rules for BOOM! ZAP! a pulp SF skirmish game

Here is a playtest version of BOOM! ZAP! a very light hearted attempt at creating a set of workable 28mm PULP Science Fiction skirmish rules for tabletop games.

I’ve been looking for a very light set of rules for running a sort of “Space Port Bar” or “Cantina” game akin to the Blood and Plunder Tavern brawls but in a pulpier era for a while now, at least 2009. I’ve tried a few out but have been disappointed with a lot of them.  What you see here is a very, very high end look at the subject as I’m finding “Pulp” to be a much broader subject than people give it credit for. Do we mean Flash Gordon and Emperor Ming? Crash Corrigan and the Undersea Empire? Buck Rogers and Killer Kane? Do we mean John Carter and Planetary Romance? Do we mean the Skylark of Space? Do we mean the Rocket Man? Commander Cody? There’s a lot of subgenres that are evident, and ONE set of rules just might not cut it. So in an attempt to make a one size fits all approach to a very broad picture, I’m starting with a decent set of Western Skirmish rules, the old RULES WITH NO NAME that appeared in an old MWAN magazine way back in the day. This version has been Science Fictioned up a bit, and I’ve added a very broad brush attempt at Gunfire, Melee, Robots, Rocket Packs and Aliens. There’s so much I can do with this idea, don’t even think this is the final.. I’m adding to it as we go, consider this 1.0. I need to add explosions, malfunctions, space ships, beserk robots, planetary romance, more swordplay, anti-grav travel, and a host of other appropriate topics. This will be enough to get me started in a low key way.

If you want to get in touch with me with suggestions or questions, try me at

In the meantime, you can download BOOM! ZAP! here.


Pulp Science Fiction Miniatures 2/2

And here’s some more of the same series.

My Pulp Science Fiction Project: Draco’s Tavern

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I love pulp Science Fiction as a genre and have always wanted to run a pulp SF game, given time and a decent set of rules. Or I’d write my own, no matter. There have been some decent figures now and then over the years but nothing in sufficient depth to float my boat, until recently. I discovered Killer B Games’ GAFDOZ series back in 2009 and started buying individual figures. There’s about 40 of them out in the series as a whole, more or less, although some of them are in groups of figures– like the Lost Legion, Kappa Drones, and Murphidian Miners. I have resisted buying multiples of groups of Gafdoz types, not just because they are very pricey but also I don’t intend to create military units with this stuff.. it’s going to be a man to man game with these figures or nothing at all. Too much variation, not enough depth to do anything but that for the time being. That’s okay. I love the whimsical look and feel of GAFDOZ, and a man to man level game should be a blast in a real corny “space bar” setting. I will be naming this DRACO’S TAVERN after the collection of short stories by Larry Niven which feature the action that takes place at Draco’s Tavern, a location where people of all races congregate and (sometime) come to blows. I think this will be a lot of fun.

At the recent Cold Wars, I picked up some of my GAFDOZ figures from a guy who paints for me on occasion, Mr. John Montrie.  I think he did a fantastic job on them and it’s time to show them off.

Pulp SF figures

"The Good Guys", mostly..

Pulp SF figures

The "Bad Guys", mostly

This is only a start.. I think there will be more Gafdoz and other retro-looking pulp figures in my future.

Fall-In! 2007 Travelogue

My Fall-In! 2007 Vacation!

(Belated, I know.. and as always, all commentary is my own)

(crack Events staff Pat Shields, Cleo Hanlon, and a somewhat blase Mike Hillsgrove)

I had a pretty good convention overall. I showed up a little early to work the con, and I schlepped a few things here and there, and fetched wood and carried water Thursday.

(Convention Director McWee and Gruppenfuhrer Mattes)

Friday, my friend Ed came down from central PA and we did a battlefield walk and had lunch, then I did the staff thing on the afternoon shift. I worked the Flea Market, briefly, and also spelling the guys at the front desk of the Vendor Area. More work than I thought it would be!

(Dan Muraski, the only flea market guy in HMGS history who got a VENDOR table to sell on)

There were tons of games put on at this convention and lots of activity, to judge by the impossibility of getting a parking spot in the lot. That’s a GOOD thing.. I was struck by the influx of boardgaming in various nooks and crannies of the con, here and there, and sometimes right out on the main tables as bona fide events!

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(Hal Dyson, running perennial favorite AERODROME)

(DBA competitors in the New Ballroom, Friday)

(that Featherstone Cup you’ve heard about…)

(.. and some folks who japed that it was rightfully theirs..)

(and MORE games)

(and even MORE…)

(son of MORE games..)

I did very little shopping, but got a pretty nifty game of Pulp Adventures! in late in the evening, run by Chris Vaughn.

F-174 On The Shoulders Of Giants
Pulp; 7 PM;
Length: 4;
Hosted by: Chris Vaughn;
Scale: 25mm;
Sponsored by: Rattrap Productions;
Rules: .45
Adventure/Super Science Tales;
No. of Players: 4.
A dense, low-lying fog blankets The City, reducing familiar objects to menacing shadows, when you feel a low rumbling in the pit of your stomach. It gradually becomes an earth-shaking tremble as out of the swirling mists appear monstrous mechanical creations – robots taller than many of the surrounding buildings! The diabolical Dr. Kroon is at it again and it’s up to you and your fellow pulp heroes to stop him on the rooftops high above the city! Rules taught. Beginners welcome.

Alas, no pictures of this game were taken, but it was a hoot. Chris, who has a great sense of humor and creativity, was running a sort of micro-scenario of giant robots invading New York City. We only got to see the tops of them, see, as the rest of the robots are hidden below fleecy white clouds. The idea was to leap from robot to rooftop as the robots march by, searching for the mcguffins that would turn off the robots. Of course, it’s never quite that easy. There were different groups in New York together, trying to turn off giant robots, and some of them were bad and some of them were good. I played a baddie.. the Purple hood, an overarrogant intellectual genius with followers that looked like klansmen in red robes. I played the guy with a Boston Brahmin accent, looking down my nose at my evil minions. Unfortunately the clean cut hero of the story had homicidal followers that decided it was best to shoot first, ask questions later– so instead of working for the common good, they attacked my poor minions (and myself), changing what could have been a historic alliance of major proportions into bloody internicine warfare. Typical goody two shoes stuff. and they’ll blame it on ME in the papers. Sniff! It was a fun little game, very well done visually. I particularly liked the robot heads, which were simple plastic bowls balanced on white plastic powdered laxitive jars. I was concerned.. not only was there enought to balance a robot head on, but enough to run SEVERAL robots on.. I mentioned the benefits of more salad to Mr. Vaughn but he didn’t see the humor in it. Seriously, great game, sir! (Update: Chris has since contacted me and provided details of how to view pictures of this game. His Fall In! 2007 album is viewable HERE).

People, places and games…

Saturday I worked the Flea Market thing and did some front desk work for the vendor hall. Then I ran my own game, Return to Lilliput, from 2-6, when we got kicked out. I’m going to take another pass at the mechanics. I got a complaint that they were too fiddly and slow to look up everything. (if anyone wants to take a look at them, let me know, I’d be happy to have a second opinion).

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I opted to eat in.. not great… chicken and mashed potatoes. At least it wasn’t incredibly greasy. Then I played in Ed Watts’ Pulp Action game Saturday night, as Professor Rick Ruthless and his fleet of giant walking metal men. Pretty danged funny game. A tad chaotic.. Ed probably could have used some assistance.

S-182 Sand Seared Rugged Adventures, North Africa, 1930s.
8 PM;
Length: 4;
Hosted by: Edward Watts;
Scale: 25mm;
Sponsored by: Monday Night Adventurers;
Rules: Rugged Adventures;
No. of Players: 8.
Enigmatic characters, steel visaged Nazis, square jawed heroes and plucky heroines in pursuit of McGuffins mysterious and arcane midst dune and palm tree.
Teens and adults preferred.

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There were some great games run Saturday night. HMGS President Panzeri was running a multi-table, Lewis and Clark thing that I personally found very intriguing. The design was run off a series of random event tables. Here you see some of them being set up.

Some other games being held Saturday:

I then went to the MST3K event hidden in one of the far rooms. I missed the first movie but caught the second.. “Crippled Masters”. Hilarious! A guy with no arms joins up with a guy with no legs to become kung fu masters! And they used two memorable actors– one who was a thalyidomide baby and one who had withered legs as a result of birth defects. They started the movie with prop (real) arms and had the props “chopped off” or “burned away with acid” during the course of the movie. It was pretty over the top funny and perfect faire for MST3K. COuldn’t stay awake for anything more, so hit the hay.

Sunday, I was up early and attended the TriaDCon planning meeting. Not much was accomplished, as we only had Mike, Otto and myself attending. One thing we seemed to agree on was that we wouldn’t be eager to put on another con without more volunteers stepping forward. The same six guys have done most of the work for the last two, and that is getting old.

So, with that inconclusive note, I nosed my car into traffic heading south, and fall in! was done for another year.

Slaves of the Elephant God: A True Story

Slaves of the Elephant God

A True Story..

As Relayed by one Howard Whitehouse

Contained herein is Howard Whitehouse’s recounting of running SLAVES OF THE ELEPHANT GOD, run Saturday afternoon at HISTORICON. Thank you, Howard, for allowing me to play along, and I thought it was a fantastic game. Such annotations as I have to make are noted in RED font. The notes are at the bottom of the post. My version, such as it is, is contained in the Saturday reporting for HISTORICON 2007, in this post.

Here’s a short, incomplete and confused version of what happened. I am hoping that Walt, Nigel and Bruce can add their own impressions, as I know bugger all about what they were doing —

It’s been a tradition since 2002 (I think) that a group of us– myself plus a varying cast of Table Directors, of whom Bruce Pettipas, Nigel Clarke and Walt O’Hara have been present at most– to run a pulp mega-game at Historicon. The set up has been four tables, each showing a different location, running at the same time. These serve for the first two scenes (possibly with a bit of moving scenery between scenes). The director is free to run his table any way he sees fit, and with any changes or omissions to the rules he likes. In fact, I don’t think Walt knows the rules. 1 It doesn’t matter at all. Each scene lasts 30-45 minutes, so it has to be run at lightning speed, and turn sequence is often ignored by players shouting, pushing in, and doing whatever they like whenever they like. Indeed, I take the chairs away, so nobody can sit and relax during “the take”.

At the end of each scene, the director recounts to all what has happened at his table. Then we resume, some players going to different tables (because they have a plane, or, like Wooster, they are lost), some continuing where they are.

Bruce took the marketplace at Chunderpore, since I’d just built the city for him (cash was involved). Things blew up, elephants ran amok, and Kimball O’Hara’s 2 intelligence agents hunted cultists and vice versa. Was Fu Manchu there? I don’t know.

Nigel is an old jungle hand, so he took a rain forest (where? Malaya? Burma? Burbank?) location. There were local caveman-type aboriginals, a crashed plane and a zombie Amelia Earhart (Nigel just made her up on the spot), and a jungle lord character called, er, Tarzam. Most of the loud fun I heard was the interaction between legendary film-maker Erich Von Schnitzel (Hoochie Coochie Girls of 1935) and his star, the always glamorous Roxy Smothers, filming an “art film” called Naked She-Devil: Temptress of the South Seas. There were lots of shower scenes involved this pair are largely responsible for bringing in the Hayes Code. Nayland Smith of the Burma police was there as well, and possibly LA PI Phillip Marlowe, in trench coat and parked car. And Biggles flew in, because he likes to land his plane in dense jungle.

Walt’s scene involved a lamasery in Tibet. It was loud, and Fu Manchu was definitely present. Indiana Jones, as well. I don’t know what happened. Walt’s GMing philosophy is to get caffeinated and make things up at 100 mph. He’s a genius, actually. 3

There were several sets of Nazis, as is so often the case. I don’t know where they were, mostly. 4

My own scene was on the North-west frontier, where King of the Khyber Rifles, now a Colonel , was played by the same gamer who had portrayed him as a young subaltern the night before in my “Science versus Pluck” game. He came up the same valley to face his old adversary Mahmud Khan, and knocked in the door of the Pathan’s tower just as he had in 1897. They joined forces, however, to face the Nazi menace, and drove off the Hun with excellent shooting and sharp steel. Jeeves and Wooster asked directions, and found there was no BP station anywhere in the vicinity. 5

Okay, so if I’d listened more carefully, I’d know what happened in everyone else’s scene.

In my second scene the Khyber Rifles and those damned Jerries (now reinforced by Zeppelintruppen) went with Mahmud Khan (not a bad chap for a lifelong enemy) to a frontier hillfort where evil, ungodly goings on were offending the decency of the Pathan tribes. A lot of people knew of it, since Phil Marlowe was parked outside, inconspicuous in his 1932 Ford (I can’t find a model for a Plymouth). Well, not as inconspicuous as in LA, but there ya go. I think Roxy Smothers must have had a beef with him, since she immediately ran her Rolls Royce into his parked car. Von Schnitzel started filming. Soviet agents and Nazis began fighting, just because. Nayland Smith arrived in a van, with the eastern dancing girl Karamanieh strapped to the roof. Nobody seemed to think this was odd.

The tribesmen in the fort watched (some taking photos) as the crazy westerners chase done another about, and tried to commit vehicular homicide all over the place. However, the no-nonsense King rammed down the gates (as he seems to, a lot) and the Khyber Rifles stormed in. As did Nayland Smith and his pals, and those sneaky Soviets. But, when the bayoneting was finished and the Zeppelintruppen had rappelled (curses!) into the tower where the cultists weren’t meeting (Ach Du Lieber! Too late again!) it was Zelda the script girl/US treasury agent who was able to drag the cult priest out. Using her chief weapon (her flat and tedious monotone voice) she forced him to tell of a great gathering at the island of Rikki-Tikki where .. under the belching volcano … the cult would bring forth the great Elephant God himself, to wreak destruction (etc etc … the usual stuff).

After a break (in which Hercule Poirot apparently became distracted by something shiny and forgot to come back, for which he later apologized) we had a grand finale under the volcano. All the cultists and Nazis (who had gone beyond a mere anthropological interest by this time) were arraigned at the base of the volcano, with a human sacrifice. A beautiful maiden? Well, no. It was Biggles, the ace British pilot. I have no idea what they were thinking (although, since there is no sex in the Biggles stories, who knows?) 6

Anyway, we ran this at even more breakneck speed than usual, with Nigel running one side of the board, Walt the other and myself taking the middle. People ran about and crashed things. Zeppelintruppen landed on the crater rim. There was fist-fighting up there, with Phil Marlowe. Miss Wonderley tried out for a screen role. The Khyber Rifles shot holes in the zeppelin (imaginary, but hovering over the volcano. Roxy ran off in Biggles plane with Dr Petrie (Nayland Smith’s cohort), giving her a chance to marry a doctor. Lots of cultists were killed. The volcano gave every sign of erupting (which gave warning to players to finish up now or die). Most of the players had the sense to escape as the volcano boomed and the Elephant God itself appeared.

End movie as heroes run for safety and the screen is covered in lava and smoke.

I always end the story by having the players tell what they were trying to do, and how it worked out for them. Mr Guttman (from The Maltese Falcon) reported that, although he was trapped on an island which must sink beneath the waves and cause a tsunami, he still felt there was an opportunity for profitable business here.

The Oscar went to young Michael, a regular these last three or four years, whose heroic portrayal of Short Round (bravely surviving a personal combat with Fu Manchu) was worthy of the award. 7

Notes from the Tibetan Director:

1) Just enough to get by.. I believe you call this the “frantic version” for convention play.
2) No relation.
3) Aw Shucks… just doing muh bit. BTW, the phrase is “Drink a lot of coffee and wait for the magic to happen”
4) The S.S. Expedition to Tibet started at the Lamasery and stayed there in Act 2. The Gestapo started in Tibet and were replaced by Biggles when it became clear I was having a Nazi pile up in tibet. The Bolsheviks, as well, started in Tibet and were sent to Jalallabad. To be replaced by a very confused Jeeves and Bertie.
5) In fact, Bertie drove Algy’s beloved Bentley into a coolie pack full of Nitro Glycerin, which made a very stunning impact on the car’s front end. They debated the moral concept of boosting a handy Ford Model T truck for a solid turn or two before heading out at high speed.
6) Biggles, by the by was sporting a spot-on Gary Cooper accent… which caused for some uninentional hilarity for those who are in the know. Imagine John Wayne playing Raffles, and you get the idea.
7) Michael won this award because of Short Round’s incredible luck in resisisting Fu’s hypnotism (twice) and then having the presence of mind to act hypnotized so he could free Marian from a fate worse than death! Yeah, Michael!!