Monday, 13 January 2020

Pulp Alley Perils: Introduction


If you are a long-time reader of my Pulp Alley battle reports then you'll know that I like to extend the basic scenarios a bit, especially when defining perils.

Perils are at the very heart of a game like Pulp Alley and it is necessary to define them when setting up a scenario.  Usually - or at least in the rulebooks that I have seen - perils are strongly tied to a geographical feature or stationary character.  For example, jumping from a balcony or approaching a footpad might be deemed perilous before a game starts.

Static perils are often placed to limit freedom of movement in such a way that they provide a choice: take the risky shortcut or go the safer long way around.  There's nothing wrong with this approach; indeed it is absolutely necessary.  But for me, it's not enough.

Types of Peril

Here are some ideas that I've tossed around for expanded classes of perils.  Each of these is just a headline and a few examples at the moment, though I may come back to some or all of them in future articles:
  • Static (i.e. the traditional Pulp Alley peril, as defined in the rulebook): jumping across a ravine, entering the reach of the chained-up guard dog, climbing a cliff, defusing a bomb.  You know the peril is there, but you have reasons for going that way and taking the chance.
  • Juggernaut: column of army ants, flowing lava, crowd of rioters, incoming tide.  An extreme peril that moves inexorably, probably in a fairly predictable speed and direction.  This imposes a time constraint, as objectives could be made inaccessible or even destroyed late in a game.
  • Act of God: lava bombs, earthquake, lightning strikes, hidden sniper.  The peril pops up randomly, frequently and pretty much anywhere; no-one is safe.  Very chaotic (and not an idea I think I'd use much).
  • Trap: man-eating plant, quicksand, hit-and-run car.  You don't know that the peril is there until you step on it (and therefore are unable to avoid it, except perhaps by not going into certain areas of the table).  It's possible that this is just a more restricted version of the Act of God, in that it's a one-off rather than repeating and that it may be limited in where it may occur (a hit-and-run automobile would only make sense on a highway, not in an adjacent house).
  • Wandererguards in a military base, jungle animals.  A very simple concept which I've used in a number of my Pulp Alley games: a peril that moves in a random direction and random distance at the end of each turn.  Sometimes these work well, sometimes they just vanish into the corners of the table and are ineffective.
  • Predator: again, guards, animals, gangs of cutthroats.  This is a sophisticated version of the Wanderer mentioned above.  It's an idea that we toyed with for the buffalo and the Nazis in my last Pulp Alley game (Blood Sacrifice!).  Since then my good friend Steve has taken that experience and has written down a much more detailed (and hopefully, much more workable!) set of ideas.  These will be the subject of my next post, so watch this link: Pulp Alley Perils: Predator.


There is no need to have any of the above as detailed rules, of course.  It's entirely possible to make up special characteristics for perils in Pulp Alley on the spot, or to define only straightforward, static perils.  Or indeed, to use pre-written scenarios with their own special rules and therefore never have to invent anything.

That's all fine - but experience suggests to me that ideas generated in the heat of the moment sometimes work and sometimes don't.  By thinking about it in advance, you can improve the flavour of your games.

No comments:

Post a Comment