Monday 13 January 2020

Pulp Alley Perils: Predator


As I mentioned in my last post (Pulp Alley Perils: Introduction), my friend Steve has come up with a detailed set of rules for what we've called the "Predator" class of perils.

The Predator is a type of danger that will (to a greater or lesser extent) stalk or chase a character.  As such, it might represent a swarm of tropical bees defending their nest, a gang of pickpockets, an officious Gestapo agent ("papers, please!") or an angry rhinoceros.  Or many other things, indeed.

Over to you, Steve:

The Predator

Following our last game I've contemplated mobile perils like the Nazi agents and the angry buffalo.  As we've gained experience playing Pulp Alley, we've become adept at avoiding the normal static perils.  We typically only brave the peril if baited with a plot point, or if it represents terrain that we absolutely must cross.

I enjoyed the element of risk introduced by the mobile perils.  The possibility to lead them toward another player's characters added an extra aspect to the game.

Here is a simple model for a peril which attacks the player characters.  I've named it the predator, it fits snugly into existing pulp Alley mechanisms.

Each predator is assigned a range, movement and optional special behaviours called traits.
For example: 
The Buffalo
Range 8"
Move 4" / 2d10
Traits Impetuous

Roll the move dice (2d10) when a character (target) moves within the range of the buffalo (8" in this example).  The buffalo travels its move distance toward the target (4") for each success.  No successes no movement, one success 4", two successes 8".

If the predator contacts the target then a peril occurs, and is resolved as normal.

The predator normally stops on reaching the target, though traits can adjust this behaviour.


Traits are simply special rules that apply to the predator.  Predators may have no traits or several.

  • Feeble: The predator is removed if the target passes its challenge.  This represents a weak or timid or easily eliminated threat.  Removal overrides any post-challenge actions caused by other traits.
  • Pack (N): A pack of N relatively weak threats, similar to feeble, but with N "lives".  One member of the pack is removed each time the target passes their challenge.  The pack is removed (see Feeble) when its last member is eliminated.
  • Ambush: The predator only moves if it rolls sufficient movement to reach its target.  A classic ambush predator that lies low and attacks from a short distance.
Predators may have only one (or none) of the final three traits:
  • Elusive: The predator always deploys in cover.  If its move finishes the open, it returns to the closest cover.  Specific definition of cover may be used to fine-tune behaviour.  For example,
    - a swarm of bees would return to their hive.
    - a vampire might return to any shadowy corner, except sacred ground.
  • Impetuous: The predator moves the full distance rolled, and may move beyond its target.  The target suffers a peril even if the predator overshoots.  Example: a bull or rhino that will build up a head of steam during its furious charge.
  • Hit and Run: After resolving a challenge, the predator rolls its movement again.  It moves the rolled distance back in the direction it came.  Example: a pack of small yappy dogs or smaller monkeys, individually timid but brave in numbers.
The predator provides a flexible method for single threats, or packs and swarms of smaller creatures.  Range and movement can be adjusted to represent the tenacity of the predator.  Traits permit different behaviours.

Example Predator Perils

  • Rhino : Short sighted, easily provoked, faster than you'd imagine - the original "battle unicorn".
    Range: 8"
    Move: 4" / 3d6
    Traits: Impetuous.
    The Rhino's move is potentially greater than its range.
    The Impetuous trait means it can charge through and past its target.
  • Bees defending their hive:
    Range: 12"
    Move: 3" / 4d6
    Traits: Ambush, Elusive (returns to hive).
    Several movement dice, threat level increases with proximity.
    Ambush means the swarm will not leave the hive unless they can reach and imperil the target.
    Elusive sees the bees return to their hive after an attack.  (Elusive specifies return to cover, in this case the hive is specified).
  • The Mummy: Classic Universal studios version, slow, but always on your tail.
    Move: 4" / 1d12
    Traits: None
    Long range and big movement die guarantee pursuit.
    Single die and short move mean it will rarely catch a running target, but trip, or stop to investigate a clue, and your adventure may be over.
  • Macaque troop: Small nosey monkeys. Raid your pack / pockets for food, may bite.
    Range: 8"
    Move: 4" / 2d8
    Traits: Hit and Run
    These fellows will back off as soon as they've relieved you of your sandwiches.
  • Small stray dog: More bark than bite, but what other perils might the bark attract?
    Range: 12"
    Move: 4" / 3d10
    Traits: Feeble, Hit and Run
    Fairly mobile, but a limited danger.
    Will not stand its ground, and disappears in the face of determined resistance.
  • Young conscripts: acting tough but fearful for their own safety.
    Range: 6"
    Move: 6" / 1d6
    Traits: Pack (5)
    As likely as not to challenge characters getting too close.
    Reasonable staying power from Pack (5), but won't resist a determined show of force.


So, is this useful inspiration?  Or possibly unnecessarily complicated?  Please let us know your thoughts!


  1. I love this sort of random action, it just adds another layer of fun to the games.

    1. Thanks, Michael. There's nothing here that other people haven't considered themselves, but I've attempted to codify it.

  2. Fantastic work. We always intended to further define more "types" of plot points and perils, so I'm glad you posted this. I'd like to add these to our Files on our Facebook group so players can quickly locate it.

    A couple quick suggestions --

    For Pack -- Maybe remove one member for each success you roll? - instead of one each time you pass the challenge.

    For Impetuous -- There is already a character ability called Impetuous, so maybe call this something else?

    Lots of cool ideas here. Definitely worth trying out!

    Pulp Alley

    1. Thanks for your support, Dave :-) !

      I approve of both of your suggestions:
      - "Pack" should remove one member per success. That sounds entirely reasonable.
      - Instead of "Impetuous", how about one of "Thunderous", "Unstoppable" or "Overrun"?

    2. Removing one pack member per success is an excellent idea.
      It introduces some variation to the pack's lifespan, and also creates bragging rights for the character who survives the larger threat.

      I was aware that Impetuous overlapped an existing character skill, but was lost for a suitable synonym at the time.
      Since then I've come up with "rash", "reckless" or "headlong". I rather like headlong, it's both distinctive and memorable.

      "The triceratops approached in a headlong rush, Indy prayed his gun wouldn't misfire."

  3. Great ideas there. I'm thinking of getting the solo pack for Pulp Alley, and more randomised perils would be perfect for it.

    1. Thanks, AJ. If you do use any of these ideas then I'd be delighted to hear how well (or not) they worked.