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Author Topic: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted  (Read 3812 times)

GeekyBugle

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Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« on: April 27, 2021, 08:47:15 PM »
As many of you know I'm doing a Pulp RPG, well there are not many sites in the interwebs better than The Pulp Avengers https://www.fantasylibrary.com/lounge/pulpavengers.htm And it is correct that the Pulp heroes didn't die, and many times neither did the villains. This is a neccessity when you're telling a story, or writting a serial or series of novels. It would be very awkward if The Shadow were to die.

But as an advice on how to run a Pulp RPG I find it perplexing. What's the risk then for the PCs? Why should your players care what happens? How are they going to immerse themselves in your world and take the dangers you present them with seriously?

Which is why the Thread's title is what it is.

Do you agree or disagree? Why? Do you have some other examples of Fiction Tropes that shouldn't make it ever to the rules/table?

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This Guy

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2021, 09:23:26 PM »
idk why do you need the threat of death to immerse and why does it perplex you that others don't.
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mAcular Chaotic

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2021, 09:46:59 PM »
You don’t have to kill them. Threaten other things: their reputation, their families, the things usually at stake in these movies.

Pulp and hero genres aren’t challenge contests like dnd and tomb of horrors. They have to play along and take the genre seriously even if they aren’t playing a purely tournament style game.
Battle doesn't need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose. You don't ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don't ask why I fight.

GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2021, 09:50:51 PM »
You don’t have to kill them. Threaten other things: their reputation, their families, the things usually at stake in these movies.

The GM doesn't kill PCs, they die by their own stupid decisions or bad luck.

So, in every adventure anyone can die, except the PCs... WHY?

Those you mention are the stakes if they fail, what are the consecuences for the PCs if they do stupid things? Zero? Why shouldn't they jump into an erupting volcano? After all they will not die.
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

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Charon's Little Helper

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2021, 09:57:06 PM »
To go with that pulpy vibe, you could still make death possible - just HIGHLY unlikely. Something like needing to drop to a negative HP enough so that it's virtually impossible to go straight from even positive 1 HP to dead in a single hit. And put in GM advice how the villains rarely if ever want to actually kill the MCs - they want to mess with them. Frame them for the crime - see them suffer etc.

Pulp heroes DO get knocked out, captured, and/or deal with serious gunshot wounds (potentially sewed up by a dame) periodically - so that would fit the vibe.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2021, 10:00:07 PM by Charon's Little Helper »

Mishihari

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2021, 10:01:56 PM »
In your place, I would discard the trope that heroes don't die.  It works for books but not very well for games, IMO.

If you decide to keep it, there needs to be the possibility of meaningful loss if the PCs lose.  Things like allies, reputation, irreplaceable equipment, and I think the loss needs to have concrete mechanical effects.

Mishihari

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2021, 10:02:47 PM »
To go with that pulpy vibe, you could still make death possible - just HIGHLY unlikely. Something like needing to drop to a negative HP enough so that it's virtually impossible to go straight from even positive 1 HP to dead in a single hit. And put in GM advice how the villains rarely if ever want to actually kill the MCs - they want to mess with them. Frame them for the crime - see them suffer etc.

Pulp heroes DO get knocked out, captured, and/or deal with serious gunshot wounds (potentially sewed up by a dame) periodically - so that would fit the vibe.

Now that's a good idea.  Most players hate being captured even more than they hate dying.

GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2021, 10:05:25 PM »
To go with that pulpy vibe, you could still make death possible - just HIGHLY unlikely. Something like needing to drop to a negative HP enough so that it's virtually impossible to go straight from even positive 1 HP to dead in a single hit. And put in GM advice how the villains rarely if ever want to actually kill the MCs - they want to mess with them. Frame them for the crime - see them suffer etc.

Pulp heroes DO get knocked out, captured, and/or deal with serious gunshot wounds (potentially sewed up by a dame) periodically - so that would fit the vibe.

That's one way to try and keep the Pulp vibe going, not sure about the HIGHLY unlikely part but maybe just unlikely could work. Negative HP does take care of a PC jumping into an active volcano.
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Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

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GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2021, 10:06:45 PM »
In your place, I would discard the trope that heroes don't die.  It works for books but not very well for games, IMO.

If you decide to keep it, there needs to be the possibility of meaningful loss if the PCs lose.  Things like allies, reputation, irreplaceable equipment, and I think the loss needs to have concrete mechanical effects.

I'm planning on losing it, unless someone can come up with a good enough semi replacement.
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

mAcular Chaotic

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2021, 10:20:34 PM »
You don’t have to kill them. Threaten other things: their reputation, their families, the things usually at stake in these movies.

The GM doesn't kill PCs, they die by their own stupid decisions or bad luck.

So, in every adventure anyone can die, except the PCs... WHY?

Those you mention are the stakes if they fail, what are the consecuences for the PCs if they do stupid things? Zero? Why shouldn't they jump into an erupting volcano? After all they will not die.

Because good roleplaying. The PCs don't know they're characters in a story like that. It would be treating it like a video game.

Or you could just not tell them.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2021, 10:23:34 PM by mAcular Chaotic »
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GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2021, 10:27:38 PM »
You don’t have to kill them. Threaten other things: their reputation, their families, the things usually at stake in these movies.

The GM doesn't kill PCs, they die by their own stupid decisions or bad luck.

So, in every adventure anyone can die, except the PCs... WHY?

Those you mention are the stakes if they fail, what are the consecuences for the PCs if they do stupid things? Zero? Why shouldn't they jump into an erupting volcano? After all they will not die.

Because good roleplaying. The PCs don't know they're characters in a story like that. It would be treating it like a video game.

Or you could just not tell them.

So the PCs jump into an active volcano and I don't tell them they died? Or I don't tell them they didn't? I guess you meant the latter, what would be the difference?
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Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

mAcular Chaotic

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2021, 11:20:00 PM »
I meant they shouldn't play like that because it's not good roleplaying.

The characters in the game don't know they're going to live because they're in a pulp story. So the players shouldn't play them as if they're immortals, doing things they normally wouldn't do.

It's metagaming.
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GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2021, 11:33:08 PM »
I meant they shouldn't play like that because it's not good roleplaying.

The characters in the game don't know they're going to live because they're in a pulp story. So the players shouldn't play them as if they're immortals, doing things they normally wouldn't do.

It's metagaming.

Right, so the characters are fighting nazis, and the nazis are using only rubber bullets because reasons.

They go the the lost world and the T-Rex turns out to be what? A guy in a rubber suit?

Only thus far you can put the training wheels before it becomes Scooby-Doo or your players become bored because there's no real risk of them reaching the loosing state of the game.

Why should they care about the characters if they can't die?

This isn't 5e.
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Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2021, 11:40:48 PM »
Pulp heroes didn't die, and many times neither did the villains. ...It would be very awkward if The Shadow were to die.

But as an advice on how to run a Pulp RPG I find it perplexing. What's the risk then for the PCs? Why should your players care what happens? How are they going to immerse themselves in your world and take the dangers you present them with seriously?

Probably the first step to this is to make sure the players are on board with the basic concept. If you're playing a pulp hero, you're not playing in order to test your skill against the rules and the GM in order to make your character more powerful and awesome for its own sake, where the ultimate defeat is your character's death -- you're playing to accomplish badass feats of action, roleplaying and cleverness for the sake of saving the world.  The stakes of failure in a pulp game aren't dying. The stakes are disappointment at failing to be awesome, not saving the day, and not getting the girl. (Or the guy, for the ladies. Or whoever.)

Subsequent to this there have to be a couple of key conventions established:

- Your villains have to be truly despicable, and yet awesome in their own right.  The goal isn't just to beat the villains but to outshine them. The villain doesn't just kidnap the Fair Lady, he does it out from under the PCs' noses while they're desperately fighting off his mooks, shooting skyward on a cable-hook up to his thundering jet-powered airship; this will make the players want their rescue to be even more awesome.

- "Death", or any event that appears to be The End, never kills a PC permanently ... but it does take him out of play for at least one major scene.  The reward of a pulp game is the action and the excitement; even temporary banishment from taking part in this can be frustration enough. For extra tension, make the next scene involve something that would normally be the banished PC's specialty, but which his temporarily bereft comrades have to handle without him!

- As already mentioned, if the players really need to feel a loss or a sense of threat, direct it against something their PCs care about -- their home town, their family, their old mentor. Taking time to build these elements up increases the emotional weight felt when they're threatened, or (for the rare tragic episodes) actually wounded or lost.

Quote
Do you have some other examples of Fiction Tropes that shouldn't make it ever to the rules/table?

This is an example I've brought up before, but I'll repeat it: A lot of the thematic tropes of romantic fantasy, I think, don't work as well in an RPG as one might expect, because the primary dramatic arcs of RF fiction are largely about internal emotional character growth and relationship-building -- stuff that is very hard to codify with rules mechanics and that the people most interested in playing through would probably not want to use mechanics for anyway.

That said, some of the narrative conventions noted above could be adapted for a largely RF story/game just as easily as they could for a Pulp game; premature hero death kills any dramatic plot structure. But Pulp has the advantage that it focuses as much or more on external action -- the kind of stuff that you can and should use skill-rewarding rules for -- as any angsty drama; romantic fantasy which became too dominated by big fight scenes, action set pieces and shocking betrayals or reversals would lose a lot of the atmosphere that most of its readers, in my experience, want from it.
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GeekyBugle

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Re: Some Tropes SHOULD be subverted
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2021, 12:00:44 AM »
Pulp heroes didn't die, and many times neither did the villains. ...It would be very awkward if The Shadow were to die.

But as an advice on how to run a Pulp RPG I find it perplexing. What's the risk then for the PCs? Why should your players care what happens? How are they going to immerse themselves in your world and take the dangers you present them with seriously?

Probably the first step to this is to make sure the players are on board with the basic concept. If you're playing a pulp hero, you're not playing in order to test your skill against the rules and the GM in order to make your character more powerful and awesome for its own sake, where the ultimate defeat is your character's death -- you're playing to accomplish badass feats of action, roleplaying and cleverness for the sake of saving the world.  The stakes of failure in a pulp game aren't dying. The stakes are disappointment at failing to be awesome, not saving the day, and not getting the girl. (Or the guy, for the ladies. Or whoever.)

Subsequent to this there have to be a couple of key conventions established:

- Your villains have to be truly despicable, and yet awesome in their own right.  The goal isn't just to beat the villains but to outshine them. The villain doesn't just kidnap the Fair Lady, he does it out from under the PCs' noses while they're desperately fighting off his mooks, shooting skyward on a cable-hook up to his thundering jet-powered airship; this will make the players want their rescue to be even more awesome.

- "Death", or any event that appears to be The End, never kills a PC permanently ... but it does take him out of play for at least one major scene.  The reward of a pulp game is the action and the excitement; even temporary banishment from taking part in this can be frustration enough. For extra tension, make the next scene involve something that would normally be the banished PC's specialty, but which his temporarily bereft comrades have to handle without him!

- As already mentioned, if the players really need to feel a loss or a sense of threat, direct it against something their PCs care about -- their home town, their family, their old mentor. Taking time to build these elements up increases the emotional weight felt when they're threatened, or (for the rare tragic episodes) actually wounded or lost.

Quote
Do you have some other examples of Fiction Tropes that shouldn't make it ever to the rules/table?

This is an example I've brought up before, but I'll repeat it: A lot of the thematic tropes of romantic fantasy, I think, don't work as well in an RPG as one might expect, because the primary dramatic arcs of RF fiction are largely about internal emotional character growth and relationship-building -- stuff that is very hard to codify with rules mechanics and that the people most interested in playing through would probably not want to use mechanics for anyway.

That said, some of the narrative conventions noted above could be adapted for a largely RF story/game just as easily as they could for a Pulp game; premature hero death kills any dramatic plot structure. But Pulp has the advantage that it focuses as much or more on external action -- the kind of stuff that you can and should use skill-rewarding rules for -- as any angsty drama; romantic fantasy which became too dominated by big fight scenes, action set pieces and shocking betrayals or reversals would lose a lot of the atmosphere that most of its readers, in my experience, want from it.

So, because that's how it is in the novels that is how it should be in the game?

Are you trying to live in the game world or to write a Pulp?
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell