Eclipse d20 – Playing With The Pulps Part V; Narrative Feats

  • For Part I – the Basic Pulp Hero and Advanced Pulp Hero Templates – Click HERE.
  • For Part II – Advanced Pulp Powers Part I – Click HERE.
  • For Part III – Advanced Pulp Powers Part II, Pulp Drugs, and Pulp Archetypes – Click HERE.
  • For Part IV – Buying Pulp Vehicles – Click HERE.

The situation looks hopeless! The spiked ceiling is descending, a vile henchman is taking the captured heroes out to sea to drop them overboard, or they are trapped in a warehouse, almost out of ammunition, and the army of thugs is closing in. Whatever the details, it looks like their tale is at an end. The only thing that can save them now is some contrived deus ex machina as the raw force of their heroic narrative carries them through. Will a henchman abruptly pull off a mask, revealing that he has been an ally “all along”? Will the cavalry arrive at the last moment? Will the Tyrannosaur eat the Raptors? For some pulp heroes, the answer is usually “Yes!” – no matter how unlikely that coincidental rescue may be.

So how do you spend your bonus pulp feat to focus narrative forces on your life like that? Well, there are a variety of possibilities for making your life more like an old-time Republic Serial or piece of… pulp fiction. You can buy…

  • Crazy Prepared: Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (six floating CP)/only to buy Immunities to particular unique characters, specific types of monsters, or similar groups, requires that the user do research and practice special techniques against the target group. In general, Uncommon (against a particular villain type), Severe (they do tend to kill you), and Minor (protects the user against twelve points of damage from each of the enemies attacks and from effects of up to level three (with a +4 bonus on saves against higher-level effects) as well as allowing the user to bypass up to ten points of damage reduction or other minor defenses). That costs 6 CP – and will give your hero quite an advantage against their chosen foe.
  • Destined Hero: Backed by either some supernatural force or bad writing, some pulp heroes make a habit of pulling off astounding (and usually never-to-be-repeated) stunts – albeit mostly only when backed into a corner or involved in a cliffhanger. This is usually Action Hero (Stunts), but Karma (which is more easily renewed, if far less versatile) may be a better choice in a slower-advancement game. If a character wants the forces of destiny to be even more reliable than that… he or she will want Luck with Bonus Uses, Specialized in a particular application such as saving throws, attacks, or skill checks.
  • Force Of Narrative: 1d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only for Reality Editing, only to cause for unlikely plot twists (6 CP). This talent will let you do almost anything in the way of twisting the plot – albeit not very often. If you want to pull your tricks as a routine thing… you’ll want a far more specialized ability or to invest more points in Mana an in Rite of Chi with Bonus Uses to get the Mana back in a reasonable length of time.
  • Man of Mystery: Access to two Occult Skills (6 CP) – most likely two of the Action Skills from the Shadowed Galaxy setting. (I’d recommend that Stealing The Scene be one of them). This will basically let a Pulp Hero start off every session with a personal special effects budget – allowing him or her to reliably pull off a few special stunts every session.
  • Mirror Dance: Whether you have an archenemy, oppose some sinister cult, are a hunter of monsters, or are locked in battle with some conspiracy, whether you are driven by rage, an oath, or vengeance, you have a personal rogues gallery of enemies who appear over and over again – and whom you have become very, VERY, good at opposing. Take Favored Enemy or Favored Foe (6 CP).
  • Oathsworn: Your word is more than your bond; your oaths – whatever they’re sworn by – have genuine power. They influence events, sustain you in times of need, and shape reality on your behalf, driving you to fulfill your oath regardless of the cost. Inherent Spell/Questing Oath (A form of Malediction from The Practical Enchanter. Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / Only usable on yourself, only intervenes seven times, for a level nine base effect. A Questing Oath allows the user to swear to complete a specified and (relatively) immediate task – holding off a dragon, holding a pass, getting a group of villagers across a desert – as long as the task will (or at least should) take a month or less to complete. For the duration of the oath you only need a quarter of the usual food, drink, and sleep and will be assisted as needed by a level four spell effect of the game masters choice up to seven times – possibly including turning you into an undead if that seems required. You can only be sworn to a single task at a time and renouncing an uncompleted oath will cause the remaining spell effects to cause trouble for you at the worst possible times and keep you from swearing another oath for a year and a day – or until you undergo some suitable ritual ordeal of atonement and purification.
  • Signature Device: Do you have a mystic blade, some weird piece of alien technology, a compass that points towards your hearts desire, a key that opens any door, or some similar device? Buy Create Relic (Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only with points from Enthusiast, three point relics maximum, limited to a maximum list of (Int/3) specific relics (2 CP), Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for use in creating relics, only for (Int/3) specific relics, all relics must carry a disadvantage (4 CP). If someone swipes your special gadget the special effect is usually that you get it back somehow (rather than just dissolving and recreating it) between adventures, but the effect is pretty much the same.
  • Soliloquy: Some heroes – especially in western graphic novels – can do astounding amounts of talking in the time it takes to throw a punch. If you happen to be one of those, and want to have the action pause while you make a dramatic speech, attempt some negotiation, or offer a bribe, then what you want is Reflex Training/Three extra actions per day variant, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (you get to make a full speech and observe the reactions) / only for communications actions.

Obviously enough many other abilities can fit a Pulp Hero – take Acrobatics to allow even more impressive stunts, Adept for those academics who want to have heaps of skills, Augmented Bonus to boost your existing talents, Berserker for the great brawlers, Cloaking for those never-unmasked mystery men, a Companion to gain a mighty mount, Damage Reduction or Grant of Aid to be tough as nails, Lore to become known as “Mr Exposition”, Mana with the Resilience option to power Martial Arts C’hi Powers, Mystic Artist to inspire with Oratory, Reflex Training to keep escaping explosions and death traps, Returning to come back again and again, Sanctum to build your own secret base, Traceless to leave no clues behind, Track to shadow your opponents through the streets, and various Combat Enhancements to be even more badass. You can even learn a little Channeling to repel the supernatural. Study the use of Ritual Magic, and learn the Martial Arts – but that’s about as far as it should go. Beyond that point… you are crossing over into superhero territory. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, the point was to be a pulp hero, not a comic book super-hero.

For the game masters side… you’ll want mad scientists of subtle, creepy, mystics instead of flashy super-powers, hidden lands filled with creatures and cultures from the distant past, weird vehicles, foreigners, criminals, and traitors who are undermining the heroes good, upright, and proper culture and morality, individual heroes versus swarms of faceless thugs with weird unique leaders, cliffhangers, occult mysteries, and ancient tombs/temples/ruins full of traps. If you need a list of sources, TV Tropes has a lot of them – but it also has a tendency to suck up hours of your time, so proceed with caution.

And that’s really about it for the pulps – unless I happen to have the urge to build some pulp heroes or there are some questions to inspire a further article.

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