Game: GOLDEN Hero Pulp d20
Publisher: Pisces All Media
Review Dated: 16th, August 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 408
Average Score: 8.16
Sometimes you hear an awful lot about a book before you get the chance to check it out for yourself. The Golden Hero Pulp D20 Sourcebook is such a book for me. I’ve had emails from all sides and all directions. People love this book. People hate it. I don’t. I’m in the middle. I can see the weaknesses in the book and I can see the strengths too. In many ways I think of Golden as a diamond in the rough.
Golden is a small book but it’s not a thin one. It’s a half sized 232-paged production; this is actually my preferred size. It’s much easier to deal with while you’re fussing with GM notes. The only causality of the size are the illustrations. It seems next to impossible to get decent illustrations to fit. It isn’t possible to read the picture tag on page 22. There’s a cut and paste feel to the illustrations too – these aren’t custom commission images – but this suits. This is a pulp sourcebook. Pisces All Media have republished classic pulpy Sci-Fi stories which were originally published so long ago that they’re now in the public domain name and you can do what you want with them. Pisces All Media added gamer stuff and it worked. I thought it was a good idea at the time and I still think it’s a good idea. I’m quite happy to have period or public domain illustrations in m RPG supplements. I think I would have made some different artistic choices for this issue of Golden though.
Golden has the d20 logo on it. I think they’re supposed to put something like “Requires the use of the Dungeons & Dragons ® Player’s Handbook…” etc, etc. In fact I get the feeling that the author and publishers would rather not mention underground chambers and large scaly beasts if they could. We’re advised to check the System Reference Document (SRD) for the core rules. It’s a little round about but it’s probably a safe bet; if you’re buying the Golden Hero Pulp D20 Sourcebook then you know which d20 books you need to have first. Probably. I just worry about future support for the line. Indecently the book talks about fantasy classes as add-ons rather than d20 modern ones, although either would work.
One of – perhaps the – selling points of Golden is the Negative Feat. These are disadvantages, weaknesses and sundry hindrances. You’re able to acquire more feats if you accept negative feats in return. I wouldn’t be happy with this in any other genre that pulp or pulp-hero (I know, the word ‘genre’ is overloaded) but here we expect characters with extremes of presence. There are nearly 100 pages of feats – and luckily this includes general feats, super powers and negative feats. This is an alphabetical list and that’s easy to go back and find that feat you’ve already selected. It’s a pain if you’re trying to browse through only just the negative feats. By this point in the book it’s easy to spot a trend – good idea, shame it’s been squished in. Oh, and it’s worth repeating for emphasis – that’s a heck of a lot of feats.
This is a d20 supplement and so we can expect skills and prestige classes (well, we’ve done the feats already!) I won’t care if I never see a re-written fantasy feat again but in an under-catered too area like pulp there’s plenty of need for adjustments. Prestige classes include Bounty Hunter, Great White Hunters (B’Wana), Doctor, Nurse and Steam Hunters (Robot Hunters).
As something of a bolt out of the blue combined with shock factor we’ve a fairly healthy section which extends the bonuses on stat scores. Got a character with Strength 30? Enjoy your +10 adjustment. Impressive? That’s nothing compared to Strength 117 and the +53 adjustment. Ouch.
There’s a whole whack of equipment. Equipment can be tricky in pulp – how do you cope with the mechanics of someone inventing a rocket packet, or a pocket size rocket pack, in the 1920s? Golden has mechanics to help. I think I’d tinker with them slightly but they do the hard work for me. There’s also those exotic items – like spearguns – which would be a bugger to stat otherwise.
Monster of the Week is something of a tongue-in-cheek title. You’ll find roleplaying tip sites out there on the World Wide Web which caution GMs against succumbing to this cliché – however, once again, the pulp genre is something of a wildcard. It’s very much “pulp” to do the monster of the week thing. Each pulp issue would pit the hero or band of heroes against the monster of the week. There are a handful of monsters here.
I think it is pretty easy to whisk up a pulp campaign setting. It might not even be necessary; pulp tended to concentrate on the main characters and spin the world off around them. There need not be a Kingdom of Kaiser until episode #43 when the hero runs across a Kaiserian agent. If in doubt, or there’s a shortage of time, Golden as a timeline for its own world.
I found bits of Golden to be exceptionally useful. I found the product as a whole to be somewhat frustrating. There’s a clear attempt to give us great value for money and produce an economical book. I would rather have had a more expensive book and given the contents more space and a chance to shine. It’s much easier to see what’s wrong with the book – how difficult it is to find what you want, the illustrations, the squeeze and any rule suggestion that you don’t personally like. It’s trickier to see the strengths of the book – it does quite well with what’s a tough project, just how much you get for your dollars ($20). There’s a PDF companion and I suspect the percentage of Golden fans who’ve upgraded from electronic to the deluxe paper edition is high.