If you're not familiar with the heroic pulps of the 30s and 40s, they were a precursor to comic books that featured crime-fighting men and women who became embroiled in global whirlwind adventures. Some of the best known of the characters from the heroic pulps would be Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Spider and The Shadow. Other famous literary precursors to the pulp traditions could be characters like Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Nick Carter or the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. More modern neo-pulp characters could be ones like Indiana Jones, Buckaroo Banzai or even someone like Jack Burton. Big, bold, larger than life characters against a backdrop that is just as large, and as dangerous, as they are.
Amazing Adventures is from Troll Lord Games, publishers of Castles & Crusades, and features a modified version of the SIEGE Engine d20 variant that powers that game. Vey has taken a number of variants that take the SIEGE Engine out of traditional fantasy play and move it towards heroic fantasy characters and adventures. He also mixes in some bits from the d20 Modern SRD, as well. Even if you are not a fan of the pulps (or aren't one yet), this game can still hold an interest for you because of the fact that it can also serve as a streamlining and updating of WotC's old d20 Modern stuff for you. One of the things that I never liked about d20 Modern was the sort of attribute-based classes. That is gone in this game, with a more traditional take on character classes. A variety of the pulp archetypes are represented in these rules, classes that could easily be modified backwards for those looking for a more Steampunk style of gaming, or modified forwards for contemporary era role-playing. Actually, this game impressed me a lot more than Castles & Crusades did, and it I were to run a fantasy-based SIEGE Engine game, I would reverse engineer it out of Amazing Adventures rather than play Castles & Crusades. Maybe there will be a special edition (or supplement) featuring the rebuilt iconic fantasy classes for play in Amazing Adventures some day. I would like something like that.
It was also nice to see some Lovecraft seep into this game. Amazing Adventures has a nice little sanity mechanic, for those who want those sorts of things in their games, and a few Lovecraftian monsters managed to sneak their way into an already ample bestiary. For those who have wondered if Pulp Cthulhu was ever going to come out from Chaosium, this is the substitute that you have been waiting for.
The fact that Amazing Adventures takes the "old school" approach of having most of the setting implied by the rules, rather than completely spelled out, means that these rules can easily be modified to other eras influenced by the heroic pulps, with little to know effort on the part of the GM. If you are looking for a pulp-influenced setting that I think would work excellently with Amazing Adventures, you could not go wrong with the splendid Weird Adventures from Armchair Planet (a shout out since I talked with the creator of Weird Adventures on one of my Dorkland! Roundtables). I am actually hoping in the new year to get a chance to run a Weird Adventures game using the Amazing Adventures rules. If I can find a print copy from my FLGS, maybe this will happen.
Complaints? I have only a few of this game. I was disappointed by the lack of direct support for characters like Doc Savage and The Shadow. Sure, you can make characters like that, but it does take a little bit of fiddling with characters. I would like to see new Paragon and Weird Adventurer classes for the game that more directly support these very important pulp archetypes. It would also push the game into the direction of an ensemble campaign in the style of Dynamite Comics Masks mini-series. Yes, I wouldn't say no to a Mystery Man class for Amazing Adventures, but it might be pushing the game in a different direction. However, I think that if I had supplement(s) that covered these three classes, I would probably never need another pulp or semi-modern era RPG again. Also, I think that they got a little carried away with their table of contents, and probably could have skipped listing each and every spell in the game on it.
Make no mistakes, Amazing Adventures is a good, solid game that bring the pulp experience to your gaming table. It is probably one of the most solid games put out by Troll Lord Games, and a lot of that is due to the design chops of Jason Vey. He is a man who knows his pulps and knows his way around the SIEGE Engine mechanics and these two factors have merged into one well-made game. If you are looking for a class and level-based game that is really smart about the pulps, this is the game that you want to buy.
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