More on Pulp versus Classic – Setting the Tone

Classic Pulp Fare. Gavigan, is that you?

While Prospero House Publishing likes to consider itself a refined institution steeped in painstaking research, we cannot deny that we enjoy some juicy, heart-stopping adventure tales, as would any friend of Jackson. This legendary continent-hopping campaign has leaned heavily towards the pulp genre since its initial debut. Your players are trying to thwart a worldwide cult, including an adversary code-named the Pale Viper, from using a nuclear warhead to unleash the Dark Forces of the Elder Gods…I mean, come on. 

As far as how you would care to frame this at your table remains entirely up to you and your players. The revised edition of MoN contains optional Pulp Cthulhu content and Pulp Considerations distributed throughout all the Chapters, as well as helpful discussion in the Introduction (p. 21) to help inform your decision and execute your campaign. A simple question to ask if still ruminating on the classic versus pulp question should be “Does our playgroup want lots of action or investigative puzzles?” Many groups and Keepers will find that their playstyle lands somewhere in between those two poles. For those coming to MoN with limited CoC/Pulp Cthulhu Keeping experience and remain uncertain here are some thoughts: 

Classic, atmospheric investigation?

If you prefer to keep your campaign fast-paced and intense, pulp may be your preference. You can also flip through the campaign books with attention to the Pulp Considerations and Pulp boxes spread throughout chapters and see if they captivate you. In a pulp game, you can freely feed your Investigators clues through action-based encounters. You can avoid extensive investigative work by employing elements of the GUMSHOE system and sticking to the Three Clue Rule. Also consider whether you want a rotating cast of squishy PCs due to frequent death and insanity, or fewer death-defying campaign heroes with a résumé of awesome deeds. While pulp may not fully equate to survivable (this is MoN), it will certainly seem more congruous from the standpoint of tone. 

In considering pulp or classic, also ask yourself “What sort of mood do we want at our table?” Would you like to execute a tension and anxiety-filled slow-burn with lots of character-laden roleplay and dark forays into library and newspaper archives for clues? Will your cultists be lurking threats in the shadows and committing brutal acts against innocents and NPCs? If your PCs would prefer to simply be punching those lurking cultists in the face, that’s another answer in favor of pulp. But if you prefer haunting your players with descriptions of frightening dreams and unseen horrors, rather than showing them directly, you might consider a classic campaign. 

Or heroic PCs slaying Mythos beasts?

It’s important to mention that you don’t have to commit to the Pulp Cthulhu rule set to play a pulpier campaign. From a system standpoint, you can simply buff your player’s resilience by increasing their hit points and employ the “Spending Luck” rule found in the Keeper Rulebook (p.99). Nor do you have to stick strictly to pulp or classic. You can shift tones between chapters without necessarily dialing up the actual threat level. If your classic Cthulhu players appear listless after clue-hunting, never hesitate to hit them with a pulpy scene, such as cultist ambush or kidnapping. 

You and your players will be investing considerable time in your campaign, and things may evolve throughout play. If your initial choice does not feel right for the table, do not hesitate to switch things up. You can slowly introduce or dial back pulp elements and see how the group responds or you can have an open discussion about making a change. If your players have grown weary of their roles as Investigators and want to play Heroes, indulge them! The incorporation of selected Pulp material from the campaign books into a classic campaign offers a nice way to test the waters or just punch things up. Do not be afraid to mix the two styles, you will likely notice that it happens quite naturally, which speaks to the richness of MoN. 

What sort of campaign did you run? Pulp? Classic? Did you switch mid-campaign?

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