Pulp Zombies, like Enter the Zombie, looks at a movie-fusion approach, this time mixing classic zombie films with the pulp genre. It opens with a fairly massive piece of fiction, The Night Chicago Died, which unleashes the undead amidst mobsters on Chicago's streets. Chapter 1: Setting the Stage then chips in with an attempt to define what 'pulp' actually means, looking at the concept of larger-than-life adventures in the style of those of the 1920s to 1940s... while it's hard to pin it down in words, most people have a general idea of what pulp means. Precise chronology is not important, double-fisted action and excitement are.
Chapter 2: Pulpy Flesh continue in this vein, continuing to define, or at least give an impression of, what 'pulp' actually means - high stakes, thrilling locations and above all, action and high adventure. Heroes are, well, heroic and never hesitate, they just know what is right without agonising over ethical choices... and villians are just evil, not misunderstood. There's some background about the Pulp Era, based firmly in America, with everything from sample prices to favourite entertainments and daily life being discussed (and a reminder that although ethnic minorities and women had a rough deal in real life, there's no need to replicate that in your games). Franklin D. Roosevelt is in the White House, the radio is a common form of entertainment in the home, movies were booming and the railroad is already declining in the face of the automobile... and everyone's fascinated by aircraft. That done, attention is turned to the all-important business of creating Pulp Hero characters, with a new Character Type to facilitate this. There are also suggestions for building a party - in the movies, most heroes act alone, or at most have a few sidekicks, but this doesn't work so well in a role-playing game. Gadgets and supernatural powers are also covered and the chapter ends with a few Archetypes ready to be played or to be used as a source of inspiration.
Next, Chapter 3: Hollow Earth presents the first of three fully-developed settings. This is interesting in that there's a distinct campaign arc, beginning with the party involved in seeking out ancient artefacts... without a zombie in sight! They emerge later in a series of devastating earthquakes, and then the fight is on to get rid of them and set things straight, which involves a journey to the centre of the earth. There's a lot of background explaining not just what is going on but why, and plenty of NPCs from archaeologists to members of a mysterious society that keep popping up - but are they a hinderance or a help? Loads of resources here concerning artefacts and where to seek them out and much, much more... but although it's not mentioned, the thought occurs that this might best be run with the players unaware that you're running All Flesh Must Be Eaten: present it as a pulp adventure run using the Unisystem ruleset and let the emergence of zombies come as a complete surprise!
In Chapter 4: Zombies Inc. we get a completely different setting: here a criminal mastermind has worked out how to raise zombies and then organised them to create an unprecidented crimewave, with the heroes working to put an end to the undead crime spree across America (and indeed the world). There's an abundance of information of the (on the face of it) unlikely crime lord behind the zombies and several location-based scenario outlines to get you going, as well as notes for further adventures and on how to wrap things up in a satisfactory manner once the crime lord is brought down. Classic stuff in a Doc Savage vein.
Chapter 5: They Want Our Women takes a different tack yet again. Basically, the Martians have landed. It's very much Mars Attacks! in style, and should only be played tongue-in-cheek... with Martians being classified by head size (the larger the more important, of course) what do you expect? Strictly speaking, this isn't a 'zombie' setting, but the Martians are bizarre enough and more importantly pulp enough for that not to matter too much.
Finally, Chapter 6: Scattered Pulp provides a host of other setting outlines, in far less detail than the preceeding three, which you may explore at your leisure. All piulp in style, there's plenty to keep you happy whether Chinatown is crawling with undead, film noir detective stories and more.
The fusion of zombies and pulp is a marriage made in heaven, or at least in some deranged place that makes for excellent role-playing ideas. There's something for just about everyone here.
Return to Pulp Zombies page.
Reviewed: 8 June 2017