Pulp, Part 4: Some fantastic setting ideas from the pros

(Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

If I’m going to make life easy for myself in running a play-by-email game, I might as well see what ideas from pros out there provide a juicy start. Here’s a couple that I found inspiring:

Kenneth Hite’s Eagle and Serpent: Crash at Roswell July 4, 1827, the second of his Six Flags over Roswell.

The Mexican Army private never had a chance when he stooped over the twitching gray body lying in the crater. Neither did his sergeant when the thing wearing the private’s skin went to report. This sergeant’s body rode south to El Paso to report to his captain, and he then rode south to the colonel. The Gray took shape after shape, moving steadily southward in quest of these humans’ leader. Finally he reached the one who acknowledged no leader, the one called Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. Santa Ana’s will was stronger than most, and the melding did not go the Gray’s way this time. Santa Ana found himself in possession of a new body with unheard of powers, mental and physical, and the total destruction of his sanity was a small price to pay.

When the Texan colonists attempted to rebel against Mexico in 1836, Emperor Antonio I crushed them easily, killing hundreds himself in battle. He defeated the Americans with his mighty lightnings a decade later, flinging the invasion forces back to New Orleans and destroying the American Navy with a deadly storm. Only the combined genius of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Edison was able to hold back the Mexican armies in the War of 1863. The Emperor turned his sights south, conquering everything from Guatemala to Patagonia in 50 years of war. Now, the Argus Group in Washington fears that the immortal Emperor will use 1929, the 100th anniversary of his accession to power, to declare himself to be Queztzalcoatl, Returned God-Emperor of the Americas. To stop him, Argus has recruited elite squads of Black Operatives (like, say, the PCs) to infiltrate the Mexican Empire and find Santa Ana’s weakness before it’s too late.

Daniel Bayn’s Celestials from his Sanctum system-less meta-setting.

Chinatown is booming. Between the Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad, immigration is at an all-time high. “Celestials” flood San Francisco’s labyrinthine streets, bringing Chinese culture and religion with them. However, America’s streets are not paved in gold. Few prospectors earn more than empty pockets and broken backs. The rail barons treat their coolies (a slang term for unskilled laborers) as slaves. The government imposes racist taxes (like the Anti-Coolie Act of 1862) that drain away what little money they do make. For many, crime is the only path to success, but the Tongs are every bit as ruthless as the Law…

The underworld is ruled by a loose federation of gangs who call themselves the Tongs. They go to war over territory, business, honor, and blood. Most of the time, full-blown warfare is avoided by simple shows of force; hundreds of thugs will materialize on the streets to stare each other down while their leaders negotiate. When things do turn violent, fists and melee weapons are the preferred instruments. Lethal force is usually reserved for more surgical strikes.

Finally, there’s the Hac Tao to content with. Literally translated as “Black Way,” this term refers to a whole, big bag of Taoist tricks. There are Hac Tao spells for inflicting disease, divining the future, beguiling the senses, bestowing good luck, cursing one’s enemies, and a thousand other petty applications. In the hands of an adept, the Hac Tao becomes a means of healing the sick and restoring harmony to nature. Unfortunately, there are far more petty, would-be sorcerers than enlightened Xian.

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