I was never quite happy with the idea of using D&D as the core system, though. I briefly considered using instead Stormbringer or Elric, but that idea never set well, either. As my desire to run an Algolian game grew, it seemed that finding a suitable system became harder.
Then, after several nights of indulging in '80s nostalgia (driven by watching several seasons of "Magnum, P.I.") and harkening back to the halcyon days of my intro to gaming - which happened to, thanks mostly to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Tales of the Gold Monkey, coincide with a burgeoning love for pulp-era fiction, style, and music - my mind wandered to a system I had briefly fallen in love with over a decade ago: Buck Rogers: High Adventure Cliffhangers.**
BR:HAC is about as rules lite as it gets. As one review I read put it, it's a game for people who think Savage Worlds is too crunchy. (I'm paraphrasing here, since I no longer recall the source.) It's fast, lean, and offers a cinematic/dime store novel feel without all the overhead that seems to come along with it in many other game systems. And even though it's clearly set in the Buck Rogers' "universe," its rules-light nature makes it a prime candidate for house ruling/shoehorning into one's own setting.
For a pulp-themed game, BR:HAC really plays into the style of the genre. I've toyed with TSR's Gangbusters and Indiana Jones, and spent far too many hours prepping for a Savage Worlds game that never materialized; I think this is because the systems for these games, although each worthy in their own right, never hit the pulp sweet spot in my mind.
I chose BR:HAC for my Algol game, because I didn't want to do the usual murder-hobo D&D game. I wanted a real pulp feel that D&D just doesn't deliver with its levels and hit points. BR:HAC just seemed to hit the right spot.
The proof is in the play: I ran a multi-adventure session of my "Planet Algol: High Adventure Cliffhangers" game over the weekend, and it was an unmitigated success. Furthermore, I've been badgered daily since then to run more PA:HAC games. It seems like using BR:HAC was the right choice.
Thanks to BR:HAC, it even looks like I may finally be running a few "standard" pulp/noir games in the near future. And that's something I've been yearning to do since those Gold Monkey days, when my 16-year-old self forewent contemporary idols for the likes of Humphrey Bogart, wore bow-ties and white felt hats, and listened to the Andrews Sisters.***
*Many thanks, Blair and company!
**Many thanks, Jeff Grubb and company!
***RIP Patty Andrews (below, center), last surviving member of that wonderful trio, who passed away just a few hours prior to this post. Thank you and your sisters for helping fuel an awkward teen's love of a bygone era.
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