Monday, September 29, 2014

The Golden Age of Pulp...Is About 10

With a new school year comes a new session of the Sunday program at the tutoring center where I teach. This semester, so far, Sundays are pretty light, with only four students signed up and attending regularly.

Saturdays are much busier, and I have been covering for a teacher who is on vacation. So, yeah, worked seven days a week for two weeks, plus working this week at the regular job. Saturday, Oct. 4th will be my first day off since Sept. 13th.

Be that as it may, I love it and the kids are awesome.

As part of what I do at the center, I run an RPG session each week, connected to a writing lesson and/or creative writing assignment. With both the game and the lessons, we try to encourage the students to think and be creative, as well as practice their writing skills.

Many of these kids are in ESL classes (English as a Second Language), and either have difficulty with English because they moved to the USA fairly recently, or because English isn't regularly spoken by their family at home.

For this 'semester', I started with two girls, each in 4th grade, and a boy in 2nd. Another girl has now joined them, also in 4th grade.

I initially had this idea I thought was amazing, combining a modified version of the game Psi-Run with creative writing, learning how to search for clues and information in text, and other elements that would have been both really helpful to the students, and incredibly fun. Unfortunately, with so few kids, the basic premise of project (each student learning about his or her character from questions created/asked by the other students) wasn't going to live up to its full potential. I decided to shelve the concept for now, and do something else.

I asked the original three students what they wanted to play. One girl said Fantasy, the boy said Superheroes, and the other girl didn't care as long as it had fighting and action.

I asked them when it should take place. The answer was discussed between them and they voted for the present, modern day. I asked where it should take place. I got 'the Ocean', 'the Sky', a 'Far Away Land'.

Pouring all these ingredients into my mental blender, I came up with an oddly Pulp Era-like supers game. Basically, HEROES meets Indiana Jones, or something akin to the game I mentioned not long ago called Double Cross. The only difference was the feel was much more 'Dime Store Novel' then I intended once we started playing.

What we ended up with is called, 'The Crime-Fighters' (named by one of the girls and winning the unanimous vote). The Crime-Fighters (we learn in Episode #3) are a team of international secret agents fighting against evil, and using either special skills, high tech gadgets or superhuman abilities.

Our first session found the team fighting a bunch of pirates who had stolen a priceless treasure, recently excavated from the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. The treasure was lost hundreds of years ago when a storm sank the boat carrying it.

Defeating the criminals, they loaded the treasure onto the team jet (a small craft owned by one of the PCs), and headed back to Washington, D.C. to hand the treasure over to a museum. Low and behold, it would not be so easy, as the pirates were working for a mysterious fellow known only as 'The Boss Man', who immediately gave chase in his own plane (a massive, modified B-52 Bomber looking flying fortress). The pirate ship was originally supposed to meet the plane anyway to transfer the stolen treasure.

The heroes had a head start but the enemy plane used 'turbo boost' style rockets to catch up. Eventually, one of the players (the boy), handed the controls of his plane over to a teammate so he could fly over to the enemy plane with his special suit...

Oh yeah, The Crime-Fighters are:

'Lucky', a girl with the power to give herself and others Good Luck or Bad Luck. It is sometimes hard to believe this young lady is only in the 4th grade. She came up with the idea that if she raises her right hand (or touches someone with it) it's Good Luck but her left hand is Bad Luck. At one point, she hands the controls of the plane to the 'Fighting Girl' who said she didn't know how to pilot the craft. Without missing a beat or giving any other signal, the player put her right hand on her friend's shoulder and said, "Well, Good Luck flying the plane." Brilliant.

'Fighting Girl' is a modern day Hua Mulan, apparently replacing her aging father who was a member of the Crime-Fighters but retired. She has no supernatural or superhuman powers but is an extremely skilled fighter. She is a master of numerous martial arts techniques, an expert archer, and an incredible swordswoman (Swords are her main weapon). She also carries various grenades (flash, smoke, etc.), and a grapnel gun (made for her by the male member of the group).

Referred to as 'The Pilot' and 'The Flying Hero', the male member of the team is an inventor with a host of nifty gadgets. Largely inspired by the Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Flying Hero wears a winged suit that lets him fly and turn invisible (though he can still be heard, smelled, etc.). He wears goggles that enable him to see himself when he's invisible (Very clever on this kids part), see in the dark (as night vision goggles), and shoot lasers from the sides (the beams are not very powerful but he can weld things, burn you, cut ropes, etc.).

Coolest thing? He gave a spare pair of his googles (sans lasers) to each of his fellow Crime-Fighters so they too can see him when he's invisible. Teamwork! I was so proud and impressed by that idea.

Their assignment for next week is to come up with actual names for their characters, and give a little background as to where they are from and why they are members of the Crime-Fighters.

After getting over to the enemy craft (eventually accompanied by Lucky, who travels over by grapnel gun line), the Pilot manages to get into a fight with a few of 'The Boss Man's specially gifted henchmen. So far, the team has fought a super strong man with tough (although not invulnerable) skin, a samurai girl who is also very good with a sword, a man who can disappear and reappear in a puff of black smoke (a mystic), and a teenager who is either a cyborg or a robot.

'The Boss Man', originally seated in the front area, ran to the back of the plane, and locked the cabin door behind him after sending the cyborg/robot kid out to engage the PCs.

The team was aided in the last episode by a new member, another female character who can shape change into a variety of frightening monsters. She can not duplicate people and her size is limited to roughly the same as her true form but she has the most overtly noticeable supernatural ability in the group. The rest of the group is saying it's likely magic. I am curious to see what the player says in the writing assignment.

We've had three sessions so far, and yet, there are a lot more details I could tell you about. The kids are awesome and they're having a ball with this. It's so odd how the genre is feeling very Pulp as I mentioned, even though these kids are way too young to have any clue what Pulp even is. Not unlike that time I ran Superheroes with the older kids and it felt very Silver Age even though none of them read comics, let alone ones from the 70s.

Anyway, going to stop here and get back to other projects. A lot going on lately.

Talk to you soon.

Barking Alien

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