Pulp Review: Justice Inc.
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Justice Inc.: The Roleplaying Game of the 20's & 30's
Author: Aaron Allston, Steve Peterson, Michael Stackpole
Published in 1984 by Hero Games
Boxed game containing 2 booklets (96 and 89 pages).
Price: Out of Print
The first real contender for "generic" system in the 80' was the Hero
System (even if FGU had a stab at it, too, using a set of more-or-less-
compatible rules in many of their games).
Justice Inc. was the Hero
System instantiation for Pulp.
The game did not have a large success, so even if a couple of supplements
appeared for it, it slipped into obscurity pretty soon.
This is actually
a pity, because it was a fine attempt at the genre, even if many perhaps
would object at the fairly crunchy nature of the rules.
The game was sold in a boxed set, containing a rule manual (96 pages)
including anything you really needed to know in order to play. This manual
and the box had the same picture for cover, a pretty good color image by
Brain K. Hamilton. The inner illos were b/w drawings, of varying
The other booklet was the Campaign Book, (sporting an amusing, but
horribly ill-executed picture including a lot of Pulp personalities). This
is at once a sourcebook (with the usual timeline, notes on money and law), a
guide for the GM (with hints and tips about staging the game, and notes on
the different types of pulp, including Spicy Stories and westerns), and an
"adventures" section containing a full-fledged "adventurers' club" setting
and four adventures of varying length and detail.
The system was a streamlined version of the Champions/Hero System rules.
This means that most of the "tweakable" stuff was not included, but the
basic mechanics (OCV/DCV, stun and body damage, turn etc.) are all there.
The game has a short but interesting list of "weird powers" (like
Hypnotism and "Aura Reading"), and can work well even if you do not have
access to any other hero rulebook. The only exception is the use of gadgets:
if you fancy a "Doc Savage" character, you need Champions.
Apart from this, you will find most of what you may need inside, including
an abstract but workable system fro vehicle chases and combats. There is
also a brief "bestiary" including some normal animals plus standard "horror"
creatures like vampire and werewolf.
The Campaign Book devotes 20 pages to discussing genre conventions,
different kind of Pulp stories (horror, spicy, western, mystery, SF...) a
short but well-balanced bibliography.
These are followed by the "real"
sourcebook: two pages describing the era (from 1919 to 1939) in general
terms, stressing some things like the role of women in society and touching
important changes in society (including the 1929 Stock Crash) and giving
some details about money and law.
As usual for "historical" games, we then find a timeline listing important
events for each year. Strangely enough, half page is devoted to World Series
result... something that American may perhaps appreciate, but I doubt it is
really necessary for the game. Luckily enough, the remaining half of the
page is devoted to some interesting statistics, like number of Post Offices
and miles of telegraph lines for year 1920, 1930 and 1940.
After this, 8 pages of slang. Again, if you use English while you play you
may find "colorful" to use "Sinker" and "Zuch", but this may have very
little interest for non-Americans.
Adventures and other goodies
As a starting point for your adventures, Justice Inc. offers "The Empire
Club", an extremely exclusive establishment where only "individuals
... recommended for signs of an adventurous spirit" are considered for
Fully detailed maps for the club are provided, along with advice on how to
use it as starting point for adventures.
As a starter, a brief solo adventure (titled "Join the Club") is provided.
The book offers three other adventures (which I will not detail to avoid
spoilers. One has "optional" supernatural elements (if the GM prefers, they
can be replaced with mundane explanations), while the other two are
Maps and NPC stats are provided, and the adventures seem fairly good, even
if they do not explore some common pulp elements like exotic locales.
A good game, one you should look for (on eBay?) if you are comfortable with
the Hero System. Some extra stuff was actually published for it, and I will
try to review it in the future.
On the other hand, if you prefer to use a different system, most of the
background info are already available in other games, and the three
adventures, while technically good, are not so spectacular to actually make
this a must-have product.