Pulp Review: Justice Inc.
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cover img 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 quality.

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.

Background info

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 membership.
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 mysteries. 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.

Summing up

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.