Amateurs, take note: THIS is how you write a sourcebook.
Written mostly from an in-universe perspective, “Pulp Egypt” is an excellent sourcebook for, obviously, the Egypt of the Pulp era, focusing mostly on the decade of the 1930’s. According to the back cover, the book offers:
• A “Visitors Guide to Egypt” suitable for orienting gamemasters and familiarizing players with common knowledge of the setting.
Not to disparage the rest of the book, but this is my favourite section. Though too short for my liking, it is well-researched, logically structured, informative without being pedantic, and written in a very professional – yet surprisingly easy-to-read – style. Over four millennia of history competently summarised in three pages or so, yet with sufficient information to help readers unfamiliar with this desert wonderland’s background to grasp the key parts of Egypt’s rich history and put them in the context of the early-to-mid 20th Century. And of course, the bibliography and other media resources provided in Appendix 4 are there to hep curious readers deepen their understanding of the subject matter. The section also includes a map and timeline, both very useful given the span of the time and space covered here. The rest of the 20-odd-page section deals with a multitude of topics ranging from transportation to or within Egypt, to points of interest, which include mosques, clubs and restaurants, and information on how to bargain in a bazaar or whether you should consider staying at a hotel or renting a townhouse.
• A chapter filled with Egyptian exotica, all the mysterious places, supernatural occurrences, magical artefacts, and mythical beasts abounding with adventure ideas.
From the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria to the mythical city of Hamunaptra, from how to exorcise spirits to how to tell whether that thing that’s following you is a Shambling, Lesser or Greater Mummy, this 40-page section offers a wealth of information on landmarks, beliefs, artefacts and animals one is likely to encounter in the Egypt of the 1930’s. And, of course, plot hooks and scenario ideas abound throughout.
• A chapter for running each of three kinds of themed campaigns in Egypt — archaeology, espionage, and criminal — including a full campaign outline for each.
The description speak for itself: 70 pages or so in which the author gives free reign to his vivid imagination, with very creative adventures which numerous sidebars flesh out through additional information such as timelines, random-event generators and maps and diagrams.
• Appendices detailing suitable character archetypes for pulp Egyptian campaigns, a random artefact generator system, and a list of book, film, and music resources to enhance your game.
A short section (under twenty page), which might have been lengthened to a certain degree. The character archetypes are not all that many (a score or so), but they are well fleshed out and, in any event, may be complemented by characters drawn from the “Who’s Who in Pulp Egypt” section, which includes historical and fictional characters.
The book also features the author’s “Any-System Key”, a truly generic system that allows you to carry the information provided in the book over to the game system of your choice, and to do so with amazing ease.
Overall, the book is very well written, with a pleasant layout; there is a profusion of illustrations, but the text does not feel as if it were bieng smothered under their combined weight. The author obviously has a knack for storytelling; hopefully, this will encourage the reader to start looking for some of his other works (luckily, there are also additional downloads available: “The Charioteer's Tomb”, and “Enemies on the Horizon”, adventures designed to be used in the “Pulp Egypt” setting, both available for free on RPGNow), and the author to keep producing such entertaining books.
There are too many semi-literate authors out there who cobble together a few paragraphs, a couple of lists and a page or two of confusing scenarios and sell the resulting mishmash at outrageous prices. Fortunately, there are still authors who take pride in their craft, and when someone comes around and produces such outstanding work, I feel they must be given their due. This is one such author.