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I am considering putting together a pulp campaign set in the '30s. It's sort of "Indiana Jones" in terms of world (i.e. with a chance of low-key paranormal, horror, and superscience elements, but mostly "real").

The idea I am currently toying with is to have the players work on a small cargo boat, specializing in fast delivery of packages, postal packets, and sometimes taking passengers or renting out the boat for scientific expeditions. Maybe with some gimmick like making the ship a one-of-a-kind vessel with better than average speed or range. My idea is to set the game in the Caribbean, so that I can easily add zombies/voodoo, archeological findings, maybe drugs/weapons/rum-running.

What would you suggest as reading material? I am not interested in rulebooks, unless they have plenty of setting info. On the other hand, I am confident that I can manage to convert (or at least take inspiration from) supplements, no matter the actual rulesystem.

And I can also work with novels, or comics, if they fit the bill closely. A nice primer on the geopolitical situation of the area would be appreciated too. (I do own a few old-school pulp RPGs, like Daredevils and the original Indiana Jones books, but they don't give much in terms of coverage of the area)

I'd also be interested in anything dealing with "modern" piracy, i.e. piracy from the start of the 20th Century onward. It would be best if it actually concerned the Caribbean, but I can probably make some use of it even if it's from another part of the world.

So: suggestions?

Note: I have posted more or less the same request on RPG.NET forum - I am linking it from here so that if someone likes the topic can check that, too. Now or in the future..

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The 30's were the heyday of Cuba and the mob. Seeing as the mob was heavily invested in Cuba and the caribean as a source of alchohol during prohibition as well as drugs and gambling. – Chad Jun 13 '11 at 17:54
yes, this is what I thought (see my remark about rhum running). But I'd like to get more details on this. – p.marino Jun 13 '11 at 21:01

And this is a useful resource on tramp steamers, although the time period is not made completely explicit. I know that the author had pulp gaming in mind when he created it, however.

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Pretty great! Thanks!!! – p.marino Jun 13 '11 at 9:20

The prime source on voudoun is Maya Deren's "Divine Horsemen of Haiti", also sold under the title "The Voodoo Gods". Probably a bit more than you really wanted to know, but a very good book. Directly relevant to zombies in particular is Wade Davis' "The Serpent and the Rainbow", which has an interesting theory about how they might really be created. It was also made into a movie, by expanding it into a fictional story. I would recommend the book over the film.

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Thanks. I forgot to say that I have (and have read) "Tell My Horse" by Zadie Smith. And yes, I am vaguely familiar with The Serpent and the Rainbow (a local gaming magazine even published a CoC adventure based on the movie). – p.marino Jun 13 '11 at 8:00
+1 For Wade Davis: A must read! One River is worth your time as well but focuses more on the Amazonian. – Sardathrion Jan 23 '12 at 13:38

You may want to check out GURPS Voodoo for source material.

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Read it in the past, on lease from a friend. I will ask him again if/when I start for good, but thanks. – p.marino Jun 13 '11 at 20:59

My suggestion is regarding tone and feel, moreso than an exact chronological match. I would read anything by Tim Powers, but especially "On Stranger Tides". This book, especially, could be an interesting backdrop to your story set in the 1930s. It could give the entire adventure a sense of history, but from the weird tales perspective. I will not spoil it, except to say that is it remains quite vibrant in my memory.

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It's on my wish list since a couple of years back, thanks. I liked all the books by Powers I read so far, and I am sure I will like this one too... but I am really looking for "modern day pirates" if possible. – p.marino Jun 13 '11 at 21:00
@ p.marino I hear you. I was suggesting this Tim Powers as the backdrop to the Indiana Jones portion of your adventure. – Galieo Jun 18 '11 at 10:33

You may take a look at Anne Rices's Mayfair witches. They are the central piece of the "The Witching Hour" (1990). I believe a quarter of the book is dedicated to the history of this witch family, spanning from Caribbean to New Orleans. It's a tale of voodoo, curses and a powerful spirit (called Lasher).

Despite of Anne Rice's fame for the Vampire series, I would point this novel as her best.

Edit: Here is the link for the wikipedia article. Unfortunately it doesn't focus on family history.

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Gentlemans guide to passages south - Why would you want a book on sailing? Its filled with lots of little trivia and things that are imporant to know and understand about the islands of the Carribean. And if you ask nearly any cruiser in the Carribean this is the book they will recommend you get and read over and over before you begin your carribean cruise. You probably do not need that in depth of understanding but the book should provide you with some good ideas on places for your party to visit and hazards to throw in their way.

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