As noted in several of my previous journal entries, Saturday June 21st, 2008 was Free RPG Day. I had promised the folks at the Clyde Avenue location of The Comic Book Shoppe that I would run some Hollow Earth Expedition demos there today in honour of the occasion.
I got to the Comic Book Shoppe around 10:00 am, and learned that a lot of people had been in when the store opened at 9:30 to grab the Free RPG Day stuff that they could get their hands on and then dashed out, although I was told that several folks expressed an interest in Hollow Earth Expedition, and said they would be back later in the day. Another element was the fact that the store manager was supposed to run D&D 4e during the day at the store, but had to back out of that due to reasons that I won't go into here, so I was the only one running demos at the shoppe.
As it turned out, I stayed at the store for most of the day and ran a total of five (5!!) games of HEX - one 2-hour demo adventure, and four 25 minute - 1 hour HEX vignettes/encounters/scenes. The two-hour demo game that I ran was the one that came out for Free RPG Day, "Stranded in the Hollow Earth", written by cybogoblin, and turned out to be a pretty good adventure for such a small one. The vignettes and encounters that I ran were for several folks who couldn't stay for the full demo, but who wanted to see the game system and world of HEX in action.
I'll talk about the vignettes first.
The first vignette that I ran involved three characters. The players, all guys, were very new to Hollow Earth Expedition, although one of them said that he was rather fond of the Pulp genre. The three players selected the Big Game Hunter, the Field Biologist, and the Rugged Explorer as their characters for the vignette. They named the characters Scott Anderson, Professor Charles Darke, and Harry Wright, respectively. The three players decided they wanted to take on a group of velociraptors, so I was more than willing to oblige them! I set the situation up for them such that they were the last three survivors of an expedition to the Hollow Earth, and they were travelling through a part of the dense jungle near a river when they came upon a series of carcasses and (animal) bones. The sequence of their taking on the three velociraptors went very smoothly and quite well for the player characters, as they took only minor injuries. The guy playing Scott Anderson used the Accuracy Talent to its full advantage in taking down the raptors. The vignette ran for about 35 minutes, and the three players told me afterwards that they were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the game went and how simple and easy to learn the game mechanics were.
The second vignette that I ran was one with a fellow who hadn't looked at roleplaying games in over 20 years, but was intrigued enough by the attractive HEXGM Screen to come over and check out the game. He decided to play a vignette after I told him a little about the game and the game rules, and asked to throw whatever I liked at him. I set him up in a set of monolithic ruins with some vegetation around (cover, don't you know! :) ), and he had an encounter with some savage ape-men. About five minutes into the session, he was joined by another player who had never played or ran HEX but who actually had the game, and was familiar with it. The two of them took on the roles of the Big Game Hunter and the Field Biologist, giving them the names Frederick Clarke and Stanley Ross, respectively. They both had a good time taking on the ape-men, although the fight sequence went a bit slowly as the fellow playing Frederick Clarke had not rpged in many years, and seemed more fixated on the mathematics of the Ubiquity dice rolling patterns than on playing the characters. While I would normally not let a player take that long to think about which dice to roll and all, this was a more relaxed kind of thing as it was meant to show people the game system, so I had no real problems with this, other than the fact that the flow of the game went all to hell. The vignette lasted for approximately an hour and a bit because of this fact. He told me afterwards that he really enjoyed the game, and went and checked out the copies of HEX on the rack. He actually picked up the rulesbook and the GM Screen, so I guess he liked the game a lot!
The third vignette that I ran was the most interesting of all. A man came into the store with his wife and daughter, the young girl being some 9 years old, and when he saw the game set up to play, he convinced his wife and daughter to play, although the latter didn't need to be convinced, as she said, "Oooh, dinosaurs!" as they came over to the table. The father had been playing rpgs for most of his life, while his wife enjoyed the occasional game, and they had introduced their little one to rpgs about a year or so before. Dad decided to play the Big Game Hunter, his wife took the role of the Fortune Hunter, and the little one played the Scion of Atlantis (from the Secrets of the Surface World sample characters). I set them up in the wilderness as they entered a village of cargo cultists, and then were beset by an attack of ape-men. "Ape-men!!" the little girl shrieked, attracting several other folks over to watch. The three of them handled the situation presented to them with relative ease, the little girl having a strong sense of what to do with her character. They played for about 45 minutes or so, and this was the most enjoyable game of the day for me, as the little girl was curious about all sorts of things. All three agreed afterwards that the game mechanics were extremely simple, the young girl having no problem grasping them at all. And she liked the different coloured Ubiquity dice as well!
The fourth vignette that I ran was actually the start of the two-hour demo scenario. Three young fellows who had never tabletop rpged before (but who played a lot of games on-line) decided they wanted to try HEX out. They started off fine (see the scenario report below), and then were joined by spross when he arrived at the Comic Book Shoppe, but about the time the sequence got to where the listing tramp steamer was heading for shore, realized that they had run out of time, as one of their mothers had shown up. So I had to abandon that one. They played for about 40 minutes or so, so I guess I get to consider this a vignette.
Then we come to the actual two 2-hour demo that I ran.
First off, let's start here with the basic plot for the scenario, and the player characters created for this adventure.
A group of explorers find themselves stranded in a mysterious locale, and under attack from prehistoric monsters. They start out as lost travellers, and end up as heroic saviours to village native sunder attack villainous Nazis.
The scenario was written by cybogoblin as noted earlier, and is a rather nice, simple plot that is quite engaging for a group of four players. The four characters that are set for this story are a Big Game Hunter, a Field Biologist, a Fortune Hunter, and a Rugged Explorer. The characters get to take on dinosaurs and Nazis in this one, so it has everything that makes Hollow Earth Expedition the superb game that it is, and has everything in it that makes for a good demo scenario.
Two guys and a female friend of theirs came into the store, and expressed an interest in playing, since it was Free RPG Day, after all, and they had two hours to do the full scenario. They picked the Big Game Hunter, the Rugged Explorer, and the Fortune Hunter to play as their characters. After about ten minutes, another guy came in and asked if I had room for another player, which I did, and so he sat down and took the Field Biologist. So the player characters were:
Big Game Hunter - George Bakeman
Field Biologist - Dr. Reginald Taylor
Fortune Hunter - Miranda Clarke
Rugged Explorer - Gilbert Hughes
The four players had a pretty good time over the just under 2 hours of the demo. The scenario is straightforward and a bit linear for my taste at times, but it brings across the setting of the game quite well. Some of the highlights were:
1. The battle with the Plesiosaur was simply brilliant, especially when Miranda Clarke slipped on the wet decking, and just about lost her shotgun over the side. The weird thing was, this also happened to the player character playing the Big Game Hunter in the vignette version of this one.
2. The player characters struggled somewhat against the velociraptors, because the dice were rolling poorly, so it was a good thing they had a good stack of Style points in front of them. When the rifle of the Big Game Hunter jammed (on a botched roll of 14 dice!) In one round of combat, he didn't bother with another weapon, just used a few Style points, and clubbed the dino with the rifle! Just beautiful!
3. After the tramp steamer was going down in the ocean and the characters and surviving crew were aboard the lifeboats, the player characters were shocked when the plesiosaur took out the lifeboat with Captain Redgrave and the rest of the crew. It was summed up by the guy playing the Rugged Explorer: "Well, there goes any chance we have of getting home from...wherever we are."
4. When the player characters realized the Nazis were attacking the ape-men villagers, and that they had a submarine, the guy playing George Bakeman said, "So, we just have to save the villagers, kill all of the Nazis, and steal the submarine. Not a problem!" (I gave him 2 Style points for the line.)
5. The characters managed to get into a decent conversation with the ape-men after the Nazis had been taken out, with Miranda Clarke pestering the villagers about any valuables they had. When they wanted to know why she asked, the player replied, "Oh, it's a hobby of mine to study things valued by the people and then take them!" The natives were not impressed. :)
Overall, I spent an enjoyable day running a lot of HEX for folks who had never played the game and were interested in it on this Free RPG Day. I like to think that I may have encouraged a few people to pick up the game in future, Whether any fruits come of this is another matter.
Still, an enjoyable day. I get tired just thinking about it! :)