Well, as folks know, yesterday was Free RPG Day for 2009. Once more, I have to report that I didn't just run the "Kidnapped in the Hollow Earth" scenario that was the free giveaway scenario for HEX this time around. Note this report was written last night, so it refers to the stuff that I ran as if it was the actual day.
Anyway, on to the report...
RPG DAY REPORT FOR 06/20/09
As noted in several of my previous journal entries, Saturday June 20th, 2009 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, as I did last year, and was rather looking forward to the event.
This year, I was supposed to start running the demos and showing folks the system around 12 noon. I arrived at the Comic Book Shoppe around 11:30 am, and discovered that Mike, the guy who handles rpgs there (among other things) had found another batch of the Free RPG Day booklets with the HEX scenario, so that brought it up to a total of 10 booklets that were available to give away. (Not including the one that I had or the one put away for spross.) He hadn't put them out with the other Free RPG Day stuff, preferring to give them to me and distribute to anyone who expressed an interest in the game. There hadn't been a lot of people in the store during the morning, but I wasn't really worried. In any event, I was the only one who was going to do demos and offer players a chance to play the game, so that worked out fine (but not as well as I would have hoped).
I stayed at the store for most of the afternoon, and ran a total of four games of HEX - one 2-hour demo adventure, and three 10-20 minute sessions, but had several other people express an interest in HEX, so that was okay. The two-hour demo game that I ran was the one that came out for Free RPG Day, "Kidnapped in the Hollow Earth", written by our own obnoxiad and supersech, 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 think I'll talk about the vignettes first.
The first vignette was with a guy whom I knew vaguely from CanGames. While he hadn't played at stuff that I had run there, I had also seen him a couple of times at the Comic Book Shoppe before, so we started talking and he had forgotten all about Free RPG Day. He picked up some of the other products (which we won't discuss here), and saw that I was laid out with HEX stuff and all. He didn't believe I could explain the rules in five minutes, so I went through the explanation, and he liked it so much that he decided to spare ten minutes and play a quick demo of the game. For this one, I ran a small sequence in a settlement that was being attacked by lizardmen types. I used the stats for the lizardmen from the "Kidnapped in the Hollow Earth" adventure (since I did need to make use of it, right?), and that worked well. He was able to take out three lizardmen pretty quickly with his Rugged Explorer, and liked the system enough that he asked me how it handled other types of characters, like fictional guys and the like. I said that we could sit and create a character very quickly, and he agreed, choosing James Bond. It was more like an amalgamation of the various Bonds, with an emphasis on the literary version, and that took about 10 minutes. He liked the speed at which we had created the character, and found the character generation mechanics pretty easy. Liking the character, he took the day's booklet with him, and kept the Bond character basics for use later! :) Hopefully, at some point down the road he'll pick up the game system.
The second vignette that I ran involved a couple of folks, who were joined by a third one in the middle of the play. It started with a guy who came in with his girlfriend. He had heard of HEX and came in to get the Free RPG Day adventure booklet. Since his girlfriend was interested once she saw the female character on the GM Screen and the Fortune Hunter character that I had placed on the table, he was easily convinced to stay and see the game. We talked about the game rules, and he was quite impressed with the simplicity of the explanation, and while the two of them had other commitments for the day, they agreed to stick around and play in a small, 15-minute vignette. He played the Rugged Explorer, while his girlfriend took the Fortune Hunter, of course. I set them up in a series of jungle ruins, the last survivors of a plane crash, with obelisk-like stuff and a few apemen attacking them with spears and the like, as he wanted to see what the combat system worked like. He really liked the way the game played a lot, and we talked about various other stuff for a bit, before he had to take off. He said he liked the game enough that they might purchase it for play with their gaming group in future, and was quite interested to know that I would be running Hollow Earth Expedition again at CanGames, 2010. The third fellow joined them about half-way through the vignette, and liked what he saw while watching. He took the Big Game Hunter character, and I gave him the rules through example as we continued the demo. He liked how simple they were, and said to me that he had considered playing in one of the games I ran at CanGames a couple of years earlier, but hadn't been able to get a slot to play in it, as they were all full. He said that he liked the system after playing in the quick demo (which he continued with a bit longer, after the guy and his girlfriend had taken off), and he immediately purchased one of the two copies of HEX that the store had. So, that was a bonus as far as I was concerned - and meant that I had done what I had set out to do running the game.
The third vignette was basically due to the fact that a couple of guys came into the store looking for the Free RPG Day material, and took a look at the HEX booklet, and thought they might like to see a demo of the game system. I took five minutes to give them the basics of the rules, and they expressed an even stronger desire to play a quick demo. They took on the Rugged Explorer and the Big Game Hunter, and I set them up in a situation on a small boat being attacked by a plesiosaur as it neared a mysterious island (borrowing a bit from last year's Free RPG Day booklet, even though I didn't have it with me). The most fantastic thing was that the Rugged Explorer guy leapt off the boat onto the plesiosaur, and managed to plunge his weapon into the creature's body doing a good amount of damage (around 5L wounds) once I had explained to him again the use of Style Points. The two guys got a good grounding in the general elements of the system, how Style Points work, and how the combat system goes. They both had a pretty good experience with the game, and thought that it rocked. (Their words, not mine, I leave stuff like that for obnoxiad!) Both guys loved the "Indiana Jones" feel that the game allowed for, and said that it was something they would consider buying, as they both mentioned that their gaming group could get into a system like this. They each grabbed a copy of the booklet of the day, and then took off.
Then we come to the actual two 2-hour demo that I ran. Well, sadly, it only last for about an hour and a half, but that's another matter.
First off, let's start here with the basic plot for the scenario, and the player characters created for this adventure. In essence, a group of adventurers embark on a journey aboard an experimental drilling machine only to find themselves stranded in a mysterious land and under attack from strange creatures. Worse still, their rescue mission goes awry when they discover that an expeditionary force of Nazis has already invaded the area. The scenario itself was written by obnoxiad and supersech, 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 Fortune Hunter, a Mad Scientist, and a Rugged Explorer. Given that the scenario has both Nazis and dinosaurs in it, it has everything that makes Hollow Earth Expedition the brilliant game that it is, and has everything in it that makes for a good demo scenario.
The players for this game were four teenagers, all family. The four teenagers showed up with their mother. All of them, including their mother, were Dungeons & Dragons players, but when they came into the store two of the boys were intrigued by the GM Screen (there's that wonderful HEX GM Screen doing its job again (::hint, hint::, oh folks at Greymalkin Designs; are you reading this, nearside?), and convinced the other two to play in the demo. I took them through the five-minute basics of the rules of the Ubiquity system, and the three boys and one girl were impressed. We then started in on the scenario itself, and they had a pretty good time for the hour and a half that they played until their mom hauled them off for lunch. The four characters had a good time on the MOLE machine and handled the tasks they needed to with flair, getting a few Style points for that stuff.
Once the characters entered the jungle, they encountered the lizardmen, and were initially hostile to them (especially when they saw the wreck of the vehicle), but they were able to sneak up, and then attacked the lizardmen. The Mad Scientist did a good job, using some Style and his stun rifle on the lizardmen to great effect, and they were able to free the trapped sacrifice. Before they could talk to him, the T-Rex attacked from the jungle, and the party was in the fight of their lives. They did a pretty good job of fighting the T-Rex, and the Big Game Hunter killed the T-Rex, using a batch of Style points (7 for the attack and enough to negate the modifier for the shot to the eye, and rolled 20 successes (!!) on 21 dice (as I allowed them to roll the full dice rather than use the method given in the system; it's a demo, right? That what one does in demos!), a world-class shot! When the players got to the Nazi camp, after talking to the geologist, they really wanted to take them on, but at that point, they got called away, and so the demo pretty much ended there.
The four players said they had enjoyed themselves immensely, even the girl playing the Fortune Hunter, who thought it would just be "a boring old roleplaying game". She got a bit greedy, searching the wreckage of the vehicle, and looting one of the Nazis that they ambushed before being called away, and she seemed to have a good time. So that was cool.
I talked to several other people during the course of the day about the game system and Free RPG Day in general, and everyone had a good time and virtually all of the HEX booklets for Free RPG Day were snapped up, except for one. I spent a pretty enjoyable day running a lot of HEX for folks who had never played the game and were interested in it on this unique day. I like to think that I may have encouraged a few people to pick up the game in future, but whether this bears any fruit is another matter.