"The Secret of Qechacua Lake" was the scenario that I've spent about three months working on and testing for the convention, and what follows are some notes on the running. I ran the game from 7-11 pm on Friday night and again on Sunday afternoon from 2-6 pm. Both sessions of the game were full, and I had to turn away players at the table, sadly enough. Wasn't expecting such a turn-out for the two sessions...
To start with, here is a basic idea of the basic plot for the scenario, and for the player characters that were created for this adventure. For those who don't want to know the plot, I've used Inviso text here...
The convention scenario involves a group of characters who went to the Amazon to find a missing archaeologist, and found themselves trapped in the Hollow Earth, and are now seeking a way out. They are attacked by ape-men in the jungle, and are rescued by a group of natives from a village, the Kanutu. In the village, they learn of an earlier expedition, and a potential way home. Travelling up-river, the characters reach the Lake and find the abandoned campsite of the previous expedition, have an encounter with dinosaurs and a T-Rex, and then travel to the island. They find a gateway to other places on the island, but one of the player characters has been kidnapped for sacrifice by horrible creatures. Rescuing the characters, they save her but must face the wrath of the creatures while trying to figure out the means of activating the portal they have found to get away from there.
Simple, no? :)
The player characters specifically for the convention game were:
Big game hunter. Likes to adventure, is a huge fan of Clark Gable movies, and is going to help Eliza Carmichael find her father because he loves her.
Linguist. Her father, Matthew Carmichael, disappeared in the Amazon jungle some 5 years ago, and she is intent on finding him. She's courageous, resolved, and wants to prove her father's crackpot theories right.
Moneyman and entrepreneur. Owns an American chain of stores that sell women's clothes and footwear. Something of a coward, he accepted the challenge to travel on an adventure to the Amazon and got more than he bargained for when the party entered the Hollow Earth and became trapped there.
Russian. Excellent pilot, and a mercenary. A friend of Cary Gates who agreed to accompany him on the job to save Eliza's father, now finds himself enjoying the challenges of the Hollow Earth.
Reporter. Born into a wealthy Boston family, has a lot of moxie and guts. Dark-haired, she has a good eye for detail, and is a pistol marksman. Volunteered for the Amazon assignment, and has not looked back since.
Swedish explorer. Has a curiosity about the natural world, and dislikes cities and urban environments. Likes the freedom that exploration gives him, and is having a blast in the Hollow Earth.
Dr. Henry Summerfield
English. The uncle of Eliza Carmichael. A naturalist and strong believer in the rights of native peoples. Something of a pacifist, and fond of his niece. He accompanied Eliza on the trip to the Amazon on what he considered a foolhardy trek, and is now trapped in the Hollow Earth with the others.
Some highlights of the first evening's run were:
1. When Eliza was taken captive by the ape-men in the first encounter during the attack (she's the Danger Magnet, don't you know :)), the players playing Cary and Sergei fired at the ape-man and couldn't hit the broad side of the barn; then the player playing Andrea, using her marksmanship, dropped the ape-man with one shot (!). But she did spend 3 Style points to up the attack on the dice... Sergei raced over to where Eliza was falling and heroically grabbed her, spending a Style point to do so.
2. In the Kanutu native village, Sergei (whose motivation is Greed), tried to steal some gems from the villagers, and didn't get caught. He confessed what he had done to the others, and Eliza actually berated him enough to goad him into giving them back! Both players got a couple of Style points each for that.
3. As the characters were making for shore during the bit where they reach the Lake, their two reed boats were attacked by an aquatic dinosaur. Aside from the cool sequence of having to swim for the shore before the dino got them (using extended contests), the characters faced the wonderful sequence where the dino bit the reed boats in half, the characters having to valiantly dive out of the boats just in the nick of time!
4. The final bit of play has the characters sneaking into the temple and having to stop the sacrifice of Andrea (even though she's not the Danger Magnet, I had her kidnapped, since the player had to leave about the right time for the kidnapping to occur). The cliffhanger has the characters on a ledge looking down as the high priest is about to sacrifice Andrea, Sergei and Cary trigger the explosion to block the egress of the lizard guys, and at that moment as she's about to shoot the priest, Eliza recognises the priest as her father! The players didn't throw their dice at me, but they all screamed in frustration when I stated "To be continued next year in...THE PYRAMID OF DOOM!"
Great four hours of gaming, and got to introduce a player who has never played face-to-face rpgs before to the game and the world of roleplaying. :)
The free dice and all have gone over really well, and the players loved the simplicity of the game mechanics and all.
Just a couple of notes on the runnings...
1) I used poker chips as the Style points for the games, and this worked really well and the players loved the physical representation of the chips. If I can't purchase Style Chips from Jeff and the folks at EGS at some point in the future, I'll continue to use the poker chips. (Btw, trust me on this, you need chips in the 1, 2, 5, and 10 denominations at least.)
2) The game mechanics for HEX are explainable and can be understood by the players in less than 10 minutes. I had two players who had never tabletop rpged before, and they had the rules down in less time than even that. Everyone at all three runnings (see the separate post about the Intro scenario) were in love with the basic rules of the game five minutes after they got to see them in action, and in demos and convention games, this is one of the TRUE strengths of the game system.
3) The Ubiquity dice are absolutely fabulous, and the majority of the players loved them. If there was one problem with them, it was the players who start to calculate the mathematical odds and all that of rolling the best they can roll on a given combination of dice. I solved this with the "5 seconds" rule.
4) Many of the players mentioned to me that they weren't sure an action/adventure Pulp rpg would work on all sorts of levels to satisfy different gamer needs. One of the things that the scenario I ran offered gave different characters with different abilities the opportunity to do all manner of things.
As a final set of notes on the running of the Qechacua scenario:
1. Had to turn players away from the games on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Turned away 7 players on Friday night, and another 5 on Sunday afternoon. Kind of sad to do it, but some of the players got into Saturday's game.
2. In the second running of the scenario, the character playing Marshall Hardigan took an interesting approach to a couple of scenes. In the first sequence with the ape-men, he lit the jungle on fire to hopefully cause the ape-men to flee, and almost prevented the rest of the characters from stopping the kidnapping of Eliza, as the character had to shoot through the trees at the creature, with the smoke from the fire causing an added...problem.
In the later sequence at the abandoned campsite, Marshall decided to use bundles of the savannah brush found there to light fires when the attack of the T-Rex occurred. It worked rather well, confusing the creature, and he also set up a runway like area with the lit bundles, leading down to the river shore, so the characters could flee to the shore. This worked well, to a point, but attracted the attention of the Qechacua, and thus allowed them to kidnap Eliza for the final sequence. In this version of the scenario, Marshall had a real pyromaniac streak. Kind of neat.
3. Why is it that players are always eager to take on T-Rex? In the first running of the scenario, Cary Gates and Brad Nilsson took on the T-Rex, and did a pretty good job of taking it down, but were amazed at how tough it was. In the second running of the game, the T-Rex did some serious damage to a couple of the characters, and Cary didn't get to take it on, since he was more concerned about the almost simultaneous kidnapping of Eliza. Ah well, I partially expected it - after all, it's HEX, and there are dinosaurs! Everything's better with dinosaurs! :)
4. The first running of the scenario saw the character of Summerfield played as a rather sedate, doting man, while the second running saw him played as an almost manic character taking a few risks here and there, but very protective of Eliza. Rather neat interpretations on both.
5. The guy who played Sergei on Friday night played the Russian-ness of the character to the hilt, and racked up a few Style points for the Flaw. There was also the heroic rescue of Eliza mentioned as highlight #1 above. In the second playing of the scenario, the guys playing Cary and Sergei took an active dislike for one another, but didn't play out the romance with Eliza.
6. The second running of the scenario had no female players in it, and this showed when the two female characters were played by guys. Andrea and Eliza didn't have the zip and the zing that they had in the first running, but that was cool too. (No offense, spross, okay?)
7. The second session had the guy playing Cary getting into character while we were talking about the rules after he had read the sheets by smoking carrot sticks while eating them! Lovely! :)
8. Both players who took on the role of Andrea O'Reilly were simply amazed at the character's Perceptiveness (6/10), and her marksman abilities. The two players in question told me how they loved the fact that the character had something unique about her. Cary's player in both sessions lamented the fact that Henry could see better than he could, Perception-wise!
9. In the Friday night game, both Eliza and Andrea were played to a "t" by the two female players, especially in regards to the revealing-ness of their clothing and the appropriate moments for Eliza to scream at certain things. Drew the attention of the other tables on the floor, that's for sure! :)
So, there you have it. A bit long, but hopefully enjoyable reading. :) Will detail the other HEX running in the next post.