I ran the scenario from the back of the book, "The Hollow Earth Expedition", using the Sample Characters out of the main book. Unfortunately, the weather here on Saturday was hot and humid, and it wasn't helped by the relentless rain that came down all day, so the turn-out for the game was disappointing somewhat. I got two players, neither of whom had ever played the game before, although both players had a fondness for the Pulp genre, and one of them had only played D&D before. My friend spross showed up, and he played a third character, so things weren't as bad as I feared. While I used the Sample Characters out of the rulebook, I always give the players the choice of the characters from the Samples (all 12 of them). One of the reasons I like allowing the players to choose their characters for this scenario is that it makes for different ways in which the characters have to stop the Thules (the bad guys, in case you were wondering, dear LJ reader) from doing their evil deeds. As you can see, the mix of characters they had here was pretty interesting, but they were seriously lacking in the firepower department.
The players got to give their characters names, and I gave them an extra Style Point or two (on top of the basic three) for creativity in this regard.
The characters ended up as:
Fortune Hunter - Rebecca Twofeather
Lost Traveller - Lukas Kane
Mad Scientist - Maximillian "Maxie" Wattsburg
I also let them choose another of the remaining Sample Characters as an NPC to help them out with some stuff, and much to my surprise, they chose the Intrepid Reporter (whom they called Hannah Clarke). As things turned out, I had the reporter return to the airship right before they headed off to follow the trail near the downed airplane, as she was going to report their progress to Captain Bennett, so that just left the three of them to deal with things.
I started the scenario off by having the player characters start in Spitzbergen, and then did a flashback to why they've just stepped off a zeppelin and are freezing their rumps off in that cold, desolate, boring place.
I didn't throw in any real twists to the scenario, other than to have the four Nazis carrying the crystal having even more protection by what the party thought were four lizardmen!
Some of the highlights of the scenario were:
1. The guy playing Maxie Wattsburg played things very cautiously. He used the Stun Rifle to actually stun the T-Rex (see below) with a lucky shot and a poor Defense roll on my part.
2. The three guys were unable to find any of the stuff in the wrecked airplane, and it was left to the NPC reporter to do so after the fight with the T-Rex. Rebecca Twofeather was able to read the logbooks, so they knew about Amundson, and I got the impression they saw it coming at the village.
3. Why is that the players in demos take on the T-Rex, but the players in campaign and regular games run like heck when given the chance? The characters, despite being poorly armed for such a combat, took on the T-Rex in the vicinity of the wrecked aircraft. Rebecca Twofeather attacked the charging T-Rex with her shotgun, but didn't do enough damage and got seriously raked by the claws. Lukas Kane got seriously bitten by the creature, and spent hideous amounts of Style Points to negate a lot of the damage after running from the creature, and still went down and unconscious for a while. It was only when Maxie got in a lucky shot with the Stun Rifle that he was able to adversely affect the T-Rex, and I had it stumble off into the jungle in what appeared to be a somewhat drunken state. Hannah found the first aid kit and the logs in the airplane after taking refuge there, and I decided I didn't want to use her as their crux, so had her return to the Aurora as noted above.
4. In the village, Lukas Kane bartered one of his good spears for a knife - a dull, bone blade! - as one of the natives got the better of him in the deal. He repeatedly wanted to trade a gun or two to the chief, and the other characters had to keep reminding him that Amundson had warned them not to do so. Maxie actually kicked Lukas at one point to reinforce the idea, the player actually making a kicking motion under the table!
5. The final battle in the ruins between the apes, the Nazis, and so forth for the crystal is the climactic fight in the scenario, and this lasted for a good 45 minutes or more, even with only the three players, since the players took a seriously defensive orientation for the fight, hiding behind rubble and the like... Some neat stuff in this involved:
a) Rebecca using her Athletics to manoeuver around a bit, and get closer to the Nazis and the crystal, taking several bullets to her body, but doing the heroic thing.
b) Lukas, from behind the rubble, actually taking a Nazi down with a rock! The character actually hurt a couple of other Nazis in the sequence too, but started off somewhat cautiously because of what had happened in the earlier confrontation with the dinosaur.
c) The surprise on the players' faces as von Wartenburg used the Atlantean language to manipulate the apemen the same way that Amundson had done earlier! Worth the price of admission, since I then had half the apemen commanded by the Nazi attacking the other half of the apemen influenced by Amundson.
d) The guy playing Maxie had 11 (!!) Style Points at the end of the battle, and never fired the Stun Rifle at the any of the opposition, preferring to use the Luger that he picked up early in the fight when one of the Nazis went down in the crossfire. After we finished, the player told me that it never occurred to him to use the stun rifle against the Nazis or the apemen!
The players told me after the demo was over that they really enjoyed the game, and that they didn't expect the rules to be as simple as they were, and so non-invasive of the action in the game. One of the two players showed up about five minutes into my rules spiel, and I just smiled, started over again, and was done again in about 5 more minutes. They loved that about the rules.
Other people watched the game as they filtered in during the course of the afternoon, and a man who came in with his wife and two small children seemed inclined to ask me if he could play, but the wife wouldn't allow this. There were some three people, other than the store staff (see below) who watched the entire final chaotic combat sequence, and I gave them the complimentary sets of dice, as two of them hinted they wanted copies of the game.
What made the demo even more worthwhile was the fact that two of the folks working in the store, who had been intrigued by the game when I started setting up to run, were chomping at the bit to play by the time the game was half an hour old, but their boss wouldn't let them play! And he told me afterwards that *he* would have played as well, given the chance.
I could have sold at least four or five copies of the game at the store during the demo, so hopefully their copies of the game should arrive from the distributor (that Jeff [Combos] (bless his soul) told the store owner to get in touch with) some time early this week. The GM Screen got rave reviews (it was the first time I've used it for a demo) from everyone who saw it, and they loved the fact that the imagery on it had the dinosaurs. See, Jeff, the Screen does help! :)
Overall, I would rate the game a pretty good success, and the store owner has asked me to run at least one more demo of the game in the near future.