As mentioned, I ran the demo of Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX) scenario, "The Secret of Lake Qechacua", last night at Strategy Games here in Ottawa. I had talked to the store owner about running a demo, but he wasn't sure about it. However, I left a flyer for the demo with him, and heard back from him on Tuesday that the demo sign-up sheet was full, and that folks would play the demo on Thursday night. The store owner agreed to keep the store open until about 10:00 pm or so, but would allow me to run the demo 'til no later than 11:00 pm. A bit taken by surprise, but I pride myself on rising to the challenge and all that, though it was made a bit more difficult by the fact that I'm walking around (or should that be hobbling?) on a bad left knee right now (see my blog entries here and here for more on that).
Started the demo on the stroke of 6:30 pm, as all the players were present and accounted for, and was pleased to have a couple of female gamers at the table. The players were thrilled by the outside of the GM Screen, and pleasantly surprised to receive the sets of Ubiquity dice that the Exile folks have so kindly provided for me. I took about 10 minutes to explain the game rules to the players, and all of them were pretty stoked by the simplicity of the game mechanics and the ease with which I went through the rules.
With the six players, it was easy to phase the moneyman character, Marshall Hardigan, right out, and so this kept things to the more action- and academic-oriented characters. I was pretty happy with that. The Eliza Carmichael character no longer has the Danger Magnet Flaw, it having been replaced with the Condescending Flaw. The other changes I made to the scenario were simple:
a) With no Danger Magnet in the party, the native guide (who becomes a player character in the sequel scenario) that the player characters bring with them from the Kanutu village is the one who gets taken by the Qechacua for the sacrifice.
b) Spent a bit more time in the Kanutu village, and had the players do a small part of the river trip, and had them tangle with some Compys.
c) Did away with the T-Rex attack at the wrecked encampment near Lake Qechacua, but used the roar of a possibly approaching T-Rex as a distraction (which allowed the Qechacua to kidnap the jungle guide), and made the attack in the river by the aquatic dinosaur a bit tamer.
d) Minimized the number of Qechacua that attack the characters in the boats while on the Lake, and sank the boats - forcing the characters to swim for the island.
None of these changes impacted the running time of the scenario too much, although I really only had about 3-1/2 hours in which to run the scenario, due to the time constraints, but the store owner let me finish things off as he was enjoying watching the game by the end near the climactic battle in the temple on the island.
Some of the highlights were:
1. When the characters were attacked by the apemen, the party was able to hold its own courtesy of some stellar shooting by Cary, the Big Game Hunter, Sergei, the Mercenary, and Brad, the explorer. The Kanutu came upon them and helped them mop up, and then took the characters back to the village for celebrations and all that. Lovely stuff, and the first time I've run it when the player characters wiped the floor with the apemen due to good rolls, judicious use of Style points and Challenge dice.
2. The young lady playing Andrea, the reporter, did a terrific job. She treated the whole scenario as a big "on the scene" deal, and while using her combat skills to the fullest, would also get the story on each event from the different characters. Best questions: To Cary : "So, exactly how did it feel to take down that apeman at 100 feet?" To Brad Nilsson: "How do you react to the fact that that footprint is a foot deep into the earth and at least 5 feet in length? Are we talking a carnivorous dinosaur?"
3. Cary made a fabulous shot, after making a bet with Andrea, using a batch of Style points to take out the Qechacua priest in one clean blow before he could kill the sacrifice. He was outdone when Andrea used her marksmanship to knock the sacrificial knife from the dying priest's hand. I'll leave you to guess what the two wagered. :)
4. The player playing Henry Summerfield played the old codger for most of the scenario, but also took an active, protective role towards the player playing Eliza. She called him "uncle" throughout, except when talking to him in a scientific manner, at which times she called him "professor". The two of them had a really good rapport for most of the game.
5. The guy playing Sergei turned out to have taken Russian as a language in a course at school. He got the accent down for Sergei perfectly, and spoke in such a fashion as to make the Speech Impediment Flaw come to life. Had some good humourous moments with that, and certainly amused the other players at times.
6. The final sequence was just wild fun for the players, as Sergei, Cary, Brad, and Andrea are desperately holding off the Qechacua while Henry and Eliza attempt to activate the portal to help them escape. In the middle of this, Eliza, who has her father's journal, shouts that one of the others should grab her father's jacket off the body of the dead Qechacua priest! The players playing Cary and Sergei looked at each other, and then both made a dash for the jacket - leaving Andrea and Brad to hold off the Qechacua. It was a very close thing as they all leapt through the gate, only to have me say, "To be continued in... THE PYRAMID OF DOOM!" No dice throwing or anything, but priceless.
When we finished playing, the players commented that they loved the simplicity of the game mechanics, the ease with which the combat system worked and fit the Pulp genre, as well as the fact that they really contributed to the flow of the Pulp game. A couple of the players commented that they liked the Ubiquity dice, and wished that some of the other rpg companies out there that make dice pool-based systems would do some dice like these for their games. Just what we need - an explosion of specialty dice! :) Two of the players picked up the only copies of Hollow Earth Expedition that the store carried, and the young lady who had played Andrea told me that she planned to run it on her regular gaming group the first chance she got.
Overall, the players had a pretty good time, and I thought that the game ran smoothly and there were no real problems. There was a good balance of the roleplaying with the action. I think that several of the others will purchase the game when they find copies here in Ottawa at the local gaming store and a couple of other places where I've run the game demos and all.
Now, I've got to get ready for the regular HEX Friday gaming group tonight, and the demo at the Comic Book Shoppe tomorrow. Gee, you'd think I was at a gaming convention or some such! :)