John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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HEX Demo Report IV

As noted, yesterday I ran a demo of Hollow Earth Expedition at the Comic Book Shoppe here in Ottawa. However, rather than run "The Hollow Earth Expedition" out of the main book or "The Secret of Lake Qechacua", I decided to run a scenario off the top of my head (the old Wing and a Prayer method), so as to show the players at the demo how easy and how flexible it can be to run a scenario for the game. I decided to make the scenario one that occurred after the events of the scenario in the main book, so I jotted down a basic plot outline in eight or so sentences, did up the main NPCs and beasties I figured they would deal with, and then winged the rest of it as needed and reacting to the player characters and their decisions.

The plot synopsis for the scenario is as follows:

The player characters are travelling through the jungle, and get to talk a bit and get to know each other a bit better. As they travel, they find evidence of large predators. The characters encounter, and are forced to deal with a pair of small raptors of some sort.

Continuing their travels, they enter a series of ruins. Not large ruins, very overgrown, with mottled brown stone buildings that are covered in vegetation. There are signs of habitation here. The characters may be attacked by stranglevine.

The ruins are home to a native tribe that are descended from the Egyptian cultures and speak a dialect of one of the ancient Egyptian tongues. They are led by Brett Savage, an American explorer who has been trapped in the Hollow Earth for over 40 years - claims he has been there for 6 years. The natives all wear an amulet of some dark brownish-green metal (burnished bronze?) that has an "infinity with a triangle descendant" symbol on it. The priestess of the tribe, Mahmet, wears the same amulet, but made of crystal, passed on down through the centuries. The natives seem friendly enough...

The natives warn the characters about the savage "Small Ones" and how they attack the village from time to time, stealing women and food stuffs. Made to feel at home and offered every hospitality, the characters are feasted that night, and plied with food and (strong) drink. The characters find that the natives, including Brett Savage, are devoted to a large totemic object, some 4 feet tall and about 2 feet circular, carved with the same symbol as is present on the amulets. It weighs some 120 lbs., and requires a STR of 3 to lift. Any character who drinks more than a cup of the fermented spirits must make a Reflexive Body roll (DIF 2) or suffer a -1 penalty to all actions for the next day.

However, all the player characters wake with terrible headaches the next morning. To make matters worse, they are awoken by the sounds of the ruined village under attack - by the savage, pygmy people! The characters have to fight to help the natives, as well as survive themselves.

In the aftermath of the battle, the player characters learn that the savage pygmies have desecrated the shrine, and taken the holy icon of the villagers. They blame the player characters for the theft, since the villagers would not have been so defenseless if it had not been for the characters' arrival. If they do not volunteer to go in pursuit of the holy icon, the priestess will use the magic of their deity, Hetmenotep, to force the characters to do so; if they volunteer to do so, the natives will be pleased and will provide the characters with any equipment or food they require.

The player characters follow the trail of the savage pygmies, and find they make their home in a small mud-and-thatch hut village on the edge of the so-called Death Swamp. The characters may have a dinosaur encounter with pterosaurs or some other dinosaur associated with swampy environs. The climactic battle sees the player characters having to fight their way through over one hundred of the savage pygmy folk to retrieve the holy relic.

So what do folks think of this basic plot?

The player characters for the game were:

John Millen - Big Game Hunter
Phillip West - Field Biologist
Father Scott Michaels - Jungle Missionary
Professor M(aximillian) Frinkenberg - Mad Scientist
Eddie Brock - Rugged Explorer

I got to the store and wrote out a basic plot idea, and then was able to start the demo at 1:00 pm. I started going over the rules with the two guys who showed up on time, who ended up taking the Jungle Missionary and the Mad Scientist. My friend, Steve, who has played the system, so knows the rules, showed up as I was finishing going over the rules, and he took the Rugged Explorer. The third player signed up for the demo showed up as I was getting ready to actually start play, but he was one of the players who played in the first demo of the game I had run at the Comic Book Shoppe, so he was also familiar with the rules, and he took the Big Game Hunter. The final player watched the game for a bit, and when he started commenting on things, I asked if he wanted to play. He said he did, but that he could only play for about three hours, which was fine with me, and took the Field Biologist. I went over the rules with him in less than five minutes. He was seriously impressed by this fact, and said that it definitely gave the game appeal to him and for his gaming group.

The game went quite well, to be honest, and I threw a few things at the group. I was able to set things up so that the native tribe's iconic object was an Artifact, the priestess wielded telepathy and some Egyptian-style voodoo, and the attacking pygmies seemed to be very tough, but could be taken out with relative ease (if a few Style points).

Some of the highlights were:

1. Once again, the players decided that they *had* to take on a pair of raptors in the demo...well, the guy playing the mad scientist, at any rate! The situation came about as the player characters encountered a pair of herbivore dinosaurs who were feeding near them. Sensing the approach pair of young raptors, the herbivores fled - one of them fleeing right into the jaws of one of the raptors. Father Michael, the missionary, advises the characters to run while the raptor is busy with its prey, and they're about to do so... when the guy playing the Mad Scientist decides to shoot the raptor instead. Almost turned into a bloodbath with the players getting the worst of it, but they managed to inflict enough damage on the raptors to convince them to flee.

2. The young man playing Professor Frinkenberg, the Mad Scientist, gave the character some interesting quirks. He played the character as almost oblivious, taking the absent-mindedness to the point of having no short-term memory whatsoever. He also kept obsessing on the compass that his character had. He kept pulling out the compass and checking it, despite the fact that it always spun around erratically. The others eventually got to the point that the guy playing Father Michaels just said, "Take out your compass, and look at it!" whenever they were annoyed with him.

3. The guy playing the Field Biologist, Phillip West, had to take off about an hour before the game was scheduled to end. He had played the character as a guy out to have sex with the native women (something that didn't sit well with two of the other players and their characters) and something of a gun bunny (yes, I'm not kidding!), and eventually died at the points of four native tribesman spears. He was smearing blood from the wounds inflicted by the priestess on the characters (since they were being difficult about going after the holy relic) to the native houses, out of spite. Not pretty, but spared me having to play the character and he had tried something rash in this case. Perhaps a bit petty on my part in retrospect, but not uncalled for, and with the player having to take off...

4. The priestess of the natives engaged Father Michaels, the jungle missionary, and Professor Frinkenberg, the mad scientist, in a debate of science versus the obvious pagan type of worship that was practiced by the cultists, and who had the power. She made her point by telekinetically lifting Professor Frinkenberg, and then said, "Let science help him now," and dropped him 10 feet! Needless to say, science didn't help him! The players got a real kick out of it, and two of them kidded him about it for the rest of the game.

5. In order to get to the holy relic icon, the characters had the Big Game Hunter scout the pygmy village and then return. Eddie Brock came up with the good plan that the jungle missionary would walk to the pygmy village and the Big Game Hunter would conceal himself in the nearby foliage, and pick off the pygmies if they attacked as if the missionary was calling down the wrath of god. The other characters were to sneak around and try to get to the icon, while the pygmies were distracted. The plan fell apart when the characters were surprised as slightly under 100 pygmies charged the missionary, and the Mad Scientist popped up literally from behind the missionary and started firing the stun rifle at the natives. The situation turned into a Keystone Cops sequence with the player characters running away and the pygmies chasing them. Eddie then realised they'd left the icon unguarded, and charged straight through the pygmies who were charging after the rest of the character. When the pygmies realised that Eddie had stolen the icon, they went chasing after him. Really good sequence of play, with a few funny moments, but mostly a serious "Plan B" affair, and lots of carnage wreaked by the player characters.

After we finished, the gamers told me that they were really fond of the game, and loved the spontaneity of the plot that I had presented on the fly (I had told them I was going to do so before we started play). They thought that the plot pretty much hung together, and there didn't seem to be any gaping loopholes and the like. The new players, including the guy who had taken off but came back right at the end to talk to me about the game, commented that they loved the Ubiquity system and its mechanics, and felt that they provided a seamless medium through which to roleplay a Pulp action character. One of the players, who said that he disliked systems along these lines with combat, found that he liked the flow of the HEX combat system, and that it surprised him greatly. Two of the players asked about my HEX campaign and expressed an interest in joining it, and would have actually bought the rulebook, but the store hadn't yet received it. (Are you reading this, Jeff?)

Based on what I saw and what was said to me, the players had a terrific time with the game, and it ran pretty smoothly and all (despite a couple of rough bumps I had with my own plot*). The game had a good balance between roleplaying and action/combat, and each of the players had something to do in the story.

* Anyone who wants to know more can ask me in Comments or send me a personal e-mail about this stuff.
Tags: comic book shoppe, hollow earth expedition, report, rpg

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