Doug Pirko (waiwode) wrote in roleplayers,
Doug Pirko

Voyage to the Hollow Earth, an Actual Play.

1936, Copper Ridge, New Mexico, is where the Hollow Earth Expedition game started, centered around Prof's Ambrose's ranch, and the giant silver contraption poised nose-downward at 45 degrees in his barn.

Amidst growing concern from the citizenship, fueled by church-groups and out-of-town business concerns (and those who know the setting know would be behind all this "don't bore into the Earth" resistance) the characters all got individual scenes interlaced together to introduce them to the setting:
- Ms Emma Ambrose, Scientist and daughter of the inventor.
- Donis Alvares, trusted family companion and farm-hand.
- Maggie MacPherson, Emma's friend from her days at a "fancy eastern college," who has worked archeological sites in Greece.
- J.R. Olsen, reporter for the Tribune, a man who once sought Fame, but now with orders from his editor (external influence again) is ordered to do a smear-job on the Professor and discredit his work.
- Deputy Tommy Mulvaney, the junior member of Copper County's pair of lawmen.

Soon everyone was gathered at the ranch, along with some important NPCs, notably the Professor, the investor-partner Thurston Howell II, and Hap Goodall, the Sheriff. The Sheriff reads the "Cease and Desist" order, and amidst all the confusion and emotion leaves Tommy to keep an eye on things here. The Professor finally decides to go to Santa Fe, the state capital, to appeal the order.

During the evening Tommy hears a noise ... and *conk* ... darkness (bribed with a Style Point for playing along).

During a somber evening Howell announces that an investigation in the barn reveals the Deputy is gone. He convinces the others that with creditors closing in, and with the appeal likely to take weeks, if not months, the time to go is now. Instead of the ideal crew of engineers and scientists, the present company are self-elected. "For Professor Ambrose, and the Truth!"

After some preparation the drill begins to grind, and plunge into the Earth.

Tommy wakes up in the noisy (well, noisier) crawl-space between the massive engines that power the drill. He emerges (amid shock and surprise, and without his gunbelt) in the cabin, and the expected confrontations and accusations take place. Howell sticks to his story (he had nothing to do with it, he just found the Deputy missing). Of course "reverse" is out of the question.

After about two days the drill begins to whine ... it's not drilling anything but air ... and the group throttle back the engines and come to a rest. They find themselves at the edge of an apparently vast limestone cavern some 5 miles below the surface.

Bill, playing Tommy, earned style points for his awesome bon mot during the session, and here his observation that if they'd come out 20' to the left the whole machine would have fallen over 100', possibly killing them all. Howell admits there may be some design short-comings.

After two cramped days, armed with electric torches everyone gets out to stretch their legs and breathe the (cooler) air, cautioned against wandering into the dark. Of course the NPC Howell ignores that, and soon he's a hundred feet away, shouting "You've gotta see this!" The party splits, some staying and some going, and they find some broken Anasazi-style pots. Five miles underground? Again Howell jack-rabbits off into the dark. This time it's broken bones and pottery. Again he heads off, after being sternly admonished to stick close, while some of the players are hearing the sound of movement out in the dark.

This time he makes the big discovery. A massive multi-layered Anasazi cliff dwelling that strecthes up into the dark. The curious Maggie and the worried Tommy follow him up, level by level, while everyone else waits at the bottom and tries to call them down.

And that's when the CHUDs attack. The fighting withdrawal was tense even though it was fairly threat-free ... as the deafening report of the guns (the Deputy carrying the cowboy's .45 Peacemaker, Howell with his own .38 Detective, and Alvarez with his Winchester carbine) would stun cannibalistic monsters. Olsen used his camera flash to good effect as well. Finally, with a neo-troglodyte shredding his shirt-sleeve, Alvarez pulls the heavy hatch closed with everyone safely tumbled into the drill.

The drill bit into the floor of the cavern and the voyage continued.

The heat level rose as interminable hours and days passed. After a week the drill started "swimming" through magma. Systems failed, and a busted pipe (and the resulting "fix-it" rolls) turned the inside of the vessel into a sauna. Being boiled alive became a real concern as the vehicle pitched, rolled, and yawed, the control surfaces damaged by the incredible heat.

Finally the drill, sounding different with many of it's diamond-tipped radial borers little more than clumps of slag, bit into solid rock. The drilling machine pointed upwards at about 30 degrees. The group might just survive, but the mission had failed! Everyone did dejection and depression quite well.

About a week later the damaged drill-head started it's "no resistance" whining again. The drill was throttled down slowly, and everyone braced for the transition from 30 degrees (and 15 degree roll) to the surface ... however the vehicle tips further, and starts to tumble down a slope! Everyone was badly bruised and half of the crew were knocked unconcious by the fall. After some first aid for the others the two girls struggled with, and managed to open, the hatch. They throw open the hatch, and a shaft of bright sunlight and fresh air flush out the fume & odor-heavy air inside the drill. They emerge and find themselves at the base of a slope ... in the jungle?

Soon everyone had been roused. With the sun high overhead it was assumed that the groups must have come out in the Yucutan. Except as the various kit and equipment was unloaded over the next hour ... the sun was still directly overhead.

The insects and wildlife seemed strange, but this was the jungle, and not anyone's area of expertise. The trees however, are notable unusual.

A cursory examination of the drill wasn't promising. Although it had enough fuel to repeat the journey it had made, the drill-head was damaged, and the externally stowed portable gantry required to elevate the vehicle to forty-five degrees had parts missing, damaged, and destroyed.

Packing some supplies, the group decides to head to high ground, to examine their surroundings and gain their bearings. While unpacking Tommy discovers his gunbelt (with revolver).

It's a fairly easy climb, up the slope past the rubble-filled bore-hole, to the plateau-like summit of the hill, however it still takes about an hour ... and the sun's still directly overhead. Alvarez, who has spent most of his life outdoors, finds himself disoriented and almost nauseous, his internal clock having the hardest time meshing with the unmoving sun.

The summit reached, a strange, hazy vista greets the travellers. Instead of a horizon, the distance seems to curve up slightly, until it's lost in the haze. It seems that the expedition was a success! They've found the inside of the Hollow Earth!

In the distance they can see great bodies of water, mountains, and a thick plume of darker smoke that looks to be only a handful of miles away.

Howell, taking a seat, peels some moss off of a rock ... to reveal that it is a broken piece of a "square" doric column. In fact, littered across the plateau are the ruins of an ancient building, a mix of Greek, Minoan, and Babylonian concepts, with hints of something else. (Not Sumerian though. Have you noticed that if it's evil, it's generally Sumerian?)

Maggie's exploration, and Alvarez's insistance that they should return to the drill, are interupted by a surprising attack. Swooping across the plateau, a pteradon grabs Emma in it's talons! A soarer, it doesn't gain much altitude, so Alvarez and Mulvaney risk shots! Two successes, and Emma and the bird-like predator tumble to the mossy turf. Emma is injured by the talons and the fall, but not critically. Scanning the skies reveals a number of other soaring lizards, their pale underbodies camoflaging them in the hazy, cloudy skies. The group decide to flee the exposed plateau, and although the soaring lizards follow them, moving carefully from cover to cover protects them from attack.

In the camp a duck-billed lizard of some kind pulls at vegetation. A single shot in the air spooks it, and it races into the undergrowth, easily crashing through thick vines.

Back at the safety of the camp Emma is tended to and left to rest. Plans are made to make their way towards the smoke, either a forest fire, or a sign of civilization.

The session ends with Olsen washing mess tins in the stream. He looks up to see the triangular head of a large lizard, with long rows of pointy teeth lining its jaws. It opens it's mouth and screams....
And we haven't even gotten to the ubiquitous Nazis yet.

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