Session 1 (18th August 2014)
11 days after getting delivery of Exile Game Studio‘s awesome Hollow Earth Expedition I ran my first game using the sample adventure in the core book. We ran really late and I got caught out in a few places but overall we had a great time. As I commented in my initial thoughts about Ubiquity I can’t recommend Hollow Earth Expedition enough.
Obviously if you’re likely to end up being a player in this adventure the following will contain spoilers. All the adventure logs from this series are listed here.
May 1936 and Major James Eaton of US Army Intelligence assembles a disparate group of individuals in his office within a nondescript office block in New York. He quickly introduces each of the attendees starting with Arnie Fellowes, a well known explorer famed for mapping uncharted regions from Africa to Antartica. Across the table from Arnie sits Harriet “Harry” Munroe who has a name with museums around the world as the go to person to acquire difficult to find antiquities. Professor Lambert Plum juxtaposes Arnie and Harry both with his age and quiet scepticism and is an expert in history, archaeology and anthropology. Bernard Rutan’s British accent stands out in the group, an RAC mechanic during the great war his ability with all types of mechanical devices quickly made him a name for himself and for the past ten years he’s been working with the US Army on secret R&D projects. Dr Charles Lynch is a leader in various fields of medicine, an older man he’s known for his quick thinking and dedication to those in his care. Gideon Spillet is probably the one member of the group who whose inclusion seems unusual, a young reporter with a reputation among those in the know as someone to watch he’s hardly a household name nor does he have any obvious skills in common with the rest of the group.
Major Eaton briefs the team that a Nazi communiqué has been intercepted advising that a leading Thule Society member, Von Wartenburg, has recovered the “Fraenkel journals” and is heading to the North Pole looking for a place called Ultima Thule. Supposedly Ultima Thule was the centre of an advanced civilisation and Von Wartenburg is hoping to recover some sort of super weapon built by that ancient race. While the US government is neutral they are worried that, as unlikely as it sounds, if Von Wartenburg found anything it would end up in the hands of Hitler and they are keen to avoid that. While they can’t send in troops they can surreptitiously fund a rival expedition to look for the same artefact and this is where the assembled team come in.
Having discussed remuneration, outfitting of the expedition and how much Gideon will be able to publish the group leaves to gather their personal gear ready to meet the next day at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey.
Arriving at Lakehurst the next day the group meet Captain Bennett, the good looking skipper of the amazing airship Aurora. 250 feet long and covered with a duraluminum skin it will be the group’s home for the duration of the expedition. Getting on board they leave immediately for Danskoya in Spitsbergen where they will refuel before heading for the pole.
The stop over at Danskoya was always planned to be short but the discovery that a German U-boat left a week ago with a commander who fitted the description of Von Wartenburg shortened it further and the Aurora was quickly aloft and heading due north into the perpetual light of the Arctic summer.
After initially making good progress across the icepack a major unexpected headwind that couldn’t be tacked around was the first of a number of strange occurrences. Over the next 15 hours the accumulation of magnetic disturbance knocking out the compass and then radio disturbance masking the Spitsbergen radio beacon left the crew only able to navigate by the position of the sun. When the sun unexpectedly started to set in the midst of the Arctic summer confusion and fear ran through the airship. The only course still left open was to point the airship in the direction that Carl Mathers (the navigator) assumed was north and push on.
Hours later there was excitement when a glow ahead of the ship gradually became visible and then brightened to become sun rise. That the sun was rising dead ahead of them was taken as a sure sign that they must have been turned around by the still strong winds buffeting their passage. Bizarrely the sun continued to rise until it reached high noon, higher in the sky than it was even when they left Spitsbergen causing all to wonder, especially as the temperature rose to the point where the crew no longer needed their Arctic outer clothing, where they were and how they had travelled there. For several hours the airship continued to fly over the now open ocean before land was spotted, even at this distance appearing to be covered by lush, green vegetation.
Not too far inland the lookout spotted a huge clearing surrounded by gigantic trees with large dark shapes moving around and unsure of what else to do Captain Bennett flew inland to investigate. Nobody could believe their eyes when the dark shapes resolved themselves into a large herd of Triceratops! Obviously Harry, Gideon and the Professor were drawn immediately to investigate, especially when they realised that a silver area under the trees was a crashed aeroplane. Arnie and the doctor however argued that endangering the mission to investigate something that was both dangerous and probably a red herring was foolhardy and that they should instead head back to the coast and continue to search for the U-boat. Bernard wanted to explore but got distracted by the idea of manufacturing a parachute that would allow him to jump from the airship to the ground, disappeared into the workshop and missed most of the rest of the discussion.
Eventually Harry, followed shortly by Gideon and the Professor, were lowered to the ground for a look around on the understanding that they would then return to the airship after initial investigations. A vast Triceratops with several calves was blocking the way to the crash site but Arnie came up with the idea of sounding the fog horn and klaxon on the airship which drove them away and so they managed to investigate the wreckage.
The wreckage was of a Dornier Flying Boat which looked to have crashed a year or two previously and other than the first aid kit, flare gun, etc all of the equipment from the plane was still on the wreckage. It was obvious that the pilot of the plane had survived the crash and with the discovery of the flight logs it became clear that said pilot was Roald Amundsen who had gone missing in 1928 while trying to rescue his rival (whom he famously detested) Nobile. Nobile had eventually been rescued but of Amundsen, until now, there had been no sign.
Outside the wreckage a well marked trail led off into the jungle. With clues such as these none of the explorers wanted to return to the airship and after a hurried and shouted argument it was grudgingly agreed that those on the ground would explore further while those still in the airship would search the coastline for the U-boat and return later.
Continued in Part 2