Session 1 (18th August 2014)
The game was run using/in Exile Game Studio‘s awesome Hollow Earth Expedition which I can’t recommend enough. Obviously if you’re likely to end up being a player in this adventure (in this case the sample adventure in the core book) the following will contain spoilers.
As the Aurora whirred away towards the coast Harry led the way deeper into the forest. Occasional glances at the sun through breaks in the tree canopy brought the slow realisation that since the sun had risen to it’s noon position hours before it had failed to move. Questions of what kind of a weird place had they reached and how they got there plagued the explorers. After several hours of hiking through jungle full of huge insects, gigantic specimens of plants that one or other of the group recognised as well as species that were completely new to all of them suddenly a group of people stepped out of the undergrowth onto the trail. Dressed in a mixture of cured animal skins and brightly coloured woven fabrics the dozen or so natives, for all their spears, seemed friendly and called out a greeting. Their language seemed mostly to be mostly reminiscent of what the Professor recognised as native South American languages (although their skin colouring and facial features may have led him partly towards this conclusion) but it was dotted with occasional words of Norwegian and Swedish. While clear communication was difficult it seemed that the hunting party were not overly surprised to see the travellers and invited them back to their village.
After a short journey the hunters point up above their heads and suddenly the group realised that they were stood between an arboreal village, built around and within over a dozen giant trees. A three dimensional jigsaw puzzle of platforms, rope bridges and ladders was all above their heads. Upon signalling a large wicker basket was lowered down and the entire group lifted up into the trees in several short journeys. The Professor spotted that stamped on the inside of the basket were the words “Andree’s Polar Expedition 1897” and quickly deduced that this was in fact the gondola of a balloon which vanished during an attempt to reach the pole.
Once in the village the group met Roald Amundsen who, during discussions over dinner, advised that he had deliberately flown back to hollow earth in 1928 using a rescue attempt for Nobile as a cover. In 1926 he, Nobile and Elsworth had discovered the entrance by accident in a way similar to the groups expedition. Having escaped Hollow Earth he had become part of a secret organisation called Terra Arcanum, who are sworn to protect its existence from becoming widely known, and banned from returning. Since ignoring that instruction a year or two ago he has lived in the village and is very happy to stay here.
Also during dinner the chief, who had been trying to trade with the expedition, asked Amundsen if the group would like to visit “the place of smooth stone”. Amundsen was reticent to discuss details but explained that there were some old ruins a few hours march away. It turns out that other surface dwellers have recently arrived by submarine and seem intent on exploring the ruins. The party managed to get Amundsen to agree to take them to the city without admitting that they were sent to stop the Thule Society expedition. After the meal, still with the sun high overhead, the group bedded down to sleep after a long and exhausting day, planning to set out with Amundsen the next morning.
In the meantime the Aurora had flown back to the coast and had chosen to then follow the coastline to the right (the lack of a compass not allowing them to identify directions with any certainty). While the wildlife and jungle were amazing to see after hours of travelling they group had not seen any sign of either civilisation or the Thule Society expedition. After a discussion the only course of action seemed to be to retrace their steps and then continue on to the coastline that lay the other side of where they initially made landfall.
While on the journey Dr Lynch came up with a chemical solution the smell of which should be unpleasant to dinosaurs. He and Bernard made up some flasks of this which could be thrown as well as some rudimentary explosive devices in case of trouble. Dr Lynch also carried out some experiments to see if he could detect anything unusual in the air. Without a full laboratory this was a tricky task but with his experience and great intellect he came to the conclusion that there was far more oxygen in the air than is normal. Arnie managed to draw up some rough maps of the coastline that they were traversing, without taking time to stop these were crude but could turn out to be useful.
In the treetop village the travellers awoke to midday sun, resigning themselves finally to the idea that it would be a long time until they saw night fall on these travels. All were pleasantly surprised to find that they awoke feeling amazingly rested, without even any muscle soreness from the long hike the day before. After a swift breakfast they headed into the jungle with Amundsen to search for the ruins.
The hike took several hours to reach the small coastal valley where the ancient city lay. From a clearing on the ridge of hills surrounding the bay the explorers looked out over the ruins of a fair sized city port. The architecture was unlike anything that they had experienced before. Arranged in a huge spiral with buildings of many different designs swirling around a vast gleaming central column that dominated the scene. Pyramids, both smooth sided and stepped, rubbed shoulders with buildings reminiscent of Roman and Greek architecture. Cyclopean towers shaped like terraced and fluted truncated cones were dotted around but over all else the central copper coloured pillar dominated the scene. The vista was breathtaking and after staring at it for an unguessable time the Professor with a start realised that as inconceivable as it seemed this vast central feature appeared to be made of the mythical metal orichalcum!
Roald explains that this is a small city and that there are several within a few days travel. He points out that in the far distance in the port area a German U-boat sits anchored and explains that the Nazi soldiers are concentrating their interest on the great tower in the centre of the city. As the group start their way down through the trees to the city they catch a glimpse of the Aurora rounding the headland to their right.
On board the Aurora the sudden unexpected vista of the city from the air is even more spectacular than it was from the ground. While Harry leads Gideon and the Professor into the city in search of the Nazi expedition what is most concerning to Arnie, Captain Bennett, Bernard and Dr Lynch is the U-boat at anchor in the port and more specifically the 4.1 inch deck gun. Captain Bennett was not alone in not wanting to get close enough to that to be bombarded by it, a 250 ft long envelope filled with flammable gas not being a difficult target to hit.
Unaware of their compatriots presence in the city below a plan was quickly hatched to drop Arnie, Gideon and Bernard into the far side of the city where they could work their way round to the port. Hopefully at the very least they could disable the deck gun and if the gods were smiling then it might even be possible to disable the submarine itself. Having lowered themselves from the airship they watched the Aurora move away from the city before setting off on the trek round to the port and the challenge that awaits them.
Further into the city the group gradually became aware that they were being shadowed from the rooftops of some of the buildings. These were not Nazi troops but rather some sort of large ape. On pointing them out Roald said not to worry and kept pushing on deeper into the ruins. Several minutes later though a dozen or more of the huge shapes suddenly erupted from the shadows around them. Standing over ten feet tall these are neither apes nor gigantic people but some terrifying cross between them. Covered in long black and red hair with huge muscular arms and stumpy fangs they below and roar their challenge at the surrounded group, pounding their clubs on the ground with the rhythmic promise of impending violence.
Part three will follow shortly…