In a recent blog I wrote about buying Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX) and Leagues Of Adventure both of which use the Ubiquity game system. At the time I was preparing to run my first session of HEX eleven days after getting the core rules.
To recap 2014 is my first year GMing (or be honest playing) since the late 80s when I did far more playing than GMing. I’m pretty comfortable with Pathfinder which I’ve been running since March however I pretty much only run the core rules. Picking up a completely new game system in a genre that I’ve never played let alone run was another leap of faith moments for me and quite scary.
For my first session I ran the introductory adventure from the core rulebook for six players. Most of the players are more experienced than me and they were very supportive. The game went really well and everyone had a good time. The players, as players always do, made a couple of choices that I in no way foresaw (never trust a module that says “obviously the players will…” because they won’t) but the game still flowed well. There wasn’t as much combat or action as there should have been but when it did happen it was incredibly fast and slick.
What really struck me after the first game when I came to write up the adventure log was how much ground we’d covered in a few hours of play. I ended up splitting the adventure log into three separate installments simply because we covered so much ground.
The session convinced me even more that this was a game that I really wanted to play more of and I purchased the other three source books currently available. Mysteries Of The Hollow Earth is a great source book dealing with anything and everything that you may find in Hollow Earth itself while Secrets Of The Surface World is full of great ideas for playing (as the name would suggest) on the surface world. Both books really expand the possibilities of the game both in terms of rules and of source material and kicked off several ideas for future games. Perils Of The Surface World is a smaller book and features four adventures each with their own feel and supporting rules for them. I won’t attempt to give reviews of the books, there are several really great reviews already online of these products, however I would definitely recommend picking them up if you have a copy of the game. There are plenty of bits in them that I’ll never use but far more in them that has already proved very useful and the pick and mix nature of the material really helps you to colour the rules to the type of game you’re most interested in playing.
As the first went so well, not to mention that the players suggested it to me, I decided to run a follow on adventure for the same characters a week later. One of the original crew couldn’t make it but I had another two players who wanted in and so I ended up running the second game for seven players. With Pathfinder or D&D I would never consider running a session for that many players, it would definitely just bog down, so I was a little worried that I’d bitten off more than I could chew but decided to just give it a try.
For the second game I found an adventure called River Of Death, of the various prewritten games I found what really attracted me was that it started with characters already in Hollow Earth where many others are largely initial discovery scenarios. All that remained was me to find a way to get my characters out of their airship and onto a raft on an unknown river. Pterosaurs attacking the airship and forcing it down followed by ape-men chasing the characters to the river seemed like an obvious and easy in and I expected it to take about 45 mins of game time to do this and then I could run the adventure as written. As I said earlier players never do what you expect.
I struggle with improvisation and am frankly quite scared of suddenly finding myself completely out of my depth. It’s something I know will only get better if I do it so I thought I’d keep the prep for the opening 45 mins very light and then relax when I got on to the river. What actually occured was a 3-4 hour game that only ended when the characters set off on the raft. The action started with the attacking pterosaurs bout 20 mins in and it carried on non-stop for well over three hours. If you’re interested then check out the adventure log but the highlights were an incinerated T-rex, hordes or ape-men chasing characters across clearings and a low level sky diving episode with a prototype parachute. Even with a group of seven players and my lack of experience the game didn’t bog down and we had a brilliant time. I felt able to improvise and play fast and loose because of rather than inspite of the rules and can’t wait to play another session (probably in early November when my normal Pathfinder game has had a chance to re-establish itself).
So I said before playing the first session I was really looking forward to the game and I think the actual experience was even better than I was expecting. My brother, who played in the second session, went out the next day and bought the core rules and the rest of the players seem eager to continue the story from where we left off. Ubiquity is a system that really encourages role playing by rewarding good story and acting as a character rather than a player rather than rewarding good tactical play. Leagues Of Adventure looks brilliant but I find that for my tastes Hollow Earth Expedition is just about perfect (who doesn’t want to feed Nazi’s to dinosaurs). I genuinely can’t recommend it enough. If you can find a copy go and buy it, you really won’t regret it.