Last time we defined the pulp genre and I even recommended a few games worth checking out. And you probably guessed it that I already made a decision on what game I want to run for my group. After some consideration I decided to give Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX for short) from Exile Games a try.
You can get HEX as a printed version in your favourite game shop or as PDF from RPGNow.
What is Hollow Earth Expedition?
Hollow Earth Expedition is a pulp-adventure game using the Ubiquity rules. A proper review would probably be beyond the scope of that post, so I’ll just give you the basics. The premise of the setting is that our world is hollow and that there is a complete world including a sun inside it. The time inside the Hollow Earth flows differently than outside, so you may encounter everything from dinosaurs and neanderthals to Roman legionnaires and Napoleonic soldiers there. And the landscape of the Hollow Earth is dotted with ruins from Atlanteans. The outside world is similar to real world’s 1936 with a few twists.
The rules are based on a pretty easy dice pool system. In order to make a successful check you roll a pool of dice relevant to the task at hand and you have to get a number of successes equal or higher a given difficulty to succeed in your task. Each die which shows an even number is a success, odd numbers are misses. So it doesn’t matter what kind of dice you use. Aside from the standard attributes and skills, each character has a couple of talents and resources and a flaw or two. If you’ve played any roleplaying game before you probably won’t have any problems with HEX.
So after having read the rules, what can you do to prepare yourself for HEX? The most important aspect is to get in the right mood. Pulp games and characters should be colorful and vibrant. And don’t make the mistake to confuse the pulp genre with film noir for example. In order to get your bearings straight, you should check out a few classic novels or watch a few movies that can be considered pulp.
Some highly recommended movies are
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders has it all: mystery, action, nazis! Although the Indiana Jones movies were created over 30 years after the end of the pulp era it fits the genre 100%. In my opinion the first movie is still the best and every GM and/or player should have watched it before playing a HEX game. Part two and three of the series aren’t that bad either although “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is perhaps a bit too dark. The latest Indiana Jones movie has definitely it’s moments but it’s not a movie you must watch. And since it’s set into the 50s it portrays a wrong era.
- The Mummy
No, I am not talking about the movie classic from the pulp era but the remake. Although the original is a movie you should probably watch when you have the chance, the remake is a great example for a pulp story. Especially the “Americans” are a perfect example for a possible HEX party. And Beni Gabor, the Mummy’s minion, is still one of my favorite movie “minions”. Alas Imhotep itself is not a very strong villain in my opinion, but aside from that the movie is a great movie and fun to watch!
The other two Mummy movies are not too shabby either, but The Mummy Returns is a bit too “over-the-top” and part three doesn’t really fit the series.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
I loved this movie from the second I heard that it was going to be made! Wow! I know that not many people share this view, but it’s one of the best pulp genre movies I’ve seen. Dr. Totenkopf (you can’t be a nice guy with that name) is a great villain even though you don’t see much of him during the movie (I don’t want to spoil too much here). Sky Captain’s 1939 is quite different from HEX’s 1936 but it has a lot of cool pulp elements that can inspire GMs and players for their campaigns and characters.
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
There are many movie adaptions of that story, but my current favorite is the latest edition starring Brendan Fraser. Especially the travel to the Earth Core has many cool elements in it that GMs could use in their HEX adventures. Although it’s set into modern times it has a great pulp feel (if you can ignore the kid, of course).
After reading through the rulebook and watching a few inspiring movies you should be ready to make the next step!