Category Archives: Hollow Earth Expedition

Kickstarters I recently backed

I have a kind of love-hate relationship with Kickstarter. One the one hand I am totally excited about all the cool new and amazing projects I can support there but on the other hand I too often get tempted to put down my money even though I probably shouldn’t. But let’s not think about money for a moment but focus on the excitement!

Hollow Earth Expeditions: Revelations of Mars
This is one of the products I’ve been waiting for for a very long time. Back in 2010 when I visited Gen Con I was hoping I could already pick it up there, but it had been delayed. Lack of time and money have obviously been the cause for this and the Kickstarter is meant to finally get Revelations of Mars done. So what is Revelations all about? It’s a sword and planet sourcebook for Hollow Earth Expedition, the pulp RPG using the Ubiquity System. At the time of this writing the project has already been funded and several stretch goals have been reached including new addons (like special Relevations of Mars dice), a free Fat Dragon Martian terrain set, and a free adventure. The Kickstarter will end in about 59 hours, so you still have a chance to pledge a few dollars.

Space 1889
Space 1889 is probably the granddaddy of all steampunk RPGs even though they used the term Victorian Sci-Fi back in the day. Alas the original rules were a bit clunky, so German publisher Uhrwerk Verlag got the license to produce a new version using Exile Games’ Ubiquity rules. Now Chronicle City’s Angus Abranson is running a Kickstarter for the funding of an English-language version of this new Space 1889. Aside from the regular edition, backers can get a special limited edition book bound in faux leather and heat-branded with the Space 1889 logo. And if you’re pledging £100 or more you’ll even get a special edition bound in real leather, signed and numbered. Sweet!
As with the Revelations of Mars KS, the goal has already been reached and several stretch goals have been unlocked. The KS will run for another 27 days, so you still have some time to decide whether you want to support the new Space 1889 or not.

Iron Empires: Void
Page 11 of the first chapter of VOID I have to thank my fellow blog author Roberto for pointing out this Kickstarter. Iron Empires is the comic series Luke Crane’s award-winning RPG Burning Empires is based on. Even though I wasn’t able to wrap my head around the rules in Burning Empires, I still loved the setting and artwork which were created by the creator of the comic series, Christopher Moeller. I haven’t read any of the comics yet, but luckily there are several pledge levels were you can get the PDFs of the older books in the series.
Void will be a 112-paged hardcover book and like its predecessors be a standalone, complete story. The KS hasn’t reached its goal of $16,000 yet, but there are still 23 days to go. For a pledge for just $10 you get a digital copy of the book and for just $10 more you even get digital copies of the first two books. So what are you waiting for?

These are the Kickstarters I supported in the last few days. Is there anything else interesting I should know about? What Kickstarters have you backed recently? Please share your thoughts in the comment below!

So, you want to play a pulp genre game? Part 2

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 ExpeditionHollow 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.

Prepare yourself!
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!

So, you want to play a pulp genre game?

One of the genres that have seen quite a lot of renewed interest in recent times is the pulp genre. That statement is true and not true at the same time. Why? It’s true because you hear a lot more talk about pulp games or games with pulp elements but if you look a bit closer, you notice that there has always been a strong pulp influence in gaming even if you didn’t call it that way.

Phantom Detective 36So, what is Pulp anyway?
Pulp magazines were inexpensive fiction magazines  that were widely published from the 1920s through the 1950s. Pulp magazines featured stories from many genres including fantasy/sword and sorcery, science fiction, detective/mystery, horror/occult, western and many more. Noteable writers that have written “pulp stories” include Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Mark Twain and H. G. Wells. 
So the pulp genre is much bigger than most of us would believe. I think most people cringe when authors like Isaac Asimov or Mark Twain are called  “pulp authors”, including me, but that’s what they wrote. And the pulp genre is probably defined more by its format and not the quality of writing. A recurring element were brightly colored covers with motives that more often than not featured a scantily clad damsel in distress. 

Pulp in roleplaying
When we look at the list of authors that wrote pulp stories, we notice that a lot of games could be called pulp genre games.  But usually we limit the pulp genre to games inspired by the more blatant features of this broad genre.  Usually pulp genre games copy the artwork style from magazines like Amazing Stores or Phantom Detective even down to the price tag. The classic pulp genre roleplaying game focusses on fantastic stories, two-fisted no-nonsense characters and epic vistas. Especially Exile Game Studio’s Hollow World Expedition and Evil Hat Productions’ Spirit of the Century come to mind. So why seems there be a heightened interest in this genre recently?

For one the pulp genre was always one of the favorite gaming genres even when we didn’t call it that way. Even D&D or Traveller have been strongly influenced by pulp magazines. Since H.P. Lovecraft’s stories appeared in pulp magazines, too, even horror games like Call of Cthulhu are in fact pulp games although almost all features I listed before are missing. Another factor is the internet. In earlier times most people just didn’t know what was out there. I know groups who played D&D ad infinitum without ever knowing that there were other games, other worlds, other genres out there. The internet changed a lot of that. And people are getting tired of the same old game again and again.
And it seems the old pulp stories are old enough now to feel fresh and vibrant again! 

So, what are your favorite pulp games? As always I love to read your comments, so please speak your mind using the comment section below!