So, we ended the last session of our Hollow Earth Expedition campaign with Gus Hassenfeldt — in typical form — leading a company of Waffen-SS that were aiding with the collection of specimens to return to the surface world against the forces of General Inanna, who showed up with the Imperial Warship Shiva while USS Los Angeles and Deutschland were away, the airships being driven off by a tropical storm.
With predictable results… Supported by the heat ray batteries on Shiva, and with air cover from three light saucers, the Germans met a superior number of Atlanteans in the big clearing in which the warship had landed. Within two minutes, half his number was captured or killed, and the rest routed and falling back into the cave complexes the cargo cultists from the destroyed Sanctuary had been living in.
The rest of the survivors and German soldiers, under the leadership of Lord Amon and now-Gunnery Sergeant Hunter, retreated into the caves, to draw the Atlanteans in and take them down. Without their air cover, and without the artillery of Shiva, they stodd a better chance of survival and escape. However, while setting up in one of the larger caverns — one with a collapsed section of roof that had allowed for water to run in and a small grotto of plants to grow — they found themselves looking up at the underside of Shiva…and an opportunity! Taking every able-bodied cultist and soldier, they led them up the slick and dangerous rocks to the ground under the warship.
During this time, the Atlanteans had prepared to go into the caves — 300 soldiers armed, armored, and well-led. They had removed their injured, taken the Germans injured captive, and were pushing into the caves. With the soldiers gone, Amon knew there were only 50 or so crew; they had just as many people and the element of surprise. The characters boarded the ship through the open bomb bays, only to find the ship being prepared for battle — but not to repel them. Rather, another group was attacking, and the ship was taking hits from above! After a brief skirmish or two, they took control of the ship’s batteries, only to find the ship under attack by the hawkmen! Inanna’s saucers were cutting up the waves of hawkmen, and Hunter and Gus turned the heat rays of Shiva on her saucers, downing two of them.
Amon and Gould led a team to take the bridge, finding Inanna there. Amon stayed the troops from killing her, believing her a better bargaining chip against the emperor. She was one of his greatest military officers and one of his consorts, after all. With control of the ship, they sealed her up and with the aid of the hawkmen, quickly subdued the Atlantean soldiers.
The hawkmen, they learned, had spotted Shiva approaching, and assuming the ship would turn its guns on the Aerie after dispatching Gould’s group, launched their attack. General Akator, their leader, brings their princess’ pledge to join the fight against Atlantis.
After a day of Gould treating the injured, Hunter getting the survivors and Germans settled in to sound the ship and have her ready for a fight, and Gus seeing to getting the one downed saucer recovered, they were able to start talking about what to do next. They got the hawkmen to release their prisoners. Amon talked some of the Atlanteans into joining them, and was pushing the others to head for Ultima Thule while they had the momentum, and take back his city.
They were stopped by the arrival of Los Angeles and Deutschland, which had been late returning after they encountered Shiva. Inanna had realized they were Outsider ships and assumed they were aiding Gould and his group. They damaged both airships, but Los Angeles used their Tesla electroforce gun — which had earlier been altered to disrupt the repulsion field of the Aeire but had never been used — to almost destroy Shiva. All three ships ran for it.
Admiral Byrd and Obersturmbannfuhrer Werner joined them on Shiva, and the machinations began in earnest. Inanna is questioned, and during the interview they find out that Olga is now known as Morana (the Russian goddess of magic and death), that she is the emperor’s favored consort for her “powers”, and that the emperor has been training her. Inanna opines that she is likely to be even more dangerous than Mot, himself. She is descended from creatures even more ancient than the vril, or the Atlanteans. Things like her come along rarely, and they are always agents of destruction.
Inanna then tried to convince Byrd to give her asylum from Amon. Amon tried to convince the two commanders to join his quest to free Ultima Thule — to which Werner immediately agreed, but Byrd pointed out he was outside his purview; this is a scientific expedition, and the United States doesn’t go around attacking nations without provocation. The characters suspect that Amon might use Shiva to not just battle Atlantis, but replace the emperor. Gould is worried the Nazis will cozy up to Amon for their benefit, and Byrd isn’t trying to stop them.
In the end, the characters decide that Shiva has to be the flagship of their alliance, not Amon’s city, and they work hard to convince him to accept this. They decide with the leaders of the various rebel forces to place command in the hands of a outsider, not one of the various factions. Hunter suddenly finds himself, as the only guy with real military experience (except Lord Trevor, Zara’s uncle, who was a captain in the Royal Army, but is also suffering shell shock…) finds himself commander of Shiva and a Sky Marshal of their combined forces.
With 200 hawkmen warriors, 50 hale Waffen-SS, 46 cargo cultists (including Zek, their resident mechanical genius), a handful of “walker” merfolk (merfolk with legs), and the characters, they now have the opportunity to gather allies from some of the local tribes and advance on Ultima Thule.
This was one of those sessions where a single moment changes the course of a campaign. I had assumed we’d see another slaughter, and the characters running for their lives in the jungles of the Hollow Earth. I was planning for that eventuality.
While prepping, I realized the size of Shiva — 900×700′ — was large enough that portions of it would cover the cave complex. I added that in for flavor, and the players ran with it. The fact they’d drawn the Atlanteans into the caves meant they could stage a relatively easy assault on the warship with close to equal numbers and surprise. With the ship in their possession, they now have the means to retake Ultima Thule and possibly take the fight to Atlantis.
It also saw the balance of power in the characters shift from Gus and Gould as the “leads” toward Hunter being a powerful character. He’s been one of the better fighters, and his USMC background has come up a few times — including Byrd making him the master-t-arms on Los Angeles — and played right into the course of the game.
And we get to call someone Sky Marshal…which just sounds all manner of pulp.