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It’s been a very busy couple of months, but work on the sourcebook for 1930s pulp Istanbul continues. We’re about two-thirds of the way through writing, with layouts getting roughed out. Art orders for maps of the city and the Grand Bazaar are going out soon.

Right now, it’s a pretty vanilla tour guide to the city, but the pulpy bits are getting added soon including two adventure scenarios. The page count is anticipated to be about 80 — about the same size as our Queen of the Orient, and expect a similar price structure. There will be both a Fate and Ubiquity version and the planned release date should be August. Inshallah.

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A little something from the ongoing Hollow Earth Exepdition game. The Ahnenerbe has had a bit of help reverse engineering a Vril flying saucer they captured in the Hollow Earth three years ago, and now it is harassing our party…

nazi_ufo_01Developed from a Vril flying saucer returned with the Deutschland mission, the Schwarze Sonne project reverse engineered the Vril technology using available technologies. The repulsor technology is a bit crude and is powered by a pair of Maybach V-12 engines. These flyer saucers are capable of carrying 12 men and have a minimal crew of two — a pilot and an engineer. The standard operating crew includes a second pilot, who also acts as a gunner, a radio and radar operator, and four gunners for the Solothurn turrets on the underside. It is armed with a turret topside carrying a pair of Spandau 7.92mm machine guns, and four turreted 20mm machine guns for ground assault.

SIZE: 8   DEF: 6   STR: 14   SPD: 200   CEIL: 20,000   RNG: 1000   HAN: 0   CREW: 8   PASS: 4 WEAPONRY:  dual Spandaus in turret — Dam: 5L   Rng: 250’   Cap: 250   Rate A   SPD: A; 4 Solothurn 20mm in turrets — Dam 6L   Rng: 500’   Cap: 100   Rate: A   SPD: A

The return of our Hollow Earth Expedition campaign included one of the players wanting to trade out his character, the French cat-burglar/actor for something new. He was leaning toward a character in the classy gentleman spy, John Steed vein but left it to me to build it.

Our adventure coming up was how there was a lost island, possibly a bit of the Hollow Earth that got “stuck” to the Surface World in the South China Sea. I figured we needed someone who was familiar with the lifeforms and might have a direct connection to the mission. Hence this character was born:

Aristotle Strange

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 20.45.07Ari Strange started his life as a philosopher and thinker in the ancient city of Molad, one of the apeman cities arrayed against the Emperor Mot. When the Interior World emerged in 1933, he was deposited in Hong Kong, where his ability to speak and reason earned him study by MI-13, the United Kingdom’s secret science intelligence agency. He was eventually recruited to aid the British with the leftover problems from the emergence of the “ghost world” and has become one of their most skilled, if least secret, agents in the East.

He is incredibly dapper, always well dressed in town, and he prefers a safari suit in the field. He rarely uses guns, preferring one of his custom-made gadget-laden umbrellas. His bowler hat is steel-lined so it can be used as a bludgeoning weapon or shield. He is frequently assigned to missions with two Special Branch officers who have been seconded to MI-13 — Sergeants Thicket and Tweed. Tweed acts as driver for the Bentley 6.5 litre “Green Train” car that MI-13 has issued to the large not-so-secret agent.

Archetype: Spy     Motivation: Knowledge     Nationality: British     Age: 40-45?

Place of Birth: Molad, the Interior World     Date of Birth: June or July, 1889

Ht: 5’11”     Wt: 370 lbs     Hair: Black     Eyes: Brown

ATTRIBUTES: Body: 3   Dexterity: 2   Strength: 4  Charisma: 2   Intelligence: 3   Willpower: 2

Secondary Attributes:  Size: 0   Move: 6   Perception: 5   Initiative: 5   Defense: 5   Stun: 3 Health: 5   Style 5

Resources & Talents: Animal Presence: Use Body for intimidation base, Natural Advantage: Climb (x2 move when climbing), Prehensile Feet, Rank 2: Special Officer, MI-13 (equiv. Lieutenant); Skill Mastery, Academics; Strong: +1 strength at creation

Flaws:  Code of Honor: 1 style pt. when he does the right thing; Curiosity: 1 style pt when it gets him into trouble, Obligation: MI-13, Weird Appearance: -2 social tests with new people.

Languages: Ophiri (native); Ancient Greek, Cantonese, English, Spanish

Skills: Academics 3/6, Athletics 2/ 6, Brawl 2/6, Bureaucracy 2/5, Firearms 1/3, Intimidation 2/5, Investigation 2/5, Larceny 1/3, Linguistics 3/6, Melee 1/5, Science (Biology) 1/4, Stealth 2/4, Survival 3/6

Weaponry: Sword Umbrella   DAM: 2L,  Attack Rating: 7L (Has a small whiskey flask in handle); Shotgun Umbrella (12 gauge): DAM: 4L, Attack Rating: 5L, Rng: 25’, Cap: 1, Rate: 1, Spd: S; Steel-Lined Bowler DAM: 1N, Attack Rating: 6N   Range (thrown): 20’ (Can be used as a shield for Armor 1)

Gadgets: Umbrella with gas spray: Range 10 (Test BODY 3 or fall unconscious for successes x minutes), Umbrella with camera (Can take up to 20 pictures (35mm cartridges), Smith Brothers wristwatch with compass, Belt with secret money pouch (5 gold sovereigns)

Note: I pulled the image off the interwebz at Traditional Games, but there was no citation for the artist who created it. No infringement is intended and as soon as I find a citation I’ll post it.

We finished the mini-campaign we were playing in Tales from the Loop two weeks ago and swung back onto our Hollow Earth Expedition game. The characters were investigating reports of a strange, lost island in the South China Sea near the Philippines, and had been tracking down the crew of a freighter that had escaped in Hong Kong. They found them in the recently closed Peak Hotel — a massive art deco pile from the turn of the century that was closed only a few weeks earlier. In the interim, it was being used by the British government to hold the crew of the Den Wu and question them as to what they had found.

Our characters slipped into the hotel — abandoned and a bit creepy — during a massive thunderstorm. After a bit of sneaking about, they were discovered by the members of British Intelligence, and specifically a group stood up in 1933, after the Hollow Earth Expedition by Admiral Bird and the characters (and with the help of the Ahnenerbe in the airship Deutschland).

MILITARY INTELLIGENCE 13

Known as the “Weird Boys” or the Scientific Intelligence, MI-13 is under the authority of the Home Office. Led by the Chief, MI-13 General Aubrey Milton, and his Deputy Chief, Dr. Trevor Ansom — the man who discovered the White Apes of the Congo, the service hires its people from an eclectic mix of scientists and explorers, soldiers and spies, and mystics. Unlike their other secret services cousins, MI-5 and MI-6, the Weird Boys are not headquartered in London, but in a large country house near Oxford University. Their major stations are Hong Kong, Calcutta, Jerusalem in the Palestinian Mandate, Toronto, and Sydney.

Small teams are sent to investigate sightings of strange creatures possibly related to the “ghost world”, as the emerged Hollow Earth was called, strange events that cannot be explained by current science, and advanced research being conducted by other countries that have recovered some of the technological marvels of the Atlanteans. They have a friendly rivalry with the American Office of Scientific Investigations, but their dealings with the paranormal division of the NKVD have been more violent. Of great concern is the rapid development of repulsion technology by the Ahnenerbe division of the Gestapo, which has been reverse engineering Atlantean flying saucers.

One of the least “secret” of their agents an apeman who had been deposited by the emerging Hollow Earth in Hong Kong — a philosopher named Artistotle who has since adopted the name Aristotle Strange. He has actively immersed himself into the culture of his adoptive Britain.

A little something that showed up in a recent game session of Hollow Earth Expedition.

Putilov “Stalin” Stal-2 

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This strange aircraft is based on plans stolen from the American project to reverse engineer a Vril flying saucer recovered by the Los Angeles mission to the Hollow Earth. Putilov group created the Stal-2 (Steel-2) — a small flying saucer that uses contra-rotating blades around the circumference to provide lift. The craft is extremely nimble but has problems with arresting fast descents. It takes lots of practice to learn how to fly well, and only a few of these have gotten out into the field. None, so far, have survived testing or use in the wild.

It is armed with a pair of 20mm cannons facing forward that are controlled by the co-pilot/gunner. The craft features a pressurized cabin and can achieve high altitudes.

SIZE: 4     DEF: 6     STR: 10     SPD: 150   CEIL: 21,000     RNG: 300     HAN: +2     CREW: 2     PASS: n/a; Twin 20mm cannons:  Sze: 0   Dam: 8L   Rng: 500’   Cap: 150   Rate; A

The third installment of our Hollow Earth Expedition campaign picked up right where we left off. Veitch and Erha rescued, the vril psychic in custody, and an expedition to Shambala planned. A small battalion of US Marines get ready to go through the Eye of Shambala. They know Morana, the former self-crowned Queen of Shambala has support there, so they go through in force, with motorcycles, a pair of M2 light tanks, 400 men with mortars, machineguns, and other weapons. Lastly, they’ve rigged an incredibly dangerous catapult system to throw the Dogfish minifighters through the Eye. To stay aloft, the pilots have to release the folding wings into position as soon as they are through or they’ll go into the ground like lawn darts.

Zelansky rides in one of the lead tanks, the marine colonel in the other. They find, on the other side, not just an entrenched force, but that the environment in the city is changed. Instead of a temperate climate with almost sea-level pressures, they are in a cold, snowy valley in the Himalayas — Shambala is here, but it has been damaged by bombings, and the once verdant valley is dying from cold. What happened!?!

But before they could investigate, they found themselves in a brutal fight with the people guarding the Great Gate — white-suited men with red stars on their caps: RUSSIANS! These are their elite reconnaissance paratroopers, some of the first in history. There are six Tupolev TB3s parked near the ancient spire that houses the Great Library of the city. The Russians have machinegun nests and mortar emplacements and soon the marines are in a pitched batter with the communists at 15’000′ in the most remote place on Earth. Moments later, the Dogfish come through and both O’Bannon and Veitch nailed their pilot tests, dropping their wings and taking to the skies. Fortunately, the minifighters are still tuned for Maritan air, and handle the shift to high altitude well.

The battle is pitched and Cointreau finds himself flashing back to WWI France. He and PIn-Li do their part, but try to stay out of the main fight…until Pin-Li gets blown up by a mortar. (Not killed, thanks to a massive plot point dump.) Cointreau loses it and takes up a gun — he first time since he was a lieutenant in the war — and starts mowing down any Russians he can find.

Zelansky leads his light tank in combat, punching through the Russian lines to hit the Tupolevs before the pilots can get them started. He succeeds in destroying several, including one that had a pair of I-16 fighters slung under the wings, but they don’t hit the two strange vehicles that come zipping out from behind the TB3s…weird saucer like craft that take to the skies to engage the Dogfish! Something like this…

xp5a693e0dThe Russians have flying saucers!?!  The craft seem to use contra-rotating fans along the outside of the aircraft, and it’s got a smoky exhaust, so not powered by Atlantean crystals or any exotic power source. It’s also got two pilots, one facing forward, one aft, and they each have a pair of 20mm cannons! The dogfight between the minifighters and saucers showed the Russian craft to be very nimble, but that they had trouble with slowing their descent rate. O’Bannon used this to crash one of the saucers, but he was shot down before he could splash the second. Veitch, however, got a great shot and damaged the second. It crashed while trying to line him up for a kill. For the scene, we ditched the dogfight rules from Secrets of the Surface World, and instead used the rules that we developed for Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean.

Eventually, they are able to win through. Between Cointreau going on a killing spree and an excellent use of diplomacy by Zelansky, they got the Soviets to surrender. Having secured the gate, they investigated the old tower and the city and found a few survivors from Shambala that had been kept for interrogation, and a single vril in the uniform of the Imperial Guard of Atlantis. This vril had come here with Morana to bring her followers to Atlantis, and to take what they needed from the Great Library. To Zelansky’s horror, the library is gone! Morana made off with about a third of the material, and burned the rest!

On their return to Los Angeles through the Great Gate, the decision was made to wire the gate in Shambala with enough explosives that, should it look like another force (including Morana) was going to take it, they could destroy it. They also hauled the wreckage of the Soviet saucers home for study only to find out, they are based on one of the Boston Project designs that Zek (Erha’s father) and she had been working on.

They’ve got a Soviet spy in their midst!

For the session after the invasion of Shambala, we switched it up. Instead of continuing with the current group of characters, we moved the action to the Second Earth, Atlania, where we opened on a Japanese torpedo boat, IJN Hayabusa, which had been lost here since 1933 when the inversion and emergence of the Second Earth happened. Only two of the original crew are left — one a PC named Hideki Reizo. An engineering lieutenant who had studied in the United States, he is from a good family of warriors and politicians. He, on the other hand, is a lair, cheat, and coward who was using the navy to get some cache to move into a more lucrative field, like landing a rich wife…and they he got stuck here.

Their ship was attacked by pirates months back and he agreed to help them with the boat in exchange for his safety. He and Ito, one of his machinist mates, are locked in a coal bunker turned into a brig along with the ship’s cook and “comfort woman”, a lizardwoman named Goldie. The ship has just taken a Thulian merchant ship and one of the captives is dumped in the hole with them. He is “the Doctor”, a man that supposedly wanders around helping all the creatures of the world. He knows all the weird chimera races, can fix anyone, it is said.

The Doctor is one of our players’ characters from the first Hollow Earth Expedition campaign in this universe, David Gould –a Spanish doctor who has Atlantean blood which made him our plot device to go to Tibet and find the Eye of Shambala the Americans currently have. He was also lover to Olga Markova — now Morana, the Empress of Atlantis and Queen of Shambala — who was responsible to releasing the Hollow Earth from its “dimensional bubble” inside the Earth. He helped create the Second Earth, and the disasters befalling the people, from the extreme climate changes, to the volcanoes and earthquakes, to the die off of the dinosaurs, to night, which still terrifies many on the world. This is all his fault, and he has been wnadering more to avoid people figuring this out and killing him.

Hideki is released for his shift in the engine room, and convinces the pirates Gould must aid Ito, who has been badly beaten for interfering with the crew when they sought to have Goldie cook her latest clutch of eggs for a crew’s meal. (Ito lost it because not only was this cruel…these men would be eating eggs they fathered on her!) Gould is released to try and heal him and at that moment, things go pear-shaped. Gould spots something in the water — dozens of merfolk, and riding one of them is Gustav Hassenfeldt, a big game hunter and the PC of another player and Gould’s companion in the old campaign.

With the aid of a lizardman (Blue Eye) and a hawkman (Icris) — both PCs — two dozen merfok, and Icris’ sons, Greay Feather and Swiftwing, they assault the ship and take it, while Gus’ beautiful 120′ trimaran comes into view. Gould and Gus meet for the first time since Gus saw Gould leave to track down Morana in the cavern of the Great Machine that had held the Hollow Earth inside of Earth. Gus is ecstatic to see his friend alive, but Gould is convinced they are simply waiting to kill him or worse. At some point he realizes that Gus has always been incapable of deceit; his friend is actually happy to see him.

They return to Gus’ base in the port town of Sagras just in time to catch a message runner coming from the west with a message for the Queen of Ultima Thule, whom Gus operates his trimaran as a privateer, hunting pirates and evil-doers. She has returned! it tells them. Morana, it seems, has returned to Atlantis. They fix and provision Hayabusa, which Hideki renames Soyokaze (“slow wind”) and they make to set off to Ultima Thule to warn the queen. Gus sneds word through the merfolk. Their songs can carry for hundreds of miles in the water, and they can move messages around the world faster than any ship or hawkman.

There was an interlude to do some character bits, including seeing Gus’ living conditions. He lives in a massive warehouse with his “wife”, the mermaid princess Osha, with whom he now has four children (and one on the way). We made out merfolk really alien, I used a mermaid design by Iain McCaig that is pretty, but really weird. For the longest time, it was their siren call that kept gus with her, but now…well, now it’s just his life.

When they get to Ultima Thule, they find the place has been slowly putting itself back together. There’s the beginnings of electrification, gun and powder manufacture, andthe rebuilding of section of the town destroyed by the inversion. Queen Inanna, a former general for the Emperor of Atlantis, is concerned about the news. Morana was dangerous before, but who knows what she’s been up to in the last three years. Gould is convinced they need to stop her, that there is something “inside her”, an entity or thing, he doesn’t know. Inanna’s new chief of the secret police, a Russian psychic that had been hunting Morana for years in the other campaign, agrees. She had no real talents outside of being able to act as a sort of “psychic battery” that other psychics could pull power from.

Gould gets the idea — Soyokaze has a radio. Could they call for help from Earth? The radio set is shortwave and they don’t have the power or antenna to pull it off, but Inanna has someone who might be able to help…

And that’s where we left off last week.

(Image credit: I snagged this Soviet flying saucer off of Pinterest a few weeks ago but don’t have original source info. My suspicion is Popular Mechanics or some such. If anyone happens to know where it’s from, let me know.)

So the second adventure in the current campaign of Hollow Earth Expedition saw our heroes, freshly returned from rescuing the members of their expedition on Mars, having a few days to finally rest and recuperate. The Martians they brought with them are still adapting to the Earth’s gravity and have been meeting with various diplomats and journalists. Rumors of how the Americans managed to get to Mars abound, but the Office of Scientific Intelligence has so far kept a lid n the truth.

The players found themselves our for a night on the town that involved some meeting period movies stars before they returned home to the Ocean View Motel in Bunker Hill (which, of course has no view of the Ocean…) that OSI uses as housing for their agents and scientists. The next morning, they are ready to head to the local HQ housed under the Goodyear Airship Factory in Huntingdon Park, but discover that Veitch (whose player was absent for the night) and Erha — the inventor characters — had not returned home. After they establish neither had gottne back to the Ocean View, they go to their headquaters, thinking they might have just gone back to work on the various projects. Nope.

They inform Director Byrd, who gets the FBI and LAPD out looking for them. It turns out, their FBI tail never returned from his shift, either! That’s not the only strangeness: one of the marines that had been on duty as a machine gunner when they first returned from Mars has been found dead in his barracks at the naval station in Long Beach. The autopsy is ongoing and finally reveals no reason for death…he just died. While the doctors assume natural causes, Zelansky — in classic cryptoscientist fashion — thinks that Morteus, the Atlantean God-King that had rules Morteus Das, the City of the Dead, on Mars and who seemed to take on living hosts might be loose in the Greater Los Angeles area!

But that was not the focus on this adventure. They are called out to the Los Angeles river, near Griffith Park, where the FBI agent’s car has been found with him stuffed in the trunk. Foul deeds are afoot! They check with the bus driver of the vehicle that Veitch and Erha had taken to the pier. They confirm they were some of the last people enjoying the rides at the amusement park there, and that they called a cab. One of th eride attendants remembers them because of Erha’s shocking white hair, and that there was another, foreign, couple. They establish that the cab was one of the green and white of the United independent Cab Company.

At the cab company in downtown, they talk to the shifty dispatcher, a guy named Manny Polo. The driver picked them up and dropped them off at the Ocean View, according to the dispatch logs. This is one of the first radio dispatch companies, so the logs were radioed in. The driver will be in soon, but Polo has them wait while he calls the guy in early. What he does, however, is calls some of his mafia toughs, and this leads to a spectacular fight in the street out front of the United Independent, involving chop-socky from Pin-Li and the pilot, O’Bannon; some swordcane play from the actor and cat-burglar, Cointreau; a bit of the use of the guardian trait by Zelansky, and a bit of damage to the headlight and hood ornament of Cointreau’s new Duisenberg.

They get a hold of the driver and establish he took them to the Ocean View, where the other couple drugged the passengers, and when an FBI agent tried to intervene, the man shot him. He then drove them to an address in Beverly Hills that turns out to be owned by the Austrian government, and is a consular residence protected by diplomatic immunity. Not wanting to wait for the niceties of diplomacy because who knows what the Austrians are doing to their people, they decide to let Cointreau do his thing and cat-burgle the place to rescue the pair.

The next session Veitch’s player was back so we startered with finding out what was happening to the pair: the Austrians are covering for a Gestapo snatch squad. The couple have another couple of men here to guard the house, and a vril! This man, Damien Weiss (Mr. White), is a Gestapo agent who was “rescued” after the Second Earth emerged from the Hollow Earth, He has been working for the Nazis, who hold him up as a racial exemplar. He’s also telepathic. He and the couple have been working the pair over, questioning them about the layout of the OSI headquarters, how far along the reverse engineering of the Atlantean flying saucers is going, and other aspects of the American program to unlock the secrets of the Hollow — new Second — Earth, and Mars.

The rest of the group rented a moving van as cover, so they could grab bad guys, if necessary, and to look nondescript. Cointreau took his Duisenberg, which in Beverly Hills, was also fairly nondescript. They bust into the house, confront the Gestapo which led to a hell of a series of fights between O’Bannon and Pin-LI with the Germans (a few who knew kung fu because of course some of the bad guys had to…) They rescue the pair, but Weiss and one of the Nazis are escaping in a Cadillac! Cointreau and Pin-LI, with Erha and Veitch in his Duisey, give chase, while O’Bannon winds up joining the chase late (long fight scene) on a Zundapp motorcycle. Zelansky, following the traffic laws and taking a safer route, eventually catches up to the aftermath of the chase, but it was great comedic relief.

The chase scene was classic action movie through the streets, with gunplay, cars ramming each other, and finally a spectacular crash by the Caddy, which landed on the motorcycle moments after O’Bannon bailed from it. Great stuff. They capture the vril, and get everyone home in the now destroyed Duisey and panel van. Which Zelansky returns unscathed…to get back the deposit, of course.

They now has an vril agent of the Gestapo with mind powers in the infirmary. But there’s intelligence from Shanghai that their former nemesis, Obersturmfuhrer Werner had been released by the Germans, and that the Nazis are trying to bribe the Chinese Nationalist government to let them take an expedition “into the deep interior” (they assume to find Shambala) in exchange for aircraft and training support. The Chinese are considering it. They have to secure Shambala before the Nazis get there. It looks like it’s time to fire up the gate!