The Hollow Earth Expedition game continued tonight with the characters, having escaped the underground lair of the “hungry ghost” Dai Pan and the arrival of Morana, the “Queen of Shambala.” She had made off with a finger from Anton Veitch, who has Atlantean blood and can activate their ancient technology. Following this the characters had used the gate in Dai Pan’s lair to pass through to the eye of Shambala, which was being unloaded from the airship Macon at nearby Moffett Air Field. The group was arrested by the shore patrol until the FBI and Dr. Lancaster of the Office of Scientific Investigations could come get them released. Veitch, missing his finger was admitted to the naval hospital. (Recap here…)

We opened the night with Zelansky and Lancaster talking about the situation. The local FBI office and SFPD were incensed over the fire in Chinatown that consumed three buildings and left dozens of Chinese gangsters (the On Yik Tong) dead. They were seen with another gang (the 17 Tigers) attacking the place and many of those gangsters are now missing. J. Edgar Hoover and RADM Byrd have cut a deal allowing the team to remain free and to cover up the incident under the guise of gang violence. The local FBI agent in charge had wanted to deport his team and hand O’Bannon over to the British. (Both the British and Irish have arrest warrants on him. He is protected in Shanghai only because the Sky Rats are agents of the Republic of China.) They are told to lie low and that evening they are put on a train to Los Angeles.

On arrive in that city, they are picked up by the OSI’s “Boston Project”, which Lancaster heads up, and given nice apartments in a new motel in Bunker Hill, the Ocean View (which it does not have…) It is the residence for the unmarried men of the project. The characters minus Wiley Post, who is not an OSI contractor and was staying with his wife (and the player was out for the evening), were taken to the Goodyear Airship Factor in Huntingdon Park. A separate building on the property, far from the airship sheds and company offices is the home of the Boston Project, and the facility they use is hidden under the grounds. After a security briefing and signing agreements to keep their mouths shut, they are finally showed the new home of the Eye of Shambala.

Lab B is where the scientists will be studying the Atlantean artifact. But next door in Lab C is where the fun stuff is — one of the Atlantean flying saucers, and the OSI reverse engineered version using “telluric countergravity” and gas-powered turbofan (jet) engines. The designer in Zebulon Edward Koenig, last seen in our other HEX campaign, a long lost associate of Nikola Tesla. He had stopped an invasion from the Hollow Earth in 1908 using Tesla’s telluric cannon, which destroyed miles of the Siberian forest, but had been sucked into the vortex created and deposited in the Hollow Earth. He had escaped with U.S.S. Los Angeles at the end of the last campaign, and now, which his daughter Erha, is working for OSI.

In addition to the saucer were a few prototypes of Erha’s “minifighter”, made by Curtiss: the XM-01 “Dogfish.” (The gearhead players really loved these things, as I thought they might…) We’re finally getting more super-science in the game: flying saucers, mini-fighters, and they think they’ve figured out how to use telluric energy (the earth’s electromagnetic field) to create antigravity, as well as a weapon (similar to the one Tesla and Koenig used to save the world in 1908.) Veitch was also interested in starting work on robots.

After their visit to the facility, the group returned to the Ocean View in time to join Post in his trip to the Burbank Airport, to see his new airplane provided by his sponsor Texaco. A new Lockheed Electra 10D with upgraded R-1340 Wasp engines. The plane is perfect for some of the ideas he had to push the boundaries of aviation. While there, they are approached by Mark Hooper, a stunt coordinator for MGM that knows Post. He needs pilots for a new film about to start filming. The movie is a love story set against the fight between an Italian sky pirate gang and a fictionalized version of the Sky Rats. Having O’Bannon and Veitch immediately got them an offer, and Cointreau parlayed this into getting a audition with the casting director.

With an excellent series of rolls, Cointreau found himself bumping Mischa Auer for the part of Moroni, the Italian gang leader and rival for the hear of Sophia, played by Merle Oberon. The lead, Cary Grant, is playing “Sky Captain” — obviously patterned on “Captain Joe” Porter, and there’s even a character that is obviously a take on O’Bannon himself, played by David Niven. There’s a young plucky mechanic who is comic relief played by Mickey Rooney (this drives Veitch nuts!) The story takes massive liberties with the final battle the Sky Rats fought against the Cavallieri del’Aria (Knights of the Air), an Italian sky pirate band the Foreign Volunteer Force took down for the Yugoslavian government in 1931. The asistant director of photography doing the aerial battles is a Dave Morelli, whose father supposedly told him stories of the Sky Rats and pirates…he’s thrilled to be working with them.

There followed a montage of vignettes: Cointreau doing well in his work, seducing Oberon only to be discovered in the act by her boyfriend, famed director Alexander Korda. Korda has complained to Mr. Mayer and it looks like Sky Rats! might be the Frenchman’s first and last Hollywood movie! Veitch has been getting close to Erha, while aiding in their work on the saucers and the Eye of Shambala. Zelansky has finally gotten the group paid well for their work, but the government has put their pay into an annuity (which is subject to the new 50% tax on their wealth bracket…thanks, FDR!) O’Bannon and Post are filming aerobatics, including a wing-walking scene where Pin-Li, posing as a David Niven’s character, jumps from one plane to the other to pull the “enemy pilot” out of the cockpit and take over. (There’s another pilot hidden in the plane…PIn-Li can’t fly.)

Finally, Cointreau goes to watch the aerial shoot during a break in his filming, only to find the boys are already up. Veitch is at the Boston Project, but Post and O’Bannon are flying Curtiss Jennies dolled up to look like the Aero A.12s the FVF had flown in the campaign against the Knights of the Air. The “emeny” planes, a Jenny made up to look like an Aeromarine AS, and a Curtiss R3C racing seaplane painted red to play the Macchi M.39 of the villain, Moroni, are joined by the film plane with ADP Morelli in it. The grip on site at the Burbank Airport says they were called in early for the shoot…and moments later Hooper and the other pilots arrive. What they hell is going on? That’s not the routine!

That’s because Morelli is the son of Andrea Morelli, the wingman to Marco Pasquale — the commander of the Cavallieri and a man that O’Bannon had shot down five years ago! O’Bannon remembers the battle — their battered Aero A.12s against the new, nimble Macchi M.71 seaplanes, and Pasquale’s M.39 racing plane that had been armed. It was twice as fast as they, just as maneuverable, and armed with twin .30 machineguns. In that fight, O’Bannon had shot down Morelli’s father, but Pasquale had taken his plane out. Captain Joe had managed to kill Pasquale’s plane by using the slower Aero to pull the faster Macchi in tight, then had rammed the tail of the racing plane to defeat the sky pirate.

It’s the battle that they are supposed to be reenacting.

The “bad guys” has actual bullets in their guns and Post and O’Bannon find themselves using their superior flying skills to try and outfly their opponents. O’Bannon leads the R3C into the canyons north of Los Angeles and manages to get that pilot to damage the plane badly. He then uses Captain Joe’s tactic, out-turning the R3C until the racing plane has to slow down lest it overshoot him…then rams the plane, sending it careening into the neighborhood below.

Post tangles with the “bad guy” Jenny, lopping them to get behind, then just under them before the observer shoots, taking their own tail apart. He then gets under them and nudges the plane into an uncontrolled roll toward the ground. (Post’s player was out for the night and Veitch’s player was rolling for him.) To keep the Zelansky and Cointreau players involved, they were rolling for the bad guys.

Cointreau knows the boys are in trouble and calls the Boston Project, getting contected to Veitch. He tells them about the dogfight and urges him to get out there to help.  He convinces Erha to loan him a Dogfish and together they fly out in the motorcycle-cum-airplanes to the rescue. Veitch arrives just as the plane Post flipped is returning to the fight, and strafes it with the Dogfish’s twin .30s, taking it down. Meanwhile, O’Bannon comes up on the “camera plane” with Morelli and uses his propeller to shred the tail, then follow the damaged craft down to land in the streets. He and PIn-Li were leaping out to face Morelli and his Mafia buddy as Veitch and Erha were closing in the Dogfish.

That’s where we ended for the night.

The Hollywood interlude was fun and focused on the strengths of the characters — Zelansky’s science and bureaucracy, Veitch’s invention, O’Bannon and Post’s piloting skills, and Cointreau’s attempts to break into the Hollywood scene. It also allowed us to do a playtest of the new dogfighting rules  for Ubiquity that will be in the Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean sourcebook we’re working on at Black Campbell Entertainment. I wanted something that was both simpler than the rules in the Secrets of the Surface World sourcebook, and captured the elements of a dogfight better: the jockeying for position that is key to setting up a shot, and how quickly that can be overturned.

Originally, when I started working on this adventure, I had thought to pull it back a bit after the sorcery and kung fu antics of the last few episodes. Instead, we went for more pulp goodness, just with airplanes, that allowed us to delve into the history of the O’Bannon character, which we hadn’t really done yet. The next session I decided not to pull back, again — I had wanted to do something with the Dust Bowl and Okies. Instead, I’m doubling down on our new villainess, Morana.


Something that will be making an appearance soon in our Hollow Earth Expedition game is a “mini-fighter” that is being developed by the Office of Scientific Investigations “Boston Project”and built by the nearby Curtiss-Wright.

I needed something dieselpunkish and spotted this on DeviantArt by Leonard M Grion:


An innovative design that came out of the Office of Scientific Investigations’ Boston Project, the Dogfish was created by a refugee of the Hollow Earth, Erha Koenig. This ultralight is powered by an Allison V-12 motor positioned behind an open cockpit that provides more of a motorcycle-like position in the aircraft. The idea was that small, nimble aircraft could outmaneuver the enemy planes, while being inexpensive and less of a financial loss in combat. Armed with a pair of Browning .30 caliber machineguns, the Dogfish had a center of gravity and lift that were balanced in the middle of the craft. Difficult and somewhat terrifying to fly, and with a limited ceiling due to the smaller wingspan, only a few prototypes were created.


Our Hollow Earth Campaign continued with the charaters teaming up with a gang called the 17 Tigers, led by a sorcerer Runyi Shen, to rescue Marcel “the Fox” Cointreau and defeat the “hungry ghost” Dai Pan. To do so, Veitch cobbled together an “electroforce” pistol out of the Atlantean crystal Zelansky carries, a battery and a length of pipe and coils. The idea is the electroforce may disperse whatever the incorporeal creature is. It was a nice bit of pulp spitballing by the players that I encouraged.

The gang sets off to the laundry the On Yik Tong uses as a front, and this led to a massive chop socky action sequence that involved swords, cleavers, press irons, moving clothing racks, and explosive cleaning products…leading to the defeat of the On Yik and the burning down of the laundry. While the building was buring around their ears, the heroes found the secret hatch that led them down deep under the city’s infrastructure to the same “dragon door” that Cointreau had been led through. Veitch finds it fascinating. It feels strange and when he touches it, he fall right through, while the others have to force it.

On the other side, Veitch finds the door is also a gate like the Eye of Shambala, and suddenly blue-gi’ed monks are spilling through. Superimposed, his friends come through the door and this led to a massive dozens of martial artists right on top of each other fight. O’Bannon, armed with Veitch’s pistol manages to kill the ghost in the midst of the fight, while Zelansky got off to the side and documented the whole thing with his camera.   Pin-Li got to show his stuff against multiple mooks, and Veitch escaped the fray only to be caught by the fox spirits. Things look grim for the young man when Cointreau, who escaped from the clutches of Dai Pan’s minions, shows up.

In the midst of the fight, Morana, the self-proclaimed Queen of Shambala steps through, disabling all the fighters in earshot with a simple “STOP!” (Atlantean Power Word!) She then found Veitch, intimidated Cointreau into cutting off his pinky. “I need him…but only a little.” she took the finger and put it in a metal vial hung around her neck, before retreating. Zelansky understands: she has just enough that with her ability to amplify psychic and spiritual energy, she can now use Atlantean technology!

The crew escaped the rest of the On Yik by using this new portal to go through the Eye of Shambala, currently being lowered from the airship Macon in the Moffett airship shed. Injured and shaken, the heroes were being taken to the naval hospital when we knocked off for the night.

This week was an interesting exercise in “winging that mo’…” I had a lot of interesting tidbits on Chinatown, names, gang affiliations, and other information all set to go for the game this week…and promptly forgot my laptop that I had plugged in to recharge when I went to the session. It happens. I couldn’t get my phone to talk to iCloud properly, and I didn’t back the adventure up anyway, so what do you do in a situation like this?

Roll with it. I knew the broad strokes. I knew villain names. I had posted the baddies for the adventure on this blog, so I had access to stats, etc. I set to “improvisation” and ran the adventure. I knew that the first scene would be catching up with the character that was taken captive last week, since the player had been absent. We covered Cointreau’s — the French actor and sometimes cat burglar — attempt to find a willing prostitute to try his new mystic Tantric knowledge on…only to find nothing was happening. Disappointed, he got the madam of the house to sent him to “someone that might be able to help….” This was the brothel at which the characters had had their big fight set piece last week when they wen to save him, only to find him gone without a trace.

What we see is that the huli jing, Ming Yao, had coaxed his desire to learn what he’s calling “sex magic” from Cointreau. She recognized the techniques as being old…and offered to take him to someone that could help him. He agreed to this, the player realizing that this would speed the plot. He was taken through a secret trap door down a series of steps that led under the building, under the city’s infrastructure, to a cave system that had wooden foot paths constructed (in an earthquake zone, no less…) She led him to an ornate dragon gate: a red lacquered door surrounded by dragon motifs, and through that into a great hall, like a temple.

Here they met Dai Pan, the leader of the On Yik Tong — slavers, smugglers, and murderers all. Pan has three of these fox spirits at his beck and call, and at some point Cointreau realized that the man didn’t walk. He glided. He didn’t sense him when he was close and at one point, while Dai Pan was convincing him to remain so that they could return him to his mistress, the woman that showed him this was all possible (Morana!), he casually reached out and poked Pan. To find his hand went right through him. He has been here for a long time, guarding the 7th Gate, and now there may be the opportunity to finally have his curse lifted so he might live again, or finally pass beyond.

The rest of the team, meanwhile, goes to Chinatown to try and find out where their friend is. They don’t have to look long before they are directed to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolence Society or “Six Companies” — the cabal of gang leaders who keep the peace in Chinatown since the Tong Wars of the last decade. There, the president of the Six Companies, “Uncle Dave” Pei will tell them their friend is most likely in the hands of the On Yik Tong, a restive bunch of slavers, if their fight last night in one of their brothels is anything to go by. He tells them where they can find the On Yik, but before they can go far, they are attacked outside of the Six Companies, and we had a good chop socky fight sequence, with plenty of fisticuffs and a bit of gun play by O’Bannon and Post. The fight was meant to be difficult, with a dozen opponents, but the boys were blowing through them quickly. We were also starting to run late, so I let the fight close out with the appearance of a rival gang, the 17 Tigers, led by a very American Chinese guy named Eddie Wang.

With Cointreau separated from the group, but the focus on them for much of the night, I gave the player the task of rolling for the bad guys, so that he was engaged and having fun. This technique has been successful for me when it’s neccessary to split the party. Give the player control of the actions of the bad guys is also a nice way of keeping them in the mix, but I recommend this only if your group is adult enough not to get honked off at their companion, should he kick the crap out of their characters.

Their friend isn’t the only one in danger…perhaps the whole world. They know a man who can give them the skinny and help them if they are planning on going up again Dai Pan and the On Yik. He takes them to the Egg Fu Yung Import Store, run by his mother and “Uncle” Runyi Shen, an old man (we went for the inevitable Egg Shen comparison) who has been here for a long time, since before the city was born, protecting the 7th gate from Dai Pan, a “hungry ghost” that exists between worlds, a creature made of dreams.

In this portion, Veitch and Zelansky realized that the ghost might be susceptible to an electrical attack, much like the electroforce cannon Tesla made for the OSI. Can Veitch make something like that? Vetich rolled his Science with the aid of Zelansky and got six successes — with his Weird Science trait, he certainly can. He started putting together a electroforce pistol that would use the crystal that Zelansky took from the tulku in Tibet. (They were using it to identify the new Dalai Lama, but it also responds to Veitch — he’s got Atlantean blood!) He biffed the roll to build it due to the short time, but I decided that he had a working prototype with a highly limited capacity and range…and if he botches a roll, “something will happen.”

We jumped back to Cointreau, who slipped out of bed from his night with three of the fox spirits. He cases the joint, looking for valuables and intelligence on this Dai Pan, only to see some of the gang removing the desiccated body of a young woman that Pan had fed off of. He stumbled into the main chamber that he had arrived in and realized, he’d never looked back at the dragon gate. On this side, he can see the orichalcum, eye-shaped frame of a gate like the Eye of Shambala. And Dai Pan is talking to someone through it, even though it is closed. In front of the gate, they’ve place a four-armed statute of a goddess (Durga, but he didn’t know that) and Pan is talking to a disembodied female voice that they are hearing in their heads, not with their ears…Cointreau is hearing it in French; it’s Morana, the Queen of Shambala. She is telling Pan, once they come to rescue Cointreau, as they will — these mercenaries are a tight group; they will not let one of their number be taken — he should take special pains to keep the “boy” (Veitch, Cointreau realizes) alive…he is hers. If she gets him, Pan will get what he wants.

At this point, Cointreau was discovered by a guard, and Pan — who had known he was there the whole time — tells him “You’re not supposed to be up yet…” and advanced on him. Scene close.

We ended for the night there, with a rescue attempt being put together hastily, Cointreau torn between returning to Morana and her “skills” to learn her “sex magic”, and the form Empress-Consort of Atlantis laying a trap for the crew.

For improvising on the fly, it ran smoothly and quickly. Everyone had a good time and the players are starting to really get into the characters and how to start developing their own shticks for the game. Veitch is doing more inventing, O’Bannon is moving toward kung fu stuff like Pin-Li, Post is moving toward being the gun bunny, Cointreau wants sex magic, and Zelansky is getting into his leader role more. (The player suggested an excellent use of the character’s Guardian trait by kicking over a fruit stand to slow their attackers during the street fight, and hence give a +2 defense to the others.)

Overall, it’s nice to rescue a night from potential failure due to not having your prep. Key is to know what you wanted to do, if you have a more story-driven game. If you are a sandbox-style GM, this probably wouldn’t have phased you in the least. Letting the players take the lead is always a good idea, no matter how much you prepared for the night.

The gaming gang will have a new baddie this week. In keeping with the Chinese mystical themes, and the Big Trouble in Little China vibe we’ve been running, I created the head of the On Yik Tong — Dai Pan. Slaver, smuggler of Chinese to the United States, gang lord, and guardian of the 7th Gate to the “Underworld” (an Atlantean gate like the eye of Shambala or the First Gate in Shambala, itself), he is an ancient thing, a ghost left to guard the gate. He wiles his time away sucking the life out of pretty girls and causing mayhem as he sees fit.

Dai Pan

Archetype: “Hungry Ghost”     Motivation: Power     Health: 8**     Style: 5

ATTRIBUTES: Body: 0 (he has no physical form)   Dexterity: 2   Strength: 2   Charisma: 4   Intelligence: 4   Will: 4

SECONARDY ATTRIBUTES: Size: 1   Move: 4   Perception: 8   Initiative: 6   Defense: 6*    Stun: 4

SKILLS: Academics (History 8, Religion 8 ); Acrobatics 4, Athletics: 4, Con 6, Diplomacy 6, Focus 7, Intimidation 8, Investigation 5, Linguistics 8, Science (Chemistry) 6,  Sorcery (Alchemy 6, Enchantment 7, Necromancy 6)

RESOURCES: Followers 3: On Yik Tong, Refuge 3: Underground maze and Pun Yee Curio Shop; Wealth 3

TALENTS: Charismatic, Chinese Black Magic (Magical Aptitude), Incorporeal (Cannot be injured with physical attacks, but is susceptible to energy weapons), Iron Will, Vampiric (If he occupies the same space as a character, he can attack with a contested WILL check to drain Health from his target and add it to his [if injured.] )

FLAWS: Dream Form, Hedonist, Inscrutable, Obligation, Power Mad

LANGUAGES: Mandarin (native); Cantonese, English, Tibetan

WEAPON: Does need one and couldn’t hold it if he did.

* His defense is based on his Defense and Will, but only energy weapons, sorcery, and psychic abilities can do him harm.

** His Health is a produce of his Intelligence and Charisma.

One thing I see a lot of in game design is a lack of comprehension of firearms and how they do damage. Usually, the thought is “bigger number must mean bigger damage.” You’ll hear this echoed even in the gunnerati out there. (“If it doesn’t start with four and end in five, it’s not enough.”) Bullet punch a hole in things, and bigger holes can mean more bleeding, but they also drop a lot of their energy in a target on the way through creating a “temporary wound cavity. This is the idea behind the “hollow point” or from as they would be called in the 1930s, “dum-dums”; the hole in the front of the bullet acts as a brake, making the bullet fold outward and dropping more hydrostatic energy into the surrounding flesh.

And this means the energy of the bullet is more important than the cross-section (or the “caliber”, for the uninitiated.) That means small and fast bullets can deliver a lot of energy, on par or more than a slower, heavier bullet. (There are years and years of arguing about this going on, right now, on pretty much every gun-related board online.) Fast tends to mean flatter trajectories and more accuracy and well as higher energy; slower, heavier bullets punch a bigger wound channel and it is thought have more “felt energy”, what is sometimes and erroneously called “knockdown power.”

Hollow Earth Expedition gets a lot right in their desire to make weapons stats simple. Statistically, you need about two and a half hits with a pistol to incapacitate a person, and their 3L damage for just about every pistol is about right. Light pistols, which used weaker cartridges like .25 and .32, usually have 2L. If we are kind, and say the break point between 2L and 3L is about 200 ft-lbs. of energy, most of the damage ratings are correct. However, the problem comes when pistols get over 3L in damage. Most of the rifles in Ubiquity get 4L damage for cartridges delivering 1600-3000 ft-lbs. of energy. This is in keeping with the statistical 2 rounds to incapacitation for most rifle rounds. However, even taking the “accuracy as part of the damage” into account, there’s no way a .357 magnum’s 500ish ft-lbs. of energy is doing 5L. This is a case of non-shooters thinking “magnum” means you can shoot through the core of the planet.

So here’s a few suggested corrections you can completely ignore, if you so desire, for the guns of Hollow Earth Expedition.

The Webleys! I own two, and have had another. They’re superb pistols: robust, accurate, but they shoot a 262gr bullet at roughly the speed of smell. (Seriously, if you pay attention, you can see the damned bullet heading downrange.) They’re punching about 250-300 ft-lbs. of energy, depending on the load. That’s still gonna hurt, but it’s not 4L for the .455 round. The Webley’s do 3L. No other changes needed.

S&W .357 Magnum. NO! The muzzle energy is about 500 ft-lbs. for the original loads. That’s still double the usual .38 special, and yes it’s accurate. 4L for damage is much more realistic. And on that note — another round that was designed to increase penetration trough the heavy car hulls of the period was the .38 Super. It used bullets about the same weight as the 9mm Luger, but moving at 1400fps (about the same as the .357 magnum) and had a very flat trajectory. It’s such of straight shooter it is more popular than 9mm in competition shooting. The stats on the weapon on pg. 98 of the Secrets of the Surface World are wrong: Damage: 4L  STR: 2   Rng: 50′   Cap: 8(m)   Rate: M   Speed: A is correct. Alternately, to account for the flat trajectory and full-metal round-nose bullets, you could give it a Dam 3L but a Rng 75′, which would also work well.

So, by this thinking, shouldn’t the Mauser Broonhandles on pg. 98 have a damage of 4L, Scott? Well, figuring the accuracy into damage (which is why the .38 Super get a boost; their use of full metal round-nose bullets often meant they zipped right through the target without the addition of dropping energy into the surrounding tissue) the answer is a resounding NO. Seriously, shoot one. It’s an ergonomic disaster. The range of 75′ listed is the other reason to give the Mauser a 3L; it’s taken into account the accuracy of the weapon in the range stat. This should also be applied to the Mauser 712.

On the same note, the Tokarev TT-30 used a smoking .30 round moving at similar speeds to the .38 Super, but again with FMJ rounds meaning they zipped right through their target. The TT-30 in pg. 110 of SotSW should read: Damage: 3L   Str: 2   Rng: 75′   Cap: 8(m)   Rate: M   Speed: A

Things get worse in the military section of the book. The Lee-Enfield rifle is given an anemic 3L damage…for a rifle pushing 3000 ft-lbs of energy and which was extremely accurate. I know. I own one. Damage for this and the Lewis gun (which also used the .303 British round) should be 4L, as should the Hotchkiss M1914 and other French rifles. The Japanese Nambu rifles were terrible on accuracy and deserve their 3L for that reason, but their rage should be 100′. The Arasaka deserves a 4L. All of the Russian and US rifles deserve a 4L and 100′ range. PPD-34 damage is correct, but range should be 100′.


We picked up our Hollow Earth Expedition game in San Francisco. The party had arrived from India aboard USS Macon, the States’ premiere aerial aircraft carrier, and landed at Moffett Airfield. Waiting for them was another senior officer, Dr. Lancaster, of the Office of Scientific Investigations — the new organization that Zelansky (the team’s “leader”) works for — and some FBI guys to protect them while they are in the States. Also here is a gaggle of press here to record the joyful reunion of aviation legend Wiley Post and his wife and daughter, who had been brought to California courtesy of his friend and famed American humorist, Will Rogers.

We got a couple of tidbits about the OSI during this scene, and the organization could be useful for those looking for a group that could provide characters with a mission to attack. (This group was created for our particular campaign, but could be tweaked for any setting…)


Created in 1934, the OSI was a response to the return of the Byrd Expedition from the Hollow Earth and the subsequent appearance of the “the Second Earth”, Atlantia, which “phased” through the Earth to form a new planet, following Earth at about 20º behind our world. The office was created under the War Department, and pulls personnel from the military and civilian sectors. The Director of the OSI is Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, and there are several “projects” that are studying scientific and archeological or technological artifacts related to the Atlantia and the ancients that had constructed the “Hollow Earth” (what is now thought to have been a pocket dimension created inside the planet for purposes unknown.)

These projects use code-names from various US cities for communications.

ATLANTA: This is a field research group led by Dr. Edmund Zelansky that is investigating phenomenon left over from Atlantia’s passage through the Earth, mostly in the Pacific and Asia. BOSTON: This is a project set up in Huntingdon Park, California on the site of the Goodyear airship plant. They are researching flight-orineted technologies taken from the Atlantean flying saucers recovered during the Byrd Expedition. CHARLESTOWN: This is a Manhattan-based project headed by Nikola Tesla to research electrical and telluric-based weapons and communications systems. DENVER: This is a biomedical project researching the various life forms that were returned from the Hollow Earth, and the biological markers of certain people that seem to be able to activate and control Atlantean technology. EASTON: The counter-espionage division of OSI. Most of the personnel are pulled from the FBI or Naval Intelligence.

The OSI has a smaller budget than the military, but is still adequate to keep scientists and field agents active, as well as operate a small fleet of airplanes and the former naval airship Los Angeles. The headquarters of OSI are in Washington, DC, with offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

The characters were taken by bus into San Francsico, 20 minutes away, where they were put up in the Fairmont Hotel in Nob Hill. Despite the FBI’s requests that they all stay at the hotel, the characters — minus Post — headed out to see the sights. Post and his family stayed at the hotel to enjoy a meal with the Rogers, Will and his wife.

First stop: Chinatown, only a few blocks away. The characters found the place very like Shanghai, save cleaner and with more run down buildings. The addition of cowboys to the landscape was startling. (Remember, San Fran was a port town, but most of California was still very much a Western place.) Cointreau was looking to try out his studies of tantric “magic” he had picked up in Shianking. They quickly found a brothel of sufficient quality for the actor. The others grabbed a small meal in a local restaurant, then headed to the Tenderloin and the nightclubs. Before they leave the neighborhood, however, Pin-Lee sees a fox, of all things, standing in the middle of the road, apparently completely unnoticed by everyone but him. The fox is staring at him, then disappears into the crowd.

Post, meanwhile, finished his meal with his family and returned to his room. He noted the FBI had changed shifts while they were gone, and a giant of a man was keeping them safe. Before he could settle in to get reacquainted with his wife, Agent Parker, called him into Zelansky’s room to speak with him. Inside, he found three miscreants ransacking the room and stealing the scientists’ notes and the books and artifacts he’d brought back from Tibet. The giant man proceeded to slam Post against the wall and show him a photograph of a young woman, asking “Is this the woman in Shianking?” He confirmed that the woman, Olga Markova, was Queen Morana of Shianking. This seemed to agitate the “FBI guy” who tells him to keep his mouth shut and walk. Post, however, noticed the .38 snubnose on the man’s belt and quickly snatches it away, Holding the men at bay, he attempted to exit the room, but Parker lunged and Post shot him dead center in the chest. It put the man on his keister…but didn’t kill him!

Post back out of the room to find another FBI agent (he assumes) shooting at him. Thus begins a foot chase through the hotel, with the second agent blasting .38s at Post in the grand stairwell to the lobby. Post escapes the hotel and jumps onto a passing cable car, jumping out on the other side. He is spotted by the bad guys, who have exited the Fairmont, and rush to pile into a ’34 Oldsmobile. Post beats feet — he’s shot a guy and he’s a former convict who served a year for armed robbery…this could go badly.

He runs into the group returning from the Tenderloin, drunk and singing Irish songs in Chinese. Before he can explain what’s happening, the Olds comes around the corner and tries to run them all down. The team dives into an alley nearby, and the thugs from the Oldsmobile jump out of the car to chase them. In the ensuing fight, Veitch (their mechanic) tries to brain the gunman of the mooks with a trash can, but misses. “Irish” O’Bannon, their pilot and Pin-Lee, their Chinese fighter and Shanghai movie stunt man, punch the guys lights out and chase off the others. They find Zelansky’s stuff in the back seat floor well in pillow cases. They grab up the unconscious gunman and hop into the Olds to get out of the area as they faintly hear approaching sirens.

What to do? Zelansky wants to get to Moffett Field and protect his data, but Pin-Le wants to collect Cointreau. He’s on his own, and who knows what might be happening. They drive to Chinatown, where O’Bannon and Pin-Lee go looking for the actor. Post, Veitch, and Zelansky, meanwhile, dump the gunman into the trunk of the car, drawing attention but no action from bystanders — but this is Chinatown. No one is talking to the cops here. Pin-Lee learns they sent Cointreau to another place that could handle his unusual requests. It turns out to be in a tight alley that the Old almost can’t fit in.

The brothel is run by a staggeringly beautiful Chinese woman with gold eyes. Cointreau is here, in the back. She completely entrances Veitch and Pin-Lee, but O’Bannon’s got a job to do and barrels past, dragging Veitch with him…and right into the middle of four Chinese hatchtmen. Pin-Lee finds himself in a hell of a kung fu fight with the woman, who he suddenly realizes has little golden foxes embroidered on her red qipo — could she be a huli jing? One of the fox spirits he dad told stories about. Maybe he should have listened to his father more!

Outside, post and Zelansky are attacked by eight hatchetmen with various martial arts implements. Post guns the Old and rolls over a few of their assailants, but two get onto the roof. Zelansky puts a .38 through the roof (and the man’s sensitive areas). Post almost get hit by a weird chain weapon with a metal hand/claw. He throws it in reverse and runs down a few more bad guys. Again, forward, then back until they are out of opponents. A four ton Oldsmobile is a hell of a weapon. (The framing on the scene was every time the characters in the brothel were looking to ward the door, the Olds was smoking tires in direction or the other. It amused the hell out of them.)

O’Bannon and Veitch take on the hatchetmen and drop them in a vicious but short martial arts fight, then with Pin-Lee face off against the woman, who easily knocks O’Bannon on his ass. Realizing all of her mooks are down, she tells them she’ll “see them later”, and races off, turning into a fox! on the way out. They search the brothel, but Cointreau is no longer here. A few admit to having seen him, but no one saw him leave. They throw one of the still living hatchetmen in the trunk with the angry gunman, who has been getting thrown around the trunk during the fray.)

They take the Olds to Moffett Field and spend an hour in shore patrol custody when they arrive with crazy stories, no ID (it’s lost somewhere in Tibet), and a couple of hostages in the trunk of their stolen car. Dr. Lancaster finally shows up to intervene. The FBI are interrogating their prisoners. They’re not being kittens about it, either; the man mountain Post shot and his friends killed their two agents. They learn that the attack on the Fairmont was composed of a few dock workers who were hired by “Parker” – actually a Soviet agent named Dmitri Denisovitch. The Chinese assailant didn’t say much, but they did learn he is part of the On Yik Tong.

With not much to go on, the group is finally released and heads back to San Francisco to find out where their friend is. They take time to stop at a gun store and strap up…

That’s where we left it for the night, with the start of my version of Big Trouble in Little China, 1936. With Cointreau playing Miaow Yin.

Ming Yao

Archetype: Huli Jing     Motivation: Mischief     Health: 5

ATTRIBUTES: Body: 2  Dexterity: 4  Strength: 3  Charisma: 6  Intelligence: 2  Will: 3

SECONDARY ATTRIBUTE: Size: 0 Move: 7  Perception: 7  Initiative: 6  Defense: 6  Stun: 3

SKILLS: Acrobatics 8, Athletics 4 (Running 5), Con 10, Linguistics 6, Martial Arts (Fox form Kung Fu) 8, Performance 10, Stealth 8, Streetwise 6, Survival 4


TALENTS: Attractive, Captivate, Charismatic, Feeds on Breath: (contested WILL test to steal Health), Nigh Immortal (Can take damage to -10), Shapechanging (She can change from fox form to human; she can look like anyone female) , Skill Mastery (Performance)

FLAWS: Curious, Impulsive, Lustful, Vow

LANGUAGES: Cantonese, Mandarin, Tibetan, English

WEAPONS: Claws — Dam: 1L