In addition to Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean, we’ve been working on a companion piece: Airships of the Pulp Era. I’ve wanted to do an airships book for a long time. In fact, my original dissertation pitch was to do a piece on the Imperial Airship Scheme (and hints of what it would have been are in the portion on R.100 and R.101.

The book is coming in at roughly 50 pages, but if I can laid my hands on deck plans of some of the ships that are public domain, that might blow up a bit. It’s with the editor, who tends to work as fast as I do and uses the same software, so my layouts will be mostly intact. That means the book should be on DriveThruRPG in a few weeks.

Here’s an NPC that is featured in The Queen of the Orient sourcebook for Fate and Ubiquity. In the course of last night’s play, I threw in a bit of character development that came directly from a Facebook video, of all things. In it, she’s climbing out of her cockpit and snags her Mauser M1932 Schnellfeuer broomhandle. It’s a select-fire “carbine” where the wooden stock/holster turns the pistol into a short-barreled rifle. she leaves it in this configuration because inside the stock is another Mauser M1932 broomhandle.

I can’t embed the video, but here’s the link (

In this week’s session of Hollow Earth Expedition, one of the characters used his Weird Science talent. While others have had this in the past, it has rarely been used for anything other than understanding strange technology encountered. This was the first time someone actually built something with it.

Anton Vietch, a self-taught engineer and mechanic from Serbia, works with the Sky Rats in Shanghai. He was first established in his workshop playing with an experimental railgun he couldn’t get working right. At the end of this week’s session, he blew a style point and made a great roll to create the weapon.


Using a special battery and capacitor system, this magnetic accelerator fires 12mm ball bearings at speeds approaching 3000fps! This is the equivalent power of a .30 caliber rifle, but with astounding accuracy and range. However, the weapon is heavy at 28 lbs. and has a limited power source.


The batter is stored in the butt of the rifle, and the ball bearings a poured into a hopper on the left side (50 ball bearing can be stored.)

MK I COILGUN:   Str 3   Dam 7L   Rng 250′   Cap: 10**   Rate M   Spd M   cost ~$500

**The gun can fire at slower speeds and save its power pack, gaining a shot of CAP for every dice of damage sacrificed and halves the range. (ex. Tuning the rifle to Dam 3L would give Cap 14 and a Rng of 100′.) If the coilgun is tied to a car battery or other reliable electrical source, the rifle has a Cap of 50 and a Rate of A.

(I got the coilgun image off of the internet because I wanted something suitable retro, but plausible looking. This is apparently from the Fallout 4 video game, cribbed from — SCR)

The design and building of the rifle did highlight an issue I’d had with Ubiquity’s invention rules, which seem slap-dash and ill thought out. Due to the math behind the game, making stuff would be a major pain in the ass by the rules. You pick something in the Secrets of the Surface World book as a template — in this case, a Browning BAR, and “enhance” the thing, taking limitations to get the difficulty to build something to reasonable levels. To build the coilgun required a Craft or Science 5 in the end. He easily beat that with a smoking roll, but even with his Craft 6, this would have been a hard go.

One of these days, I’m going to take a crack at a simplified invention rules set for the game.

We started our second Hollow Earth Expedition episode for the new campaign (tentatively titled the Second Earth) this week. We opened on Edmund Zelansky, a quasi-reputatable archeologist whose crack-pot ideas on the Hollow Earth turned out to be true. Having been supported by Admiral Byrd, who had commanded the Los Angeles mission into the center of the planet, Zelansky is now a high-ranking team leader for the Office of Scientific Investigations (codename: Atlanta Project.) Zelansky is meeting with the local US Navy Intelligence attache, who tells him that Byrd’s opposite number, Obersturmbahnfuhrer George Werner of the Ahnenerbe, who had commanded the Deutschland mission to the Hollow Earth at the same time as the Byrd mission, is in Shanghai for unknown reasons.

Following the emergence of the Hollow Earth into “Atlantia”, the Second Earth now in a trailing orbit behind our world, Werner had attempted to find the “Eye of Shambala”, the old Atlantean gate that had allowed the original characters in the first campaign access to the Interior World, in Lhasa. The Tibetan governent had hidden the Eye after the events of the first campaign, and the 13th Dalai Lama had been intransigent on saying where. Worse for the German, Tibet’s close ties with Britain meant that he was blocked at every turn by their agents. Why is he in China, now? There are plnety of Ahnenerbe agents doing research here… It is decided to find a good B&E man to go through Werner’s room at the Astor House hotel and look for clues. If they are unsuccessful, they may have to take a bigger risk and try the same on Werner’s temporary office in the German consulate! Zelansky decides to turn to Marcel Cointreau — famous B-rate actor in Shanghai (and unbeknownst to the archeologist, the infamous and also celebrated cat burglar “the Fox”) — to find someone.

We had a short interlude to show Declan “Irish” O’Bannon, a flight captain with the Foreign Volunteer Force in Shanghai (known as the “Sky Rats”) and Ting Mai, the first female Chinese fighter pilot to score a kill, responding to distress calls from freighters running from a Japanese coastal monitor, the IJN Tokozuru. The vessels are out of the north, and while they might be carrying illicit materials (or no), they are in Chinese territorial waters. Tokozuru is out of the concession port of Chefoo, and has been chasing them down to board. Irish radios the Japanese to break off and in a tense battle of wills, the Sky Rats blast the warships with a couple of strafing runs to make their point, eventually driving the Japanese off. Running on fumes, they barely make their landings in a rainstorm, on the muddy makeshift airfield in Tsingtao.

Irish O’Bannon uses a Polykarpov I-16 “Rat” fighter, as does ting Mai — although hers is painted in a striped black and yellow she called the “Bumblebee.”


We cut back to Anton Vietch, a mechanic for the Sky Rats, who is arriving at the Union Jack Club to deliver Cointreau’s beautiful Delage D8 which he has just modified with his own designed and built supercharger.


Cointreau is at the club to watch his friend Pi-Ling Chen fight the “Belfast Bruiser” Patrick McCoy — a bare-knuckle fighter of some note. there was some gambling and banter, then a short fight between the massive Irishman and Chen, who eventually wins the fight. This makes the reckless Cointreau £400 for the match (about $2000US and $4000Shang)…it’s a lot of money and the fight promoter, “Diamond Dick” Wilson is not happy to turn over.

After the fight, having linked up with Zelansky at the fight, the plan to hit Werner’s room is put together, with Cointreau claiming to “know a guy…” They also meet up with Irish and Ting, just back from Tsingtao, and the whole group goes out for a night on the town at the Astor House — a popular spot for the Shanghai entertainment industry. Some social and character building moments ensued, with Vietch almost getting lucky with Ting, O’Bannon and Zelansky schmoozing actresses and military figures, while Cointreau donned his le Renard gear and broke into Werner’s room, with Chen– posing as a waiter — keeping watch.

Cointreau searched the room and found a briefcase with a secret bottom containing a Walther PPK (with the red Bakelite grips emblazoned with the Gestapo symbol) set up for a silencer and with cross-cut ammunition. Werner is a serious man, it seems. There are also £150 worth of gold sovereigns which the thief struggles not to steal. with a judicious use of a style point was able to find Werner’s other briefcase, hidden in a crawlspace access in the closet. After getting the combination worked out, he used the Minox Riga 120mm spy camera (only just released that month in Germany!) he had been given by Zelansky.


After putting everything away nearly perfectly, Cointreau simply couldn’t resist…how would Werner know one gold coin was missing?

Afterward, the group went their own ways, with Zelansky going home to bed, the Sky Rats returning to their barracks on the outskirts of Longhwa Airfield, and Cointreau heading to his secret hideout in the old Chinese City to recover “le balle” or “the Bullet” — his stripped down Delage D8S getaway car, dressing at the Fox, and going to the Park Hotel to deliver the goods to Zelansky. Did he have to be so flashy? Nope. Is it in character? Absolutely.

He gets caught slipping in by a Chinese cleaning lady, pawned her off with a wink and a kiss, but she winds up calling the police. After leaving the camera and film rolls outside of Zelansky’s door and knocking, pausing at the stairwell so he can be seen by the scientist/spy, he finds himself in a chase through the building with a Sikh police officer who wings his leg with a careful shot from his Webley. There’s a short fight scene with another cop waiting by the Bullet in a rain-soaked, neon-lit alley (because, of course it is) and he makes good his escape!


Vietch, back at the repair shed for the Sky Rats, meanwhile, is struck by inspiration and finally uses his “Weird Science” trait, finishing the coilgun we established he’d been experimenting with. A stupendous Craft roll and a style point and we’ll be seeing the fruits of his labor next session… (and you can see it in the Vietch Coilgun post.)

What are the Nazis up to? We’ll find out next week!

So, with the explosive (literally) end of the first part of our Dungeons & Dragons game, we swung a hard turn to 1930s pulp, reviving the Hollow Earth Expedition game that has been on hiatus since January. We’ve had a two session introduction.

When last we had left, the characters of that campaign had led a rebellion against the Emperor of Atlantis that ended in the destruction of “the Great Machine” that has held the Interior World inside Earth for years — a world turned inside out in a pocket dimension. (Read the recap here…)

This “Second Earth” phased its way out of the center of the world, passing through the Pacific side of Earth. Along the way, moments where the two worlds co-existed allowed for the transfer of people, things, strange islands, animals, etc… to be passed back and forth between the two worlds. Now settled in at 26º behind Earth in the same orbit, this “Second Earth” of Atlantia, has thrown everything for a loop. Politics, economics, war plans — everything is up in the air.

We started the “Second Earth” campaign with the characters meeting up in Shanghai (partly so I could use the sourcebook we worked so hard on…) The new cast is:

  • Edmund Zelansky, Ph.D.: Once the laughing stock of the archeological and historical community, many of his “crack pot” theories turned out to be true. The world was hollow, there was an Atlantis, and other aspects of his cryptoscientific studies were confirmed. Fresh from a “scientific” expedition in the Caribbean led by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, Zelansky has been recruited by Admiral Richard Byrd, one of his few defenders in the past and the man who headed the American expedition to the Interior World, to run a team for the new Office of Scientific Investigations, Byrd has been tapped to run. (Code name The Huron Project.) Stuffy, pedantic, but an amazing linguist, he is sent into the Orient — the heart of the new weird — to find things and technology to aid the United States.
  • Declan O’Bannon: The son of an Irish doctor, he was born and raised in Hong Kong until his father was conscripted into the war effort. Declan did his part in the Palestine Campaign, then was involved in gun running during the Irish Rebellion. Afterwards, he joined the Sky Rats — a mercenary force of aviators — in the Adriatic, and eventually joined his squadron commander, “Captain Joe” Porter in Shanghai. He is a hard-drinking man of action.
  • Anton Vietch: A Serbian born, self-taught mechanic and engineer, Vietch was too young to join the Black Hand against the Austrians in the Great War (he also can’t hit a mountain with a gun if he were standing next to it…), but served the Serbian national cause as a mechanic. After the war, he was recruited by the Sky Rats as a mechanic. He looks 12 at thirty, but he’s a brilliant and innovative designer.
  • Marcel Cointreau: One of the most famous “song and dance” men in Shanghai cinema, he often plays the cad in romantic comedies. His side gig is more interesting — as “le renard” or “the Fox”, a second-story man of repute in the city. He is joined by his sidekick
  • Ping-Li Cheng: A streeet urchin and professional fighter, he is a stunt man for the Tianyi Studios that Cointreau works for. He has been teaching Cointreau the ins-and-outs of the criminal life, while Cointreau is opening doors for him in high society. Their antagonistic relationship belies a deep friendship.

We started with a cat burglary teaser for Cointreau and Ping-Li, climbing to the 13th floor of a high rise in the International Settlement. The French actor is stealing from a fellow performer over a personal spat, dressed in his Shadow-like thief’s costume (including his red face mask with a Chinese sigil that was mistaken for stylized whiskers — hence “the Fox.”) He is almost out of the apartment when the actress, with her Shanghai Municipal Police boyfriend arrive. Shot in the arm by the cop as he is going over the rail of the balcony, he looks to have fallen to his death, but instead was able to drop from balcony to balcony to the awning over the entrance, where h slid down onto the hood of his Delage D8 racing car, a stripped down barchetta with a supercharged motor, in matte black and no lights, that is driven by Ping-Li. They escape the International Settlement, across Avenue Foch into the French Concession, and eventually get to the shiumen house that serves as the Fox’s hideout.

Cut to: Zelansky comes to Shanghai on a DC-2 flown by O’Bannon and Vietch after his connecting ship from Yokohama suffered engine issues. The Foreign Volunteer Force, or “Sky Rats”, is an organization Byrd recommended to get him up to speed on his mission to investigate the strange and unknown that has been left behind when Atlantia was born. They are attacked by Japanese Kawasaki Ki-10 biplanes — the Sky Rats are operating as instructors to the Republic of China air force, but are also mercenaries hired by Lady Chiang to protect shipping from Japanese “smuggling interdiction.” In the process, they shoot down the planes and escape to land at Longhwa Airfield.

O’Bannon and Vietch aid Zelansky in finding others to work for him, taking him to the Pearl of the Orient nightclub, where the owner Roland “Boss Banana” Kessik promises to find him folks. During some gambling at the club, they run into Cointreau — having shed his criminal alter ego — and Ping-Li. Eventually, the group go to party the night away and somehow this becomes the hapless Zelansky’s team.

The following morning, Zelamsky finds his first mission. The Times of Shanghai is reporting the disappearance of more people to “the dragon of Shanghai” — some kind of creature terrorizing the boat cities along the Whangpoo over the past few months. Gathering the group at the Longhwa Airfield, they go in search of information. Zelansky scours the newspapers to put together a pattern of where and when the creature attacks. Cointreau and Ping-Li establish everyone has seen the creature, but everyone has different descriptions; they are simply telling then what they want to hear for cash. A “night dirt lady” — the women who clean up the cans of human waste left outside at night and sell it to the nitrate factories — saw the creature, a large lizard-like thing.

Zelansky establishes the creature is active at certain phases of the moon. It should be active now! They rent a fishing boat from a Frenchman, get a bunch of animal tranquilizer from a drug dealer friend of Cointreau’s, and they rig a net to trawl for the thing, which they are hoping to lure in and subdue with chum that is laced with the drug.

They are partially successful. Eventually, the creature bites — it attacks the boat. A car-sized amphibian with rows of teeth, this Metoposaurus nearly capsizes them once they get it in the net. In the process of landing the thing in the net they nearly sink the boat, but in the end, they are in the papers the next morning for saving Shanghai from the monster.

Zelansky gets a local to taxidermy the thing and they send it off to the field museum at his alma mater, the University of Chicago.

This adventure was a prime example of a pilot episode for priming a game. You have a couple of things to do: 1) introduce the characters, so give them something to do that is in their wheelhouse. The teaser allowed is to see Cointreau in his natural environment, the Japanese attack on the plane O’Bannon, Bietch, and Zelanshky the same. 2) Give them a simple hook, in this case the monster, to band together against. Save the big plots for another day. 3) Get to the action quick (always good for pulp stories) andstart buildin gthe world in the spacesbetween action set pieces. The essentials for a starter adventure: a good teaser to jump them into the world, a social scene, an exposition scene, and at least one good action scene.

We had a player out for the night, so we focused on Gustav Hassenfeldt and David Gould, and had Hunter off-screen for the night. Now the Sky Marshal of the alliance, he was busy politicking with Amon’s aid, pulling together the various factions, getting their crew put together, and seeing to the preparation of Shiva for their raid on Ultima Thule.

Gus and Gould, meanwhile, went with the scientific teams from the two surface world airships aboard Los Angeles. For the Americans, it’s a flag waving tour and trying to collect more data to take back with them; for the characters, it was to invite people to join the alliance. They brought with tem a representative from the hawkmen, the merfolk, the cargo cultists from Sanctuary, and members of the German science team.

First, they made contact with the panthermen that live in the mountains to the south of where Sanctuary had been. Here their way was eased by one of the cat people that had been a prisoner of the hawkmen, now released on Gould’s request. The pride, at least the females with young cubs, and the elderly, live in a massive matrix of treehouses, connected by walkways and the classic rope bridges. This is to protect them from the predatory dinosaurs of the island. The are high on the mountain slopes because the massive herbivores live in the valleys and plains. Most of their people are solitary, except when mating or when older; a great number of their people live out in the jungle, hunting, and only return here to trade or when injured or sick. The pride leader of the panthermen was unwilling to support them, but gave some of his braves permission to join the fight. A dozen did so.

They were also introduced to Haika — a greenman or “dryad” according to Lord Trevor, their philologist. Haika’s people will not involve themselve in the conflict, but will provide medical aid to those they find, and are willing to provide communications. She, like the merfolk can through the sea, can communicate across vast distances through the flora. She points them toward the So Nai Valley, where one of her sisters took an Outlander they once discovered. They are a warlike race and may help…but be cautious.

This led them to a valley with several towns and a small city centered on an old “Saracenic” rock-carverd temple or palace…the people below stream out on horseback and riding dinosaurs, armed to the teeth and wearing armor. And not one of them is male.

They make contact with the ground through Lord Ansom in ancient Greek, only to be answered in English by one of the women — none other than Lady Maragaret “Zara” Ansom-Bose, their companion they’d thought dead for several months. For her, however, it has been over a year, being nursed back to health by the Amazons of Thermadon.

They are eventually led to the presence of Queen Penthesilea V and her advisor, Hero the Centaur, and there they pitched the alliance and the chance at glory toppling the emperor. The queen throws her support behind them, and allows those warriors that wish to seek fame and glory to join them. They immediately have more volunteers than they can take.

Byrd, however, has received word from their German counterparts on Deutschland that a storm is headed their way — short-lived by violent. Los Angeles has to pick up and circle around the storm, leaving the scientists and the characters for the next two days.

After a feast and bit of debauchery that evening, the characters catch up with Zara. She was rescued by the dryads, who — she thinks — brought her back from the dead and gave her to the Amazons for safe keeping. She has obviously settled in well, and even her uncle’s entreaties to return home with him are met with skepticism — the surface world, she’s always going to have to fight for respect and freedom; here, they take her as is. She is someone, part of something.

But she’s damned sure not missing the party at Ultima Thule and is joining the Amazons going.

Later, there was a bit of hunting a pair of spinosaurus that wandered into the city. The Amazons were having trouble with the giants, until the party brought their guns to bear. Even still, they had to chase out into the jungle to kill one of the creatures.

Finally, Los Angeles arrived with Deutschland and Shiva in tow. With a battalion’s worth of hawkmen and Amazons, dozens of panthermen and legged merfolk, and 50 cargo cultists, Waffen-SS soldiers, and an assortment of Atlantean vril who changed sides, they headed for Ultima Thule to restore Amon to his throne.

On the way there, Los Angeles turned north for Valhalla to give Woden the report on how things are going and to refuel. If the assault on Ultima Thule goes badly, they can fall back and meet up; if it goes well, they can take messages back to the surface, but unless Byrd gets instructions from FDR, he cannot commit his people.

We ended with Shiva and the German airship closing on Ultima Thule.

Last week ended on a major cliffhanger — Gould and Amon kidnapped by the hawkmen they’d come to ally with, Gus — trying to stop one of their warriors — was clinging onto another whose wing he had trapped in his grapple as they plunged to their almost certain deaths in the ocean below, and Los Angeles and Deutschland were fending off the squadrons of hawkmen with their .50 cals and strange “gauss guns” respectively.

We sorted the Gus situation immediately this week. He continued to grapple with the hawkman warrior, but realized too late why they were falling. With his wing freed, the hawkman was able to slow, but not arrest their fall and was knocked unconscious when they hit the water. He was, however, able to slow them enough that Gus survived, conscious. He proceeded to swim, dragging the warrior, toward the shore.

Overhead, Gould and Amon were roughly deposited in the great square in front of the hawkmen’s forum. It was obvious that the place was worse for wear since the last time they’d been here — evidence of a fight, and damage from heat rays were all over the place. Worse, the leadership had changed. Princess Aditra was now in charge after the execution of her husband, Prince Sycrat, by General Inanna’s forces. This was all their fault; their dreams of opposing Atlantis led to the destruction of the hawkmen’s power! They were immediately carted off to the underside of the Aerie, led through the massive central chamber of the floating mountain where they saw the great machine that was keeping the whole place aloft. They were then tossed into a cage and hung out under the rock with other captives, suspended above the swirling “Hole in the Ocean” that they had fallen into the last time they were here.

Hunter was dispatched with Lady Sigrun (he was hooked to her, so she did not have to try and carry him) to try and parlay for their people’s return, but he was sidetracked when he spotted Gus in the water. Sigrun made a low pass and realized he needed help — massive creatures were circling in the waters underneath him! Sigrun dropped hunter on Los Angeles‘s top, cut loose the safety guide line, and went to save Gus. She was able to hook a line on him, but the weight of Gus and the hawkman was too great for her to lift them out of the water. Instead, they were dragged along, prompting a Kronosaurus to surface and take a bite, taking the hawkman in the process. Before it could make another pass at Gus, however, it was attacked by other creatures — the mermen! (This was thanks to a judicious use of style points earlier.)

Gus was quickly rescued by the merfolk, which took him back to the grotto in the cave structure under the nearby headlands. While waiting for someone that he could speak with to come, Gus decided to search the caves and found the last 46 survivors of Sanctuary, including Erha. Her father, Zek — who they now know to be Zebulon Edward Koenig, a Terra Arcanum agent and protege of Nikola Tesla who was lost here in 1908 — was away with a band of people trying to signal the airships they’d spotted.

Temporarily stymied in their rescue attempts by Sigrun’s jetpack being low on fuel, Los Angeles made a pass by the headland, dropping Hunter and a few others in the “landing basket”, so they could try to find the Sanctuary survivors or Gus. This led to a reunion with Gus and Zek. After returning to the airship, Gus volunteered to try and get Gould and Amon back. Flying to the Aerie with Sigrun, he pulled off a spectacular success on his diplomacy test, convincing Princess Aditra to release the men, that their suffering at the hands of the Atlanteans wasn’t due to their former alliance, but because the hawks were so reticent to really throw in! With Sigrun at his side, claiming Valhalla’s friendship with the United States and the Third Reich, the hawks finally caved. They would agree to speak later, once they had “seen how they handled what was coming…”

Back with Los Angeles, the decision was made to gather living and dead specimens of plant and animal life that would aid in definitively proving the Inner World’s existence. With the support of the scientific community, Byrd expects they could launch a much larger, better equipped mission to try and make more friends, and exert some influence in the Hollow Earth. Werner, over on Deutschland, agrees to aid the effort, loaning himself and his troops to aid in capturing the dinosaurs and other creatures.

Additionally, Gus makes contact with the merfolk, only to find out that he is now the father of a “walker” — a merman with legs — with Princess Osha. Reeling from the revelation, Gus is torn at first, but quickly falls under the mermaid’s spell. He and Gould convince her father, King Triton, to send a delegation back with Los Angeles to the outside world. Sentient creatures can only strengthen their case!

For days, they trap, hunt, and cultivate, but before they can start moving their specimens to the ships a tropical storm forces the airships to decamp for safety’s sake. They are left for three days in torrential downpours and thunderstorms. When it clears, they are confronted not with the return of their airships, but the arrival of the Imperial Warship Shiva — a massive flying craft filled with light war saucers and hundreds of troops! Ordered by General Inanna to surrender, they take refuge in the caves. As Shiva lands and begins to disgorge troops, Gus gives the order to the Nazi troops to attack quick, before they can react! For the Fatherland!

A hundred SS troops charge the superior number of Atlantean troops, as heat rays and bullets are exchanged in the shadow of the mighty warship when we left off for the evening.

They’re almost essential to setting the mood in a ’30s pulp game…airships. Zeppelins. Dirigibles. From a boy, I’ve loved these damned things, from the first time I saw the Goodyear blimp. So I thought it might be time to write a few of the old girls up for Hollow Earth Expedition.

The first conceit I changed — the idea that these vessels were lightweights against attack. Outside of a hit by another vehicle, the sheer size of the airship means they can take a lot of bullets before they start to have an issue. This was why the incendiary bullet was developed, to set off the “dirty” hydrogen (hydrogen that had been adulterated with air.)

We’re just going to do the rigid airships that were active in the 1930s:


Launched in 1924 from Freidrichshaven, Germany as LZ-126, Los Angeles was part of the war reparations plan. The airship is the sister ship to Graf Zeppelin, and has a flawless service record with the navy. Built as a passenger vessel, Los Angeles has been used for scouting, zeppelin construction studies, and for scientific missions. She ended her active service life in 1932, but remained commissioned and maintained at Lakehurst, New Jersey until 1938, when she was broken up for scrap.

Displacing 2.7 million cu.ft., ZR-3 is 658’ in length, with a bean of 90’ and draught of 104’. She is propelled by five 400hp Maybach V-12 engines and is capable of 75mph for 6,640 miles. She has a pressure height (ceiling) of about 8,000’.


USS Los Angeles: Size: 16   Def: 12   Str: 18   Spd: 75   Ceil: 8,000′   Rng: 6000 mi   Han: -2   Crew: 36   Pass: up to 20

U.S.S. AKRON (ZR-4) & U.S.S. MACON (ZR-5)

Commissioned in 1931, Akron is the first rigid airship designed and constructed by the Goodyear Company of Akron, Ohio. Currently, the largest flying object ever constructed, the airship is 785’ long, with a beam of 133; and draught of 145’. She is propelled by eight 560hp Maybach V-12 engines that are connected to specialized condensers that use the exhaust to create water ballast to replace the fuel used in operation. She is capable of 80mph and a range of 6000-6500 miles, carries 8 M2A1 .30 machineguns and up to 5 Curtis F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes in her launch bay.

From the get-go, Akron was something of an unlucky ship, experiencing several incidents where she was suffered minor damage due to mishandling. In 1933, she was on a patrol off the New Jersey coast when she ran into a storm. Unlike German airship handlers, who scrupulously avoided bad weather, naval airshipmen had a habit of running their craft through dangerous weather systems. In this case, the sudden drop in barometric pressure the altimeter in the control gondola left the crew to think Akron was higher than she actually was. Worse, with a high degree of up-angle, the tail of the craft was dangerously low (she was almost 800′ long and typical cruising altitude was between 1500-2000′.) The tail hit waves, and the sudden increase in weight from flooding dragged the ship down.


Her sister, Macon, had launched about the same period of time. The ship operated for two years without issue until her flight to California in 1934, when she was required to fly over her pressure height to clear the mountains of New Mexico. This did damage to her gas bags and engines, as she was running “heavy” and had to use her speed to aid in lift. Before the craft was finished repairs, she was used in a naval operation off the Pacific coast and was caught in a storm that tore a tail fin loose, causing her to rupture a few gas cells and crashing her into the ocean.

Akron-class airship: Size: 16   Def: 12   Strc: 12   Spd: 80   Ceil: 6,000′   Rng: 6500 mi   Han: -2   Crew: 60



Both Akron and Macon were designed to carry up to five Curtis F9C Sparrowhawk “parasite fighters” — the naval designation for the lightweight, finicky biplanes that the vessels used to increase their scouting range. The F9C could launch and return by connecting to a trapeze system that they lock onto with their top hook. Only seven or eight of these were built.

F9C Sparrowhawk:   Size: 2   Def: 6   Strc: 6   Spd: 175   Ceil: 19,800   Rng: 290 mi   Han: +2   Crew: 1   Armaments: 2 linked Browning .30 machine guns — Dam: 4L (6L linked)   Rng: 250′   Cap: 250 (b)   Spd: A

One issue that crops up from time to time with Hollow Earth Expedition is the vehicular rules. For small craft like cars, or even smaller boats up to a tramp steamer, they work well, with the size and mass of the vehicle roughly doubling for each size doubling. The issue is once the scales start to outstrip the clean doubling rules at about size eight.

In Secrets of the Surface World, Exile Games, gave us a few very large ships — all size 16. Most of these bigger vehicles had a length of 600-800′ and often in the 15-30,000 ton range, or much more that the doubling that Hollow Earth Expedition was initially settling into. This gives you a couple of issues when it comes to combat vs. massive ships and aircraft: either they are so weak that a good roll with a machine gun might incapacitate them (something as unlikely for the airship Graf Zeppelin as for the mighty Arizona…), or you have to find some fudge factor like adding defense/structure points to model armor or size.

So I see two options to fixing vehicles for Ubiquity:

The First: Keep the scales consistent. A Size 16 would be roughly 101-200′ in length and 100-200 tons or so in size. Size 32 200-400′, Size 64 400-600, and 128 600-1200.

Under this option, USS Arizona would be Size 128, with a Defense of six for metal and and extra, say, 2 for armor giving her an 8. But her structure would be 136. Even with some great bombing runs, it would take dozens of bomb runs to kill the ship.

This is more accurately modeled, when you consider that a similar sized ship, the IJN Yamato, took 11-13 torpedo and 6-8 bomb hits — somewhere around 120 points of damage for just the weapons, if you took the average.

Option 2: Create steps between Size 8 and 16 to keep the scaling from Secrets of the Surface World consistent. Here, you would add a Size 10, 12, and 14 — with a size of 100-200 for Size 10, a 200-400 for Size 12, a 400-600 for Size 14, and-600-800 for size 16. You would add the size to the material to get the Defense and Structure as usual, but ignore the negative modifier given for the lack of Dexterity. In other words, normally, the Size modifier for defense cancels itself out — Body bonuses lost to Dexterity — so that you are trying to beat the material. A wood vehicle of size 8 would have a Defense and Structure of 12. this would, in practice, make it nearly impossible for someone with a .45 Colt  to damage a 50-100′ yacht, say, but a Tommy gun on full auto might make a bit of a mess. That’s mostly accurate. A decent pilot with a medium-sized torpedo could do a few points to Arizona, but it would take a remarkably good hit to sink her with one shot.

Personally, I rather like the first option, but your mileage may vary…

My new take on the Gillmen for Hollow Earth Expedition moves them much more closely to the nereid/mermen/mermaid myths. One talent I decided to add was Siren Call, to more closely approximate the supposed seductive nature of the creatures.

Siren Call

Prerequisite: Charisma 3 or Performance 4

Your character has a preternaturally beautiful voice that can charm and enchant most creatures.

Benefit: Your character may attempt to attack a target using Performance (or Charisma, if untrained.) If you roll more than the Willpower of the target, that person or creature is entranced by your voice for the number of minutes equal to your successes. To continue to hold them in your sway, must must make another test. This cannot be used during combat, like Captivate, but the effect lasts much longer. While the character can manipulate, touch, or move their victim, they cannot injure or frighten them. This immediately breaks the spell.

Normal: Your character can sing with such beauty as to captivate a target for a short time. Advanced: This Talent can be bought up to three times, gaining a +2 to Performance for each level purchased. The effects last the level of the Talent in minutes x the successes over the target’s Willpower.