The party reached Morteus Das, the City of Dead tonight. The city was found to be crumbling, the buildings twisted and ruined, and there were several wrecks of skyships that had crashed at various times. Zelansky decided they would land outside the city, upon seeing that. They could see the Black Gate in the center plaza of the city, a gate large enough for battalions to walk through, for tanks and other materiel to drive through. Around the walls of the city, small, desperate settlements with movement. The great X of canals that carved through the city have been dammed, preventing flow into the city and a wide circular canal hems the city in. Even though the land outside the ring canal is green and as fertile as Mars gets, the settlements on that side of the canal are abandoned and in disrepair…why? The feeling of despair, loneliness, and danger permeate the air, and Veitch hears in his head, “I knew you would come! I am so looking forward to meeting you, my boy.”

Before Warm Winds could land, however, Davira — one of the Martians fronting the mission — ordered the captain to hold a few dozen feet over the ground. Streaming from the settlements around the walls of the city were hundreds of Martians, offering relics and other junk in trade for food. They had crossed one of the bridges over the ring canal, and as they approached, the party could see signs of “Martian plague” — a disease combining the worst elements of dementia, leprosy, and proteus syndrome: mis-shappen from their disease, poxed, limbs eroding, the denizens of the settlements around the city tried to beg supplies, and became increasingly erratic when they were not heeded, most shuffled back to the city as the symptoms of their injuries or illnesses took hold. Only one remained to warn them away from the city, but in terms that I knew would provoke the characters with curiosity flaws into investigating.

Zelansky was not so certain their mission to the city could be successful. The gate was larger than they anticipated and most likely could not be moved, if the city had some kind of effect that disabled vessels. The people were diseases and hostile. He considered taking the marines and pushing into the city in force, but Captain Smith, the marine commander, suggested against it. They had no way of knowing what they were walking into. In the end, he decided on a small reconnaissance mission comprised of the party and Cointreau’s grodh servants, Gruhl and Zhargo, and the enigmatic Silent Watcher, an elosi. They knocked up a small 10-man boat from wood and canvas, and entered the city under cover of darkness.

While inside the city, they realized their compass gave a true direction, seemingly toward the center of town. They stopped to radio the ship, but found themselves attacked by a prehistoric-looking creature with six legs, a hammerhead with a lamprey-like mouth, and a tail studded with spikes which it used to nearly kill Post. Post found his heat ray rifle, and Veitch that his coilgun were non-functional! The oridium bullets in their pistols did not produce blaster blots, but instead looked more like dull tracer rounds. At this point, O’Bannon, armed with a BAR .30 from the marines, cut the beast down with a long burst. This, however, brought the attention of the city’s denizens, and they had to slip away before a throng of Martians found them.

Their compass led them to the palace of Morteus himself, and inside they foudn the throne room, with the infamous Sundered Throne, broken in the war between Atlanean God-Kings. They were greeted by Kallas, the Martian from the riot when they were landing. He knew they would come; the Black Gate is their only way home to Earth. Silent Watcher added that Veitch can activate the gate, and Cointreau has been touched by “one of them” and she — they knew instantly he meant Morana, the would-be empress of Atlantis, and “Queen of Shambala” — would answer their calls to open the gate. Once done, they will be able to leave this world with their followers. Kallas proceeded to monologue for a bit, with the shadows of the throne room thickening around him, until they seemed to be wrapping him in tendrils that worked inside of him…then he seemed to big for his skin, eventually exploding open to reveal a 12 foot tall, four-armed god much like Shiva — dark skinned, wild-eyed. Morteus himself!

Cointreau dropped a smoke bomb and the party ran for it, with the followers in hot pursuit. Pin-Li got to do some chop-socky on a group of them, while Cointreau used one of his pistols to knock over one of the brazers lighting the room and cut off some of their pursuers behind a wall of flame. They found themselves in the central plaza, in front of the ornate and enormous Black Gate, and the monstrous sacrificial altar, shaped like a horribly shaped head and set of jaws made out of obsidian that stood in front of it. The Martian followers of Morteus slipped into the plaza from all sides. they were surrounded! Zelanksy order Gruhl and Zhargo to take a message to the ship, informing the marines to return to the safety of Sigeus Portus, where they had set up a communications relay with an orichalcum-powered radio. Cointreau, meanwhile, reached out with his mind, calling to Morana for help (and with some style points, got a great roll.) Suddenly the gate opens!

Zelansky yelled for Veitch to visualize the labs back on Earth, but Silent Watcher suggested another place — somewhere desolate and empty, a plain with brilliant stars overhead. Veitch realizes he is planning on trapping Morteus! He focused on the image in his mind and when Morteus plowed past them to go through the gate, Silent Watcher ordered him to “close it!” Where did he go? Silent Watcher’s thoughts assured them he was someplace “safe.”

Veitch reopened the Black Gate and they dove through to escape the closing ranks of enraged cultists, landing in the facility in Los Angeles, but without the grodh or Silen Watcher. The marines…they are stuck on Mars. And Erha’s father remains stuck in Shambala or Atlantis, or wherever he is.

That was the close of our current run of Hollow Earth Expedition, while we swap over to our Roman fantasy campaign. To try and mesh the flavor of the campaign and capture the types of magic from Celtic and other period myths, we are moving from Dungeons & Dragons 5th Ed. to a new set of mechanics to see how it goes. (If it doesn’t we can always return to D&D.)

Heavy work loads have kept me from updating of late, but our Hollow Earth Expedition campaign continues apace. The characters, aided by scions of the Houses Arvasala (who control the canals and water trade in the area near Parras Das, and the Davira, who mine oridium — the element that powers many of the ancient Atlantean contraptions, as well as being the material “blasters” use. Their vessel is Warm Winds, a large, armed merchantman they have modified with a carry deck for the three Dogfish. They can be launched and recovered using a trapeze rig similar to those on the airship Akron. Crewed by the US marines under Zelansky’s command, and Martian sky sailors under the captain hired by the Arvasala and Davira, the ship moves along the canal out of Parras Das to Avevel, a city on the edge of the Aerian desert. The nearby hills are inhabited by Red Martians that mine the oridium for the Davira family.

Of course, they get attacked by a pair of vessels from a nearby city-state that has attacked the oridium mines and the villages the miners live in, attempting to snatch the oridium trade from the Davira. A battle between the two slave-driven galleys (ala Space:1889) was short-lived, with some excellent rolls by the characters. The Dogfish, in particular, had been ripping up the enemy. This led to the destruction of one raider galley, and the capture of the crew of the second. The characters put down a boarding party to force the surrender of that crew, but the commander was not disposed to give in, and Cointreau wound up killing him. This led to him picking up a pair of Grodh, the four-armed ape-like “people” of Mars. They were slaves of the captain, now they are his by right of combat, as is everything else he had.

They learned a force had been landed by these pirates to take the mines, and the Dogfish raced off to investigate, finding a pitched battle between a hundred of the raiders vs. twice as many miners who were not as well armed, and whose villages had been bombed from the air, pushing them into the hills. A few strafing runs and the arrival of Warm Winds led to these soldiers retreating into the desert…and a certain death. As a punishment for the attack on the villages, the crew of the second ship were turned over to the locals. Almost certainly, they are now slaves.

The ship continued south toward Morteus Das and was caught in a massive, days-long sandstorm that damaged the ship and caused the maglev drive to malfunction. They were only just able to put the ship down in the blinding swirl of dust, then had to wait out the storm. The next day, they woke to find the ship had nearly gone over a half mile deep chasm into the Meridani Sinus, an area that has some of the last free-standing water on Mars due to the valley having been cut off and its aquifer blasted to the surface by meteor hits on either end of the valley. They also found dead animals and Martians from several caravan vehicles that had been blown across the desert to end up in the sand dune under Warm Wind‘s aft. Several had attempted to scale the dune to get to the broken out windows of the captain’s cabin, but were killed by sandblasting.

A two day stop at Sigeus Portus, the “Gateway to the Valley” provided a diverting stop where they were feted by the priests of the city for their “pilgrimage” to Morteus Das. The ship was fixed and they continued over the lakes and scrublands of the Sinus, then through the mountains to the City of the Dead. In the passes of the mountains, they anticipated an attack, and the Dogfish spotted a pirate vessel with smaller propeller-driven skiffs getting loaded up to attack. A few strafing runs damaged the lead vessel, but the skiffs got away in the twisting valleys of the mountain range and almost made it to Warm Winds. One was shot down by Veitch and his new, orichalcum-powered coilgun; the other crashed into the side of the ship and led to a boarding action that was quickly repelled by Cointreau, Pin-Li, and the Grodhs. A few exchanges of cannon fire saw Warm Winds damaged, and the pirate vessel dropped from the sky.

Finally, they made it to Morteus Das, the City of the Dead, and the first Atlantean city of Mars. The city was found to be crumbling, the buildings twisted and ruined, and there were several wrecks of skyships that had crashed at various times. Zelansky decided they would land outside the city, upon seeing that. They could see the Black Gate in the center plaza of the city, a gate large enough for battalions to walk through, for tanks and other materiel to drive through. Around the walls of the city, small, desperate settlements with movement. The great X of canals that carved through the city have been dammed, preventing flow into the city and a wide circular canal hems the city in. Even though the land outside the ring canal is green and as fertile as Mars gets, the settlements on that side of the canal are abandoned and in disrepair…why? The feeling of despair, loneliness, and danger permeate the air, and Veitch hears in his head, “I knew you would come! I am so looking forward to meeting you, my boy.”

rom_princess_wallpaperThe group picked up with the characters traveling to Parras Das — the City of Gardens — aboard a Martian skyship they had rescued from pirates. The team, with their marine escort, had been taken aboard by the crew after their rescue of Priya, a dheva Princess of the House Arvasala. (Using the art from Revelations of Mars as an example…)

During the four day trip across the desert wasteland of Mars, the characters learned about the people and their world the best they could, as only Zelansky could speak their language, a version of Atlantean. The human-like “red men” were decedents of the Atlaneans and called zhul-ya, and the dheva the decedents of “the ancients.” The Earthmen they are calling vril-ya, and Earth is “vril” to them. Mars has been dying for millennia, and the Arvasala family is instrumental to the survival of many communities in the north of the world. They are ice and water dealers. Their grand ships move ice to the smaller towns, and they are responsible for the upkeep of the canals bring life-preserving water from the ice caps through Parras Das and south to other cities.

They learn the ships are held aloft by some kind of magnetic levitation system that is powered by “oridium” — a material that is also used as ammunition. It appears to be highly energetic and possibly radioactive. During the trip, Cointreau successfully seduced the princess, and gets to try some of his tantric “sex magic”. He finds her a very willing student and subject.

On arrival in the city, they are confronted by an Atlantean design — grand circular canals that take water from the northeastern canal, pump it through the city, and out on the northwestern and southwestern canals. The outer ring of the city is commercial, a massive bazaar, the second ring a residential and garden area, and the innermost ring is filled with beautiful and fanciful towers that could never stand in Earth’s gravity. The central one is the Lighthouse, also the city council chambers for the “Nine Families” that run the city (and much of norther Mars.) They have sussed out the dheva are a higher caste than the zhul-ya; they rule Parras Das, and possibly much more.

A tour of the city leads them to Arvsala House, where Priya’s family oversees the water trade. Their patriarch, Arvan, is interested in the aliens, but is also obviously disturbed by her interest in Cointreau; her brother, Vadra, even more so. Later that night, Cointreau slips out to investigate the many floors and rooms of the tower, only to witness an argument between the old man and his son, and Priya. Why, he does not know, but she appears much more headstrong and combative when there isn’t an audience.

The next day, they go out to see the sights and are attacked by 15 zhul-ya who turn out to be members of the pirate gang whose ship they destroyed when they rescued Priya. A firefight ensued in the Gardens of Pleasure, a beautiful botanical garden scene. The bad guys don’t stand much of a change, getting taken down by Post using Veitch’s coilgun. A stray round let to them fighting a six-legged elephant-like creature with mutliple trunks and a bad attitude. Eventually, they were able to win out, but were arrested by the guards of the House Davira, who are oridium traders and bankers who run security for the gardens. Davira is similar shocked by their arrival, and in the midst of talking to their scion, Zelansky was able to pull off a series of excellent diplomacy tests. He gains their trust, tells them of their desire to hell heal Mars by locating and fixing the “Great Machine”  on the Mountain of the Gods that keeps the Martian atmosphere alive, and to open trade between the United States and Parras Das, and to do this, that they need to find a gate home like the one they used to get here. There’s one in Motus Das —  the City of Dead —  according to their Arvasala hosts. that they want to go there impresses the Davira, who offer to fund the expedition.

Zelansky uses this to parlay a treaty between the USA and Houses Arvasala and Davira, in exchange for the Arvasala merchantman Warm Winds, and representatives and crew from both families. Over the next few weeks, Zelansky works to improve the relations between the families, while Post, Erha, and Veitch work to modify and improve the merchantman. They add trapeze hooks for the Dogfish mini-fighters to take off from  and be retrieved. They add powered flight to supplement the sails. Veitch figures out how to modify the oridium ammunition cartridges to fire through Earth weapons…their Colt automatics are now blasters! Cointreau conspired with O’Bannon to get Veitch together with the half-vril-ya inventor, Erha. They have so much in common and obviously like each other, and their plans culminate with a surprise balcony date between the two.

With everything finally ready, the characters and marines, together with a small crew of Martians led by Priya Arvasala and Sheri Davria, sets sail for Mortus Das, a city “fron which no one returns.”

For our Mars, I’m blending elements of the Barsoom-like Revelations of Mars for the Hollow Earth Expedition setting, and from Space:1889, including having more communities and live canals. I’ve replaced the high/canal/hill Martians of 1889 with the dheva, the zhul-ya, and more primitive versions of the latter. Also, we kept the telepathic Elosi, whose goals and actions remain a mystery. We’re getting more into the pulp super-science aspect of the Veitch character, and starting to build on how the worlds will collide once there is a way to get back and forth from the Red Planet.

Last week, the game took the characters to Mars. The evening closed with a cliffhanger — the party having come through the Eye of Shambala onto the Martian plains in the late afternoon, just outside of a strange city, Elos Das from the Revelation of Mars sourcebook.  We established the half-gravity, compared to Earth and the thin air — on par with being at high altitude, but not so high as to instantly incapacitate…but that was it.

I was left with the choice of how much to use RoM, what to make my own to work with the elements of HEX and the Greco-Hindu mix of mythology that’s been hinted at, and whether to crib from my other favorite “planetary romance” source, Space: 1889. The RoM sourcebook has a decidedly Burroughs tilt toward it. The skyships in RoM have that spindly, alien look to them that was used in John Carter (really…not that bad an adaptation.) 1889 has a more traditional look to their cloudships. RoM seems to have a more “dead” Mars than 1889, which has cities and canals, and more habitable zones. So what to do?

Steal, brothers and sisters, steal! I decided all of the cities presented in Revelations of Mars will be present, and I’m using many of the Martian races — but not all. I’m losing the Saurian and Chitik, but keeping the Dheva as a wealthy class/race, the Zhul-Ya as the more common and poor race, and the Grodh (Gorilla Grodh…sigh…) as the equivalent of the savages of Mars. This parallels the High/Hill/Canal Martian slip of Space: 1889. I’m using the cloudships of 1889, as well; they’re prettier, a bit more realistic-looking, but what about their means of flight? I didn’t want liftwood and the RoM book is very hand-wavy…which isn’t going to work with my group. I decided to go with magnetic levitation that uses a form of “oridium” that the book cites as the ammunition for their blasters.

As for Mars, I’m using the Space: 1889 version, but with mods to fit in the RoM cities as stand ins for some of the Martian cities. There will be canals, many in various states of repair, some areas where water is still present under the surface (Valles Marineris). I’m keeping the “Great Machine” that is keeping everything from dying.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with it all…

We finished up the adventure from last week this evening. The heroes had been working on various projects while in the City of Angels: Cointreau auditioned his way into the villain/romantic competition role in a movie based incredibly loosely on the exploits of the Sky Rats in the Adriatic. He had done an excellent job, but had also had a dalliance with the leading lady, who is also the girlfriend of big time director Alexander Korda! Once he’s done with the picture, he’s probably going to find himself  blacklisted. Meanwhile, Post and O’Bannon got jobs on the film doing aerial stunt work, including a recreation of the “final battle between Cointreau’s “Moroni” and the Sky Rat “Sky Captain” played by Cary Grant. The battle, however, was much more real that they thought — the assistant director of photography was the son of the man O’Bannon shot down in the very battle their denouement is based on! he armed the other stunt pilot’s planes for real and only some tricky flying by the aviators.

Veitch and Zelansky had had working with the Boston Project on several of their schemes — from trying to uncover the mysteries of the Eye of Shambala, to working on their reverse engineered version of an Atlantean flying saucer (the result was a jet-powered craft with strange telluric repulsion units) and small “mini-fighters” — a cross between an glider, a motorcycle, and a fighter plane. (The players really latched on to these!)

After Veitch raced in one of these “Dogfish” to rescue his friends, and the villains were shot down, most of the team was scooped up by the LAPD’s “Red Squad”, which moonlights at protecting the people of the Boston Project. The team eventually wound up back at Project’s headquarters, hidden under the Goodyear Airship Factory in Huntingdon Park, where they get interrupted by alarms and a frantic call over the intercom for guard to get to Lab B. The lab with the Eye of Shambala!

They arrived to find OSI guards being gunned down by a pair of monks carrying some kind of futuristic energy weapons! A dozen more were advancing toward the characters, protect two monks that had grabbed a hold of Zebulon Edward Koenig — a once-colleague of Nikola Tesla who was stranded in the Hollow Earth until he was rescue by the Los Angeles mission in 1993. Since then, he has been working to reverse engineering the saucers with his daughter Erha. There followed a spectacular kung fu/gun battle between the players and a few OSI agents and the blue gi-wearing monks of Shambala…but where did they get the weapons!?! Eventually, they were able to cut through the bad guys, but only as Koenig was tossed through the Eye to who knows where.

Veitch had a momentary vision of what was on the other side — a futuristic-looking city in ruins…then Morana compelled him to close the Eye. Koenig was essential to the Boston Project, but this also represented a sharp escalation by Queen Morana. Where did she get those guns — some form of heat ray — and why take Koenig. (He has a familiarity with the equipment…she needs him to reproduce or repair them?) Zelansky’s conclusion: she has gone back to the Second Earth, to Atlantis! He uses all of his bureaucratic pull to get permission from the OSI to mount a rescue mission, supported by a company of US Marines armed to the teeth. They can fold the wings of the minifighters, so they’ll have the Dogfish as air support.

Two days later, they go through the Eye, but Veitch’s concentration on their destination wavers for just a moment… When they come through the gate, it is into a flat, dry, reddish-brown plain. The air is incredibly thin, the sky purple with a weak sun and two moons! They also walked out onto steps and the surprsie causes them to tumble into the new environment like people bailing out of a clown car. When the Dogfish are pushed through they pitch off their landing gear and roll over some of the men, useless!

The Eye they came through is much larger, and seems to act as a gate to a large walled city. As the Eye closed, they could now see the streets of the city and the strange buildings. Zelansky could swear that whenever he looked away, the buildings shifted or changed. Despite the obvious danger they are in, he is elated…

“We’re on Mars!

And this gave me the chance to finally bring the starts of the rocket corp/ rocket rangers/ planetary romance aspect of the campaign to bear. I’m planning on using some of the material from Revelations of Mars, though I’m not certain if I’m going to use their aliens, or the ones from Space:1889 (which I have a preference for…)

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…)


OFFICE OF SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS

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

RESOURCES:

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


 

I was remiss in posting a play report from last week, so I’m going to combine that and this week… The game group picked up a new member the past two weeks, bringing us to seven. This is the largest group I’ve had in the last seven year, and managing pace and crosstalk always becomes a problem once you get over the 4 players and a GM. The new guy is new to gaming, and I needed a fast way to bring him into the action. This was going to be difficult, since they group had just been transported via the Eye of Shambala, an ancient Atlantean device, to said location in the Kunlun Mountains.

a60634a2-beb0-4a3b-a712-697e558962e5

The group found themselves surrounded by blue gi-clad monks in a fantastical valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains. A few minutes later, another set of monks brought a palanquin to the site. From this dismounted a tall woman, dressed neck to ground in a leather dress and cape. On her chest, the eight pointed star with Tibetan swastika — the symbol of Atlantis. She welcomed them to Shianking, and introduced herself as Queen Morana. Zelansky immediately realized that this was the empress consort of Mot, the Emperor of Atlantis. (More below…) Her attention is primarily on Veitch, the mechanic for the group, who has Atlantean blood and can activate their technology.

They are escorted to the massive building, the royal residence, they are told. They also notice a giant airplane, stopped just at the lip of the valley over a ravine into which the waterfalls of the place fall. It’s big and utilitarian, with the red star of the Soviet Union on it. Under the wings, it carried two small fighters. Morana will tell them the Soviets had come calling and were dealt with. (Zelansky knows Morana has a long history with the Soviets from OSI reports.) Inside the residence, they pass dozens of people; she’s got hundreds of people here, they estimate. Most are Chinese, but there are the Western/Oriental faces of Central Asians: Kazaks, Kyrgiz, a few Russians, she will tell them. There’s also dozens of Vril, residents of the former Hollow Earth. These people were left on Earth, as she was, when the “Interior World” phased through Earth and eventually settled into the same orbit as Earth.

One person stands out. He is obviously a Westerner, dressed much like the others. He has a slight limp and his left eye has a weird cast to it. He immediately tried to interact with them. This was the new guy, and I needed a reason for him to be here, but for him to have a “normal” enough background that the player could jump into the 1930s, but fantasy, setting of the game. I decided to use a real-life figure, an aviator that had been brought down and rescued by the monks. (A classic pulp fiction trope.) After some research, I wrote the new guy up the famed aviator, Wiley Post. (See the Wiley Post…post.)

He has been stuck in Shianking, as the Chinese call it, or Shambala, as the Central Asian call it for three years, ever since the “Ghost World” phased out of the Earth right in front of his Lockheed Vega. He had been on a solo circumnavigation, the first in history, testing the next autopilot and radio direction finding system Sperry Gyroscope Company was developing when the plane was crippled and he crashed. Days later he came to in Shambala, badly injured but miraculously still alive. He healed at an extraordinary rate. Something about the place encouraged life. The monks had taken in the many others that were suddenly left in the mountains by the Ghost World, including Morana. The queen quickly won over the men and Post later relates to them she has an uncanny ability to know what people want and helps them achieve it. Over the last three years, she took control of the monastery from the masters, then led expeditions into the surrounding areas to gain more adherents. She instigated the Soviet expedition to the valley — two Tupolev TB-3s, one with the fighters, but the other was loaded with paratroopers. They were quickly cut down by her people, and she forced the pilots of the second plane to land.

Some say she’s a sorceress, and Post would have thought that ridiculous, except he’s seen it. She can bend people’s will, make them see things. She can heal people with a touch, but he’s heard she can also take that life away. She wins her followers over with ease, and even he has been tempted to join her. The only thing that helped him resist is the desire to get back to his wife and child.. His escape attempts were hampered by the mountains. The altitude is too high, and it is too cold, to venture over; the valley, for some reason, has sea level pressure. He knows there is a tunnel out of the valley, but he has been unable to discover it.

Morana appeals to their desires: Veitch wants to feel important, and is insanely curious about the Atlanteans and the ability to use these gates to get to other worlds. That’s why she wants him:  to get back to Atlantis, her empire, and her son. For Zelansky, she tempts him with the massive library of ancient tomes, scrolls, and maps. For Cointreau, with a touch, she gives him the greatest pleasure he has ever felt. She knows this is what he wants — an escape from the world, his memories of the Great War, and his own cowardice. Pin-Lee and “Irish” O’Bannon, however, are not so easily swayed. For the next few days, they explore the valley and the various buildings, while Veitch and Zelansky pour through the library. There are hundreds of loyal followers, and they hope that some day the queen will lead them out of the city to spread their bounties to the world.

Finally, realizing the trap the place it, O’Bannon and Pin-Lee push for the group to attempt escape. Post has been unable to get to the airplane due to the well-trained monk warriors watching it. He’s only one man, but with six of them, they just might be able to do it. O’Bannon and Veitch act as a distraction, allowing Post, Contreau, and Pin-Lee to slip past and sound out the TB-3. It still has bladders full of fuel and appears to be functional. the machine guns are even still in place! The next day, they make good their escape, slipping onto the Tupolev and risking a dangerous launch with not enough runway. They just manage to take off, even with Morana using her enchantments to try and prevent them, and just clear the mountains around the valley.

That was the end of one night’s play…

We picked up this week with the TB-3 flying through the night sky toward Lhasa. The plane has no heat, they are flying at about 14,000 feet, and the cockpit on the Tupolev is open to the sky. Post and O’Bannon are trading pilot duties every 30 minutes to avoid frostbite and to keep each other sharp. Zelansky wired their findings in code to the OSI, and informed the British legation in Lhasa they were on route. (It wouldn’t do to just show up in a Soviet bomber, would it?) Five hours of flying, with Cointreau trying to cope with the idea that he would never feel that kind of pleasure again, and Pin-Lee trying to get his friend to snap out of it.

They land in Lhasa in the middle of the night and are met by one of the British. Yet again, there is another plane on the field outside of Lhasa — the TB-3 parked next to the Boeing they brought, parked next to the abandoned S-38 from the last campaign, next to the hulk of the Nazi Fokker Trimotor from the last campaign. Once they are back in the British legation, the characters got warm, drunk, and learned that the Brits had been searching for them for the last couple of days, as they hadn’t returned from their trip to the Gardong Monastery. According to the monks, they had been shown the artifact, then left (not actually a lie.) They assumed bandits had gotten them. Post took advantage of their hospitality to fire off a telegram to inform his family he was still alive. (Fortunately, at this time, US law was that without a body, a person was not officially dead for seven years.)

The next day, they were called to General Yama, the head of the Tibetan army. The old warrior knows about the Eye, their interest, and that they had an altercation with the monks before going through it. He wants to know where they went. While the others tried to shine him on, Pin-Lee immediately pointed out the location of Shianking and informed them about the danger of Morana and her followers. Yama points out the Eye is Tibetan property and gives them 24 hours to get out of the country. On returning to the legation building, Post got a telegram from his wife — she and his daughter were alive and well in Oklahoma, and doing well thanks to the generosity of his friend Will Rogers, and his sponsors, the US Mail Service and Texaco. They were waiting for him to come home!

The group them hatched a plan to try and find the Eye and perhaps abscond with it. Zelansky was worried about the international implications; this could be considered an act of war! Veitch took parts from the S-38’s Wasp radial engine to maintain the motors on the Beoing, while Post readied the Tupolev. Then O’Bannon and Post took the Boeing and did aerial reconnaissance, easily finding the monks and their Tibetan escort that were moving the Eye to a new location by mule-drawn wagons. The size and weight, Veitch has estimated, would allow it to be secured to the TB-3 under the fuselage between the forward landing gear, and after finding the Eye, they radioed to the others to come in. Veitch had serious issues flying the Tupolev slow enough to make a run at the caravan moving the Eye, but Cointreau managed to give them a warning strafe with the forward machine guns. One of the guards returned fire with Veitch’s coilgun, tearing up the observation dome in the nose of the plane and nearly killing Zelansky and Pin-Lee. At that point, Cointreau did something he hadn’t since the Great War: he mowed a few of the guards down with the machine guns. This was enough to take the fight out of the Tibetans.

Landing the Tupolev and Boeing, they quickly established they couldn’t get Veitch near the Eye or it would activate. The others used block and tackle to get the Eye affixed to the bomber, then O’Bannon flew the thin, while Post took the others, and they managed to make the 400 mile flight to Calcutta. Zelansky radioed ahead to get the US consulate involved, hoping to prevent the British from snapping up the Eye. He’d realized the likelihood the Chinese officials would impound it was high.

In Calcutta, they were met by consulate officials and marine guards, as well as British officials. One of the men was attached to the OSI, and informed them the Eye would be kept safe until their transport back to the States arrived. Admiral Byrd already had things in motion. They spent two days in India and the OSI offered to have them all return to the States for debriefing in California. Cointreau was in; Hollywood is in California! Pin-Le was in; he wanted paid! The rest were willing to head to the States to find out more about what the hell was going on.

Their ride turned out to be ZR-5, the USS Macon — America’s most advanced airship (which thanks to our alternate history, had modifications made to it that prevented her crash in 1935.) captained by Commander Herbert Wiley, the man who had commanded USS Los Angeles during the Hollow Earth expedition in the last campaign. Wiley was ecstatic to meet Post, a famed aviator and a bit of a legend. Post was similarly impressed to see Macon, which was still under construction when he disappeared.

USS_Macon_at_Moffett_Field.jpg

There was some description of life in the airship, some of the technological bits and bobs that interested the aviators (and the gearheads in the gaming group) while they flew their 8200 miles back to San Francisco, with a stop in the middle of the Pacific to tank off of a replenishment ship with the Yorktown aircraft carrier group. Finally, they flew over the Golden Gate bridge and arrived at the massive hangers of Moffett Field, where OSI and FBI agents were waiting for them, as well as the press who were waiting to capture the teary reunion between Post and his family.

We ended there for the evening, with the promise of supersicence at the “Barstow Project” down near Los Angeles. (Zelansky’s field group is the Atlanta Project.) But there’s also San Francisco and a chance for some mischief…