Friday, August 26, 2016

"The Fate of Atlantis" - Escape from the Hollow Earth, Chapter 5

Bodak Danger helped the flight crew of the Icarus in retrieving the wreckage of the crashed airship. The trio, with the help of Roald Amundsen, dragged the salvaged machinery and parts across the jungle to the tree village. With no day-night cycle to judge time the group worked until they were tired and slept until they were rested. Bodak bade his farewell upon their return to the tree village. He followed the trail left by the other members of the Hyperion Society through the jungle to the Atlantean ruins at the base of the waterfall.

Bodak descended the cliff face to the swampy lowlands where he was surrounded and captured by a group of savage green-skinned reptilian humanoids. When Bodak failed to understand the hissing nonsense of their primitive language, the Welshman shouted back in slow loud English, "I SAID TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER YOU DISGUSTING COLD BLOODED BRUTES!"

Bodak was bound and carried to their chieftain, a tall reptile man with bumpy red skin. Again their attempts at communication were met with the Welshman's increasingly impatient reply, "I SAID LET ME GO YOU BOW-LEGGED SALAMANDERS! I HAVE IMPORTANT BUSINESS ELSEWHERE!"

The chieftain clubbed the Welshman over his head with his own shotgun, knocking him unconscious.

(cue theme music)


Noted scholar and literary historian Cedric Justice,
along with his manservant Panda,
has embarked upon an expedition to
the North Pole to find the fabled island
known as Ultima Thule.

With him are four famous associates
of the world reknown Hyperion Society - 
Bodak Danger, the Welshman with fists of stone!
Jack Flash, myserious and ageless Englishman!
Hiroshima Overdrive, Japanese inventor and adventurer!
Edith Odinsdottir, beautiful Icelandic psychic and occultist!

They have found themselves stranded in 
a mysterious inside-out world of perpetual noontime
filled with deadly jungles, giant dinosaurs, and savage beast-men.

With the help of native guide Utuk,
they found and explored the lost catacombs
beneath a strange and power pylon.
There they discovered a machine that could
open a portal to other worlds - 
only to learn that the key had been stolen long ago! 

The Hyperion Society stood at the exit of the ancient Atlantean catacombs, staring across the gap made by the crumbling bridge at a group of twelve reptilian humanoids. The reptile-men were primitive in appearance. Each carried a quiver of javelins and a club tipped with obsidian blades.  There were eight reptile-men on the bridge on the opposite side of the gap and four clambering along the debris of the fallen section of bridge near the water.

Their leader was a large red-skinned specimen. At the leader's side was Bodak Danger. The Welshman was bound with vines. The chieftain brandished Bodak's pump-action shotgun like a club.

Jack Flash immediately drew his pistol but held his fire at Hiroshima's request. Hiroshima lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite and handed it to Jack. Jack hurled the stick across the gap and into the midst of the reptile-men on the bridge.

The reptile men responded with a barrage of javelins. Two hit Utuk and one hit Hiroshima so badly that he fell off the bridge into the water!

The dynamite exploded sending reptile men into the lake and causing another section of bridge to collapse!

Bodak Danger immediately fell to the ground and wriggled his way out of his bonds. The chieftain clubbed Danger with the butt of the shotgun. Danger, his hands now free, grabbed the butt, pulled it to pump a round into the chamber, and pulled the trigger! The blast caught part of the reptile-chieftain's neck and the red monster screamed in pain.

Jack Flash drew the blade of his sword-cane and leaped off the side of the bridge. He aimed for a reptile-man on the rubble. He hit the reptile-man blade first and used its body to cushion his fall. Jack then dove into the water to assist his Japanese associate.

Edith Odinsdottir put her fingers to her temple to aid in focusing her telepathic ability. She concentrated on one of the nearby reptile-men, listening to its thoughts and fears. She learned that the reptile-men had worshiped the  plesiosaur of the lake, the very plesiosaur she and her associates had killed as it attacked their raft. The reptile-men were seeking vengeance for the desecration of their tribal god at the hands of the white-skinned strangers!

The red-skinned chieftain took another swing at Bodak with the shotgun. The swing missed and the chieftain smashed the shotgun against the stone surface of the bridge. The shotgun shattered into pieces. Bodak stood up and began to fight the chieftain hand-to-hand.

The reptile-men on the rubble began to climb onto the top of the bridge. Utuk and Panda stepped forward to defend Edith and Cedric. Utuk fell before the reptile-man's attack. Edith, for her part, fired her pistol at the remaining reptile-men hurling javelins from the rocks below.

Hiroshima Overdrive swam over to Jack Flash and grabbed the Englishman in an embrace.

"Now see here!"

Hiroshima replied, "Hold tight." and activated his rocket harness. The two rocketed out of the water and towards Bodak and the chieftain. There they tumbled onto the surface of the bridge and slid to a stop.

The chieftain grabbed Bodak's head and bit down with his small piercing reptilian teeth. Bodak continued to punch at the chieftain. Jack Flash rushed up and stabbed the reptile-man with his sword-cane. The chieftain fell.

Suddenly, the two were beset by three more reptile-men who ran forward to assist their chieftain. Bodak set into them with mighty fists.

Hiroshima used his rocket harness to fly back to the other side of the gap to assist Edith, Cedric, and his other associates. Utuk had fallen to a reptile-man's attack but Panda was ably dispatching the others, even as more climbed the bridge to replace their fallen allies.

Edith tried to use her mental powers to command the actions of one of the reptile-men but served only to confuse the primitive creature. It was quickly kicked off the bridge by Panda. Overdrive knelt and gave medical attention to the fallen Utuk.

Flash and Danger finished off the last three on their side when they saw another dozen reptile-men running towards them on the bridge from the direction of the temple island. Bodak cracked his knuckles as Flash said, "Excellent. Bring them forth!"

They saw movement in the sky over the lake. It was a shiny metallic discus about ten feet thick and fifty feet in diameter. The disk hurtled through the sky over the lake and came to hover over the approaching reptile-men.

An aperture appeared in the bottom of the discus and beams of light shone down upon the reptile-men. The reptile-men fell the moment they were struck by the beams. A few fled in terror by diving into the lake.

The members of the Hyperion Society expedition and their associates defiantly stood their ground and faced the saucer head on. The saucer hovered over them. Beams of light were shone upon them and they fell to the ground.

Hiroshima Overdrive slowly gained consciousness and groggily took in his surroundings.

The interior of the strange flying disk was circular with rounded edges. A pilot sat upon a pedestal with two hands manipulating strange futuristic controls. The panel in front of him consisted of a large round glass port through which one could view of the sky ahead of the craft. Several smaller circular displays pulsed with light and color, the meanings of which were apparent only to the pilot.

The pilot was pale-skinned with straight dark black hair. He wore a metal helmet with a tall metal crest or fin. His clothing consisted of dark curiass over which was draped a toga. He wore Roman-style sandals tied up his calf. He was flanked by two similarly dressed pale-skinned men. Each carried a spear tipped not with a blade but instead with a strange conical emitter. A curious bulbous pistol was holstered on each of their hips.

The concave walls of the craft's interior was lined with smooth round metal disks. Alternating between then in a random interval were identically shapped glass portholes. Overdrive watched as some of the portholes faded and became opaque metal disks while some of disks became clear portholes. He remembered that the exterior of the craft was smooth unmarred metal with no such portholes. He was amazed at the technology that could produce such an effect.

The other members of the Hyperion Society expedition and their associates were unconscious, tied, gagged, and otherwise bound. They were stacked like cargo in a hold in the rear of the craft along with twelve of the reptile-men. All captives of a strange new foe.

Through the portholes he could see ocean passing beneath. Evetnually, the ocean became land and he could make out the shore of an island that he estimated to be sixty miles wide and ninety miles long. He could see a large sophisticated city on the far end of the island at the base of a low rocky mountain range.

One of the guards noticed that Overdrive was awake. The guard levelled his spear at Hiroshima shined its light upon him. Hiroshima Overdrive was once more compelled into slumber.

The sound of a roaring crowd could be heard far away.

Bodak danger stirred and looked around. He and his companions were in a round stone room. The floor was covered in loose sand and pebbles. The only illumination came from a trio of dimly glowing crystals embedded in the walls near the ceiling. The ceiling was adorned with a pinwheel pattern that spiraled in towards its center. Cedric Justice and his manservant Panda were missing.

Bodak woke the others. They heard the sound of cheering throngs far overhead. They took stock. They were stripped of their leather coats, all weapons, and all their equipment.

Suddenly, the ceiling opened like an iris and the floor began to rise. The constant noonday sun of this unnatural world illuminated their ascent.

They were in the center of a wide dusty arena resembling the coliseum of ancient Rome. Thousands of spectators filled the seats. The spectators had pale skin and either white or black hair. They wore tunics and togas but were adorned with elaborate feathered headdresses and shining jewelry. A prominent box was occupied by a tall white-skinned woman with the most elaborate headdress of all. Cedric sat to her left and behind him Panda. On her right was the evil Nazi Doctor Vortex! The entire box was flanked by a dozen armed guards with finned helmets and futuristic lances.

The dusty arena floor was littered with piles of rubble filled with bones and primitive weapons.

The woman in the box seats with the elaborate headdress stood and raised her hand. The crowd fell silent and paid her attention.

She began to speak in a strange language that resembled both ancient Greek, Babylonian, and Mayan. Utuk, who understood some of the language, translated as best he could to his own pidgin which Hiroshima Overdrive then retranslated into English.

"This is a grand occasion! My fellow Atlanteans, we will soon open the Great Gate and follow our ancestors to the celestial land of Paradise! In celebration, I give to you the warriors you see below. Let them now fight for your entertainment!"

The crowd roared with anticipation as three holes appeared in the arena floor. From the holes rose three massive bipedal dinosaurs. Although they resembled the fearsome tyrannosaur, Hiroshima Overdrive correctly identified them as allosaurs. The chains holding the allosaurs were remotely disconnected and fell limply to the arena floor. The allosaurs roared, both at the members of the expedition and at each other.

Each member of the expedition scrambled to find weapons among the rubble. Bodak Danger found a knife. Jack Flash found an obsidian sword. Edith Odinsdottir and Utuk both located spears. Hiroshima Overdrive picked up a weapon resembling a Japanese naginata.

GM Note - Finding Weapons
I had each player make a Perception check. The number of successes determined the maximum damage done by any weapon they found. 

Two of the allosaurs converged on the heroes. One bit down on Bodak Danger and violently shook him before dropping him unconscious to the ground. The third allosaur attacked one of the other two. Under the coordination of Jack Flash, the other members of the expedition focused their attacks on the second allosaur. Utuk ran forward and drove his spear into the predator's breast, killing it.

Edith, meanwhile, stared intently at Cedric, listening for his thoughts. Although she could not read his exact thoughts, she was able to determine that he was made uncomfortable by the actions below and that he was being held against his will.

The team turned their attention to the first allosaur as it fought off its rival. It was quickly dispatched.

The heroes then attacked the remaining allosaur. The monster fought back with desperate ferocity, injuring several of its assailants. Though Utuk was gravely wounded by the allosaur's bite, it too was eventually defeated.

The crowd erupted into wild exultation as the dust of battle had settled.

Hiroshima ran to provide what first aid he could to Bodak and Utuk while the crowd cheered.

The important looking woman once more stood and raised her hand, bringing the throng to silence. Utuk's, injured and exhausted, once more provided a translation for Hiroshima to interpret.

"These combatants have shown commendable courage and strength, and have brought pleasure to the people! Shall they all go free - or shall they fight to the death for their reward?"

The crowd began to chant, "Death! Death! Death!"

"The people of Atlantis have spoken! Fight on, and I shall award gold, jewels, and freedom to the one remaining victor!"

Hiroshima stood and threw down his weapon. He was soon followed by Edith, Bodak, and Utuk. Jack Flash rushed one of the fallen allosaurs, leaping atop it and hurling himself over the wall and into the crowd. He was suddenly repulsed by some kind of invisible field of force which knocked him back. Jack somersaulted and landed on all fours. He then stood up straight along with his companions in solidarity with their resistance. Hiroshima's eyes widened at the sight of the force field and he muttered, "Sughoi!" before turning to Edith, "I must build one of those!"

The important woman was furious. Her orders to her guards were interrupted by someone in the crowd screaming, "VRIL-YA!"

She paused and scanned the coliseum.

Another voice answered, "VRIL-YA!" followed by another and another.

Suddenly the entire coliseum was rocked by nearly simultaneous explosions!

The explosions showered the arena floor with debris and concealed all visibility with smoke and dust. A pale-skinned man with white hair opened a nearby trap door in the floor of the arena. He called out in the pidgin Atlantean of Utuk's tribe, "Come with me if you value your lives!"

The young man with the white hair led them down a ladder and into the slave pens beneath the arena. Hundreds of gladiators from dozens of species - gill-men, ape-men, reptile-men, neanderthals, humans, and more - yearned to be set free. The young man advised the escapees, "There is no time. If you want to escape, you must leave them." Then he added, "For now."

The young man opened up a drain in the floor and led the way. The drain descended into a disgusting sewer knee-deep with filth. He activated a hand-held glowing crystal, "This way."

He led them down a tunnel that was barely three feet wide and four feet tall. After a few twists and turns they emerged into a larger L-shaped chamber, fifteen feet wide and ten feet tall. As they made their way through the chamber, the escapees spotted the ripples of something moving through the water. Someone shouted, "Look out!" as giant carnivorous sewer worms rose up out of the muck and attacked. Each worm was as thick as a man's leg with rows of needle like teeth in its lamprey-like mouth. Jack Flash shouted an order to the company, "Keep going! We'll hold them off!" while he engaged the worms in combat.

Edith was bitten as she ran past. She immediately became light headed as the creatures venom coursed through her veins. Marduk led the escapees to a ladder in the ceiling and climbed. Jack was the last to climb. He barely escaped being bitten as a worm leaped out of the mire and into the air, missing Jack by inches as he ascended the metal ladder.

They found themselves emerging from the floor in a large round room with four exits. Between each exit were several prison cells. The room and the cells were comfortably appointed with cushions, chairs, basins, and other amenities. The central room contained a table and a dozen chairs. Three men wearing black robes stood from their seated position at the table. Atop the table was a large black book bound in orichalcum.

The stranger reverently bowed with his hands together at the robed men before turning to address the escapees.

"My name is Marduk and we need your help."


Bodak Danger replied, "We assumed."

Marduk invited everyone to sit and rest. They were safe. He explained that this place was once a slave dungeon but was sealed off and long ago forgotten. No one but the heretics of the Vril-Ya know of its existence. They could rest and recuperate. He offered them food and water and medical attention.

He produced a glowing green crystal, "This is an Atlantean Healing Crystal. It will accelerate the healing of your wounds, though I am not very proficient with its use."

Edith asked if she could examine it.

"Are you trained in the use of Healing Crystals?" gasped Marduk in awe.

"Yes, under the tutelage of a crystal skull."

Marduk's jaw dropped in reverence, "Ah, I.. I see! By all means!" He handed her the crystal. She set about healing the wounds caused by the allosaurs int he arena and the sewer worms during their escape. Most importantly, using the healing crystal upon herself rendered the sewer worm toxin inert.

While they ate and rested, Marduk explained the situation.

"The people you saw in the stands of the coliseum think themselves Atlantean, proud descendants of an ancient and powerful race. The truth of the matter is that they are not Atlanteans. At least not true Atlanteans.  The true Atlanteans are long gone.

"Those people up there may live in an Atlantean city, use Atlantean technology, and speak what they think is Atlantean, but they are in fact the descendants of the Vril-Ya, mere mortals that lived in the shadow cast by the godlike Atlanteans.

"This is a fact that Hierophant Tiamat and the High Council wishes to keep secret. Those who claim and accept their true ancestry as Vril-ya are proclaimed to be heretics and sentenced to death. Hierophant Tiamat, the leader of the Priestly caste, knows the truth of who they are, but she and the High Council use the lie to protect their own power.

"I and the others here are proud to be Vril-ya. The "Black Book" has shown us the truth. I was once an overseer of the arena. One day, a member of the builder caste showed me the Black Book and allowed me to read the truth within. Once I opened my eyes I became a true believer and dedicated myself to helping the heretics.

"It is our goal to overthrow the High Council, abolish slavery, and establish a new egalitarian society. That I why I need your help.

"Before I make my offer, know that you are not prisoners here. You are free to leave at any time, or stay as our guests as long as you need to rest and recuperate."

Everyone nodded their assent to stay.


Marduk paused before continuing his story.

"At one time, the True Atlanteans ruled the Inner World as gods. We, the Vril-ya, lived in their shadow. We were not slaves and they were not our masters. It would be more accurate to describe them as caring parents and protectors and us naive children. They were gods and they protected us.

"A thousand generations ago, the Atlanteans left the Inner World. Some say they abandoned us. We believe they were banished! The Black Book tells us that they were betrayed by their Vril-ya children and banished to the space-between-spaces! They are locked away beyond the Great Gate, trapped in limbo immune to the passage of time.

"The Black Book speaks of a prophecy. It says that after a thousand generations outsiders will come, and that these outsiders will open the Great Gate! When that happens, the Black Book speaks of two possible outcomes: either the True Atlanteans will be returned to us, ushering in a new golden age, or a portal will be opened allowing the ingress of unimaginable horror!

"A short time ago, other outsiders appeared. They wore grey uniforms and black coats and carried weapons of thunder. They quickly formed an alliance with Tiamat. For what purpose I do not know. We were worried that they were ones spoken of in the prophecy.

"However, when you appeared, we knew you were the outsiders spoken of by the prophecy, and that you were sent to release the Atlanteans from their exile!

"Tiamat has in her possession the gate key once used to operate the Great Gate. It is a glowing purple crystal about as long as a man's leg. She keeps it with all her greatest treasures in her palace. We would like you to infiltrate her palace and steal the key. With the key we could open the Great Gate and free the Ancient Ones! Will you help us?"

Hiroshima looked at the rest of his party. They exchanged nods. "Yes, we will help. But it would be easier with our possessions. Where have they taken our possessions?"

Marduk replied, "They are stored along with the gate key in the Holy Palace. We have no way of obtaining them. However, we will be happy to outfit you with whatever weapons, armor, and equipment you require."

Jack Flash leaned in, "So, what's the plan?"

Marduk answered, "Atlantean slaves must wear slaves robes and cover their heads and faces. In this way they are always identifiable as slaves. This tradition works to our advantage. Thus disguised, you may utilize the slaves' entrance to the palace. Once within the palace gates, you must make your way past the Pleasure Gardens, into the palace, and to the top of the Tower of the Sun. There you will find the Heirophant's personal treasure vault.

The associates of the Hyperion Society moved through the streets of Atlantis disguised as Atlantean slaves. They wore body coverings and head scarves that hid their faces. They pushed a cart containing amphorae filled with exotic aquatic life forms gathered from the far reaches of the Inner World. Their plan was simple: they would gain entrance into the palace compound disguised as slaves delivering fish for the ponds. Once inside the gate, they would follow Marduk's directions to the tower of the heirophant and the treasure vault.

The heroes marvelled at the many exotic sights as they made their way down the long straight boulevards of Atlantis. Strange humanoid species of every description - reptile-men, ape-men, mantis-men, gill-men, hawk-men. They mingled and haggled and conversed with multitudes of human types: Greeks, Egyptians, Vikings, Romans, Chinese, Mayan, Carribean pirates, and more! Giant saurians used as beasts of burden. Small feathered creatures sold as pets. Giant fruits and strange vegetables sold at stalls alongside textiles and spices.

They noticed also that while many people carried or utilized items of seemingly advanced technology - many involving crystal shards or glowing spheres - much of the technology seemed old with signs of multiple repairs and modification.

They finally approached the servants' entrance to the palace compound. Two guards watched the entrance. They each held a stun lance and carried a death-ray pistol in a holster at their side. They were stopped and interrogated. Not fully understanding the language, they shrugged and responded in pidgin Atlantean. The guard sighed and asked again in pidgin. They told the guard that they were there to maintain the ponds and add more decorative fish.

 "We are not expecting such a delivery today."

"The fish arrived early. We must deliver them today or they will die."

The guard sniffed and sent his companion away to fetch some wine. Once alone, he leaned close to the disguised heroes. "Perhaps we can make a special arrangement for an early delivery?" He paused and cleared his throat.

Edith sent a silent telepathic message to her comrades, "He is expecting a bribe."

Not having any money, Hiroshima instead offered one of the fish, opening one of the amphora.

The guard leaned in and inspected but immediately showed his displeasure, "I'll not eat the likes of that THAT! Go away!"

Bodak Danger looked around to make sure the coast was clear before punching the guard out cold.

The guard was caught as he fell. They were dragging the guard to throw onto the cart when the other card arrived with a jug of wine.  The guard saw what was happening and dropped the jug in surprise!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Story of Utuk the Guide

by Lucinda (Edith's Player)

Ever since he was a child, Utuk has been deeply interested in the natural world around him.  When he was young and still named Kanto, he learned to trap small lizards and mice around camp; his mother called him "better than a tiktok" (the Inner World equivalent to a cat) for keeping vermin out of her food stores.  When he lost his last baby teeth and had his kon'ga (young man's tribal ceremony), he chose to learn from the far-hunters of his tribe.  They taught him to walk long distances, move quietly (which he never learned very well), survive off the land and find his way home from many leagues of travel.  Upon reaching puberty he killed his first saurian and was accepted as a full member of the tribe and received his man's name, Utuk.

When the old white man (Roald) came to their tribe, many members of the tribe were too scared to get near him, but the tribe has a strong tradition of hospitality and it was obvious that Roald was in need.  Several people were assigned to help him adjust to the tribe, primarily Utuk and Old Man Guak'i.  Guak'i and Roald quickly learned a pidgin of each other's languages, and Roald taught Guak'i some basic mechanical principles that the tribe has put to good use.  Utuk ignored them when they jibber-jabbered to each other in Roald's tongue, but showed Roald around the forest readily enough.  There is a legend in the tribe that if you touch the white man, your ghost will be white when you pass on to the sky beyond the sun; Utuk has bumped into him, and he seems to have flesh and blood just like any tribe member, so Utuk doesn't believe that legend.  For this reason he was willing to act as guide to the six foreigners that wanted to go to the Atlantean cities when they came.

Utuk is unmarried.  He is old enough that he very much wants to get married, and he has an understanding with a particular young woman of his tribe; but he has to bring five bagaa pelts to her family, and the bagaa pass rarely as they slowly migrate between the swamps and the mountains*.  He has three pelts cached in his mother's hut.  The headman of his tribe has promised him another pelt if he brings the foreigners back safe and a hut if he brings useful treasure.

Utuk has three brothers and no sisters; his father died when he was young, but his mother is strong and energetic and her brothers were very involved with her sons, so they were brought up with a deep sense of their place in the tribe and a strong respect for their elders.  Utuk will not do anything that he conceives would go directly against the will of his tribe.  However, when confronted by new experiences like the city of Atlantis, he realizes that the tribe's rules don't cover everything and improvisation may be required.  He is more strongly motivated by his desire to get married than by his need to stick to his learned view of the world.

* Why do the bagaa migrate when there are no seasons?  This question would puzzle outer-world naturalists to no end if there were any.  Perhaps they like the change of scenery; perhaps the swamp is better for feeding and the mountain eyries are better protected for breeding.

GM Notes - Utuk says, "More Style points for Lucinda!"

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"The Library of Skulls" - Escape from the Hollow Earth, Chapter 4

Professor Overdrive looked at Jack Flash with a mischievous grin. He picked up all four crystals and rearranged them into a random pattern. The room flashed and began to spin. Everyone was overcome by spasms of pain before falling to the floor. The room went dark.

The room spun blindly for nearly a minute. It eventually slowed its spin. The dark walls of the rotunda were replaced by a grassy field and gloomy grey skies. They were surrounded by the massive stone menhirs of Stonehenge.

Before anyone could speak the scene began to spin again. The colors of the four crystals flashed randomly, each cycling through red, green, yellow, and blue. The spinning stopped and they were standing atop a flat stone circle inside a cave. It was dark outside the cave mouth and snowing.

The crystals flashed different colors and the room began to spin again. They were transported to a flat stone circle atop the ruins of a step pyramid somewhere in a jungle. It was dawn.

Next they were transported to a flat desert plain. They were standing inside a ring made of small stacked stones. More stones were arranged in lines and pattered stretching from horizon to horizon. It was cold and dry. The sky behind a nearby mountain range glowed with the soft indirect light of pre-dawn.

They were then transported to a stone platform surrounded by ancient Egyptian ruins half-buried in sand. It was mid-afternoon.

They next found themselves standing atop a mound of dirt and piled rocks in the desert of the American southwest. It was late at night and the moon shone overhead.

Next they were standing on a stone platform surrounded by a desert of dark red sand. The sky was yellow and the air thin.

Soon they were on a flat stone circle on a desert of light grey sand. The sky was black but the land was illuminated by the sun. The blue-white disk of Earth hung in the dark sky.

Overdrive removed the glowing crystals from the matrix table. The room spun one final time and deposited them back within the rotunda where they started. They were disoriented, weak, and confused. Several members of the expedition were wretching and coughing while they grabbed the sides of the matrix table for stability.

Jack Flash stood up straightened his coat, "Right. Well, what else can we find here?"

(cue theme music)


Noted scholar and literary historian Cedric Justice,
along with his manservant Panda,
has embarked upon an expedition to
the North Pole to find the fabled island
known as Ultima Thule.

With him are four famous associates
of the world reknown Hyperion Society - 
Bodak Danger, the Welshman with fists of stone!
Jack Flash, myserious and ageless Englishman!
Hiroshima Overdrive, Japanese inventor and adventurer!
Edith Odinsdottir, beautiful Icelandic psychic and occultist!

They have found themselves stranded in 
a mysterious inside-out world of perpetual noontime
filled with deadly jungles, giant dinosaurs, and savage beast-men.

With the help of native guide Utuk,
the expedition has trekked across the jungle
in search of ancient ruins that might lead
to the secret of Amrita - the Elixir of Eternal Life.

They eventually arrived at a temple at the base of a waterfall
filled with mystery and danger! 

The team left the matrix chamber and returned to the central rotunda. There were two other metal trapezoids set into the walls to the left and the right across from each other. They chose the trapezoid to the left. Jack Flash touched the door and caused a diamond-shaped opening to appear.

The doorway opened into a long corridor. The corridor was at least fifty feet tall and the doorway was located at the top near the ceiling. The floor appeared to be flooded with water. No exit could be seen on the far side.

Jack Flash tentatively stepped into the open space beyond and a section of floor rose to meet his feet. Additional sections of floor rose in front of him to form a stairway that led into the dark water below.

Jack turned and winked at his comrades before diving head first into the water.

Hiroshima Overdrive reached into his bag and removed a face-mask connected to a hose. He attached the hose to a metal bottle of compressed air. He donned the face-mask and secured the bottle of air to his belt and followed the immortal aesthete into the watery gloom.

They could just make out a smaller corridor at the base of the far wall. The smaller corridor was completely submerged by water and was completely dark. Hiroshima produced a flare gun and fired it down the corridor. The flare ricocheted off the wall and disappeared around a corner to the right.

Overdrive and Flash swam down the corridor and turned the corner. The passage continued a hundred feet before it opened into a chamber, twenty feet wide and sixty feet long. The far end was covered in rubble from a ceiling collapse which flooded the chamber with water from the lake above. Dim light filtered through the fissure in the ceiling. Aquatic mosses, plants, and grasses clung to debris.

The flare created a mass of bubble which ran to the ceiling and disappeared out the fissure. Its pulsating red light illuminated six metal trapezoids inset into the left and right walls of the chamber.

Jack Flash
Jack Flash, still holding his breath, touched the first metal trapezoid on the right. A diamond-shaped aperture appeared. Air bubbles poured forth as water rushed in to fill the room. Jack and Hiroshima were pulled in with the current and the room soon filled with water.

The room was a sepulcher, ten feet wide and twenty feet long. It was dominated by a large rectangular sarcophagus. The head of the sarcophagus was a statue of an Atlantean in a stiff formal pose.

Flash and Overdrive exerted strenuous effort to remove the lid from the sarcophagus. Doing so flooded the interior and ruined the mummified remains within. The remains appeared to be of a seven-foot-tall human with an elongated head. The mummy was clutching a two-foot long glowing green crystal inlaid with intricate metallic tracery. A golden disk the size of a serving plate was placed on top of the mummy's head. The pair took the golden disk and the green crystal back to their companions. Jack Flash gasped for air as he emerged from the water.

Hiroshima Overdrive and Jack Flash returned to the crypt, this time with Utuk the guide, and explored the second sepulcher. Hiroshima shared his underwater breathing apparatus with his two companions as they worked to remove the lid from the second sarcophagus. They found another mummy like the first but this one was buried only with the golden disk over its face. Utuk was greatly perturbed by the remains so, unable to hold their breath much longer even with the occasional help of the breathing device, the trio returned.
Utuk the Guide

Jack Flash took Hiroshima's breathing apparatus and returned to the third sepulcher. He had gained entrance and was about to remove the lid of the sarcophagus when he was attacked from behind by an anaconda!

Jack Flash barely had enough time to draw his sword cane before he was entwined in deadly combat with the serpent. The creature wrapped its coils around Flash while the immortal repeatedly slashed and cut. Jack grabbed the anaconda's head and stabbed it with his sword, killing it!

Upon opening the third sarcophagus Jack found only an additional gold disk which he gathered and returned to the others.

Jack became worried about additional threats lurking within the crypt so the party left the remaining three tombs unopened and returned to the main rotunda. The team rested while Hiroshima waterproofed each of the flashlights.

GM Notes - Underwater Fighting
Every round spent underwater required a difficulty 2 Athletics check. A failure resulted in a number of Non-Lethal damage equal to the missed difficulty. The number of dice you rolled would decrease by 1 each round. Hiroshima's breathing apparatus allowed you breathe normally that round and reset the number of dice subtracted but that's all you got to do that round.

Fighting underwater imposed -1 dice difficulty. 

After a short rest the team crossed the rotunda and entered the aperture on the far trapezoid. The short corridor beyond opened into a marble chamber, twenty feet wide and sixty feet long. The chamber was dark and the far half was covered in rubble and debris from a ceiling collapse. A tunnel disappeared into the rock above the ceiling.

Sitting on six stone plinths on the left and right wall of the chamber were six elongated skulls made of crystal.

The team closely inspected the room before entering. Edith could see that the rubble was slowly rising and falling as if breathing. Some great beast the size of an elephant was slumbering under the rubble.

Jack Flash carefully entered the room.
Jack Flash and Utuk climb the pile of rubble

There was a loud snort and the sound of tumbling rubble as a massive creature emerged from under the debris. It was indeed the size of an elephant. It stood upright on two stocky rear legs but looked as if it moved about on all fours like a bear. Its arms and legs ended in giant claws like those of a mole. The creature was indisputably reptilian. A single large rhinoceros-like horn grew from its nose. It possessed two elephant-like ears that resembled primitive bat-wings. It roared at the intrusion into its lair. Hiroshima Overdrive, having experience confronting a beast of this type, called out, "Look out! It's a barugon!"
Jack Flash immediately ran underneath the creature and stabbed it with his sword-cane. The beast responded by retreating and biting at Jack Flash.

Utuk ran forward and pierced it with his spear. The barugon turned its attention to the native guide, goring him in the shoulder with its mighty horn.

Hiroshima Overdrive charged up his electric rifle for twelve seconds before unleashing the electricity from its capacitor. The electric arc did little to the prehistoric creature.

Jack and Utuk continued to harry the gargantuan creature while Hiroshima tried to throw a lasso around its head. Hiroshima's lasso succeeded only in capturing the creature's horn and slipped off easily. Jack followed up with a sword-thrust into the barugon's chest which pierced its heart and succeeded in killing it. 

The massive body of the barugon lay bleeding amid the rubble. Cedric Justice rushed forward to inspect the crystal skulls. He was grabbed and restrained by the others.

"What's the meaning of this?" demanded Cedric.

Jack Flash explained, "Whoa whoa whoa! Just a moment. We know very little about these things. They are probably telepathic in nature. It's best if Miss Odinsdottir check them out first."

Mister Justice reluctantly agreed.

Edith stepped forward. She approached one of the crystal skulls. She closed her eyes and stretched out her hand. She touched the skull.

The skull responded with memories and knowledge. It did not communicate directly. It had no personality or consciousness. It simply contained the knowledge and memories of a long dead Atlantean. Conveniently, the nature of the Atlantean Ur-Language allowed Edith to understand its meaning without knowing the language itself.

Crystal Skull

  • "The Healer" was the chief physician of a metropolis known as "the-City-by-the-Sea". The Healer used the energy of the glowing green crystals to provide succor to the ill and injured. 
  • "The Engineer" designed the-City-by-the-Sea. One of the Engineer's greatest achievements was the towering dome of the Great Temple. From the Engineer, Edith learned of the use of the pylons to power the matrix tables. The matrix tables served many functions. They controlled the weather, environment, lighting, gravity, and other variables within the Inner World. They were also used to open inter-dimensional portals which could used to traverse great distances. She also learned of the function of the golden matrix guardians and the use of the gate-key. 
  • "The Historian" recounted the tale of the Atlanteans: the founding and rise of their civilization in ancient times on the second, third, fourth, and fifth worlds of the solar system; their construction of the massive hollow satellite known as the Inner World; the diaspora in the face of a cataclysmic comet; the creation of their new civilization within and their final retreat from the Outer World. 
  • "The Biologist" was responsible for maintaining the ecosystem of the Inner World in the area surrounding the-City-by-the-Sea. From the biologist, she learned that many of the creatures the expedition had encountered since their arrival had evolved beyond what was introduced to the Inner World in ages past. 
  • "The Surveyor" was responsible for maintaining the topography of the land masses surrounding the-City-by-the-Sea. From the Surveyor, Edith learned of the general layout of the Inner World, its continents, and its major cities at the height of Atlanean power.
  • "The Leader" ruled the-City-by-the-Sea. His memories described Atlantean society, their use of slave castes, and the use of flying disks as means of transportation. From the Leader Edith learned of the capital city of Atlantis located on an island far out to sea. Edith learned that the portals were used only for traveling between the Inner World and destinations in the Outer World, including locations on Earth, Venus, Mars, and a mysterious fifth planet that was not Jupiter. Travel within the Inner World was conducted via flying disk. She also learned that treasure vaults existed beneath the Great Temple in the-City-by-the Sea. 

Edith Odinsdottir

Edith explained what she had learned to her comrades. Cedric insisted on being able to commune personally with the skulls but was once again admonished.

Satisfied that the complex under the waterfall was secure the team split up to perform various tasks.

Jack Flash used Overdrive's breathing apparatus to explore the remaining crypts. He found additional golden disks, which Edith explained were used to identify the deceased, and an Atlantean artifact called the Lodestone - a device which Edith had previously encountered while being held hostage by Doctor Vortex.

Professor Overdrive stripped apart his electric rifle in order to utilize components to construct an additional underwater breathing device.

Edith spent time communing with the crystal skull of the Healer, learning how to use the Atlantean healing crystal.

Utuk butchered what he could of the massive barugon carcass. He saved some for meat but removed the rest to the lake outside which was fed to the gigantic crocodiles and other dinosaurs.

The team then rested and slept before continuing again.

Professor Overdrive continued working on the new breathing device while Edith communed with the skull of the Surveyor. She utilized the memories of the Surveyor to construct a map of the Inner World. Jack Flash continued his careful explorations of the underwater crypts.

After resting and sleeping one more time, Professor Overdrive attempted to commune with one of the crystal skulls. He learned that telepathic ability was not a prerequisite as everyone assumed. He spent the day communing with the Engineer, learning Atlantean chemistry, alchemy, and material science. Meanwhile Edith communed with the Administrator. While everyone was otherwise occupied, Cedric seized his opportunity to commune with the crystal skull of the Historian.

Hiroshima Overdrive

The team rested and slept a third time. Afterwards, they prepared to leave the waterfall complex. Before they left, Edith returned to the room with the matrix table. There she communed with the Guardians. She learned that matrix table cannot open a portal without the gate-key. The gate-key was taken from the entrance rotunda and could not function until it was restored.

The team then prepared to journey back to Tree Village. They gathered up their equipment and made to leave the complex. As they exited they were met by dozens of humanoid reptile men with bows and arrows standing on the far side of the broken causeway.


When HEX players get distracted.

GM Notes - The Inner World and the History of Atlantis
The cosmology of my "Hollow Earth" is obviously different from that given in the Hollow Earth Expedition source books.

Here's what my players have learned about the Atlanteans (our name for them, not theirs) so far:

Atlantis was a powerful technologically advanced empire that maintained cities on Earth, Venus, Mars, and a not-Jupiter fifth planet for millions of years. They were ancient astronauts and were possibly alien in origin, I haven't decided yet. 

They traveled between the planets using inter-dimensional portals controlled from matrix tables located below metallic pylons.

They foresaw the coming of a rogue planetoid which would result in a planetary collision with the fifth planet. The resulting collision would spread massive asteroids and chunks of planet throughout the solar system. These chunks would change the orbits of Venus and Mars and would cause mass extinctions on Earth. The Atlanteans created a vast planet-sized Inner World to serve as their refuge. They populated the Inner World with life forms and rebuilt their society there.

The Inner World has one of three possible origins:

  • An extra-dimensional space 
  • A planet-sized Dyson sphere
  • The hollowed-out interior of a planetary body in the Solar system
There they continued to exist for millions of years, only occasionally visiting the Outer World in their flying disks. 

There are locations on Earth that serve as extra-dimensional one-way portals to the Inner World. Some portals are semi-permanent, others are fleeting. Some, such as the Bermuda Triangle, are famous. Others are located at the bottom of caves, in the deep jungle, or on the ocean floor.

Also, the Inner World is also the source for dinosaur kaiju like Godzilla, Gamera, Rodan, Barugon, and others. Expect to see more of them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

If it's Tuesday, it must be Hamburg

A Tale from the Lost Journals of the Hyperion Society
by Lucinda (Edith's Player)

It was a dark and stormy night. Doctor Vortex strode quickly down a quiet street in Hamburg, alert to his surroundings and moving fast. There weren't many people out - a few soldiers on liberty, some laborers on their way home for the night. A short man in a bomber jacket and a slouch hat walking slowly with his eyes on the ground passed him and turned the next corner. As soon as he was out of sight, the man chuckled gleefully and started pacing swiftly to the south. It was Edith Odinsdottir in disguise.

After a mile, she ducked into the anonymous doorway of the Hyperion Society's Hamburg safe house.  As she walked in the door, Jack Flash stepped out of a doorway. "Did you find him?" he asked eagerly.

Her grin gave the answer. "Yeah. Your intelligence was spot on. Finally! And yes, I learned what we need to know. They have Doctor Harris here. They're trying to turn him but it hasn't worked yet. We have to move quickly, though - they're going to try to torture the schematics out of him soon. He's being kept in one of the Thule Society homes on Falckweg in Othmarschen. I didn't get a floor plan but he's upstairs." Doctor Harris was an internationally recognized expert in missile guidance systems.

Jack called Hiroshima Overdrive and Bodak Danger into the room and Edith got them up to speed. "I'm not tired," said Hiroshima. "Why not go grab him now?" Everyone agreed.  "Grab your gear, then, and let's go," said Edith.

The four friends got to the end of the block on Falckweg unobserved. Hiroshima pulled out a grappling hook with a propeller and a rope attached to it and tossed it into the air. He guided it cautiously using a radio controller until it hooked onto the roof with a soft "clunk". They quickly swarmed up the rope, pulling it up behind them, and slipped along the roof until they got to the Thule Society house.

Jack slid cautiously down the roof and peered in a window. He pulled out a slim piece of metal and jimmied it open. Silently, the four dropped into the room.

Edith crept to the door and reached out with her mind. "There's one guard, about 10 feet down the hallway. He doesn't feel all that smart, if you know what I mean. I'm going to try something. Bodak, be ready to take him out." She spoke into the guard's mind. "Doctor Vortex wants you to check out a disturbance in the room down the hall. You're the only soldier good enough to do this." She made a soft scuffling noise and stood back.

Sure enough, a second later the soldier charged into the room, pistol drawn. Bodak dropped him with one hard punch to the face. They searched him for keys but he had none. They tied him up and crept down the hall.

The door was locked, of course. "I've got this," said Hiroshima. The others, used to his wizardry, wisely stood back. He pulled out a probe with a large power supply attached and inserted it into the lock. After a minute, the lock grew red; with a hiss it melted. They opened the door.

Doctor Harris leaped up from his bed. "Don't worry, sir, we're here to rescue you," said Jack. "Come quickly!" He nodded and joined them.

As they filed into the room with the soldier, they heard boots coming up the stairs. Edith and Hiroshima guided Doctor Harris to the roof while Jack and Bodak quickly dispatched the guards with fists and sword as they ran in the open door. The five retreated back to the end of the block and slid down the rope.

They got halfway back to the safe house before they saw a patrol. Fortunately, they were able to duck down an alley and hide behind some dustbins. The patrol followed them but it was only two soldiers. Once again, Jack and Bodak were able to dispatch them without raising further alarm. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

Once they were back in the Hyperion Society house, Jack poured whiskey all around. "You're safe now, Doctor Harris, and we've blacked Doctor Vortex's eye again."