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Hollow Earth Expedition RPG (EGS1010, 6x9) Paperback – March 1, 2014
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The system is fluid and fast and the book is beautifully laid out. One thing that stands out to me is the care that was taken with everything. In many games with pulp-era settings, they tend to gloss over history. It's as though the "where and the why" of the era isn't as important as guns and fists. Hollow Earth Expedition does an excellent job of laying out the history of the world for you and highlighting events of interest to GMs looking for ideas. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of guns and nazi-punching action in HEX (and dinosaurs!!), but they didn't stop there. The creators give you a very well-rounded, and well though out game. If you're stuck on a desert island and can have only one game... you want Hollow Earth Expedition.
Because playing a tabletop game for the first time with a gaming group can be a daunting task with lots of book passing, I decided to acquire both versions. The softcover retailing for about $20 while the former hardcover retailed at about $35.
So, finally got to run it for my players. The session went well. Even though there's a lot of period information and suggestions, I think GMs will have their work cutout for them if they're trying to emulate films like Big Trouble in Little China, King Kong, and possibly even Indiana Jones. The rules for creating characters, combat, and just playing the game take up a fair amount of space. Then there's play examples, a bestiary, some NPC stats, introductory adventure, and list of resources. Not too much about outside-the-box cinematic storytelling or capturing the feel of your favorite film.
But then HEX is supposed to be rather vague and open-ended. It's not for telling one particular genre story really well, instead it helps the GM run a bunch of stories with the same general type of setting fairly well. So, it loses a little something when it tries to stretch itself between Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Time Machine, Jurassic Park, or Lovecraft's "Beneath the Pyramids". A successful campaign really needs a talented GM with a lot of free time or one of the HEX supplements to aid him.
As for the system, I think Ubiquity is fine. Combat was super lethal. A couple of the PCs were a little trigger-happy (which is perfectly understandable when one of the main character archetypes is Big Game Hunter) and NPCs/beasts didn't last more than a single round.
Aesthetically speaking, it looks nice. Back in 2006, there were very few black and white RPG books with this kind of high quality artwork. Nowadays, however, it might not seem quite as special. The 6 x 9" travel size re-print is also nice, but lacks the breadth of artistic vision which the hardcover embodied.
All in all, I'm glad I bought it and look forward to running Hollow Earth Expedition again!
~ Venger Satanis
I'd probably recommend spending the extra couple bucks and getting the hardback if you're a Game Master but, for players this is fine.
The system is simple yet powerfull. The background is detailled yet let room for your imagination. I've been playing rpg for over 20 years (D&D, Star Wars, Warhammer, Shadowrun, Vampire, L5R, etc...) and this has to be one of my favorite games. The first time I ran it, my players loved it...and so will yours! Enjoy!