Thursday, May 01, 2008

Keys To The Pulp Ferrari

The first two things I thought of when Jeff Combos showed me Hollow Earth Expedition were:

1. "Nice!" and
2. "Just the hollow earth, though?"

I always felt that HEX was a pulp game first, a game about dinosaurs and pirates and Nazis in the center of the Earth second. That's just how I read it, how I sensed it. Jeff was describing the game system, and what he designed it to do, and I was thinking -- "Why just lost worlds? I wanna take this game to space, or to Buckaroo Banzai town."

I got over it, though. Actually, I figured something out: the whole 'lost world adventures' angle made the game stand out. There are plenty of pulp options; how many are just about 'lost world' scenarios?

Still, though, I felt it deserved to be presented as a full-blown anything-goes cliffhangers-and-craziness game. In my mind, it was like a teenager in a sports car with just one or two streets to tear-ass around on.

It needed a little more room. It needed this:

More of the same high-quality production. Great art, now with Claudio Pozas and an homage to Metropolis. Complete psionics/magic/crazy powers rules. Secret Societies to join or oppose. Gadgeteering rules. New character options. Some nice martial arts rules that add flavor without adding complexity. Ready-to-run NPCs and PCs alike. Vehicle combat.

Oh, yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaah.

And it's not like it needs a supplement just to be all that it can be, but having one that gives you the keys to the Ferrari is somehow liberating. It's like a license to thrill, like the game saying, "Okay, it took a while but I got all my stuff. Let's go loco."

So. Is it any good?

Well...I think you'll be the judge of that. I'm pleased. I like the aforementioned martial arts stuff, where different styles get bonuses to different types of attacks and stuff without cluttering up the system. I like the Atlantean Blood talent, which makes your character a descendant of long-lost Atlantis without getting too 'K3WL P0WARZ!!1!!!' about it. I like that the Mafia gets a write-up, as well as some occult societies, all of which inspire me to use them in a game. I like the equipment section, because --

-- okay. Let's talk about the equipment section for a bit. The equipment section is pretty long. It describes everything, all the weapons and vehicles and gadgets and stuff, and it does so in the style of a catalog. You can look at this two ways: You can roll your eyes at an over-long equipstuff chapter and say, "come ON! Pad the book out a bit more, WILL YOU!?", or you can look it over and go, "Cool! If my bad guys are Japanese, they fly these planes...and they carry this type pistol! Oh, and this boat has a neat description I can use to help my players visualize it!" I respond to it the second way. Could you have guessed?

Mostly what I like about this book, and HEX as a whole, is that even though it's all pretty and has its own special dice (not that it needs them, but they are cool) is its sincerity. I don't sense that it's out to break barriers, push envelopes, change the way you play...none of that. I think it just follows Abe Lincoln's advice: "Whatever you are, be a good one." It just knows what it wants to be and goes to do it, with some really nice production values on the way.

Now. Say, Jeff, why not a "rocketships and bug-eyed monsters" supplement?

Oh, you think I'm kidding?