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Tabletop Game / Hollow Earth Expedition

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Hollow Earth Expedition is an award-winning tabletop roleplaying game designed to simulate pulp novels and old serials. Think Indiana Jones meets The Rocketeer in Journey to the Center of the Earth. Uses its own dice pool system, Ubiquity, which has been licensed to a couple other games: Desolation, a post-apocalyptic fantasy, and All For One—the Musketeers fight demons.


This tabletop-game provides examples of:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. Cannibal tribes are known for their skill in creating poisons. Some of them include small doses of poison in their meals to build up an immunity to them.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Terra Arcanum is a secret organization created by the Atlanteans to prevent humanity from finding out about or entering the Hollow Earth. Over the centuries they have become a network of power brokers who control the Earth's leaders and institutions.
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  • Auto Doc: The Secrets of the Surface World supplement had an Auto-Doctor as a possible Weird Science gadget.
  • Big Eater: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. Any character with the Flaw of Ravenous must eat twice as much as normal or suffer from the effects of starvation.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. In the city of El Dorado the royal family are all descended from the Sun God. It is common for brothers and sisters to marry each other and have children to preserve their bloodline.
  • Cargo Cult: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. Cargo cultist tribes live by collecting items from the surface world that reach the Hollow Earth as flotsam and jetsam or inside beached ships or crashed airplanes. They worship the gods that they believe send them the items and even create "landing fields" to encourage them to send more.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Alchemical items in the supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth.
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    • The Life Channeling enchantment allows the user to power the item by inflicting either nonlethal damage on themselves or lethal wounds on other creatures.
    • Blood Offering drawback. An item recharges its powers (so they can be cast again) by inflicting lethal wounds on other creatures.
    • Exhausting drawback. Each time an item is used it inflicts a point of non-lethal damage on the user.
    • Toxic drawback. Each time an item is used it inflicts a point of lethal damage on the user.
  • Combat Tentacles: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth
    • The Kraken is a 100 foot long Giant Squid with tentacles powerful enough to tear open a ship.
    • The Giant Octopus has eight tentacles that can grapple and damage opponents.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: This Stock Phrase is used by Erich Reinhardt in the adventure "Prisoner of the Reich" in the Secrets of the Surface World supplement.
  • Creepy Centipedes: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth
    • The Arthropleura is 6 foot long, has 50 pairs of legs and a vicious bite.
    • The giant centipede grows up to ten feet long and two feet wide and has a pair of forcipules (poison-injecting pincers).
  • Dash Attack: A character or creature may make a Charge attack, which involves making a normal move and using a Melee or Brawl attack on an enemy.
  • Dead Man Writing: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The journal of Professor Alexander Trader details his exploration of the Hollow Earth. The journal was found abandoned: Professor Trader's fate is unknown. Near the end of the journal it says:
    If you are reading this, then all is lost for me, and I most certainly have already shuffled off this mortal coil. My life will not have been in vain, however, if this journal makes it to those who can appreciate my discoveries.
  • Diesel Punk: Downplayed. There are some crazy inventions, but rather than trying to be anachronistic or just building modern machines with 30s' tech, it's instead superscience straight from pulp magazines. It's also relatively rare and always outlandish, rather than commonplace and fully practical.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Any character with the Reckless Driver skill in the Secrets of the Surface World supplement.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: One of the sample characters is a superintelligent chimp who disbelieves in a Surface World.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: A person wearing a flamethrower is a potential walking bomb if gunfire hits the flamethrower.
  • Food Pills: Nutrient Pills, a possible Artifact Resource in the Secrets of the Surface World supplement.
  • For Science!: One of the most likely motivations for Academics. The motivation for the mad variety.
  • Fungus Humongous
    • Main rules. One of the more exotic surface terrain types in the Hollow Earth is forests of towering mushrooms.
    • Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. Moletown is the underground cave city of the Molemen. The cave that holds the Temple of the Worm has huge forests of phosphorescent fungi, and the fungus farm has fungi that achieve towering heights.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The giant crab can grow up to 25 feet long and has claws that are six feet long.
  • Giant Spider: One type of monster PCs can encounter inside the Hollow Earth are giant meat-eating arachnids that are 10 feet long (not including the legs). They hunt like normal spiders, injecting a paralyzing poison with their bite and cocooning the prey to eat later.
  • Giant Squid: Kraken are 100 foot long 40 ton squids powerful enough to capsize ships and eat their crews. They can also drag a ship deep underwater and let the pressure and lack of air do their dirty work for them.
  • God Guise: Titans sometimes pose as gods in order to receive offerings (food, water etc.) from primitive tribes. They are helped in this trickery by the fact that an adult titan is twice as tall as a human, and an old titan can be as much as thirty feet tall.
  • Great White Hunter: One of the most commonplace archetype for combat-oriented characters, to the point where example character creation is dedicated to making one of those. After all, who else would you expect in a setting where dinos and megafauna are commonplace and far more deadly than any contemporary game?
  • Healing Factor: The game has several versions of this.
    • All creatures inside the Hollow Earth heal at twice the normal rate. People have gone to sleep severely injured and woken up completely healed.
    • Anyone with the Quick Healer talent heals at twice the normal rate. This benefit is cumulative with the Hollow Earth healing bonus above, for a total benefit of healing at four times the normal rate.
    • Lizardmen can regenerate damaged organs and lost limbs. A finger takes a week, an eye or other small organ in two weeks, and a tail, arm or leg in five weeks. This benefit is cumulative with the above examples.
    • Inhabitants of Shangri-La heal at four times the rate of the surface world, and anyone who spends a year there will have lost limbs begin to regenerate and birth defects disappear.
  • Hollow World: The main setting of the game.
  • Horn Attack: Creatures that attack with their horns/antlers include the Triceratops, aurochs, "Giant Unicorn" (a huge rhinoceros), Irish Elk (a giant deer) and wooly rhinoceros. The supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth adds the Pentaceratops and Styracosaurus (which are similar to Triceratops), the Pelorovis (similar to the aurochs) and the Brontotherium (another rhinoceros-like animal), as well as normal (surface world) animals such bulls, deer and rhinoceroses.
  • House System: Ubiquity, a dice pool system based on counting evens.
  • Human Sacrifice: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The Sun God priests in the city of El Dorado cut the hearts out of sacrifices with a razor sharp quartz knife, then hold them up while they're still beating.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. Cannibals hunt, kill and eat human beings. Molemen will capture and eat humans who intrude into Moletown and those who encounter their hunting parties on the surface.
  • Island Base: If a character has the Resource of Refuge 5 they have a secret island base with everything they could want.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: The Jack of All Trades skill in the Secrets of the Surface World supplement.
  • Jet Pack: This is an Artifact Resource in the main rules and the Secrets of the Surface World supplement. It has a speed of 100 m.p.h. If the wearer carries another person, top speed is cut in half and maneuverability is reduced.
  • Kill It with Fire: Subverted. Warmth wakes up Antarctic horrors.
  • Lost World: Dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts, such as Cenozoic mammals and giant Paleozoic arthropods, abound in the Hollow Earth.
  • Mad Scientist: The game explicitly differs between regular Academics doing research and obsessive Scientists that try to "prove something". And then are those various eggheads who Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • Megalodon: One of the most dangerous predators in the seas of the Hollow Earth is the megalodon, a shark that's more than 100 feet long and weighs more than 50 tons. They feed on whales and plesiosaurs, but avoid attacking the kraken.
  • The Men in Black: The Paranormal Investigator archetype in the Secrets of the Surface World supplement.
  • Monowheel Mayhem: The Wheelbike in the Weird Science chapter of the Secrets of the Surface World supplement.
  • Mama Bear: Main rules sample adventure. When the PCs first arrive in the Hollow Earth they will encounter a herd of Triceratops, including a mother and her child. If the PCs get too close the mother will charge them, and if they attack the child she will become enraged.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: One of easiest ways of getting beneth the surface is using one of the polar shafts and a lot of weird things is going on surface of Earth around both poles thanks to said shafts.
  • Noble Savage: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. There are entire tribes of this character type in the Hollow Earth. They are regal and wise, respecting nature and trying to maintain the ecological balance of the area where they live.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The pirate city of Bloody Bay is ruled by a cruel and heartless tyrant who overthrew the previous Pirate King. This has led to an atmosphere of paranoia and chaos in the streets, with violence rising to ten times previous levels.
  • Pirate: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. Pirates are a distinct culture in the Hollow Earth. They sail everything from Roman triremes to 18th century galleons.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: The Secrets of the Surface World supplement mentions an Amazon rainforest wasp which has a sting with venom so caustic it causes 2nd degree burns.
  • Power Pincers: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. Giant scorpions, an aquatic scorpion-like animal called Pterygotus, and the giant crab.
  • Pulp Magazine: Source of aesthetics and the main idea behind the game and its setting.
  • Raygun Gothic: 30s superscience is one of the basis for the more outlandish gear and plots going.
  • Remote yet Vulnerable: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. When a shaman uses the Spirit Journey ritual their spiritual self leaves their body and travels through the spirit world. If their spirit spends too long away their body will waste away and die, stranding them there.
  • Scary Scorpions: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth:
    • Giant scorpions are the size of a horse and have a paralyzing sting that can take down a Brontotherium.
    • The Pterygotus is a 6 foot long aquatic scorpion with large spiked claws and a flipper tail instead of a sting.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: an ancient, corrupt Atlantean featured in Frozen City of Terror.
  • Shout-Out: Too many calls to pulp magazines and various Two-Fisted Tales works in just the basic rulebook to make a coherent, exhaustive list. Just the example characters alone include shout-outs to The Lost World, King Kong, Indiana Jones (or more specifically, Relic Hunter) Tintin (twice), The Mummy and even Ghostbusters.
  • Slaying Mantis: The Hollow Earth has giant mantises the size of a large horse. They will attack any creature up to their own size, lashing out with their forelegs at blinding speed.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The Hermit will guide lost travelers to the edge of the Northern twilight region so they can return to the surface world. If after taking a few steps to the south they turn and look back, he will have mysteriously disappeared.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Panzerkampfkruppen are basically Nazi AT-STs (the mini walkers from Star Wars).
  • Super Spit: Mysteries of the Hollow Earth supplement. Lizardman characters have poisonous saliva. They can learn the Venom Spitting skill, which allows them to spit their saliva up to 10 feet away.
  • Survivor Guilt: One of the sample characters in the basic rulebook is a Lost Traveller, a man who by pure luck and chance became last man alive of his (pretty large) expedition. He's half-mad from guilt over the fact, as prior to the expedition, he was a complete nobody-drag-along and yet outlived all the experts and specialists.
  • Sword Cane: A favorite weapon of evil masterminds and the nobility, the sword portion was equivalent to a rapier.
  • Tastes Like Chicken: In the Mysteries of the Hollow Earth supplement, Professor Trader's journal says that the dinosaur Compsognathus tastes "not unlike chicken".
  • Troperiffic: The whole damn point of making the game was to riff constantly on various cliches and tropes associated with pulp fiction, while in the same time deliver a playable and engaging game.
  • Two-Fisted Tales: The Game. The main idea behind creating HEX was to write a game with mechanics supporting fast, action-packed style of Two Fisted Tales and let people have their own adventures somewhere between The Lost World (1912) and Indiana Jones. Worked so well, even if the setting and its premise is ignored, the game can still easily maintain pulpy adventure feeling.
  • Translator Microbes: Supplement Secrets of the Surface World. When the Atlantean language is spoken properly it can be understood by any sapient being that hears it as though it had been spoken in their native tongue. In other words, it's a language that translates itself.
  • Universal Driver's License:
    • Drive skill cover a wide range of vehicles, from motorcycles, through buses and ending with tanks, with the logic that as long as it moves over ground and is engine-powered, you just need to get your hands on steering and make it go. And you can pick further specialisation in given type for making it even easier to operate them.
    • Subverted with Pilot skill, which demands specialisation in a given type of vehicles, but it covers even wider range of transport types, including things like submarines, hot-air balloons, drilling tanks and more. Each vehicle type demands buying a separate skill.
  • Walking the Earth: Secrets of the Surface World supplement. The Wandering Hero archetype is a monk from China who wanders the Earth fighting against injustice and helping people.
  • Weakened by the Light: Supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The Flaw of Albinism causes anyone who has it to take one point of non-lethal damage per hour they spend in direct sunlight.
  • Weather-Control Machine: In the city of Atlantis, the Vril-ya priests can use the Great Crystal to control the weather, including calling down lightning strikes.
  • Weird Science: It's the 30s. The recent leaps in science and new discoveries made each day are further fuelled by all those Mad Scientists and their outlandish claims, along with fully functional prototypes. How weird things are? Piloting by default has a speciality in drilling machines. You know, those giant boretanks to get under the crust of Earth.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: A character who knows the Atlantean language and has the talent Atlantean Power Words can order opponents by using one word commands in Atlantean. If he has the Atlantean Commands talent as well he can issue complex multi-word commands.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: There is a time dilation effect inside the Hollow Earth that causes time to pass at a slower rate than in the surface world. Because of this, dinosaurs that became extinct on the surface millions of years ago still exist in the Hollow Earth.

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