Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dinosaur Hunt on Venus; Or, More Civilized Times?

"Are you saying that is a Buddhist dinosaur?"

You can't make quotes like that up! Now imagine that being said by a military scientist with a German accent. Welcome to Space: 1889!

At Con of the North this year, I ran six hours of Ubiquity-based Space: 1889 gaming. The PDF of the new RPG from Chronicle City isn't out yet, so we reverse engineered everything for "Dinosaur Hunt on Venus" from Hollow Earth Expedition and Leagues of Adventure.

I was going to run two linked adventures - one set on Venus and another on Mars - but I opted to run the Venus adventure twice. I used to think that sort of thing was cheating - and, well, inauthentic since it breaks verisimilitude (the logic being, "if you do it twice it's not real") - but I actually kind of enjoy seeing the different directions groups take with a story.

The first version of the scenario was for a two hour game slot. The players were four adults and one child - a boy of about eight. It was really fun. I started out with a brief exposition about how the Victorians traveled between worlds in Space: 1889. As the veterans know, etherflyers use solar powered steam boilers to drive a propellers through the ether. As I explained this, the eight year old had a look on his face like "this dude is crazy, that's not how things work in space!" He obviously knew his science.

This wasn't your everyday dinosaur hunt in the jungles of Venus either. One of the PCs had a secret mission. He was a Lao royal pretender of the Setthatirath lineage, and sought to secure a dinosaur egg during the hunt in order to bring it back to Laos and hatch it. His family's thinking was that having hold of a Nak-like reptilian creature would lend great legitimacy and prestige to their leadership claims. The prince brought a trusted Hmong hunter along to help with his secret mission.

One fun part of the wind-up to the actual hunt was that the eight year old, who was playing the Big Game Hunter (a key character, as he has an elephant gun), wanted to get a riding tiger for the expedition. The party encountered such a beast - albeit forlorn and bedraggled - in a zoological exhibition in Venusstadt, the German colonial capital in the still-sweltering highlands at Venus's northern pole. They paid the zookeeper to let them have it. So the kid got his riding tiger!

Janet Ausilio's illustration of the Martian Steppe Tiger

Soon thereafter, the party headed south by airship for the lowland shores. They found a brontosaurus and engaged it. These creatures are hard to kill! They have roughly 5-6x the Health Points of a human, and a thick hide which it is hard for bullets to penetrate. One needs an elephant gun, and if possible, explosives to go up against these creatures. But the party got their dinosaur and got their eggs.


The second iteration of the scenario was a four hour game. The party had more time to explore Venusstadt, and engaged in some intrigue involving the German intelligence services and a Russian Okhrana espionage cell using a French hotel as their base of operations. 

There was funny banter about the scene in the German airship officer's club:

-German military scientist PC: "Are there any intellectuals here?"

-GM: "There are a couple of officers reciting German Romantic poetry."

-German military scientist PC: "That's not what I meant!"

Herr Vogt, the expedition guide hired by the players, took them by airship to the Italian colony in the south. Here, the PCs made camp in the marsh, and turned in for the night. Herr Vogt was standing watch when he discovered a herd of brontosaurs perilously close to the camp; he tried to awaken the PCs, only to be rebuffed by one, and to be handed concussive explosives by the German scientist in an effort to "scare away" the great beast.

This ended poorly; Herr Vogt was trampled into the steaming Venusian bog by a mildly perturbed brontosaurus.

The PCs engaged the bronto, and were soon surprised to learn how much abuse a brontosaurus can take and still stay standing. But eventually PCs prevailed with a mix of conventional weaponry, explosives, and some improvisation based on classic hunting tools. In particular, the German military scientist's over-sized "boar spear" proved especially helpful in hampering the brontosaurus' movements, so that firepower could be concentrated upon it. The boar spear first had to be hammered into the creature for it to be truly effective as an impediment to the creature's movement! 

The PCs left the carcass to sit until morning, until pictures could be taken with their trophy. Then they began to hunt for dinosaur eggs. During their hunt, they encountered a seven headed serpentine species that was a dead ringer for a Nak. It seemed intelligent too. 

They tracked the creature to a lair in the forest. It's home was a stupa-like structure with a subterranean hatchery/incubator. This led to more adventures, including a massacre of lizard folk villagers living in proximity to the stupa, and a follow-on massacre of lizard folk who had come to relieve the besieged villages. 

Nak eggs were recovered from the stupa. The PCs narrowly escaped being slaughtered by angry Nak. The eggs were carefully packed for the etherflyer journey back to Earth. As the curtains drew to a close on the adventure, one egg's shell began to crack...


  1. Replies
    1. It was pretty fun. Ubiquity just delivers a good player experience for me. It has some crunch, with some Fate-like Style Points whose economy I have tuned to keep things pulpy.

  2. Wow. Sorry to have missed this game. It's great how you incorporated some Lao lore into things. Also like 'Venusstadt.' Nice touch.

    1. Venusstadt comes right from GDW!

    2. Still a nice touch.

      How does this Ubiquity system compare to Savage Worlds?

    3. I am embarrassed to say I have never run SW, although I do own some stuff for it. I suspect SW character builds go a lot faster than Ubiquity, at least judging by Jack Shear's frequent posts they look pretty clean, but both games have a reputation for being fast paced. SW uses several polyhedral dice types. Ubiquity works best with special Ubiquity dice.