The blog schedule is going to hell in a handbasked – blame it on the summer, blame it on Christmas out of season.
I’ve been spending a few (well, quite a few) hours with the PDF version of Revelations of Mars, the new supplement for Hollow Earth Expeditions, currently the standalone pulp roleplaying game, and one of my special shelf games.
Oh, don’t get me wrong – I am a pulp fan and I have here on my shelf most if not all pulp games, both current and old, and in each one of them I find at least a nugget of awesomeness.
Being a Savage Worlds monkey, Thrilling Tales is my default pulp handbook (and the two Pulp companions are always close at hand), and I did love Whte Wolf’s criminally underrated Adventure!.
Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes? Got that.
The Masterbook Indiana Jones game? Got that too.
And yes, obviously Spirit of the Century.
But right here and now, were I to pick a single pulp game to play for the rest of my life – the ideal desert island pulp rpg would be HEX.
The rules are simple but deep, the artwork is wonderful, and each handbook actually expands the setting, creating a whole new game1.
And now, you can get to Mars, too.
So, what are we talking about?
A 200+ pages sourcebook detailing a very Burroughs-esque Martian setting.
Mars is an ancient planet where a decadent civilization (a few decadent civilizations, actually) try to survive.
As simple as that.
And mind you, this is not John Carter’s Mars with a different set of plates.
Exactly as with the previous volumes, the authors (Jeff Combos, M. Sechin Tower, Brannon Boren, plus a few helpers) have been able to balance familiarity with originality.
This is Mars as in the old Burroughs novels, but not exactly that Mars – just as the Hollow Earth in the core manual was a lot like Pellucidar, but it was not Pellucidar.
This is no minor detail – it means you can hook both pulp planetary romance aficionados and neophites, and there will be a lot of unexpected goodness for both to discover.
It means the players get a fresh new world to explore and to make their own, while still getting a lot of references and suggestions and stuff that…
my goodness, this is just like in the books!
Structurally, we get an opening story, an introduction, and nine solid chapters detailing Characters, Supernatural Powers, Equipment, Vehicle Combat, Martian Natives, the Red Planet, Atlanteans, Friends & Enemies (NPCs), and a Bestiary.
We get a lot of great swashbuckling, Flash Gordon-like characters (we get both two-fisted athletes and rocket scientists), a full overview of the Martian civilization, and more weird critters than you can shake a stick at… and you probably will.
Lost cities and mysterious ruins?
Canals and city-states?
And yes, we get four-armed, red-headed, green-skinned Martian princesses with filigree-like golden tattoos – because this game is that good.
The handbook is rounded up by a scenario and an appendix about planetary romance that will probably drain my piggy bank in the next few months.
As anyone familiar with the setting will have already caught, the Mars book connects neatly with the other volumes in the series through Atlantean science and mysteries. And there’s more, much more than that – we catch a glimpse of Atlantean politics, and what not.
The text is clear, the layout is simple and effective, the artwork is excellent, and the contents are a smash.
Not only there’s good stuff in this book, but there’s a lot of great stuff, and it builds on previous handbooks to expand the universe, to clear some old mysteries and to provide some new mysteries to investigate.
Revelations of Mars was produced thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and there’s a full list of backers in the book (hey, that’s me right there!). The pdf edition of the handbook feels to me like Christmas in June… and now I’ll wait for the print version.
Getting on the Revelations of Mars Kickstarter was probably the best way to spend my research scholarship (ok, a small part of it), and now that investment is paying.
Revelations of Mars – just like the whole HEX line – is highly recommended.
- there’s also a French grab-bag-like handbook, called Raiders of Adventure, and it is simply amazing. ↩