Saturday Seed ~ 143 (Hollow Earth Expedition)

This week’s seed is for Hollow Earth Expedition in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Exile Game Studio.  As the company made the core rule book available for free on Valentine’s Day as a part of passing this milestone, this seed will be pitched somewhat toward starting characters in a one-shot, introductory session.

My Saturday Seeds also reappear on Ancient Scroll on random Saturdays~

The seed

The seed is built around the idea that the characters have been rounded up with numerous other foreigners and people of unusual or suspicious character in a hot, dusty, and not altogether welcoming corner of the world. This collection of the usual suspects is often just a shakedown for bribes but this time seems to concern a whole lot more.

Planting the seed

The seed is appropriate for a group of beginning characters far from home, with the willingness to involve themselves in helping others, the enthusiasm to volunteer, and the devilish luck and charm to survive their own dangerous altruism.

The Details

A notorious local criminal has been murdered. Once known for running in the black market for antiquities, being a ‘procurer for hire,’ and for occasionally dabbling in high-end forgeries this criminal used to be considered an amusing distraction for the authorities. For some younger officers, he was almost like a Robin Hood figure, robbing from the foolish explorers and arrogant scholars that pass through, and giving to… bar tenders mostly. In more recent years, however, he has become associated with expeditions that go out into the desert where only he returns and that sort of activity worries the government who uses the sale of research rights to their own ends. The victim’s motivations for these death expeditions are unclear, but many wish to believe that it is because he does not want to see the tombs and lost cities of his homeland plundered to become dusty attractions in foreign museums and sideshows. Others, of course, see him as a vulture of the desert, leading men out to their deaths, and picking their corpses clean. In truth, the only thing keeping him from a firing squad is a lack of truly compelling evidence, and the suspicion that he holds information suitable for a devastating black mail attack on the head of the police.

Famous for unstable relations with its neighbors, this small desert country (of your design or choice) often closes its borders and cancels entry and exit visas. Just recently it has once again closed its borders to all traffic, trapping many international travelers, and putting pressure on local traders. The murder took place not long after this edict went into effect, so it is presumed that the guilty party or parties are likewise trapped.

The murdered man was known to keep an extensive coded notebook of his exploits, contacts, and acquisitions. The notebook was not recovered but one torn page from it was found hidden in his mouth by the medical examiner – folded carefully and tucked between his cheek and his teeth. Although damp, the coded entry was still legible but so far indecipherable. The only clue to its contents seems to be a small icon at the top of the page which looks like a treasure map: a rectangular border with a dotted line crossing it to a large X.

Searching the area, the authorities have uncovered what they believe to be one if the victim’s bolt holes. Within are an extensive collection of small items that ‘belong in a museum’ as well as a large collection of regional maps depicting and/or dating to a variety of periods. The authenticity of these items needs to be checked, and an accurate catalog of the maps – and any that might be missing – needs to be produced. For some reason, the authorities seem reluctant to involve local academics in this process.

Needing to demonstrate swift action in the death of a well-known local, the authorities are pressing hard with the investigation and rumor among expats has it that they are not above pinning a crime on a believable suspect quickly and finally, while continuing a more circumspect and authentic investigation in the background. Many of the other ‘usual suspects’ are doing their best to appear as helpful as possible to avoid the fate of a show trial and a very real execution.

What is going on

Someone has stolen the book of coded notes, and very likely stolen a map of some significance as well. A map to what? From where?

If this were my tale, I might have the map lead to a tomb reported to contain legendary wealth and a truly horrific curse. The victim has cheated death on numerous occasions seeking the true location of this tomb, but the expeditions with which he traveled did not fare so well. As more and more death follows his actions, his devil-may-care attitude has hardened, leaving him bitter and obsessed. Needing to justify all the lost lives by finally finding the tomb, breaking the curse, and bringing the treasures within to light for the enrichment of the nation – both culturally and economically. Now in death, only one piece of coded paper points the way…


The local authorities do not want to involve other local experts in their investigation and have intentionally rounded up as many foreign experts and ‘adventurers’ as they can – grilling them extensively about the history of the area, desert expeditions, antiquities, cryptography, cartography, and archaeology. They imply that safe passage from the territory will be just one of the rewards for the successful recovery  of the book and map, or the successful prevention of whatever act of archaeological crime the murderer is contemplating.

What could be out there worth killing to get a map for? What sort of place must it be if no one wishes to share knowledge of its location? Can the local authorities be trusted in their offer of passage out of the country in exchange for helping them break through the veil of mystery over this murder?

Will someone get crushed by a rolling rock?



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