Though I didn’t get anything accomplished creatively over the weekend while vacationing, I did bring along my copy of TSR’s X1: The Isle of Dread. I’d been thinking about it lately because of its inclusion of dinosaurs and because of the island setting generally. Way back at Cavecon, I shared that I’d like to see and had been considering writing up an S&W based game or oceanic setting, not quite Ruins & Ronin but something like Polynesia meets Fantasy. Fantesia? Maybe seeing Grégory’s tank and dinosaur hybrids brought it up for me again.
X1 is jam packed with mini-adventures. Among many other things, it gives a nod to Haiti and zombie masters, has a roof-top village that reminds me of the wookie home planet or the moon of Endor, and has a partially flooded dungeon beneath a temple. Its dinosaurs brought to mind the Land of the Lost as a kid, but also King Kong. And of course, it has pirates. The need for the art of diplomacy might suddenly seem obvious to your players in an island setting like this, especially if it’s something they’ve never cultivated before.
As great as the module is in different ways, above all I think both as player and DM it brought to my attention just how compelling islands are as adventure settings. There you have the unknown in every way - do the natives speak our language? Are they friendly and what gods do they worship or magic know? What strange never before seen creatures or dangers may lurk there… Has civilization as we know it even reached it yet?
From a DM’s point of view, each island can be a campaign itself - their self-contained nature lends themselves to this. There’s no naturalistic urge to link one island to another in quite the same way as with mainland cultures, races, or otherwise. Like the potentially unique character of a dungeon, the island stands apart. Here we can find strange variations on the familiar, like giant creatures long since extinct on the mainland, or perhaps we’ll find a portal to another time, or alien technology or aliens themselves. Islands are like planets that way, just floating in space waiting to be explored.
Preparing to Descend
4 hours ago