Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Year on the Isle of Dread

Each Tuesday this past school year, while I ran Dwimmermount (using D&D 5th ed. rules), my older daughter led a table of classmates through an exploration of The Isle of Dread.

Over 35 years of D&D, I’ve run more groups through this timeworn, old classic than any other published module except Keep on the Borderlands and The Forest Oracle, so I know the content well and enjoyed talking to her before each session and listening to her post-session debriefs.

What surprised me over the last 10 months (and 32 sessions) was how easily The Isle of Dread expands, lending itself to new adventures.  Sure you've quested after the legendary black pearl, encountered dinosaurs, befriended cat people, raided the pirates' hideout, and explored the lost temple, but did you know about these adventures:
  • "The Night Beast" begins to plague the isolated village of Mantru and the residents are afraid to venture far beyond their stockade.  It's up to the explorers to track the creature down and perhaps discover what its morlock masters really intend.
  • Black Tom Mudeye's treasure map (lifted from the One Page Dungeon contest) was recovered from a pirate's chest after the explorers crossed swords with him.  It leads past a variety of strange and dangerous locales to a hidden hoard.
  • It turns out that Cannibal Island (one of the locations on Black Tom's map) is actually inhabited by a tribe of tropical, pacifist halflings (inspired by the Pygmies from Smallworld: Be Not Afraid).  But when slave raiders begin taking the little people captive, the explorers step in.  Little do they imagine that the pyramid temple of  King Fingonata that dominates the isle is actually the dorsal spike of a slumbering shark-scorpion-squid-colossus, and when Fingonata smells blood, he begins to wake!
  • Sea zombies, revenants from Black Tom's old crew, begin to unerringly stalk the explorers--they can't rest until the pirate gold is theirs again!
  • Once the cannibal cultists of the original adventure's Taboo Island are routed, the cthonic cobra-people they once held in check begin slithering to the surface
  • When the explorers opt not to try and bring a dino back alive, a rival party makes its own bungling attempts, stealing a T-rex egg.  The angry momma will pop up over the next 10 episodes at the worst possible times!
  • Zoinks!  The party's magic-user has gotten sick with some exotic disease that's beginning to turn her into a troglodyte! (this also explains where all the trogs on the north end of the island came from--they are survivors of shipwrecks marooned on The Isle of Dread)  Chief Atlanta of Tanaroa knows that the seed pod of the watuchi vine can cure the suffering spellcaster, but those only grow on Hippogriff Isle to the west.  How will the explorers bypass the ancient, overgrown stone golems guarding that island from all intrusion and climb to the heights where the watuchi flower and grow?
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  • Escorting missionaries and supplies to Mantru, the explorers probably should have been a lot more careful with that box of potions ... but when they dropped it, the potions mixed and now the party has been shrunk to the size of ants!  They must scavenge and improvise what gear they can before searching out the camel-cricket sage who can tell them how to break the spell ... but what price will she demand?
  • The cat-people of the southern plains have always been territorial, but now they've shifted their hunting grounds south to the Great Wall at Tanaroa and they've begun treating expeditions into the interior as trespassers.  Why and what's to be done about it (hint: spider-dudes)?
  • Through a speak with animals spell, the great roc of the eastern cliffs explains that its nesting site has been raided by nocturnal creatures who are unusually adept at hiding among the crags.  Will the explorers help?
  • The Bone-Giver neanderthal tribe is friendly, but ravaging hydras have kept them pinned in their caves.  Will the explorers honor the old alliance and come to the rescue?
  • What?  Those kopru were just lackadaisical sentries ... it turns out that there is an entire empire of the beasties slumbering dormant in a vast, subterranean city below the island.
  • Warriors serving The Sea King, a four-armed sea-devil of immense size, have captured a mermaid princess and her finmaids.  Using magic to breathe in the deeps, the characters strike out across the ocean floor to rescue her in this adaptation of Citadel of Evil.
  • Furious at having his watery fane defiled, The Sea King assembles a sea-devil army and strikes out for Tanaroa, intent on exterminating the landlings once and for all.  The explorers must work with Chief Atlanta to organize a defense before the enemy army wades out of the deeps!

It's nuts how easily The Isle of Dread just kept triggering new adventure hooks.
My daughter will likely run something in a different location starting in September (there's been talk of sketching her own megadungeon), but I'm confident that if she wanted to return to the Isle for another 30 sessions that there would be plenty of adventure waiting.