Isles on an Emerald Sea / Sea Lords
by Gabor Lux
“So many worlds! It has been said of the seas that there are no two isles alike in them, and ten lives would not be enough to map them all. Although this saying is questioned by many, it is certain that he who embarks on a sea voyage sets sail towards lost empires, megalomaniacal tyrants and ancient ruins. Among the isles, everything and everything’s opposite is possible. This module contains the maps and descriptions of five major isle realms, several lesser islands and a handful of marine encounters. And those who would prevail over all: they are none other than Sea Lords!”
Description and contents: A collection of adventure modules centred on a lost civilisations theme. Serialised in Knockspell Magazine as Isles on an Emerald Sea and collected in the Hungarian as A Tengerek Urai (Sea Lords). The overlap is imperfect, as the former has not yet been concluded, while the latter lacks two major islands which will probably have to go into a sequel or separate collection. The whole series includes:
The Isle of Birds: “A bare realm of two great rock piles and surrounding shallows on the Sea of Emerald Idols: this is the Isle of Birds, where castaways have died in lament and curse. Some ran ashore on the reefs, which are treacherous and swarming with giant crabs; others were sent here by malefices or curses to perish so far from human help. Yet those who are courageous and cunning may win free – and even gain treasure and knowledge in the bargain. The Isle of Birds is so named for a multitude of chattering seagulls who nest in the rocks and hunt in the sea; but also the great roc that makes its lair on top of the taller outcropping.”
The Isle of Arsinoi: “The domain of the goddess is now quietly gone, the villas faded pink ruins, the halcyon glades possessed of gentle melancholy. In ponderous decay, parklands have turned into a wilderness, where the only common inhabitants are quail and packs of feral dogs. Here and there are old remains of human habitation, from decorative busts to bucolic retreats.”
The Isle of Barzon: “Power on the world of Fomalhaut takes many forms, from pragmatic appeals to human self interest to naked coercion. The worship of divine beings can manifest in either of these sterile extremes, as well as a dozen varieties between the two: there are as many specific arrangements as there are gods. Yet the power of gods (who, like all of us, should themselves be entitled to the right to act in accordance with their own welfare) more often than not serves the weal of their direct subordinates before their worshippers – or, it is said, the gods themselves. So it was on the Isle of Barzon, a small island ruled by an empire not much larger…”
The Isle of Armul Urthag: “Power can make gods of men: for what else is a great hero who can stand against an army? Yet power can also make gods of monsters, and there are few things more dangerous: for by magnifying the power, the ability to do evil without restraints is also increased. By this ability, the vampire lord Armul Urthag rules over men as men rule over wild beasts; emerging at night from his unvanquishable tower, he drinks their blood as it pleases him.”
The Isle of Molonei: “Where now only the shadows of pterodactyls sweep, there stood fabulous Molonei, a utopian refuge of refined hedonists. Now the city is a tangle of fantastic ruins and the inhabitants have retreated under the mountains, leaving behind the open air for the security of their temple and the plenty of their munificent god. … Molonei’s people have grown fewer over the last generations, leaving behind even the strange customs that were a shadowy side to their easygoing nature: inviting and warm, their greeting is ‘Come, come with us in beauty and abundance, while the sun burns and the gods give’.”
The Isles of the Ur-Stones: “So it came that Dodekabyros the master mage, bored with the tedium of power and attendant immortality, turned his attention to a new, ambitious project. With his force-globe and destructive spells, he enslaved the stone age civilisation inhabiting the archipelago near his tower, then started to put his extravagant ideas into motion.” Isle chain of natives involved in a genocidal war – and someone who likes to play God is pulling the strings.
The Isle of Diaphane: To be written for a subsequent Knockspell issue. Fallen utopia of peaceful goddess now haunted by her memories.
Design notes: A series that has given me a lot of pleasure in writing, running and then again writing it. Island-based campaigns offer a lot of latitude in populating a game region with a series of colourful but only tangentially related scenarios, and this time was no different. From the random odyssey of the player characters (who had been cast here after an improperly worded command to a powerful Underworld spirit in the finest homage to Eyes of the Overworld) emerged a powerful sequence of adventures mostly in the spirit of Clark Ashton Smith and Leigh Brackett. I am generally proud of the economical prose, and especially of The Isle of Barzon, which is just a very open-ended and tightly written scenario with themes going back to Systema Tartarobasis. The Isle of Armul Urthag is a reflection on Geoffrey McKinney’s excellent if troubling Carcosa campaign (also echoed in Isles of the Ur-Stones), while The Isle of Molonei has the distinction of being a dungeon module designed entirely by improvisation (a Referee who would like his or her players to spend more time in the locale should do some expansion, probably linking in the now underdeveloped overworld areas).
Other highlights of the Isles campaign segment include a multi-session expedition into the ruined labyrinth-city of Immah Wel (using a Fomalhautian redesign of The Tomb of the Bull King, a great Mazes&Minotaurs dungeon by Carlos de la Cruz Morales), Giant Death Crabs of Doom (well-armoured and deadly opponents from the depths of the sea) as well as intrigue and deception in the city state of Khonón.
Where to get it:
Knockspell #1 (The Isle of Birds, The Isle of Arsinoi, misc.)
Knockspell #2 (The Isle of Barzon, The Isle of Armul Urthag, misc.)
Knockspell #4 (The Isle of Molonei, misc.)
Knockspell #6 (Isles of the Ur-Stones, Debris of the Sea)
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