Running X1 Isle of Dread

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James C. Bennett
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Joined: 2012-01-17 20:17
Running X1 Isle of Dread

I am prepping to run X1 Isle of Dread in ACKS and have some questions for those of you who have already tried this.

How did you model the Wall?

As-written, I calculate it has a stronghold value of 13,662,500 gp, 1,870,880 shp, and a unit capacity of 1560, and it can control a domain of up to 427 6-mile hexes (and that's without modeling the tar-pit moat!). It's a good thing for the natives that AXIOMS 3 got rid of stronghold upkeep costs! I have no idea what to do with this. Is it unassailable because its shp is so high, or is it undefendable because of its huge unit capacity? At least it's tall enough to keep the dinosaurs out.

How did you model the domains, settlements, markets, and strongholds?

I'm leaning towards making Seven Villages it a wilderness realm with tribal warriors. The ruler's domain will be based in Tanaroa, with vassal realms based in each other village. Other than Tanaroa, each domain will consist of 1 6-mile hex with 125 rural families. Each of the villages will be a Class V settlement. There will be trails, not roads, connecting the villages on the Tanaroa penninsula. 

I have no idea what to do about native strongholds. I calculate the hill-wall-pyramid structure in Tanaroa as 108,000 cubic feet of earthen rampart, which would give it a stronghold value of 18,000 gp, 5400 shp, and a unit capacity of 28.8. That's not big enough to control a wilderness hex, and too big to defend for a population that can only muster one unit. The most efficient stronghold to secure a 6-mile wilderness hex with one unit is a medium round tower (22,500gp) with 9500gp of zero-unit-capacity extras (say battlements [315gp], stone roof and floors throughout [628gp], wooden stairs [80gp for 4 flights], arrow slits on 3 levels [360gp for 12 per level], and a secret reinforced wooden door that leads to a flight of wooden stairs that descends to a 40' x 40' dungeon level [8120gp total]). That doesn't sound very tribal though. 

In addition, I'm changing the pirate camp in hex 7 to the recently-founded 4-hex realm of a pirate king, with a Tortuga-style class IV pirate town to civilize it (after a fashion). I'm changing the rocs' roost in hex 16 to the ancient, secret 1-hex domain of an order of mystics who guard a sacrosanct pinnacle of good (the pinnacle civilizes the hex). I'm changing hexes 9, 10, 11, & 12 to rival beastman clanholds, some of which may cover more than one hex. Finally, I'm making the central plateau a chaotic realm where snake-man nobles rule over lizard-man peasants and human slaves from the ruins of an ancient city.

Did you add any dungeons or other points of interest to the island? If so, what? 

Sice I want to start the character's shipwrecked on the island at 1st level, I'm going to place a low-level dungeon, probably based on the "destroy the zombie master" prompt from the X1 Appendix, somewhere near the Seven Villages. I'm also going to replace the encounters in most of the keyed hexes with more developed points of interest. Vignettes and simple lairs like the ones described in the module can be Dynamic POIs instead. 

Did you run it as a campaing or as a stand a lone adventure? If it was a campaign, what were the high-level conflicts you set up for the campaign? 

I'm runniing it as a campaign. Alex talks about his campaigns having a human political conflict that distracts from an encroaching supernatural conflict. My plan is for the Seven Villages to be in conflict over how to deal with the pirate king's realm bringing them into contact with civilized people. One faction wants to embrace civilization and trade. The other wants to destroy the pirates and cut off all contact with the civilized world. To do so, they are trying to change the realm's religion. The islanders currently worship the Sea Gods, a small pantheon of relatively benign (but still Chaotic) nature spirits. The anti-Civilization faction wants their people to instead beseech the savage, brutal Jungle Gods (Serpent, Spider, Ape, and Toad, who are worshipped by the humanoids beyond the Wall) to help them destroy the civilized folk. Meanwhile, the snake-men are working on some sort of ritual magic which will give them the powaer to finally conquer the rest of the Island.


koewn's picture
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Joined: 2012-07-17 20:11

FYI: there is a Conversions forum a bit down-screen, it was hidden for a while. Up to you.


What about having the mounds/hill be somewhat hollowed out for more of a "keep" structure? Perhaps the natives piled earth up against older ruins left by the wall-builders? Looks like the mound is listed as "faced with stone slabs", I'm guessing that's as in the slabs are laid up against the angle of the mound? May add some SHP. Do a GIS for "Cahokia Mounds", then imagine those were habitable underneath.


Would the natives have the capacity to utilize one or more of the towers as the stronghold for the village? At least around the gate? Are they usable towers or just cyclopean decoration?

FWIW, I've done some backporting of the various stronghold structure values (so as to be able to more closely calculate costs/SHP for ad-hoc shapes) and if each tower is treated as a 100' square by 70' tall keep (i.e. the math I'm using is derived from the Keep, Square values) each tower comes out to about 105,000gp with ~21,000 SHP, garrisoning ~21 units. Two of those towers (around the gate) could control .. 7 wilderness hexes, ignoring for the moment they don't have the troops to do so. I'd assume they'd be treated as "impregnable" (D@W:C 82) at the least, and any of the factions on the board would be hard-pressed to gather enough units to do anything about even just two of the towers.

...if the towers were functional towers, and it seems there's 28 of them over the two mile stretch, there's a lot of room for little dungeons in each. Or under the wall - what if it's hollow on the inside? 50ft thick leaves a lot of room. That'd cause the natives, if using them, to heavily barricade the towers they cannot use.

Since I'm staring at the map, the tar pits look like they'd be more functional if at least some of them went -across- the roads, maybe with some rickety bamboo suspension bridge - they also ought to have a pair or more of them going across inbetween the gate towers. In case of gate breach, cut the bridges, light up the tar.

I dig everything you've modified for the sandbox elements of the place. The pirate domain especially - there's a lot of ways that can get played out if the characters try to do a lot of back-and-forth for trade or other purposes (selling high-value loot).



The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

When I ran ISLE OF DREAD, I didn't attempt to model any of it using ACKS domains. I hadn't written the Tribal Warriors rules yet, and in any case my players were more interested in the King Kong aspect of it than in colonization and rule. 

What might make sense is to divide the wall up into segments, and then assign segments of the wall to the various tribal domains as their "stronghold", the idea being that all threats in the island come from north of the wall, and bigger, stronger tribes control bigger sections of the wall. The rest of the wall is uncontrolled and unpatrolled (like most of the wall in Game of Thrones).


koewn's picture
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There'd certainly be a social and economic boon for the tribe that controlled the gate, in that case, as well.

The Dark
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Joined: 2013-07-05 19:55

Perhaps a wise earlier tribal leader decided that all tribes would contribute to the gate, while also being responsible for their section of the wall?