Thursday, November 17, 2016

Commentary On The Kong: Skull Island Movie Trailer, Lost Worlds, The Isle Of Dread, & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Filled with prehistoric beasts, weird lost world tribes, incredible dangers, and wild random encounters Isle of Dread might come off as the latest Hollywood blockbuster but it's actually a classic 1981 adventure module.Much of its gaming DNA has lots in common with the latest trailer release for Kong:Skull Island as we'll see.

 So last night I went to go pick up the wife from the bus station, and I was able to keep on top of the newest Skull Island movie trailer. This looks very well done with an ensemble cast & a complete set up for the new Godzilla vs King Kong movie that is going to be up coming. This trailer set's everything up for the film but there's lots of details in this trailer in point of fact too many in my opinion. Between this and the first trailer, we almost get a good solid overview of the entire assembled movie. But there are details that really struck me as an old school dungeon master.

There are lots of things that jumped out at me but it was the wonderful piece of cartography that is shown in the trailer of Kong's Skull Island. The map seems very similar to one that I'd study for hours as a kid, the map of the Isle of Dread seems very similar in point of fact. There are lots points of interest in both lost world properties that can offer an old school DM some great adventure hex crawling fodder.

This map is the latest incarnation of Skull Island & ties in closely with the set up of the 2015 Godzilla movie.  "King Kong vs. Godzilla (キングコング対ゴジラ Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira?) is a 1962 Japanese science-fiction kaiju film featuring King Kong and Godzilla, produced and distributed by Toho. It is the third film in the Godzilla franchise and Showa series and the first of two Japanese-produced films featuring King Kong. It is also the first time both characters appeared on film in color and widescreen" This ties in with the land of monsters idea of the 'Monster Island' that was put forward in the Godzilla 60's, 70's, & 80's. The revival of the franchise ties in with the ideas that were put forward in the Isle of Dread in 1981;"The Isle of Dread is meant to introduce players and Dungeon Masters familiar with only dungeon crawl-style adventures to wilderness exploration.[4][5][6] As such, the adventure has only a very simple plot, even by the standards of its time.[7] The module has been described as a medium to high level scenario, which takes place on a mysterious tropical island divided by an ancient stone wall"  Simple plot, lots of factions of monsters & races, a much great threat, and an adventure location chuck full of random wilderness encounters. Basically I mentioned that the Isle of Dread is an adventure tool kit that can be customized as the DM sees fit.

This brings me back to the 1930's King Kong from which The Isle of Dread draws it's inspiration from,"Hundreds of miles from the mainland, surrounded by dangerous waters, lies an island known only as the Isle of Dread. Dark jungles and treacherous swamps await those who are brave enough to travel inland in search of the lost plateau, where the ruins of a once mighty civilization hold many treasures - and many secrets!" which sounds incredibly like Skull Island from the 1930's King Kong. How does this tie into Monster Island from Toho studios?

There's been much fan speculation over the years that both landmasses Skull Island & Monster Island once belonged to the same super continent that led to the fighting of both Godzilla's & King Kong's original species within their prehistoric world. This was something that the original Dell comic book speculated about way back in the 1960's.

One of the things that we never really see are the pulpy native factions who inhabit both Skull Island & Monster Island. These folks might be the remains of tribes Atlantis, MU, Lemuria or some other far older forgotten lost civilization. This is another commonality with the Isle of Dread. 
What makes the isle so unique is the number of small factions who exploit one another and the landscape all of the while back connecting everything around the pulpy elements of the adventure and yet it works in spades because of the attention to details that
David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay have infused in this module. This makes running an adventure a snap with the right resources.
A solid resource for running a campaign in this area issue #3 of Threshold magazine. This issue is titled The Sea of Dread and contains a virtual ton of information and twists about the region of the sea, everything you would want to know is in there about this area of the Sea of Dread. This resource contains the inhabitants of the area, articles on minor islands in the area, the pirates, raiders &  merchant princes of the sea, a ton of background material ready to drop into your game and much more. This issue clocks in at two hundred and forty eight pages of lost world goodness. This makes it a very nice lost world bit to connect into a Swords & Wizardry game or another retroclone system.

All of this can be back connected into a retroclone system such as Dark Albion which has some edges of the map begging for a lost world adventure. The ramifications of a lost world in Dark Albion would be monumental especially for the political & resource driven nature of a domain level game. Imagine the in fighting & murder plots such a land would cause during the Rose War of Dark Albion. The bodies would stack up like cord wood as the economic fall out causes chaos at court. This might be one of the prime reasons to have an NPC occultist like John Dee
whose library might contain a vital map, artifact text, or some other piece of occult knowledge vital to the voyage.

If we take the other worldly or occult aspect further we could take Isle of Dread as a 'Bermuda Triangle' style lost island this allows the DM to hook it up with a sword & sorcery game such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. An island of lost souls & castaways which has claimed hundreds of lives over the centuries and the PC's are the latest victims of the other dimensional forces. With only three days to go on the AS&SH second edition Kickstarter I've seen several DM's scrambling  to get a campaign together for the game. A mixed game such as Isle of Dread allows a mixed party of adventurers of all stripes working together towards the common goals of escaping the island and its faction or ruling it. Because AS&SH works very well with Dark Albion the retroclone tableau is fairly open for all kinds of cross retroclone setting mayhem.  Several of the AS&SH adventures could also be used to fill in details as needed.

To take the adult gonzo route even further the Island of Purple Haunted Putrescence by Venger Satanis might be an option for the far more enterprising dungeon master but check with your group of players first. You could add in a dash of Carcosa by Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Alpha Blue for further pulpy weirdness.

For me the Isle of Dread is the perfect vehicle for mixing in several retroclone style adventurers who must work together against the island, the factions, and the various hidden menaces which abound in this classic Eighties module of lost world goodness. This is a theme that we see running continuously through various 'lost world' films including Kong:Skull Island. At this point I'm all in.

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