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A Look At ... Monster Island, Part 2

Alex Greene


Last week, we began a look at Monster Island. Part 1 covered Chapters 1 through 4, covering the geography and geology of the island, its cultures, its hot nightclub scene, the hotel swimming pools and spas, the tourist spots, the bronze, four-armed, animated, female, Ray Harryhausen statues (you think I'm kidding? Check out page 112) and all the fun athletic activities you can get up to (climbing, running, more running, self-defence classes, Zumba, even more running ...).

The Rough Guide to Monster Island does not hold back. Lots of fun for everyone.


Within the actual volcanic caldera of the Ruaumoko volcano is an immense lingam-shaped rock of some purple-black metallic mineral, half buried under lava pumice. Its surface is covered with crude pictograms, images of men and serpents entwined in unholy mating, their scaled crossbreed offspring dancing about a burning mountain from which monsters erupt.

So now, this part covers the second half of the book, beginning with Campaigns, and specifically how to handle sandbox campaigns.

Playing In The Sandbox

Monster Island is designed for sandbox play.


A sandbox setting is one which lays out the geography, ecology, cultures and settlements of a region, then scatters it liberally with encounters and scenario ideas with which to tempt your players. It does not present a structured series of adventures, nor offer any order in which to perform them; the idea being that players decide what they would like to do and create a quest arc by their characters' own actions.

The chapter highlights elements of sandbox play:-

Not Everything Is Meant To Be Killed - The Adventurers can engage in diplomacy, trade, espionage, and so on/

There Is No Game Balance - Not everything on The Island can be beaten, or is meant to be beaten. Your use of Wrack against Gojira will do you about as much good as a barrage of US Army artillery - IOW, it will have no effect on it at all. Take what prizes you can gather and run.

Every Action Has A Consequence - It's a small island, not a continent. There is no place on The Island where the Adventurers can hide, if they have committed a crime.

Some Places Are Deliberately Left Blank - They are provided for you to create your own myths and legends, your own horrors and monsters. Also, the Players won't know what's there, so you can horrifysurprise them.

Yes, I just watched that episode of the new Star Trek series where they had that awful twist ending. Yes, you can put Ursula K LeGuin's City of Omelas here if you likeHi. Legal team here. You can drop this paragraph. Thanks.

Provide Options and Objectives - Give the Players goals to achieve, and let them roam around until you decide to place suitable resources in their path to allow them to achieve those objectives. Until then, let them enjoy wandering around in floral print shirts and shorts, taking selfies on cliff edges, collecting souvenirs and hitting the clubs.

Genre Aspects of Sword & Sorcery

The book lists the elements of what makes the seords & sorcery genre what it is.

Living for the Day - No grand schemes here. No long term plans. Your Adventurers are likely to be in it for the loot. In other words, just like every regular character most of them have ever played.
No Black and White Morality - This was the first genre to introduce the concept of the flawed antihero.
Healing is Hard - This is deliberate, to stop Players from just trying to have their characters scythe through all the opposition with impunity.
Corrupting Power of Magic - Magic is viewed through an early Twentieth Century lens. Outsiders view magic as something dark, grim, corrupting and tempting. To be clear, it is the innate malice of its practitioners which drives the darkness and corruption - magic is just their servant, not their master.
Horror of the Unknown - The Island just teems with cosmic horrors. 
Anthropocentric and Xenophobic - This book makes no bones about it: the Adventurers (and a lot of the protagonists) are meant to be drawn from Human stock. The local cultures are not meant to be playable - not without a lot of modification.

Having said that, you can try to run Adventurers who are Lizard Folk and/or Ophidians, as beings who have lived apart from their High Folk or Savage families for too long and have found their own way through life. Xenophobia is another term for racism and bigotry, so this is one time when I'm inviting you to ignore the book here, tread lightly, play responsibly, and don't be a griefer.

Gamesmasters - you're calling the shots here. The same notation applies to you. If aspects of the game are a bit too early Twentieth Century, too reminiscent of the hideous cultural biases of Lovecraft, Gernsback, Jack Williamson, and Robert E Howard for your liking, and if the term Savage gets your hackles up, too, feel free to go through the book with a sharpie.

Remember: Healing Is Hard.

Chapter Five continues with Scenario Seeds, little story hooks to get the Adventurers involved. They can range from Search and Rescue missions to mapping parties, jungle clearance, patrols, and Specimen Gathering.

That last one is the theme of A Bird In The Hand, an Adventure for Mythras which will be described in a later blog post.

Unique Tasks include the hunt for some warlord who's been tormenting the locals. Name begins with T, ends with Zan. Lord Greystokne wants the Adventurers to investigate.

There's an adventure called ******************** Legal team here. The title is "Bridge Over The Little Piddle." Stop it.

I have to point out that one of the Adventures involves a one-eyed T-Rex. Pete, you've read 2000 AD. That one came right out of Pat Mills' Flesh, by way of Judge Dredd. I see what you've done there.

There are other Adventures there. Gamesmasters, check them out. They are fun.

And now, pointcrawls and hexcrawls.

Pages 119 through 127, the entire rest of this chapter, are devoted to various encounter types, tables, and listings of Special Events. Again, this entire section is just one rich, deep vein of adventures, thrills and fun for all the Adventurers, taking them to and through some of the most dangerous places on their world.

That's Chapter Five, with enough material for Gamesmasters to set adventures on Monster Island for years. I still haven't got to the rest of this book, let alone the Companion and the Adventure.

You'll have to wait to see the Magic Chapter, then. Tune in next week.

Edited by Alex Greene

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