Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sneak Peek: Erol Otus' Island Town

This summer I played in an AD&D game run by Erol Otus at the North Texas RPG Con. Erol has always been one of my favorite fantasy illustrators and the Fantasy Arts Enterprises gaming supplements he published in 1979 (Necronomican, Booty and the Beasts) are some of my favorite gaming materials ever. Period.

Well it turns out the Erol is an exceptionally great DM. As great as you would hope if you're a fan of his art style. Playing with him is like walking into one of his weirdest and most whimsical paintings. For me the experience was like being in gaming heaven, really. Erol even has a homemade screen covered with his art (that's Tavis Allison peeking over Erol's arm, by the way):

The eight-hour session we played in was a test run of Erol's new module Island Town. All players are descendents of a shipwrecked crew of humans, dwarves, and halflings living on an isolated island. You can play any of these races, or you can play a hybrid called a "Moojongi" and choose which body parts you want ascribe to which pedigree! We all started at Level 0 and began the game by harvesting Hazu bulbs in the lower levels of the islands. You see, young residents of the island have to prove their worthiness to ascend to the breeding chambers in the upper island by spending several seasons making fermented Hazu cakes. This manifests as a series of competitive semi-strategic dice rolling games between teams of players. The whole process was so beautifully and poetically described by Erol in terms of the ancient traditions of blade wielding, injecting, and cake rolling - it's hard to describe the creative genius of the whole thing.

Erol explains some nitty gritty: "Here on Island Town a "0" level gets but 2D6 per stat.  You will add 1D6 per stat for each significant encounter/achievement/discovery becoming 1st level after each stat reaches 3D6.  Normally citizens achieve a 1D6 addition to a stat. after the yearly Hazu Harvest thus becoming 1st level 6 years into the 10 year stint of harvesting duties. "

This is a great mechanic. As a reward for achieving various tasks (harvesting, etc.) the 0 level characters get to roll an extra 1d6 for the stat of their choice. Once each stat gets up to 3d6 you become Level 1.

A lot happened in the session. After the Hazu harvest we opted to go fishing, at which time we encountered a Vacucmber right out of Booty and the Beasts! We also interacted with some of the elders of Island Town, had a mysterious nighttime encounter with a Rubber Face - one of the original island inhabitants, and went on a quest for sea shells in the worm infested caverns beneath the island. This was one of the most creative roleplaying sessions I've ever played in.

Erol, being the super cool guy he is, handed out drafts of the Island Town module to each of the players after the game. He is planning on making a formal release of the module at NTRPGN Con in 2012. Be sure to get a copy when it's released! Here are a few teaser snapshots of my playtest copy:


  1. Totally awesome! Those play test copies will be worth some serious cash someday.

  2. Wow! I don't know what to say other than Wow! What a great experience and what a great keepsake!

  3. Usually when bloggers write about having played in games DM'd by Gygax, Arneson, Greenwood, or other Great Old Ones, I think to myself, "Aye, well, that'd be quite interesting I suppose, but to be honest I'd rather play in games with my own friends."

    But this. You lucky, lucky bastard.

  4. I remember you describing the game Sunday morning at the Con and me being just wowed by the description from the setting concept to the zero-level mini-game.

    Now seeing the physical artifact I am wowed all over again.

  5. Easily the coolest thing I've read in the last week. Congrats Cyc, on being able to enjoy such a great opportunity.

  6. Sounds totally wild. I would by this in a heartbeat.

  7. Amazing. Talk about the snake biting it's tail. I wouldn't be here commenting on this blog, nor you creating this blog, if it wasn't for admiring at Otis' artwork when we were wee lads. And the attraction of the game (and his artwork) is one of those things that glued our little clique of artsy weirdos together here in Landscatter.

    Here's to many more years of creativity--from you, from me, and from Otis... all flowing to each other.

  8. That's pretty cool. I was wondering what his game was like, but didn't get in on it.

  9. I am truly envious. Thank you for sharing the experience! (And I'll definitely buy the product when it's released.)

  10. You know that island really sounds like fantasy setting with emphasis on fantastic, like it should be. Whole weird society and ecology, those images on your playtest document in strange style of Mister Otus, tantalizing glimpses of architecture and flora.

    I am grateful that you decided to share this in your blog because I have really been bummed by "new" stuff that is just another megadungeon or new clone or version or edition of same game.


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