The Emerald Eye of Aramjapur

My basic D&D group has been continuing their adventures in my re-imagining of The Isle of Dread. Having spent their initial couple of sessions striking out from the village of Taranoa, the party opted to leave the relative safety of the peninsula and explore the island.

Following a successful hunt with the tribe’s Hawk Clan, party members heard legends of a great treasure hidden in one of the volcanic mountains to the west. The story claimed that an ancient race had lived on the mountain and worshipped a one-eyed god in a cavern temple. Aramjapur, as the deity was called, was said to be all-knowing. His followers prayed to a giant statue of the cyclops featuring an eye cut from an emerald that was the size of a human head.

Traveling cautiously, it took the party 4 days to make their way to the twin volcanos to the west. While they managed to avoid combat, the trip was not without incident.

Just before dusk on the first day, the party spied an allosaurus in the swampland to the north. This caused them to veer to the west and hug the coast.

In the afternoon of the 2nd day, the party stumbled across their first “pylon”. In my previous post I mentioned that I planned to borrow liberally from the old Land of the Lost television series for this adventure. Both this metallic obelisk-shaped booth and the strange tracks (Sleestak) that were found in the area were directly inspired by the show.

On the 3rd day, the party entered the broken lands surrounding the volcanos. A small river meandered between the twin mountains and the party took advantage to replenish their water supply. It took the better part of a day but the party found signs along the northern slope that matched descriptions provided to the by members of the Taranoa Hawk Clan.

Crossing the shallow waterway, the party confirmed that they were on the right track when they identified the crude handholds carved into the rock, leading up the side of the mountain. While hair-raising at times, this allowed even the party’s magic-user to ascend with relative ease.

Natural shelves in the rock were present along the way up, allowing for convenient resting areas during the climb. On the first of these the party discovered the desiccated corpse of what appeared to be a previous adventurer. This was of no great surprise, as the Taranoa had mentioned meeting other outsiders before. However, this did worry the party that perhaps the Eye of Aramjapur had already been claimed by others.

Outfitted in old chainmail, the corpse consisted of not much more than a skeleton. Nothing of value was found on the poor soul, though the party did uncover a sealed scroll case and a discarded short sword. Within the scroll case was a piece of parchment bearing instructions to “beware the children of Aramjapur.”

After encountering 3 resting shelves and covering about a 1000’ climb, the party arrived at a much larger shelf with some vegetation and a fairly obvious cave entrance (map location #1).

Map Locations

#1 Shelf

Occurring roughly three quarters of the way up the side of the mountain, this is a fairly large outcropping. A few trees seem to thrive up here and a pair of billitri bushes grow alongside a cave opening. Large cobwebs adorn the trees.

#2 Cave Entrance

Characters entering the caves here will notice that the air is quite warm from volcanic activity. One passage leads to the northwest, while another leads more due north. To the east, another passage leads back outdoors to a smaller mountain shelf, also covered with large cobwebs.

Giant Spider © Jeremy Mohler 2023. Standard Stock Art: Issue by Outland Entertainment.

#3 Spider Lair

A good deal of debris is piled up in this room. It also serves as the lair for 3 giant spiders who have taken up residence along the side of the mountain. The spiders will attack as soon as the party enters the cave. Digging through the debris will yield a silver dagger and an old coin purse containing 50 gp.

#4 Temple

The large cavern is the old temple to Aramjapur. The room is dimly lit from the lava pool, as well as a bit of sunlight coming in from both of the entrances to the east. Along the northern wall a 30’ tall bust of Aramjapur is ringed by the lava pool. True to the legend, the statue of the cyclops is adorned with a giant emerald eye. In the center of the room, a crude altar sits upon a raised pedestal. The room is otherwise empty, aside from rocks of various sizes and a number of patches of fungus growing about the room.

The lava pool radiates 5’ – 10’ out from the statue, depending on the location. Unless the party has the ability to fly, it appears that they will need to devise some way to safely cross the lava, if they wish to gain the emerald as a prize.

The party could gather sufficient debris from location #3 to build a makeshift ramp across the lava. However, this option would only be sturdy enough to support a character weighting 100 lbs. or less. The only other readily available option would be to cut down a tree outside of area #1 or #5. Assuming the party has a proper axe and goes this route, it will take them approximately 10 minutes to cut down a sufficient tree.

Whichever course of action the party chooses, it will be important to keep track of time. Any party members with applicable skills (or even any who specifically mention that they are looking) will notice numbers of dusty footprints coming and going from this central cavern. Roughly 15 minutes after the party first enters the cave (or earlier if they make a great deal of noise) the “Children of Aramjapur” will start coming to investigate (see location #6).

Children of Aramjapur. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

If a party member is able to access the statue, the Eye of Aramjapur may be pried loose in one round.

#5 Shelf

This tunnel leads out to another mountain shelf similar to the one to the south that the party entered from. The only thing of note out here are 3 stikricki bushes along the side of the cliff.

#6 Exit

3 of the “Children of Aramjapur” lounge in the shade outside of these 3 cavern entrances. These protohumans descended from those who lived on the twin volcanoes for centuries. Standing at roughly 7′ tall, these brutes have a heavy brow and somewhat resemble a cross between a man and an ape. Lacking any verbal language, they will defend their home and the cave system to their death. For my game, I used a reskinned troglodyte stat block (minus the special abilities) but you do what works for you.

Once they detect the party, they will attack immediately and make a great deal of noise. Their grunts and shrieks will soon draw others, so the party will have to act quickly. The “children” will focus their attacks on any party member visibly attempting to acquire the Eye of Aramjapur or approach the statue.

Wrap-Up

How things play out from here is largely up to you. This encounter takes the place of the “Caves of the Rock Baboons” from the original adventure, which seemed rather bland. I created the Emerald Eye of Aramjapur to give things a bit more depth.

There were 15 rock baboons listed in the original adventure and they have similar stats to the troglodytes that I modeled my children of Aramjapur after. Therefore, I surmised that there could be a settlement of roughly 15 of them inhabiting this part of the mountain.

For my game I turned it into a bit of a moral conundrum for my players. The Children of Aramjapur are not evil beings but they will keep coming and defending their home. 4 rounds after the initial 3 attacked and were dispatched, I sent in another 3. The waves of attackers made it increasingly difficult for the party to cross the lava and secure the emerald. At that point one of my players started to question whether this was a noble cause, while another worried that a whole village of the brutes might appear in the next wave. Ultimately my party ended up beating a hasty retreat back down the side of the mountain, leaving the Eye of Aramjapur safely behind.

That is all for now. Thank you for stopping by. Please take a minute to say hello in the comments below. Have a great week!

The Isle of Dread is owned by Wizards of the Coast. All of my work on this post is strictly non-commercial, on a voluntary basis as unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Wizards Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Revisiting the Isle of Dread

I have been running a group using the Rules Cyclopedia (with various tweaks) for about 6 months now. While it started as an experiment, it has become a fun endeavor. Up to this point, I’ve put them through their paces in “The Tower of Zenopus”, “Caves of Chaos”, and various homegrown one-shots.

Going into our holiday hiatus, the group consensus is that they would like to continue. I’ve spent the past week deciding where to take them next. Having enjoyed our previous romps through classic adventures I’ve decided to continue retracing the steps of my youth and chart a course for The Isle of Dread.

My stab at the classic Isle of Dread map. Made using the Campaign Cartographer annual Spectrum overland style.

If you are reading this, it’s quite likely that you are well-versed with the module already. Released in 1981, I received my first copy of the David “Zeb” Cook & Tom Moldvay adventure inside the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set.

D&D Expert Set rulebook from 1981.

As the adventure is largely a wilderness exploration, this will be a perfect opportunity to shift my game a bit. Some of our other friends have been eager to join, while a couple of my current players are going through a hectic period at work. Exploring The Isle of Dread will allow me to take more of an episodic approach to my game, with somewhat of a West Marches style.

After making contact with a group of islanders on the southeastern peninsula, the party will establish a base camp. My sessions will then start as one-shots, with different groups of PCs striking out each week to explore the mysteries of the island. This will hopefully keep us nimble and allow us to get through the winter without any cancelled sessions due to the lack of players. As we progress a bit, it’s likely that the group will find another location suitable for a forward base deeper within the island.

Hex version of my map. Click for full image.

These days I derive as much fun from making maps as I do from running the games themselves. This practice seems to fill the void created when I stopped painting minis years ago. While the original hex style map for The Isle of Dread will always be dear to my heart, I wanted to make my own version. I settled on the Annual Spectrum style for Campaign Cartographer and took a stab at it.

While I have a lot of fond memories of The Isle of Dread, the adventure as written does not really lend itself to the story I am looking to tell. I will still introduce the island as a location by allowing the party to discover a secret page from a ship’s log and partial map (I created a new version of this as well). However, aside from these details I’ll be changing quite a bit.

Ideally, I would like to hit my players with a number of stand-alone adventures, while also sprinkling some bread crumbs of an overarching story. To do this, I plan to steal liberally from a couple old guilty pleasures of mine.

Inspiration

The Lost World promo shot.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World was a syndicated television series, very loosely based on the 1912 novel. The book itself was likely an inspiration for The Isle of Dread in the first place. It premiered in 1999 and ran for three seasons. The show follows a diverse group of early 20th century adventurers after their hot air balloon crashes on an uncharted plateau where prehistoric creatures still exist.

It was a cheesy production; I suspect owing much to the previous successes of shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys & Xena: Warrior Princess. Like these predecessors, each episode loosely followed a “problem of the week” format, while also occasionally touching on the larger story of who the characters were and how they might get off the plateau.

I am not here to claim that this was great television. However, it crossed my path at a time in my life when I was about as far removed from the hobby as I had ever been. I suspect this is why it stuck with me. Something about turning on the TV and seeing these silly stories play out really stoked my imagination. It brought back memories of my youth and playing D&D with my friends. I started to daydream about a time in my life when I might have the time to start gaming again.

The entire 66-episode run is currently available for Amazon Prime subscribers. I have been binging it while I doodle on my maps and making notes. Despite the fluff and gratuitous cleavage shots, I am mining a number of good ideas for one-shot adventures.

The other source that I will be looting for ideas is The Land of the Lost. To be clear, I am not referring to the Will Ferrell movie but rather the 1974 children’s adventure television series by Sid and Marty Krofft.

Land of the Lost title card.

The show’s 3 seasons tell the tale of the Marshall family, who while on a river rafting trip, end up in an alternate universe. Rick Marshall and his children Will and Holly become trapped in a land that time forgot, a place inhabited by dinosaurs and other strange creatures.

The Land of the Lost was every bit as cheesy as the Lost World and was clearly aimed at young children. However, despite all of this there are some elements that I think would make compelling additions to my revised Isle of Dread.

The Sleestak were a race of reptilian bipedal humanoids native to the Land of the Lost. Covered mostly in green scales, they have claws on their feet and hands which can function as pincers. Typically armed with crossbows and nets these unique creatures captured my imagination as a child and will make for great reoccurring villains.

Scheming Sleestak

The remnants of a dying race, the Sleestak reside in a Lost City with subterranean tunnels built by their ancestors. All of this sounds like a great fit for the caldera location in the center of the Isle of Dread.

Finally, scattered about throughout the Land of the Lost are numerous pylons. These futuristic constructs contain matrix tables filled with crystals, each serving as the power source to control different aspects such as the weather or passage of time. The World of Warcraft paid homage to the pylons & crystals in the Un’Goro crater zone, and I think they will be a fun addition to my game as well.

Final Thoughts

That is my plan. Do you ever go in and add your own touches to classic adventures? If so, please share in the comments. I would love to hear what has inspired you and what sources you use for inspiration. I would also like to hear from anyone else who may have been inspired by either of these properties in the past.

That’s all for now. Have a great week and thank you for stopping by!

My version of the incomplete map found by the characters.

The Isle of Dread is owned by Wizards of the Coast. All of my work on this post is strictly non-commercial, on a voluntary basis as unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Wizards Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.