Island World: Travel and Exploration

Here is the latest except from my first draft of Island World:

Ku is covered in hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of islands. Most people spend their whole lives taking comfort in the fact that they can always spot another island on the horizon. Rarely does a sailor travel to a destination that she cannot see.

Because of this familiarity, sailors rarely require elaborate maps. They can gauge the distance to another island by sight alone and only need a simple chart to remind them of important features or settlements.

The majority of travel is for trade. These merchant routes are widely known. A typical sailor can easily gauge the distance to an island on the horizon, whether through passed-down knowledge or lived experience.

However, some rare kinds of travellers tend to go beyond these familiar nautical paths. Those brave — or some would say foolish — explorers, adventurers and pirates do so at their own peril. The famous expression “here be dragons” is an understatement on Ku. There is a very good reason why most people live close to well known settlements. Out there, beyond the known horizon, is a realm full of giant monsters, terrible storms and merciless cannibals. Without a farseeing Harbinger, let alone armed warriors, travel into the unknown spells certain doom.

All islands within an Archipelago form a chain. Each island in this chain is visible to at least one other. When travelling to an island, the adventurers can still use the default Move Undertake a Perilous Journey.

If an island is out of sight to a sailor then it is part of a different Archipelago. Taking a journey to such a destination is virtually impossible without a proper specialized guide. Without one then the ship risks getting lost, caught in a storm, attacked by great sea monsters or stranded on an inhospitable island.

A captain planning to undertake such a journey will always seek out a Harbinger or Navigator. The former are extremely rare and are usually reserved for Player Characters (see the Harbinger Playbook). Navigators are special kinds of sailors. They can be hired at great cost. See the Hirelings section for details.

Assuming that the adventurers have the aid of a Harbinger or Farseer, then this individual may make the “Super Dangerous Journey” Move. See the Island World Special Moves chapter. 

Mapping the Archipelago

The best way to start playing Island World is to create the Archipelago where the player characters begin. This is the world that they know and from where they set off onto their adventures.

  1. On a flat, open table, take a handful of D6s (as many as the number of islands that you want for a start) and roll them so that they land scattered all over the place. This will be  rough layout of the chain of islands.
  2. Each die is an island. The number rolled is the size of the island (1 to 6)
  3. Determine the distance between each island by rolling a D6. The result represents the time that it takes to travel between these two islands by the most common local sea vessel:

– 1: an hour or so

– 2: several hours

– 3: half a day

– 4: a day

– 5: two days

– 6: three days

Now you have the overall Archipelago laid out.  The next step is to create each individual island.

Mapping the Islands

How large is the island?

Generally, each island can be crossed on foot in a day or two. However, some kinds of terrain (eg. Mountains) will cause it to take longer.

Choose or roll a D6:

  1. Tiny (roll once on the terrain table)
  2. Small (roll 3 times on the terrain table)
  3. Average (roll 5 times on the terrain table)
  4. Large (roll 7 times)
  5. Huge (roll 9 times)
  6. Immense (roll 11 times)

What kind of terrain does it have?

Choose or roll a D10:

  1. Atoll, Delta or Lagoon
  2. Desert, Barrens or Waste
  3. Cliffs, Crags or Canyon
  4. Field, Plain or Grassland
  5. Everglade, Swamp or Marsh
  6. Woods, Jungle or Rainforest
  7. Hills, Plateau or Rolling Plain
  8. Mountains, Volcano or Peak
  9. Lake, River or Waterfall
  10. Fantastic or Unique Terrain (eg. Floating rocks, fungal field, crystal forest, Giant animal cemetery)