In Search of Sargasso


I was kicking around the Internet and reading up on things in a hap hazard fashion to see what inspiration would grab me when I chanced upon comments about Expert D&D module X1, “The Isle of Dread,” by David Cook and Tom Moldvay. Upon the death of Tom Moldvay in 1997, Steve Winter called Isle of Dread, "Tom's work that had the widest impact", as its inclusion in the Expert Set, “made it one of the most widely known and played adventures for years .”

I’m a bit of a sucker for anything that smacks of history of early RPG industry so I pondered that for a while and broke out a copy to reread as I hadn't played it in 30 years. During this exercise, I inevitably asked myself, “How would I use this in Star Frontiers?” The more I thought about it the more I became convinced that the premise of Isle of Dread would make a good Star Frontiers Adventure with suitable conversion of the story elements. A rumored and mysterious star system the lures adventurers to seek their fortune there among its ancient ruins and wrecked ships. Isle of Dread was conceived as a vehicle for Dungeon Masters and players to cut their teeth on wilderness adventures since the Expert Rules for D&D introduced this new arena for adventure. Thus the module lacks a major dungeon crawl and a decidedly sand box approach was taken with Isle of Dread. I’ve endeavored to honor the survival in the wilderness aspect of the original as well as preserve some aspects of the sandbox approach in the new work. I am mindful of my tendency to follow the Hickman Revolution in module design which gives “In Search of Sargasso” an underlying story. However the major elements of the module can be explored in any order as they all provide clues to the overall story and should lead the player characters to the climatic show down.

This is not a straight up conversion of the Isle of Dread. I tried to analyze and distill the significant elements from the original and envision how they would play or look in a science fiction environment. Despite the fact that this is a Star Frontiers module it is eminently playable with almost any sci-fi rule system being a exploration of a new star system it can be dropped into almost any setting.

What follows is a tribute module to the founding designers and writers of the Golden Age of RPGs. This year is the 30th anniversary of the publishing of Star Frontiers and some of the torch bearers from that time are leaving the Prime Material Plane for realms beyond. For me, I get nostalgic but also grateful and wonder what the legacy of role playing games will be 30 years from now. One thing is certain, new torch bearers must take the baton and carry it if there is to be a legacy of role playing games among the up and coming generation. So this module is both a tribute to Gygax and the other designers, writers, and artist of the Golden Age but I also dedicated it to those who have not yet discovered the joy of role playing games.