The island stronghold is a mainstay of action stories and pulp adventures. Villains often own an entire island, its exact location unknown to any but the villain’s closest associates, and there he plots on how to take over the world. On the other hand, heroes sometimes have such locations as well, and use them as retreats, safehouses, and training grounds. The best thing about an island stronghold is its dominance. Often the island is so small or so uninhabited that it has no other structures beyond the stronghold. This is particularly true of inhospitable rocks chosen for their defensibility and perhaps their natural resources. Even on inhabited islands, the stronghold is the largest and most well- constructed building. This means that the stronghold’s owner dominates the island in general and can control the activities of its other occupants. It is difficult to sneak up on someone who owns an island stronghold, knows every islander by name and face, and has them trained to report intruders immediately.
The other key feature of an island stronghold is its isolation. Large cities frown upon people performing chemical tests or other potentially dangerous research within their limits. But on a remote island, no one can stop you from detonating your latest chemical weapon to test its results. And no one can hear the screams of your victims, as you watch to see exactly how the gas effects them. Likewise, no one will see the young millionaire arriving on his yacht and then watch the masked crusader departing in his sleek jet, and realize that they are the same person. Island strongholds are wonderful repositories, because whatever happens in them, no one outside will ever know the truth.
The specific island stronghold has two key basic features: the island itself and the stronghold’s main purpose Some islands are mere rocks, with dark slabs of stone rising toward a single imposing summit, and even sea birds don’t bother to Island Stronghold stop there. Others are paradises, with smooth beaches, palm trees, and pleasant weather. Still others are more ice than rock, whipped constantly by arctic winds that can flay the flesh from a person in an instant. Or, the island could be an active volcano, regularly oozing lava that streams down the island from its smoking peak, destroying all in its path.
Strongholds can serve a variety of purposes. It could be a laboratory where new weapons and chemicals are tested. In a strategic location, it could house troops and ships, which are prepared for launch upon unsuspecting targets. It could be a prison, set well away from the world so that its inmates can never escape to wreak havoc again. An otherwise inhospitable jut of rock could become the home of a mining operation that carves deep into the Earth to rip free her treasures.
Not all strongholds are sinister. Some are designed for protection, solitude, or even entertainment. An enormous hotel, the only building upon a small tropical island, counts as an island stronghold. So does a corporate headquarters, where employees can work undistracted by the normal chaos of a city. Similarly a massive keep, designed to protect the island natives from tropical storms and raiders alike, is also a stronghold.
Most island strongholds share only three features. First, they sit upon an island and are the largest single structure on that island. Second, they can hold a sizable number of people – usually at least three dozen and often in the hundreds. Third, they are fortified in some way and exist the strongest structure on the island. This may mean they have thick stone walls, they have cutting-edge security systems, or the stronghold’s foundations are cut into the island’s bedrock, so that the fortress cannot be blown away by the annual monsoons.
Some strongholds are carefully concealed within the trees or the rocks. Others stand out in the open for all to see. It might be built from native materials, and made to look like it belongs there, or it could be a gleaming edifice of concrete and glass and steel. It could have an ultra-modern appearance, or something more gothic.
Island strongholds should always be a mystery for the players. Even if the location is well-known, the stronghold’s exact layout and purpose may not be.
The brochures claim it is a hotel, but why doesn’t it show up on any sea charts, and why does the plane have no windows for the passengers? Island strongholds present a chance to get away from the normal world, and that also means a chance to set aside standard plots. If the characters have been dealing with realistic crime scenarios thus far, the island stronghold can be a chance to throw something more otherworldly at them, or at least more spooky. Even the most mundane items and events can seem magical on a deserted island, and old sailors’ tales are filled with stories of monsters that were probably just wild boars and other native animals. But the island gives Game Masters a chance to shake things up a bit and to make the players’ characters reassess what they know and what they think they know. It also gives everyone a chance to cut loose – whatever the characters see and do on the island, the details may never leave its shores, so they can act without their usual restraints.
Beyond location and purpose, the features of the stronghold vary. There is always some way of getting to the island, whether by submarine, boat, or airplane. Sometimes the dock or landing pad is visible, when the owners care little for secrecy, while other structures may have a hangar door that opens in the fortress so that the vehicle can slide inside safely. Inside, the stronghold could be palatial, business- like, or spartan. Some owners might prefer to have their guests lounge on oversized pillows and piles of rugs, sit on elegant couches, or rest on rough-hewn wooden benches.
The owner might go so far as to dictate the type of garments employees (and perhaps even visitors!) may wear. Such apparel might include jumpsuits, lab coats, army fatigues, business suits, or togas. Similarly, if there’s a theme, the security guards would carry weapons appropriate for the period being mimicked.
Don’t Miss …
The island retreat of Jafal Kwan, the multibillionaire industrialist and would-be world dictator, is a massive, fortress-like building, with three levels. The first floor is mainly antechamber, plus dining room, kitchen, meeting rooms, and Kwan’s private office. The second floor has guest rooms and a small library. The third floor houses the staff (in a series of small bedrooms and, for the guards, a barracks) and has Kwan’s private suite at one end. The master suite has a bedroom, a small living room, and a private bathroom. The stronghold also has a basement, which houses the laboratories and storerooms. Kwan selected this island location for its remoteness and the fact that absolutely nothing lives upon it. The island is simply a massive rock spire, and the stronghold has been carved into that from some angles the stronghold looks like just another group of rocky outcroppings, though from other vantages its steel girders and large windows are easily visible. The stronghold is ugly and rough on the outside but beautiful inside, more like a resort hotel than a fortress, with beautiful paintings, marble floors, rich rugs and tapestries, and elegant furniture. A single skylight at the center of the stronghold allows the sunlight to strike a massive faceted crystal chandelier, which sends beams of light glittering throughout the room. On the roof of the stronghold is a helipad, and in its base is a small harbor for speedboats. These are the only two ways to enter the building.
Things to See
+ Gray, lumpy boulders
+ Noisy white seagulls
+ Sparkling, light brown sand
+ White-capped waves lapping on the beach
+ Short, spiky plants and grass
+ Sharp bits of coral and seashells
+ See also the “House,” “Laboratory,” “Office,” “Secret Headquarters,” and “Zoo” entries far ideas about what appears inside the stronghold
People to Meet
Most island strongholds have security guards. Some places also have scientists, who have 3D or higher in Knowledge and some additional pips in scholar and tech. Cleaning staff and cooks have no particular skills; the generic person featured in the introduction to this book works well for them. High-tech strongholds may have surveillance crews. Zookeepers, for those strongholds with their own animals, have at least 3D in animal handling. Commerce-oriented strongholds may have office workers, who have at least +1D in business.
Surveillance Crew: Reflexes 2D, brawling 2D+1, Coordination 1D+2, piloting 2D+1, Physique 2D, lifting 2D+1, running 2D+1, swimming 2D+1, Knowledge 2D, scholar 2D+1, tech 3D, Perception 3D, investigation 3D+1, search 3D+2, tracking 3D+2, Presence 1D+1. Move: 10. Strength Damage: 1D. Body Points: 10. Wound levels: 2.
Things to Do
+ The master of a certain island has extended an invitation to the players’ characters, inviting them to visit him. He does not say why he wants them there, but he has never invited anyone to the island before. It could be a job offer, a business presentation, or almost anything – but no matter what, the characters will get to see the inside of the stronghold, something no one outside the man’s organization can claim.
+ A unique machine has been stolen. Only a few people even knew of its existence, and it has never been fully tested – but if it works, it could give a single individual the power to stop an army. Clues point to an island stronghold and its owner. Now the characters have to figure out how to get in there, find the device (if it really is there), recover it, and get back out again safely.
+ The characters have booked a holiday retreat at this island getaway. The location is remote, the island is beautiful, and the accommodations are superb. Everything is wonderful, and it is shaping up to be the best vacation ever – until one of the other guests goes missing, and the hotel’s owner starts acting strange. Is there trouble in paradise? And if so, should the characters get involved, or just go back to enjoying themselves?