Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Commentary On Using Isle of The Unknown By Geoffrey McKinney For Your Old School Campaigns


I've seen review after review of Geoffrey McKinney's Isle of The Unknown most negative, some positive and some completely missing at least for me the point of the adventure location. This is definitely one of those books that I need to have a physical copy of and its on the 'to get list', that being said I've read and reread the pdf over the better part of six months of time. And its an interesting location to play around with in a DM's head space. See one thing I've learned over the years is to read rpg review but make up my own mind about a product especially on the utility of said product. Such is the case after reading various reviews of Isle of The Unknown. 
This isn't a regular hex crawl at all but like many other McKinney's efforts assumes that your going to look below the surface of it. There are reasons why the the Isle contains 330 unique challenges and locations, including over 100 new monsters and dozens of spell casters with unique abilities.  
This isn't simply a hex crawl or mini campaign as it's a unique mythological and symbolic journey through the  weird & twisted downfall of a civilization told through the encounters of the isle.  

There's a major SPOILER over HERE

Isle of the Unknown has a completely different feel to Carcosa, the isle itself has lots of potential as an adventure location with opportunities for the PC's to become enmeshed in the background of the adventure location that it is.  The adventure location is absolutely relentless and presents chimerical monsters time after time along with odd park like decadence and its cast of weird mages, priests, and horrors.


I've used Isle of the Unknown time and again as ship wreck location for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. This location is a perfect addition to the lost shores of a small inter dimensional plane or as simply another location within the Hyperborean oceans. Because of the quasi Minoan background of the Isle, this location makes an excellent stand in for a lost Atlantis. This is a product that brings a lot to the table but its an incomplete product in the fact that it assumes that the DM is going to pour more effort into it to work the product into his campaign. Should the PC's survive there's plenty of high weirdness to add into the fray.
Dungeon of the Unknown adds even more high level weirdness to the Isle, located in hex 2214 of the Isle of The Unknown. The dungeon is a two level location based adventure that features clues and history of the Island's past. And one of my all time favorite monsters the six sample Goop monsters and a random generator to make even more.
The location of the Dungeon of the Unknown makes it a very interesting location to gate in the PC's. Given the highly bizarre nature of the place the dungeon is a nice choice to begin events on the isle. 

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This dungeon is part of a greater location based adventure campaign but its a decent way to introduce the PC's into the Isle of the Unknown campaign setting. Using this dungeon the PC's are going to get a taste of the greater elements that await them on the Isle and they may have a better survival rate. This dungeon isn't as deadly as some of the hex crawling efforts found in Carcosa and that's fine.
In point of fact I think that the Dungeon of the Unknown makes a better stepping stone into this end of the LoFP system and it can be used to mix in parties from AS&SH as well. Its not that its any less deadly or more so but this dungeon makes things a bit more manageable for mixing and matching parties together. Give a group of PC's a few common enemies and watch them blend together quickly. This module will allow you to do that as a dungeon master to plug into the ancient horrors that lurk beyond the threshold what we laughingly call reality.


One thing I've learned from reading through LoFP adventures is that manifestations of magick, gods, etc. into our local space time continuum is never a good thing. These ancient powers bring with them raw power on an alien scale that our little ape brains can't really deal with let alone our flesh.  Treasure, relics,artifacts, etc. are simply the remains of trinkets that pass away as the survivors try and gather the jangled wits and intelligence of these brushes with the hellish unknown and unknowable that swirls just outside our universe.

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Time, space,energy, etc are pretty meaningless in these locations just off the edge of the map and so this is why products like Isle of the Unknown continue to grace my table. What you bring to them is exactly what your going to get out of them. This is one of the continuing lessons that Lamentations of the Flame Princess has brought home time and again. 

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