The Isle of the Unknown is an unapologetically old school setting. Each 86-mile hex of the island's 35,000 square miles offers a point of interest, be it an encounter, a magical statue, a magic using npc, or a town. It’s not the sort of thing you sit down and use out of the box. In fact at first glance it appears to be a nearly random assortment of encounters ranging from the mysterious (teleporting cave mouths and time traveling statues, to the wild (the muscular duck-man in my previous post), to the downright weird (the bilocated Cleric described in the very first hex). But a careful read of the descriptions shows a connectivity that hints at a setting rather than forces one upon you. People in one hex are suspicious of something in another hex, or an item gained in one hex can be used in conjunction with something found elsewhere.
This lack of specific backstory can be frustrating to some referees. Don't blame them, blame the way the presentation of setting has changed over the past 20 or so years. It requires a certain form of bravery for a referee to actually surrender himself to the idea of a setting that builds organically rather than one that you memorize. But if you believe, as I do, that the best games are collaborations, then there is much to love about the Isle of the Unknown.
I’m looking at the Isle as a collaborative partner, riffing off the book rather than bending the book to my will. I’m going in blind to see what I find. So, these posts aren’t intended to be a review of the book, but rather a document of what I’ll be doing with the book. My hope is that my Isle will be very different from your Isle. The text practically necessitates that, and that’s one of the surest signs of a truly great gaming product.