Jim LotFP gave the Wizard a shout-out and my followers doubled almost immediately. That’s the Raggi Bump* in action, folks. Thanks Jim!
Okay, back to the Isle.
Step One: Assume It’s All True. I find that creativity blossoms within constraints. So far, my only guideline for the Isle of the Unknown is that I’m going to assume that everything in the book is fact. I’m not going to write anything that directly contradicts what is said.
I’m finding that I’m most interested in the numerous real-world references found in the book. The default descriptions of the Isle are a mountainous, wooded isle with flora, fauna, and societies resembling that found in Auvergne circa 1311 A.D. The many ruins that dot the Isle are Roman circa 200 A.D. (Note: these details are very unobtrusive, so it's easy to dress these descriptions in any aesthetic trappings you want, from Polynesian to Lemurian and everything in between). I like the idea of a historical D&D setting, though. It’s something I’ve always thought about but have never attempted, and reading the session reports from Jeff’s Surfeit of Lampreys games has definitely poured kerosene on that particular mental fire. So “A magical Island in 1311 A.D.” is good enough for an elevator-pitch-in-progress.
My original plan was to make the Isle a phantom island in the Mediterranean Sea. But at 35,000 square miles it’s bigger than Corsica and Sardinia combined. So that’s gonna be hard to miss. Fortunately, I’m totally cool with saying “It’s a magic island. Deal with it.”
So we have a magic island that may or may not be in the Mediterranean Sea (or perhaps it’s somehow accessible through the Mediterranean Sea). It was once the site of a Roman colony (who seemed to have a bizarre infatuation with enchanting their statues), and is currently home to a (possibly stranded) chapter of the Knights Hospitaller. It’s also filled to the brim with weird-ass monsters who may or may not be related to the many, many wizardly types who dwell there.
*note, The Raggi Bump is a great name for a magical disease. Anyone who consumes a fish taken from the waters of the bay on Hex 1002 must save vs. Poison. Failure indicates that a second, tiny head will begin to grow in a randomly determined body part within 2-4 weeks. The head learns to speak three days after it appears, and its constant, lunatic ravings haunt the afflicted until the Bump is removed through surgical means.