The Dying Sea of Mars is not so vast as to give Koraz-hu, the Martian Vizier, a true appreciation of the scope such bodies can reach on other worlds. Nor is his Mars a place of fecund life, steaming jungles, or terrible monsters which lurk in half-drowned temples. The Mars which he inhabits had become hostile to such teeming creatures as had once inhabited its remote past. Long before Koraz-hu broke the shell of his birth, such days on Mars had been almost forgotten.
When the Vizier’s agents on our own world sent him the second of the Original Adventures Reincarnated series by Goodman Games, he was naturally mystified. To understand its arcane secrets, who could he turn to? Omolo the Impassive, on distant Yuggoth, understood Fifth Edition Fantasy, but surely could understand neither the heat nor the liquid water of the setting. Nor would he willingly visit our Earth again, where gravity made him weaker than he deemed wise, and the fact that the terrestrial Curtis had anticipated his projected visit – not even a full Martian year ago! – made him wary.
No. It would have to be the Venus of the Seventh Vibrational Plane, where oceans and jungles were ever-present, great reptiles like those of the Earth’s past still roamed, and where (he thought) some still dwelled who might welcome his visit.
Original Adventures Reincarnated #2: The Isle of Dread compiles the original work of David Cook and Tom Moldvay with a Fifth Edition D&D conversion by Chris Doyle and Tim Wadzinski. Additional writing is provided by David “Zeb” Cook, Michael Curtis, Paul Reiche III, Lawrence Schick, and Harley Stroh. Like Into the Borderlands before it, The Isle of Dread provides historical insight into the initial TSR publications of the module, both from the TSR luminaries of the time, and from current Goodman Games authors who experienced the adventure back in the glorious days of their youth. The volume includes a full conversion to Fifth Edition D&D, as well as expansions of the original material.
Those readers who, like the Martian Vizier himself, have memories stretching back to the early days of the hobby, will know that The Isle of Dread was the first true wilderness adventure that TSR published. It was included in the Expert D&D Boxed Set. Among other things, it offered the first outline of what would later become Mystara, the default setting of BECMI D&D (Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortals).
Those with an interest in the hobby’s early days will enjoy reading the reminiscences contained herein. For others, the important thing will be the conversion and the expanded material. Both are excellent. The flooded temple at the heart of the island, which was three levels in the original adventure, now includes an expansion to four additional significant areas. The original module had suggested that the DM might expand upon the temple; that work is done herein.
Appendix B: New Monsters includes over 80 entries, including not only extra dinosaurs for your Fifth Edition game, but also the various strange beings that live on the island, pirates, weresharks, and more. There are also new magic items, and pregenerated PCs to get your players started. In short, there is easily a year or more’s adventure to be found between these covers for the average group. Between the various settlements and factions on the Isle, the profit to be gained from the rare creatures found there, or the threat of mysterious Taboo Island at its heart, The Isle of Dread could be either the centerpiece of a campaign or a place that the PCs dip into briefly throughout their adventuring career.
The cartography, by William McAusland, is phenomenal – it manages to not only capture the old school feel of the original module, but also the feel of the works the adventure hearkens back to. One would not be at all surprised to see this style of map on Skull Island, in the hand of an explorer seeking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World, or in some remote corner of Pellucidar. The same care is taken with player handouts depicting various forms of saurian beasties to be found on the island so that your players can partake in the bounty.
Overall, this is a worthy successor to Into the Borderlands. Like the Judge’s Guild reprints Goodman Games has undertaken, it shows a real love and respect for the early years of gaming. Having both an Expert D&D and a Fifth Edition conversion to examine, this would be easy enough to convert to Dungeon Crawl Classics that the prospective DCC judge could also make use of the volume.
“So, you have been doing with this your time?” Alvora closed the tome with her delicately shaded red fingers. The Martian Vizier caught his breath. He had remembered how beautiful she was, but the memory of how potent he force of personality could be? That had dimmed over time. Alvora smiled at him from where she was seated on a divan draped with igerta fur. “Well I remember the games we once played together. Perhaps we could do so again, if your Warlord approves.”
She is a dangerous woman, Koraz-hu reminded himself.
“Of course you are welcome” is what he said.
Original Adventure Written by: David “Zeb” Cook and Tom Moldvay
Conversion by: Chris Doyle and Tim Wadzinski
Front Cover Art: Jeff Dee
Back Cover Art: Bill Willingham