Hydra Collective sent me a happy copy of Chris Kutalik’s The Misty Isles of the Eld, and while it was excellent to read through, I did at least promise to run it before writing this review.
The Misty Isles are a strange location, cut off from influencing the wider realm by the eponymous mists: which themselves make straightforward travel in difficult. The Eld are fascinatingly alien: equal parts biomechanist, bureacrat, and Ziggy Stardust era Bowie. Beaches of black sand give way to a dull alkali plain split only by enormous immobile grubs, peppered with strange and peculiar locations. The isles have history, opportunity, and bodyhorror.
The map itself is self-described as a “pointcrawl”, which makes it straightfoward enough to run. No need to track players’ precise locations and instead travel sections can be folded into absurd montages. Dotted about the map are various dungeon locations of sundry size but consistent innovation: these aren’t standard five-room dungeons populated with clichés from a Monster Manual.
But for me, the most interesting aspects are the ways that Kutalik has built in ways to make the Isles and the Eld respond to the players’ incursion: he’s constructed Eld Alert patterns that detail the response of the various NPCs and their structures; he’s constructed an Anti-Chaos Index that details the lessening influence the Eld have on the plain itself. While we had a long session, we didn’t get to the more extreme ends of these scales, though their use was easy to implement at the table.
The Misty Isles of the Eld was written for Labyrinth Lord, though like most OSR-compatible games, it was simple enough to run this module with another system. (For this game, I used my own D&D system that’s under development.)
How would I recommend you use it? The module is full to the brim of interesting elements whose alien natures mean it’s easy to pull parts out of to use alone in your campaign. Likewise, since the Isles themselves are trapped away behind strange weather, you can drop them off any coast in your game. But just using parts of it mean you lose out on some of the excellent parts where the location itself responds to the players’ actions.
The Misty Isles of the Eld are a goldmine of strange interaction.
And until the eleventh of June, they are part of DriveThruRPG’s OSR Extravaganza so you can pick it up for 15% cheaper.