In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.
The Misty Isles is the third in the series of early D&D compatible adventures published by Wee Warriors, the others being Palace of the Vampire Queen and The Dwarven Glory. Taken together, they represent an interesting progression of ideas from the dawn of roleplaying adventure design.
Palace of the Vampire Queen is of course the first ever published roleplaying adventure. It’s a simple funhouse dungeon. The Dwarven Glory has a somewhat similar design but introduces more narrative and setting context with the idea of the fallen dwarf city occupied by orcs.
The Misty Isles develops the idea of setting further, being the first outdoors hexcrawl adventure. It presents a series of islands the characters can visit, assuming they have a ship. There are connections to the earlier adventures, giving them more context.
Each island has its own character. One is held by wizards, another by priests. One belongs to knockoff Triffids. Together they form a milieu with political and religious tensions, different settlements and an economy, even if it’s all crudely sketched.
One settlement is ruled by “Wallace of the Mighty Mattock,” a dwarf described as foppish, with “a fondness for males with exceptional appearance scores.” To my eye, this looks like the earliest mention of a gay man in roleplaying games. The context is somewhat homophobic humor but it contains the crucial implication that gay people exist. It would take D&D literally decades to get there.