The Isle Review

22 October 2022
Truly brilliant

Rarely does a skinny adventure book do as much as The Isle does. A minimal dungeon crawl using The Vanilla Game (a minimal system) asks your group of adventurers to travel to a remote, probably Scottish, island that contains a monastery and a secret. From here we may be in spoiler territory, so if you wish to play the game rather than run it know that it is very good, then stop reading and buy it for your GM today.

For the rest of you, it might be a masterpiece. While it is a fairly straightforward dungeon crawl in some respects, it also has a pacing and structure that is closer to a good horror film. Players begin with the issue of a missing monk from the order, and the odd interpersonal relationships with those who still live on the island. This creeps towards the discovery of the seal – a thin bone-like covering that will allow players to go into the depths of the caves beneath the island. And like all good horror it goes from the very relatable to the fear of the dark, to the fullest threat, to then, something beyond all that – an entirely inconceivable entity. It plays simply, but very satisfyingly, with a focus on the use of ropes, light and carefully descending.

But the story could end at any time, with plenty of hooks to take your adventure beyond this terrible little island. The density of ideas within the adventure is stunning – there’s a suggestion that if your players settle a rivalry between two undead brothers, the remaining will head to the surface, slowly, and attempt to take over the world. Or that a giant cosmic creature might be your friend for future outings, like a murderous version of Free Willy. It’s one of those adventures where you’ll really regret your players not having explored everything – knowing of course that they’d never be able to and still get out alive. Truly brilliant, and the perfect introduction to the Vanilla Game.



Designer: Luke Gearing

Publisher: Spear Witch

Pages: 78

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Ages: 18+

Price: £15

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