Everything in the Isle of Dread is keyed into created the perfect mini sand box of adventure for your players but why I'm talking about using this classic again? Isle of Dread features everything that pulp loving and lost world DM could want to throw at his players. But surely they're can't be any new surprises to this classic?
This is a classic in every sense of the word and this module contains a boat load of useful material that didn't appear anywhere else in the expert set of D&D. From monsters, factions, and with equal pulp elements of pirates, dinosaurs, bits of King Kong and more. This module feels like a love letter to the pulp magazines of yesteryear. And that's exactly what it is. Even the module's byline echoes that original pulpy goodness from another age;" Hundreds of miles from the mainland, surrounded by dangerous waters, lies an island known only as the Isle of Dread. Dark jungles and treacherous swamps await those who are brave enough to travel inland in search of the lost plateau, where the ruins of a once mighty civilization hold many treasures - and many secrets!"
When it comes to classic modules that have a ton of utility they don't get much better then X1 The Isle of Dread. This classic lost world adventure has a ton of uses and this is one of my favorite mini sand boxes to use. Wiki's plot overview gives a good taste of what you will find in Isle of Dread;
"The characters somehow find a fragment from a ship's log, describing a mysterious island on which many treasures can be found, and set out to explore it. Typically, the characters will first make landfall near the more or less friendly village of Tanaroa and after possibly dealing with some troublesome factions in the village, set out to explore the interior of the island. In the course of their explorations, they may find a number of other villages of unfamiliar intelligent creatures, numerous hostile monsters and the treasures they guard, and a band of pirates. Many prehistoric creatures, including dinosaurs, are prominently featured, especially in the original printing of the adventure. Near the center of the island is a hidden temple inhabited by monstrous, mind-bending creatures known as kopru; the characters may stumble across it or learn that it is a source of problems for the other inhabitants of the isle, and the climax of the adventure typically consists of the characters exploring this temple, battling its inhabitants, and uncovering its secrets" Part of the reason that I love The Isle of Dread is the fact that you get some fantastic resources to use with the Known World setting it also also maps out the whole Sea of Dread.
So when the PC's deal with all of the elements of the isle they're work has only just begun with this lost world treasure. There is page after page after entry on using this module. But one of the resources that came my way recently is Return To Dread in Threshold magazine issue #4 . This is a free fan resource and contains a ton of OSR material including trading in the sea of Dread, trade routes, pirates and raider information and more.
The second resource for running a campaign in this area issue #3 of Threshold magazine. This issue is titled The Sea of Dread and contains a virtual ton of information and twists about the region of the sea, everything you would want to know is in there about this area of the Sea of Dread. This resource contains the inhabitants of the area, articles on minor islands in the area, the pirates, raiders & merchant princes of the sea, a ton of background material ready to drop into your game and much more. This issue clocks in at two hundred and forty eight pages of lost world goodness.
What makes the isle so unique is the number of small factions who exploit one another and the landscape all of the while back connecting everything around the pulpy elements of the adventure and yet it works in spades because of the attention to details that David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay have infused in this module. Everything happens within the confines of the sea and X1 itself. That makes the factions and the way that the adventure unfolds as an organic whole and yet this sandbox continues to surprise both DM's and players alike because of the way that the factions and adventure elements on the Isle of Dread are handled.
From both a player and a dungeon master's stand point Isle of Dread presents a unique set of challenges in the matters of play. There isn't a structure per say but it makes decisions by the players for their PC's as a central theme of the module and some of the dinosaurs encounters can be very unforgiving. All in all I think that Isle of Dread is a module that not only screams for modification but basks in it as well. Its a module that asks for modification, customization, and a host of other projects that make this a module well worth an OSR DM's attention. As always your mileage may vary .