Thursday, June 30, 2016

Unboxing The Misty Isles of the Eld Book By Chris Kutalik & Robert Parker From The Hydra Cooperative For Your Old School Campaigns

My copy of Misty Isles of the Eld By Chris Kutalik & Robert Parker arrived today! My advice is to keep your PC's out of their clutches and here's why.

When it comes to the Misty Isles the psychical book is far better then the PDF in my humble opinion. The the ideas come across far more clearly to my ancient brain. The Isles are a mix of  Frank L. Baum, William Burroughs, & the elves that always seem to be lurking in the sinister corners of fairy tales. You know the dark ones in the back of certain weird and esoteric Eighties gaming magazines twisted through the imagination of Chris Kutalik, & Robert Parker. 

My impression from going over the book again is the fact that these evil David Bowie space elves could show up anywhere and be a menace to adventurers in a campaign for a long time to come. The Eld are complete and utterly alien within their own right. I've done a review and campaign ideas in several blog entries.

It really took a while for the ideas & weirdness of the Eld to settle in, the fact is that many of the mini plane's themes, setting material, and more draw from a ton of sources distilled into this nightmare morass of weirdness that is the Misty Isles of the Eld. This is one of the reasons why the Hill Cantons campaign setting has caught on.
 I think that there are several reasons why Misty Isles of the Eld works for me as a DM:
  • The Eld and their weirdness fulfill a complete take on the alien 'other' menace in a campaign while maintaining enough familiarity to keep PC's on their toes. They have both enough of the Fey about them to be dangerous but are really their own creation. 
  • The mists of Eld could lead to all kinds of worlds and they might have access to a plethora of inter dimensional locations. This means that you could plug them into many old school or retroclone settings seamlessly. 
  • The Eld while not as inimical to mankind as some retroclone creations are dangerous and should be used with caution. 
 The book quality isn't bad at all and the binding is quite nice. The text and font are on par with other POD efforts I've seen and the material is easy on the eyes. So not bad for a book that fits those demands. The transitional cover of the book really gives that other dimensional weirdness of the Eld. And that's one of the areas that ties in the various adventure locations that your PC's hexcrawl through. These are some of the tools that Misty Isles brings to the table.  The Eld are evil, weird, and alien as their environment which ties  into the the Psychonaut PC class possibly as bridge gap into other campaign settings. Think about it the Psychonaut is a bridge into other OSR material such as  Weird Adventures by Trey Causey.  The Eld are perfect foils for the weirdness of  'The City' and could easily transition over giving adventurers in that setting more then a run for their money. And that's part of the charm of the Misty Isles of the Eld that universal weirdness that plugs into the back brain of the old school gamers. 

The artwork is nice & there's that fairy tale gone complete wrong mixed with science fantasy pulp magazine bits and pieces to the Eld. They make excellent other dimensional stand in menaces that PC's blunder into. The outcome isn't going to be pretty but it will be amusing on any number of levels.

There's an element of DYI Eld building going on here for the DM where he can take the bits he wants and add in or subtract material without breaking it. Basically this is a setting book that is greater then the sum of its parts with lots and lots of good OSR material pumping through its otherworldly twisted 19th century alternative fairy tale like modern setting. The various tables enable the DM to take and give what they need to create material original enough and yet accessible enough to work in their own home games with Misty Isles of the Eld.

I can see PC's dealing with the various locations absolutely terrified that they might not live through the experience of dealing with the Misty Isle's and its people. There are lots of twist & very dangerous NPC's scattered throughout the book. These resemble in many respects otherworldly takes on familiar fairytales laced through with the author's weird take on all of this. This is something we've seen repeatedly in the Hill Canton's material. But is all of this gamable? In a word yes perhaps a bit too much. In many respects after going over the Misty Isles I suspect one might want to piece meal this book and spoon feed it into a campaign one very cool bit at a time. This is something that I've found with a Red and Pleasant Land by Zak Smith. There is so much cool material that you don't want the players to become jaded or over wrought with the coolness.
 The adventure locations from the  meth-fruit Plantation House to the
The Vat Complex could take months to go through and its all packed in with some really neat bits. The Hydra Cooperative doesn't disappoint when it comes to products of imagination. I could see DMing entire adventure campaigns using this one book. There's tons of potential for all kinds of mayhem.
 Another way to use the Misty Isles of the Eld is to take a classic fairy tale and then rewrite it through the lens of the book, in fact an entire campaign could be done this way. Sleeping Beauty or another classic could have its roots in the weird of the Misty Isles where all kinds of twists and turns could keep PC's busy for a long time.  The Eld are perfect DM foils who can out weird and out deal PC's and adventurers at every turn and this book gives you the tools to do so.

The artwork and cartography suits this book to a tee and the more I look the more weirdness is lurking within. This is a book that has clicked with me and I really enjoy it each time I flip it open.

My bottom line and advice on this book is to grab a copy & start taking the pieces you want right out of here. This is a great little book to expose your PC's to the twisted world of the Eld but mind your manners with them or you might regret it. Remember keep those bones rolling.

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