Tabletop RPG Review: Monkey Isle

I haven’t really taken a look at Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game.  It is, as far as I know, one of several retro-clones of one of the previous editions of D&D collectively known as the OSR.  What makes it sort of unique among its peers is the price.  The books are free to download in PDF and essentially at cost if you want them printed.  I have no interest in retro clones, however, there tends to be a lot of material that is great for raiding and putting into my Dungeon Crawl Classics game.  Like the DCC module Moon-Slaves of the Cannibal KingdomMonkey Isle is an adventure that is clearly inspired by the classic hex-crawl Isle of Dread.  As a long time fan of books and movies about lost worlds, mysterious islands, dinosaurs, and apes…well, I just had to give it a read.

Honestly, considering the price of something under $4. USD, I’m impressed with the production.  It’s nothing amazing, but if I just picked it up and guessed, I’d have figured $10. to $15.  It has a nice, full color cover and some pretty good, if sparse, black & white interior illustrations.  The interior art feels very late 80s/90s.  Not amazing, but functional.  There are a lot of pretty nice maps, too.  Frankly, they’re worth the price.

The adventure is mostly what you might expect from this sort of thing.  You’ve got pirates, several warring tribes (with a bit more nuance in portrayal than would have been common in the 70s or 80s), creepy bugs, rogue lizard men, apes, and dinosaurs.  You’ve even got a little play on Planet of the Apes, which is fun. 

The focus is on player agency, with more of a hex-crawl style of game.  No big meta-plot, or mandatory story beats.  It’s an island that’s up to your PCs to explore, befriend or run afoul of locals, and generally get up to some adventuring on. It even gives you a mostly empty map you can give your players to fill in as they explore.  The cover says it’s for characters of level 4 to 6, which I assume will translate roughly to levels 2 to 3 in Dungeon Crawl Classics.

I look forward to the day I can plop this island down in front of a DCC crew and see what kind of shenanigans they get up to.  

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