As the Isle developed pretty much from the very beginning of my D&D career (1978 or so, for sure) , it accreted different bits of what was available from third party publishers; I say third party, since the support for the original D&D wasn’t ever very deep from TSR, and obviously died entirely after B/X and ADD. In truth, my buy in to AD&D just about stopped when the DMG came out – it was mined, not adopted – really, from about 1980 onwards, what I ran, and have run was essentially OD&D + Supplements + ADD Monster manual and Players handbook. Yes, I’m aware that that makes me a hideously Hidebound reactionary…but I always tried and played each subsequent edition thru 3.5 just fine; but for running, my first love was that formula, and probably the long running campaign here has lots to do with that.
As regards to third party stuff, two massive influences were both from Judges guild: City state and First fantasy campaign. Both of which I had my grubby paws on very soon after they came out, even though it took hitching along on my parents 3 hour trip to new Orleans for their antique hobby/business so I could go to the Hub, an honest to god big ass hobby and game store. Wonder if it’s still there? It was as of 1989 or so.
Right. To continue: city state introduced the whole city genre, and in my mind glued the D&D game to real Sword and Sorcery stuff – the decadent city adventures. Plus, it showed how the scope of D&D could be HUGE, and yet also presented a way to keep track of that scope in a vey terse format –which relied on the creativity and imagination of the GM to do the rest. Sort of empowering, really, but a style that wouldn’t do well in the new TSR adventure format, I fear; still, it needs to be pointed out that the ‘describe everything’ did teach an entire generation of GMs their chops; before, it was very hard to just jump in – a background in miniature gaming and some board gaming as well as lots of odd reading was pretty much required to make an easy start of it. So, the TSR version of adventures was very democratic in the sense of letting anyone start doing it without a big jump –and discovering a knack they had that they might never have if they’d only had the ‘deep end’ model to guide them. Honestly, good GM’s are made as well as born.
So, the Barony of Finstierre is the surrounding land of the city-state – simply marked on the map as ‘the city’, pretty much in the center of the island. The idea was that the city was a tail that had grown to wag the dog; technically the overlord was subservient to the Baron of Finstierre, but in fact, controlled 90% of the wealth and trade of the Barony, which is otherwise a bucolic, heavily farmed area for providing food to the city. The city was the main ops area for adventurers, and stabilized the center of the island as an 800 lb gorilla will. This allowed a homeland for the players to come from or retreat to, and some political games, too.
Interestingly, the JG city-state pushed a very cosmopolitan view on my D&D campaign; for instance, while generally assholes, orcs were often paying citizens, and couldn’t just be killed as evil. Racial animosity, while real, was subjected to law and order, and mainly expressed as personal animosity. Prejudice, not pogroms, really; possibly having lived many years in the Deep South was also an influence. The evil humanoids were more unpleasant foreigners (on the level of pirates, perhaps, or Mongol raiders), but had jobs and nations. In fact, the quest for “ethnic freeholds” became part of the campaign for a while, especially as the first few orc/goblin characters and NPC’s got to high level. Thus, we have the Orcish Peoples Republic (blatantly swiped from Greg Costykin’s SPI masterpiece, swords and sorcery) and Kobieshold, both dedicated to freeing orclings from domination and slaughter by non-orclings; It wasn’t a black and white issue at all, not an “everyone is nice given the chance” apologetic for the bad guys, either. What it meant was that the Orclings wanted to be the oppressors, not the oppressed, plus payback for too many generations sacrificed to dark lords and paladins. Plus, loot and indolence, helped, too.
More to come.