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X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)
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X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)

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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!

The Isle of Dread is the first in a series of adventures for use with the D&D Expert rules. The module is designed as an instructional aid to help novice Dungeon Masters design their own wilderness adventures. For character levels 3 to 7.

Included in the module are 13 maps of the isle, 16 new monsters, and suggestions for further adventures on the Isle of Dread. A special continent map, complete with background information, is also included.

The Isle awaits! Will you be able to find the lost plateau and discover the secrets of the Isle of Dread?


Product History

X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981), by David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay, was the first "expert" level adventure for Basic D&D. It was released in January 1981 - both as a standalone module and packaged with the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Rules (1981).

Two Editions. Adventures B1 to B4 (1980-82) and X1 to X2 were all produced using TSR's original full-color trade dress, with its flat-color background and its diagonal logo. Of them, only "Isle" was revamped and reprinted with the more professional trade dress that TSR began using in 1983 - which featured gradient backgrounds and a horizontal logo. The Acaeum reports this fourth printing of "Isle" was bundled with Frank Mentzer's BECMI edition of the Expert Rules (1983).

Origins. Parts of the outer island were adapted by Moldvay from things he'd run pre-TSR, possibly as part of the Known World campaign that he'd GMed in Ohio with Lawrence Schick. Cook created the interior of the island from "whole cloth."

Pulp Inspirations. Historically, we think of the 70s and early 80s as a time of dungeon crawls, but Cook and Moldvay both frequently pushed another aesthetic: pulp adventure.

Cook specifically describes "Isle" as having a "Lost World/Skull Island feel." It was one of two pulpy adventures he wrote at the time, the other being I1: "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" (1981), which centered on a lost city in the jungle. He'd later author two pulpy RPGs for TSR: The Adventures of Indiana Jones RPG (1984) and the Conan Role-Playing Game (1985).

Moldvay also had plenty of other pulpy experience. James Maliszewski thus identifies "Isle" as the first book in Tom Moldvay's Pulp Fantasy Trilogy. It's a pretty apt name, as "Isle" contains a dinosaur-filled island, X2: "Castle Amber" (1981) directly references the pulp writings of Clark Ashton Smith, and B4: "The Lost City" (1982) features a city beneath the desert sands.

The adventure's "Skull Island feel" means that it also also owed something to King Kong (1933). TSR would even more explicitly return to this inspiration with WG6: "Isle of the Ape" (1985).

Enter the Wilderness. D&D was also moving away from the dungeons in another way, thanks to the D&D Expert Rules, which introduced the idea of a wilderness "hex crawl" to D&D. Here, players traversed a hex-delineated wilderness area rather than a dungeon. "Isle" was the first D&D adventure to use this innovation. It even included a hex map for the players to fill in, which showed only the outlines of the Isle of Dread.

As a wide-open hex map, "Isle" was also one of the earlier sandboxes for D&D; it offered a wide array of places for players to explore as they saw fit. Hex crawls were common in the expert-level D&D adventures that followed, but somewhat rarer in AD&D; sandboxes were almost unknown.

L1: "The Secret of Bone Hill" (1981) had a substantially smaller scale for its hex crawl, but maintained X1's sandbox nature. Gary Gygax's S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" (1982) and WG4: "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" (1982) were theoretically hex crawls, but they focused on finding a specific locale. More frequently when AD&D went into the wilderness, it instead focused on railroaded outdoor travels centered on sequential encounters. Like Gygax's two Greyhawk adventures, this resulted in adventures which were definitely not sandboxes.

Expanding the Known World. "Isle" worked hand-in-hand with the D&D Expert Rules, which had introduced the Known World. However, "Isle" considerably expands what was found in the rules, which focused only on the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. "Isle" not only shows (and describes) nearby lands as far away as Glantri, Thyatis, and Ylaruam, but it also maps out the whole Sea of Dread - as well as the Isle itself, of course.

If the Expert Rules introduced the Known World, then it was "Isle of Dread" that expanded it into the full form that would be used for years thereafter.

New Monsters. "Isle" contains almost three pages of new monsters - many of them dinosaurs that hadn't previously been seen in Basic D&D. Cook also introduced the monstrous kopru amphibians - which he described as part of his "cthonian/pulp phase" that also resulted in the aboleth appearing in I1: "Dwellers of the Forbidden City."

Moldvay also created the racoon-like phanaton and the cat-like rakasta.

Future History. Paizo Publishing moved the Isle of Dread to Greyhawk with the publication of Dungeon #114 (September 2004), which included setting info, a poster map, and a 3.5e D&D adventure "Torrents of Dread," by Greg A. Vaughan. They later built a whole adventure path around the Isle of Dread: the "Savage Tide" ran from Dungeon #139 to Dungeon #150 (October 2006 - September 2007), making it Dungeon magazine's great swan song. Issue #139 (October 2006) featured a reimagining of the original cover to "Isle", while issues #142 (January 2007) through #145 (April 2007) depicted the actual Isle.

More recently, the 4e Manual of the Planes (2008) named-checked the Isle of Dread as a Feywild location that sometimes "falls" into various worlds.

About the Creators. Moldvay and Cook wrote "Isle" at the same time they were revamping the entirety of the Basic D&D game. Moldvay wrote the new Basic Rules (1981) and Cook wrote the new Expert Rules. The two had previously teamed up (sort of) to produce two of the four adventures in the A ("Slavers") series - which also included contributions by Harold Johnson, Allen Hammack, and Lawrence Schick.

"Isle" would be Moldvay & Cook's last joint work.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (5)
Discussions (13)
Customer avatar
Ryan R October 05, 2021 1:53 pm UTC
Badly needs a print version. Would gladly purchase, if so.
Customer avatar
Iain B September 11, 2021 5:16 pm UTC
If you print it, they will come
Customer avatar
Rachael S July 09, 2021 5:10 am UTC
any chance of getting an isle map with numbered hexes? it would make hex crawling so much better.
Customer avatar
Peter B June 02, 2021 5:17 pm UTC
This needs a POD
Customer avatar
Peter D March 20, 2021 4:32 am UTC
Add POD and I will buy it.
Customer avatar
Aaron B April 25, 2020 5:08 am UTC
Give me a P, give me an O, give me a D. What does that spell? POD!
Customer avatar
Byron H March 24, 2020 1:42 am UTC
Agreed. POD is needed, badly!
Customer avatar
Sebastian A November 25, 2019 11:34 pm UTC
Please, pod
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Noah T July 09, 2019 8:13 am UTC
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Amanda R January 13, 2019 4:11 pm UTC
Print option please????????
Customer avatar
February 12, 2019 4:55 am UTC
I don't think that print option will be available because Goodman Games has a hardcover reprint and 5e conversion book for this module with more than 300 pages content.
Customer avatar
Amanda R March 02, 2019 5:39 pm UTC
Yes I have seen that version for $139.90 AUD with shipping.
Customer avatar
Simon W September 17, 2019 2:45 am UTC
From what I've heard in D&D playing podcasts, I have no interest in 5E - I find it too rules-heavy and full of magic-like, computer-gamey character abilities that spoil the immersion for me. I much prefer D&D/AD&D up-to and including 3rd edition.

The original X1 is an awesome module (perhaps my favourite), and I would like more people to be able to get the original version as a Print On Demand, and not have to spend heaps of money to get an expanded hardcover one.
Customer avatar
FJ A May 08, 2020 3:34 pm UTC
Simon I agree with you about 5e. I am going to run an OSR campaign with these old classics but I will still use the ascending AC from modern editions.
Customer avatar
Blue P January 08, 2018 5:27 am UTC
If you want a great VTT/PDF Map resource kit you can buy one at the store here (Link Below):
Customer avatar
Jude H September 01, 2021 4:01 am UTC
This link seems to be no longer working. Any ideas on where I can find some VTT Maps? I am considering running it from my OAR Book, but I would like to have some decent maps to use.
Customer avatar
Jay M December 20, 2016 2:47 pm UTC
Pick up your X1 Isle of Dread 5e conversion guide at Classic Modules Today X1 The Isle of Dread 5e allows you to run the original adventure with 5e rules.
Customer avatar
Leichtdog B October 27, 2014 9:23 pm UTC
Can't you put in the 1983 edition, WoTC?
Customer avatar
George F March 04, 2017 9:26 pm UTC
I agree. I'd like to see the orange cover version as well.
Customer avatar
Michael H September 01, 2019 6:23 pm UTC
So would I!
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