The Moonshae Isles are alive with AD&D game campaigns opportunities.
Characters of virtually all the standard classes and levels can find adventure and challenge in some part of the islands.
FR2: "Moonshae" (1987), by Douglas Niles, is the second book in the "FR" series of sourcebooks for the Forgotten Realms. It was released in November 1987.
UK Origins. In the mid '80s, TSR UK was producing creative products such as the "UK" adventures, Imagine magazine, and a variety of other RPG supplements. Around this time, they decided to also create a "British Dragonlance" — a new, epic multimedia setting. Like the original Dragonlance, it would be supported by both novels and adventures. Douglas Niles was in charge of the novel and he got it partly written before TSR UK's creative department was shut down in 1986 — which left the novel without a home.
Meanwhile, Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood were preparing the Forgotten Realms for publication by the main TSR offices in Wisconsin; they wanted novels to support that line, but didn’t have time to write them on their own because they were working on the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987) and the impending line of “FR” sourcebooks. As Niles' partly written novel was traditional (Celtic) fantasy, it was a pretty good fit for the Realms.
Grubb and Greenwood threw out the Moonshae Islands that had been used in Greenwood's own Realms campaign and replaced them with the setting of Niles’ book. The novel, Darkwalker on Moonshae (1987), was then released as one of the first two Forgotten Realms products in May 1987 — alongside the compiled I3-5: Desert of Desolation (1987) adventure; it was so early in the release of the Realms that the novel didn't even carry the Forgotten Realms logo on the cover for its first printing!
But the novel was just the first step …
Continuing the "FR" Sourcebooks. Since the Moonshae Isles was one of the earliest areas revealed in the Realms, it made sense to detail that region in an "FR" sourcebook too.
FR2: “Moonshae" was more typical of the "FR" series than its predecessor, FR1: "Waterdeep and the North" (1987). That's because it describes a much wider area of land — the Moonshae Isles — as opposed to a single city. Within the Isles, the sourcebook covers topics like geography, economy, and religion. It also details several specific regions. The Known World "GAZ" sourcebooks (1987-1991), which preceded the "FR" series by several months, probably suggested some of these topics.
Most of the material is "fluff", with very occasional game crunch. Several Realms staples also appear in “Moonshae”, including selections from "Elminster's Notes" and occasional internal use of the larger Realms maps, cut down to describe specific areas.
Expanding the Realms. The original Moonshae Isles as imagined by Ed Greenwood was an archipelago of hundreds of islands. Most contained nothing more than rural villages, though the archipelago had a few self-styled lords as well. Greenwood referenced these Isles is some of his early Dragon articles, beginning with "More Pages from the Mages" in Dragon #69 (January 1983), where he talks about a Moonshae sage who bought a tome.
Niles' Moonshae is instead shaped a bit like the British Isles — complete with a historic British culture and invading Northmen. This Moonshae Isles became canon for TSR's Realms setting. Its introduction underlined the fact that the Forgotten Realms was going to be the joint creation of many writers, something that Jeff Grubb had promised in Dragon #119 (March 1987).
Future History. The Moonshae Isles got considerable attention in the '80s and the '90s thanks to the Moonshae Trilogy (1987-1989) and the Druidhome Trilogy (1992-1993), both by Niles. There was also one official adventure in this era: FA1: "Halls of the High King" (1990).
Much more recently, eight Moonshae Isles Regional Adventures appeared for the Living Forgotten Realms (2008-2010), while additional 4e material was published in Dragon #405 (November 2011) and Dungeon #196 (November 2011).
About the Creators. Niles actually worked on two settings that were later brought into the Forgotten Realms, the other being Bloodstone Pass (1985-1988). In 1987, Niles wrote the first Moonshae novel, this Moonshae sourcebook, the third Bloodstone adventure, and a complete RPG: Top Secret/S.I. (1987). Whew!
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.