It is terribly cold. You swam for your life to this mysterious island, losing most of your provisions in the process, only to find it barren of all but grass. A biting wind from the north drives through your wet clothes, chilling you to the bone. Night is falling and promises even colder temperatures; you wish this place had even a bush to burn as firewood. Your stomach has just begun to complain about the lack of dinner, when one of your companions calls, and you rush o his side, hoping he's found a way to turn grass into a sandwich. Instead, he points to the ground in front of him. "Look there."
Set in a shallow depression in the ground is a stone door. Your friend reaches down and gives a tug, and the door swings slowly open on creaking hinges, revealing a descending stair. The first thought that crosses your mind in whether it would be better to freeze to death up here in the wind or fall into the hands of Castanamir the Mad, the unpredictable.
This adventure is for use with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules. This adventure cannot be played without the AD&D rules. For characters level 1-4.
"The Lost Island of Castanamir" (1984), by Ken Rolston, was the third adventure in TSR's competition series of tournament adventures for AD&D. It was released in December 1984.
Unofficial Beginnings. The story of the Lost Island begins at Origins 1982, a convention that TSR choose to boycott, kicking off a long-standing rivalry with TSR and GenCon on one side and GAMA and Origins on the other. Gary Gygax described his reasoning in Dragon #65 (September 1982), which seemed to amount to the fact that he didn't like the competition; he also complained that Origins was too commercial and that it hurt local conventions when it moved around (which it did for 21 years, before settling in Columbus, Ohio, in 1996).
Despite the fact that TSR wasn't participating in Origins 1982, there were still AD&D games there, including a convention run by Ken Rolston called "The Lost Island of Castanamir the Mad." Two years later, it became C3 - the first TSR competition adventure based on a tournament not run by TSR.
TSR's original name for C3 was simply "Castanamir." It was changed to "The Lost Island of Castanamir" at the last minute.
A Lull in Competition. TSR kicked off their competition line with a bang in 1980 with the production of C1: "The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan" (1980) and C2: "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1980), each drawn from a convention tournament the year previous. After that, there was a rather surprising gap of four years before the next competition-series adventure appeared. There were a few reasons for this.
First, early on TSR was also using tournament adventures as the basis for most of its adventure production. Thus the major tournaments for 1980 instead went to other product lines. The Origins 1980 tournament became the first intermediate adventure, I1: "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" (1980), while the GenCon XIII (1980) tournament was expanded out into the Slave Lords adventure series (1980-1981).
Second, 1980 marked the year when Frank Mentzer formed the RPGA. Afterward, TSR staff no longer needed to prepare tournament adventures; the RPGA took care of it instead. However, that also meant that the tournament adventures were no longer placed into TSR's pipeline to become published modules. Instead the adventures from the 1981 cons and afterward were produced by TSR as special releases for the RPGA, beginning with the R-series adventures (1982) and continuing into the RPGA series (1983).
Together, these reasons resulted in TSR having no more competition adventures until 1984, at which time they stopped producing separate products for the RPGA. This would lead to TSR producing C4 and C5 from RPGA tournaments. With the competition line reviving, TSR was probably looking for other tournament adventures, with the result being that C3: "The Lost Island of Castanamir" was published just a month before C4: "To Find a King" (1985).
(This is a somewhat speculative view of the events; it's less likely, but possible, that Rolston offered TSR "Lost Island," then they thought about printing those orphaned RPGA tournaments that would become C4 and C5.)
Tournament Changes. C3 marks a change from the earlier competition adventures. It doesn't have visual handouts, and its scoring is much more subjective - no longer including specific points for specific actions as C1 and C2 did.
Recurring Tropes. "Lost Island" is a classic tournament dungeon crawl, full of wacky teleporters and other strangeness. It also includes science fantasy elements like robots (iron men) and refrigerators.
About the Creators. Ken Rolston was just getting involved in the professional side of the RPG world when he ran "Lost Island" at Origins 1982. By the time it was published, he'd written for a few Chaosium products and had become a contributing editor to Dragon, with a few other TSR adventures also under his belt. That was probably his "in" to get "Lost Island" added to the revived competition line.
About the Product Historian
This 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.