20 February 2019

Hot Springs Island Mini-review After 6 sessions


HSI was not for me. I had fun with it. My players liked it. They seemed surprised that I wanted to move on at first, but they quickly and accurately pointed out why they thought I wanted to. All of this probably says as much about me as a GM as it does about the book. I'll explain below.

I run my own rules, but they're similar to OD&D and B/X and Lamentations of the Flame Princess and so on. I have a lot of oldschool ideas about things, but I only started playing tabletop imagination games a couple of years ago.

Jacob Hurst loves discussing your problems and complaints. I talked with him about most of this. His answers made it very clear to me that basically everything I complain about would not have been a problem if I was a different sort of GM.


  • Great layout.
  • Great faction stuff and political play. Fun gonzo setting and ideas, if you go for elementals and planar stuff.
  • Encourages GM discretion and improvisation.
  • Hexcrawl rules that make things much simpler.
  • Players had a great time
  • Endless tools for escalation and chaos.
  • It's dense. It's enough material for a (probably somewhat short) campaign.

Things that didn't suit me but might suit you

  • No stats or item pricing. System-neutral.
  • The island is all about overabundance. This is intentional and an interesting change of pace. One of the dungeons is basically made out of gold, for example. Inserting resource management requires some major alterations. This problem isn't a problem if the GM realized it and alters the game to make gold worthless. HSI can focus on barter instead. Barter should be at the forefront of the game.
  • Juvenile sex humor throughout. It's metal!
  • A lot of it doesn't work very well in a different or larger campaign. HSI is designed to be your campaign.

Clarity/Density Issue

  • Some things are not clear. Example: There's a secret door hidden under an object, but there are no details about how the players might discover that the door exists. The books says that a chime opens it, but there are no specific chimes, so  you may be confused about where they would find the chime. You can make up a chime and put it somewhere and create a hook, but you may not realize you need to do this until the players are already at the door. For this reason, I recommend reading far ahead and trying to notice details of this nature OR I recommend being ready to make things up and do something different than the text intends/expects/suggests.
  • The denseness of HSI requires that you be ready to make things up when you don't know them. If you're the right sort, that's perfectly, wonderfully, fine. If you're more like me, you'll feel like you're missing something and ruining something that could have been great if you only knew the details. This will cause either analysis paralysis or moving on with your own take on things.

Complaints about encounters

  • You have to do a TON of rolling and interpretation for random encounters. You can't leave a hex or leave a room without a new encounter occurring. (Rolling on Chartopia and then printing out lots of results ahead of time is a decent workaround.)
  • HSI isn't about wandering through mostly abandoned spaces and occasionally encountering a wandering monster. There is ALWAYS something alive there to deal with. Jacob Hurst told me that he doesn't do reaction rolls and that he just intended for the creatures to react to each other, not to the party. He also said that the creatures don't see the players because the players always spot them first rather than rolling surprise, initiative, and distance. The book does not make these deviations from oldschool play clear. I think this is another result of being system-neutral.
  • Details on random encounters: every single room and every single hex contains at least one encounter. You're supposed to use a slightly complicated 3d6 mechanism to determine which encounter is where. The final result should be a lively, active island. Personally, I found it cumbersome/time-consuming.
  • To add to the encounter confusion, there are almost no doors in dungeons, so monsters should be coming around corners to join whatever (possibly massive) encounter you're already engaged in.

05 February 2019

Class: Random Specialist

A highly-variable Specialist class but in a slightly GLOG fashion. If you'd prefer a bit more sense and player choice, have a look at this.

(This will probably be my last GLOG-related post. I've moved on, though I still use its wonderful magic system. Goodbye GLOG. I learned a lot.)

Class: Random Specialist

  • Gain +1 Stealth for each level up to Level 4.
  • For you, Stealth checks that attempt to do no more than move silently usually succeed without a roll.
  • Starting Equipment: leather armor, lockpicks, dagger
Roll 2D6 twice on this list every time you level until level 5. At level 5 and after, only roll once. If you get the same result twice, take Lucky instead. If you already have Lucky, roll again.
  1. Assassinate
  2. Bleed Them
  3. Bonded Tool
  4. Cat Brain
  5. Cat Eyes
  6. Cat Feet
  1. Cat Instincts
  2. Cat Legs
  3. Code Language
  4. Contacts
  5. Dodge
  6. Draining Poison
  1. Embarrassing Secret
  2. Evaluate
  3. Fast Talk
  4. Fence
  5. Flighty
  6. Forgery
  1. Frog Legs
  2. Infiltration
  3. Monkey Digits
  4. Mugger 1
  5. Mugger 2
  6. Paralyzing Poison
  1. Poison
  2. Prominence
  3. Quick Hands
  4. Ranged
  5. Recognize Poison
  6. Spider Legs
  1. Tripping
  2. Urchin
  3. Watchful
  4. Winning Smile
  5. Worm Body
  6. You Mean This?


For every non-trivial fact (something you can't learn from glancing around) you know about your target, you have +1 Attack and deal +1 Damage on a surprise attack to a max of +6. Usable once per combat.

Bonded Tool

Propose an item to your Referee or roll a D8 on the table below.
Gain an instance of the item. Name it and describe its appearance, if you like. It's an extension of yourself. It may, however, be replaced by another object of the same kind if you lose or destroy it.
Gain a skill named after the item. Example: if your item is a whip, gain the Whip skill.
Once per day you may automatically succeed at doing something beyond what a normal adventurer would be able to do with the Signature Item. It must be something that, however, could be done by the world's foremost expert on the use of that object. Your ability is not magical. Your ability cannot be used to generate extra damage in combat.
Example Bonded items
  1. Whip. Swing from a chandelier. Yoink a little golden statue.
  2. Hammer and Chisel. Create beautiful works of art. Provide components for contraptions. Alter architecture. Shape bone to make prosthetics, false teeth (with a capsule inside.) Perfectly imitate the ancient reliefs in the dungeon.
  3. Cane. Use to strike with the point or length (perhaps more to startle, stun, or knockout than to simply do mundane hit points), parry; throw to achieve same result; throw with a twist so the cane lodges in a gap to hold things apart.
  4. Glue. Piece together a smashed pot. Scale an unscalable wall.
  5. Playing Cards. You can throw/spin a card shaped item to place it. Sharp & strong items could be used like shuriken, to damage or cut open/sever twine. Or to place an item as fake evidence or as a dead drop message. As well as all the obvious card sharp shuffling and sleight of hand.
  6. Lute. Pacify a beast.
  7. Needle & Thread. Attach a mirror to your sleeve. Attach a hooked vial of poison to your wristbone.
  8. Paintbrush. Invent fingerprinting. Tickle a giants feet so gently that it simply shifts its feet in reaction instead of waking up.

Bleed Them

If using a dagger, you may choose to make your Attack roll with a bane to twist the knife. It will do D6 further damage per round. You may check Dex to pull it out. Failure = they get to make a free attack against you.

Cat Brain

You instantaneously see the best way to move across gaps/obstacles. (This means you may see and use a path that others would not consider and it means that you can often bypass a Check to move through difficult terrain.)

Cat Eyes

Dimness allows normal vision for you (though colors are as grey for you as for anyone else.) Darkness allows as much vision as if you held a candle (as a normal human in Dimness.)

Cat Feet

Treat your falls as if they were 20' shorter.

Cat Instincts

+2 DEF when wearing no armor.

Cat Legs

Gain a Boon when making acrobatic Combat Maneuver rolls.

Code Language

You can teach the party to speak Oppen Gloppish or some other dialect of the common language a bit more encoded than Pig Latin. This will allow you to speak privately as loudly as you need to, in front of whoever you need to.
This may offend those who have a sense of what is happening, of course.


You know one member of a criminal organization per Level. Negotiate where they live with the Referee. Write all of this on your sheet.
These low-class, unleveled thugs, mountebanks and pickpockets are friendly (or are at least willing to be) but are not adventurers or servants. So long as they remain unoffended, they will provide free information.
You will, however owe each contact a favor, if their reaction roll is less than Neutral. If the reaction roll is awful, you'll need to take care of the favor before they're ready to be helpful.


If you spend your entire round attempting to dodge and the attacker misses, the attacker loses one of their actions on their turn (usually, this means they lose all actions, but they might have more than one attack.)

Draining Poison

Roll 1D4 to learn which 2 ability scores your poisons can drain.
1.STR 2. DEX 3. CON 4. INT
Using 80 sp of ingredients purchased from criminal contacts, you can create draining poison which deals 2D6 damage to whichever ability score you choose (from the two options that you have) for 1D6 hours.

Embarrassing Secret

Once per session, recall learning of an embarrassing secret about an NPC. The Referee will describe it to you.


You know the market value of any mundane item. Unique items may require an INT Check to evaluate.

Fast Talk

You are an expert blatherer, liar, punner, and trickster. You can persuade any number of people of that whatever you are saying is true for 1D6 minutes, provided it is not obviously untrue. Sober, angry, and intelligent people get a Save to negate. When the effect ends, they realize whatever you've been saying is utter nonsense. They'll be very angry with you and immune to any future use of your Fast Talk ability.


You may easily appraise most art and antiques. An INT Check may be needed to appraise some objects and to remember something of their history.


If you choose not to attack in a round your DEF is the same as if you were playing Plate armor. This only applies if you can see your enemies.


Pay 1/10 of a real object's value, then forge it on a successful INT roll. This requires access to the object or detailed information about it.

Frog Legs

You can jump twice as far as one would expect, sometimes even farther.


You may declare that you are leaving the area then later declare yourself to have been one of the minor NPCs present all along, friend or enemy. You can also just walk back in undisguised.


Once per day, you can re-roll a failed roll. Explain how things somehow went your way after you failed.

Monkey Digits

Climbing something that anyone could climb is done with a Boon, even without tools.
Climbing with tools allows you to climb silently and grants a second Boon.

Mugger 1

When you hit someone in melee, you may make a Check to attempt to steal something they are not holding.

Mugger 2

For every combat round in which you do nothing other than watch someone, get two Boons to your next ATK or Maneuver roll against them. Only works against the same target once per combat.

Paralyzing Poison

Using 40 sp of ingredients purchased from criminal contacts, you can create paralyzing poison, which paralyzes targets for 1D6 minutes on a failed Save. Strong creatures might get new saves every minute or round.


If you possess the proper ingredients (150 SP), you can create a single-use vial of poison that deals 2D6 (take the higher result) damage applied to a weapon or in a spiked food or drink. 3 vials/slot, can’t stack damage.


Once per round, you can choose to be the most prominent person in a group or the least prominent person in a group. (This does not affect stealth.)

Recognize Poison

May recognize common, detectable poisons on a successful INT roll.

Quick Hands

You now have Quick Slots equal to half of your total slots.
Throwing a small item (such as a dagger or machete) as an attack grants a Boon to the ATK roll.


Boon to ranged weapons if you spend a round aiming.

Spider Legs

You may climb a sheer surface with a successful Check, even without tools.


Once per combat, you may Check Dex to trip an enemy.


A street rat has heard of you and demands to serve and learn. The kid respects you, but probably doesn't trust you. The urchin does not count toward your Minion Cap.
Urchins are willing to do a bit more than a Hired Hand, so long as they're learning the ropes of thieving.
1Grit. Street smart.
Give your urchin an equal share of your treasure (and therefore your XP) if you'd like a backup character.
Anytime you don't have an urchin, you may attempt to recruit another, wherever urchins are plentiful. Use standard hiring rules, but they don't require pay. If you have a reputation for getting urchins killed, of course, it will be difficult to hire more.


Will notice anyone sneaking or hiding if at all possible. Enemies usually may not surprise the party.

Winning Smile

As long as no bloodshed has taken place and you are the one doing the talking, you get a +1 bonus to all reaction rolls

Worm Body

You can maneuver your body to seem larger than it is and to fit into tight spaces. This allows you to go where others cannot, to make a rope loosely bound around you to seem tight, etc.

You Mean This?

Once per session, you can remove one non-obvious item from a person that mostly trusts you and has spent at least 10 minutes near you in the past hour. Not their sword or their hat, but a key, a trinket, or a letter, or half the wealth they carry. Before the hour is up, you need to tell them that you've taken it. Basically, you retroactively steal a thing.

31 January 2019

Class: Specialist and Specialist Arts (GLOG)

You want this. Click this.

The most current version of my Specialist Class is in this Google Doc. Please leave feedback if you like. I'm sure there are mistakes.

The community project version of the GLOG (if you decide to call all of the classes anyone makes part of it) has glorified the wizard and other casters at the expense of non-magical sorts. Wizards have endless schools of magic to choose from, making them fresh and exciting (and often much more powerful than other classes.) The GLOG feels like the Wizard D&D game. That's really part of its attaction. GLOG magic is pretty awesome.

I like non-casters better than wizards though, so I tried to remedy that a bit by giving the Specialist class a list of Arts, analogous to wizard schools, to choose from. I strove to keep the abilities non-magical, non-meta, sensible, and unlike spells. If you love the gonzo, meta, story-influencing abilities that dominate some corners of GLOG-land, you may desire to make some modifications.

I, however, love this class. I'd be content to run a game that only had this class.

24 January 2019

Favorite Free Oldschool Adventures and Locations

(I think Dan's list of favorite things might have inspired this post. I honestly don't remember. It's good though, so check it out too.)

Want to grab a bunch of content from the internet and just run it without spending money on adventures/settings and without spending time making your own stuff?

Here are the very best I've found. These are quality.
Useful but I don't have enough experience with them to consider them favorites:
What did I miss? Tell me in the comments.

Submitted recommendations I can't personally vouch for:

One Page Dungeons (you'll have to sift through them for the good ones yourself. Comment with your favorites and I'll add them.)
Secret Santicore (see above.)

Low Attribute Scores on Kowloon Planet

When your highest Attribute Score is low, you may roll on the table to start with something extra.

Highest Attribute3-56-89> 9
Roll 1d6ThriceTwiceOnce0 times

1-3 Beneficial Mutations

  1. Ambidextrous
  2. Double jointed
  3. Disease immunity
  4. Poison resistance
  5. High pain threshold
  6. Each of your HD is a D8 instead of a D6.
  7. Independently focusable eyes
  8. Double longevity
  9. Cold resistance
  10. Heat resistance

4-6 Artifacts

  1. Oxygen tank
  2. Respiratory Filters
  3. Life Vest
  4. Oil of a relaxing fragrance
  5. 1d6 doses of a substance that:
    1. Can cover your body in adaptive camouflage.
    2. Heightens senses of smell and taste
    3. Heightens sense of touch
    4. Doubles Movement
    5. Doubles DEX
    6. Doubles STR
    7. Enhances everything (Boon to all Attribute rolls for 1d6 rounds and then collapse with 0 Grit remaining. Eat and take a full rest or die on the next damage source.)
  6. Belt that causes electrical field to cover skin. (Roll 1d6 each use. 1-5 causes that much damage to the one who touched. 6 causes the pack to melt after doing 6 damage to the one who touched.)
  7. Poisonous tooth (permanently affixed) with 1d6 doses remaining.
  8. Bone-crushing jaws made of strange metal
  9. Cartridge for laser weapon (and roll again)
  10. Technical manual
    1. Doors
    2. Artificial intelligence
    3. Security system
    4. Energy generation (water wheels to nuclear power)
  11. +1 weapon, made from strange metal.
  12. Collar with spinal needle that causes the wearer to melee attack any within 30’ and gain +2 Attack and Damage -2 DEF. To avoid attacking, wearer may Save once per round.

22 January 2019

Attribute Checks as Saving Throws

In this system, Attribute Checks will function with probabilities more akin to Saving Throws.

Because of the higher chance of failure, the GM must call for checks less often, simply saying "yes" whenever a competent adventurer would be likely to succeed at a task. When the result is clearly uncertain, make an attribute check.


To create Attributes during Character Generation, roll 1d6+3 for each Attribute. (If your rules increase Attributes when a level is gained, roll 1d6+1 instead.)

To make a check, roll under your Attribute score on a d20.

Difficult tasks add d6s to the roll. Skills subtract the results of d6s from the roll, 1d6 per point in the relevant skill.

21 January 2019

Updated and Automated Faction Generator

It has types, traits, connections to other factions, and conflict.

Printable, editable Google doc.

17 January 2019

Random Encounter Template Generator (From the Dungeon of Signs Blog)

Dungeon of Signs made a very useful post that provides a nice middle-ground between using a pre-made bestiary for your encounter table and just making something up entirely from scratch. He made a table for generating just the mechanical elements for each monster, leaving the theme and specifics of each monster for the GM to decide afterward.

I was starting to use the table and decided I'd rather automatically roll it with a generator since I was working at a computer instead of at a table with dice and paper. Here it is:

15 January 2019

Fomalhaut/Kowloon Planet 3 - from Barzon to the Capital Ruins

In Barzon, an island on the Kowloon Planet. (See previous posts.)
  • Sent Denton to scout out dock - Svanth is checking out docks with Flying Gods (wasps under his control by way of a cube device) hovering overhead.
  • Discussed whether to take risks killing the hated Ullkmaran and decided to be practical instead. Party is disappointed.
  • Gang dressed in the armor uniforms of Ullkmaran's dead guards from the warehouse.
  • Started loading ship; tried to convince Svanth we're part of Ullkmaran's crew.
  • Zena convinces ship guard we're part of crew; she was hired as guard
  • Loaded more supplies, killed guard in warehouse.
  • Denton prepare ship to depart
  • Threw diambroid at governor Svanth on the dock; blown to bits and fire started.
  • Blew up other ship with remaining diambroid.
  • Pangea is captain. Zena is first mate.
  • Traveled by night to 1408, 1508, 1607, 1707. 1 ship ration consumed.
  • Traveled to 2105. Ran aground on sandbar. Sent crew into boats to lessen weight. Took 4 hours to scrape past.
  • Arrived at port at 12:00 noon. Spent another ship ration.
  • 6 other ships at dock. Decided to drink with crew to celebrate and boost morale. Persuaded all 16 to remain with us.
  • Awaited at dock by
    • man who wanted us to explore the wilderness.
    • bearded old librarian man. Wizard?
    • guy who says he can't currently discuss the work he'd like us to do but that we should meet him in the blue building.
    • mafia lady who offers "family."
  • Zena and Pangea both spent weeks in town taking hallucinogenics to expand their minds and each learned a new spell.
    • Pangea lost 1 wisdom and learned to hold and expel 10x the normal amount of breath.
    • Zena learned a ranged pilfering spell.
Post-game questions for the players:
1. What was the best accomplishment? Exploding Svanth.
2. What do you want to do next? Establish an alliance with a local faction.
3. What would improve the game? The referee should take better notes. (I couldn't remember several details.)

10 January 2019

Stealth, Light, and Surprise

My light and surprise rules are mostly adapted from Gus L at Dungeon of Signs.


  • A PC can behave as a scout to increase the party's chance of surprising whomever they might encounter or fleeing before the encounter begins.
  • Darkness is scary.
Read about Boons and Banes if you're not familiar.


  • Stealth = 5 + Dexterity Mod.
  • In a group, use the Stealth of the least stealthy character.
  • Check Stealth to move silently, hide, or pickpocket.


In light, PCs may not surprise monsters or NPCs except in special circumstances, such as when ambushing or when stealthily moving through a jungle.


  • Monsters and NPCs can be surprised with a 2-in-6 chance.
  • All rolls, including defense rolls, gain two Banes.
  • In the dark, Hired Hands must make a Morale check every turn.


  • The final 10' of any light source is dim.
  • Some light sources provide only dim light. (Example: covered lantern, candle)
  • Monsters and NPCs can be surprised with a 2-in-6 chance if all members of the party are in dim light (monsters may also surprise PCs with the same chance.)
  • All rolls, including defense rolls, gain one Bane.
  • Henchmen and Hired Hands suffer a Bane to all Morale checks when in dim light, unless they are skilled in Stealth (5 or better) and are used to operating in such conditions.
  • A stealthy character (Stealth 6 or better) suffers no Banes from dimness and gains a Boon to stealthy actions.

Light ConditionPenalties
Darkness2 Banes
Dimness1 Bane (unless stealthy)


A party that has surprise will act 1st on round 1 without need for an Initiative check and gain a Boon to all rolls for round 1.

If there is a chance that either party is surprised, roll 1D6.

1PCs Surprise in Dimness or Darkness or when opening a door
2PCs Surprise in Dimness or Darkness or when opening a door
5Enemies Surprise
6Enemies Surprise

Make sure your players understand how a stealthy character in dim light can scout ahead to prevent surprise.
Often, instead of attacking on a surprise round, foes should change the battlefield (throw nets, spring traps, set a fire, hide and snipe, send one of their party to bring reinforcements), or deprive the party of a resource (smash backpacks, extinguish torches.)

03 January 2019

Factions on Kowloon Planet

I made a faction generator for my sci-fantasy setting. I'm proud of it. It's neat.

It has types, traits, connections, and conflict. Part of it doubles as an NPC generator that creates appearance, personality, motivation.

You can make a copy and then edit the file if you like because it's a Google Doc.


Two elements may make it less immediately useful for you:
1. Magic is essentially unknown, so there's only a 3% chance of any faction being innately magical (only one entry is about wizards, for example.)
2. Technology is sought out in much the same way magic is in a vanilla fantasy campaign.

If you're having trouble with Google Docs, click the images below to expand them.