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.