Adventure amongst the DINO-PIRATES! Storm the secret citadels of NINJA ISLAND! Join the fight against the evil sorcerers of the Jade Empire, run away from cannibals, ride dinosaurs or sail the tropical seas in search of adventure and glory!

DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND: Basic Game is a simple role-playing game of prehistoric swashbuckling kung-fu adventure that lets you and your friends thrill to the excitement of this fantastic pulp setting.

The tabs below will walk you through the rules — it’s simple and fun!

DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND: Basic Game is a version of Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson. It’s a great game.


The Basic Game Package

Download the printable PDF below! This gives you four tiny little rulebooks (helpful at the game table), all seven Class sheets, a blank Character sheet and a sheet of Adventuring Goals for Pirates, Ninjas, Natives and Imperials. It’s totally free!

A Bunch Of Dice

The game uses only d10s and d12s. Some of the d10s should be cooler-looking than the others (for face dice).

Character & Bad Guy Tokens

Something to represent the good guys and the bad guys — download this sheet of DINO-PIRATES counters and go to town! A one-inch hole punch from a craft store plus some washers work great.

A Point-Filled Bowl

You can use poker chips, beans, coins, whatever’s handy. The bowl should be reachable by everyone.

Blank Paper and Pens

You’ll want to scribble down maps of places so everyone can move their counters around when there’s a fight.

Some Friends

You’re on your own, here.


This site is full of ideas for adventures and swashbuckling, so browse around and get your light lit up!


  1. Every player picks one of the seven Class Sheets. Once you’ve picked a class, that class belongs to you, and no one else can play it, so don’t be a dick about it. Look over your class sheet and read as much of it as you can, paying special attention to your class Inherent and Limitation* as well as what Talents the class offers.
    *Limitations, by the way, are purely optional suggestions on how to roleplay the class you’ve chosen. Feel free to ignore, change, or put your own spin on them
  2. Grab a Character Sheet and begin rolling your Attributes. Roll 2d10 and consult the Attribute Bonus Chart (it’s on your Class Sheet), and then assign the bonus (-2 to +5) to whichever of the six attributes you feel is appropriate. Do this five more times. Don’t worry too much about having the right “Key Stat” for your class, the system doesn’t care too much about such things.
  3. Fill in the Class name and add a Concept for your character. “Fugitive Sorcerer” or “Misunderstood Shaman”. Come up with a cool name for your character while you’re at it.
  4. Pick a single Talent from your class sheet, whatever you think sounds like the most fun. Can’t pick just one? Don’t worry, you get to pick a new one every level.
  5. Take a look at the Weapons and pick what category your starting weapon is – your weapon can be anything from a Shortsword to a Magic Wand to a Keg of Ale as long as you pick a weapon category that makes sense for it. Write it down and note what arena it has a bonus in. Note the Encumbrance Rules (below) if you want a Heavy or Very Heavy weapon!
  6. Keeping the (simple) Encumbrance Rules in mind, pick a type of armor from the Armor page. Keep in mind the bonus Awesome Point you get for fighting without armor. That’s a big deal.
  7. Note the starting equipment for your class (on your class sheet), and your Wealth.
  8. Come up with an Adventuring Goal and write it on your class sheet! It should be something fun that fits your concept and is (relatively) achievable with a little bit of hard work and luck.


Oh yeah, this is kind of important – Talents come in three flavors:

1. Constant Talents

These talents are either always on or can be used as many times as you want.

2. Arena Talents

Once successfully used in combat, these talents can’t be used again until you move to a new Arena.
However, spending an Awesome Point lets you use a spent Arena Talent again even though you’re still in the same Arena.

3. Rested Talents

These talents can only be used once a day, or at least until you get a meal and some decent rest.
If you spend two Awesome Points and roleplay a little explanation how, you can usually recharge a spent Rested Talent outside of combat unless your DM has a good reason why you can’t.


You may have also noticed that some Talents (like most spells) are also marked as Focused Talents – this means that using them in a combat round requires you to be vulnerable for a short while before they take effect.


Some weapons, armor and other things (like treasure) that you’ll find in the world are Heavy.

Your Brawn bonus is the number of Heavy things that you can carry around comfortably and still do flashy and heroic stuff without a problem. If you are carrying more Heavy things than your Brawn allows, that means you’re staggering around encumbered and you automatically fail every roll you make until you put them down.

Sometimes other things you’ll find are Very Heavy. Very Heavy things count as two Heavy things.

If your Brawn bonus is zero, you can only ever carry one Heavy thing (which counts as being encumbered). If your Brawn bonus is less than zero, you can’t carry any Heavy items at all.


There are five different kinds of weapon: Light, Reach, Ranged, Heavy and Very Heavy. Each weapon type gets a bonus to hit in a particular type of Arena (more on those later; suffice to say that you get an advantage in certain types of terrain).

Your Starting Weapon

You start the game with a single type of weapon. This can be any weapon you can imagine, as long as you designate it under whichever category makes the most sense for it. Eventually by adventuring, defeating foes, or simply taking time to shop you can acquire other weapons. However, any weapon type you carry beyond your first two counts as a Heavy item.

Weapon Types

LIGHT WEAPON 1 point of damage
Smaller and quicker than other melee weapons. Using a light weapon allows you to roll 3d10 instead of 2d10, ignoring the value shown on the lowest die.
Examples: rapiers, big daggers, belaying pins, nunchucks, clawed gloves
Narrow places that often limit your mobility somehow.
REACH WEAPON 1 point of damage
These are usually pole-arms or cool chain-based weapons. It’s easier to keep your enemies at bay, so wielding one improves your Armor Class by one category.
Examples: staff, spear, flail, chain-and-sickle, naginata
Places where footing is difficult or visibility is limited and requires care.
RANGED WEAPON 1 point of damage
You attack earlier in Combat order, and can attack an opponent that’s in an adjacent arena as well as the one you’re in.
Examples: bows, blowgun, shuriken, chakram, flintlock pistol, throwing knives, bullwhip
Stark, wide-open areas where there is little to no cover.
HEAVY WEAPON 2 points of damage
Nice and big, so they do an extra point of damage if you manage to hit with them.
Examples: katana, cutlass, battleaxe, falchion, big spikey club
A crowded environment that has lots of fiddly but smash-able bits that might get in the way.
VERY HEAVY WEAPON 2 points of damage (sometimes 4)
Frickin’ huge and powerful, requiring both hands (no shield). They also do an extra point of damage; beating an opponent’s armor class by 5 or more does two extra points of damage.
Examples: caber, REALLY BIG spikey club, double-headed axe, blunderbuss
A bland or ambiguous environment that’s hard to define. No weapon type gets a bonus in a neutral arena.


Not a lot of adventurers in DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND wear armor. But if you really want to, you can:

Armor Types

Armor Type Armor Class Description Tricky or Sneaky Stuff Penalty


barbarian loincloth, piratical shirt n pantaloons, a stylish hat, fancy robes or a cool leather jacket
(if you fight without armor, you may add your Cunning or your Awareness to your Armor Class. You also earn 1 Awesome Point after each combat.)


stiffened leather cuirass, vambraces, a conquistador-style breastplate


mail, plates of steel, samurai armor with a big scary mask


Shields cannot be used in conjunction with Ranged or Very Heavy weapons. Shields do not improve your Armor Class, but they can be used to soak damage:

  • A Light Shield can be immediately sacrificed to reduce one attack to a single point of damage.
  • A Heavy Shield will become damaged if used in such a manner, and getting hit again destroys it.

Damaged shields can be repaired during down time.


Actions in a round of combat are played out in this order. Each combatant gets to choose only one of these actions to perform each round. All combatants who choose the same action must roll initiative to see who goes first.

Combat Actions



Choosing either of these options means forgoing direct action in favor of taking a reactive stance which allows you to make a Counter-attack against everyone that successfully hits you in the attack turn of this round. Choosing to Defend means that your Armor Class goes up by one category (+2).
Choosing to Protect means any attacks this round that target a chosen friend in your arena will attack you instead.


If you have a Ranged Weapon, you may make an attack against anyone in your arena or in an adjacent arena (this being the only non-talent way to attack someone not in your arena). You can also choose to “hold and aim” and attack at any point later in the combat in order to interrupt someone’s Focus or decide who to attack once you see what they’re doing.


If you decide to use a Focus Talent (like casting a spell), it’s at this point you announce what you’re starting to do and enter a period of vulnerability before the effects of the talent go off on Turn Seven. Alternately you can attempt to Impede someone, spending your round preventing them from leaving the arena you’re both in. To do so successfully requires testing your Daring against their Cunning. If you succeed, you may have also managed to Corner them (see Turn Seven).


Not just “moving around” (which anyone can usually do as they like within the arena they’re in), this action allows you to Move your character into an adjacent arena, or even a new one. You can suggest new arenas to the DM at any time. Moving to a new arena may require a successful Attribute test if the arena is difficult to get to (climbing onto a roof or jumping over a pit, for example). If someone managed to successfully Impede you, at this point you can attempt to counter-attack them if you wish.


This action allows you to attack anybody you share the arena with. Be sure to describe your attack in an exciting way, preferably with lots of hand gestures.


You can attempt to move yourself and any number of opponents into an adjacent (and easily-accessible) arena by Pushing them, which requires testing a single Cunning roll against each of their Commitment rolls. If any of them win the test, none of you move. Alternately you can attempt to Throw a single opponent into another arena by testing your Brawn versus either their Awareness or their Commitment (their choice).
(This action cannot be chosen)


At this point any Focused actions go off (initiative rolled if needed to determine order) but only if the focuser remained undamaged until now. If you successfully Impeded someone, and also didn’t take any damage since then, the Impede turns into a Cornering and they cannot choose the Move action the following round, either.

How to Attack Stuff

Roll 2d10! If you meet or exceed your opponent’s Armor Class, you hit!

And remember:

  • Using a weapon in its preferred Arena gives you +2
  • Light weapons let you roll 3d10, drop lowest
  • Some Talents can also give you a bonus
  • You cannot spend an Awesome Point to improve an attack roll


A successful hit always does at least one point of damage. Use Awesome Points, Heavy Weapons or Talents to increase this, or luck out and hit them IN THE FACE:

Face Dice!

One of the d10 you roll should be different from the other. This is your Face Die. Anytime you roll a ten (zero) on your face die when successfully hitting an opponent, you hit them IN THE FACE, which does an extra point of damage!

Using Up Your Hit Points

Any damage dealt to you that checks off your last hit box, you must roll to see if you are Knocked Out or Bleeding Out.

Roll a d10:

Fortunately you are only Knocked Out, and have to sit out the rest of combat recovering and gathering your strength again (unless someone manages to heal you somehow), at the end of which you get to pick yourself up and uncheck a box.
Uh-oh, your character is Bleeding Out and needs attention and some sort of immediate healing! Without that healing, at the end of combat your character will have to make a successful Commitment check of ten or better or die.

Saving your Bacon

If a fellow party member in the same arena gives up their action the following round after you start Bleeding Out, they can patch you up and change your status to Knocked Out.

Healing After Combat

“Wind Knocked Out” Or Better
Not really a beating, more like a strenous workout. If you can arrange a scene in the game where you can rest for an hour or so, catch your breath, maybe get a bite to eat or drink, then you’re back to full.
“Taken A Nasty Hit” Or Worse
You’re feeling pretty messed up. You’ll need at least a full day’s bed rest to recover all your hit points. Once you’ve recovered your hit points, you’ve acquired a Scar. Make sure to note where it is and how you got it on your character sheet.


Initiative is something that’s only rolled once you reach an action phase where multiple opposing combatants have decided to act. Each character or group of bad guys rolls a single d10 at the beginning of the action to determine the order. Quick maneuvers like switching weapons, grabbing something, or using Awesome Points to recover damage are generally considered “free.”


It takes a lot of courage and a little bit of foolhardiness to be an adventurer, and good adventuring is usually about treading that thin line between risking great danger for great reward and reknown, or getting in over your head and losing it all.

A lot of the time these sorts of situations will involve testing your character’s various Attributes against the challenge that you’re hoping to resolve. It’s up to the DM to explain the parameters of whatever situation you might find yourself in but it’s usually up to you to decide how your character is going to face it.

Challenging Your Character

While your chosen class might primarily define what you are (or at least what you start off as), it’s your Attributes that define what you can do. Generally, directing your character’s actions is as simple as explaining and describing what you are doing, whether in first person or third. Your DM will let you know if you succeed or fail, usually giving you a reason why; but to make it more dramatic, sometimes–lots of times–he (or she) might leave it up to chance and ask you to test one of your Attributes to determine your success.

Testing an Attribute

Determine with your DM which one of your character’s six Attributes is most appropriate for the situation.

The DM then decides an Attribute you’re rolling against, whether it’s contested against another person or the work of another person. If they can’t think of one, that’s okay too.

Roll a d12 and add (or subtract) your Attribute bonus to it. The DM also rolls a d12 and adds (or subtracts) an Attribute bonus they think is the most suitable, or leaves it unmodified if one doesn’t seem appropriate.

Meeting or exceeding the DM’s roll* counts as a success. Rolling below or rolling a 1 is always a failure.

*If you are contesting another Player Character in some way then a tie is just that – a tie, with neither PC getting the upper hand. You can simply try again or call it a draw.

The Attributes

There are six attributes that define your character:

Material power
  • moving big heavy stuff
  • looking threatening
  • physical size
  • breaking stuff
  • lifting gates, opening doors
Doing stuff other people don’t want you to
  • slipping away
  • disguising yourself
  • trap disarming
  • sneaking
  • hiding
Social prowess
  • bluffing
  • appeasing
  • begging for your life
  • getting “lucky”
  • gettin’ stuff cheap
Quickly assimilating and understanding
  • noticing hidden or distant things
  • reacting quickly
  • knowing esoteric or random stuff
  • seeing through someone’s lies
  • appraising valuables
Willpower and dedication
  • bearing through the pain
  • knowing stuff relating to your goals
  • recuperating
  • crafting stuff
  • staying vigilant
Doing stuff that takes a lot of guts
  • jumping
  • acrobatics
  • climbing
  • facing down something big & nasty
  • showing off


The DM has a big old pile of Awesome Points. This is called The Stack.

In the middle of the table there is also a bowl of Awesome Points. This is called, for lack of a better term, The Bowl. A game session usually starts off with the DM putting about 2.5 x the number of players worth of points into The Bowl, rounding up.

Giving Out Awesome Points

At any time–whether during character creation, someone saying something hilarious about the current events, a particularly slick move by a player character, whatever–when someone does something awesome, anyone can reach into the bowl and give that someone an Awesome Point.

Hopefully throughout the game lots of awesome stuff is happening and you should start running out of points in The Bowl. Sometimes the rules specifically say something you do deserves an Awesome Point (like surviving a fight without any armor, or making significant progress on an Adventuring Goal), and when that happens you should make a big deal of it and the DM should give you your Awesome Points directly out of The Stack.

Sometimes crappy things happen to the players.

Sometimes the DM pumps up the damage that the bad guys do to you, or heals them a bit after you’ve hit them particularly hard; sometimes the DM says things like, “unfortunately, there are just too many guards and they manage to tie you up and throw you into jail,” or reinforcements show up to help the guys you’re fighting, or the DM decides that an evil villain manages to shrug off your spell and get away (the bastard), and when he or she does that the DM should just own up to what’s going on and put a bunch more Awesome Points in The Bowl from The Stack.

Spending Awesome Points

You can use your awesome points for the following purposes

  • Add a +2 to any Attribute Roll. Have something handy or nearby within reach. Add a cool effect to an Attack or Attribute Roll. Use a per-arena Talent again in the same arena.
  • Do one more point of damage after a successful attack. Heal a single point of damage that you’ve just taken.
  • Create an NPC you have a relationship with. Recharge a rested Talent outside of combat.
  • Use a Talent from your class that you don’t have yet.

Don’t forget to check off an experience box on your class sheet!

NOTE: Generally, spending Awesome Points doesn’t constitute as some sort of action in and of itself, it just adds to an action you’re doing
NOTE NOTE: You canNOT spend Awesome Points to improve your Attack Roll. Only Attribute Rolls can be improved.


You level up when everybody at the table has spent (and checked off) twelve Awesome Points on their class sheets. Sometimes there’s one or two people lagging behind the rest of you, and you should keep in mind that that’s probably your fault for not rewarding them enough when they do something awesome, so see what you can do to help with that.

When that final Awesome Point is spent, try to get in a good cheer around the table and trade some high-fives but then go back to finishing your combat or the scene you’re in or whatever’s going on when it happens, because leveling up doesn’t actually happen until your characters get a moment of peace and realize they have new abilities.

Two things happen when you level up

Improve an Attribute
Choose one of your six Attributes and increase the written bonus by one.
Pick a New Talent
Select one new Talent and add it to your character sheet.
But Wait!

The new talent that you pick doesn’t have to be from your class – You can pick any talent from any of the classes that you like. However, doing so requires following two important rules:

  • You can never have more cross-class talents than you have class talents
  • and
  • If someone is playing the class you want a talent from, you must get their permission.


Obviously heroes need adventures to go on. Creating DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND adventures is easy!

Instead of describing a location in detail, or setting up an elaborate plot, start with a high-level idea — the Concept — that’s quite simple to come up with. Then create three lists of loosely-related and not-very-detailed items, which work together at the table to produce a fun and satisfying adventure story.

Sample Adventure

Here’s an example of a TOTALLY FREE sample adventure using this three-list format you can download for your first DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND game! Down below we chat about the format and how you can use it for your own adventures.

But maybe you want to make up your own adventures. Good idea! You should totally do that. Here are some tips.

Creating Adventures


So the first thing this kind of adventure needs is a simple, obvious Concept — like “Stop the evil sorcerer from enslaving the volcano god!” or “Destroy the SLAVE QUEEN’S mind-controlled army!”

A good adventure concept describes an ACTION to be taken by the heroes. This action needs to be about opposing some evil scheme (like mind-controlled armies, or whatever). The evil scheme should be super-simple — don’t over-think it! Things will get complicated in play, and you can always add twists and turns later. But you want something really simple so the players know exactly what they’re getting into. Just mess around with a few “what if” statements and see what comes up. “What if an evil sorcerer got control of an angry volcano god?” “What if giant monkeys invaded a pirate fortress?”

Once I have the evil scheme in mind, come up with how the heroes would get involved to stop it. I don’t mean “They meet an old wizard in a tavern who tells them where to go”. That’s way too much detail, and who cares about all that crap? This is about choosing a VERB. Do they STOP the scheme, or DESTROY the hidden base, or RESCUE the prince? That’s it. One word does the job.

So that’s your Concept — an evil scheme undone by a verb.

Three Lists

Now create three lists. They aren’t long or complicated.

Random Chaos

Supply a random factor that might interrupt heroes bent on saving the day. For the volcano god adventure, the random list includes lava, earthquakes and so on. For an adventure in which a bunch of heroes have to get a little baby to a distant fortress, the baby itself became the random trouble-making element.

I make a little table for a d12. 1 – 6 is always “no result,” so that not every roll causes trouble, and then I come up with six other possible results for 7 – 12. So there’s six possible results — each with a different in-game consequence. I always make 12 the biggest, craziest one, just because, well, it’s 12. The players have the table in front of them and every so often just say, “Okay, somebody roll on the volcano god table.” Then there’s a tense moment while they await the result, and then the game carries on.


Try to come up with 12 adventuring goals that your players might select from. This is a great way to seed the adventure with possibilities. Keeping in mind the Concept, dream up reasons why somebody would want to do the ACTION described there. Let your mind wander and go a little goofy, allowing unrelated names to suddenly emerge, like in this goal from the volcano god adventure:

“Master Nobitsuna of the Dragon’s Eye Clan has disappeared, leaving only the word “Tuloanga” carved on his cell wall.”

Who is Master Nobitsuna? Who are the Dragon’s Eye Clan? It doesn’t really matter at this stage. These details might inspire entries in one of the other lists, or they might not get referenced anywhere else. If a player picks this goal, we’ll figure out how it fits into the adventure together.

It might seem like a strange thing to focus on, since in any given session, most of the supplied adventure goals won’t even be used. But it’s a great way to generate ideas that can feed into the story, even if nobody picks the goals. Thinking about the adventure from the point of view of the heroes, and why they might get involved, is a powerful way to sort of trick yourself into creating a really hero-centered adventure.


Grab some location sheets and jot down whatever notes come to mind about scenes that might come up. Try to think of fun locations for a fight, or crazy bad guys, or some clue that needs to be given to the players. Play off ideas that came up on the other two lists, and always go back to your simple Concept to renew my creativity.

Structuring Scenes

Your first scene should always be exciting — an immediate threat the players need to deal with in order to survive. But it must do two other things: it must lead the heroes into the adventure — there must be some clue or threat that draws or pushes them along. The first scene cannot be self-contained. It must present a mystery (“Why are these flying lava monsters attacking us?”) or force them into immediate action (“Well, the ship is sinking and there’s an island over there.”). Or both!

After that you just need to jot down a bunch of ideas. Remember, you’re creating a list of locations, not a gazetteer.

Great Encounter Locations

Interesting and dynamic combat encounters can be built quickly and easily on the fly, and modified as needed by the DM once they’re underway.

The key is first coming up with a varied combat environment that’s made up of the various arena categories. I usually start off with a single “cool idea”:

  • a thin bridge across a chasm,
  • a floor filled with open pits,
  • a ship racing across a desert,
  • a dangerous mountain pass
  • anything else you find inspiring.

Then extrapolate from there how you would break it up and/or connect it to different arenas. An arena can be used to designate an area as large or as small as you like, it’s simply an abstract concept that means:

A place you might fight in that’s different from the places around it that you might fight in.

So rather than thinking in a traditional grid-based overhead view of your combat environment, combat maps can be anything: a hastily-filled out piece of paper with of labeled circles with connecting lines, a more elaborate overhead map delineating arena relationships, a spread-out collection of written-on post-its or index cards, or even a sketched-out side-view of a multi-leveled area; whatever works best for tracking who is where, what type of arena each area is, and which connects to which.

Some Example Arenas
Narrow corridors, stairs, balconies, back alleys, doorways, tunnels, closets, etc.
Crumbly rooftops, floors next to open pits, thin ledges or planks over precipices, spiky areas, murky swamps, foggy or smoky room with poor visibility, etc.
The open sky (for flying), large chambers, big caverns, open water, courtyard or town square, an actual gladiatorial arena, etc.
The crowded shop, the thick forest, the thatch village, the store room or warehouse, the deck of a ship, the clockwork chamber, etc.
The can’t-figure-out-which-arena-this-is arena.
Location Sheets

We’ve provided you with a handy set of printable Location Sheets you can use to stay organized when you’re dreaming up wild kung-fu fight scenes, or while you’re keeping track of things at the table. This doc also includes NPC Sheets so you have everything you need right at your fingertips!


Running Combat

Refer to the “Fighting” section for the basics on how the combat round works. Remember, when a person’s turn comes up depends on what action they choose.

The easiest thing to do is to declare what the bad guys are doing, and let the players describe how they want to respond. Help the players slot their action into one of the categories:

  1. Defend or Protect
  2. Shoot
  3. Focus or Impede
  4. Move
  5. Attack
  6. Push or Throw

Once everyone’s settled on what they want to try and do, resolve the actions in the order listed above. If more than one character (including bad guys) are in the same action category, everyone in that category rolls a d10 for initiative.

Adjudicating The Round

Sometimes players will want to do something that doesn’t fall under one of the standard actions. Some guidelines:

Is It Something Clunky?
make it a Focus action.
Is It Something Attack-y?
make it an Attack action.
Is It Something Else?
Decide whether it’s worth really losing a whole round for, then either let the player add it to a regular action or simply choose when would be the most appropriate phase in the round.

Unarmed Combat

Someone wants to attack without a weapon?

Have them roll 2d10 as normal but only count the higher die. A player may spend one Awesome Point after rolling to add any Attribute bonus they want, provided they can explain how it helped hit, and then inflict a single point of damage.

If both opponents are unarmed, both get an additional +2 to their attacks, and neither can Bleed Out from the fight.

Monsters And Bad Guys

The different monster types below are left vague on purpose so they can be used fast and loose, and in fact don’t be afraid to “promote” a guard or minion mid-combat if it feels dramatically appropriate. Deciding what to populate your encounter with should really be predicated mostly on your analysis of the current state of the Awesome Point economy.

Generally, if the players have not been awarding each other very many Awesome Points, throw a large mess of minions or vermin on the table which will give the players lots of opportunity to kick ass and be awesome. Once the bodies have begun to pile up around their feet, you can promote or bring in a tougher “boss” threat to help end the combat with a little excitement.

Conversely if a lot of points have been flying around and some of the players have even started hoarding a bit, go ahead and bring out the hard-hitting bigger guys right off the bat and let them really use those points to soak damage and recharge their talents.

What’s important is that over the course of adventuring you continue to mix & match a diversity of foes to differentiate from previous encounters: say a handful of minions plus a few big toughs; or a single villain type, his bruiser, and his cadre of guards; or if you’re feeling mean, that one big solo monster with the inflammatory halitosis.

With varied groups of monsters, be sure to take full advantage of the breadth of combat options: minions will often use the Protect action when their boss is trying to pull out a fancy Focused effect, for instance, and same-Arena opponents may choose to Impede the PCs if it looks like they’re going to try to close with their ranged-attack allies in another arena, and so on.

If the combat starts to feel grindy, and you can’t think of a way to spice it up, feel free to have your bad guys surrender or turn and run. Not all combats should be to the death.

Last but not least, never ever miss the opportunity to turn an urban combat into a potential rooftop or market chase, because those are awesome.

Monster Types


These are 1-hit-point guys that you should feel free to spill onto the combat scene in great numbers (up to double the number of players, give or take, is pretty safe).

Their undefined weapons (or claws) are crappy and never get an arena bonus (though they might be ranged), and they only get to roll 1d10 each to attack (not a face die), meaning they’re almost always harmless one-on-one.

They do like to gang up, however. When you roll for two or more Minions attacking the same PC, roll a d10 for each Minion, take the top 2 rolls and add them together, discarding the rest. If that result beats the PCs AC, the minions managed to do a point of damage, and if you’re feeling nasty you can feed a couple of Awesome Points into the Bowl to make it two.

They usually have an Armor Class of 10.


Tougher than Minions, Guards have two hit points, roll 2d10 (or 3d10 if using Light) to attack, and have one of the Weapon Types which will grant them an arena bonus. Armor Class can vary, but if they are humanoid I often like to equip them with Light Shields just to make sure that they survive that first attack (see the Shield rules). I usually then flip the token over to help track who’s wounded or not.


These guys have 5 to 10 hit points or so and along with all the benefits of Guards or Creatures have access to various Powers, which can either be Talents from the class sheets, something from the Bad Guys And Beasties minibook, or something else you come up with, either beforehand or on the spot.


These are the 15 hit point things (sometimes even more) with Very Heavy Weapon type attacks (and often multiple other types as well) that have access to multiple Powers and can often reach into Adjacent Arenas with impunity.

Save them for when your players are really stocked up on Awesome Points and short on humility.

Some Possible Powers

Flying creatures usually have access to the “Open Sky” arena and don’t often have a problem moving from one Arena to another.

Pulling: a favorite of Giant Spiders and long-tongued Frog Demons, this is the ability to yank a PC from an adjacent Arena into their own and attack them. Alternately, Siren-like creatures like to open a combat by Pulling everybody into their arena with a Focus action.

Poison or Energy Drain: Really nasty Assassins or Undead favor attacks that force Commitment checks when they damage that have the potential to place negatives on all die rolls.

Blast Effect: This attack requires everyone in an Arena to make a Cunning or Daring check or take damage.

Leech: Rolling a 10 on any attack die allows this monster to regain a hit point.

Some Monsters and Magic-wielding Bad Guys have the power to Change the Arena type (often to “Hazardous”) with a successful Focus action. Others may be able to Create a new Arena and force PCs into it by Awesome-Point pumping an attack, like, say, swallowing someone whole into their Stomach (tight).

Most of the Freaky Big Monsters are able to do an extra action if a specific action is successful, like being able to Throw or Corner an opponent with every successful Attack.

Keep in Mind:

In any combat, you can feed the bowl (usually about 2ap each) in order to…

  • “Pump” damage done in some gleefully descriptive way.
  • Impose some sort of Condition or Effect with a successful attack (set on fire, temporarily blind, etc) that the player can roll to avoid (usually Commitment).
  • Bring in Reinforcements (a la 2-AP cost of “creating an NPC relationship).
  • Anything else that would be awesomely interesting and challenging.

Magic Items

Magic Items are rare and are usually inscribed with runes or decorations and have many rumors floating around about them. Therefore, every magic item must come with a Story. Many such treasures will not even function unless the story is known. When the players find a Magic Item, either the DM or the players must come up with the story behind it, unless the DM wishes it to remain a mystery to be solved.

Magic Items essentially function as equipment that, when carried, worn or used, will give you access to Talent-like Powers, many of which involve some balance of positive and negative benefits. Unlike Talents, the Powers granted from Magic Items come in four different categories, and are not rechargeable through the use of Awesome Points.

Magic Item Categories

These powers are either constantly functioning or can be activated as needed anytime you want.
Mostly the province of Potions and Scrolls, these Magic Items are consumed or broken once used.
These Magic Items can only be activated once a day.
These wand-like items have a limited number of charges before they are used up or broken. Roll a d10 everytime you use it. On a one, the item becomes mundane and non-magical. Sometimes there are rituals or other ways to “recharge” an expired Magic Item.

Magic Weapons

Magic Weapons that are listed as having a plus bonus do not in fact give you a permanent bonus to attack and damage rolls.

When using a “plus something” Magic Weapon, you can spend up to that bonus in Awesome Points to add to your hit roll on any given attack, and adding to the damage only costs one Awesome Point, not two.