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Friday 10 September 2021

Friday Fantasy: The Isle of Glaslyn

How small can a hex crawl be? The Isle of Glaslyn manages to fit a seven-hex hex crawl onto the equivalent of four pages and then present it on a pamphlet which folds down to roughly four-by-six inches. Yet when it folds out (and is folded over, slightly), it can sit on the table between the players and the Game Master, with all of the player-facing content—the hex map of the island and the town map—on the one side, and the Game Master content—random monster tables, NPC details, and more, on the other. It is the very definition of a clever little design.

The Isle of Glaslyn lies off the coast, its hills and forests enshrouded in mists, covering rich veins of a metal found nowhere else—strands of woven copper entwined with gold. These unique formations have brought men and women to the island hoping to strike it rich and so set themselves up for life. Yet few who have ventured beyond the walls of Caer Emyrys, the small fort on the south side of the island, have returned, and fewer with the desired wealth. Those walls are a frontier and on the other side lies a rough wilderness, full of dangers yet to be encountered and secrets to be discovered. There are rumours of an ancient guardian watching over the mines, of islanders who eat men, and a magical sword swathed in golden ichor which sleeps in the many barrows to be found on the island. Lady Morgan, commander of Caer Emyrys and representative of the Emperor, has been directed with securing the mine and making it safe, then opening it back up. To that end, she has decided to employ adventurers bold who will explore the island, deal with its dangers, and ensure that its riches can be mined.

The Isle of Glaslyn is thus a classic set-up for an adventure. Caer Emyrys and the Isle of Glaslyn—the island barely eighteen miles across—are described succinctly, the maps nice and clear, and accompanied by tables of rumours, wilderness encounters, an evening at the ‘Itchy Hole’ tavern in Caer Emyrys, and more. Beyond the fort, each of the hexes is fully detailed with several specific adventure sites across the island, such as an abandoned tower and the village of bones. These are scaled down to fit the size of the island, but accompanied by the tables of rumours and encounters, and so on, and The Isle of Glaslyn has the potential for multiple sessions of play as the Player Characters explore the island. Ultimately, the secret to the island echoes that of scenarios like ‘The Lichway’ from White Dwarf #9 or Death, Frost, Doom for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay.

The Isle of Glaslyn is neatly, if perhaps a little too tightly in places, presented—but then that is down to the format. It needs an edit in places too, but the artwork is really rather charming. Physically too—and despite the cleverness of its design—it is not always easy to use because sometimes it is not merely a matter of content being on the other side of the page, but a matter of being on the other side, and flipping back and forth can be cumbersome. It is printed on fairly stiff paper, so it will withstand some handling though.

Inspired by Welsh folklore and Arthurian myth about the lake below Snowdon, The Isle of Glaslyn, is published by Leyline Press and designed for a party of low-Level adventurers using Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy. Which means it is very easy to adapt to the retroclone of the Game Master’s choice. The limited amount of space means that the designers have to pack a lot of information into its pages and folds, but much of that is concisely presented, leaving room for the Game Master to add or develop detail and flavour as is her wont, although there is plenty of flavour implied. Literally as presented, the adventure is not a large one, but roughly a hex or two should be explored per session, and that with a fairly minimal degree of preparation upon the part of the Game Master. Plus, the size and self-contained nature of the island means that The Isle of Glaslyn is easy to drop off the coast of almost any fantasy roleplaying campaign. That self-same scope and size means that The Isle of Glaslyn could work as a low-Level party’s first wilderness adventure or hex crawl.

Overall, The Isle of Glaslyn is not necessarily a great scenario, but its small size contains plenty of adventure and its concision and format afford it a charm not always found in other scenarios.


  1. Back in the 80s there was a system called Ysgarth, 7booklets in a zip lock bag. As a game it was interesting, but the supplied setting was distinctly Welsh in look and language. It always interested me because of that.

    John Gathercole

  2. Ysgareth was originally published in 1979 and then throughout the eighties. I have copy, but never had the chance to read and review it.

  3. It had a major revamp in the late 80s, and a was reprinted in A4 format. At the time I could get my head around the rules changes, which seemed significant.


  4. If I remember correctly, the hit location system was on a D1000