HackMaster Basic

HackMaster Basic is a nice update of the HackMaster system (originally a parody of AD&D), but with all the silly stuff stripped out. The result is a game that retains the old-school feel (3d6 ability scores, in order!), but with some “new-school” mechanics (any race can be any class, Armor as Damage Reduction, opposed attack vs. defense rolls). It still retains the HackMaster attitude, as shown in various Knights of the Dinner Table comics (age categories include Adulthood, Middle Age, and Geezer; there’s a chapter dedicated to proper dice handling, etc.), but takes itself much more seriously and actually looks like a fun game with which to run extended campaigns.

My biggest beef with it though, is that it some of it seems too complicated for what I want out of a game. It attempts to simulate wounds and shields in a more realistic fashion than other games, and to me, that just seems tedious. Perhaps in actual play, it works really well. Certainly, the game has plenty of fans. I also find the second-by-second count-up version of combat to be a little mind-bending to keep track of, particularly coming off of decades of abstract turn-by-turn combat. I’ve heard that once you and your group gets the hang of it, it goes really smoothly and has the benefit of giving people something to do on a near-constant basis. I haven’t tried the HackMaster version, but when I played Aces & Eights with my old group, we spent the entire evening in a shootout, so I don’t know if it’s really faster or not.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with in the upcoming Advance HackMaster (detailing additional races, classes, and advancement above 5th level). Hopefully, it’ll have some alternate rules for those of us who like the old school feel of HackMaster but don’t want to deal with the fiddly mechanics. Honestly, sometimes the game feels like it was written by a lawyer. Still, it’s a good alternative fantasy RPG if you remember how great AD&D was back in the day, but aren’t sold on the radical changes of D&D 4E or the upscaled power of 3.X in Pathfinder.

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