Having messed around a bit with the earlier release of HackMaster Basic, I was delighted last week to finally receive my copy of the HackMaster Player's Handbook. This morning I have been exploring character generation and wanted to share my two-penneth on why this is a cracking game.
Before we start, however, a caveat: HackMaster is NOT a joke game! We need to make it very clear that this article is about the new HackMaster
. This is a serious fantasy RPG with some really positive innovations that, frankly, make the current generation of D&D editions look a bit crap.
Gentle reader... take a deeper look before you discount the new HackMaster.
Right then. To get started with HackMaster you'll need, other than the beautiful hardback book (and THAT is a beautiful sight!), a full set of polyhedral dice, a pencil and some paper.
I'd recommend a copy of the character sheet... except that, shockingly, HackMaster PHB does not provide one - the ONLY flaw of the game I've encountered so far. To save you time, check out the sheet -->here
<--, which is very serviceable and available in both fillable .PDF and blank printable forms.
HackMaster has seven ability scores, nothing shocking there. You roll 3d6 for each, with a d100 to give the fractional ability score too. This too is nothing surprising. What I really like, however, is that this begins the process of difficult and cool choices with which every player is confronted.
What do I mean? Well, in HackMaster you begin with 40 Building Points (BP) that you can spend on your character. You roll the scores (no cost) in order. You can place them into any new order you choose, if you wish. If, however, you only swap two scores then you gain +25 BP; if you opt to take 'em as rolled, you get +50 BP.
This is a cool thing - it encourages players to "roll with the rolls" instead of pre-conceptualising the hero... but it also allows you to play a specific character type if that floats your boat.
Example: STR 10/21; INT 12/41; WIS 11/01; DEX 12/41; CON 10/33; LKS 16/39; CHA 12/28. Looking at these I decided to throw caution to the wind, opt for a Mage character, and take 'em as rolled. My BP pool rocketed from 40BP to 90BP! Lots of points to spend on my skills, talents and proficiencies. Om nom nom!
|This is a truly beautiful handbook for fantasy gaming.|
What I really like most about HackMaster has already been alluded to: choices.
Next step, choose race; third step, choose a class.
Then it's alignment, tweaking those ability scores, and figure out your Honour (yes, I've spelled it the British way, get over it!).
From here you roll up some "priors and particulars" (background stuff), choose or roll quirks/flaws, buy your skills/talents/proficiencies, roll hit points, and equip.
Choices, choices, choices... interspersed with random rolls... although you can use 1BP to re-roll any random off-a-table result you get. Nice.
With a choice of 10 races (dwarf, elf, gnome, gnome titan, grel, half-elf, half-hobgoblin, half-orc, halfling or human) and 12 classes OR 14 cleric classes, and a myriad of options from skills, talents and proficiencies... well, you are really spoiled for choice.
Of particular note are the multi-class choices, like Fighter/Thief, and the distinction between a Thief and a Rogue. I rolled up a Mage and loved the fact that my spells were random (with optional re-rolls if you pay for them)... this is a longish generation process due to those choices, but it's really a lot of fun.
No Dump Stats
I like that every ability score affects something you need: Strength gives you extra combat damage, but Intelligence and Dexterity affect your attack modifier... and Wisdom and Dexterity affect your initiative bonus; Constitution affects hit points, Looks affects Charisma... and Looks and Charisma both affect your Honour score. You need 'em all. Genius!
Honour? Oh, yes... this is the score that tracks how honourable or scuzzy your hero is. This directly affects game play. You can spend it to gain +1 (or more) to a die roll, or pay more for a re-roll. If you have Great Honour then you get a "mulligan" (free re-roll) every session; if you are Dishonourable then you get a penalty of 1 on every die roll. Ouch.
Finally, this rule absolutely eliminates the need for anyone, be he player or, so help me gods, GameMaster, to fudge a roll. Fudging, also known as CHEATING has no place in a game that already has a mechanic designed to eliminate freak occurances.
Of final note for this article is the skill system. It's a percentile, roll low system... nothing surprising. What I like, though, is the way you progress (based on your % score) through five categories of Mastery Level: Novice, Average, Advanced, Expert, Master.
This is notable because each skill lists a little table which shows how usage of the skill develops with higher levels of mastery. For example, First Aid skill allows the Novice to tend injured characters; the Average mastery level, however, allows for stabilising folks knocked unconscious from trauma; you need to be Advanced to function as a mid-wife or diagnose injuries; only Experts can set broken bones and Masters use herbal remedies to increase healing rates. It's a nifty and simple principle.
And That's Not All
There is so much more that I could say about HackMaster's character generation. I really like the system and, learning what things mean as I flick around the rest of the rules, everything seems to make really good sense.
This is an intuitive and easy-to-learn game system. Yes, it has a lot of detail, which slows down the novice, but it is not hard to learn. Frankly, it knocks spots off D&D.
Now I'm off to read up about Combat. From what I've experienced with Basic, it's really going to be a joy... maybe I'll let you know how it plays in a future post.
Labels: fantasy, HackMaster, review