Hackmaster?  Opinions wanted...
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Post Posted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 11:25 am 
 

I never read KNODT and have no idea what the origin of Hackmaster is all about. I like what I've seen though and am cosidering buying the entire product line but wanted opinions from you guys first.



I recently perused the Gamemaster Guide at a local gaming store and it looked pretty interesting. I like the way the book is a bit sarcastic and it seems to have a good sense of humor to it for an experienced player. I didn't read much but liked what I saw. (I briefly glanced at a few modules but not enough to get a sense of their humor or anything. They are str8 rips of the D&D line which is OK with me if they were well done and funny)



The entire product line is obviously based on 1st Ed AD&D and D&D stuff which I would asume would be of interest to all of us here, especially since it's licensed and uses extremely similar books and modules. I think some of the old D&D guys are involved in this too.



Have you guys bought these products? How is the gameplay? Is it really funny or just kind of silly? I haven't played a RPG for 20 years but will certainly read everything I buy. Is this stuff a good read?



I loved the old D&D hack and slash dungeon crawls and this is advertized as an improvement on that system. What are the key differences? Is it more adult oriented or could small children play and enjoy it? (I have two small boys who I want to DM for when they get old enough)


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Post Posted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 2:15 pm 
 

myalbinogorilla---



I'm not a KODT fan at all (and yes, I do have a sense of humor! :D ), but I'm not too keen on HM myself.  I've read the PHB and DMG, and they're just not AD&D in my book, even though many AD&D fans seem to enjoy it---HM's more akin to 2e than 1e in my book.  (FWIW, many folks apparently feel the same way about Castles & Crusades as I describe HM).



In fact I have about 4-6 HM books that will be going up in my auctions soon, including the PHB and DMG.  If you're interested, feel free to email me and we can work something out.


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Post Posted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 10:35 pm 
 

N.B.: I've written for HackMaster, and am actually writing even more for HackMaster, so my opinion is a little skewed...



HackMaster is, in my consideration, the best Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition that never was. Let me explain...



3E D&D went off in a very different design format than AD&D or D&D before it. It was not derived directly from either of its supposed parents; in fact, it owes much of its genetic design code not to AD&D or D&D, but to a game called "Envoy," which was never actually published in full as a game, merely highlighted Pyramid #3. You can follow this link to find the core of Envoy:



Pyramid: Envoy



The current Third Edition of D&D is a cuckoo, really, as it owes more to Envoy and the original Talislanta system than it does to AD&D or D&D... but I digress...



So Third Edition went off on this tangent. Then in came Kenzer & Company, and they published HackMaster. I know the Kenzer guys, I used to work for them, and hang out with them, and write for them. They were hard-core 1E AD&D players all the way. So they got the license and took 1E AD&D, snagged bits of 2E AD&D that they liked, tapped the spirit of BECMD&D here and there, and then added in all sorts of homegrown rules that worked with the concept of "HackMaster" style from the KoDT comic strips... and out came HackMaster the system.



It's topheavy. Damned so in some ways... it's as much a pain in the ass to make an NPC for HM as it is for 3E. It's even more of a pain in the ass to make a HM character, if you use all the splatbooks and various rules... some of which don't work together all that well. But, damned if your characters aren't some of the most interesting characters you'll ever generate. You'll know more about your character's history by the time you have him ready to play than you'd ever dreamed of knowing. And, like real life, sometimes you don't always get what you want... you might end up down an ear, or an eye, or a bit more of your sanity than you thought you would be... but that makes playing the character more challenging.



So anyway, I'll sum up character creation like this: it's like giving birth and watching your kid grow up until he goes out on his own. Really. And yes, it can be a most painful process. You really get the feel why the characters in KoDT love each and every one of their characters. On a scale of difficulty, I'd place it about par with Rolemaster, if you use the splatbooks, or maybe Dangerous Journeys: Mythus. So if C&C is "Easy," 1E and 2E AD&D are "Average," I'd call it "Hard" or even "Difficult."



Game Mastering HackMaster can be a bloody pain. I never could understand the initiative system they came up with and scrapped that for my own. A lot of stuff they have there, I just don't use... but, like AD&D and unlike 3E D&D, you can do that if you want, and it won't cause trouble down the road (or minimal trouble). HackMaster is much more modular than 3E D&D, in which every subsystem ties in with all the other systems. Heck, with Iron Lore, Mike Mearls had to invent an entire different system of combat and magic and classes just to get into a more "Sword & Sorcery" feel. It's one of the often unsung troubles of 3E... with everything tied in, you can't wing things. You just can't, or your whole game will explode mathmatically... So you don't want to give your player's magic items as quickly as was designed into the treasure system? Well, then all your CL's will be screwed up, becasue those all account for a standard group of four characters having X to Y number and level of magic items. If they don't they can't take on Z level of challenges, and so forth...



Bah!



Anyway, I'm digressing again. Anyway, HackMaster is what Third Edition AD&D SHOULD have been.



If that's too much, go for Castles & Crusades. C&C is what Third Edition AD&D would hav elooked like if they'd chosen "simpler" rather than "complex." It's more like BECMD&D on a high-carb workout diet, while HackMaster is like AD&D on steroids. Or something like that...


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Post Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 11:59 am 
 

Hackmaster is like playing playing AD&D.



Put it this way: when you play AD&D, would you rather:



1) Just play with the core 3 books.

2) Use The 3 core books, plus an edited selection of other material

3) All 12 (+?) hardbacks, all Dragon articles, and a whole bunch of house rules; and rules-lawyering all this material is an integral part of play.



If you're answer is 3), youmay like Hackmaster.

  


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 10:50 am 
 

I think 3E was designed to be ported into a trading card game.



I agree 3E did homogenize D&D into a template that made other WOC products sucessful.  



However, D20 has some obvious deficiencies, not the least of which is randomization.

  

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 11:29 am 
 

IMO, if it aint broke, don't fix it. 2nd and 3rd edition should never have happened, and the ame goes for HM.


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 12:48 pm 
 

mbassoc2003 wrote:IMO, if it aint broke, don't fix it. 2nd and 3rd edition should never have happened, and the ame goes for HM.
(emphasis added)



Wow, far nicer than anything I might say on the subject of those "other" games.  The Hackmaster authors annoyed me with their titles/cover art (yes, I'm literally judging a book by it's cover), which seem like some sort of spoof that I don't care for, so I won't touch it.



C&C, on the other hand, appears to be a gentle and sensible reworking of OD&D, with some modern stuff that was improved over the last 30 years or so.

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 4:54 pm 
 

I have enjoyed playing Hackmaster but I think you simply have to take it as a game on it's own.  If you try to compare it to older AD&D you are likely going to be disappointed, buecause it doesn't stack up.  But if you can close your eyes and imagine it as a game in itself it's actually alot of fun.  Forwarning though, the books have been in my experience quite "fragile" and they look rough with little use even if you attempt to be careful.

  


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 5:01 pm 
 

*reads, curious*



Thank you for all those opinions and perspectives (that's a big chunk of text, James M!).



I know a bit more now than I did before... ;)

  

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Post Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 9:01 am 
 

Hello all!

I've wandered into this discussion and thought I'd offer my two copper pieces...

I own just about all of the HackMaster stuff, but haven't actually played it as such.  As far as I know, there aren't any playing groups in the part of the country where I live.

The thing that I like most about HM is its sarcastic sense of humor, and how it tries to tie up dangling plot threads from the original AD&D modules.  (Wish I could think of some of them offhand, but naturally I can't...)

I also like some of the more outrageous monsters they come up with, especially the "dire [fill in the blank]" beasts, like dire parakeets and such.  Silly, but so deadly at the same time!

Plus I love their cover art, which is basically hack'n'slash parodies of the original artwork, which to me perfectly captures the feel of the game.

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Post Posted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 10:09 pm 
 

jamesmishler wrote:The current Third Edition of D&D is a cuckoo, really, as it owes more to Envoy and the original Talislanta system than it does to AD&D or D&D... but I digress...


As a side note, I asked Monte (one of the 3E designers) at a seminar once if they were inspired by the Talislanta system for d20, and he seemed unaware that Talislanta was even remotely similar.  If he was lying, then the man is a master of subterfuge indeed.  Maybe it was more like convergent evolution?


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Post Posted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 7:37 pm 
 

MrFilthyIke wrote:As a side note, I asked Monte (one of the 3E designers) at a seminar once if they were inspired by the Talislanta system for d20, and he seemed unaware that Talislanta was even remotely similar. If he was lying, then the man is a master of subterfuge indeed. Maybe it was more like convergent evolution?


It's Jonathan Tweet and Peter Adkison you'd need to be asking, not Monte. Jonathan and Peter were the main guys behind the WotC edition of Talislanta, which pre-dated and ran over the first year or so of Magic. Jonathan was the lead designer on that IIRC, and of course Peter bought it because he loved it...


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Post Posted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 11:37 pm 
 

Having the books for awhile now, myalbinogorilla, what do you think?


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Post Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 10:00 pm 
 

*bump*

The point looks to soon be moot as far as HM is concerned: here's Dave Kenzer basically sounding the death-knell for the entire line (if not his entire company):

So Long to Hackmaster hello...<gulp> 3.5 - Page 6

(Scroll down a bit to see Dave's long post)

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Post Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 11:15 pm 
 

I wouldn't call it a death knell... they've certainly been through the wringer, though, over the last couple of years. The whole industry has. But they're not dead yet, and I think they'll make it.

Of course, one of the points David made was that they are a different company today than they were before the whole crunch came. They used to have 13 full time employees... that put them solidly in what was once called the "Second Tier" of the industry. Today, they have 4. Hell, I remember when there were only 2 full-time paid employees... me and Jolly. Of course, that was when there was just Knights of the Dinner Table and a couple of pre-3E Kalamar products, and David and Brian and Steve were all working with no salary, because they were the owners (yeah, it can suck to be an owner, too, sometimes—I got a paycheck and they didn't, though we all worked our asses off). Back then everything was virtual and done through the Internet. I worked in Fort Wayne, Jolly was in Marion, and the other guys were spread out all over the Chicagoland area. The freelancers were from sea to shining sea. It's even easier to do that these days, with far faster speeds online.

The company is now lean, positioned well for what they produce, and I think they will be okay. They are focusing again on Knights of the Dinner Table, which is where they should be, with Jolly exclusively on that. Steve and Mark are apparently working on KoDT, Aces & Eights, the HackMAster PDF's, and the Necromancer games modules, and they've got a fourth for shipping and marketing and ads and billing and such (which is a pain and takes a lot of work, even for a small company).

Aces & Eights is on the way, and will, I think, determine where they go from here, whether to go with a new edition of HackMaster or not.

As for current HackMaster, what David said about pre-orders is simply true, and it's not just HackMaster, it's across the board. The whole industry-as-we've-known-it is in flux. Will it and the companies and retailers survive? Only if it and the companies and the retailers evolve, in some ways drastically.

But I digress...

As to HackMaster, David was pretty clear—no more printed adventures. Sourcebooks? Who knows. Even those are taking a beating. The only adventures doing well right now are the Dungeon Crawl Classics from Goodman Games and the Necromancer Games modules (though as far as I can tell, not nearly as well as the DCC's, I'm afraid). Nobody is buying modules anymore because, unless they burned them or used them as insulation, the retailers are still CHOKED with stuff from earlier in the D20 era... and so are consumers. Hell, I have probably 30 modules sitting in my study here alone that I've never even had the chance to read through fully, let alone ever play. I have enough adventures now that I wouldn't have to buy another one for eight to 10 years, and could still run a complete 3E campaign.

And that's one of the problems with the industry now, is that everyone has too much, and not enough time to do anything with it.

I dunno what's going on with WotC and all those approval problems... it sounds to me like they got rid of everyone that was taking care of it, dumped it on whoever was left, and that person is just passing on them all as he doesn't have the time to deal with it (it happens in every office). So what's to do? There are splatbooks left, such as the race books... I thought the Pixie Faerie book was excellent, and I'd love to see more like that for the other races. But would it sell? Hell, they couldn't get enough pre-orders for Garweze Wurld! Maybe it's best for them to lie low a bit on printed stuff... it's damn expensive to hold stock. If you print 3,000 units of a $20 book (likely $4 your cost), and only sell 1,000 units, just from the print cost alone you have $8,000 sitting in a warehouse rotting. And you can't just print that 1,000 you know you will sell, as then your cost for printing rises to $12, and you'd need to as $60 for the book at retail.

That's why the PDF sounds like a good idea at this point. There's no print cost, and the only thing you are out when it doesn't sell is the cost of layout (on these kinds of things I'm certain it would be a % for the writer, not a flat fee). And they've already got two guys working full-time there anyway—a quick and easy layout job with minimal art, and it's mostly gravy.

So I think two things will determine the future of HackMaster. If Aces & Eights does well, and I hope it does because I really like the Showdown system, I think we'll see a new edition of HackMaster in 2007. If not, then Kenzer & Company will continue to concentrate on Knights of the Dinner Table, a sure thing until gamers lose their sense of humor, will continue HackMaster PDF's with the current system, and perhaps print a sourcebook or three every year, and then seek the next challenge.


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Post Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:19 am 
 

jamesmishler wrote:I wouldn't call it a death knell... they've certainly been through the wringer, though, over the last couple of years. The whole industry has. But they're not dead yet, and I think they'll make it.



Unfortunately for Hackmaster, I think the parody elements, which really give the game it's uniqueness, wear thin on campaign type adventuring. I know plenty of people that have tried Hackmaster, and loved it for about a year, but dont play it anymore.  I actually don't know a single group that uses the system anymore. Also for whatever reason the material has declined greatly in quality.  Comparing early stuff like B2 and S1 to the later stuff is sad.. Was there any real need or outcry for stuff like Hackjammer? The original system it was based on, Spelljammer, tanked for crying out loud.  
   I also think that a lot of resources seem to be directed towards aces & 8's, and while the commitment to get a western style game going is admirable, in 30 years we've never had one become a consistent success in the RPG industry.  I was surprised to see the quote that westerns are the #2 genre behind fantasy....I'd put them a lot farther back, way behind fantasy, SF, modern, horror...I don't know if that smacks of wishful thinking or delusional thinking, I hope Kenzer and co. have done their research and marketing on their product.  I would love to see them succeed but it is a long shot IMO.  

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Post Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:26 am 
 

Badmike wrote:
jamesmishler wrote:I wouldn't call it a death knell... they've certainly been through the wringer, though, over the last couple of years. The whole industry has. But they're not dead yet, and I think they'll make it.



Unfortunately for Hackmaster, I think the parody elements, which really give the game it's uniqueness, wear thin on campaign type adventuring. I know plenty of people that have tried Hackmaster, and loved it for about a year, but dont play it anymore. I actually don't know a single group that uses the system anymore. Also for whatever reason the material has declined greatly in quality. Comparing early stuff like B2 and S1 to the later stuff is sad.. Was there any real need or outcry for stuff like Hackjammer? The original system it was based on, Spelljammer, tanked for crying out loud.
 I also think that a lot of resources seem to be directed towards aces & 8's, and while the commitment to get a western style game going is admirable, in 30 years we've never had one become a consistent success in the RPG industry. I was surprised to see the quote that westerns are the #2 genre behind fantasy....I'd put them a lot farther back, way behind fantasy, SF, modern, horror...I don't know if that smacks of wishful thinking or delusional thinking, I hope Kenzer and co. have done their research and marketing on their product. I would love to see them succeed but it is a long shot IMO.

Mike B.


I am sure Deadlands has something to do with the higher ranking of westerns but I am not sure I would really call that a western RPG. I am not sure that with all the WoD lines (old and new) and then CoC that there could be much doubt that Horror would have to be second behind fantasy.


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Post Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 7:53 am 
 

jamesmishler wrote:Nobody is buying modules anymore because, unless they burned them or used them as insulation, the retailers are still CHOKED with stuff from earlier in the D20 era... and so are consumers. Hell, I have probably 30 modules sitting in my study here alone that I've never even had the chance to read through fully, let alone ever play. I have enough adventures now that I wouldn't have to buy another one for eight to 10 years, and could still run a complete 3E campaign.


And thats prob one of the reasons I haven't got into 3rd ed, I plan to buy the stuff as prices drop, heavily I expect, as well. And as for pdf's.. well I only buy printed books/mags, just doesn't have the same fell about it I'm afraid...

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Post Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:15 am 
 

The prices for most 3rd Ed. and especially d20 stuff is already pretty low... can they go much lower?  The d20 license just glutted the market with so much product that could not be absorbed by an ever-shrinking audience.  Most kids today would rather play World of Warcraft or some other MMORPG anyway.  Pencil and paper RPGs are possibly on the way to becoming a relic of a bygone era.

  


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Post Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 11:08 am 
 

Interesting reads...


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