Hackmaster, You Have My Attention


I was blind, but now I see…Hackmaster just might be the game for me. I’ve heard of Hackmaster for years, knew virtually nothing of its background, but refused to even take a look at it. I knew it had something to do with a humorous comic and made fun of itself throughout, drawing in all the traditional RPG tropes, never taking itself seriously. That is what I knew. Now, thanks to one of my online gaming pals, I’ve found out that Hackmaster was once more or less what I expected it to be, but changed a few years ago with their 2nd/5th edition. Ah, the magic of Google +.

One of the great things about Google + is its highly topical nature. I am on there a lot, connecting with gamers all over the world. If it weren’t for G+, Mark Knights and I would’ve never connected and then I’d still be the simple American pratt. Accordingly, I am now an expert American pratt. One of the places you’ll find me hanging my hat in that digital world is with Giant Dragons, a handful of us that try to organize games, bring together gamers, and put out some cool stuff now and again. One key component of that all is Giant Dragons Gamer Chat, which typically takes place between 6pm and 9pm Wednesday through Friday. That’s where I met John B. an all around cool guy and gamer—also quite smart and a good cook. He’s also an avid Hackmaster gamemaster and player. He talks about his games and they sound cool and he refers to how his preferred system handles different issues. The other night, he gave me a quick intro to Hackmaster and I couldn’t help but think “I might be interested in that afterall.”

Go figure only a day later, I’m at my local Half-Price Books and what do I see sitting on the shelf? The Hackmaster Player’s Guide and Hacklopedia of Monsters. Due to the cost–$40 used—I only picked up the player’s guide to start with and that was probably a good idea. This book is a tome—just the right size to bludgeon unruly players at my table. Unlike many other large books, this one is packed with rules information, not filled with a bunch of fluff and colorful text and descriptions. In fact, after spending last night just trying to get a grasp on character creation, that might be the book’s one shortcoming. I certainly could’ve used more examples. I loathe to think about the forklift I’d need to carry the book around if they had added all those examples. I’m not saying it’s bereft of examples, but it could certainly get away with more without anyone complaining. Anyhow, while the monster book will definitely be useful in the future, it’s going to take me awhile to make it through this masterpiece.

The Player’s Guide and Hacklopedia are both beautiful books. They are expensive, but with good reason. They have nice thick embossed covers and a great binding job. With a 400+ page book, you really shouldn’t try and skimp on binding and Kenzer & Co. didn’t. Thick, glossy, full color pages. Varied artwork throughout of different styles. There’s a good mix of old school black and white and color as well as newer style artwork, but everything kind of emulates the old school feeling I think they were going with.

Hackmaster didn’t step too far away from their roots, keeping developer notes and sidebars throughout—and even in the core text itself—dropping hints in a familiar voice, often laced with sarcasm and wit. This extra context gives us a lot of reasoning behind game design decisions and, as far as I’m concerned, they all make sense.

I can’t sit here and give you a full review. First, it wasn’t my intent. Second, I haven’t made it through this book yet at the level I like to be able to in order to be able to really give you the details about it. It’s pretty darn big book, so maybe I will later or maybe I’ll follow the way Mark does his, reviewing single sections or chapters at a time.

What I can tell you is that my preconceptions were completely turned inside out and upside down. My ignorance kept me from experiencing what looks to be an awesome game. If it wasn’t for connecting with other players, having an open mind, and listening to what they have to say, I probably would’ve never picked up and looked at this game or at least a handful of others, all of which came out of connections I made online via G+.

So, where to from here? Well, as with many systems, I try to teach myself to better understand the rules via creating characters. I spent some time doing that today. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard. But, even then it takes some time. I’ll almost certainly talk about it more in depth at a later date. But, where did my Sunday go? I was busy creating characters for Hackmaster.




  1. Any chance you were at a Half Priced Books in Brookfield WI?


    1. Unfortunately not. A suburb of Cleveland, OH.


  2. I too learned of Hackmaster via Google+, thanks to Jason Snyder on 5 July 2013 (https://plus.google.com/+TorIvarKrogs%C3%A6ter/posts/ixqWTK68DmG). I have since delved through HM Basic, which led me to buy Basic Plus (only $10), which after some time and saving led me to buying all three core books. I now run two groups, play in another two and have been part of a third (which now sadly is no longer run). All players in Tromsø, to the best of my knowledge, were at some point introduced to the game via one of these initial groups.

    The game holds so much interesting detail! It is in oh so many aspects a detailed, historically based simulation of life as it could be in a fantastic (ie fantasy) world. The challenge is not being superior and conquering the world; the challenge is becoming superior, and that makes all the difference. It is the roleplaying system I have enjoyed the most both as player and game master.

    I hope you will link to the rest of your articles, and thoroughly look forward to reading them.


    1. This is but one of many posts on the blog. I need to write more about HackMaster. Sadly, the person who used to run the group I was in kind of fell off the face of the planet and I have not yet found another game to join in.


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