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White_Drake
2012-11-13, 08:53 PM
I was recently looking into buying the new Hackmaster Player's Handbook, but I shied away a bit at the price, especially considering I've only ever played in a twenty minute game of basic at Gencon. I won't mind paying sixty dollars if the game is good, because the book itself is of an exceptional quality, but I don't know much about Hackmaster. What are the pros and cons of the system, and would you recommend it?

TL;DR: Is Hackmaster any good?

Gavinfoxx
2012-11-13, 08:59 PM
Are you looking for an old school D&D type game?

IE, are you in the market for some of the 'like pre-3rd-edition D&D' games?

If so, you should look at the myriad options in that net of game types, not just Hackmaster, and then choose from those options. There are quite a few, including some free ones.

Anxe
2012-11-13, 10:11 PM
Well, if you're unsure, you should know that Hackmaster Basic is free. I've got a link to download the Basic rules in my signature. You can try out Basic for a session or two and if your group likes it, you can make the switch to the full Player's Handbook and Hacklopedia version.

Things about of Hackmaster:
Count system. It uses seconds instead of rounds. You can do close to anything on each second. You can only attack every 10 seconds or so, but the rest is spent maneuvering, protecting the mage, sewing your wounds, etc.
Class balance. Mages don't skyrocket like they do in D&D3.5. They do get more powerful than fighters, but there is a cost. Spells get longer and longer in casting time. If the mage gets hit while casting, then the spell is toast. No casting defensively. Therefore, the party MUST defend the mage.
Skill system. The game uses a 1-100 system for skills. Not exactly unique, but different than d20.
Inbuilt racism. Half-orcs will get run out of town. I liked the realism this added. You can take it out of the game easily if you wish.
Quirks and Flaws. The game uses a Building Point (BP) system for character creation and advancement. You can squeeze a few more points out by taking quirks and flaws. So your character may be missing a leg, but he's great at shooting a longbow.
Honor system. This builds off the quirks and flaws. Your character gets honor for acting as he should. This includes playing your quirks and flaws. It also means your fighter is brave and your thief skulks in the shadows. It also applies to alignments or just being an awesome dude who slaps people down when they insult him. It provides a massive motivator for roleplaying because you get small bonuses if your honor is higher. It really helped my group roleplay better.
Cleric class. A cleric picks a god first. Each god has a different character class. There's an amazing variety for clerics with about 10 gods published in the Player's Handbook and 30 more coming in the cleric splatbook.
Inbuilt campaign setting. The Hackmaster rules are closely tied to the Kingdoms of Kalamar (KoK) campaign setting. This includes listing where monsters live in the Hacklopedia and using the KoK pantheon. Unfortunately, this means clerics are restricted to KoK gods. They can be adapted obviously, but you'll feel a little out of place.
Opposed rolls. Attacks aren't against AC. You have an attack bonus and a defense bonus. All attacks are opposed rolls. I personally like this as you can crit your defense roll, but it means twice as many rolls are happening at your table. Up to you if that's a good thing.
Expensive. Like you said, the book is costly. I'd say its worth it, but you can decide that for yourself after trying out Basic. It's also just a freaking beautiful book.
Slow to release. The development team likes to take their sweet time releasing material. The Game Master's Guide will come out next year hopefully, but no guarantees. Splatbooks will come even later than that.
No psionics yet. I don't know if this is a dealbreaker for you, but if it is, be forewarned. Psionics are one of the planned splatbooks, but that is in the distant future.
Comic examples. The game explains the rules using the Knights of the Dinner Table characters. They play a sample combat and you read it to understand how the rules work in action.
Shields and armor make sense. They make it easier for opponents to hit you, but give you damage reduction.
Every stat is important. There is no obvious dump stat for any character class.

That's a lot of stuff and I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. Mark Hall will be along soon to post more if he hasn't already ninjaed my post.

Edit: Thought of something else!
Threshold of Pain. Your character has a certain HP total, but he could get knocked unconscious before that. Every character has a threshold of pain level equal to about 1/3 of his HP. When you get hit for that much, you have to roll a check or you go down in pain for a few seconds.
Knockdowns. Similarly, if you are hit for too much damage, your character stumbles backwards in pain.
Obscene combat options. Unarmed, mounted, and foot combat all have a ridiculous amount of options for combat. Basic ones are attacking aggressively, defensively, or normally, but there are many more.

turkishproverb
2012-11-13, 10:52 PM
Try out the free hackmaster Basic Book here (http://www.kenzerco.com/hackmaster/downloads.php) and if you like it expand to the full handbook etc.

Hiro Protagonest
2012-11-13, 10:53 PM
From what I hear, it's based on old school D&D (at first it was nearly carbon copy), but has grown into its own thing that still remains firmly attached to its roots. It also now uses the tick/second system, which I like.

Unfortunately, I don't have it myself, due to cost vs. popularity.

Water_Bear
2012-11-13, 11:05 PM
I remember checking out the free Basic PDF a while back, and thinking that it had some really interesting mechanics but tied them to some unbelievably lackluster fluff and the writing was so dripping with neckbeard arrogance that I could hear the Comic Book Guy's voice.

I can see a good Hackmaster turning the system into an epic and brutal game, but the way that they presented what they chose to show off their product has all but guaranteed I'll never pay for the game and certainly wouldn't run it myself.

Mark Hall
2012-11-13, 11:16 PM
First of all, as mentioned, download the free Basic game and give it a look. I will stand Hackmaster against pretty much any game... providing you're looking for what it's got.

It is not a game of heroes in the same way that 4e or 3.5 are. You do not start out as a bad-ass, able to run a town because no one can stand up to you. It is very much the game of the Hobbit... a bunch of folk, barely above the competence of average people, going out and having adventures, and coming back more competent than they were.

In terms of power level, each level of Hackmaster is about on par with half a level of AD&D. At 2nd level, you get to reroll your HD, taking the new one if it is better, getting at least half of maximum if it isn't. Spells are more spread out, so there's one spell level for every class level... a mage has Apprentice, Journeyman, and 1st level spells, and will have 20th level spells by level 20... but those 20th level spells are about on par with what he'd have at 10th level in AD&D, or about 5th level spells.

Combat can be very rough, but having a fighter in the party is actually pretty important. They can take the hits that other classes cannot, and their cheaper specializations means they dish out pain a lot better.

Threshold of pain changes the game a LOT. One bad TOP and you're short a party member, at least for several seconds. On the other hand, TOP means you don't have to kill everyone immediately... you can knock some down, and let the thief kill them quickly.

Get the Basic. Ask questions here (actually, in the "Other Systems" folder), or at the Kenzerco boards. If you're looking for a game with a relatively low power level, that embraces traditional D&D-style fantasy, you will like Hackmaster. If you're looking for a more high-power game, Hackmaster will likely not appeal. But still, get the Basic. Read it. Give it a shot.

hamlet
2012-11-14, 08:09 AM
What Mark Hall said.

The new Hackmaster is not based on AD&D any longer, though I can and do recommend that edition to anybody who's interested as it's still an excellent game and a lot of fun.

The new game is much different and has a lot of strength of its own.

JediSoth
2012-11-14, 09:19 AM
What Mark Hall said.

The new Hackmaster is not based on AD&D any longer, though I can and do recommend that edition to anybody who's interested as it's still an excellent game and a lot of fun.

The new game is much different and has a lot of strength of its own.

The new edition is much more closely related to Aces & Eights than AD&D. I played HackMaster this past Gary Con and it was a lot of fun. Most of the complexity of the system is front loaded into character creation. Once groups get the hang of the count-up initiative system, combat flows really quickly and is very engaging. None of that "I do my action" then wait for 40 minutes while the rest of the group does their thing. I kind of miss it in my 4E game.

Mark Hall
2012-11-14, 10:13 AM
Truthfully, Hackmaster has a lot in common with Palladium's games, mechanically, but with a lot more thought give to mechanics and their verisimilitude.

Doorhandle
2012-11-14, 08:29 PM
The new edition is much more closely related to Aces & Eights than AD&D. I played HackMaster this past Gary Con and it was a lot of fun. Most of the complexity of the system is front loaded into character creation. Once groups get the hang of the count-up initiative system, combat flows really quickly and is very engaging. None of that "I do my action" then wait for 40 minutes while the rest of the group does their thing. I kind of miss it in my 4E game.

Yeah, though I must say that 4tyh edition combat take FAR too freaking long by the standards of almost ANY system.

Might get hackmaster myself though. Sounds quite good.

Mark Hall
2012-11-15, 07:51 AM
4th edition was, by contract, a joke game. While they were allowed to use a lot from 2nd edition AD&D, they had to make it somewhat over-the-top in order to comply with their contract. 5th edition is a lot smoother, though there is a bit of a .... tone... to the product.

JediSoth
2012-11-15, 10:27 AM
4th edition was, by contract, a joke game. While they were allowed to use a lot from 2nd edition AD&D, they had to make it somewhat over-the-top in order to comply with their contract. 5th edition is a lot smoother, though there is a bit of a .... tone... to the product.

Yeah, the tone is the only thing I don't like about it (well, I could do without the name "Hackmaster"--it just carries certain connotations that make it a difficult sell to the people with whom I generally game). I had the same problem with part of the DCC RPG I read. It's written with a bit of an arrogant tone. Sometimes it's amusing, but other times it's easy to see how someone might view it as an attack on things the like about other games.

I've met & played with a lot of the Kenzer & Co. folks and they're VERY passionate about their games. They believe in their product and are proud of the quality of the product they produce. Rightly so. While I don't always agree with Dave Kenzer that what they put out has the best production values of everything ever, I will say it's all very, very good and rates consistently high in production values. I've also spent time over on their message boards and I get a very strong sense that the Killer DM vs. Player attitude in practice is pretty tongue in cheek and fun comes first.

Still, it can be a fairly deadly game, which is one strike against it if you feel character creation is too time-consuming. No one wants to spend an hour creating a character who dies in 15 minutes. That sucks.

After my D&D 4E game is over, I may try to get my group to play HackMaster for a bit, though Pathfinder will be a much easier sell to them. I just need some of them to be more adventurous. If all else fails, I'll just play it at Gary Con and keep telling my home group what an awesome time I had.

Greylond
2012-11-16, 03:31 PM
I loved HackMaster 4th Edition and still play it, but the new HackMaster just blows 4th Edition away IMO.

One thing about the price of their books, one thing to consider (other than the awesome game system inside) is the amount of game content within the book alone. Out of all the game books I've ever looked at K&Co's books are packed with content. Seriously, look at just about any game book and you find a lot of wasted space and HUGE Fonts. If you do an actual word count on how much is in one of K&Co's standard books, like the new HM PHB, the amount of content you are paying for is at least 150%, if not a lot more, over other books priced the same. So in other words, for the price you are paying you getting game content as if you were purchasing another book.

Amount of game content aside, the game itself is the best game that I've played in 35+ years of gaming hands down. It is very well thought out game system that when you play it, the game just seems to flow very easy. Very little of the game mechanics slow the game down. The way that the character sheets are filled out with PC and Monster combat stats there is very little to look up in combat.

Like some of the others, I highly recommending taking a look at the HM Basic version and see if you can find someone to run you through a Demo. I know HackMaster GMs in just about every USA state and several countries, so just let us know where exactly you are and we could probably get you in touch with someone who can run a HM Demo for you.

Mark Hall
2012-11-17, 01:36 PM
Hackmaster also has a big community of on-line gamers... you may be able to find people to play with through that. Jolly Blackburn (creator of Knights of the Dinner Table) does a lot of on-line games through Roll20.