Hack Mastering

Posted by Mike Provencher II in , , ,


I’ve spent the last year or so following the progress of Hackmaster Basic (HMB) on the Kenzerco boards. I’ve been an active member over there for some time now, but my participation really spiked when the HMB spoiler thread appeared. Dave Kenzer was very good about answering any questions asked about the game, even if the topic of the question wasn’t going to be covered until Advanced. Through this thread my interest eventually turned to excitement, until I was more excited about this game than I have been about any other RPG. So when the book came in about a month ago, I devoured it. I ripped it open and read it cover to cover twice. Now, this isn’t a review of the game, however I wanted to give you an idea of just how high my expectations were for the game before rolling those first dice on Thursday night.

Sadly, I didn’t have very much time for detailed prep for the game due to real life issues (including, but not limited to, five softball games in four days and an attention craving girlfriend) so for the first night I used the free adventure that Kenzerco has put up on their site, “White Palette, Ivory Horns”, written by Benjamin “Wacky” Sharef. Anyone who’s played with me can tell you that I don’t really have a high opinion of “modules”. However I do see the value in having them around, as, like I said, I didn’t have the time to write up an adventure for the night. I have the outlines of every adventure I want to run for this mini-campaign, but with a game I’ve never played before, I didn’t think that trying to “wing it” was the way to go.

The night started out with a short Q&A session. Very short, as it turned out, as nobody really had any questions about the game at that point. The only thing we talked about was weather or not we should play using the Threshold of Pain rules, and decided as a group that we should at least start with them, and if we decide later on they’re resulting in too much character death then we can take them out. I feel like that’s going to be the case at some point, but for now we’re playing the rules as written, with only one exception. I’ve found out that, come Advanced, there will be a rule allowing for an attacker to completely miss the defender’s shield (something that isn’t the case in HMB).

Next, it was time to start rolling some dice! Character creation came next, and considering a) it was a game none of us had ever played before, and b) there were five of us, this process actually took less time than I thought it would. Probably about an hour and a half for all five characters to be completed from start to finish. And that’s how we ended up with our party, two clerics of The True, one human and one Dwarven, a human mage, a Halfling thief, and a character you’re probably already somewhat familiar with, a dwarven fighter. Next week another character is going to join the group, as one of our players couldn’t make it this week.

You can see an accounting of the events that followed in the “Player’s Perspective” post, so I’m not going to go into story detail here. Instead I’m going to talk about the actual GMing of the game. It’s been some time since I’ve actually stretched my GM muscles, and I’ve never been very good at doing voices, however, having said that, I think it went fairly well from my end. The first combat against the wolves was interesting for a couple reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it was our first combat ever for this rules system. It was also interesting because the wolves were far out of the party’s league. Had it been a straight up fight I think the party would have been cut down to a man, however the encounter as written calls for the wolves to flee once they’ve taken four points of damage, as they were already well fed. This is where I made my first mistake, as I actually had the wolves turn and flee instead of back away from the person they were fighting first. Two of the wolves didn’t make it due to the free attacks the party got as they turned tail and ran. Even though I was running five monsters I felt that the combat went very smoothly, and I feel that the only mistakes I made had to do with forgetting to use various combat maneuvers and not with any problem I had with the system. Once I’ve run more than a few fights and get more familiar with the system, I think this problem will take care of itself. The second fight with the snakes was a simple affair, as there was very little I needed to remember.

The last fight gets its own paragraph, as it took the longest and used the most rules on both side of the screen. The Kobolds were well away of the party before the PC’s made it into the cave, and were ready for them. Crouched behind some boxes with bows at the ready, they sprang up and fired at the PC’s that barged into their lair. Unfortunately, Gregory the mage took the brunt of the offense in the form of a critical with quite a bit of penetration and fell dead in the first assault. We all found out just how deadly ranged weapons can be in this game, and this was one of the few times the game bogged down as we had to look up a rule. As it turns out, when being shot with a ranged weapon you don’t get any defensive bonus and, unless you’re moving, you only roll a d12p to defend against it. In AHM this is going to be slightly different, as how far away the attacker is and how much warning the defender has will alter the defensive roll. A rule that was overlooked at this time is that smaller targets are treated as being further away. In Gregory the Red’s case it wouldn’t have mattered, but in the case of the dwarves and Halfling, it may have saved them a few hp’s. The kobolds were only able to get off that first volley in the small cave they were in, and combat soon switched to melee. Again, despite the fact that I was running six monsters using rules that I’ve never used before, I felt things went very smoothly and never felt overwhelmed. All of the kobolds used tactics in the battle, however not as effectively as I could have. Another thing we didn’t realize until the end of the night was that when an attacker hits a shield, you only roll half of the dice you do on a normal hit and you don’t penetrate. It wouldn’t have changed anything over the course of the night, however it might matter quite a bit in the future.

All in all I thought the night went very well and was very fun. I had very high hopes for the game going into it, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m on vacation from work this week, so I should have plenty of time to write up the adventure for this week, and hopefully next week. As one of the players in the game owns this blog, I don’t want to go into story detail about anything, but in my next post I’ll try and talk some about balancing the adventure and the process I use while writing it, up to and including what music I was listing to while writing.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 18, 2009 at Saturday, July 18, 2009 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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