Monday, July 4, 2016

Test played Reviews: Hackmaster

In depth Reviews
Starting a more in depth review series.
Test played Reviews: JAGS Revised
Test played Reviews: Hackmaster

Next is my reviews, done in order from my first consideration up to the test play evaluation, is Hackmaster . It went up against Dungeon World in it's playtest evaluation, where it won because of the combat system primarily - which I like better than the DW simultaneous combat. It went on to beat three games in a row, survived the late OQ replay, and survive until the Final Battle where it lost to JAGS Revised. I admit that if it were to win, I would not use the random characters as my rule set. But the strength is in the combat count up, skills like d100, and great character focus.

Hackmaster Basic and Quickstart PDF are available free in the downloads section at

Looking at available material and scoring the availability of material

Hackmaster 5E (2012) - A - (It will depend on how different the game is from AD&D). I don't want a clone. I give them an 'A' for being test drive friendly with the 232 pg illustrated free basic set and adventure modules. But it might not fit the non-D&D aspect I am looking for. I wont add it to the list games to look at if it's a clone.

Phase 1 - First Reading Evaluation

Hackmaster has interesting combat and magic mechanisms. In theory, I like the time-based count up mechanism. I like that speed of attack is influenced by several factors. I'm even okay with using casting times versus the turned based instant cast of other games. The spell point is casting system is nice, even when limiting the spells to primarily memorized spells. The d100 role under skill system is even alright. I'd probably simplify the amount of skills - because there are a lot. I do wish the two different dice systems for combat/magic and skills were just one, either a d20 or d100 - and not both. If this becomes my game, I would convert everything to d100 or d20, just by multiplying or dividing by five. A little more time would help me understand the details. I plan on spending at least one more day browsing the free basic game.

Phase II - My Criteria Evaluation

Like always, I begin with the rough stuff.

I could not find any information on creature creation system in the free basic nor in the video preview of the Hacklopedia.

All of the different charts with all the subsystems make this game naturally drop the consistency of subsystems, aesthetics, and ability to understand the system. However the charts do bring meaning and value to the attributes, to which I gave top grades so far for depth, meaning, and utilized functions. 

I really like the spell point regulation system with the ability to cast spells not memorized at a higher cost, somewhat reminiscent of Earthdawn's system - without the confusion of spell weaving. However, the available spells listed and lack of different types of magic users wasn't aweful - but I can predict that I would want to fill the system with more magic user classes and a lot more spells.

So because of that, I gave content a mediocre score. I can't tell how flexible the system is, so it seems average. Not too inflexible and not very flexible.

I like seeing a variation of a combat system based on weapon speed and class speed modifier - although the system is obviously heavily influenced by ad&d and d&d 2e, but they chose to use a different combat system. The initiative and attack speed mechanics seem great. I only gave the combat system a hit because I couldn't connect any rolled character attribute to the mechanics - only the weapon choice and class selection.

Admirable is the mechanics to link honor to alignment, class, and role play which injects a benefit for role playing a character well. I only gave it a small ding because I would like the flaws and quirks to be a bit better. Some of the choices are less than inspiring. The full game may have a better and bigger list - but I can't see that list in the basic system provided. My score is based on what is provided or that I remember from the reviews.

And this comes back to what I mentioned before. I give my top grades so far for depth, meaning, and utilized functions to Hackmaster 5e based on the basic set and reviews. 

Hackmaster 5e

10 Major Criteria & 10 Sub-criteria Hackmaster 5eGrdPts
1. Depth -A4
a. Meaningful -A4
b. Utilized Functions -A4
2. Flexible/Adaptable -C2
3. Consistency -D1
4. Understandable -D1
5. Character -B3
a. Behavior tied to character -B3
b. Unique Character -B3
6. Combat System -C2
a. Turn/move/action -B3
b. Attack speed/ hastened/quicker -B3
7. Spell System -C2
a. Spell Regulatory -A4
b. Spell Breadth -C2
8. Creatures -C2
a. Standard Fantasy -C2
b. Creation -E0
9. Content -C2
10. Aesthetic -D1

Grade B
Reviews read or watched 6
Set of reviews from product pages 2
Gameplays read or watched 1

Key to Criteria

10 Major Criteria & 10 Sub-criteria1. Depth - how meaningful and utilized are the data & functions are used?
a. Meaningful - does data recorded makes a difference in the game?
b. Utilized Functions - are there multiple uses for data recorded?
2. Flexible/Adaptable - how usable is it with other custom settings?
3. Consistency - how many different systems are there within the game?
4. Understandable - are concepts defined before they are presented, Or is it just a rule dump without explanation?
5. Character - how is behavior explained and can characters be unique?
a. Behavior tied to character - how well does the data determine how a character behaves?
b. Unique Character - can the characters stand out from other characters of similar nature?
6. Combat System - are the mechanics interesting and innovative?
a. Turn/move/action - does the game use the same boring turn based mechanics?
b. Attack speed/ hastened/quicker - will having higher quickness make the attacks go faster and multiple times?
7. Spell System - does the game use the boring overused spell set?
a. Spell Regulatory - how does the game use data to limit magical powers?
b. Spell Breadth - is there a wide variety, yet coherently grouped collection of spells?
8. Creatures - how many provided creatures are available?
a. Standard Fantasy - does the game provide the expected common monsters and creatures?
b. Creation - are there creature creation rules so that I can add my own creatures?
9. Content - is the overall content presented in the core detail depth and have variety. Do elements differ in sufficient degree among other data?
10. Aesthetic - does the game have a subjective coolness factor?

I plan on using the A, B, C, D, and E again, this time tying them to points so I can convert it into a total value for the game.
For each criteria
 = 4 - beyond my expectation
B = 3 - great
C = 2 - sufficient
D = 1 - below my expectation
E = 0 - horrible, unusable

Total evaluation = sum of criteria/20

Phase III Testing the game.

1) total grade from phase 2 2.4
2) character creation test 2
3) skill system test 3
4) combat system test 3
5) magic system test 2
Total score 12.4
Average 4 pt scale 2.48

Character creation took 2 hours, following the quickstart rules and filling in free basic information.

I went ahead and made a rules based character - which is entirely random in the basic set (other than precreated). Of course my character ended up being a wise character with mediocre str & dex. Of course cleric is the obvious choice - so I picked wizard, in order to get a chance to roll up some damage spells. My rolls ended up getting two light spells, a springing (leaping) spell, and a bash door spell.

Lawful GoodHelp, follow laws, needs of many
Strength1028Dam Mod = 0Feat of Str = 0Lift = 194Carry=44Drag=485
Dexterity838Init Mod = +4Attack Mod=-1Def Mod = -2
Wisdom1362Attack Mod =+1Def Mod = +2
Intelligence1110Attack Mod = 0
Arcane Lore [Int], 12
Magical Transcription proficiency,
Weapon proficiency (staff )
History (ancient) [Int]14
Mathematics [Int]14
ActingLks, Cha U9
Animal MimicryWis13
Climbing, RepellingStr/Dex8
Current AffairsWis13
DisguiseInt, Cha9
Escape ArtistDex/int8
Glean InformationInt/Wis/Cha9
Pick PocketDex8
Reading LipsInt11
Resist PersuasionWis13
Rope UseDex8
HP22Previous Hit Roll3
Threshold Pain74
Quirk: Glutton
Armor & Weaponry: staff
Supplies: a leather backpack, two large leather belt pouches, a
wineskin (2 qt. capacity), a week’s worth of trail rations, a tinderbox,
flint and steel, eight torches, a spell book, four sticks of
chalk, a vial of ink, two quill pens, five sheets of vellum, spell
components (if necessary) and 15 copper pieces as pocket
Clothing: one pair of leather boots, thick robes that offer -1
damage reduction against all attacks, pointy hat, linen undershirt
and a leather belt
Magic Points140
2 spells/lvlLearning 30%
Bash Door50mp
Amplify Illumination30mp
Combat profile:LvlAbilitiesSpecTalentsRacial BonusArmorShieldMagic
Attack Bonus0
Base Spd13

Magic felt filled out despite being a basic set sample. Although I didn't get my offense spell, the springing spell and the bash door seem interesting, and I thought of how I might use it to bash a door into an opponent. The spell point and component spells works well as a regulatory system IMO. I also like the 1d4p time to retrieve components and the spells have a casting time of many times 1 second.

Combat: I put the mage up against a standard dog, knowing the dog might possibly win. After five rounds, they were even. And then the dog began to attack more heavily. I then stopped combat having seen enough - I knew the dog was headed to victory. Combat probably goes a lot quicker if I had picked a cleric, thief, or fighter. Combat was long in this case with a wizard w/o attack spell v quicker dog.

Overall, I felt this game was okay. I like the depth of the speed, honor, alignment, attack bonus, and initiative. 

I would probably make up a character instead of following the negotiation random approach.

Compared to Dungeon world, hackmaster has about double the paperwork and four times the character creation time. Actually I made less decisions to make hackmaster character than I did to make a dungeon world character. I only decided the class. The rest was random or automatic. 

Dungeon World is a narrative game. Hackmaster is challenge game. The difference in this game is a tie except for my prior rating formed by my evaluation. Looking back at that, DW scored much lower score for what I felt was a skimpy magic moves, lack of available ready to go content (playable species, creatures, ), and insufficient for doing multiple offensive moves - one of my criteria that I am seeking.

Dungeon World is a great game. But all the rest of the games have their own greatness. And although as not reliant upon narration as Heroquest, the basic simultaneous combat and focus on group generated content, although great for one-shot games, in my case doesn't fit the need of my own gaming world.

Go out and buy Dungeon World and Heroquest, if your looking for a great narrative game.

Hackmaster moves on.

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