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Hack For More

Week (I Can't Be Troubled to Keep Track): Player's PoV

by Edward McEneely
Aug 10,2004


Hack For More

Week (I Can't Be Troubled to Keep Track): Player's PoV

by Erich

Ah, HackMaster, you will be missed. But fear not, dear, sweet bastard amalgamation of teen memories and very popular RPG of the 80's that featured the important ampersand between two identical letters and proceeded with the first letter of the English alphabet, I will return to you. Perhaps I'll even continue playing the same character I left off with when I see you next.

Ed had decided that it was time to shelve the system for a while--and I'll semi-bitterly state that he was unwilling to even let me take the reigns and run a short HackMaster campaign. Such was his increasing bile for the game. He promised, under threat of being pelted by dice, that we would return to HackMaster, though. "After all," he blithely argued his case, "my column title is Hack for More."

Next came the important decision of what would become our system for the next few weeks as Ed let time heal his HackMaster wounds (1 hit point per day, 2 if he did nothing but rest). There was much discussion and debate. Seth, having only recently returned to the gaming fold was familiar with very few games that did not contain ampersands or were made by Palladium (and I have no fond memories of Rifts). This gave me, his co-worker, who he saw daily, the advantage of manipulating his vote. Suggestions were given by all parties and shot down. In the end, I was able to build enough support and enthusiasm to carry my second favorite non-generic game (GURPS gives Seth heartburn) into the winning position. We were to play Fading Suns. For the idly curious, my favorite game (generic or not) is In Nomine and no body else seems to like it, except for that guy in Alaska--looks like Jeff Freeman was right.

I've had many pleasant experiences with Fading Suns including (but not limited to) a prior campaign run by Ed. Sure, his was a runaway train of a campaign, but I recalled Ed running the game in such a way that it gave me what I looked for when I engaged in the so-called "art" of role-playing. I had fun. I don't really care about the pretentious aspects of gaming or the art of character development or trying to win by min-maxing. When I play a role-playing game I simply want to have a (minimally side-tracked) Good Time (patent pending).

To that end, I always try to create characters that I'm going to have a Good Time when wearing their persona-shoes. In Fading Suns, I've played maniacal merchants, heretical Avestites (my preferred FS archetype) and genetically-created bio-beings, but I had yet to play a noble. Now was my chance. I generated (one doesn't "roll up" characters in these modern RPGs, dah-link) a Decados baron who I loosely envision will be an even more unflappable and acerbic version of Alan Cumming's Lord Rochester in Plunkett & Macleane. ...And if you've not yet seen or heard of Plunkett & Macleane, well you've heard of it now and you should rectify that not-seeing of it. If you have seen it, perhaps you should consider seeing it again.

For two weeks (two weeks!) we sat around my coffee table (a sturdy, oaken thing that wouldn't be caught dead in Ikea) and contemplated character concepts. By virtue of both knowing the basic tenets of the system and being an exceedingly bossy jerk (or, as I like to call it: assertive) I had my character concept put onto paper before anyone else had really thought about theirs. Already, without realizing it, I had put a wrinkle into the game.

There's something to be said for the earlier days of gaming: it was much easier to get a party together. Despite a character's race or class, they were adventurers. There were common goals from the start: Adventure, treasures, glory! However, the game dynamic was altered as these "plebeian" styles were discarded in favor of caste gaming. Remember when an assassin, a half-orc barbarian and a cleric could all work together as a team and no-one would bat an eye?

Thief: Hey, Paladin, why don't you stand outside the rented room while we "chat" with this henchling?
Paladin: Duh, okay. Don't do anything naughty, now.
All players: Tee hee!

Honestly, did anyone really care about the racial frictions of D&D for more than 10 seconds? Now, however, there were concerns about certain character concepts not being able to withstand my Decados noble, by virtue of the character's caste regardless of how I intended to play the character. It's a sort of forced animosity amongst characters that came along with the game which was more pervasive within the player group than, say, Dwarf vs. Elf racism. ...There's a whole social commentary lurking in here about racism vs. other social prejudices, but a guest spot of a column on doesn't seem the best place to rant.

So, even after two weeks (two weeks!) of character generation, I was still the only one with a character, even after announcing that I would gladly play something else if others knew what they wanted to play. I had been trapped by my own machinations. By my own scheming the vote was cast and Ed was determined to take a break from HackMaster by actually running a game (or more) of Fading Suns--unless we acquiesced to his sudden suggestions of GURPS: Traveller. By the end of the second week we still didn't have a team. Or even a varied and sundry collection of characters. Things were beginning to look bleak.

Fortunately, on the eve of the third week, Seth had a character concept he could put to paper: a cynical, near seminary drop-out cleric. After a few minutes of awkward role playing in which it was realized that (due to those stated in-book stereotype responses) our characters were unlikely to form an immediate alliance as strangers, Ed suggested that perhaps our characters would already have a pre-game history together. Seth's surly monk was my dandy's confessor. And all was as right with the world as it could be when a flashlight costs 80 credits--excuse me, Firebirds.

Is it just me or does anyone else feel like they're paying in 80's pseudo-motorcars when playing Fading Suns? It is just me? Ah, okay. Thanks, I guess.

Seth was not well-read on the Fading Suns universe and I, though I had played in many prior campaigns, wasn't too aware of certain world-points, either. Apparently, nobles only duel with swords. Hopefully you can understand my confusion then when offered to "choose my weapons" in a duel with a Hazaat noble--who felt his honor besmirched by my sleeping with a family member (or two, or three)--I initially opted for pistols before settling on blindfolded midgets with shotguns. Hey, I thought I had a choice, here!

What began as sort of a humorous probe on our characters' mentalities by Ed quickly became the adventure hook. A mini-duel and a burning plantation (my character is not only a baron, but a tobacco baron) set the wheels in motion to get our characters off-planet. Fearing my volatile nature (and rightly so!) Ed assured me that he was not dicking me around in my initial point expenditures. To my credit, I did notassume that he was cheating me out of my painstakingly allotted character points.

It was a short, but immensely enjoyable session. Even despite Ed's goading us even while we were playing to switch to GURPS: Traveller. If last night's two hours of gaming were anything to go by, I won't be missing HackMaster that much any time soon. Unless, you know, I want to play a dwarf-hating elf or something of that ilk.

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What do you think?

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