Hackmaster 4th edition
Hackmaster 4th edition Playtest Review by Jamie Herbert on 22/08/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
Does Gary Jackso still have the golden touch?
Product: Hackmaster 4th edition
Author: Jolly R. Blackburn and others
Company/Publisher: Kenzer and Co.
Page count: 398
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Jamie Herbert on 22/08/01
Genre tags: Fantasy Comedy
Since the first time I read an issue of Shadis, it was apparent to me that JR Blackburn really understood gamers through his work in humor. Since it’s humble beginnings the Knights of the Dinner Table have gone from being a simple cartoon strip in a gaming magazine to being truly an industry itself. And now things are full circle the game from the comic has become a real game in all its hack filled glory. But what is it? Is it a parody of the excesses and foolishness that makes up our hobby? Is it a work of serious gaming? Or is it just an expensive way to show that you are an obsessive fanboy? Well in many ways it is all three but there is more here. Weighing in at over 390 pages, this book has a lot to offer.
Looking at this product from the perspective of a piece of serious work, it is a very odd duck. The mark of the first edition of AD&D on this product is unmistakable. In many ways the entire book has the feel of being what AD&D could have been if games like White Wolf’s storyteller system, or RTG’s Castle Falkenstien, hadn’t influenced the industry. While the game is a wacky and Archaic as any of TSR old school products, it is proof that a game doesn’t have to be new to be fun (something main of the proponents of D20 have been screaming) Character creation is a complex collection of rolling dice, choosing a race and class (referencing and cross referencing as you go!!) not to mention remembering all sorts of prerequisites. Just like classic D&D games you have to contend with the all too real possibility that you may not be able to play your desired class because you may not roll properly to get the prerequisite scores to make it into your class of choice, and the rules are quite strict that you roll 3d6 (not 4d6 discard the low die, or any other wacky techniques!!) and you must roll from strength to comeliness in order! As well. However for the dyed in the wool 1st edition players (don’t scoff they are out there) this book provides a few new and interesting rules not to mention a host of new spells and races that might be of use to 1st edition loyalists looking for something new but refusing to look at 3e.
As a work of Parody the primary gripe is obvious it is way to damn complex to really fit the beer and pretzels mold. After an hour completing my first character (a Grel Berserker) the last thing I want to do is play this as a pick up game, but at the same time I have a feeling this game is going to be more of a convention favorite than something that replaces D&D, or 7th sea as a widely used fantasy game. The cost is also rather prohibitive. Now I will grant you that one of the big jokes in KODT is the fact that we as gamers spend a lot of hard earned cash on semi useless (and sometimes outright silly products) to enhance our gaming experience. The players guide and game master’s guide each weigh in at $30 apiece, and the eight “Hacklopedia of beasts” books run for about $20 a pop (although actually you can substitute old Monster manuals with minimal effort!) So for the full set of game books you are looking at $220, which is way to, damn expensive for just a joke. Conversely, there is a lot of material here that is new and unique and a lot of different ways to improve the old AD&D game. Many players will be put off to think of this game as a serious work (or even a semi serious game with a sense of humor) especially with the much easier D&D3e game system is available and so popular. But this game is actually a very fun product that is both a work of nostalgia as well as a workable game that in every respect mirrors the once fictional product that every ones favorite Muncie based gaming group plays and argues over consistently. Pass the Faygo and Call the Pizza a go go, because tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 18/99!!