Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume I
Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume I Capsule Review by Charles Phipps on 15/02/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
A fine opener to a literal horde of interesting new and re-done classic monsters.
Product: Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume I
Author: Jolly R. Blackburn
Page count: 191
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Charles Phipps on 15/02/02
Genre tags: Fantasy
Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume I
Hackmaster the RPG is one of those things that every die-hard fan of Dungeons and Dragons knows about but not everyone wants to like. A deliberate nod to "Old school" gamers and in some ways a frank insult to third edition, it's designed to simulate all the craziness of first edition Dungeons and Dragons people remember more than actually happened while being a serious system. The Hacklopedia of Beasts is one of the more controversial aspects of this system because as a series of eight twenty dollar supplements one has to ask if one is willing to invest one hundred and sixty of one's hard earned game money in what is a half joke system-half serious one. Furthermore since it is a deliberate nod to first edition Dungeons and Dragons and to a lesser extent second you have to wonder whether or not there will be enough new information to justify what amounts to a revised reprint of the Monstrous Manuals with some laughs tacked on.
I am pleased to say that the first book in the series is gladly worth it.
The first Hackmaster Hacklopedia is filled to the rim with Monsters to satisfy every taste and while there are some reprints such as Bugbears, Bullywugs, and Beholders, these old favorites receive enough new information that you don't have to necessarily skip over the poor fellows when reading. Furthermore it contains plenty of new monsters of a decidedly serious bent such as the Ant-men, Bane Lords, Blood Guzzlers, Hammer head Bulletes, and Corals. Those more to a humorous taste can read up on the Anthraxian (the Vorpal Bunny from Monty Python so named after the infamous Castle in it), the Giant badger entry in the series that first appeared in Knights of the Dinner Table magazine (as a joke on divorced kids growing up fatherless), and such amusing entries as the Babbling instigator. The best part about the joke entries is that they are played entirely straight and you can actually probably insert them without too much difficulty into your campaigns.
The Art in the Hackmaster Hacklopedia isn't exactly up to the mature levels of the original Dungeons and Dragons modules, no nudity alas either, but it isn't by any mean the rather badly drawn etchings of Knights of the Dinner Table proper either. Instead it is a mixture of both styles with some entries appearing very well drawn and realistic while other entries made in far side parody. As the cover art shows, with a dwarf warrior being bitten in half by a Bullete, the scenes in the Hacklopedia of Beasts are usually shockingly violent. Heads are chopped off, people are gnawed in half, and even the Lawful Good Blink Dog takes some poor adventurer down within these pages. One of the cuter elements of the book is that each monster is given a "Hack factor" rating so that you can judge whether or not the kills are worthwhile and a halfway decent scoring system I suspect could be made up that players can compare their kill ratings. I've always wanted a way to tell whether or not my fighter was the absolute biggest bad ass on my campaign world so I admit I will guiltily probably start using it.
Another fact that bears mentioning is that the Hacklopedia's flesh out the often overlooked is the "yield" of monsters such as magical properties of their flesh and whether or not they are edible. In a way the Hackmaster Hacklopedia sort of becomes a guide to monster hunting you might find were you intending to become a connoisseur of killing fantastic beasts. No longer will the players just murder the poor Baboon but also take his rope for weaving into rope of enchantment. The Hacklopedias really make the side notes about monster's magical properties worthwhile. Plus it answers such questions as whether or not beholder is edible.
While nineteen ninety nine plus tax is a pretty pricey range for me at a college student's budget I must say, at one hundred twelve pages, they manage to pack in enough information that I consider my purchase well worth the expense. Now if they release a Hacklopedia Compendium later on we'll see about that...