Tuesday, April 21, 2009

HackMaster Basic

Take a gander at the newly posted cover of HackMaster Basic, illustrated by none other than Erol Otus himself.

I've never really quite figured out how to take HackMaster. It's too goofy to be serious, but also too serious to be goofy, if that makes any sense. But I have to admit: this one looks tempting. Maybe I can finagle a review copy out of them somehow ...

38 comments:

  1. Once again, Mr. Otus delivers. Glad to see he's still got it. :) I wonder what he's been doing since he left TSR?

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  2. I know exactly what you mean. I tried it for a couple of sessions, but it was way too much work and not nearly funny enough.

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  3. That cover is a thing of beauty. Frankly, I'm half tempted to pick it up for that alone.

    Never tried Hackmaster though -- I had originally thought it was a kind of satire or elaborate in-joke, but then I saw all those Hacklopedia volumes come out and I had no idea how to take the game.

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  4. I certainly agree, HackMaster doesn't gel properly. You know they wanted HackMaster to be serious, but they were compelled by the WOTC license to insert parody elements, right? (So as to not present competition to mainstream D&D.) It's little wonder that the elements are in conflict with each other (it was literally a legal disput that brought it about).

    Erol Otus rocks so bad it hurts. He infects my dreams daily.

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  5. ...and he corrupts my spelling.

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  6. @Delta - I didn't know that. Unfortunately, a serious game along the lines of AD&D is exactly what I don't want in an RPG, whereas as beer-n-pretzels parody game could be good for sessions where we don't have a quorum. I was really more hoping to play Knights of the Dinner Table rather than Hackmaster as played in Knights of the Dinner Table.

    That makes me a bit less likely to pick up Hackmaster Basic

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  7. Read the history section here for one reference (2nd paragraph): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HackMaster#History

    I also saw that confirmed by one of the principals of K&C on their forums a while back.

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  8. Correction: It was Mark Plemmons responding to a question of mine over on ENWorld a while back.

    http://www.enworld.org/forum/3500376-post46.html

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  9. That cover looks brilliant! Kenzer has one guaranteed sale based on it alone.

    People should know that this is the cover for the Basic rules (covering levels 1-5) for the *new* edition of Hackmaster ('5e', but really 2e). All connection with WotC has been severed, so it will no longer be a 'parody' game (although presumably it will not take itself too seriously).

    The rules previews look pretty interesting, although perhaps a bit too rules heavy for my tastes. However, I'll definitely check out the Basic rules.

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  10. @Akrasia

    Make that two sales. It must be mine!

    That is one awesome cover.

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  11. I like the cover and it is a great variant on his 1980 basic cover, but do they need to keep the Hackmaster parody angle going with all of the retro-clones thriving as they do?

    I will be buying a copy as well, the cover simply rocks.

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  12. Hackmaster is a valid and interesting game. It has a lively and active community. It may not be for all tastes, but KenzerCo knows how to design a game (check out Aces & Eights). They took advantage of WotC with a legal loophole and used it to keep 2nd edition alive in a new form and then evolve it into its own thing. 5th edition is just the next step in that evolution and promises to be interesting and satisfy the playstyle of a certain group of gamers, those who like it crunchy and competitive. I find the dismissive attitude of some of the commenters here to be ignorant and uninformed. Play the game, get to know the community a bit before making judgements. Check out some of the hackmaster modules for rich, updated versions of TSR classics. The Little Keep on the Borderlands or Against the Giants, for instance. Pretty good quality stuff.

    I think just the fact that they are the only gaming company that has re-engaged Erol Otus demonstrates where KenzerCo's head and heart is at.

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  13. This looks promising. It's nice to see an established moving in this direction. I hope the spirit of the game matches the cover.

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  14. Yeah, I'll buy just to help out EO.

    In regard to Hackmaster, no way I'd ever run it, for a couple of reasons: 1) I have my AD&D books; 2) Too much 2e-era influence; 3) too much extra work tracking infractions, etc..(though I could toss all that out, I guess) 4)I don't like the bennie/hindrance thing or whatever it is called.

    What it is for me though, is sort of a wha-hoo set of sourcebooks to flip through during downtime. Once in a while I find a monster or germ of an idea I can use.

    I'm interested to see what HM5 is like, actually.

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  15. "they are the only gaming company that has re-engaged Erol Otus"

    Actually, he's done several covers for Goodman Games, too.

    This cover has me worried that the new edition of Hackmaster is still going for the ultra-violent slapstick angle, which I'm not too interested in.

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  16. I wonder what he's been doing since he left TSR?Like everyone else, he's been doing computer games :)

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  17. where KenzerCo's head and heart is at.I definitely know where their heart is and I love them for that. It's their head that sometimes baffles me. Now, obviously, they know their market better than I do, but, judging by the previews I've seen of HM Basic, it looks as if it'll be a mite more complex and persnickety than I like my games these days. That's not a knock against them by any means. Like Pathfinder, though, I just feel as if they're a bit far off the mark when it comes to meeting my expectations.

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  18. Brilliant cover. Am I the only one who thinks that Otus is doing some kind of parody of the five-headed dragon?

    It's hard to say if I would buy it though, I really have gotten to the point where like others here, I already have so many games, and more than ever, a willingness to bend them to my will. HM Basic would have to have some really neat rules to convince me that it would be worth getting for rules mining.

    Still, it is a really great cover.

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  19. This cover has me worried that the new edition of Hackmaster is still going for the ultra-violent slapstick angle, which I'm not too interested in.

    Why do you say that? The cover is clearly a pastiche of Otus's earlier Moldvay Basic Rules cover.

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  20. Still, it is a really great cover.

    I agree; it's absolutely gorgeous. I also think it's much better than the covers he did for Goodman, which felt almost like parodies of his old TSR work rather than homages to them. This one, though, is just awesome.

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  22. I also think it's much better than the covers he did for Goodman, which felt almost like parodies of his old TSR work rather than homages to them.And in reference to the five-headed worm, maybe parody is the wrong word. It's more like an "Otus-Take" on the five-headed dragon. As I've EO's art, monsters should be anything but ordinary.

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  23. That is a TRULY rocking cover. I have paged through Hackmaster books, but they were always more expensive than I wanted to pay. From the page-throughs, I just never quite "got" what it was about (which is why the expense always overwhelmed the curiosity).

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  24. "Why do you say that? The cover is clearly a pastiche of Otus's earlier Moldvay Basic Rules cover."

    Right, I get that. The thing that throws me off is that this edition of HackMaster was supposedly going to be less of a parody/tribute to D&D and more of a "serious" game. The cover, however, follows in the tradition of HM covers, which is to say it's a revamp of an old D&D image with added gore.

    I'm sure that's proven to be a successful formula for Kenzer, and obviously I'm in the minority for not being a huge fan of Otus' art, so maybe I should just keep my mouth shut. I'm just a little surprised at how much this seems like standard "wacky" HackMaster style.

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  25. I'm just a little surprised at how much this seems like standard "wacky" HackMaster style.

    The funny thing is that I never considered the HM covers to be "wacky." Some of them hew a bit too closely to their inspirations to be considered "good," but they don't feel like parodies to me. Certainly this Otus piece doesn't. It manages to transcend its origins, I think, and is a fine old school cover in its own right.

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  26. I guess for me HackMaster ultimately failed to be funny (probably because I don't find KotDT or other "gaming comics" funny) and was ultimately an excuse to pay more for a softcover AD&D rulebook than one would for a less irritating hardcover one. Truly pointless.

    Man, I miss Wormy. That was a great example comic closely tied to gaming that wasn't meta-gags about experience points and how gamers are such nerds.

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  27. "The funny thing is that I never considered the HM covers to be 'wacky.' Some of them hew a bit too closely to their inspirations to be considered 'good,' but they don't feel like parodies to me."

    Surely you didn't miss the supposed humorous intent behind old D&D illustrations with dismemberment and fountains of blood added?

    I just find that really hard to believe.

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  28. I just find that really hard to believe.

    I guess I never really paid as much attention to the covers as I ought to have, since I never once thought of buying HM. I think the Kenzer guys are great, but KotDT never did it for me and I just assumed that HM would be more of the same.

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  29. This cover is magically delicious.

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  30. If you want to see Erol Otus artwork in a computer game, Check out "The Ur-Quan Masters", which is the Open Source version of Star Control 2.

    http://sc2.sourceforge.net/

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  31. I can't help but agree with Will. Chief example: the K&C DM screen that parodied the original AD&D one, taking Tramp's fighter-character (my favorite depiction of a D&D fighter of all time), and making him be parodically gored through the chest, eyes bugging out. That literally pissed me off.

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  32. Delta,

    Maybe I spoke too soon then. As I said, I never looked too closely at any of the HM cover. Perhaps that's a good thing.

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  33. Based on the comments in this thread, I'm not sure that people are aware that HM 5e will be a different game from HM 4e (which I never really got into). HM 5e will not have the 'parody' elements that HM 4e (although it will be somewhat lighthearted in tone), and will not be based directly on AD&D 1e&2e. Rather, I believe "Aces & Eights" has had a major influence on HM 5e.

    I'm not saying that HM 5e will be a good game (although I hope that it will be). I am saying that one shouldn't judge 5e on the basis of 4e.

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  34. ... why wasn't Hackmaster 5e done with S&W or something and therefore compatible with everything else?

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  35. ... why wasn't Hackmaster 5e done with S&W or something and therefore compatible with everything else?I suspect because Kenzer believes a) that their rules are better suited to the feel they want to convey and b) that they consider HackMaster a valuable enough property that it ought to have its own rules independent of anyone else.

    I think both notions are completely valid.

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  36. Well, I'm a fan of HackMaster and we run in overall as a serious game. I find it like I wish 3rd edition had been... closer to 1e (with some 2e) but with some great stuff added. (And some other things I don't use).

    As for HackMaster Basic... the cover ROCK! Also, from the details they've let out about it, it sounds like a great system which is gritty but fun and still keeps the "feel" of 1e without the same rules (since they can't use them). Besides, for $20 US for the complete HMB game, you can't go wrong. :)

    The cover is great though and I think captures the feel. I don't find it nearly as violent as some of the previous HM ones have been either... I think it a great throw back to the "old days" and makes me think of adventures from my youth.

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