Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hackmaster Alive!

In discussing Hackmaster with some of my face to face friends, the recurrent complaint I hear is about the 3d6, straight down, and other random aspects of character generation. If you cherry-pick your flaws instead of rolling randomly, they're worth only half. You don't get X% in a skill for an expenditure of Y BP, you get to roll a die based on your current skill level for Y BP.... you may get 1 point for your 10 BP spent on Divine Lore, or you may roll your initial d12p*, get a 36, and be an eerily competent miner from your dwarven freebie (seen it happen).

However, one thing I very much like about this is how it helps you flesh out your character. The previous character? He started out as a Dejy (human phenotype, similar in appearance to Asians or Native Americans, with all the variety that entails), perhaps from the large city of Shyta-on-Dobyo. But then I started rolling. And I wound up with a priest of the Traveler whose brothers and sisters were mostly angry with him, and who knew the Eternal Lantern better than his own faith. It completely changed who the character was, and helped to make him real. His background, cribbed from Merle Haggard, wrote itself in the action of random dice rolls indicating where he came from... a man of who was pretty unsuited to the life he was trained for.

This happens all the time with Hackmaster's random tables. Like the 4 Intelligence halfling thief with SCARY Fire-building skills and pocking (Hey, look who likes to play with fire and got burned). Or the almost-shopkeeper** gnome rogue. His only good stats were Looks, Charisma, and a slightly acceptable Intelligence (once I reorganized them)... his Needy flaw told me immediately who he was... someone whose physical weakness and low Wisdom lead them to rely on others far more than they really needy to... but who had the ability to make others do what he wanted.

It's a refrain among Hackmaster players... play the game. Don't obsess about how little fighters get, sit down and play the game. Don't worry because your stats are lower than you're used to... sit down and play the game. Because once you do, you find how these things work to make a great game.

*Hackmaster uses "penetrating" dice, similar to exploding dice. However, on any subsequent roll, you subtract 1 from what shows on the die; on a d12p, if you roll a 12 and then a 1, your total is 12 + (1-1); if you rolled a 10 on the second, your total would be 12 + (10-1). Roll the maximum again, and you keep going, but you still subtract 1 from each die after the first. d20p penetrates to a d6p, however, and d100p penetrates to a d20p.
**While stats are 3d6 in order for best results, there's one bit of leeway... if your stats utterly suck, you can declare the character a shopkeeper and roll again with no penalty. These stats have to be either nothing of 13 or higher, or 2 or more stats of 5 or less.