Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mini Review - Hackmaster 5e Quickstart Guide (Kenzer Co)

I am far from the Hackmaster expert.  I remember reading about the fictitious game in the early Knights of the Diner Table (probably back in Shadis Magazine).  It was very obviously a take on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ramped up to 11.  Then one day, Hackmaster actually appeared in gaming stores across the nation.  Fake game became real game, and it really was AD&D turned up to 11.

Flash forward to now.  Hackmaster reached it's 5th edition with it's release of Hackmaster Basic in 2010.  Kenzer is hard at work on releasing the full HM 4e rules (and I got some flack last year for not knowing rules for levels beyond 5 were available from Kenzer Co's website - ah well).  See, you CAN play 5e now!

Hackmaster's old edition could be considered fairly rules heavy.  From my reading of the Hackmaster Basic Book, I'd say the 4e rules are even heavier, at least at character generation.  What's a new Hackmaster player to do?

May we present to you the Hackmaster Quickstart Guide (for HM 5e).  It's an attempt to bring some sanity and order to the confusion that may just slam a new player in the gut.  Does it succeed in doing so?

Yes and no.

I'll explain the no first.  Hackmaster character generation is a convoluted, confusing system.  That's not a design flaw, it's actually a feature and it was designed that way.  You would probably need 40 pages alone to walk someone thru character generation, and replicating the charts would take up even more space.  So no, The Quickstart Guide doesn't show one haw to create a Hackmaster Character, but it does give you an assortment of fully stated and generated PCs with quirks and all, so you have an idea what to expect in the full game.  Character generation is beyond the scope of this Quickstart.

Now for the success.  It gives a very nice overview of how to actually play (and possibly run) a Hackmaster session.  41 pages on everything from how to read your character sheet, combat rules, spells in combat, spells... screw it, here's the table of contents:

1.1 Introduction Page 03
1.2 Basic Character Classes Page 04
The Basic Fighter Page 04
The Basic Thief Page 06
The Basic Mage Page 08
The Basic Cleric Page 10
1.3 QuickStart Mage Spells Page 13
1.4 QuickStart Clerical Spells Page 14
1.5 QuicksStart Skills Page 15
2.1 Learning the QuickStart Rules Page 23
2.2 Misc. Rules Page 23
2.3 Skill Checks Page 24
2.4 Combat Rules Page 25
2.4.1 Roll for Initiative Page 25
2.4.2 The Count Up Page 25
2.4.3 Movement in Combat Page 26
2.4.4 Rules of Engagement Page 26
2.4.5 Rolling for Attack & Defense in Melee Page 26
2.4.6 Ranged Attack Page 27
2.4.7 Spells in Combat Page 28
2.4.8 Taking Wounds Page 28
2.4.9 Using Luck and Honor Page 28
2.5 Advanced Option Rules Page 28
Knock-backs Page 28
Threhold of Pain Page 29
Alignment rules Page 29
2.6 Running Encounters in HackMaster Page 29
3.1 Appendix Page 30
How to fill out a character sheet Page 30
Glossary Page 32
Hacklopedia entry on Kobolds Page 35
PC Record Sheet Page 39

Pretty full Quickstart.  Doesn't even include an adventure and still hits 41 pages.  Did I mention it's free?  Hell, add it to your Quickstart PDF Collection ;)

If you want to give Hackmaster a peek and aren't sure if you want to pay the buy in, give the Hackmaster Quickstart a check.  It's free. and you might find something you'll enjoy playing as you await 5e (Hackmaster Advanced, D&D, Runequest - or some other RPG hitting high edition numbers - Tunnels & Trolls is already at 7.5 ;)


  1. And from the Kenzer & Co website you can download "White Palette, Ivory Horns" a complete adventure to put the quickstart in good use!


  2. The QuickStart Guide is very good for new players to sit down, read and just start playing. However, if you want a good Character Generation Worksheet you can download the one created by Topher Kersting at;

    It's only 4 pages and it does NOT have any rules. It is assumed that you have the HMb book to use, but it is a very good guide on how to actually create a HMb character.

    The two, the QSG and the Character Creation Guide, are two different approaches to teaching people how to play. Both are good at what they do.


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