Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hackmaster and Faith In Kenzer

It seems as Gen Con and the release of Hackmaster Basic draws nearer, there’s been a lot of talk (especially from the grognard contingent and some vocal folks on the Kenzer board) about the direction of Hackmaster. I get that this edition of HM may not be the classical homage many people were expecting after the previous HM edition (and the previews of the Otus cover), but I have to mark myself down as excited for this game.

I’m excited if for no other reason than I trust Kenzer as much as I trust any gaming company out there. They make a good, entertaining gaming product. Their Hackmaster GM’s Guide gets more use than my AD&D 1e DMG, and is still referenced for use with such RPGs as Palladium Fantasy, Castles & Crusades, Rules Cyclopedia D&D, and others.

Then there’s Aces & Eights. I thought this thing looked like a ridiculous gerrymandered mess of sub-systems. Oh, there’s a lot of sub-systems, alright. But it is also one of the most enjoyable, engrossing RPGs I’ve seen in the past few years. The final product was polished and very functional. I suspect we just might be saying the same thing about Basic come this fall.

The boys at Kenzer know what note they want to strike, and in my experience, they’ll hit it just fine.

I understand they went a different way with Hackmaster Basic, and perhaps this is a bit farther from the delightful 1e send-up/tribute that the old Hackmaster than they felt the license revocation warranted. And perhaps it won’t satisfy the current trending we’re seeing among a lot of online tabletoppers towards rules-light/loose play. But I think the final product, although a completely different creature from what came before, will be a great game. I have faith. The next time Kenzer disappoints me will be the first time.


Olman Feelyus said...

A couple of things. I think people are giving Jamie Mal a bit of a hard time here. It seems to me that he wasn't saying it was a bad or dishonest product, just that it probably wasn't going to meet his personal old school standards. Which is fine.

The Erol Otus cover, coinciding with the surge in old school products, threw people off a bit. Hackmaster itself was never really "old school", it's more like "not-so old school", kind of holding the place between AD&D and 3rd edition. In effect, it's a retro-2e clone that has mutated into it's own thing. Hackmaster Basic and 5th edition is a major evolution up from that. I think it is a mistake to assume it will follow any specific old school tenets (though there will be some in there and isolating them will be interesting).

KenzerCo has always gone their own route and your point about the goodness of Aces & Eights is a good one. That game is often overlooked by proponents of the Old School but it is a major step in KenzerCo's game design evolution.

Zachary The First said...

@Olman: I mean no disrespect to Jamie Mal, whose site I truly enjoy. I understand that it may be a personal taste issue for some; I'm just saying that even though the initial previews and such may not look like what folks want, I have faith Kenzer will make a fine game.

Greylond said...

Slight correction about the "License Revocation" comment.

As they've said many times online and in person, their license with WOTC had a set lifespan from the beginning. It wasn't "Revoked", it just ended. Neither party was interested in a renewal and thus it never came up. "Revoked" sounds so negative compared to what actually happened. Dave Kenzer has stated that from the time that the license was started they never intended to renew it. They AlWAYS intended to revise HackMaster as their own system, from the beginning. Please stop spreading the false rumor/image of WOTC "Revoking" a license.