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Why “Hack100”?

As a regular feature on the excellent The Grognard Files podcast, host Dirk the Dice invites guests to talk about “Their First”, “Their Last” and “Their “Everything” role-playing game. It’s a neat format for understanding someone’s gaming tastes and influences.

My “First” was the 1981 edition of Basic Dungeons & Dragons by Tom Moldvay. At the time, I had no idea what I was buying, nor any concept of what a role-playing game was. I bought it on the strength of the name alone – “dungeons” and “dragons” – what’s not to like?

My “Last” was Suldokar’s Wake by Christian Mehrstam, a science fiction RPG brimming with ideas. It’s interesting both in terms of the author’s publishing strategy (as a semi-regular periodical) and its unusual setting and mechanics. There’s a lot crammed into the 80 pages of the first issue, and at least three more issues are planned.

My “Everything” neatly straddles these two games. It’s another Christian Mehrstam system, Whitehack. Whitehack is Mehrstam’s re-working of classic Dungeons & Dragons. It manages the impressive feat of remaining broadly compatible with earlier editions of D&D whilst at the same time offering many more possibilities. This is achieved by dispensing with traditional character classes, abilities and spell lists in favour of an approach based on player/GM negotiation. That’s not to say it’s a particularly loose or free-form game. Quite the opposite. Mechanically it’s very tight, complete and elegant. The entire ruleset, including a setting and two adventures, fits into 64 pages. Having found the recent 4th Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play too fiddly for my tastes, I’ve been using Whitehack to run the classic “The Enemy Within” campaign over on Tavern Keeper, and it is working just fine.

So what’s all this got to do with Hack100? Well, Whitehack will be an undeniable influence on what I hope to achieve. I would like Hack100 to be similarly concise, yet flexible and comprehensive. Not that I intend to produce a d100 version of Whitehack. Far from it. But I am inspired by Whitehack’s approach and what it achieves with such economy. The “Hack” in “Hack100” acknowledges it’s debt to Whitehack.

As I write this, it occurs to me that none of the games discussed above are d100 systems. Therefore, whilst we’re on the subject of influences, honourable mentions should also go to RuneQuest and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP). The 2nd & 3rd editions of RuneQuest, along with the Basic Roleplaying “Big Gold Book”, are probably my favourite sets of game mechanics will have a guiding hand in Hack100’s approach. In comparison, WFRP’s mechanics are a bit messy, with perhaps the 2nd edition being the tightest. But I love the setting and the tone of the game (particularly the 1st and 4th editions), and these too will be an influence on Hack100.

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