That Black Hack Thing

So here’s a post that is long overdue, an appreciation of David Black’s The Black Hack.

Like Dungeon World this was a game that I blindly stumbled into on Kickstarter, following a bit of a buzz online. In fact, if I was thinking critically it should have been a big nope. The pitch for the game was a bit meh “this is my version of D&D I run at cons, and people have asked me to make a printed version” and list of changes/features. But what sold me was its logo:

How badass and metal is that 🙂

So What is it?

In short, it’s David’s Rules for running no-nonsense D&D games at conventions and short online games. You can spin campaign games with it since it still has level progression, but beware the experience rules amount to “characters gain levels when the DM says they do”. Which I like, as a middle-aged dad I’ve not got time to run the old week in week out experience point grinds of my teenage years.

Its roots are firmly in the old school, with four OSR four classes, each of which gets a page listing their restrictions and special abilities in the A5 booklet. Then it expands and refines the rules base with cool bits from other modern derivatives ( such as Dungeon World’s GM doesn’t roll, 5th Edition’s Advantage roll) and bits of the author’s devising (such as usage dice for keeping track of expendable items, the initiative system where you test against Dexterity on a D20 and if you fail you go after the monsters). Monsters and spells are no-nonsense, a short paragraph with essential stats. that fit in a couple of tables over two or so pages. For example, monsters are presented as Armour, Hit Dice, and quick special abilities.  And that’s the big thing about the Black Hack, it really presents the game in a very clean bare-bones fashion, with no unnecessary padding.  Apart from the game’s logo which also acts as the cover image, there is no art, just a very clean and effective graphic design and typography (are you beginning to see a theme here?) At the time it had me scratching my head thinking “is this actually an RPG?”.

What its good for

Using the Black Hack at Furnace 2016

I got to test the rules out at Furnace 2016 where I had initially offered to run a 5th Edition game but had failed miserably to get my head around the three books in the time that I had pitched the game and I was due to run it. So instead of panicking, I thought “why bring three heavy thick hardcovers to the table, when I can bring one slim a5 booklet” 🙂 So I ran a playtest with my home group, who as fans of various editions of D&D had it under a stern gaze, and it passed with flying colours! Same when I ran it at the convention, with a group of players of varying experience with D&D. It just worked and delivered Maximum Gaming Fun.

Which is the win with any role-playing game, and the point where the Black Hack became one of my “you’ll pry this from my cold dead fingers” games.

Hacking the Black Hack

But this wasn’t the end of my adventures with the Black Hack. The game’s text is completely Open Gaming Content and comes with its own Open Gaming License. It encourages you to remix and remake it in whatever image you want. So I’ve done this myself a couple of times. Once for a Dark Sun tribute called Black Sun (get it 😉 ) and more seriously for a British Post Apocalyptic Game set in the 70s, called Un-United Kingdom. Both these remain unpublished because they need polish and playtesting. But they were both fun to build and write, and Un-United Kingdom has had an entertaining trip out as a Convention game, and worked out of the box first time 🙂

Polished games out there

While I may not have got my efforts out there, there is a dizzying array of free and low-cost games and supplements for the Black Hack. DriveThruRpg.com lists 386 at present.

Three that come to mind that are a bit more developed and standalone games in their own right:

Cthulhu Hack by Paul Baldowski (Just Crunch Games).  Cthulhu done lo-fat style using the Black Hack. Fully suppported with a range of adventures and supplements.

Heroic Fantasy by Graham Spearing (Wordplay Games). If you want more classes, such as the Barbarian and the Bard, more monsters, races (Dwarf, Elf etc) a bit more guidance and a full adventure, this 89-page game delivers.

Kaigaku by Jacob DC Ross (Thunder Egg Productions). A slimline take on Samurai Roleplaying, that has all the flavour of the 90s classics that inspired it but none of the rules bloat.

Second Edition now on Kickstarter

Author David Black has decided to do a 2nd edition packed with more examples, art, and other cool stuff to make the game even cooler than it already is.  It’s currently on Kickstarter now, and its legions of fans have pushed it over the 500% funded mark already.

Christmas in July UK OSR picks

Here’s my personal list of picks from the UK publishers participating in DriveThruRPG.com’s Christmas in July sale.

Return of the Woodland Warriors by Beyond Belief Games
I loved the first edition of this simplified and tweaked version of Swords & Wizardry that only uses D6s and is suitable for children. The new edition has full-colour art which adds to the magic. Lovely cover by longtime D101 collaborator Peter Frian.

The Cthulhu Hack by Just Crunch Games
Rules light, courtesy of its use of the Black Hack engine, rules for Cthulhu investigative horror. It’s just been upgraded to version 1.5, which refines this already sharp ruleset. Oh and its supplements are also in the sale.

Mythras by Design Mechanism
If you’ve not got this behemoth of D100 goodness by now here’s your chance. As well as the core system, which is a complete thing and good to go running a wide variety of fantasy settings of various genres, all the formidable selection of adventures and setting books are in the sale.

My recommendations: Mythic Rome & Mythic Britain (including Mythic Britain: Logres, the supplement by D101 collaborator Paul Mitchener about the Anglo Saxons), and I’m going to use the sale to catch up with the Monthly Mythras adventures that I’ve woefully fallen behind on.

Crypts of Indormancy by Melsonian Arts Council
A nice self-contained, creepy as fuck adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

Clockwork and Chivalry by Cakebread and Walton
The English Civil War as fought by Alchemical Cavaliers and Clockwork device using Roundheads.  One of my favourite settings of all time, and the D100 Renaissance system (an offspring of OpenQuest) makes me grin even more. Also check out the epic Pirates & Dragons, if you fancy a bit of fantasy Pirates in the vein of Pirates of the Carribean.

The Christmas in July sale is on until the end of the month over at DriveThruRPG.com, and all of D101 Games Books are participating with 25% off all pdfs.

UK OSR Round Up for November 2016

Dragonmeet, the annual games day held in London this year on Saturday Dec 3rd, is nearly upon us. It’s being co-sponsored by Lamentations of the Flame Princess as well as Chaosium and there are many UK OSR publishers attending as well as us:

Among the guests are old school heroes Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson of Fighting Fantasy/early Games Workshop fame and Joe Dever author/creator of Lone Wolf.

D101 Games is in attendance and I’ll have a big pile of Crypts and Things with me, as well as OpenQuest and River of Heaven among the pile of D101 goodness

The Design Mechanism  continues to surge ahead on the Mythras release front.

First off is the return of Mythic Rome by Pete Nash, originally released as an BRP version which won a Silver Ennies, in a time when the Ennies were dominated by D&D product, updated for Mythras with brand new art as a lovely hardback.  It covers Rome from its foundation to the end of the Republic. If you want to run games inspired by Steven Saylor’s Sub Rosa series or HBO Rome this is the book to get.

mythic-rome

And because Pete and Loz love you and want you to try out Mythras for the next couple of months they are going to putting out standalone adventures compatible with both Mythras and the free Mythras Imperative. The first one is a Sci-Fi (they’ve already taken Mythras in that direction with their Luther Arkwright book and check out M-Space by Frostbyte Books) called A Gift From Shamash ( in pdf via drivethrurpg.com and in print from Lulu ).

gift-from-shamash

Crypts of Indormancy for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other OSR games funded recently and everything is on track for November release  according the latest backers report.  Keep an eye out for its release, it will be a good ‘un 😉

Grogmeet happened in my home city of Manchester….and I completely missed it. My excuse being a I was already signed heavy weekend of family fun, but hoping that this becomes a regular thing 🙂  Here’s a quick highlights movie they made.

Finally not strictly OSR (because its for 5Th Ed) but Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle Earth hit the shops this week, and I bagsied a copy. I must confess I usually by C7’s Tolkien stuff for the gorgeous art, and this book keeps up that tradition using the same smooth colourful layout with lashings of fantastic colour illustrations, but from a quick skim its a seamless version of 5ed blended with Tolkien flavour and the unique rules that made the One Ring so special ported over.  Looking forward to picking up the companion Loremaster’s Guide when it comes out. This one has a special place in many UK Grognards heart’s because Tolkien was very much part of growing up in the UK, for example many people read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as part of their English education at school, and even though there wasn’t an official D&D adaptation many people played the game with a strong Tolkien flavour. So 30 years on its very heartwarming to finally see an licensed adaptation for D&D and see it get so right.

Adventures in Middle Earth by Cubicle 7, I has it my precious!!!!

Adventures in Middle Earth by Cubicle 7, I has it my precious!!!!

What D101 is up to?
I’m currently busy getting the adventures for the Crypts and Things Kickstarter together. Tombs of the Necromancer is getting some clean up work done, some extra bits by author Paul Mitchener, and Life and Death Zarth Edition is getting new art and layout. Its neck and neck which one will get released first. Blood of the Dragon/The Dark Path (new) and Fort Boneguard (new) are all getting put together along with a new scenario, The Lost City of the God Emperor, into one book called Under Dark Spires. Tournaments of Madness and Death is quietly trundling along.

I've got me nose in a good book :)

I’ve got me nose in a good book 🙂

David M.Wright who did the art for the main rule book is signed up to do the art for the adventures. David recently got his rulebook and was dead chuffed with it 🙂

“C&T encapsulates pretty much everything I love about classic 80’s RPG fantasy (which was all around when I was growing up as a lad), but with all the naff stuff removed!  It’s a 100% pure Sword & Sorcery game.  There are Barbarians, Warriors, Sorcerers and Thieves, all pitted against an ever expanding assortment of monsters, amorphous Hell-Spawed demonic crypt dwelling conglomerations, and the like (none of your wishy-washy elves, gnomes, and sappy fairies here!). There is Blood, there is Fire, there is Magic, Muscle, Mist, and Steel!  : )”

Oh and to keep us going until the adventures land I’m putting a C&T fanzine together called “From the Shroud”, a little A5 affair that currently has a couple of articles by me and a small introductory scenario called “The Secret of Skull Hill”, that I’m hoping will be on sale at Dragonmeet. If you are interested in contributing get in touch via newt@d101games.com. The deadline for submissions is tight however, this coming Sunday 20th November.

I’m also starting the playtest of Beyond Dread Portals (the new name of Paul Mitchener’s Empire of Ys ) this week, which will run into early next year with an aim of getting out in the first half of next year.

In non-fantasy-land I’m putting wrapping up the last bits of writing on the River of Heaven Companion, so that should be out early 2017 🙂

Remember my reporting on this UK OSR Update is only as good as my attention span on G+, so if I’ve missed anything just point it out in the comments below.

 

UK OSR update July 2016

More stuff coming from the UK OSR out despite distractions of the footy and Wimbledon on the TV…

Out of the Pit the seminal Advanced Fighting Fantasy creature book now available as a pdf via DrivethruRpg.com. The rather sparse description on the product page doesn’t do the book justice. It was originally published in the 1980s during the Fighting Fantasy boom and contains over 250 monsters from the classic FF books.

outofthepit

Stellar Adventures, the Sci-Fi Advanced Fighting Fantasy variant by Arion Games has now funded, with 8 days to go at time of writing.

In Darkest Warrens – a pay what you want rules light game by Trollish Delver Games is now available, from the blurb it’s ” a minimalist fantasy roleplaying game whose rules cover two pages, including a bestiary and introductory adventure. All you need is some six-sided dice, paper, pencils and, of course, a bunch of buddies to play with. ”

indarkestwarrens

The Hex Hack by Dog Eared Games is available for use with the Black Hack and other OSR games. Also they’ve added a supplement for their Jack Hack Black Hack supplement ( keeping up with me at the back there? ) called The Penny Black which adds in elements from a certain dreadful TV show.

Also those cunning chaps over at The Design Mechanism have just given an update about the end of the RuneQuest license and the transition to Mythras…

Missed anything? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll add it here or in the next update 🙂

UK OSR Update June 2016

Well I go away on a family holiday, followed by UK Games Expo and all sorts of nonsense gets released or pops up on G+ in the UK OSR scene. So here’s a quick catch up of recent stuff I’m aware of. If I’ve missed anything mention it in the comments below and I’ll stick it in my next update.

At UK Games Expo my mate Paul Baldowski (Just Crunch Games) was peddling printed and boxset copies of his The Cthulhu Hack  which is still going strong and has spawned a supplement From Unformed Realms.  Based off the Black Hack this standalone game takes the same stripped down OSR/D20 approach as the Black Hack itself but adds quick rules based for Investigation.

the-cthulhu-hack

Also John Davis has released The Jack Hack which brings alternate rules, encounter tables and five new classes for the Black Hack so you can play adventures in the grim and gritty Victorian London at the time of Jack the Ripper.

the-jack-hack

Stellar Adventures Kickstarter – I was thinking that Graham Bottley of Arion Games had gone all quiet on the Advanced Fighting Fantasy front then this Kickstarter for a standalone Science Fiction version of the game pops up from nowhere. Suffice to say I’m going to be backing this one 🙂

stellar-adventures

Also the Advanced Fighting Fantasy and the Advanced Fighting Fantasy Companion are now available as pdf from Drivethrurpg.com.

Romance of the Perilous Land by Scott Malthouse is a game based on British Folklore in-development and play-testing. From a comment made by Scott on G+ its a “it’s OGL, inspired by Swords & Wizardry, Black Hack, T&T, and 5e. But also its own system “. Here’s the current cover.  This is one I’m following with great interest.

ROMANCE OF PERILOUS LAND COVER

England Upturn’d by UK Author Barry Blatt has been released by Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Set in the English Civil War in the Lincolnshire fens, its a fantastic adventure blending the weird history of the time and Barry’s psychedelic sensibilities into one awesome package. I picked a copy up at UK Games Expo and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Ian Sturlock Interview Over at UK Roleplayers Ian Sturlock, who runs Serpent King Games and is custodian of the Dragon Warriors RPG is being being Interviewed.

Mythras Imperative. This is UK Exiles Lawrence Whitaker & Pete Nash’s 32 page free taster of their rebranded RQ6 system. They may have lost the name, but damn this feels like RQ of old, since some of the complexity of the full system has been lost in this cut down system. The only downside is there’s no magic system, but seeing as they want this to be a base for third party publishers to use to base products off they’ve chucked in rules for firearms. Anyway that aside, check it out its free!

mythras-imperative-cover

It seems like everyone is hacking these days and Simon Washbourne has just released his OSR version of Barbarians of Lemuria, the BOL Hack. A stripped down version of Barbarians of Lemuria with all the fluff removed and just a simple OD&D inspired ruleset left behind.

D101 OSR News

Work continues on Crypts and Things and were on for a July release of the pdf to backers, and opening of pre-orders then if you missed the kickstarter. The latest Kickstarter update has news of this and preview page layouts.

I’ve had a bit of a review of the prices of OpenQuest and River of Heaven and their respective supplements, and I’ve lowered the prices of the print versions on Drivethru and Lulu. For example a hardcover of OpenQuest Deluxe used to be $40 its now $30. So if you were considering getting a print version now is the time to do it 🙂

Also Lulu are doing a 35% off code at the moment LULU35