Hackmaster Unbound.. Er... Rebound?

edited June 2012 in Game Design Help
When JR Blackburn and Co. announced they were actually publishing Hackmaster, at first, I was amused and then a bit excited.

What I had envisioned and hoped for was a farcical rules-lite game where players were allowed to make up imaginary rules citations in order to support their character's bizarre (and, on the player's part, creative) solutions to the GM's proposed problems (while the GM had a similar mechanism for creating imaginary rules to counter or complicate those solutions.)

Instead, well, I think it kind of ruined a good joke.
But lately I've been thinking.

I'll bet someone's already come up with a game like the one I'm describing above. Has anyone tried? And, if not, could we try again?
And if we do try again, do I have to move this thread to Praxis? It's lonely over there!


  • This sounds like a really cool idea. Be interested to try something like this.

    Obligatory Apocalypse World move hack:

    When you "recall" a rule that applies to this situation, roll +Lawyered. On a 10+ your "recall" is correct and it becomes Canon and you write it down and can use it again. On a 7-9 choose one:
    - The rule succeeds, but is so specific it only applies to this situation so you can't write it as Canon.
    - The ruling is argued down, but the argument gives you fodder for later, take +1 forward.
    - You win the argument and can write it as Canon, but the GM or Player Frustration increases by 1.
    On a miss the GM hits you with a grudge monster or makes another hard move.

    When GM Frustration hits 10, "rocks fall and everyone dies". When a player's Frustration hits 10 the table is flipped.
  • How about something more free-wheeling, like Donjon or InSpectres?

    Something where players and GM aren't assigned too many specific moves or maybe have only one or two "moves" which all players are privy to?

    Maybe I shouldn't even use the word "move." What about some sort of point system? Or a set of lists obfuscating a point system?
  • edited June 2012
    It totally wouldn't have to be Apocalypse World style, just writing moves for something else and someone seems to do this in every thread. A thread hasn't really made it until someone has told you Apocalypse World can do what you want. ;)

    Maybe a card mechanic would suit the humour of this best. I could see mechanics like Lunch Money working. Or Fiasco for more freewheeling: I started a playset for this somewhere... It might help to start with what principles you want from the game to get a feel for mechanics that would deliver.

    PvP had a series of comics about playing an RPG about playing an RPG. I have them in dead tree I think, but I can't find it easily online.
  • Maybe a light hacking of Drowning and Falling? Or possible Labyrinths and Lycanthropes.
  • I think what I'd like in a game like this is a chance to make up ridiculous and highly-specific setting-element-based imaginary rules. But keeping track of them would be a pain.

    What if there was something like: If you introduce a setting element, say a (named?) piece of equipment or a monster or an NPC type (and obviously making these up would be very "sandbox") then other players can add corallary rules to that at will as an excuse for basic problem-solving positioning?
  • In that case, I want the Sword of Omens. You can make that sword do ANYTHING!

    Though, to be fair, the old Thundercats series seemed to run on some sort of token economy. Once Lion-o had gone through about 3 trials of some sort, then he'd have the confidence/knowledge/self-esteem/whatever that he needed to activate the Sword of Omens, bypass the problem, and win.

    Not that Hackmaster has anything to do with genre emulation of Saturday morning cartoon shows. But a token economy might be a way of measuring the "rules influence" of each player at a given time. Something similar, perhaps, to the token economies used in Smallville and Leverage (and maybe in Marvel, though I haven't read it).
  • With a token economy, you are totally justified in not tracking previous "rulings". If you don't have enough tokens right now, you don't have the influence to invoke a previous ruling anyway.
  • I think you might be able to use attribute modifiers or lists of words in lieu of tokens. But I think that's probably what you'd have to go with.

    Hmmm... that would be cool. Some sort of mechanic where you add successively higher "bonuses" (a +1, a +2. a +3) but the bonuses aren't actually applied to die rolls. They're merely markers indicating a level of investment into a particular concept ([made up part] In the Hackmaster Special Rules Supplement from HackQuarterly, it specifically states that the Rod of Rambunctiousness gains a +5 from submersion in the Blood of a +3 Octorock.)

    Successful interactions would probably exhaust the higher, more effective bonuses from the list and failures or acquiesces would add or refresh bonuses... somehow.

    I think this would be a game where the only randomization is in kicker elements.
  • It could easily turn into a game of Calvinball where you are just randomly coming up with strange rules to counteract someone else's strange rules.
  • You could hack 1KBWC to play it with a card mechanic.

    1KBWC is basically Calvinball: the card game.
  • Well, yeah, that's kind of the point. But the idea would be to keep with the spirit of the old games, which used to have tons of rules that specifically existed to make one thing or another cool or which helped players get around strange rules which had been introduced to make one thing or another cool.

    Ideally, though, the "rules" players quoted would just be fol-de-rol, mere flavor text that authorized the advancement of the plot or gave weight to the outcome that the players wanted. And each game would spawn who slews of new references to non-existent rulebooks, supplements and modules.

    But the actual mechanics of play would ideally be a very simple system.

    There also needs to be something for ridiculously overpowering things and out-of-control loopholes (like being able to afford several hundred pitbulls) as well as a mechanic for inserting overlooked details ("untrained" pitbulls) to further plot complications and stir up chaos.
  • An interesting thought might be that the "lore" of the game would not be the lore of the game world, but the lore of the game texts.

    Instead of showing off your knowledge of the rare bits of lore about the setting, you show off your knowledge of the rare bits of lore about the rules.

    Cards might still be an interesting way to codify/inspire that. Cards (which could be created on the fly, 1KBWC-style) would have, say, a title and some vague hints as to what sorts of rules would be found therein. Like "Binding Garznak: The Conjurer's Guide to Demons and Contracts" which, obviously, had an exhaustive chapter on determining fantasy village legal codes because they had some extra page count and the content was close enough.
  • Right. Cards would be cool. Or even a set of tables, if you're doing it on the cheap.
    Some sort of supplement generator.

    One thing I'd want to avoid would be the kind of cutesy thing where you just rename mechanical elements from other games after typical behaviors of tabletop gamers. Like making a "rules lawyer" class or something like that.
  • One thing I'd want to avoid would be the kind of cutesy thing where you just rename mechanical elements from other games after typical behaviors of tabletop gamers. Like making a "rules lawyer" class or something like that.
    Right. Cause if you want that, just play Munchkin. It already does that as well as need be done. (My 9 year old niece played Zombie Munckhin recently and loved it. Hilarious. I think she almost won, too.)
  • edited June 2012
    Yeah, Munchkin's good by itself. It allows you to have a fun dungeon crawl. I think a Hackmaster Game is about using obscure (imaginary) rules for authority to give your protagonist (or the GM using them to provide the antagonist) with unique and goofy methods of solving or creating problems. That's what the Hackmaster Comics are mostly about. Of course, by "rules" here, I also include setting elements that have encoded scores. Certain qualities and conditions are inherently written in to classic old school games, but being able to make those up on the fly to fit the story you want to tell might be fun.

    Taking a look at it from a 1000 Blank White Cards perspective, it could be something where you can introduce a setting element and others get to tack on rules that will help them OR introduce a rule that helps you in a given situation and others can tag setting elements on to that. (Setting elements being: a piece of equipment you carry, a monster you're facing, a class of NPC, a kind of substance or environmental condition in the game world...)

    But that leaves the problem of motivation. What are the players trying to acheive? Ideally, it should also be a combination: a player stance + a game world change.
  • I wonder if you can use rail roading as a mechanic? The GM and players could set up some specific plot rails during character/campaign creation and the players could get bonuses from following the rails but build up personal power from defying them. "The players must agree to help rescue the princess," for example is a common plot rail as is "No true adventurer would pry the wishing ring from the nose of the Healing Gawdess."
Sign In or Register to comment.