Monday, January 24, 2011

Hackmaster the True, Don't Get Me Wrong!

Please don't misunderstand me. You have to know me a little before you go off half cocked and assume I'm two faced. I admitted some entries ago that I'm like the Charlie Brown of the Gaming world. I also waaaaaay overthink things. When it comes right down to it you have to really get your hands dirty with a system before you can comment intelligently upon it. Which is one of the reasons I'm able to confidently converse about so many systems. But here lately it had come down to two strong loves in my gaming life. Okay three, but my horror tastes are pretty much dominated by Call of Cthulhu with no solid contenders to shove it aside. But as for fantasy I am totally in love with two different gals. And in my heart I'm just a one system man -- ugh, sounds like a bad country song. At any rate you can sense the cause of some of my angst.

So, what's this about not getting me wrong and Hackmaster the True? Well, you see, my last entry might have given one the impression that Castles and Crusades was the best game going. Fact is it is the best game going for our middle school/junior high school club. It's simple, it's direct and it's about as rules lite as a game could get. Wonderful to gamers new to the gaming world. And yes, it has portable crunch. But I've already run into a few things I would do differently if given more experienced players. I find myself looking to Hackmaster and drooling copiously over it's well crafted crunch, especially the combat crunch. Should I switch, could I switch, dare I switch? AARGH!!!

No, not right now. See, the reason I went with C&C is that it fits with this group right now, at their level of gaming maturity. Where we will end up is a matter for the gaming gawds to decide. The fact is my rotating door of gamers makes it awfully difficult to grow gaming experience beyond a couple of years. We are a two year school and few gamers hold on with us until their senior year. A few stay active in our club through grade 10 and 11 but they are comparatively rare. And by they time they move through the normal progression from bumbling newbie gamer, to hesitant sword poker, to rotating class/race tryer, onto fledgling power gamer, to branch into either overacted melodramatic roleplayer or mega powergamer, and finally to an actual journeyman gamer--they are long gone from the school system. Admittedly some progress faster than others, but we all went through the stages, and frankly it takes awhile to get to a level where you can call yourself a decent gamer.

And C&C is an incredibly forgiving system where this player development arc is concerned. Hackmaster is brutal in this regard. And to be honest it is sort of against my nature to even be forgiving in the manner that C&C is. I much prefer my games hard-hitting, gritty with just the right touch of darkness. Of course humor is always present in my game in various proportions, but I still like the cards dealt hot and the bodies cold. My PC body count is high, and my TPK count aint shabby either. I suppose that's why Tomb of Horrors is one of my all time favorite dungeons. Unforgiving to the max. I literally salivate when I read Hackmaster. And the little my student players know about this leaves them quaking with fear.

In fact, one 8th grader when I told him I was thinking about starting an HM campaign literally shouted, "NO! Not Hackmaster!!"

"Why not?" I innocently asked.

"Cause it's too freakin' deadly!"

And I'm sorry, but I couldn't help myself, I laughed. It may have been a slightly maniacal laugh too. But afterwards I explained the truth of the matter: "Yeah, but if you survive in Hackmaster you know you've really achieved something!"

And that is it, in a nutshell. Hackmaster and Castles & Crusades are both great games. And I'm sure C&C could be run deadly and HM could be run slightly softer. But let them reign in their own domains. They both do what they do exceptionally well, and both companies are absolutely aces. For now, my kids and I run our C&C game, and we are enjoying it. Though I've had a few issues come up, which I'll write more on later. But I also carry my HM books with me wherever I go, except for Church maybe. Waiting and praying to the Gawds for the right time and the right gamers to start the game I dream about.

See, I don't have the luxury right now of running a game with gamers my own age. Heck who am I kidding, I'd take ANY gamers that were adults. And if I could find some I'd recommend a Hackmaster game hands down. But my community is a small one, and the pickins are fairly slim. Maybe in a few more years there will at least be a few 20 somethings out there that started in the club and have a little more experience under their belts. Maybe then they'll be ready for a _real_ game. Heh, heh ... was that me or my Bob Herzog alter ego laughing? Sometimes I can't tell the difference.

ROLL FOR INITIATIVE MONKEY BOY!!
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