Sunday, September 17, 2017

HackMaster 5th Edition Play: After Session 1 of 2

Back in The Day I was an early buyer of HackMaster 4th and was a low-counter member of the HackMaster Association as a registered GM. Tons of fun - I loved carrying my card around. I ran a HackMaster 4 campaign for a few years (heavily modified to get the satire out) and ported a version of the honor rules into my new AD&D 2e S&P campaign 8 years ago.

Naturally I was a pre-order guy for the HackMaster 5th Kacklopedia and PHB. I got Frandor's Keep the day I could. The Fun Lads Four and the wife all made characters and we started at Frandor's, running 5 sessions or so.

And we hated it. We all remembered the combat as wonky and confusing and the play as disjointed. 

I didn't pre-order the GMG and we put the books on the shelf in my storage room that it climate controlled. After 3 years sitting on the shelf I was moving books around and the PHB cover had simply fallen off. From sitting there.
I let Kenzerco know and they very promptly shipped me a free replacement (the batch my first one came from had a known issue). Excellent customer service!

About 10 days ago Sam persuaded me, Jack, and Nick to make 4th level characters, play two sessions, and see if it was still an issue.

This is what happened.
The Characters
Escobar: 4th level Mage/Thief, played by Jack.
Tim: 4th level Cleric of a cult Nick invented ('Followers of St. Brocephus Broheim, known as St. Bro, Patron of brotherhood, weight-lifting, and sleeveless shirts. His priests are known as Good Bros'), played by Nick.
Honorius: 4th level Fighter. Played by me.

Details
 My character has Knight stats and could make Paladin with stat improvement, so I went with lance, sabre, mace, and shortbow (for hunting). Nick focused on healing spells and melee combat. Jack focused on backstabbing and getting around trouble.

Play
Simple mission - bishop vanished near an abandoned, haunted city. We are to prove he had been there, then return.
We started with a random encounter - 4 giant beetles. Honorius immediately charged on with my lance, hit, and insta-killed it. Immediately after my warhorse trampled another for meh damage. Tim began fighting one in melee and Escobar Scorched the other two, then backed off (hindered by spell fatigue) as they beetles slowly pursued him. Honorius spun and waited to time his charge for his next attack opportunity. Tim prevailed, Honorius charged and killed another, then dismounted and killed a third.

Next we entered the city, leavings some NPCretainers to guard a camp. Random encounter with Gnolls = we surprised them, Honorius rode one down, the others surrendered when they were pinned and Honorius was returning at a gallop. They told us of creepy things in the city, we took them to camp as prisoners.
We bypassed massive beetles, creepy moneychanger's ghosts, and other creepies. Then - giant ogre skeleton!
Even though I know piercing weapons have a tough time harming skeletons, Honorius charged with his lance - and did a critical! The impact damaged it very badly and impaired its ability to fight. Tim fought it briefly as Escobar covered everyone and watched for danger, then Honorius returned and slew it with his second pass.

The party moved to a central tower and Escobar scouted, finding a door with Ominous Chanting coming from beyond. The party prepared and Tim yanked open a door as Escobar cast a Slippery spell. The 3 cultists beyond all blew saves and fell down. Honorius walked to the edge of the spell effect and effortlessly beheaded a cultist. Tim bashed another unconscious, abd then Honorius knocked out the leader. They were taken to camp, patched up, and spilled that the bishop had been there. The party left to give a report, prisoners in tow.

Impressions
Much, much, more positive than the first time! We suspect that younger players combined with using published materials ( we typically only do published stuff as one-shots with one-time characters, Halloween games with pre-gens, etc.) gave us a bad impression.
The skill system is interesting - we'll probably modify it. Combat went much more smoothly than we remember!
Magic is different enough from D&D/etc. to be very interesting and clerics will take some getting used to. 
Honorius was a death machine. Jack's comment on mounted combat was,
"It is very over-powered, so... just like real life."

The movements rules were good and the "count up" is just AD&D segmented rounds on a loop.

Next
Another session with different 4th level characters.