Monday, June 15, 2009

Basic by proportion

Some folks are expressing a level of dismay at the upcoming release of HackMaster Basic. Our own Pope of Old School, Jamie Mal, has recently joined this chorus. Two main concerns have been repeatedly raised:
  1. 192 pages does not a Basic rulebook make.
  2. Holy crap, this and this sure looks complicated.

I agree with both points. With regards to point #1 I've all but reached the conclusion that I'm not interested in any new RPG with a pagecount above 64 or so. And those two links do hint at a system that's a wee bit more robust than I usually dig on.

But I still plan to buy a copy of HackMaster Basic. A lot of people are turned off to HackMaster because it has a bad attitude and is overly complicated. That's exactly what interests me about the game. HackMaster draws a line in the sand and says "Here. This is where the tolerable extent of the macho/maso nerd excesses of the hobby end." The game then goes three steps beyond that line. That may not interest you but it sure as hell intrigues me. I don't want every game to be like that, but I've certainly got room in my life for one such system.

And regarding the page count, let's do a little math.

Moldvay Basic: 64 pages

AD&D 1st edition PHB, DMG, MM: 478 pages total

Ratio of Basic pages to Advanced pages: .133891

HackMaster Basic: 192 pages

HackMaster 4e PHB, GMG and Hacklopedia: ~1,666 pages

Ratio of Basic to Advanced HackMaster: .115246

(Note: The page count for HM 4e is probably a little low. I estimated each Hacklopedia at 112 pages, but I think some of them are actually one signature larger, or 128 pages.)

I had to use the 4E advanced books because I don't have any pagecount info on the new edition, but I still think there's a point to be made here. The two ratios aren't that different, are they? In other words, a more complicated game is going to have a more complicated introductory set. HackMaster Basic is going to be more complicated than the full monty version of a lot of other RPGs. Is that really a big surprise for anyone?

I'm not saying HMB is the bee knees or that everyone should go buy it. For all I know, I may end up hating it. But I think we need to take a step back and look at what has actually been promised us. Yes, the cover is Erol Otus giving us a great new take on the Moldvay Basic cover. Yes, the word Basic is in the title. But for frig's sake did anyone at Kenzer actually claim to be selling us anything other than a HackMaster product, with all that the brand implies?