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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Old School Hack: The Old Meets the New

Thanks to the wonderful linkage of Risus Monkey, I found what is probably the most exciting RPG project in recent memory. It's a little thing called Old School Hack. It's simple, snappy, and beautiful, as far as I can tell. The rules are marvelously elegant in many ways, and they are geared for fun. I suppose that maybe first you'd like to hear about it, though...

What is Old School Hack?
In the creator's own words:
"The idea is that you have a quick and friendly read, highly accessible, with enough flavor elements to get you jazzed about it while keeping it open enough for customization."

(If you haven't been clicking all over the page from the link above, definitely do so! It's well worth the read)

Old School Hack is designed for some good ol' "have fun slaying monsters and finding treasure", though it can also be adapted to other purposes. It's supposed to be simple to play, and from the looks of the rules, it is. It's a mishmash of original D&D, 4th Edition D&D, and a whole bunch of other influences that Kirin put together for a single purpose: fun and engaging RPG experiences.

Why I Like It
OSH has an interesting dichotomy when it comes to rules. It's rules-lite on some aspects (arenas come particularly to mind), and rules-governed in others (such as the explicitly defined classes). In short, the game has rules where it needs rules, and doesn't when it doesn't. (A word of warning to the realistically-inclined, there is nothing simulationist about the system. Combat is highly cinematic, even down to weapon choice. Specific categories of weapons give you a bonus in a particular environment, and that's about it.)

Furthermore, the rules of OSH aren't artificial, generally speaking. The combat and exploration are very intuitive. One of my particular favorites is the "initiative wheel". In short: each round of combat is divided into 7 phases (technically 6, as the 7th phase is merely the "activation phase" of an earlier phase), each of which is focused around one particular action (protect, shoot, focus, move, attack, and so on). Each player, at the start of a round, picks one. Then the phases resolve in order. Initiative is only rolled when more than one character picks the same phase. This is possibly the most brilliant innovation of the system (reminds me of the Lord of the Rings trading card game, actually), and fixes a lot of problems regarding initiative and combat actions.

But that's not the best part...

This game has the best character advancement system that I've seen yet. It's called Awesome Points. You heard that right. Let me explain. Awesome Points are a limited resource placed in "The Bowl" by the GM. The only way you earn Awesome Points is when another player gives them to you, for doing something that develops character, moves the plot along in a cool way, or gives a great line, etc. Whenever the pressure builds up, the GM can add more Awesome Points to The Bowl, to compensate. (Because when you run out of Awesome Points in The Bowl, you can't get any more unless the GM puts more in)

Awesome Points are used to do awesome things. What this means is up to the tone of the game, and where the GM wants to take it. Suffice it to say, it's all stuff that falls under Being Awesome. That's not the best part, though. Awesome Points are linked to leveling-up. The party automatically levels up when every member spends 10 Awesome Points. In other words, the more frequently you develop character and story, the quicker you get Awesome Points. The more frequently you spend those Awesome Points to do Awesome Stuff, the quicker you level up. The more frequently the party gets in trouble, the more Awesome Points you get to give to people. Savvy?

Read It.
That's all I'm really going to say in closure. Old School Hack is at worst a fantastic exercise in melding old, solid rules with new innovation. And Awesome Points. It's also beautifully designed, visually (which is a topic I'll be discussing in the future), so it's great to read through as well. In other words: you have no excuse. Resistance is futile.

Read Old School Hack.


  1. Wow, thanks for the glowing praise, Andy!

    Hope you get an opportunity to play it soon. If you're ever in L.A. I'd be happy to run it.

  2. You're quite welcome! OSH is one of those "love at first sight" systems, as far as I can tell. And though I haven't played or run it yet, I just have this gut feeling that it paces and plays fantastically.

    I'm at least a couple thousand miles from LA, but should I ever be in the area...

    When I get the chance to run it, I'll let you know how it goes. It's definitely a system I'd like to try.

  3. I'm glad that I was instrumental in your discovery of Old School Hack. I'm also very excited about it, though I do need to mull over it a bit more before I decide what exactly I want to do with it. I don't get to do a lot of pick-up games and I'm still weighing it's usefulness in long-term play. At the very least, it's chock-full of awesome ideas that could be used elsewhere.

  4. Yeah, again, thanks for pointing that out to me! I know that there's work being done on campaign ideas for OSH, including the idea of a "Heroic Tier" of play unlocked after Level 4.

    It's definitely filled with cool RPG ideas. Awesome Points and the arena system are two great examples.


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