Saturday, July 1, 2023

Maybe Why I Love Hack'D & Slash'D

Full disclosure: I struggle to create content for my games after I craft them. I love the IDEA of making lots of superheroes for my supers game, and scores of monsters for the fantasy game, and detailed deck plans of a variety of starships for my sci-fi game. But, I typically run out of gas partway into expansion projects. And it's the same reason every time - I get bogged down in crunching numbers. I have to sit with the book and flip back and forth and check things... wait, how many points was he able to allocate to strength at level 4? And how many bonus hit points does he get for this ability? And wasn't this a bonus to AC? And, oh shoot, his attack modifier is wrong because I forgot (again) to factor in the trick shot bonus he gets. And then I get worried that I'm releasing stat blocks that have errors (because they sometimes do), and the whole process stops being fun and starts to become accounting. I don't mind that process when I'm making the game as much, because then I'm testing the mechanics I'm developing, and seeing how they run in play. Once the game is finished, I'm just doing accounting. My mom was an accountant. It looked pretty boring. 

But for Hack'D & Slash'D, the process of making monsters and characters and spells and items is still fun, even after the game is published. And, I think in large part (okay, pretty much entirely), it's because it's so easy.  I remember when Hack'D & Slash'D was 'born'. It was probably twenty years ago now, and I was at a friend's house, and I was talking about Ogres. I think third edition D+D had just come out. I was arguing that the perfect game, to me, would be able to represent an ogre in a handful of statistics. You should be able to get an ogre down to four or five numbers, and run the game from there. Yes, dragons need more, but an ogre? Why do I need more than 5 numbers for that? This struck me, and still strikes me, as excessive:

That became the various iterations of Resolute. I was always after that 5-stat ogre. If I can get him down to 5 stats, and have a playable, robust game system around him, that would be the perfect game to me. I want to be able to do everything in can do in B/X, but I want an ogre to be 5 stats in a single line of text.   

Here's the entire stat block for an ogre in Hack'D & Slash'D:

In retrospect, the word 'intimidate' is unnecessary; 'bully' already suggests that. I could have this down to two lines and not lose anything. I saw this stat block in my head twenty years ago; it just took me a while to build the game around it.


  1. Doesn’t using polyhedral dice conflict with the philosophy?

    1. Not at all. The idea was that I wanted the game to be as simple as possible - I originally presumed that 2d6 would be the simplest mechanic, but I found that 1d12 is perfect for everything; once I realized that you don't roll for damage, but you just modify damage based on the attack/action result, I knew I'd fixed the final piece in my simplicity goal.

    2. Level becomes the default modifier for attacks and actions, and for creatures this also becomes the presumed resist modifier as well. I like this because an ogre doesn't have 'mind' to resist mind control or sense something, because he's dumb, but his stupidity and ferocity allow him to resist mind control, and his exceptional sense of smell offsets the low overall awareness. Many creatures end up with something innate that offsets what would otherwise be a penalty, and level ends up being a solid representation.