Monday, September 7, 2020

Adventures in Grey Hack

 Lately I have been skimming through both of these game systems.  I think both have something to offer, though neither one - to me - appeals enough that I'd want to fully invest in a switch over.

I think that if you treat each of these systems as 'an a la cart' you can tweak OSR DnD (Old School Essentials, even better) to a homebrew that runs well without having to relearn an entire system.  Much of B/X is not broken, and doesn't really need fixing, in my opinion, but there are a few things I would potentially use.

Black Hack: 

I like the ideas of damage reduction for armor, but probably would not use it.  It might be worth experimenting with, though.

Eliminating Saving Throws and replacing them with appropriate ability checks is, I think, a great idea. It makes sense and it eliminates a table that has always felt arbitrary anyway.

Falling below 0 hp does not always mean death but can mean anything from unconsciousness, to disfigurement, to death, depending on a die roll.  This might be worth adding is B/X is too hard for your players.  It's better than the 5e death save mechanic, I think.

White Hack:

Having three classes does make sense to me and might be worth doing for some games.  Clerics and Magic users are all just rolled up into 'The Wise'.  OK, I get that.

Renaming classes as 'vocations' and races as 'species' just adds baggage to the learning curve.  I don't care for this at all.

Saving throws in the White Hack are a single number for all saves.  I have used this in play, and it is better than the B/X rules which are wonky (apparently to balance out the pros and cons of other classes).

The Auction Mechanic is a neat idea.  I could see this being used in a chase scene.  Two contestants basically bet the other that they can roll within a smaller and smaller window on a d20.  It sounds like it would be fun at the table and it even makes sense.  In a chase, you might well take a big risk to get away.  Would this work in podcast form...? Probably not for a solo gamer like me.  I'd be betting against myself and all the fun might drain out the bottom.  Cool rule though.


  1. If you prefer to call species "race", that's fine, but when we've played it we've had some very varied individuals, including battle cats, dinosaurs, myconids, an uplifted St Bernard, Yoda, … they really are more like species then just the demihumans of classic D&D.

    As for vocation, that translates better as "background" than class. It doesn't give you any mechanical changes other than defining when you perform better due to experience. It's one of the additions I really like about Whitehack because it makes it so easy to make your character be good at what they're supposed to be good at, and something I'd backport into any game of classic D&D I run in the future.

    We've actually never used the auction rules! Not because we don't like them, more that we've just never remembered to use them.

    I'm surprised you didn't comment on Miracles and Attunements. They are the parts where you really offload all mechanical complexity onto a few player defined words. It's what makes Whitehack both great for campaign play, but also difficult to pick up for new players (because that freedom means they have very little to work with). It also makes for great OSR style play, as you have to describe why the things you chose are applicable in a given situation, and reward clever play.

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  3. Really enjoyed this reply, spaceLem. I have never actually played using WhiteHack so all my thoughts were just initial reactions. It seems I must have missed out on the Miracles and Attunements rules so I have just gone and read them. I think they look pretty cool for live gameplay and wonder if they would work for soloplay or the audio medium. Food for thought at any rate. Thanks very much for your comment, and I hope you are enjoying the show.