On Friday evening, Kirin Robinson (aka @koboldstyle) ran a session of his ENnie winning game Old School Hack via G+ for Liz, Lyndsay, Brian, and Kennon. It was a spectacular trip into a thoroughly fantastic dungeon where our brave heroes fought massive centipedes and did great deeds in the Chamber of Canine Whispers.
Below you’ll find play reports from all of our bold heroes!
Since Kirin made Old School Hack I was very excited to play it with him, and I was not disappointed.
I played Emma Wetternose, Field Reporter for Canine Fancier Magazine. There was also THE DREAD PIRATE MARGE, Theodore “Tad” S. Ghostal (The S is for Shoadowblade), and Bartleby the Magnificent. We set out to find the library of the elder sage with Brian’s Magic User, Bartleby. As it turns out, this library was mostly about dogs. We adventured through a cavern filled with vines and waterfalls, featuring carved dogs on the walls.
We had one combat encounter with a giant centipede infestation where Kennon’s very moody Thief Shadowblade moodily dropped a stalactite on a bunch of the centipedes, Bartleby the Magnificent cast an epic magic missile using the flame from his lantern and THE DREAD PIRATE MARGE threw a flaming centipede. We didn’t use the arenas rules because it was just easier and more fun to ignore them for our short G+ game.
After the centipedes, there was a magical onyx ghost chihuahua! We followed it until we found a giant ruby dog whistle ocarina, which THE DREAD PIRATE MARGE took to make herself very, very rich.
I had created Emma Wetternose with one goal: to discover and pioneer the Tiny German Shepherd dog breed. I once told Liz a news story about a german shepherd which was hilariously misinterpreted at the time. I played the entire session and character to tell that one joke to make Liz laugh, and it was absolutely worth confusing everyone else at the table while I watched her die on the Google Hangout. Because in the end, I game to have a fantastic time with my friends. That is what happened on Friday. There was a lot of laughter.
Old School Hack Takeaway
I love the quick pickup and the enforcement of party roles. Giving your character a concept title is a great way to ask for backstory without too much pressure on a new player. I think it’s a great game for a quick RPG, or a great game for people who want to dip their toes into an RPG without the challenge of a big system.
This game was so easy to get started playing. Character creation took very little time and system knowledge. It gave the D&D feel without the large time investment that goes into making characters and learning the system. OSH is easy to jump into and get playing. If I were to teach my mom how to play an RPG experience like D&D (it could happen, okay?) without having to get too far into the rules, I could easily use Old School Hack.
Because we only had a couple of hours to play, we made our characters earlier in the day. I made my character by myself using the really handy step by step character page in the OSH rulebook. I finished making it in about 20 minutes, and that was with distractions. Only one character of each class is allowed in an OSH party.
I decided to be the Elf. Once you choose your class, you give yourself a concept. My elf decided to go adventuring as a field reporter for Canine Fancier Magazine. So that’s her concept: Field Reporter for Canine Fancier Magazine. I took the ability Animal Friend. Every character also has a key motivation, and mine was to get the scoop on the hot new dog breed for the season.
Once the fluff is down, the numbers are just as easy. The Old School Hack Rules has a step by step character creation page.
I picked my equipment to match my Canine Fancier identity. I have a slingshot (to shoot dog treats at dogs so I can get closer to them) and a kevlar trenchcoat (or whatever medieval kelar is (just in case the dogs eat the treat but still don’t want me closer to them)).
Skill checks are made with a d12, and attack rolls are made with 2d10. When you attack, you use two different colours of d10 and declare one as your Face Dice. When attacking, if you roll a 10 on the Face Dice, that guy gets hit in the face!
When you play OSH, you get Awesome Points. You can get them from anyone for anything. If it’s awesome, you get a point! Awesome points can boost your skill rolls and attacks, summon the propmaster, and the like. They let you do awesome things, because you were awesome before.
I would recommend this for…
Shortly before game time, I read over the PDF and dove into character creation. I will tell you, the game isn’t called Old School Hack for nothing. Reading the classes, you see words like Fighter, Magic User, Thief, etc. The stat block is easy to read, the rules are light and easy to pick up, and when lines in the creation rules say, “don’t be a dick” you know you’re on to something special.
I was, in a word, giddy.
Minutes later, Bartleby the Magnificent, aging prestidigitator and homebody stepped into his first adventure. Seriously, Bartleby is 60-years old but this session was his first adventure “in the field”. Joined by the Dread Pirate Marge (Goblin Pirate Queen), the thief Tad S. Ghostal (the S is for Shadowblade), and Emma Wetternose, Field Reporter for Canine Fancier Magazine we set out for adventure in the legendary Chamber of Canine Whispers. You read that correctly. Our adventure focused on Emma Wetternose locating the secrets of the Dog Whisperers for her publication, Canine Fancier Magazine. (Did I mention that Lyndsay was drunk during this session? Yep. She was.)
For the next few hours, Kirin ran what I can only describe as one of the most enjoyable game sessions I have experienced in a while. We laughed, role-played, rolled dice, and traversed the ancient crypt infested with giant centipedes. Old School Hack is easy to learn and a shit ton of fun to play. Players are encouraged to get in there, mix it up, and be creative/descriptive with their actions. During our entire session, I never heard the words “you really can’t do that”. All I heard Kirin say was “That’s awesome, roll and we’ll see what happens”.
For me, this is the magic of Old School Hack. The game never takes itself too seriously (and neither did we) but I have the impression that if you want to play a semi-serious game with the OSH rules, you could very easily.
In short, I cannot recommend Old School Hack enough.
Do yourself a favor: Download the PDF, get some friends together, roll dice, and have a great time. Kirin has truly outdone himself with this game and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I’ve played Old School Hack before. It’s effing awesome. There are few games with a fun factor as high and that’s because the players and GM are actively encouraged to encourage awesomeness. When you do something awesome, the fellow players say THAT’S AWESOME and you get an awesome point, usable to do more awesome things! As a result, you are always doing awesome things.
Character creation is simple and fun. The quick reference to completing a character is comprehensive and you spend no time flipping through the pages of the book going, “Now what comes next?” As someone who has real trouble reading a rulebook and translating that into anything substantive, the ability to actually make a character without guidance and oversight is an impressive feat.
I played the goblin, a would-be pirate queen known as THE DREAD PIRATE MARGE. Her accomplishments on the high seas were few, but her designs were ambitious. A favorite element of the Goblin class was the equipment rules. Unlike the other classes, who had a specific gear list to choose from, the scavenger Goblin chooses 1d4+1 items from the OTHER class lists. Essentially, it’s assumed that you’ve pilfered the bodies of dead adventurers to equip yourself for battle.
In about 15-20 minutes, you can create a character with depth and panache that feels like a D&D character. How many editions of D&D can say that? When we started, Kirin asked to had a beverage. We all held up our various drinks of choice and he declared that, “That’s how Old School Hack is meant to be played – have an awesome point!” What a great way to kick off a session (and to put your potentially nervous players at ease!). We’re here to drink drinks and have fun!
As our adventure progressed, I found myself in awe at Kirin’s ability to describe a dungeon that felt real, even via a web cam. The man’s got mad skill when it comes to sucking the players in to the world. Using nothing more than a few points from our characters’ backstories, he crafted a place that I could see in my mind’s eye. That’s a skill that I definitely don’t have.
Our combat was straight forward and everyone’s actions got more awesome with each turn as we worked cooperatively while trying to outdo the awesomeness of our compatriots, awesome points flowing freely as we worked to slay the centipedes.
Long story short: We fought some bad guys. We won the day. We met our goals. And we were awesome. If you’re looking for a rules light way to enjoy some beer and pretzels role playing, introduce new players to a game, or run a full campaign, Old School Hack is definitely for you.
Check it out here and download it for free!
“You look trustworthy,” they said. (I didn’t.) “Would you care to join our adventuring party?” I was prepared to say no.
Indeed, wrapping myself further in a midnight cloak, I growled a denial. They didn’t hear me. The weight of their expectations pulled at the very threads of my soul. I found myself drawn to follow them, entranced by their foolhardy bravery. I followed them.
I am Theodore S. Ghostal. Some few living men have called me “Tad,” and fewer still have learned that the “S” is for Shadowblade.
* * *
So I’ve played Old School Hack about a dozen times. It’s an excellent game: in many ways, more “D&D” than most “D&D” games I’ve played. The excellent Kirin Robinson has done an incredible job distilling an (maybe “the”) essence of D&D into an incredibly fast, easy to pick up game. The feel is very deliberately beer and pretzels — a little silly, and very clearly playing to the stereotypes of D&D. This is not a bad thing.
When we sat down to play over Google+ on Friday, I definitely wanted to play someone in that stereotypical vein — for me, on Friday, that was the aggravatingly emotional broody loner thief. Tad Ghostal had everything — existential angst, a shadowy cloak, a martyr complex, and the constant need to pose dramatically on gargoyles with lightning striking behind him.
I think, for the most part, Old School Hack is meant to evoke a little lighter-hearted game. But it handled my stereotypical angsty loaner with no problems. As long as I was cool with the silliness, that is. And I think this brings up an important point that transcends Old School Hack: a little silliness is OK. Deal with it.
Have you played Old School Hack? What’d you think? If you HAVEN’T played, you should definitely check it out – it’s freeeee!