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Elementary HackMaster: The Basics A Crash Course on Roleplaying

If you're new to role-playing you'll find this section extremely helpful. There will be a lot of new words and terminology to learn. In the back of the HackMaster Player's Handbook you'll find a detailed glossary to HackMaster and role-playing in general. Be sure to refer to it as you come across a word you don't understand.

Let's start at the beginning. Even if you haven't role-played, I'm sure you've played one kind of game or another in your life, be it card game, board game, war game or video game. Now there are other game-designers out there who would have you believe that role-playing games are not competitive. That there are no real winners or losers. What a load of crock! No winners or losers?

If THAT'S your attitude you might as well put your keyboard down right now and walk away. This game is obviously not for you. (I'm sure you can get a refund from the store you purchased your Player's Handbook from if you whine and cry enough and explain you're not worthy).

Still with me? Good. HackMaster is damn competitive. It's a battle of wits; against the GameMaster, against your fellow players, against all manner of horrid beasts intent on taking hit-points and honor from you and lifting your hard-earned gold. You 'win' if you're alive at the end of the night to tell the tale and compare battle scars with your fellow survivors.

Role-playing is quite different from the games your parents probably played. Their idea of fun was sitting around a table with some friends, playing some type of innocent game like "First One to the End Wins."

They probably rolled some simple six-sided dice (or spun a spinner) to see how many spaces to move their tokens. Occasionally they would run into a static obstacle on the board to keep things interesting. What fun!! In such a manner they continued rolling dice and moving until one of them made it to the end. That person was proclaimed winner. Simple and straightforward. If that kind of fun turns your crank - more power to you. To each his own.

HackMaster, however, is a game of a different color. It packs a bit more attitude than the one I just described. In role-playing the colorful spaces have now been turned into three-dimensional pathways. These pathways take you through caverns and dark, hidden places, such as dungeons. The pathways branch out in all directions. You decide which way to go. Your decisions could mean the difference between fortunes gained or lost, between life and death. It’s a game of sweaty palms and quickened hearts. In role-playing you’re not dealing with the draw of a "lose-a-turn" card, or some other lame obstacle. The obstacles here are Swack Iron Dragons trying to cloud your mind with dragonspeak and bloodthirsty grunge elves with an eye on lifting your purse (as well as your scalp).

Be forewarned - Depending on the skills of your GameMaster, these creatures may seem as real as the people sitting across the table from you. You’ll swear you can smell the foul stench of the Gutter Troll trying to drag you by the ankles from your hiding place. The flash of a sharp blade in the light of your torch may cause your pulse to race as the GM weaves the action and tells you the war whoops ringing in your ears are drawing nearer. Think you're up to it? You're no longer just a colorful plastic pawn moving around a board.

You're a unique hero, ready to fight past such obstacles, armed with swords of your own and sheathed in armor. Some of you may even have magic weapons. You'll fight your way past the bands of opponents, and continue on your way looking for the next foe. On your way you'll fatten your purse (hopefully) and begin discovering new things about the strange world around you.

In a way, I've just taken you on your first role-playing adventure. The only difference is that in a real HackMaster session YOU will be making the decisions. That's what it's all about. The player (you) is placed in the midst of an imaginary unknown or dangerous situation created by a referee (Game Master) and must work his way through it - surviving the process. This is the heart of role-playing. The player adopts the role of a character and then guides that character through an adventure. The player makes decisions, interacts with other characters and players, and, essentially, "pretends" to be his character during the course of the game. Not that the player actually has to climb up a wall when his character does, or for that matter, have his head lopped off when his character gets caught stealing the crown jewels. It simply means that whenever the character is called on to do something or make a decision, the player imagines that he is in that situation and chooses an appropriate course of action. At the end of this section we'll go over an example of a role-playing session which should further illustrate the uniqueness of this form of gaming.

Learning HackMaster

If this is your first exposure to role-playing, don't worry. It's very likely that you won't understand everything you're going to read the first time out. Don't let it discourage you. I advise you to read the entire Player's Handbook from cover to cover. Again, if you come to a term you do not understand, look for it in the Glossary. If ther's something you don't understand make a note of it.

Learning the game is actually very simple when you start to put what you've learned intof action. HackMaster is much easier to demonstrate than it is to explain. It's similar to what would happen if you'd never eaten steak before. Someone can describe to you how it tastes, but until you take that first juicy bite, you're never really going to know.

After reading the Player's Handbook book your initial order of business is to create your first character and find some other players to play with. More importantly, you'll need to find a qualified GM to take you under his wing and teach you the ropes. This is actually much easier than it may sound. It's been my experience that Veteran-Players love to bring new blood into the fold and are more than willing to help where they can.

Finding a gaming group is usually as simple as dropping by the corner game or hobby store. Most of these have bulletin boards where gaming groups offer information about how to join. Most are eager to help new gamers. Groups can also often be found advertised on bulletin boards at your local library, school or college recreation hall. You could even go online and see if any groups are advertising in your area. By the way, don't be put off if some groups seem unwilling to take you on. Name-Level Groups [See Goals] are very elitist by nature and they're constantly honing their game to better compete at local and regional HackTournies. Oft times they don't have the time nor inclination to help neophyte players. It's nothing personal. Asking to play with such groups is like a Pony Leaguer asking to throw the ball around with a New York Yankee. You don't ask - you wait until you're invited.

Another excellent way to find other players is to join the HackMaster Player's Association. The HMPA can put you in touch with other serious-minded players and GMs who have taken an oath to promote and further our hobby.

After a few sessions when you start to get your footing you should go back and re-read the rules. You'll find they begin to make more sense now that you have a better understanding of the game. Now you can begin to concentrate on finding a regular group to play with. If you can't find a group with an empty chair who will take you in, then consider starting your own group. You may not be sanctioned for tournament play (at first) but you and your friends can work on improving your game and rule mastery. Eventually, a competent GM will take you under his wing and whip you into shape right away if you've strayed off the path. Once that happens, you can step up to play with the big boys in a sanctioned (name) group.

In the meantime, don't sweat the small stuff - A good attitude and a willingness to improve your game will quickly earn you the respect of your GameMaster and your fellow players.