Friday, 23 September 2016

[Review] The Super Hack

This is the first superheroes hack (as far as I know) for the popular phenomenom called The Black Hack (my review). TBH is so popular, because the rules are super lite still being very old-school compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, and it is easy, you guessed right, to hack!

There has been several different hacks for TBH core game with variable quality. Some are awesome, some feel just that they're made for easy money to milk from a popular brand (core rules copy pasted only a thing or two of addition).

Before I go to the actual review, I must say that I have not played superhero roleplaying games. Ever! I did own True20 powered Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition, which had a great amount of powers which worked great for character creation and concepts, but point buy character creation was a turn off, especially when you had to use a pool of points to buy everything from stats to gear! I hate that kind of stuff. At the moment in my collection I have Champions 4th Edition, but it is very thick and looks so boring, I've never read it more than a couple of sentences at once! That's no thanks for me.

As a big fan of The Black Hack, which I have ran several times and have played a couple of times and had tons of fun with it always, I am very enthusiastic of this product. Easy and versatile system and the page count is not intimidating at all: the PDF clocks at 20 pages, with 16 pages of actual content (one of those being a character sheet and another a play example, so there's 14 pages of rules and material).

Visually The Super Hack imitates the original source. Instead of ink drips on pages, there are low-ish resolution cracks. The core mechanics of the game are explained clearly, as is character creation. Even better than in the original game! Because this is a superhero game, you choose superpowers determined by your class of choice with some freedom. You can also pick one superpower more than once to juice it up. Characters start with two pieces of (special) equipment, a costume and a secret identity. The equipment list is extremely short, only 12 items! There should be more of them, at least 20 to make at least a decent random table. Items have special rules, which are pretty good and usage die is well thought and adapted in many cases.

The rules are quite similar to The Black Hack, but there are minor differences. One is proficiency, which I don't understand at all. If character uses or wears and equipment that is not appropriate for her class or superpowers, they add their Protection Points to any rolls to attack or avoid damage with a disadvantage. But there are no guidelines what gear is inappropriate to what class or superpower. In addition the rule is stupid; more powerful you are to protect yourself, the crappier you are at using some stuff. Weird and not making any sense to me. If someone can explain this to me...

Majority of other rules are a carbon copy from The Black Hack. A great addition is a sub-table for Out Of Action, called This Is Serious. I really, really like this one! In format one weird thing is, that enemy HD are listed under Initiative section.

There are four different superhero classes, which are quite stupid. They should be more broad and cover different types of heroes. Crimefighter is silly, because aren't all superheroes crimefighters in a way or another. Other's are like a Warrior from the original game without extra attacks, and a Thief who is just good at shooting getting also Warrior's extra attacks. And then there is a guy with just very good saves. Character classes are not that good, they are unimaginative and don't represent different hero stereotypes as they should.

When characters level up, they can in addition to possible attribute increaswes also develop their superpowers further, which is nice. Superpowers have a better effect (actually this is the same table as The Black Hack's damage table). They also have an usage die, which is regained after a rest. There are 20 superpowers (two with variations, so actually 22) and the list is quite nice covering all kinds of powers to combine to create an unique superhero.

There is also a rule, that with advantages and disadvantages (roll 2d20, and pick better/worse), GM can also apply modifiers (this rule wording didn't meet editor's eyes, it's super wonky) which basically change the simple idea of advantages and disadvantages backwards to modifier calculation. Unnecessary addition to The Black Hack rules.

Instead of "Armor Points" characters have "Protection Points", which basically is the same thing; damage reduction that is refilled after rest. One fun thing in combat is that a group of thugs represents one hit die point per a good - so when you score 5 points of damage, you actually stun (superheroes don't kill people, do they?) 5 of the enemies! Very, very fun detail, where you can feel your character's power compared to ordinary thugs! There are only seven different example baddies included, which should be enough for an example, because in super games most of the bad guys and gals are unique anyways.

In my opinion The Super Hack is hastily put together, yet a fun and good little addition to "The Hack" family. There are minor flaws, but they are so puny that they don't make the game bad. Only major problem I have with this game are character classes. Only one of these (The Brick) is good as a heroic stereotype, rest are not at all. With better character classes this would have been super awesome! Now it is "only" super good. Revised edition with better classes would be the bomb! Before that happens (if ever), I need to hack this myself and print it out.

Oh, and in the end the example play scenario is fun and inspiring, even though there could have been a wider variety of game mechanics used in it.

Do I recommend it? Yes! The Black Hack is great fun little system easy to just play and have fun with, and The Super Hack is quite as good, only if you make the classes better yourself. If you like superhero games, this is a pocket version of the genre. If you don't own any superhero games, this is an inexpensive place to get one.

Get it from RPGNow, available in both PDF ($2.00) and print-on-demand ($6.00).
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EDIT 09/25/2016:

I've had discussed with the author, and here are his responses to two points that rubbed me the wrong way, the PP affecting inappropriate equipment use and the character classes. Simon Purley wrote:
"In terms of rules - it's TSH version of TBH having different character classes being limited to specific types of armour. I couldn't limit the character classes as rigidly as he did in TBH but I wanted it in somewhere."
"In terms of genre - It means to stop people buying Superpowers. The first ever SHRPG Superhero 2044 had a "Superhero shop" and, as soon as they made money, people went and bought weapons and armour and flight rings etc. The game just didn't resemble the comics. Basically why doesn't Captain America take out Iron Man, steal his armour and put it on? If he did, he wouldn't know how to use it."
"BTW: The character classes are Superhero tropes. The Brick is your classic brawler (The Hulk, The Thing, Luke Cage). The Blaster is your classic ranged attacker (The Human Torch, Cyclops). The Crimefighter is your classic human who can go toe to toe with the super types (Batman, Captain America, Daredevil). The unique is your weirdos (The Vision, The Sacrlet Witch, Jessica Jones)."
"A design choice I went for in TSH was to keep the rules stripped down without loads of explanation or examples - in keeping with the philosophy of TBH. When I moved from PDF to print it created a couple of extra pages which I could have used for more explanation or example scenarios ("Superheroes vs. dinosaurs" doesn't take much space to explain.) It was a definite choice not to do so"