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Old School Hack

Las week, fellow geomorph and 24 hour game enthusiast Risus Monkey was talking about running a game of Old School Hack – which on a quick view looked like yet another Red Box Hack variant. (Seriously, if you haven’t been checking out his blog before, get over there now and then you can read this some other day… I’m not going anywhere)

But on the weekend another player pulled out this game and gave us a quick spin through it, using one of my own dungeons!

It was VERY newskool oldschooling. It rocked on toast with a side of marmite. You can (and should) download the playtest documents here.

It also turns out to be in development by the awesome Kiznit of the ex-blog Gellatinous Cubed and has seen some pretty robust playtesting through the ENWorld and Circvs Maximvs forum crews at conventions both national and local.

The end result was a game that we had a riot playing, with simple fun rules and that handled everything my good old Goblin Gully adventure could throw at us (and then some more), including the big bad Black Pudding for the final badguy.

So, as per the theme of my blog, here’s my character and the process I went through while making him.

The first stage of Chargen in Old School Hack is to pick one of the seven character classes for your character. What’s interesting is that if you pick one, that class is no longer available to anyone else. As you level up you are able to pick up abilities (err, talents) from the other classes though so you can poach a bit into the themes of other characters – but in order to pick up a power from another class, if that class is in play the player playing that character has to give you approval to pick up the ability. “Damnit NO, I’m the damn greased goblin here, you don’t get to be both awesomely sexy and buff AND greasy. Greasy is my schtick, I don’t care how much olive oil you rub over your damn herculean physique!” (actual quote from our game).

The core character classes from classic Moldvay Basic are all here except the halfling who has been supplanted by the Goblin. So of course I grabbed that goblin sheet and constantly protested throughout the game “Blighter is not goblin! Blighter is hobbitses! HOBBITSES!”

Step two of chargen (after the mad scramble for character sheets… oh my precious goblin, er, hobbit!) is stat generation. And you can end up with stats quite different than what you’d expect for your class (our fighter had low brawn, so was all about the fighter sexyness, thus the discussion about grease). Stats vary from -2 to +5 and are rolled on a table using 2d10. My rolls gave Blighter Joe the following

  • Brawn +1
  • Cunning -2
  • Daring +3
  • Commitment -1
  • Charm +0
  • Awareness +1

As a level 1 goblin he’s officially a skulker, but I wrote him up as “deranged halfling wannabe”. Then I get to pick up a single talent from the 5 listed Goblin talents. I went with Slippery (again, rewritten to be “quite oily”) which grants Blighter Joe the benefit of the first attack on him on a round spent moving misses, which can be triggered once per “arena” (arena being a metaphysical description of an area where fighting or interacting occurs – Goblin Gully could be described as 3 arenas (entrance, other side of bridge, pit) or as a lot more as it was in this game (tree, two rooms under tree, bridge, gully floor, secret chest-dropping room, secret room, lower chamber and pit).

I then have to pick out a weapon from the list of five weapon types (light weapons, reach weapons, ranged weapons, heavy weapons and very heavy weapons), each with their own benefits and what kinds of arenas they give you an attack bonus in. Not liking the idea of being in close proximity to that very shiny and underdressed fighter (not to mention the thief who specialized right off the bat on backstabbing… can’t trust an assassin further than you can smack him with an axe, you know), Blighter Joe went for a reach weapon. It could have been a wicked spiked chain, or a net and trident combo… or in this case it’s a long, pointed stick. Rubbed in goblin poop for maximum effect. Reach weapons get a +2 attack bonus when used in hazardous arenas (places where footing is troublesome, like the bridge scene in good old Goblin Gully).

Once game play began I discovered the real benefit of my +1 Brawn is the ability to carry some pretty heavy shit around, so as soon as I could manage it I grabbed a Heavy Weapon which not only does more damage in combat, but also grants its +2 bonus in dense arenas.

Not having the awesomeness of the fighter or wizard (who were both running around unarmoured… or in the fighter’s case bare-ass-naked!), Blighter Joe loads up with Heavy Armour which gives him an armour class of 12 (the bare-assed fighter was strutting around at AC 8),  but also a -2 penalty on being sneaky (but considering I’ve already got a cunning of -2, who cares?) He’s also got a wood-and-leather light shield that he can sacrifice to reduce a hit down to a single point of damage… which is what almost all attacks do normally. It came in handy in the mad dash from the big ass morpheous pudding which was dealing 3 damage per attack.

As a goblin hobbit Blighter Joe starts out with 1 silver piece, a collection of dried rats on a stick, a single beautiful gemstone (MY PRECIOUS!) and d4+1 items culled from the other adventurer’s lists. One of the players thought this meant I actually stole his hardware for my own, thus giving Blighter Joe his name (my thieve’s tools? I need those, you blighter!).

Finally, he needs a motivation to adventure. In this case it’s a futile effort to stay out of sight away from civilization to avoid the kneebreakers of the local pawnshop whom I owe 17 silver to, and will NEVER repay.

And for the record? I would totally play this again.


Blighter Joe
Goblin Halfling Wanna Be

  • Brawn +1
  • Cunning -2
  • Daring +3
  • Commitment -1
  • Charm +0
  • Awareness +1


  • Quite Oily – once per arena, first attack on a round where I was moving misses automatically.


  • Pointed poop-covered stick! (reach weapon, +2 in hazardous arenas)


  • Quilted with leather greaves, chainmail bits and bobs, a really oversized helmet and what was once a breastplate before it got thrown out after one too many horrific stab wounds. (Heavy Armor, AC 12)
  • Light Shield

Health: 5


  • Bunch of tasty dried rats
  • Crowbar
  • Leather toolkit with lockpicks
  • Flashpowder


  • 1 silver piece