Saturday, 22 October 2016

[Review] The Black Hack: Cyber-Hacked!

The Black Hack is fast and fun and D&D compatible fantasy system, which has already been hacked to fill a genre that I have not played yet (disclaimer: supers!). I have played both Shadowrun and Cyberpunk, 2300AD had a cybernetics sourcebook and I am pretty sure I've played GURPS cyberpunk stuff, too. So, cyberpunk in roleplaying games is not new for me. I've longed for a cyberpunk D&D. There are cyberstuff for OSR, but this is my first actual cyberpunk OSR D&D compatible game. Exciting!

Author +Mike Evans and illustrator +Alex Mayo are both cool guys with awesome gaming ideas and stuff. So this should be very, very good!

The PDF is 21 pages, with 18 pages of actual RPG stuff, including the character sheet. What I love in TBH is that you get a full RPG rules you learn to play while you eat a dinner before the game night begins. Like other TBH hacks, the layout is simple and apes the original. The only picture is on the cover. Very printer-friendly and space efficient, yet dull.

 The rules are basically a carbon copy of TBH with few exceptions and additions that suit a modern genre. This starts to get annoying. Sure, you only need this to run the game, but now I am starting to get many, many copies of The Black Hack rules. It would be ace if the layout would be that when I'd print this, I could opt out all the basic and core TBH rules and only print the new stuff that is not already included in the original game. But it doesn't happen here. Small additional and new rules are scattered here and there within the text already in other hacks and the main game.

The most important new rules are full auto fire, which is simple. In many games when you shoot more than one shot the rules get wonky and slow. This is not the case here. Funny thing is, though, that two handed combat also affects guns you hold with two hands. But if you think about it, this is an elegant way in making bigger weapons more damaging, when the core mechanic is, that weapon damage is class based. Very, very clever!

Drugs are also easy. They give a small bonus, but you suffer disadvantage(s) under influence. Also addiction is as simple. Great! Taking drugs is fast and easy.

Vehicles and chases have also simple rules in the fashion of TBH. They are pretty good and should cover most of the situations. When a vehicle is shot enough, it is destroyed and there is a 50/50 chance can it be salvaged or not. Chase is a simple series of attribute tests, where you either gain or lose distance. Pretty boring, and it could take a long time to just roll after roll. There should be an extra rule for dangerous manouvres to gain more than 1 point of distance (starting from 5, 10 to escape, 1 to get caught). Manouvres are easily done, roll with disadvantage to gain double points. Still dull, but adds danger and story element (I try to steer to this narrow alley...).

One of the most important rules in a cyberpunk game is hacking. I think Cyberpunk 2020 is an awesome game, but the hacking part of it is extremely dull - and slow. Normal hacking in Cyber-Hacked is a simple INT test, but there is also more detailed rules, using die-drop table! You take a number of dice and drop them on a paper. The die type and value tell from a random table, what it is. Then connect them and voilá, you got a quickly generated data network to be hacked! All the stuff you do hacking you use usage die to do. When it's dropped to zero, you're booted. These hacking rules are fast, fun and brilliant!

You also get contacts who are basically people you can use as resources, and you can be either a human or a synthetic before you choose a class. There are 7 classes to choose from, including a psychic. The classes basically work like in TBH, they each have something special they do. In addition, they now are listed with starting equipment (you, I dislike buying normal gear for characters) and an interesting trinket. Some of these classes are modified from the basic classes, some are a bit different. I think every player should find their favorite easily from these.
Different kind of everyone other is Psychic, who can use his psychic abilities per day based on his level. These abilities are basically like spells in a fantasy game.

Equipment list is minimal, but enough. Cyberware has no special rules. You can have 4 of the (one character class being an exception) to gain some bonuses or other effects. That's it. No problems between a line where human ends and a machine starts. There could have been a little more to this, because now cyberware is just like equipment.

There's plenty of enemy stats to fight and use, but there could have been few more, because now the one page table doesn't reach the end of the page, but leaves an empty white space being short. This layout problem could have been fixed with more enemies! This is plenty already, but it just looks sloppy and lazy.

So, what do I think? This is very, very good in a The Black Hack good. TBH family products are DIY. A bit raw, but full of good ideas (WHEN THEY ARE GOOD, THAT IS) with simple and fun core mechanics. Even though it's dull to get same basic rules all over again, the additions to cyberpunk genre included in CYBER-HACKED are great. Inexpensive price, D&D compatible, fast to learn, fast to play... I see no reasons why everyone shouldn't get a copy. Even though you don't plan to play a campaign of CYBER-HACKED, you can keep this just in case, if someday, someone wants to play some cyberpunk in 10 minutes!

You can buy the PDF from RPGNow.