Tag Archives: hackmaster

“Pain is Temporary… Quitting Lasts Forever”

(Post title is a paraphrase of the following quote:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” –  Lance Armstrong in It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.)

Those of you who follow me on facebook or know me personally may already be aware of this, but for the past couple of months my chronic pain levels reached the point where I was almost totally incapacitated. The most I could type at one time was a paragraph about as long as this one will be when I finish.

As a result, I haven’t been blogging or working on any of my books or short stories because I haven’t been able to. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have been totally unproductive. To make my life GMing D&D Encounters easier, I copy-pasted the relevant monsters from my epub to the spreadsheet that I normally only use to calculate how much XP to give each player. In doing so I discovered that I could do work like that for much longer than serious typing, so I got some other things done instead.

Made D&D 5e Character Sheet More Multi-class Friendly

In making my first multi-classed character, I discovered that my sheet was only slightly better for that purpose than Wizard’s. I rearranged the top matter a bit to make room for listing multiple classes and their levels, leaving the original “Level” space for the character’s total level. The largest difference is that in place of the checkboxes for keeping track of spent hit dice, there are now two boxes for tracking two types of hit dice – there wasn’t room for a third one, or I would have included it.

It has replaced the old version on Scribd.

Added Features to the D&D 5e Grimoire

In putting a caster on a character sheet for the first time, I realized the grimoire could use some additions. Across the top there are now spaces for your spell attack bonus, saving throw DC, the maximum number of spells you can prepare each day (generally caster level + spellcasting ability modifier), and your spell slots.

For the sake of the mage character sheet, I also lightened the color of the headers so the bar wouldn’t bleed through the page as much.

Both have replaced their old versions, linked above.

Mostly Finished GURPS Character Creator Spreadsheets and Half Done With One for D&D 5e

In the course of creating a new GURPS character several months ago I accidentally half-built a GURPS character creator spreadsheet. Over the past couple of months I’ve been slowly revising it. Now all it needs is a little spit and polish.

Inspired by that project, I decided to make one for the current editions of D&D and HackMaster as well. I haven’t yet started the HackMaster one, but the D&D one is at least half done. I have yet to start on the “Race and Class Features” tab, but the mechanics of everything else are mostly, if not completely, done.

The only major things I have left to figure out are how to handle armor and weapon proficiencies, and race-based skills (dwarves, for instance, don’t actually grant proficiency in History, but for all things stonework, they are considered proficient and double their proficiency bonuses).

The gear proficiencies are the big puzzlers. I have only been using lookup tables and other advanced spreadsheet features since a fellow D&D Encounters GM helped me start my GURPS character creator, so I’m mostly learning by doing. Because of that I have no idea how to limit the player’s equipment choices based on the proficiencies granted by the character’s race/class combination. My temporary fix is to simply list them and leave it up to the player to only choose proficient gear. Likewise with limiting the player’s choice of skill proficiencies.

Other than that, all that is need is more spit and polish, and to have local players do their best to break my code and give me their feedback on the user interface (UI). After that I’ll upload a basic version to Scribd as usual, then continue working on actually integrating proficiencies into the various places they are needed.

These are currently my top priority and should be finished fairly soon.

Worked on HackMaster 5e Campaign Manager and Started D&D Version

If you were active on the Kenzer & Company forums when HackMaster Basic first released, you may have seen my original encounter builder spreadsheet. Since then I have incorporated much of my HM4e campaign manager into it, and applied some of my new-found advanced spreadsheet coding skills, as well as the session experience tracker I originally made for D&D Encounters. It is probably only about half done, but is a lower priority than the other projects since it does everything I need it to for my current campaign (it works, but the UI is ugly and a bit clunky), and both D&D and GURPS have larger user bases.

Speaking of the experience calculator, while working on the HM campaign tracker, I slowly added new features to it, gradually turning it into a D&D campaign manager. I am also adapting it into a  generic campaign manager that should be easily user-adaptable to handle just about any level-based fantasy trpg. It will likely become my top priority after I finish the character creators.

As an indicator of how much better I’m doing now, I wrote this entire post in one sitting. I need to rest for a while now because my upper back is starting to flare up pretty intensely, but I was able to ignore it long enough to finish this, so I have high hopes for the near future (although, as always, I’ll sleep and then proofread it tomorrow before actually posting it). On the advice of a doctor, I started taking magnesium supplements a week and a half ago, and it seems like it may be doing the trick. If you suffer from chronic pain, it might be worth a try (but always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement).

So that’s my last couple of months in a nutshell. Keep watching here for updates on my character creators and campaign managers.

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D&D (or Any Other Level-based game) Session Experience Calculator

Had a great family vacation, and got a 93 in my online Java class, but now I’m back to focusing on writing and game design. For example:

To compensate for my memory issues and to save a lot of work for non-mathophile GMs, I created a spreadsheet that will calculate how much experience I need to award each player at the end of each session of D&D Encounters.

Using it couldn’t be easier. Type the number of players into the appropriate box at the top of the sheet. Below that you will a list of all of the non-unique monsters that appear in the Tyranny of Dragons season of D&D Encounters. Each row below that is a separate encounter. Simply type in the number of each monster you used in the encounter, and the spreadsheet will do the rest.

It looks up the appropriate amount of experience points (XP) for that monster using the table on the “Data” tab (you can easily add your own, as long as the list doesn’t exceed 50 in all), then uses that to add up the total experience for the encounter. The XP totals for each encounter are added together, then divided by the number of players.

Since quest XP rewards are specified per player rather than as an amount to be subdivided, I have provided a space especially for those. Next to the blue box that tells you how much XP to give each player you’ll see a long red box. Put each quest reward in its own cell within that box, and the spreadsheet will add their sum to the amount in the blue box.

If you understand lookup tables, it is trivially easy to use more than 50 entries in the data table, but I was required to set a limit. I tried to allow more than 15 monsters on the table, but i kept getting an error telling me my formula was longer than OpenOffice could handle. If you know a way around the problem, I’d be happy to hear it.

Naturally, this can be used for any level-based game (as I will for for my HackMaster 5e campaign); it’s just pre-filled out with the monsters for DnD Encounters: Tyranny of Dragons.

Free RPG Day 2013

This year we will be running GURPS 4e and HackMaster 5e demos at Hillside Games. We have pre-gens ready for both and even dice to lend, so all you’ll need is yourself and your imagination.

As you may have read in my previous post, we have backed a Kickstarter for a new roleplaying game called Kingdom. Our donation tier entitles us to a copy of its predecessor and companion, Microscope, a game in which players work together to build an epic history. The author kindly gave us early access to Microscope so we’d like to run it today too if we have time.

Hope to see you there.

Update: We found out too late that Hillside wasn’t actually doing Free RPG Day this year, but if you ever see us there on a Saturday (except when we’re running Pokémon League from 4-8, of course), don’t be afraid to ask us to demo HackMaster, GURPS, Microscope, D&D, or any other game we know (my waist-length red-brown ponytail makes me pretty easy to spot).


I was finally able to upload all of my Pokémon game aids, but prepping for today and making D&D Encounters pre-gens for Wednesday night has kept me too busy to get the links posted here. As soon as I get the pre-gens finished I’ll get those links posted. For now, if you follow any of the scribd links on my download page you’ll be able to find the Pokémon stuff easily.

I still can’t figure out why WordPress won’t display my sidebar menu except on the front page. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. Thanks.

Finished My HackMaster Sheet and Revised the Rest

HackMaster Character Sheet

I finally finished my HackMaster sheet uploaded it to Scribd. Figuring out how to do weapons stumped me for a long time.

As usual, I designed it with three major goals in mind:

  • Earth- and wallet-friendliness. In other words: cheap to print.
  • Only force the positioning of things that will be the present on every character or are tedious to hand-write every time: stat blocks; name, race, age, etc.; skills; base weapon stat calculations; and so forth.
  • User-customizable depending player taste and character class. Normally this would include having the lowest item on the front of the page be the column headings of the weapons table. That way it as long as needed, no more or less, yet still details out the math for new players and for ease of making changes as needed (specialization, talents, magic items, etc.).

Unfortunately, in this case it proved impossible to squeeze everything for weapons into one line – not even as small as I write. So I compromised by making a small-as-possible weapon block that is easy to duplicate if you need more. By default I include two, assuming most characters will have a melee and a ranged weapon.

If you really need more (if you are or want to be a knight, for instance), you can download the original ODT from YouSendIt. It has four of them, and you can delete or copypasta more as needed.

One final thing: It may not be obvious, but, as usual, I intended for the right margin to be used to track gained experience to keep the current experience spot from being erased into a hole. Naturally, you are free to do as you please since that is the whole point of the sheet.

There is one small problem I’m still trying to tackle: the lines around some of the boxes won’t print. I’ve managed to make some of them appear by finagling things a bit (like putting some frames inside other frames and then making those frames’ borders show), but I gave up completely on the box around the stat block. Once I get it tackled I’ll upload a revision. If you have any idea how to fix it, please drop me a line.


HackMaster Grimoire Update

I also updated my HackMaster grimoire. When I couldn’t squeeze all of the info I needed for each spell onto it, I knew I definitely needed to redo it. Each row is now half-again the height it was (.6 inches instead of .4), and I tweaked the width of some of the columns.


Guidelines Added to All Character Sheets

My wonderful gamer wife pointed out that she can’t write in straight lines as well as I can – I only can thanks to natural talent and minoring in drafting in college, the same thing that allows me to write as small as I do – so for her sake and others I added very faint lines to the large whitespaces on all of my sheets and uploaded a second copy of each.

The lines are .05″ thick and 20% gray so they will nearly vanish if you hold the sheet at arm’s length. My fellow draftsmen might call them “construction lines”. That way they are there if you need them to keep you writing straight, but are unobtrusive enough that they won’t interfere with any drawings or other things you put on the sheet.

The lines are spaced .10″ apart, smaller than even I write. (For reference sake, the boxes on my sheets are generally .25″ high.) However, placing them that closely makes them highly versatile. I expect that most people will use two lines per line of text, but younger players might use three. If I made the lines .2″ apart then people who write larger than that will be inclined to write even bigger than they normally do to fill the space (assuming I’m not the only person with that inclination).

Further, that spacing allows you to do things like having headers be slightly taller than normal text or to put varying, measurable, amounts of space between sections.

The newly-lined D&D and GURPS sheets have been uploaded, I will be getting to the HackMaster sheet the next few days. Please go check them out and let me know what you think. Thanks.

UPDATE: The lined HackMaster sheet has now been uploaded.


I also moved my copyright line on all of my character sheets so that they’ll be less intrusive and won’t get chopped off by some printers, like ours half the time. All three of them have been reuploaded to Scribd (the links haven’t changed).

HackMaster and the D6 System are now FREE

Yep. You read that right. Free.

As I’ve mentioned before, KenzerCo has finally released the Player’s Handbook for HackMaster 5e. The only problem is that it frequently refers to rules in the as yet unreleased Gamemaster’s Guide. Fortunately, many of those rules are in HackMaster Basic. To help people out, K&C has released a free version of HMB that even includes a bunch of pre-generated characters, but lacks character creation rules – they wisely make you pay for those.

Up until now you could try out the new edition of the only class-based game I actually like for a mere $20 (and you probably still can at your FLGS, who may also be able to refer to others who have purchased the book so you find people to play with). Now you can try it out for free! If you like it, then you can drop your $20 to have a Player’s HandbookGamemaster’s Guide, and Hacklopedia of Beasts all rolled up in one rather portable book.

Or, if you can’t find a copy or just don’t like dead trees, you can pick up their other new version of HMB, aptly named HackMaster Basic Plus, for $10.

Back when HMB first came out they even released a free starter module, White Palette, Ivory Horns, to get new players started. Seriously, how could possibly pass, $20, $10, or even $0 for one of the most unique and engaging roleplaying games I’ve ever seen? Why are you still reading this? Go get the free version.

Oh yeah, I did mention another freebie didn’t I. 8o)

While the D6 system has never appealed to me personally, I know quite a lot of other people love it. It has a reputation for being easy to play and run, but I’ve just never been fond of using numbers of dice as attributes or of GM-determined target numbers, so it’s simply not my thing. However there was, and may still be, a Star Wars D6 weekly game running at one of our FLGSes, so obviously someone around here likes it.

I don’t know whether this a limited time promotion or the going rate since the release of OpenD6, but for now at least D6 AdventureD6 Fantasy, and D6 Space are all absolutely free in pdf form from RPG Now.

UPDATE: Thanks to Clay Gardner (creator of the roleplaying game Open Versatile Anime) on twitter, I now know that my second guess was correct: it has been free since the release of OpenD6. That begs the question, why did Roleplaying Tips suddenly make an announcement about it, thus making me think it was a new development?

PC Grimoire for HackMaster 5e

For one of my mages in HackMaster 4e I designed a grimoire for all of her spells so I wouldn’t need to keep the Player’s Handbook and Spellslinger’s Guide to Wurld Domination on hand every time I played her. For several years now our only HackMaster campaign has been mine and no one is playing a mage so we haven’t needed the grimoire. I forgot it existed until I stumbled across the character in my giant file of dead and retired characters.

The original ODS is one of the files I lost when the harddrive from my first laptop crashed so I started from scratch. It didn’t take nearly as long as I expected since it’s just an empty spreadsheet with headers and appropriately sized columns.

I first made it legal-sized (8.5″x14″) since it’s much easier to get everything you need on the page that way. But since the only sheet of legal paper I could find in the house already had a 4e grimoire on one side, and since I expect most households probably don’t have legal paper either, I made a letter-sized version by squeezing the three spell component columns (Verbal, Somatic, Material) into one.

If there’s enough interest, I’ll make an A4-sized version too.

Because some of them may not be obvious, here is what the columns are for, in order:
1) Check or X the box if you have memorized the spell.
2) Spell’s level.
3) Spell’s name.
4) SP cost (determined by spell level but included here for those that want it).
5) Casting time, in seconds.
6) Spell’s range.
7) Spell’s duration.
8) Saving throw type (Agility, Mental, or Physical) and result.
9-11) Verbal, Somatic, and Material components.
12) Spell’s effects, additional SP schedule, or anything else you need to use the spell without having to reference the book.

As usual, download links are available on the Download page, but for your convenience here are the legal- and letter-sized versions.

D&D Next Character Creation

When I first read through the new playtest materials I started getting excited. It looked like I was finally going to be able to make Brianna Sheàri, the female protagonist of the series of short stories I’ve been working on over the past several years.

She started life as a Wood Elf Ranger in Champions of Norrath years and years ago. I later used her name for an elf ranger in a HackMaster 4e campaign. After that I started writing her story.

She has largely kept the ranger theme: her skills are primarily focused on archery and wood lore, and she has some access to both elemental (mostly by enchanting arrows on the fly) and healing magic (infusing into healing poultices after applying them). The details of those skills have changed as my world has developed (for instance, elves, orcs, and humans are all different types of humans instead of distinct races), but that’s enough to be getting on with.

Naturally, I can only truly make her in GURPS, and have done so, but I’m forever trying to shoehorn her into various class-based games just to see how close I can get. So far I have only managed it by focusing on one aspect of her character and ignoring others. In D&D Encounters she is a Hunter Ranger. That gives her the forest survival and hunting skills, as well as the marksmanship, but complete ignores her magic side.

Then came the new playtest and it looked like I might finally be able to make Brianna in a class-based game. I started with High Elf since it gives her a free wizard cantrip, and made her a Fighter with the Sharpshooter Fighting Style. To gain her herbalism and healing magic I added the Healer Specialization. It gives her the ability to make healing potions and healer’s kits. I can easily flavor those as using the combination of herbalism and healing magic she uses in my book.

That left me with two unsolved issues: neither of her cantrip choices were reasonably re-flavored into her ability to ignite arrows as they leave her bow, and she didn’t yet have any skills beyond the ability to shoot and heal. Looking at the skill list, she needs Natural Lore, Survival, Spot, and Stealth for her ranger skills, and Magical Lore to finish her off.

The first problem I can solve by simply adapting Ray of Frost into a fire attack, or devising a new spell that lets her spend her action to add extra fire damage to her next bow attack.

The second problem is harder. As in the first playtest, skills are gained via Backgrounds, but unlike before all backgrounds now yield exactly three skills, no more, no less. Each also includes a Trait that gives things like owning a house and plot of land somewhere, knowing where to find a piece of information you can’t call to mind, or having contacts in various places and organizations.

Not surprisingly, the included list of backgrounds is short so it can’t possibly cover every possible combination of skills, but I can’t find one that’s remotely suitable for Brianna. For one thing, the only background that includes Survival is Soldier (which bundles in Intimidate and Spot) and the trait gives you a military rank, which is likely not at all useful to the majority of characters that want that combination of skills.

In 4e, included backgrounds were suggestions to give you an idea of the things they can do, with the assumption that you would make up your own (which I do with nearly every character). The playtest likewise calls them “Sample Backgrounds” so I expect there will be guidelines for making your own eventually, but if they’re all “Pick three skills and make up a fluff Trait” then I’ll pass.

As far as I can tell, the only way to have more than three skills is to take the specialty that gives you the Skill Training feat at first and third levels, but that prevents you from taking far more interesting specialties instead.

At that point my balloon of excitement popped. Adding further to my disappointment is that skills are now tied to attributes again. Their separation was brilliant and one of the things I loved best  about the original playtest.

It makes me wonder why they don’t adapt D&D 3.x’s skill points instead of being so restrictive with skills. Even better would be following HackMaster’s example and go full-on hybrid point-buy – but I’m not holding my breath.

So here’s the short version: I’m loving D&D 5e so far, except for backgrounds and skills. Those two things are very in the way of me enjoying the system.