Last week, mostly on a whim, I picked up The Black Hack. TBH is a small, OSR fantasy game by David Black that describes itself as “a super-streamlined roleplaying game that uses the Original 1970s Fantasy Roleplaying Game as a base, and could well be the most straightforward modern OSR compatible clone available.” I’d seen people talking about TBH and its many hacks on social media for a while, but as I didn’t care for either of the two OSR games I’d bought previously, I hadn’t bothered to look at it. But as DriveThruRPG was having an OSR sale, I decided to toss TBH into my basket with a few other items. I’m very glad I did, too.
I found a lot to like in the twenty A5-sized pages of The Black Hack. I especially like that all rolls are player facing, meaning the GM doesn’t roll dice, apart from monster damage. Whenever something a character does has a chance of failure, they need to roll under a relevant stat. I also like the fact there’s no list of actions characters can take. More and more I find myself uninterested in games that have a list of actions, especially if they have very rigid and specific effects. I much prefer guidelines on how to handle broad types of actions, and TBH provides that. The simplified Theater of the Mind ranges of Close Nearby, Far-Away, and Distant are also nice, and The Risk Die is a nice way to track resources and inject some tension into the game. There are also a wealth of inexpensive third-party supplements adding new classes and races, more monsters, expanded weapon and armor rules, and a whole bunch of other things.
I’m still a PbtA devotee and Dungeon World is still my go to fantasy game, but The Black Hack has me excited in a way many other games I’ve recently purchased haven’t. Plus, the PDF is only $2! You can also get a physical copies of the book, the GM’s screen, and character sheets from Squarehex.co.uk.