4th edition Player's Handbook cover
|Designer(s)||Jolly R. Blackburn, David Kenzer, et al.|
|Publisher(s)||Kenzer & Company|
|System(s)||Custom, derived from AD&D system|
|Spun off from the Knights of the Dinner Table comic strip|
HackMaster is a fantasy role-playing game produced by Kenzer & Company. Originally published in 2001, it began as a fictional game, a parody of the most ludicrous aspects of D&D played by the characters of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic strip by Jolly R. Blackburn. The characters in the comic began playing HackMaster 3rd Edition, which was updated to a numerously revised 4th edition, and it has been hinted the name of the game was originally changed for copyright reasons. The current edition has removed most of the parody aspects, and contains game mechanics written from scratch in order to avoid any intellectual property problems.
In the current (5th) edition of the game, the setting has been switched to Kenzerco's "Kingdoms of Kalamar" (KoK) setting. KoK was originally developed as a D&D setting, and has been detailed in several supplements and adventures. Developers for Kenzerco have stated on their forums that the world will not be significantly altered for HM 5th.
In 4th edition, the official setting of Hackmaster was Garweeze Wurld, a giant continent on the planet Aldrazar based on the notes of Jolly Blackburn. This has been developed in the Garweeze Wurld Atlas and Garweeze Wurld Gazeteer. Garweeze Wurld is about eight thousand miles across, circling much of the northern hemisphere of its planet. The continent is mapped based on forty-eight "sectors", each one thousand miles across. The continent reaches from the tropical band of Aldrazar to its Arctic Circle. The name Garweeze Wurld was a play on the name of D&D creator Gary Gygax.
Some of the game rule changes include a count-up system, as opposed to a "combat round" type of in-game time-keeping method. Players plan their actions second-by-second, with little or no down time between actions. Player characters in combat actively defend as well as attack and various combat maneuvers are offered to create a more realistic feel to the hostile encounter. The magic system has been overhauled to use spell points rather than a fixed number of spells. Clerics are no longer a single class, but are specific to the various deities within the pantheon.
Kenzer & Company received many requests from fans of the comic to produce an actual HackMaster game, but initially they thought that licensing Dungeons & Dragons would be impossible. However, when they asked Wizards of the Coast about creating a derivative work, they reached an agreement that led in 2001 to the publication of HackMaster 4th Edition.
K&C acquired the rights to produce HackMaster after the Dragon Magazine Archive software was published where Wizards of the Coast failed to get permission to reprint many of the original articles such as the Knights of the Dinner Table comic in the electronic media archive. A lawsuit was settled out of court, and K&C started producing HackMaster afterwards. In part of that ability to use AD&D rules, K&C was required to maintain a higher level of humor than in the Knights of the Dinner Table comic for products that are revised from previous AD&D material. Completely original works for Hackmaster are not subject to this restriction imposed by Wizards of the Coast.
Whereas Wizards of the Coast overhauled the rules for 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons, Kenzer & Company took the opposite action by revising the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First and Second Edition rules (including various supplements such as 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures and the mid-1990s Skills & Powers supplements) into a more coherent system and adding an element of parody. However, as a nod to the version from the comic, the first edition of Hackmaster was published as the 4th Edition.
The Hacklopedia of Beasts, the Hackmaster version of the Monster Manual, was next released as eight separate volumes, costing $19.99 each. These books were somewhat optional as creature statistics from the 1st and 2nd edition versions of AD&D were compatible with Hackmaster. Kenzerco later released the Hackmaster Field Manual, which contained the more popular Hackmaster creatures in a single volume.
Since its release in 2001, HackMaster has evolved into a full-fledged role-playing game, spawning over forty add-ons, supplements and game aids. Most notable products include a 32-panel gamemaster's shield, a 16-page character sheet and a 10-volume monster encyclopedia.
On July 6, 2007, Kenzer & Company announced that Kingdoms of Kalamar would replace Garweeze Wurld as the game's default setting. On July 11, 2007, Kenzer & Company announced that their license agreement with Wizards of the Coast would expire in August of that year. The loss of the license means that existing works containing licensed text would not be reprinted and that future editions of the game would not contain material copyrighted by Wizards.
The first rulebook for the new edition, HackMaster Basic, was sent out to preorderers on June 19, 2009. As the name implies, it focuses on the fundamentals of the new system, and is intended to take player characters from 1st level through 5th level. Knights of the Dinner Table has also offered various HackMaster additional rules and game aids to add to the new system. KODT Issue #152, June 2009, offers "Table Talk" and "A Walk Through Hackmaster Basic," for example. Several modules for the new system have been released in various formats.
- "2007 ENWorld forums (reply by Mark Plemmons)". Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- "2001 – Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design". Retrieved 2007-05-13.
- Kenzer, David S.. "Re: Future of Kalamar". Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- "Wizards of the Coast/Kenzer & Company License Agreements Expiring". Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- Kenzer, David S.. "Re: HackMaster and License: Questions". Retrieved 2007-07-18.