I fully admit that this article is several years late. I don’t actually play Hackmaster, so I had no reason to get any of the books. Yet, when the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons’ Monster Manual was set to come out, forums and blog posts were filled with people asking it to be like the Hacklopedia of Beasts. I became rather curious about what the book was like to make so many people hold it up as the ultimate example of what an RPG game bestiary should be. Unlike various editions of D&D and Pathfinder I hadn’t found much of a widespread die-hard Hackmaster fans, so fan loyalty certainly wasn’t driving the number of times this book came up.
Recently, I finally came across a copy.
First, one of my hobbies is book binding and I love the workmanship that goes into book design. I already liked the Hacklopedia without opening. It looks like it’s a monster, too. Instantly, I was inspired and feeling the wonder of the possibilities. That’s right. The book, completely unopened is already inspiring. I felt like I should make sure the book even wanted me to feel its scaly texture before it decided to bite me.
Inside is equally inspired. The pages are nicely laid out and I felt, despite no familiarity with Hackmaster that I could follow the general gist of it’s mechanics. The decision to use line drawings rather than fully rendered image of each monster was a great design decision and the art directors really should be commended. It has a field journal feel. With the amount of text and tables on each page, the images supplement rather than turn the entries into a distracting mess. The ecologies are a nice touch.
Many of the monsters inside were familiar, which makes sense concerning Hackmaster’s history as a D&D parody. Yet, there are a few inside that remind me of the monsters that my ten-year-old makes up for D&D which exaggerates the tone of monsters in a Monster Manual. Most notably, Tarantubat. The entries are filled with just the right amount of deadpan humor that doesn’t keep it from being taken as a serious RPG book. Of course, I may have an odd sense of humor and probably find the Giant Goat entry far more amusing than it deserves. If there is one flaw with this book, it’s that the pages are glossy.
All in all, I’m inspired to take ideas from the book and folding them into our Dungeons & Dragons games. (Tarantubats! Tarantubats, everywhere!) It makes for a nice unofficial supplement. And who knows, I may even look into picking up the Hackmaster game proper. The Hacklopedia deserves all the hype it’s received on forums and blogs when it comes to graphic design and execution.