How Many Hacks Of The Black Hack Can Be Hacked? Looking At The Indie Hack
  • How Many Hacks Of The Black Hack Can Be Hacked? Looking At The Indie Hack


    In the last four years, I've noticed an increased frequency in regards to Storyteller and narrative type games. It might be resurgence, or my imagination… But, what I've been excited about is the sheer variety of these games; specifically, the ways in which the fundamental idea of creating story, is still being reimagined for the purpose of a role playing game.


    The Indie Hack is a thin slice of this storyteller resurgence. Literally and figuratively. A slightly thicker off-shoot of David Black's streamlined old school fantasy RPG, The Black Hack; The Indie Hack trades off some of the crunch elements familiar to the OSR, for an emphasis in creating narrative elements. They say a good story is about details. In regards to The Indie Hack this is doubly so.

    Every element of the narrative system relies on Details. It's up to the GM and the players to narrate Soft or Hard Details (adding conditions) to a person, place, or thing, as elements of the story. Soft Details are fluff (a consolation for the narrator/player), while Hard Details have mechanical significance, such as damage descriptors or items etc. Would you prefer to wield an axe that is “dull and dainty,” or “sharp and shiny?” The Indie Hack puts these details in the player's hands.

    One way details are incorporated is through Meeting Challenges. Rolling dice for a challenge, utilizes a light sided d6 and a dark sided d6. The light d6 represents the difficulty of a challenge. The dark d6 represents the player's ability to meet the challenge. When rolled, If the light d6's result is higher (including modifiers +/- included by the GM or the character) the details are narrated by the GM. If the dark d6's result is higher, the Details are narrated by the player. A simple chart defines the degree(s) in which details are added.

    With character creation players decide a character template and select from among seven fantasy type classes. Characters have three attributes: Clever, Strong, and Quick. The template for character creation creates a range between +2 to -2 for starting attributes.
    The Print version I hold is an A5 (5.8 x 8.3) stapled booklet, featuring a black glossy cover with a number of full color interior illustrations. The count is 30-ish or so pages. The pages are unnumbered and neither does this version have a Table of Contents. The writing is at 6 or 7 point type (tiny), in standard double column format. Given the size of the type, it's more content than the page count indicates.

    The Indie Hack scratches more than few of my personal RPG itches. The minimalist design is appealing. Getting a game going, including character creation, in-less than 15 minutes is very plausible, which also gives it GameCon or Convention appeal. It's a great in between game if you have a group comprised of a mix of Storyteller and typically D&D or Pathfinder players… (See convention point, above) I could go on, but I'm out of words… Buy it!

    Disclosure: This review contains affiliate links. A print version of The Indie Hack was provided by Scablands Press free of cost, for the purpose of this review.

    ​contributed by Jeff Duncan
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      For the amount of new games of all type, RPG, Card etc, that are being produced is driven by the need for escapism from the crap world around us The games gives us a few hours away from it all at least!
    1. Mistwell's Avatar
      Mistwell -
      I still prefer OldSchoolHack. Though I wish he'd finish the higher level stuff.
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mistwell View Post
      I still prefer OldSchoolHack. Though I wish he'd finish the higher level stuff.
      OldSchoolHack... Hmm... How Hacks are there? Anyone?
    1. John R Davis's Avatar
      John R Davis -
      It's David Black who created TBH!
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by John R Davis View Post
      It's David Black who created TBH!
      Indeed it was! Thanks for spotting that; I've edited the article.
    1. John R Davis's Avatar
      John R Davis -
      There are an awful lot of hacks. Even made some myself. Good range of genre and setting available from everyone's hard work
    1. R_Chance's Avatar
      R_Chance -
      My favorite: The Petal Hack. Free on Drive Through from Weird Realms Games (Brett Slocum). But I'm a sucker for all things Tekumel related...
    1. MNblockhead's Avatar
      MNblockhead -
      Was introduced to the world of hacks when I joined a meetup one evening while on a business trip and was introduced to The Gene Hack. Fun stuff.
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      Indeed it was! Thanks for spotting that; I've edited the article.
      Thanks for the catch, and edit.

      How David became Daniel... No idea.
    1. Doctor Futurity -
      These are interesting systems and I admit I love how my copy of Black Hack fits in a little baggie with it's tiny GM's screen. But....I know of no one who would play the game, and wonder if these are being enjoyed as actual games beyond an occasional one-shot for a beer & pretzels night or a pick up game at a convention just for the novelty? Just curious....and keeping in mind I'm thoroughly an OSR fan who has run lengthy White Star campaigns recently, and I personally would love to give it a spin....but I can't find anyone locally willing to shed the burden of more mechanically intensive systems to try a Hack type game out.
    1. VengerSatanis -
      Wouldn't the narrative/detail trading get tedious after awhile? Also, wouldn't it break the immersion if players started describing all sorts of fluff/flavor text that is traditionally the GM's domain? Honest, serious questions...

      BTW, love the cover art!

      VS
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      Quote Originally Posted by VengerSatanis View Post
      Wouldn't the narrative/detail trading get tedious after awhile? Also, wouldn't it break the immersion if players started describing all sorts of fluff/flavor text that is traditionally the GM's domain? Honest, serious questions...

      BTW, love the cover art!

      VS
      I could see that... But, as is, with The Indie Hack it's pretty simple... Or, not any more Tedious then tracking hit points or GPs.

      You're point as far as immersion goes is somewhat variable to the group your playing with. Personally, (which I don't have, with either group I play with) my preference is to take narrative or story type players, and play D&D, Pathfinder and/or something more OSR. Or take OSR, D&D or Pathfinder players and play a story game. Keep in mind I'm relating my experience, but throwing narrative type gamers into something crunchy has been my best experience as a GM.

      When a story gamer can't put as much input towards the narrative, what they do instead is focus on the character... But, not in the meta-number crunching way which is common with Pathfinder, but more as to the actual character: the personality, motivation goals etc. This makes (my opinion) for a better gaming experience with a typically crunchier RPG. With doing the reverse, D&D player, into a story game: What happens is that typically the players focus the narrative strategically, rather then what they're used to, in putting their characters first.
    1. VengerSatanis -
      I think I'll have to experience that sort of gaming firsthand in order to really know what it's like.

      VS
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      Quote Originally Posted by VengerSatanis View Post
      I think I'll have to experience that sort of gaming firsthand in order to really know what it's like.

      VS
      That's what I like about you Venger... And I think, what we have in common. Try new things, and reserve judgment (if needed) until after the new thing has concluded...
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