HackMaster Gameplay – Combat



Combat is the ultimate and usually very final method of dispute resolution in HackMaster. Because HackMaster battles are so lethal, characters typically only engage after other (less dangerous) methods of solving differences fail or have been dismissed as unlikely to succeed. Of course, battle hardened players perform such dismissal in the wink of an eye, sometimes cleverly getting the drop on their foes, other times accidentally butchering someone for an important bit of information that could have been gleaned peacefully. However, this chapter’s not about advising you on how to avoid such pitfalls; it’s about helping you learn enough about the combat rules to avoid getting your hide flayed by goblins or skull staved in by passing ruffians five minutes after rolling up your shiny new character.

Some folks say that battles aren’t all that central to HackMaster. Indeed, it’s a multifaceted game that actively rewards you for good roleplaying, genuinely interesting NPCs and an incredibly rich and detailed game-world to map and explore. In some senses they are correct. You picked up this game to role-play, and roleplaying is at its core. On the other hand, it doesn’t take a bloody genius to notice that most of those other topics don’t have an entire freakin’ chapter devoted to them, do they?

There are those, therefore, who’d tell you that battle is the be-all and end-all, melee is glory and combat is the most important thing in HackMaster. I’m here to tell you that the players trying to sell you such nonsense are nothing but inexperienced rubes. Simply engaging in combat is not the most important thing in HackMaster; it’s a weak third behind surviving and, most importantly, winning combat!


If you’re an avid game player, chances are you’re used to choosing an action or actions on your “turn” – probably from a list of allowable actions or categories of actions. This method works great for outdated games with boards and certain inferior (I hate to even credit them with the term “role-playing”) games that have to hem in players because they either prefer simple games or plainly lack the genius to play the Greatest Game Known to Man.

In contrast, much like in real life, your HackMaster character can attempt any action he wants at any time. For instance, in real life, to walk across the room you think about doing so, start moving and after a certain number of seconds you accomplish the task. Likewise, in HackMaster, if your character wants to take an action (such as crossing the tavern floor), you simply declare his intent and after a certain amount of time (if there are no unexpected obstacles) he completes his action.

Thus, HackMaster has no artificial time segmentation such as “turns,” “rounds,” “segments” or “phases.” In HackMaster, your character’s actions are measured in seconds, by time and time alone. I know this concept can seem difficult after a life of being restrained by unnecessary rules, but I promise that after a session or two, keeping track of actions (using actual time like your ancestors intended) will come naturally for you.


HackMaster also features an attractive visual representation of the Player Character’s (or monster’s) core statistics and relevant combat information in a Combat Rose. Gone are the days of flipping through countless pages of character sheets – everything you need to run combat is right there in front of you!

As you can see, this handy infographic makes knowing your character’s strengths and weaknesses in combat a breeze, and keeps the game flowing.

To get a feel for how this second by second combat system and the Combat Rose work, download the HackMaster basic ruleset (it’s free!) , and/or click on the Combat Examples below.



This 9 page Knights of the Dinner Table comic has an ancillary purpose in providing a visual example on running combat in HackMaster.


This 12 page full-color Knights of the Dinner Table comic provides an advanced example on running combat in HackMaster.