HackMaster Gameplay – Skills



Skills have a wide array of uses and include such varied subjects as Botany, Forgery, Hiding, Literacy and so forth. Your character’s class may provide with some of these while others must be purchased with Building Points. They are an opportunity for you to customize your character by giving him a few unique things he can do. Many players focus on utilitarian skills that have broad applicability but others may opt to focus their attention on one specific skill increasing their mastery until they’re a renowned expert – even if it’s only in raising beets. If it makes you feel kewl for your character to be the best at something, by all means spend the BPs and have at it.

Mastering Skills: Initial purchase of a skill gains the PC a number of points equal to his ability score in the relevant ability (or the lowest relevant ability, if multiple abilities are listed) plus one roll of the mastery die. The mastery die is based on your character’s current mastery level and is the same for all skills.

A second (and subsequent) purchase of a skill gains the PC a number of points equal to one roll of the mastery die plus any bonuses. As you become more skilled, additional information or expertise in the skill is increasingly harder to come by – thus the lower mastery die. The same applies to free skills received during character creation.

For instance, a newly created halfling thief gets his first purchase of the Hiding skill for free (relevant ability plus mastery die roll) for being a halfling, plus his second free purchase (mastery die roll only) for being a thief.

Skill mastery levels begin at 0 and may increase to 100.

High relevant ability scores significantly add to your character’s skill mastery. Conversely, a low ability (i.e. aptitude) makes it difficult to master the subject. Relevant ability adjustments never reduce a mastery die roll below 1.


When you need to make a skill check, you simply roll percentile dice and add any positive or negative modifiers incurred by the circumstances. If the final result is within (less than or equal to) your character’s mastery of that skill, he succeeds.

For universal skills in which the character has no mastery, the player may roll percentile dice against the skill’s relevant ability. (If two relevant ability scores are listed, use the score in which the character is weakest.) If a skill is not a universal skill, a character must have points in it to be able to use it.


Where some guidance might be needed, a skill description includes one or more charts – a mastery chart and/or a difficulty chart. Mastery charts define what your character can do with this skill; it shows your character’s limitations based on his current level of mastery. Note that the mastery chart is not all-inclusive, but serves as a quick guideline for a character’s skill uses and restrictions.

A difficulty chart provides some examples of what might make a skill more difficult to use (e.g. darkness, excessive noise, poor materials, makeshift tools, being fired upon, angry animals, hostile characters and so on). The GM should set the difficulty level as he feels appropriate for the situation.

Of course, how difficult a task is affects what sort of bonuses or penalties (if any) apply to the skill check.


Sometimes you’ll need to attempt skill checks that only involve your character, such as when he needs to recall information about Ancient History, use Blacksmithing to fabricate a metal part, attempt Survival in a harsh wasteland and so on. These checks are pretty straightforward and only require a percentile roll (with any bonuses or penalties) that’s equal to or less than your character’s mastery of that skill.

However, when you need to make a skill check against another character (usually when trying to evade their notice or forcing them to take some action), you’ll be making an opposed skill check. With an opposed check, you and your opponent each roll d% and add the appropriate skill mastery. The winner is the character with the highest result. The GM should determine whether either character (or both) receive any bonuses or penalties to the check.

Depending on the situation, the opposing characters may roll the same skill (e.g., two characters attempting to race up parallel hanging ropes would both roll Climbing checks) or different skills. A chart provides some guidance as to which opposing skills may be appropriate.

For an example of opposed check, let’s say that Redblade the fighter wants to sneak down a castle hallway past an open arch, on the other side of which is a burly guard. To attempt this opposed check, Redblade’s player rolls d% and adds his Sneaking skill mastery, for a total result of 36. Since the guard is an NPC, the GM rolls d% for him, adding the guard’s Listening skill mastery (it being better than his Observation skill mastery) for a total 73. Since he exceeded Redblade’s score, the guard hears Redblade moving about.

The GM might now describe the scene to Redblade’s player and give him a chance to take action. “The sound of metal on stone echoes through the corridor as your shield scrapes against the wall. Suddenly, you hear a gruff, manly voice shout ‘Who’s there?’ from the other side of the arch. What do you do now?”

The previous example works well for player character races where the subject’s mastery of a skill can either be explicitly stated or, in the case of universal skills, extrapolated from a relevant ability score. However, since ability scores may not be listed for each and every non-player character encountered and monsters do not have ability score explicitly defined, a quick workaround is to roll d100+d20 any time an NPC or monster is required to make an opposed check versus some player action (typically Listening, Observation or Resist Persuasion).

In another example, let’s assume that Melidor, an elf thief who’s been badly wounded, wants to hide from an enemy. In this instance, however, the enemy is a prowling owlbeast. When Melidor attempts his opposed check, his player rolls d% and adds Melidor’s Hiding skill mastery for a total of 55. He also decides to spend four Luck points and so adds +20 to the opposed check (+5 for each Luck point spent), for a grand total of 75.

Owlbeasts don’t have a Wisdom score listed from which to compute their Observation mastery (the typical opposed skill vs. Hiding). Nonetheless, it is a universal skill and the monster certainly has the sense organs to utilize it. In this situation, the GM simply rolls d% and adds a d20. The d% comes up as 60 and the d20 as 11, making a total of 71. Melidor’s result of 75 is higher, so he succeeds in evading the owlbeast’s notice.