Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Gene Hack: A Review

Hacking is an appropriate word when it comes to "The Black Hack" as there has been a growing push by the community to create more hacks. The last review for the Race Hack was more of a supplement to the core game. This time we'll look at something that shares the DNA with the Black Hack but in a way is its own thing.

You can get a copy of the Gene Hack HERE.

The Gene Hack is a complete roleplaying game made in the vein of The Black Hack and bills itself as a game setting of adventuring in a "gamma irradiated post-apocalyptic earth; among the masters of the universe; navigating space dungeons; or even classic dungeon crawling." The cover art, some interior art, and a lot of the races give the biggest nod to wacky gonzo post-apocalypse ala Gamma World or, if you're a cartoon buff, Thundar the Barbarian. But we'll look at race in a moment.

Generating a character is a little different from Black Hack. The Gene Hack asks a player to generate scores by rolling 3d6 in order. The attributes are generally the standard we have come to know from old school D&D, save for Cha, which is no longer short for "Charisma" but instead "Chaos." The book acknowledges that instead of having a Charisma score that players should use their own self Charismatic talents at the table.

Chaos does the following things:

-The player can use Chaos in place of their attribute roll for a test. Such as using Chaos in place of Dexterity against a range attack. However, if the player fails their test they must roll a d4 and take a negative action based on the result. (Ex: Your wasteland warrior is struck by an energy beam and decides to use Chaos over Dexterity to dodge it. On a roll you fail and must roll a d4. The GM determines what that number means and the resulting 3 could equal x3 damage from a well placed shot or 3 rounds stunned, no action etc.)

-Chaos can be reduced to modify a d20 roll. Chaos goes down a point and a d6 is rolled. If the result is even (2, 4, 6) the result is subtracted from your d20 roll. If the result is odd (1, 3, 5) it is added to the result. So the player has a 50/50 shot of a result in their favor.

-If the GM has a situation that is not in the categories listed by the game they can use Chaos as a test trait.

One of the deviations the Gene Hack gets into over the Black Hack is the way the gamer generates their race. There is no class in this game, instead when rolling up a character one correlates Strength and Dexterity to create a "Form" the physical look of your character. Then they correlate Intelligence and Wisdom to create a "Flux" what kind of mutant power the character carries with them.

The forms include: Plant, Golem, Gargoyle, Gelatinous, Human, Android, Insectoid, Reptilian, Bestial.

Example: I roll a 14 Strength and a 11 Dex. So I have a physically strong creature with average dexterity. The result looking at the correlation table in game shows Android. So my character has the plastic skin and perhaps cold eyes of an android unit.

Flux, the mutant powers that your character has are the following: Telekinetic, Telepathic, Psionic, Primordial, Human, AI, Pyrokinetic, Cryokinetic, Electrokinetic.

Example: Taking my Android further I get an Intelligence score of 11 and a Wisdom score of 8. It appears that the Android has an average intelligence and poor emotional control, perhaps due its relatively recent sapience. The Android has the Telepathic.

So we end up with a Telepathic Android. Both Form and Flux give the character a number of ability and usually one hindrance at, not really balance, but just to make sure nothing is too overpowering. From the Black Hack, the Gene Hack borrows the concept of Usage Die (that is an item or ability is assigned a die, such as a d8, whenever they use that power or item they roll. On a roll of a 1 or a 2 the item shrinks a step. Say from d8 to d6 then d6 to d4. After d4 the item is exhausted or with mutant powers they are used up). Unlike items, Mutant power's Usage Die grows with resting. So a character who has a d8 in mind blast and uses it up to d4 can slowly regrow it by resting back to the original number.

Equipment in the Gene Hack, as far as armor, is much the same as Black Hack. The character gains Armor Points that are absorbed first with damage and require resting to recuperate and regain armor points. The Gene Hack takes a step further by having armor possibly sunder when reduced to 0 armor points (by rolling a 6 on a d6). So character's might not want to be too attached to their armor. In keeping with the simplified, generic spirit of the game, armor is placed in categories. Makeshift (2), Light (4), Medium (6), Heavy (8), Shield (2).

Gene Hack's weapon system is a little different. In the Black Hack, weapon damage was based off class rather than individual weapon charts. The Gene Hack has no classes, so instead players begin by designing a melee weapon and range weapon. Melee is designed via a chart with several options. The weapon begins at d4 and the player can add two features to the weapon. This includes items like: Bladed (weapon has an edge and rolls d6 damage. This can be taken twice to increase damage to d8). Crossguard (Weapon is designed to parry melee attacks. It adds +2 Armor points when in a melee). In fact here is a sample of melee weapons I made using the charts.

Sword (Bladed, Crossguard) d6 damage; +2 AP when in melee by being able to parry blows. Represents a lot of any one-handed sword with a protective covering around the hand.

Axe (Bladed, Heavy Heft) d6 damage; Add +2 to Str tests and damage. This means that it makes the weapon harder to wield (By possibly making your d20 roll go over your attribute number) but adds +2 damage (Leaves a thick solid blow).

Ranseur (Blade, Polearm) d6 damage; +5 Reach and gain the Advantage on the first Str test in combat.

Spiked Mace (Blunt, Spikes) d6+1 damage. The +1 is from the sharp spikes jutting from it.

Spiked Chain (Chain, Spike) d4+1 damage. This weapon has +5 reach and can attack 360 degrees. Swinging takes one round to get going and stops at will or when it does damage.

Ranged Weapons is a more simplified chart where player's choose a category and take the lists there. For instance "Thrown" category is a d4 weapon, has d20 usage, and has a Max Range of Near. This can represent knives or slings with stones. Meanwhile Heavy deals d10 damage, begins with a d4 usage die, and has a max range of Distant. This can represent heavy crossbows, high powered rifles, or ray guns.

Finally the character is allowed to choose 5 useful items, with DM approval. There isn't a set list, so a GM is perhaps encouraged to offer suggests or make a list of items one might want.

A lot of how the game is played reflects back to Black Hack. Players are the ones who roll only both to attack and defend against an attack made against them by the opposing force and it is all done as part of attribute checks. Enemy HD represents both their health points and damage from HD 1 (d4 damage) to HD 10 (d10 + d12). The Gene Hack also suggests an average, static damage the GM can impose on players over rolling.

So do I like Gene Hack? With some alterations it still has a lot in common with its parent, The Black Hack, which I also liked. It takes a few nods I like (I like weapon design for melee weapons) and also makes a mini game out of an aspect I usually dislike (rolling Attributes in order. In this case it also determines a combination of what your guy looks like and what power they have). I recommend the game, especially if you're a Black Hack fan wanting to go from a fantasy world to Gamma World without leaving the rules you love.

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