Monday, September 12, 2016

Interview: Michael Thomas and BLUEHACK

Three things I love:
  1. Holmes' Basic D&D. Still my default D&D.
  2. Michael Thomas' BLUEHOLME. Keeping the spirit alive.
  3. David Black's The Black Hack. Fun to play; fun to hack.
So I was plenty intrigued when I heard that Michael Thomas was releasing a Holmesian take on The Black Hack: BLUEHACK.

I asked Mr. Thomas a few question about this project:

BLUEHOLME and The Black Hack both rely on pared-down rulings-based play, but they are two very different realizations of this philosophy. Why did you want to bring them together?  Did they pair naturally?

Michael Thomas: I thought of BLUEHACK™ almost immediately upon seeing TBH during the Kickstarter. Holmes created an immensely pared-down version of OD&D and Greyhawk when he wrote the first Basic rulebook. There have been other d20 minimalist systems, but TBH was—in my opinion—the closest to perfect.

What rule-mechanics did you feel were important to bring into the Black Hack from BLUEHOLME?

MT: Of course, I love all the underlying quirks of Holmes, so I wanted to try out a mash-up of the two. Rules-wise, I wanted to separate race and class again, and to add in those little elements from Holmes like initiative. 

What aspects of Holmesian flavor did you feel were important to bring into BLUEHACK?

MT: Flavour-wise, I mainly rely on the spells and monsters to re-create that Holmes flavour. The Holmes monster list is still the most complete found outside a Monster Manual.

Was there anything important of BLUEHOLME that just wouldn’t translate into BLUEHACK?

MT: I don't really think there is anything that doesn't freely translate between BLUEHACK™ and BLUEHOLME™. For space reasons some things like wilderness rules and treasure are left out of BLUEHACK™, but those could easily be ported in. I'm toying with the idea of adding treasure tables, with one-line descriptions of magic items, but that could increase the size of the book quite a bit. Maybe a supplement?

Are there any innovations in The Black Hack that are so useful that you’d make use of them in an old school game of straight-up Holmesian D&D? 

MT: The greatest innovation of TBH (as I'm sure most people have discovered) is the usage die. All the fun of resource management, with none of the tedium of book-keeping! Combine that with the greatest innovation of 5E, the advantage/disadvantage mechanic, and we have two great simplifiers without any loss of flavour. I'm all for that in this age of limited time and unlimited distraction.