Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Knaves, fancypants

I've prepared a new layout document of Ben Milton's Knaves . Knaves is a great, light rules set that has an extremely elegant core mechanic while retaining total compatibility with OSR material. It's pretty much the rpg of my dreams. This document contains the complete rules, plus a bunch of useful hacks from the community, plus a few of my invention, plus some useful resources from Ben Milton's previous effort, Maze Rats . EDIT: I've updated the layout to fix errata and make a few tweaks. Further, I've made 3 variations: KNAVES TABLET LAYOUT The Tablet Layout is meant for scrolling on screens, and contains hyperlinks. KNAVES SPREAD LAYOUT The Spread Layout is set up to print on Letter-sized paper. KNAVES A4 LAYOUT The A4 Layout is set up to print on A4 paper, and is probably the most elegant of the three versions. This is presented with generous permission from Ben Milton, and should in no way be an excuse for not purchasing a copy of Knav

Maze Rats by Post

In my previous post , I reviewed a bunch of my favorite rulesets for optimization for Play-by-Post. It occurred to me almost immediately that I hadn't really thought about Maze Rats enough. In fact, I'd mis-remembered and mischaracterized it. Upon reflection, one of the mechanics I took issue with is actually a big strength. Re-reading the rules, it seems like just a few very simple hacks could make it a highly-optimized PbP game. As follows: Danger Rolls are rolled by the GM. Danger rolls usually fail, so it is in the player’s interest to describe their actions plausibly and mitigate as many risks as they can, in the hopes that they don’t trigger a danger roll. 2d6 + ability bonus ≥ 10 If you have taken enough precautions to have a distinct advantage in an action, but not enough to have eliminated the distinct possibility of danger, the GM will give you a roll with advantage. 3d6 keep 2 + ability bonus ≥ 10 Because each character only has 3 ability scores (S

Reviewing Rules for Play-by-Post Optimization

I’ve played a lot of PbP games: all your favorite flavors of OD&D, AD&D, and their retroclones, Call of Cthulhu, Marvel Superheroes, Traveller, Dungeon World, etc. ad nauseam. In almost every instance, I forgot what ruleset we were using at some point. Which is a good thing. Once chargen is over, you spend a lot more time describing your characters actions and poring over the GM’s descriptions than you spend interacting with rules. When you do roll, it’s usually a combat to-hit roll, which you’ve probably programmed into the online dice-roller as a macro. Pretty much any game will work for PbP. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t points of possible optimization. Point 1: Resolution. Anything that can keep the action moving is a boon to PbP. A game that requires a back-and-forth exchange of information to resolve an action is going to progress very slowly. A good rule of thumb is that it’ll take 2 or 3 days to get a response from any given player. At that pace, an exch