I didn’t back this one on Kickstarter. If I’d seen it, I probably wouldn’t. But I heard a bunch of good things about it. So I grabbed up the PDF.
Black Sword hack UCE is game that’s heavy into the greater Sword & Sorcery genre. Think it of it as throwing together Elric, Fafhrd & Gray Mouser, and Conan. It leans really heavy into the Elric. It’s kind of in the name, Black Sword Hack. There’s things about it that I like and then there’s things that I don’t.
Let get the things that I don’t like out of the way first. Mainly because they’re all based on my own personal tastes and bias. Black Sword Hack uses the roll under your stats and player facing combat. Now, I don’t mind occasionally using roll under. I just don’t like as the primary game mechanic. I’ve been using roll high for so long that it just short circuits my brain. So that’s all on me. Also, it uses player facing combat. Some folks like it but I just don’t. I guess it’s just the psychology of the players that went a monster is attacking then the monster should be rolling. I realize that these points are totally personal taste. You want to play that way. Fine. I don’t have any problem with that. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t plan using it and adapting a lot ideas into my own home game.
Character generation is pretty cool. Instead of picking a class, character have origins; Barbarian, Civilized, and Decadent. Each Origin has several Backgrounds and few Background that are Unique. Pick two Backgrounds according to your Origin and one more Background that can be from any other Origin except Backgrounds that are Unique to the other Background. And that’s pretty much it. Each Origin has 7 to 10 Backgrounds which means there’s plenty of combinations to create a very customized character. Bravo!
The other thing that I really like are the spells. This mainly because that they are mostly NOT just D&D spells rehashed and reworded. This is very good thing and magic is CHAOS! What does that mean? Well, it does use a roll to cast system. Bad things can happen if you poorly. But some spells may work just too well on a Crit. For example, Spontaneous Combustion will set a target on fire. Roll too well and everybody gets set on fire. I like it!
There’s also rules for Demonic Pacts, Fairie Ties, and Twisted Science. These are nice add on’s and the book says use whichever you want depending on your campaign. Each of these adds unique powers and abilities to characters but many do come at a cost. And can’t not have Rune Blades. I did mention Elric earlier. The book does round out with plenty of random table and inspirational ideas to use in your game.
At the start of this review, I said that I wasn’t that fond of the underlying roll under system. Well, there are a couple of good systems that I can think of the I will probably porting the inspirations into. That’s Deathbringer and Knave. Both these games are light weight and easily hackable to merged with many of the ideas of Black Sword Hack. And yes, in case you are living under a rock, Knave 2nd Edition it out on Kickstarter as of this writing.
I’m pleased that I picked up Black Sword Hack UCE. It’s got some cool ideas that I plan using in the future. You can pick up Black Sword Hack Ultimate Chaos Edition over at the Merry Mushmen’s website.
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