I like The Black Hack. I like it enough that it's become my go-to game, but not so much that I don't feel the need to change parts of it.
Mostly so I can throw away the piece of scrap paper I wrote this stuff down on, I present to you my house rules for The Black Hack. My personal Black Hack Hack, with short explanations of just what the fuck I'm thinking. If you haven't read TBH, these might not make any sense.
Rather than the d8 table in TBH, I prefer the bell curve you get from the classic 2d6 reaction table, and also would prefer charisma to be factored in. So I did the math to work (roughly) the same probabilities you get from the 2d6 into TBH’s core d20 mechanic:
Any time an NPC's reaction is in question, roll 1d20 and subtract your charisma score from that. Assign advantage or disadvantage based on particularly smart or dumb roleplaying.
-10 and lower: helpful
-9 — -5: friendly
-4 — 4: neutral
5 — 9: unfriendly
10 and higher: hostile
Notice that this makes the relevant ability score (CHA) way more important than it is in other D&D games, just like everything else you can do in this game.
I like that TBH’s “system” for advancement is more freeform than traditional XP, but it goes a little too far in that direction for me. This is my compromise:
PCs gain a level every time they complete seven distinct challenges. Challenges include any task with a legitimate chance of failure and adverse consequences. They include, but are not limited to:
- combat, when total HD of opponents is greater than or equal to character level
- obstacles and hazards negotiated
- manipulation of NPCs
- secrets discovered
This allows PCs to advance more quickly than in D&D. You could slow it down by making it every 13 or so challenges if you wanted to.
There are none. This negates an advantage of playing a fighter (or warrior or whatever), but the next thing kinda makes up for it.
This is any attack that puts the enemy at some mechanical disadvantage rather than doing direct hit point damage. This includes attempts to stun, push, trip, or disarm opponents, among other things.
Fighters roll with advantage when making or defending against this type of attack, unless their enemy shares this advantage and they cancel each other out. This is to make combat marginally more tactical for players who like that sort of thing, without forcing anyone who isn't interested to learn how it works.
I assigned abilities to specific tasks, in some cases changing the ability’s function entirely. The biggest change is reinterpreting wisdom as awareness of one’s surroundings and nothing else.
- Strength: saves vs. paralysis, melee attacks, athletics (sprinting, climbing, etc.), breaking shit
- Dexterity: ranged attacks, acrobatics (jumping, tumbling, etc.), stealth
- Constitution: saves vs. poison, death, disease, and fatigue
- Intelligence: spellcasting checks (for both arcane & divine casters), languages (which works like the skill in LotFP), tinkering
- Wisdom: saves vs. deception & illusion, reflex saves, dodging physical attacks, perception, initiative
- Charisma: saves vs. charm effects, reaction rolls
This is the biggest change really, because some of it contradicts basic assumptions that apply across editions. Suddenly your low intelligence, high wisdom cleric is an untouchable duelist but useless as a spellcaster. I kinda don't care though? My rationalization here is just that I like it better; mapping the ability scores this way makes sense to me. I guess I could let players rearrange their stat line if this was ever a source of confusion.
And that’s it for now. I might get rid of clerics and start using a different magic system at some point, but I’m leaving that stuff alone for the moment. I'm using the equipment lists from LotFP for stuff that's missing from TBH but that doesn't really count.