Mystic Ages Publishing

{imagination + fun}

The Basic Hack

The Basic Hack is officially released tomorrow. I waffled back and forth on what to do with this simple hack of classic fantasy roleplaying game rules, inspired by David Black's incredible Black Hack. Think of a streamlined version of that ruleset, rolling under your stats on a D20, but adding in a solo adventure, cutting out levels, and focusing in a bit more on a pure story-driven advancement. And hopefully easy enough for youngsters to play!

With your trusty battle axe in hand, you leave behind your devastated village and begin to explore the surrounding woods. You call out for your puppy. There is no response. You are just about to give up when you notice an old, strange cave near a canyon wall. The entrance to the cave is muddy. In the mud, you can make out what look like tracks leading into the darkness. What would you like to do?

Here is your pre-release link on RPGNow. Pay what you want. Get it for free. Have fun!


Debate Night in America is my newest release, a sinister, mythos-inspired adventure and story for Cthulhu Hack. Your Investigators will work against the clock to uncover the truth about a savage murder and the forces at work as a political campaign hangs in the balance. The adventure can work for any Cthulhu or horror type game.

The great state of Maryland is undergoing a tight Senate race with the winner helping continue to shape the national political landscape in Washington DC. Senator Gold, a long tenured politician, is facing down the surge of a young, vibrant outsider, Racquel McBrennan. On the morning of their only debate, a jogger is murdered by what a video depicts as Senator Gold himself. What foul plot is at work? Who actually killed the jogger? Why does the murder reek of arcane magics? Will the Investigators, brought in by a shadowy government entity called the Organization, piece together the clues and stop the rise of a political juggernaut - or will they worship the one they came to stop?

Get it for free or pay what you want.

I've sort of been living under a hole or something, because the Black Hack and White Hack (and other variants) have basically been unknown to me. These are sort of old school versions of D&D, harkening back to some of the original fantasy games. Nostalgia is a powerful force, but some of the simplicity and wonkiness of those classic games are fun.

These new versions often add changes to keep the simplicity and streamline the game. I dig it. It means you have tons of resources that you can easily modify to work from all the variations of D&D, but you can also get playing quick and easy.

Black Hack is the chief among these.

It's my kind of D&D-clone, using a familiar core and then going nuts in a bid for simplicity and speed. I love it. In fact, last night, I started a fantasy campaign with my kids using an even more stripped down version which I call the Basic Hack.

Here's how it works:

  • Use your six core attributes and roll under to succeed. (I like the Black Hack's attribute generation technique to keep things balanced.)
  • Pick a class. Fighters are good at fighting. Clerics can heal and turn undead. Wizards are good at casting spells. Rogues are good at sneaking and stealing.
  • Pick a race. Elves can see in the dark. Dwarves can find secret doors. Humans get a +1 to an attribute of choice. (You can easily switch this up or add more complexity.)
  • Hit points are standard. I gave the fighter 10 and the wizard 4. (Might want to give them more in the future.)
  • For class or race features, I give them advantage on the roll per 5th Edition. Fighters always get to roll two D20s when attacking for instance.
  • I'd give wizards and clerics two starting spells they can cast once per day. In a bid for simplicity, don't worry about levels. Our wizard got sleep and magic arrow (aka magic missile). I'd give a cleric heal wounds and remove curse. The key is to pick spells that will have an impact in the story right away to make all the characters feel useful.
  • Weapon damage can be standard. I like armor as written in the Black Hack to keep things simple. (Plus, teaching your kids math is a bonus.)
  • No experience points, no levels. As the characters advance, give them magical items, extra hit points, new spells, or a new ability. Or let them raise another attribute.

I'll be writing this up in a couple of pages to post on RPGNow this weekend sometime.

-- Nathan

If you wander over to RPGNow/DriveThruRPG, you can download an updated copy of the 2D10 rules, still in one page, with a couple of fixes.

Responding to some great comments and feedback, I lowered the amount of starting attribute points to 10. It's an easy fix which balances the game a bit more. I think you'll like it.

In the background, I'm still working on some edits to Army of Judgment, a post-apocalyptic superhero game that needs a little sharper focus before I'm happy with it. Frankly, I'm too fixated on the setting, which is painted on some broad brushes but doesn't stand out to me. I'll be rewriting some bits to focus more on the heroes.


I posted a couple of updates for the 2D10 line, which remains free and fun. There is definitely some good response on RPGNow, and I look forward to see how it might work for various gaming groups out there. However, there is more good stuff on the way.

Planet Nine is a free setting for 2D10, a sort of conspiracy-laden, alien invasion one page foundation for some cool stories if you are in love with X-Files or even classic bad movies like "They Live". Get it here

I've also updated the core 2D10 rules with some slight grammar changes. Nothing major. Grab it here.

Per a comment on RPGNow, I will likely scale back the number of attribute points available in hero creation to make things a bit more balanced and challenging for heroes. I am taking another look at this, but here's how it shakes out. A starting hero with a Prowess of 7, an occupation like warrior, and a feat like "punch you in the skull" could theoretically end up rolling 3D10+14 for an attack. There's few villains that would stand up to that. For now, I recommend distributing 10 points among the four attributes with a max of 5 to help balance things out.

Of course, I want heroes to do great damage, so it's not the end of the world if your heroes mow down orc bands. Go for it.

-- Nathan