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The Whitehack vs The Black Hack

Razor 007

New member
Banned
#1
I understand that both are OSR takes on Original D&D.
I understand that both are based largely upon rolling under a target number.
The Whitehack was released first.
The Whitehack has 3 classes for new players, and The Black Hack has 4 classes.
Both are available in print for a low price of admission.
Both are represented as being complete games.

Why would some people prefer the Whitehack, and others prefer the Black Hack?
What's the meat and potatoes of the comparison between the two?
 

spaceLem

Green haired rodent
Validated User
#3
I understand that both are OSR takes on Original D&D.
I understand that both are based largely upon rolling under a target number.
The Whitehack was released first.
The Whitehack has 3 classes for new players, and The Black Hack has 4 classes.
Both are available in print for a low price of admission.
Both are represented as being complete games.

Why would some people prefer the Whitehack, and others prefer the Black Hack?
What's the meat and potatoes of the comparison between the two?
I played Deep Carbon Observatory under Whitehack last year, and I can confidently say that it's one of the best D&D experiences I have ever had. The system is really well designed, and you can play anything you want (we had Yoda, a portalmancer, a time travelling psychic dinosaur, and a lawful good mindflayer who did kraken impressions in our team). The magic system is spot on, and surprisingly well balanced (pay HP to cast spells, based on a theme, discuss cost with GM). You really feel that casting a spell is a strategic choice.

All the important stats (combat, saves &c.) are tightly defined, like in older D&D, but general actions default to stat, which is 3d6 in order, so you really get the feeling that your stats matter, but they won't screw you over in combat. We ended up with a party where no one had a strength over 9, which made things really interesting because we didn't have all the bases covered, and had to come up with really ingenious uses of portals to proceed. I loved it.

The dice mechanic is blackjack (roll high, but under your stat). This turns out to be the simplest d20 mechanic I've seen to date, requires no maths, and allows you to have AC be no armour = 0, and more armour = higher than 0, which is what armour should have always been.

I think the only downside of Whitehack is that you can't get it in PDF, but we've ended up with 3 hard copies between us. It's cheap, get it!

--

I haven't played The Black Hack, but I've looked through it and it is much less comprehensive. On the other hand, it seems pretty popular, and there is a lot of 3rd party material written for it, so you're more likely to find a game with it.

All the combat stats go straight off the stat, meaning your stats have a much greater influence on the kind of character you can play (in WH you could play a strength 3 fighter, in TBH you definitely can't).

It has some interesting ideas for using dice to keep track of item usage instead of counting: you might track arrows with a d8, roll every time you shoot, and if you roll a 1 the die shrinks a size. If you roll a 1 on a d4 then you've run out of arrows; alternatively your torch could be a d6, and you roll every turn to see if it's died out.

--

I definitely prefer Whitehack, and I'm planning to use it to run a game in the autumn. The Black Hack remains a curiosity, but I don't think I'll ever get round to running or playing it, except maybe a one off at a con.
 

BrianBloodaxe

Registered User
Validated User
#4
Whitehack is tightly designed, well balanced and versatile with it you can run anything fantasy, and most things in other genres provided you are happy to have PCs which are powerful but vulnerable. It's biggest two USPs are it classes and it's magic. Classes are not strict in what they can be, Strong are characters who are tough to kill, Deft are specialists in any chosen field from archery to languages to gambling to flying X-wings, and the Wise are able to bend reality with Miracles. Miracles are nothing more than a keyword at the start of a campaign, as you play you and your GM define individual uses through negotiation, these could be spells, prayers, tactics, Dwarven Battle Poetry, anything that fits. Essentially this is the ethos of the game, strict rules for improvising the game you want to play, as you play it. And that's just the first twenty pages, after that there is a bestiary, magic items, good GM advice, a setting outline and two adventures.

The Black Hack is far simpler. Everything is a roll against your classic six stats. Roll under Str to hit, roll under Dex to dodge. Classes are pretty standard, but again, kept simple. It's all a bit rough&ready for me and I didn't see anything in it to encourage me to play this over any of the other dozen OSR games I know. Where Whitehack keeps everything fair and consistent through negotiation and tight design, The Black Hack seems to embrace the random and throw more dice.

If you are interested I wrote a review of Whitehack here:ominosity.wordpress.com There are a few other posts about it on my blog if you have a look around.
 

E.T.Smith

A Most Sincere Poseur
Validated User
#5
It's mainly a difference in scale.

Whitehack is for running a wide-ranging campaign in your (specifically yours, not the authors) homebrewed fantasy setting with a narrative theme. As said above, it presents a few core rules that can be widely interpreted to cover many different types of characters and scenes, but both the GM and the players are gonna to have to spend some time making tose interpretations and prepping the campaign.

The Black Hack is for dungeon-delving, particularly casual pick-up play. It's designed to get players into that dungeon as quickly as possible, and to give the GM quick tools to run that dungeon right now. Grab any old-school adventure and you can run it on-the-fly with no prep.

The OP seems concenred about number of classes; in Whitehack the classes are few but open to wide interpretation to cover all character concepts; more classes aren't needed. In the Black Hack, the classes are specific, and the main rules include only the four classic classes, but it's easy to design new ones and dozens of fan-made classes exist.
 
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Razor 007

New member
Banned
#6
It seems the Whitehack is getting all the love thus far?

I ended up finding the Black Hack rules via a free download last night. My Google search paid off.

The Black Hack appears to be super simple, with four classic beginner classes, and ready to run after a quick read through.

So the Whitehack is a little bit different? Perhaps the Whitehack classes can be customized into being almost anything?
 

BrianBloodaxe

Registered User
Validated User
#7
So the Whitehack is a little bit different? Perhaps the Whitehack classes can be customized into being almost anything?
The base classes are Strong, Deft and Wise but there is also Brave and Fortunate.

The Strong are tough and good in combat so you could play a Strong Knight or a Strong Barbarian or a Strong Cop or a Strong Rebel Trooper.

The Deft are specialists given Attunements to represent their abilities. These could be their training or their weapon or their mount or their cloak or their lightsabre. You could play a Deft Knight attuned to his family's sword or his unique armour. You could play a Deft Steppe Barbarian attuned to his horse and his short bow. Or how about a Deft Starfighter Pilot attuned to the teachings of his deceased Jedi master, his lightsabre and his X-Wing. Each attunement can be used once per session to do something possible without having to roll for it (Your family sword shatters your opponent's blade/Your horse carry's your unconscious body back to town/You Jedi training ensures you hit the exhaust port) OR they can be used to do something which should be impossible provided you pass a standard roll (Your arrow jams the portcullis mechanism/Your horse runs across the frozen lake quicker than the ice can crack/You use the force to save you after falling to your death instead of facing your father).

The Wise are everyone who has the power to alter reality. Magicians, Clerics, Illusionists, Necromancers, Jedi Masters, Sith Lords and Sherlock Holmes. Their miracles are the realms of reality which they can mess with. So you could have the miracle Fire Magic and then in game you could create effects like fireball, lava wall, cremate zombie horde or animate flame. You could have the Miracle of Healing or your miracles could be The Demon Fengtomb Bound Into Service or True Understanding of the Lie of Reality. Summon the Dead or Call Fairy Aid. The Force or The Dark Side. Elementary Reasoning or Leaning on the 4th Wall.

Brave characters are unskilled but determined. They are hard to kill and they thrive on their failures. Think Hobbits in Middle Earth or Xander from Buffy. Rincewind from Discworld. Brave Smuggler would do a great Han Solo.

Fortunate characters are rich and/or famous. Actual celebrities and annoying fops. Possibly even ambassadors from Alderan. Fortunate characters have an aide or a bodyguard or a batman. Or a protocol Droid.

On top of all that high-concept definition characters also have Groups which detail things like their day job, their species, their affiliations. As with everything else, it starts off vague and gets defined during play.

Variety is not a problem in Whitehack, and if any of this sounds complicated, it really isn't; character generation is just eight pages.
 

Eric_Diaz

Registered User
Validated User
#8
Just to give a different viewpoint.

Black Hack is easier, faster, with fewer concepts to learn.

Black Hack is more open; you can buy a cheap pdf, find the rules online, the author encourages Black hack hacks and there are lots of 3PP already. This is a huge difference IMO.

Whitehack is too "story driven" for me; this "once per session" stuff and negotiating spells is not a great fit to my group.

Both are great games, however; there are a few "black and white hacks" around IRRC, and you can definitely combine ideas from both.
 

LibraryLass

Feminazgûl
Validated User
#9
Personally I don't find Whitehack to my tastes. It comes off as... highfalutin, to me. Like it thinks it's better than other OSR games, when in practice it's more just airy-fairy and conceptual. The fact that it's unavailable in PDF contributes to that feeling in me. It's not that it's not good, but... its minimalism is conspicuous, if that makes sense. Black Hack is more earthier, more proletarian, more traditional, and more concrete in terms of play (oh, and cheaper), and as a result I enjoyed it more.

This is probably the most pretentious thing I've ever written.

To put it more succinctly: if OD&D is the game as designed by humans, Whitehack is the game designed by elves and Black Hack is the game designed by dwarves, or perhaps halflings (a dwarfgame then being more mechanically rigorous and complex.)
 

Razor 007

New member
Banned
#10
Personally I don't find Whitehack to my tastes. It comes off as... highfalutin, to me. Like it thinks it's better than other OSR games, when in practice it's more just airy-fairy and conceptual. The fact that it's unavailable in PDF contributes to that feeling in me. It's not that it's not good, but... its minimalism is conspicuous, if that makes sense. Black Hack is more earthier, more proletarian, more traditional, and more concrete in terms of play (oh, and cheaper), and as a result I enjoyed it more.

This is probably the most pretentious thing I've ever written.

To put it more succinctly: if OD&D is the game as designed by humans, Whitehack is the game designed by elves and Black Hack is the game designed by dwarves, or perhaps halflings (a dwarfgame then being more mechanically rigorous and complex.)
On the surface, my initial inclination is telling me that I am more a fan of the Black Hack playstyle, but I'm not writing off the Whitehack either. Both appeal to me. The Black Hack makes it easier for me to examine the product prior to purchase.

And for what it's worth, Basic Fantasy RPG looks interesting too. Yeah, I just went there. ;)
 
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