Back in the mists of time, AD&D ventured out into space (of a sort) with the Spelljammer setting: now HackMaster follows suit with their own inimitable take on this style of adventuring. Forget any conventional ideas of spacefaring such as rocketships, or the quick wormhole routes that a variation on planar travel might give you... in HackJammer (as in its inspiration before it) you venture forth between planets in vessels that bear resemblance to sailing ships, propelled and protected by magic.
The Introduction covers the basic question of just what is HackSpace anyway? How characters get there, how they travel and survive, what sort of things they can get up to while there. There are 'explanations' for how gravity works, how creatures who travel in HackSpace can still breathe, and even how the ships move around and are navigated. Strong piratical overtones abound, there's plenty of scope for warfare between ships.
Chapter 1 looks at player characters in HackSpace, including a collection of new races that may be encountered during your travels (or indeed played by those who wish to be HackJammers from the outset of the game) and an array of skills useful and even vital to HackJamming. There are also a few quirks stemming from this new environment - including the delightful 'red shirt,' a luckless character to whom the bad things always seem to happen!
Next comes a chapter on the ships of HackSpace, describing with full statistics and several illustrations, some 37 of the ships you are most likely to encounter (or travel in) out there. Things like crew numbers, appearance, armaments and fighting characteristics are presented, leading neatly into the next chapter entitled 'The Dry Dock' which looks in detail in how you can customise your chosen ship or even build one from scratch.
Once crewed and ready to go, Chapter 4: Combat in HackSpace, becomes useful. This starts off with the underlying philosophy of the concept - ships in HackSpace normally only interact with one another if they come within 1,800 yards of an object massing more than 10 tons. Otherwise they are whizzing about at a speed of 100 million miles a day, well beyond the capacity of anyone to respond fast enough to have a fight. Once an encounter occurs, both vessels slow to 'Tactical speed' and combat (or other interaction) can take place. Manoeuvering is handled in the same way as aerial flight, with each ship assigned a Manoueverability Class, with the sole difference that - as their propulsion is magical in nature - a HackJammer may attain full speed instantaneously, should the helmsman so wish. Most intership combat is missle-based, with an array of weapons familiar to a student of Roman artillery - ballistae, onagers and scorpions all feature. Naturally, boarding actions also occur, and ships also may attempt to ram an enemy.
As one might imagine, spells work a bit differently in HackSpace and there's a big list of known spells and the way in which their effects will be felt here. Many of the limitations relate to the envelopes of air maintained about individual ships - there are several spells which require air to extend between the caster and the target, so if your victim is on another ship you probably won't be able to hit him until your ships close and you board. More seriously, fire-based spells generally cause an explosion centred on the caster unwise enough to try using them if he's in the Phlogiston, and will only operate in atmosphere in HackSpace itself (although fireballs can cross the void between ships).
Chapter 5: The Rock of Brawl describes a location in WildSpace, a city based on an asteroid somewhere out there. With a history of violent change, and having been a pirate haven it's the sort of place most adventurers will feel at home in. The current authorities claim to have cleaned up their act, but still look the other way when a ship which may have, ahem, recently changed ownership docks there. There's enough of an outline here for a reasonably creative GM to run encounters for visitors...
Continuing the theme, Chapter 6 looks at The Worlds of HackSpace. This describes Caz-Adar, the solar system in which HackMaster's home Garweeze Wurld is to be found - oh, and by the way the powers that be don't like you landing there. You'd think they didn't want the locals to know about HackSpace... Anyway, there's plenty going on in just this one system as shown by Chapter 7, which takes a look at the politics of HackSpace - an array of factions and empires and other groupings most of which don't get along with each other too well. Plenty of material here to spawn adventures aplenty and give characters a myriad of things to do when they visit.
In Chapter 8, there's a couple of complete adventures set in HackSpace as well as notes on how to adapt other published HackMaster adventures to be run there rather than on Garweeze Wurld. There are a few hints for those who write their own materials as well, in particular on how to introduce the concepts of HackJamming into an existing campaign.
Finally, Appendix A presents new monsters (including the Giant Space Hamster - how did I ever manage without a one of them?), Appendix B introduces new spells and magic items (including full details of the magical HackJammer Helm that enables your ship to travel HackSpace and beyond) and Appendix C contains suggestions for those wishing to adventure beyond Caz-Adar.
Overall, this is an excellent supplement for anyone wishing either to recreate the weirdnesses of Spelljammer or to explore it all for the first time.
Return to HackJammer page.
Reviewed: 1 October 2006