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Systems You Wish Got Hacked More Often/At All

A topic by Samantha Day created Mar 23, 2019 Views: 592 Replies: 19
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I mean, we've all had ideas for PbtA or FitD or Belonging Outside Belonging or Lasers & Feelings hacks, but there's tons of systems out there that don't have a thousand hacks to their names. What are some of the ones you wish would get hacked a little more often, or at all? Here's mine: 

- Psi*Run: I think interesting things could be done with the Risk Sheet! There's an alternative universe where this, and not PbtA, became the Big Indie Hacking Phenomenon, and I want a peek into that universe. 

- Downfall: I'm biased because I've hacked it. As an engine for telling sad stories about inevitable doom, it's calibrated to perfection. 

- Questlandia: I've only read the book and listened to an actual play of Noirlandia, and it looks like it'd be long and involved to hack (not unlike at least one popular engine I can think of), but I think it'd be cool to see! 

The Quiet YearI wonder what a full-fledged hack of this would look like. Lots of list-making, for sure. 


I know of at least one person who has a hack of The Quiet Year in progress! It's not out anywhere yet, but I've seen a draft - it's about building a cosmology, rather than a ground-level community, which I thought was a neat way to branch off of that.

Personally, I think my pick would be: 

- Polaris: the way it structures the flow of play, and how players divide the control of characters between each other, is really interesting, and seeing the same kind of structure taken into different genres and in different directions would be neat. I know of one hack where the viewpoint was reversed, so that rather than playing a chivalric Knight, you played as the Mistaken, the threatening force, but I'm sure more could be done with it.


Wow, that hack sounds incredibly like my shit! If this mystery individual would like playtesters at some point in the mystery future... dot dot dot. 

I just bought and am reading through Polaris now, and first of all, I want to play the heck out of this--I know I've watched like the first hour of a stream of it, but it was a million years ago--and am wondering what a hack could look like. I'm thinking "outer space!" but that's always my first thought. 


Well, hopefully Mystery Individual #1 keeps working on that hack!

and gosh, reading Polaris *instantly* made me made me want to play it. I haven't had the opportunity yet, but I've kept my eyes on other people playing it, and am definitely conspiring to get around to it myself some day. And there are SO many directions you could take a hack in - swapping the setting for a different doomed community, swapping the Knights for some other group, even throwing out the doom and tragedy altogether and just keep the way Polaris handles authorship and control of characters and how they relate to each other, or simply the pattern of key-phrases and responses.


Yeah, Summer Job from Off the Table is doing this hack where you play the Mistaken as the protagonists, right?

So this reframes it to be about losing apathy/disdain and growing attached at the same time as you grow in power to fight the Knights of Polaris. It's got mechanical adjustments to reflect this shift in perspective. I'm very interested to seeing it play it out, it's not going to be any less tragic, though.
But yeah, I love the conflict negotiation system and I've been wanting to get to play it, as well. But also, a game that I feel I would want to feel really comfortable with all the players around the table.

Also, hi, I'm that mystery individual XD ... I'm currently wrestling with what terms to settle on and how I can use them to convey a working abstraction of creating a cosmology without making sweeping generalizations. And how to do that in a way that is still well graspable as a game text.

The main underlying difference (on a game level) is that it will have three perspectives you take on instead of two. So, next to the perspective of the players (who want to introduce interesting content/conflict/questions) and the perspective of the forces/deities/entities/impulses that are active in the cosmos you draw, you will also take the perspective of non-descript folks of that faith/worldview that have opinions, takes and interpretations on the cosmology they follow.

Once  I've solved the above to a sufficient degree, this will definitely need playtesting and already before that I also need to figure out how and where I need consultation. Because the topic as a whole touches on many sensitivities that I might only be able to guess at, in the best of cases.

I would love to do or play Polaris hacks. The progression is so good. The core mechanics are so good.

Malandros—other tight knit communities in tumultuous times with that attention to detail and focus, please!

The elegance that can be found at the core of Cthulhu Dark applied to something different than cosmic horror (there is also a free version of the two page of rules that game has but CN for use of ableist terminology that's changed in the official release).

Super selfishly I'd like some people to do the mind-boggling work of writing new sets of lifepaths and re-working the skills and traits lists of Burning Wheel to match. With, as applicable, a new emotional attribute here or there. Just to center the entire game differently (tbh, I don't know if this is possible). Also, the game could use another social minigame next to the Duel of Wits.

I also need to play some more Good Society but I feel like the core of it could very well be applied to different literary inspired works and their associated societies? Like, I've read people drifting it in the direction of Tolstoy and I can imagine stuff that goes more into the magical realism way of Gabriel García Márquez, for example.

(5 edits) (+2)

Ooh! I liked the idea of having more Insight-like numbers that cause trouble, so you're always juggling your resources against internal tension rather than against cosmic horror. Which led me to "What about Chtulu Dark but you're a Bioware protagonist."

If it's within your competency, roll your die.
If you've got just the person for the job, roll their Pulse Die.
If the plan is especially risky or complex, roll the Drama Die.

When you challenge someone's drives roll their Pulse die like an Insight check. When someone is unsure of the mission or has their trust challenged, roll Drama like an insight check. If a characters Pulse or the group's Drama die are the highest, as with Insight. When Pulse tops out, that character lays everything they have on the line for their drives--even if it pits them against the group--and then leave. When Drama kicks off, two people go at each other and at least one of them won't be staying with the team.

Ideally the protagonist is controlled by the group s a whole, but it presumably also works with no "protagonist" character or as a one-on-one game. Haven't managed to check yet.

(Edit: too many typos)

Eeeek! YES! That would be such a good take on the "assemble a rat-tag team of specialists"-trope!


I hacked Cthulhu Dark a couple times (into a time travel game and a steampunk ghost hunting game, plus an occult western where it's hacked until the game is nearly unrecognizable). Adding more Insight-like numbers works great when you have different, bad endings for each die. So in the cowboy game, you have your "Way of the Gun" die. When it maxes out, you are gunned down like a dog. If you max out in "Way of the Drifter", you wander into the desert and are never seen again.

The cool thing about doing that is it forces the player to make some interesting choices other games don't. Most games encourage you to find ways to make your best skill applicable to all situations. But this does exactly the opposite: use one method to solve all problems and you're out of the game quickly. So every character wants to show different sides at different times.

I love hacking Cthulhu Dark. It's got a lot of potential t be applied to a lot of different stories in different ways.


I'm still surprised that A Penny For My Thoughts didn't inspire a big wave of imitators and hacks of the game for different genres. It does some really interesting, effective stuff with how to structure the storytelling and how to evoke a specific atmosphere through mechanics. If nothing else, the "ask two people what happens, then choose one answer to be true" thing could easily be used in many other games.

I'd love to see Ganakagok applied to other genres. I think it's core mechanics and concepts would be great when applied to things from space opera to alien abductions. The use of Tarot-like cards in that game is really smart, and could be used in almost any genre (basically, the dice mechanics use aspects of your character and the setting to decide who gets to interpret the Tarot-like card).

I like how Swords Without Master structures the game as conversation into specific phases and decides who says what when and how the tone dice work. But I hate swords and sorcery as a genre. So I would love to see it applied to other genres. Maybe even tell different sorts of stories. (I think you could use this over-the-top action adventure game to tell some interesting personal drama stories, but it would take some hacking to get there.)


Swords Without Master is such fertile ground for hacking! I've heard there's a pretty good Star Wars hack out there but I'd love to see more stuff coming out for it.

I'd also love to see someone hack Trouble for Hire by Nathan Paoletta. It divides traditional GM and setting tasks between players in a really cool, fluid way. 

Not to self promote too hard but I published a hack of The Quiet Year this past year! The Summer Greening: A Blackwood Tale is a game about a society of bold rangers trying to hold themselves together as their forest territory grows weirder and weirder through the seasons. It's not a super innovative hack but it was fun to tweak the kind of story told through the card draws.


Making Swords Without Master into Star Wars requires basically no work at all. Star Wars is already swords and sorcery with spaceships, so using a swords and sorcery focused system works just fine.

I'm running a space opera game using Swords Without Master right now, and it works really well. Initially, I didn't really change anything except to rename things to sound science fiction-y instead of Conan-like. So your eidolon is now your simulacrum, Naming is called "adding it to your Orbit" etc. 

After playing for a bit, the players didn't like how the Perilous phase worked, so we scrapped it and replaced it with the conflict rules from Misspent Youth and that is great. but I think they'd have been unhappy with the Perilous phase regardless of what genre we were playing in.


Sounds like a fun hack! I'm familiar with Misspent Youth but I've never had the chance to read or play it. Interesting to think of swapping phase mechanics for something (potentially) more granular though!


There's a free version of Misspent Youth available from the creator's website, if you're interested in reading it. (I suggest then buying it and the supplement if you like the game.)


Thanks Nick! I think I bought Misspent Youth a few months ago but there's a big ol pile of RPGs I've gotta get through. I'll bump it up the list though!


I'm still figuring out what I want to to list here but as I'm reading this topic. I noticed that the following hacks exist: 

The Quiet Year has a hack called Looming. There's a podcast by the designer playing it: Atlas of the UNknown World. It combines Quiet Year, Spindlewheel, and darker outcomes. 

For Psi*Run, I made one very recently called  No Crime But Living: Fleeing Facist Wizards in a Modern Magical Society. It's pretty dark because it's supposed to be about the experience of disenfranchised people and also still under construction but I think it has potential.


Oh, I know the ones  I want hacked the most.

Over The Edge both the old ones and the new ones. I lvoe the flexible and background focused and it's very flexible. 

Unknown Armies I think there is a lot of potential from the madness meters and the way it handles that stuff. 

Puppetland it's diceless but I love core mechanic of what you can and can't do and the slow fading of your character when you get injured or act outside your nature. You literally have a drawing of your character and black out a piece of the drawing each time. 

But most of all: Hot Guys Making Out I love the core resolution mechanics and how it has what your character is "good at" and "able to do" and the difficulty acting outside of your roles.


I guess Savage Worlds? It's been a long long time since I've seen a change made to the core rules that felt energizing and fresh. The system takes small tweaks and changes for settings very well, but to me a "hack" is running with the basic mechanics until you get somewhere else (but I allow that maybe I don't understand the term fully). The only examples I can think of are the superhero rules for Necessary Evil and the dueling rules for Deadlands.

Technoir — the dice system is seriously brilliant, but the game got overshadowed by other bigger indie hits dropping at around the same time.