Missing most of our regular D&D4 participants, a few of us tried Hackmaster Basic last night. Chargen was simple (using the quickstart rules rather than the full-on point-allocation knapsack problem.) We had a dwarf fighting-man and a racist halfling-supremacist with a loose affiliation for private property. They got a job. They went out to find a ruined caravan, picking up anything that wasn’t nailed down. They chased off some wolves, killing one for a huge XP bonus—the fighter was horrifically lethal.
We had a bit of a delay remembering that the Thief is all about skills, not backstabbing damage. He was hitting for a point or two of damage, net, most of the time. The fighter was doign 2d6p+5, where “p” means “penetrating,” roll-again-and-add. So the wolf died to a blow for 6+6+6+6+5+5 damage.
They found a trap, a basket of snakes in a tree. …when it fell on them and poisoned them. They had a couple social encounters, fought the snakes, wolves, and then some kobolds in a cave. The kobolds saw their torch coming down the cave entrance and had cover and drawn bows when they walked into the room. It was mercifully quick. The thief went down howling in pain from one arrow. The fighter got himself surrounded, in a system where facing matters an enormous amount. And that was that.
If they’d had a few more people, they might have covered for the downed thief and charged the archers, giving him 30s to recover. Or if they’d had a Magic-User, he could have used his big spell (burning hands, sleep, whatever) on the kobolds. But without that? Pretty hopeless.
But still: two social encounters, two puzzle encounters, and 2.5 fighty encounters between 7 and 10. Oh, and character creation as well as those 6.5 encounters. It did provide nice evidence that we can do more than one encounter a night, if we want more story and less fiddling with powers and less grinding through a zillion hit points. There might be yet-further benefits to something like WFRP2 or Earthdawn, which trade off a bit more tactical game for simplicity—one player still found this tactical game daunting, with lots of tables and confusion.