The Lazaro Heresies (House Rules for The Black Hack)

So, despite my initial criticisms of it being a cheap fad in the indie OSR scene, The Black Hack has pretty much  infected me with how I love to run my games. This past week I’ve been compiling together my own playbook for all the ideas, house rules, and add-ons I want to use as my “core” system.

It’s become a 24-page booklet that I’ve already handed out to my players (including two kids I’ve run 5e for in the past.) I’d share it with you folks, but I totally ripped off a lot D&D line art — both official and fan stuff — because I wanted it to be awesome for my crew and not just a tech manual to study.

So instead, I present to you a blog post hitting my big changes. I’ll do my best to cite who I ripped off as best as I can.


Capture the more heroic fantasy feeling of 4th edition without the bloat. Keep it Simple, fast, rulings over rules — but with some cool options.

Core Mechanic: Roll High or Die

Instead of The Black Hack’s roll under, all stat tests are roll 1d20 plus Attribute. Roll higher than 20 to succeed. It’s mathematically identical, and it maintains the tradition of rolling 20s is awesome.

Armor Class

Armor Class is an ascending rating. When you’re defending, you add your AC to your roll. When you’re attacking, you subtract your foe’s AC from your attack roll. Alternately, if it’s easier on the brain meats, you can just add the enemy’s AC to 20 to get the difficulty to beat. 

I still use the Armor Point values as the AC value. All shields are a flat +2, though.  So an enemy in full plate and shield (AC of +10) will take rolling over a 30 to hit — tough as hell, but doable.

Rolling Stats

I’m actually making 2d6+4 my roll for every ability. That gives a range of 6 – 16, with an average of 11. For the high-action heroes I’m even offering an array of 14,12,12,10,10,8.

Character Classes & Races

What I did was run with the four archetypes (in my rules labeled as Warrior, Specialist, Priest & Acaranist.) Each of the four archetypes have multiple paths — for instance, Warriors fork off as Fighters, Rangers, Berserkers, and Oathbound (kind of an in-between of Paladins and the 4e Warlord.) I’ll share these in the next blog posts 🙂

I also took races from The Race HackI combined the attribute and ability options, and in some cases I tweaked them to be more like the 4e races (for instance: I replaced the Gnome’s critical attack bonus against kobolds & goblins to being able to cast Invisibility on themselves.) I also turned some of the 1/day  features into 1/hour to kinda emulate the feeling of encounter powers from 4e.

Two-Handed Weapons

After mulling over several 2-handed weapon variants, I’ve decided to just let folks roll their damage die with Advantage. I seriously feel not being able to wear a shield or carry other off-hand stuff is balance enough.

Finesse Weapons 

Stolen from The Eight of Wands:
a Finesse weapon allows you to make a melee attack with your DEX rating. It adds +75 gp to the weapon’s value.

Spell Casting

Hold on to your ales, grognards, because here’s my favorite heresy:
Fuck spell slots. We’re using Mana Points.

  • Priests get 1 + Level in Mana Points,  Arcanists get 3 + Level.
  • Casters can cast a spell of any level. Casting requires a stat check as per TBH rules.
  • On a failed roll, instead of spending a slot, you lose Mana Points equal to the spell level. And, yes, I’m aware this means higher level spells are more costly to  cast than the old system. This is intentional.

All casters use Librams which don’t just have to be books — runes, sigils, tablets, living artwork, even tattoos can work. As long as it’s something that you can scribe, etch, or carve a spell into and touch when you need to cast, it’ll work.



So those are the base “heresies” I’m committing with The Black Hack. In my next posts, I’ll take a look at my spin on abusing the core four classes.



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