The new edition of the Whitehack is now out in both digital and physical.
TLDR: If you have never played Whitehack, it is worth it, drop the 15 bucks on a paper copy if your into that, or just the PDF if you would rather that format. The rules are easy to understand, the referee advice is indispensable. You can run this with pretty much any other Old School (or even new school) adventure you could want. It is easily hackable, built for campaigns and most importantly, fun.
Now here is what we have on the plate, a 10 year anniversary edition, the fourth total in the life of Whitehack. This edition has updated more terminology, revised wording to help with understanding, and made a few changes that are for the benefit of the player and referee.
As seen in the image above there have been many different versions of each Whitehack edition. This is my personal collection and I do not even have all of the versions from 2nd Edition and on. I do not own any 1st edition version of Whitehack (if anyone has one and is willing to part let me know, I am willing to get one through trade or possibly buying if the price is not outrageous.)
Over the years I have opted for a softcover “table” copy of each edition and the journal edition as well. The journal edition comes with pages upon pages of dotted grid paper for actually writing in. These versions make for a truly personalized copy once you fill it with campaign ideas or extra rules and rulings, etc. So far the 4th Edition has only an option for the softcover as Christian Mehrstam (the author) works to create the journal version for future purchase. A full list of the changes made from 3E to 4E is available on his website at whitehackrpg.wordpress.com (link to the PDF here.)
Why should I play?
I will not bore you with all of the changes but I would like to inform you on a few more things that might sway you towards this game if you’ve never played.
The community for Whitehack is small but great, and Christian is a part of it. He is always willing to answer questions through Reddit or the Discord; both links can be found on his website.
Next the Magic system is wonderful, I’ve already talked about this extensively in a post here and the 4E book does not change much here, which is just fine as far as I’m concerned. Simple word based magic, for a change you could always randomly generate your words but otherwise this system is wonderful in my eyes. Oh this version did get rid of that pesky OGL, so good on Christian for breaking free from those chains!
The classes for the players to choose from are a great mix of old school feel, but with the addition of groups you get the ability to really customize your character to just about any type of character you could want using any of the classes.
Groups are really the highlight of this game’s character creation in my opinion, it allows you to gain advantages in play if they are relevant to the task at hand.
- This could be your ancestry as a halfling, you understand the intricacies of gardening to a degree that no other creature might or can detect poisons in food just by the smell of the bread being offered to you.
- Your group could be a specific vocation you have had, as a page you know how to saddle a horse and pick the right weapon for a task, your horses are well rested in the simple stable your party is staying at and maybe they can travel a bit farther each day.
- The final type of group is an affiliation, you could be affiliated with the mushroom’s guild and have an ability to traverse caves with ease granting a double positive roll against getting lost in a cavern setting, or maybe your better able to barter in a city where the guild is present.
The core rules are simple; you roll under your stat but still want to roll as high as possible. There are some occasions where you can get a double positive or double negative roll (what would essentially be referred to as advantage or disadvantage in todays OSR environment). There are other special occasion rules but they are easy to grasp for the most part. The only part that seems to get most people tripped up is the Auction. which really in play does not come out as that hard once you get one or two under your belt, and they can be a really cool way to resolve some of those harder case situations like a chase without having to have 40 rolls to check on who is doing what.
What is the downside?
If there is a downside to the ruleset it is that there are the classic six stats in one form or another, they have some different names but you get it. I have made it apparent that I am a fan of the 3 stat systems that are popular today. At least all of the stats in Whitehack have a specific purpose and add something legitimately to each character, depending on your class. It honestly is the one of the few things I would personally change from the system, but playing it as is does feel good anyway so not really a big gripe to me in this case.
Also no pictures in the book, just a couple ASCII illustrations to demonstrate a few instances of rules. Also the covers, both front and back, are the character sheet (pictured below. They are simple character sheets which just go to show how simple the game feels when playing. Bells and whistles are not here if that is what you are looking for go find something else.
This is a great book for bringing in people to the hobby. There is plenty of advice and examples to help a new person play. I would even offer this as a book that a referee could use early on in their career. There is enough stuff to help advise on creating a world, and running a campaign. While many would point to Worlds Without Numbers, I would actually push this towards new folks. This is a much smaller read and with the support of the community to answer questions, you can jump in and really just start playing knowing the core rule.
There are lots of new and innovative features like the ghost form, which is a way to make it not as shitty to loose a character in a game (most of the OSR would say make a new character and drop them in, but this is a nice alternative that can help a player say good bye to their character). The auction as mentioned above. Bases, okay well maybe bases are not new or innovative necessarily, but they are fun and add a mechanical feature that just feels good in play. Macros, new to 4E, add a quick and easy way to NPC a larger faction, or group in a game that help to keep play fast.
The new form factor of the softcover version is a 5″x8″ novella size, making it the smallest of the version I have and with the exception of the pocket edition from second edition (I do not own this one). The newest edition comes in glossy (probably one of the least satisfying features for me personally, but as Christian has stated, it is the best option for consistent printing, collects the least amount of dust, and stays cleaner in general than the soft touch cover form 3E.
Before I sign off please check out The Last Redoubt a blog largely about Whitehack by Milton, only one of the most prolific people int he Whitehack community I know of. He has a mastery over the system that makes me jealous of his love of the game. I am merely a 0-level character in the world of Whitehack compared to him.
Derek Bizier, the “Deft” “Edition Collecting” “Halfling” Master