Stalwart – Superpowered Heroes for The Black Hack

Before my current focus on Cairn, I ran a lot of OSR games in The Black Hack. It is about as lightweight as a system involving the 6 classic stats can be, and is therefore ripe for the hacking. These are the homebrew rules I used to run a superhero/superpower game in The Black Hack.

The full hack can be found here: Stalwart on Itch.io

Some of the stuff I made for my own Stalwart campaign:

What is Stalwart?

Stalwart was my attempt to combine the versatility of games such as Mutants & Masterminds with a more OSR (or more specifically, NSR) sense of minimalism.

I wanted a system the players could just pick up and have fun with, while still having powers feel meaningful.

How does it work?

In essence, I stripped out the existing classes from The Black Hack and went all-in on these concepts:

  • Letting players raise/lower stats to raise/lower other stats
  • The Usage Die
  • Keep powers abstract, and let players flavor them

For instance, a default hero looks like this:

Hit Dice: D8
Damage Dice: D6
Protection Points: 2

The damage dice is the damage a player does regardless of equipment or weaponry, i.e. a default superhero punch. Protection Points allow you to simply ignore an attack – it’s The Black Hack’s Armor Dice without the dice, since we got plenty of other dice to keep track of! More importantly, Protection Points are abstract. A Batman-expy might simply dodge out of the way, a wannabe Iron Man simply tanks the hit with their armor etc.

The default hero has a few parameters: minimum and maximum values that each property can take. The player is free to ‘take’ values off of one property, and ‘give’ them to another. Basically:

Hit Dice: D6 - D8 - D10 - D12
Damage Dice: D4 - D6 - D8 - D10
Protection Points: 0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

So, you could lower your Hit Dice to a D6, which would allow you to raise your Damage Dice to D8, etc.

So, with a few simple tweaks, I feel we already get a lot of mileage out of character creation.

I’ve Got The Power

Powers work through a combination of Usage Dice and a Grade. A power might look like this:

Grade 1 Blast, UD6

If we look up the Blast power:

As an Action, you can attack anyone Nearby with a ranged attack (DEX Test). Attacks made Faraway or Close are made at Disadvantage. This can take the
form of blasting some form of energy (fire, light, pure energy) or some form of weaponry. The attack deals Power Grade Dice in damage.

The Power Grade Dice is the same as the Monster HD / Monster Damage table found in the default Black Hack, meaning that at Grade 1, this attack does D4 damage.

So, with Grade 1 Blast, UD6, our new hero can blast distant enemies with d4 damage, rolling a d6 usage die when they do so. What does the blast look like? Who knows! We can interpret it as Hawkeye with his bow (combining it with the Marksman ability), as Batarangs, Repulsor Blasts etc. etc.

Upon level up, the player can once again further define their hero:

  • Increase the Grade of the power (in the case of Blast, upgrade damage)
  • Increase the Usage Die
  • Pick a new power altogether

All in all, I found this system really fun to use, and I hope you get something out of it as well – be it ideas, inspiration, or maybe a fun oneshot! The full document is available on Itch.io.

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