Frugal GM Review: The Manual of Critical Hits (and Fumbles & Mishaps)

Frugal GM Review: The Manual of Critical Hits (and Fumbles & Mishaps)
I'm going a bit off the beaten path here to review a free GM resource for my favorite game, HackMaster. If you don't play HackMaster* I can understand that this review might not be for you, but I'm not looking at this strictly from an in-game perspective....

1st off the details on this item. The Manual of Critical Hits (and fumbles & mishaps) is a 172 page, 7.18 MB file that you can download for free at Kenzer & Company. The file is not secured in any fashion. The page size is 5.83" x 8.28", which is good for a tablet or booklet printing.

I'm certain that the file could have been optimized a bit better and reduced in size somewhat. The table of contents on page 3 is superfluous and the bookmarks are quite half-assed. A minor personal annoyance is when a PDF author doesn't bother to fill in any of the document properties & metadata.

Now normally these kinds of things would grant the loss of a couple stars, but I'm looking at this PDF from a different vantage point probably because I know the guy who created it. This isn't favoritism, but I know that this free PDF download wasn't something Steve Lawrence created for the HackMaster community. This was a GM game aid he made for his own personal use and it is intended to be used on a tablet. A few extra pages were added to get the page count divisible by four if someone wanted to actually print this up as a physical booklet. This possible secondary use as a printed booklet is the reason why the file is as large as it is. Of course, if you wanted to print this out, the full-color booklet will take up a LOT of ink.

Basically this PDF is a personal-use item that was made available for others. Since it wasn't designed for sale, or even for distribution (originally), it gets a bit of a pass on these "flaws".

The main reason I wanted to use this PDF for review is because of the creator's original intention of using the PDF format to create a useful game aid. The overwhelming majority of gaming PDFs are basically just digital versions of a printed product. Hopefully the PDF version is bookmarked so you can get to the section you need quickly, but even that is often a crap-shoot. What I rarely see, and never to the extent of this "Manual", is the use of internal hyperlinks. This whole product revolves around this extremely useful PDF tool.

Frugal GM 5 Star Review: The Manual of Critical Hits (and Fumbles & Mishaps)
The cover itself has two hotlinks, one for Fumbles (which takes you to page 5), and another for Critical Hits (which takes you to page 17). After the GM makes the appropriate rolls, these secondary landing pages have more hotlinks that guide the user through the rest of the Manual. Each page of results have hotlinks taking you back to these secondary landing pages and both of those have links back to the cover. In normal use you don't really have to manually cycle through pages, which really make this a useful tool on a tablet like an iPad.

I don't think I have another gaming PDF with this level of functionality on a tablet, which is the reason I wanted to review this product. I've had plenty of PDF products that could use internal hot-linking that could really amp-up the usefulness of the medium. Personally I love that I can use my tablet more and more as a GM, and it really saves on me having to lug around so many books to a game.

*Even in you do not play HackMaster, if you wanted to add a little crunch to your OSR game, adding these Critical Hits and Fumbles/Mishaps from the current version of HackMaster is easily accomplished. There isn't too much you'd have to tweak to make it work and it could add a lot of spice to your game.


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