My HackMaster Basic "Review"
by, 09-07-2009 at 03:10 PM (3312 Views)
Disclaimer - Keep in mind that I haven't yet played the game, only read the rulebook. What follows is written with the assumption that the reader has more than passing knowledge of HackMaster 4th edition, enjoys 4th edition, and realizes that 4th edition was a serious game with parody elements, not a parody game with serious elements. There are plenty of venues out there where one can find clear, detailed reviews that cover the book chapter by chapter from cover to cover. You won't find that here. What you will find is a "review" that's a rambling mess, containing numerous asides, parantheticals, and tangents. (Think Ulysses or Gravity's Rainbow but without the allegory. Or talent.) By no means is it comprehensive in its "review." It is subjective, arbitrary, and blatantly opinionated. Deal with it. Or ignore it. Either way, I'm not your trained monkey.
To start, my rants in ascending order of ire:
Percentile Points - Despite the book's claims, the percentile, or fractional, part of an ability score is not equivalent to a decimal value. That this, 10/45 does not equal 10.45 and 10/100 most definitely does not equal 10.100. 10/45 is equivalent to 10.44. Percentiles go from 1 to 100, decimals go from 0 to 99. Yes, I know it's been a tradition since the time of Gygax and exceptional strength to go from 1 to 100, but they've already messed with one tradition (see below), why not go ahead and have fractional ability scores go from 0 to 99 in a sensible manner?
The Classes - The four classes are Fighter, Cleric, Thief, and Mage. Why "Mage"? What's wrong with good, old-fashioned Magic-user? It was Magic-user back in 1974 when the RPGs were first created; it was Magic-user when I picked up the red box in 1981; it was Magic-user when I picked up AD&D. (Don't say a word about 2nd edition. 2nd edition, like UFOs and Highlander 2, was a mass hallucination and never really existed. Go back to sleep.) Hell, Magic-user was good enough HackMaster 4th edition. Why would they change the class to "Mage"? May as well have started calling Thieves "Rouges." (For the sake of my blood pressure I'm going to stop right here where "rouge" and "epilouge" are concerned. [Fracking morons. Learn to spell. And proofread. Idiots.])
"p" Notation - HackMaster Basic keeps penetration dice from 4th edition (and other RPGs) and to denote which dice penetrate the writers have appended a "p" to the notation. So a penetrating d6 is written as d6p and three penetrating d8s with a -3 modifier becomes 3d8p-3. Personally, I find this inefficient and cumbersome (and a little bit stupid.) This notation becomes worse with the damage dice for certain weapons, e.g. the Great Axe which has a damage die of a penetrating d8 and a penetrating d12. (The reason for mixed die damage is actually a nice mechanic involving shields, but that's not the issue.) The issue is that the damage is denoted as (d8+d12)p. The stupidity here is that one would assume, and I believe I am correct in this assumption, that this means that penetration occurs individually with each die; so if the d8 rolls an 8 then penetration would apply to the d8 regardless of the result of the d12 and a roll of 12 on the d12 penetrates regardless of the result of the d8. But that's not what the notation says! (d8+d12)p is not the same as d8p+d12p; the distributive property does not apply in this situation. As anyone with a 9th grade education should know (not that I really expect anyone with a 9th grade education to know, anymore, just that they should know), the parentheses means you calculate what is inside first. With this notation, when the total of the d8 and the d12 is 20, the maximum of the two dice combined, then penetration occurs and both dice are re-rolled. So penetration, by strict following the notation as written, occurs just over 1% of the time (1 in 96), not just over 20% of the time (19 in 96). (Another example where the distributive property doesn't work is Boolean Algebra: ~(A+B)!=~A+~B, but ~A*~B.)
I hereby offer a new notation for penetrating dice that isn't cumbersome and isn't stupid (other than simply remembering when penetration is applicable, when it is not, and getting rid of the "p" altogether): a penetrating die with X sides shall be denoted as pX. So a penetrating six-sided die becomes p6, three penetrating d8s with a -3 modifier becomes 3p8-3, and the damage for a Great Axe is p8+p12. There you go. Simple, efficient, and not stupid. You're welcome.
Typos - This is my big issue, far eclipsing the annoyances of the previous three. And it's not that there are very many typos, because compared to some books I've read, this is practically error free (see "rouge" above. [And that was in a book about Thieves Guilds. Imbiciles.]) After telling the shop owner to order a copy of this book; going back a week later and telling him that I'm serious, I want to buy one and no, it is not out of print, this is a new product, so order a copy; returning the following week and telling the guy that if he doesn't want my custom I can always order from Amazon; then finally getting the book, I read the Quick Start rules in the shop and get to page 9. Page 9. Not even one-twentieth of the way into the book. Less than 5% done. Even before I've left the shop. Page 9! In a table of additional proficiencies and skills for Clerics by choice of Gawd, The True is listed twice. The Gawds available to Clerics in HackMaster Basic? The True, Caregiver, Guardian, Overlord, and Creator of Strife. The Gawds listed in the table? The True, Caregiver, The True, Overlord, and Creator of Strife.
This is the kind of error that should result in one or more heads rolling at Kenzer & Co, no matter how trivial it may seem. Whether literally or figuratively I'm of no opinion, but heads should be rolling. What makes this so egregious is that this occurs at the front of the book, in bold, in a table, and this is the first -- the flagship -- book of a new product line. Nothing says "amateur" (and not in the good sense) better than a screw-up like this before you even get to the first chapter. I don't even need to take off my shoes to count the number of pages into the book it takes to find an error that an intern working for free could have found without any great effort. I mean, I found it within five minutes of purchasing the book and I was only skim reading. Inexcusable.
And onto the "review":
Preamble, Preludes, and overall tone - There's no Reality Check. No notice that this is a game, that it takes place in the minds of the players, that when the game is over "real life" begins, that trying to model your life after a game, and this game in particular, is a very bad idea. Where is the section that reminds the reader to separate fantasy from reality? You know, the notice at the beginning of the book that let's one know that he is in for one hell of a fun read. What do we get? The Designers' Foreword, where they explain their justification for yet another Fantasy RPG (like any justification for another Fantasy RPG is necessary [ok, there is no justification for Wizbro's 4e. Or 3rd edition. Or 3.5. And I've already told you once, there is no 2nd edition.]) and an explanation of why they kept the humor in the book: "This is a game, it should be fun. It shouldn't read like a textbook." (Emphasis theirs) The problem is, the book all too often reads exactly like a text book with any humor that might be there feeling tacked on and forced. Don't misunderstand, the old attitude does strike occasionally, the rules for missile weapons in combat being particularly good, but more likely the attempt is a miss (if not an outright fumble).
Also missing is the explanation for the use of the masculine pronoun. Instead, throughout the book we get alternating use of gender. "He does...," "She will...." Bah. Use of the masculine was good enough for my mother and it's good enough for me; political correctness be damned.
Erol Otis kicks ass, as usual. That is one crazy-cool, freaky-deaky cover. For the most part, I've already seen all the art between the covers. This doesn't bother me. The sparseness of the Fraim Brothers' art does.
Character Creation - This edition keeps the 3d6+d% for each of the seven ability scores: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Looks (I guess Wizbro owns the trademark on "Comeliness"), and Charisma. The new combat and armor rules (more on these later) have created a shift in which scores modify what. Strength: melee damage; Intelligence: To-hit, which is now called Attack; Wisdom: AC -- Defense, I mean Defense (AC doesn't exist under the new combat rules) and Initiative (usually for the worse); Dexterity: Initiative, To-hit -- sorry, I mean "Attack" -- for both ranged and melee combat, and Defense.
Building Points are still used to purchase re-rolls, proficiencies, talents, etc. BPs aren't earned through choice of Race, Class, and flaws. Instead a straight 50 points are awarded with additional points gained by either arranging the ability scores in any order (0 points), switching only two scores (25 points), or leaving the scores as rolled (50 points). Additional points can be gained through high scores for Int, Wis, or Cha, and no BPs can be earned for burning points of Ability.
Unlike 4th edition, Quirks and Flaws are not optional but manditory, requiring the player to take one of each. Character Hit Points are still class-based with a kicker and Constitution bonus, but the kicker is smaller (and not called a kicker) and the Con bonus is simply the Con score itself.
Classes are purchased, with each race (Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) having different BP purchase values for each class. Humans can purchase any class for 25 BPs. Dwarves need 75 BPs to purchase the Magic-user class, while the Fighter class is a paltry 20BP. So if a player absolutely has to have a Halfling Magic-user, he is more than welcome. He just needs to have been lucky in his rolls and won't have many BPs left to purchase the important things. Like weapon proficiencies, which cost twice as much for Magic-users.
The classes have no prerequisite scores, but a Magic-user with a 5 Intelligence will make a very poor Magic-user with only a 1% chance to learn spells and able to know only one spell per level.
No rules are given for multi-class characters. So if you play "old school," where if there isn't a rule that excludes it, it's possible, then purchase another class and go from there. If you play "new school" style, where if a rule doesn't allow it, it's forbidden, and you just simply can't live without a Human Fighter/Thief because anything less doesn't fit into your "concept" for your character, then learn to do your crying into your beer silently. Lord knows I don't want to listen to it.
A note about Races: if the Pixie Fairy, Half-Ogre, and Gnome Titan don't make it into the Advanced rules (especially the Gnome Titan), well, I'll just say that my disappointment will be great and leave it at that.
Leveling Up - Unless I missed the rules, leveling up appears to be an automatic thing; one moment you're bashing in a kobold's skull, the next you're doing it more efficiently. Upon gaining a level, a character receives 15 BPs and, as far as I can tell -- again, the book doesn't explicitly state this -- BPs can be spent on anything that could be purchased during character creation: skills, proficiencies, weapon specialization, fractional ability scores, or even (old school-style play) a new character class. Unspent BPs "rollover" to the next level.
Another gripe, but not big enough to warrant being listed above: a single experience table for all classes. Hopefully, this is simply because the levels are too low. Magic-users should take longer to level up than Thieves and Fighters.
As for the levels, the ep requirements are low, low, low, compared to 4th edition: 2nd - 400, 3rd - 1200, 4th - 2200, and 5th - 3400. Part of this is that the even levels aren't true levels, but are half levels. When a character reaches 2nd and 4th level (remember, HackMaster Basic only takes you through 5th level) the player rerolls the previous level's Hit Points, keeping the larger of the two rolls or half the Hit Die if both rolls are less. So a Human Fighter with a 10 Con reaching second level rolls a d10 (d, not penetrating) and compares the resulting 3 to the 4 rolled at 1st level. Because both rolls were less than 5, the player now has 25 HPs instead of 24. At 3rd level, he would add the result of a d10 and at 4th level he would do the comparison thing again. This is part of what I mean by "half levels."
Magic - Clerics use a very strict Vancian system, able to memorize only one spell per spell level per day. High Wisdom scores will allow an extra 1st or 2nd level spell, an extra 3rd or 4th level spell, and an extra 5th or 6th level spell. (Clerics of the Caregiver can cast healing spells as if they were one spell level lower.) However, the rules explicitly state that bonus spells must differ from spells already memorized, so no memorizing two 1st level healing spells. The bonus spells being either one level or another is another reason why I call the even levels half levels.
Magic-users use a modified point-based system (an obvious, and blatant, attempt to appease a vocal, and annoyingly whiny, minority of inferior players that don't know how to properly play a Magic-user). The Magic-user must have learned any spells cast and can "memorize" one spell per spell level. Spells that haven't been memorized cost twice as many Spell Points as a memorized spell of the same level to cast. Certain spells allow additional Spell Points to be spent to increase the range, duration, efficacy, etc. Rest is needed to regain spell points. From the book: "Once spent, Spell Points are gone until the Magic-user can rest; he regains his used Spell Points after roughly 8 hours of sleep. He cannot take a quick 'cat nap' to regain only a few SPs, smart guy." (See what I mean by the humor being tacked on and forced. This could have been a screed about players trying to bend the rules to their benefit because they lack the basic playing skills to survive otherwise. It could have been an admonishment to GMs to not molly-coddle the players. It could have been an anecdote of the painstaking research by the Hard 8 Labs that found that 8 hours, or more precisely 7 hours 32 minutes, provided the best balance between challanging play and a cakewalk. But what do we get? "Smart guy." Reading that is like watching a 14-year old boy with peach fuzz on his upper lip trying to seduce his best friend's mother. Sure there are some that don't have the sense to know just how wrong it is, but mostly it's just embarrassing and painful to witness.)
Armor & Shields - I'm having some issues where armor and shields are concerned. Both help the character by absorbing damage, shields absorb 4 or 6 points of damage per hit, as well as giving a chance to deflect missile weapons that otherwise would have hit, and armor absorbs from 1 to 5 points of damage per hit depending on the armor used. The damage absorption stacks, so a large shield with the "best" armor absorbs 11 points per hit.
The issues I have are two-fold. First, using a shield or "increasing" the armor makes you easier to hit. Using a shield makes it 20% less likely for an opponent to do full damage, but it makes it 90% likely that a hit will occur. If, in combat, the attack roll exceeds the defense, the shield is bypassed and full damage goes to the defender with only the armor absorbing part of the damage. However if the defense is successful, damage is still applied, albeit at half damage with the shield also absorbing damage as well as the armor. (This half damage is where the mixed damage die comes into play. If the weapon is a crushing weapon, the half damage is the larger of the two dice; if the weapon is a hacking weapon, the smaller die is used; and piercing weapons do only a single point of damage. Damage bonuses apply in each of these cases. If the damage die isn't mixed then simply halve the die, so 2p6 becomes p6 while a p8 becomes a p4. In the example of the Great Axe [p8+p12], half damage would be p8. Like I said, it's a nice mechanic.) Still, a successful defense, no matter the difference between attack and defense, is still a successful attack (excluding perfect defense and fumbles), and therein lies the problem I have with shields. It's as if the NFL had changed the rules so that when the offense has to punt on fourth down they score a point. The defense did their job, so the offense is awarded. If the rules were that if the difference in the attack and defense were 4 or less, or 8 or less, I could live with it. But whether the difference is 0 or 30, it's of no consequence. Then we come to the armor. While "increasing" the quality of armor increases the the damage absorbed, it also increases the likelihood of being hit. Each step "up" on the armor ladder means one step down on the Defense Score, e.g. leather armor absorbs 2 points per hit while padded armor absorbs 3 points per hit but decreases the Defense Score by 1.
Second, there is no armor degradation. Yes, shields can be shattered, but whether the armor is new or taken off a corpse, it still absorbs the same amount of damage per hit.
Honor - Honor is still an important part of HackMaster (as the overll quality of writing in the chapter on Honor indicates) and has been better codified, but now Great Honor isn't as powerful as in 4th edition. Dishonor still has the penalty of -1 to all die rolls, Average Honor is given the benefit of a +1 to one die roll per session, but Great Honor no longer has the +1 to all die rolls. It only has the free mulligan and one +1 per session. There is no category of Too Much Honor. Honor can be burned, 10 points at a time (and only 10 points at a time; none of this "partial Honor" nonsense), to give the player a re-roll, or to force another player to re-roll.
Honor Die - This is important, and drastic, enough to warrant its own section. THE HONOR DIE IS GONE! How could they get rid of the Honor Die? I loved the Honor Die. I liked the whole metagaming attitude involved with the Honor Die. "The Honor Die can ony be used for Honor rolls." "Do not use the Honor Die for rolls other than for Honor Rolls." "If the Honor Die is used for any roll other than for Honor Rolls, harsh penalties shall ensue including, but not limited to, losing half your Honor, the ridicule and disdain of the gaming community and, if you are lucky, being shunned by your immediate family." Losing the Honor Die means losing a large part of what made HackMaster HackMaster.
Talents, Skills, and Proficiencies - Talents work pretty much as they did in 4th edition although "Bonus" in Talents no longer means the same thing; Bonus Talents can be taken multiple times, but they have to apply to different things, so no taking Sword Bonus five times.
Skills are now opposed checks (which smacks a bit much of Wizbro's version of d20 for my tastes) and still have Relevant Abilities, but where the average of the scores were taken when multiple abilities applied, now the lesser score is used; the lower score holds back any progress from the higher score. Also the mastery die has changed, where before the same die was used throughout skill progression, now the die gets smaller the greater the skill mastery becomes. Makes sense. The more one knows about a subject the less there is to learn about it and the harder it becomes to find more to learn. What I would have argued for, if my opinion meant a damned thing to anyone but myself, would have been to keep Wisdom's Chance to Learn from 4th in some form and have that as the only means to increase a skill's mastery level past Expert (87+% mastery). You've learned all you can from the masters of the skill, now the only way to learn more is through personal discovery. (But leveling up is now automatic, so there's no schooling, so the character hasn't learned anything from the masters but just suddenly knows a little bit more.)
Proficiencies are one-time purchase skills where mastery levels are either irrelevant or covered under different rules. The most common proficiencies allow the character to wield weapons, armor, and shields. The cost of a weapon proficiency depends on the class -- Fighter being the cheapest and Magic-user being the most expensive -- and weapon category. The weapon categories are Minimal Skill, Low Skill, Medium Skill, and High Skill Weapons. High Skill Weapons consist, at this time, of only a single weapon: the longbow. (Let me take a little time here to write about the Minimal Skill Weapons list. The list is Club, Garrote, and Sap and proficiency for these weapons is free for Fighters and Thieves. Upon reading this my mind immediately went into overdrive coming up with a character concept of an urban thief that only used the garrote and sap. The BPs that were saved [all 2 of them] by using only these weapons could be put to use purchasing the skills to make one low-down, conniving, back-stabbing, dirty rat-bastard of a son of a *****. A character that would perform the coup-de-gras on a mugging victim after he had gotten the coin purse. A character that's mean because it's easy and evil because it's not. The kind of character whose mother, even if she were the Virgin Mary, would say of him, "I shoulda drowned him when he was born." So after I finally find the weapons table [it took longer than it should have, what with the lack of an index and all] to see what kind of damage the garrote and sap do. They aren't in the table. In fact, looking at the table, with a shaded line, a white line, two shaded lines, a white line, three shaded lines, white line, shade, white, shade, white, shade, shade, white, shade..., I realize that items have been removed from the list and the shading hasn't changed to reflect the new table. Son. Of. A. *****. I spent twenty dollars (and three weeks) on a product that isn't even the final draft! What the hell? You know what. I've changed my mind. I'm of the opinion that heads literally should be rolling.
In the automotive industry the standard is one million miles of test driving before putting a production line out on the market, whether 1000 cars at 1000 miles each or only 100 cars at 10000 miles - one million miles. This standard is followed by almost every major automotive company. Except for GM. The policy at GM seems to be to put a vehicle out on the market and let the customers do the test driving for them. I guess it's cheaper to make repairs for free than to pay for the testing, so a rule of thumb if you want a GM product is to wait for the third year of production to buy. Look at the Fiero. First put on the market in 1984, the 1986 model was when they finally got it right. What does this have to do with HackMaster? Not much, really. But somehow, I feel like I've gotten GMed.
A completely imaginary conversion that took place only in my mind:
"Where's the final draft? Publishing deadline is coming up."
"It's not ready yet. I have a few more things to check."
"Just give me what you have. If there are any problems we'll put post some errata and incorporate it into the second printing if necessary."
Oh, and Slings are not piercing weapons.)
Combat - Gone are Turns, Rounds, and Segments. In their place we have a continuing timeline in units of seconds, with a variety of dice used to determine starting initiative; d12 for standard situations down to a d4 for when you absolutely know it's going to hit the fan. (Halflings, Elves, and Thieves get an additional, non-stacking, bump to their initiative die.) No more waiting until the start of a round to walk across the room. Once you've finished an action, declare a new action and immediately set to it. It's great. It's unrestricted. It's freedom. It's not HackMaster. Once a character has attacked with a dagger (weapon speed of 7), seven seconds later he can attack again. And seven seconds after that. And seven seconds after that. And seven seconds.... After starting initiative, you may as well set a metronome. At least in 4th edition you rolled for initiative every round. They way it should have been done, again in an opinion that only matters to me, would be to decrease the weapon speed of each weapon then roll an initiative die the size of the weapon speed added to the weapon speed for each attack. That doesn't sound clear even to me, and I know what I'm trying to say, so let me give an example. Reduce the weapon speed of the aforementioned dagger to 4; then when determining when an attack with that weapon occurs, roll d4 for initiative, add 4 for the weapon speed, and add in any modifiers. In this manner, after attacking once, the next attack with a dagger will occur d4+4 (5 to 8) seconds later, plus modifiers. A Longsword (WS 10) could be modified to d6+6 for a range 7-12. That, to me, is HackMaster.
Also gone is Armor Class. In it's place are opposed rolls. More d20 nonsense, but I'm willing to give it a try because the Attack and Defense Dice change according to circumstances. Being attacked from behind? The Defense Die is only a p8. Trying to shoot a target at extreme range? Pull out that p4. (Yes, Attack and Defense Dice penetrate.) True, it's not a proper descending AC, but I'll give it a try.
HackMaster Basic has kept Threshold of Pain and ToP Checks but dropped Fatigue. They've also added well-defined combat maneuvers (Jab, Hold at Bay, Aggressive Attack, Give Ground, Fight Defensively, Full Parry, Charge, and Ready Against Charge) and Knock Back rules. Jabs are only available for certain weapons; in general, piercing weapons and pointy hacking weapons. Jabs are faster than normal attacks but only do half damage, non-penetrating. So a Bastard Sword (WS: 12(9), D: p8+p10) would have a weapon speed of 9 when jabbing and do only d8 damage. Most of the rest of the maneuvers increase the bonus to either attack or defense at the expense of the other. Knock Backs are just that: when an attack is for a certain amount of damage, before damage reduction, the defender is knocked back (sometimes knocked down) and his initiative resets.
Critical Hits and Fumbles are still there, but a Critical Hit ("Nat 20" and beat the Defense) only does double damage and a Fumbles gives the defender a free attack. Feh. Give me my d10000. Added to the game are Perfect Defense and Near-Perfect Defense. A Near-Perfect Defense is a successful defense with a roll of 19 on a p20. When this occurs, the defender is given a free counter-attack with his fist/knee/elbow, or small weapon if held, that bypasses any shield and armor absorption if the attack succeeds (remember that if the opponent is using a shield it almost assuredly will succeed). A Perfect Defense is when a defense is successful on a Nat 20, allowing a counter-attack with the defender's weapon.
Casting spells in combat is, for the most part, unchanged. Spells requiring material components require (p4 + casting time) seconds to cast (yes, the roll for initiative for grabbing spell components penetrates while the roll for starting initiative does not) and spell fatigue still exists. Spell fatigue is a flat 5 + spell level seconds. Is it me, or does it seem kind of silly that a 5th level Magic-user is as exhausted from casting Fire Finger as an Apprentice? Couldn't they have added a level-based modifier, say half the difference between caster level and spell level? [(Caster Level - Spell Level)/2] So a 1st level Magic-user casting Scorch would be fatigued for 6 seconds (5+1-(1-1)/2), while a 5th level Magic-user would be fatigued for only 4 seconds (5+1-(5-1)/2).
Additional Rules - Falling Damage, Illumination, Low light, Doors and Porticullises, Money, and Healing. Let's focus on the important one: Healing. A character doesn't heal a straight 1 point per day, or whatever the Con score dictates. Now it is necessary to keep track of individual Wounds and how many Hit Points each Wound was worth. The time necessary to heal a wound is one day of rest for each point the wound is worth for one point of healing. That is, a 5-point wound takes 5 days to heal 1 point of damage, then it becames a 4-point wound needing 4 days to heal the next point of damage, and so on. So to completely heal the 5 point wound in this example requires 15 (5+4+3+2+1) days. The good news is that all wounds heal simultaneously. So a character that received 3 wounds of 3 points each, 1 wound of 2 points, and 5 wounds of 1 point each, for a total of 16 HPs, would heal 5 points on the first day of rest (the 5 1-point wounds), 1 point on the second day (the 2-point wound), 4 points on the 3rd day (the 3 3-point wounds and the second point of the 2-point wound), the 4th day would have no points healed, but the 5th day has 3 points healed with the final 3 points on the 6th day.
This raises the question of how does magical healing heal wounds? Do the restored HPs go to the smallest wounds first? Does magical healing work on a single wound at a time, with any remaining points going onto the next wound? Does it act like a file, lowering the level of the biggest wounds to even out the wounds, then moving across taking off a point from each? Many different ways to apply it, each with their own advantages.
Speaking of magical healing, I like how the clerical healing spells heal different amounts depending on if the character being healed has been annointed in the church of the casting Cleric. Nice touch, that.
And that's my "review" of HackMaster Basic. Don't let the *****ing and grousing fool you, I think the folks at Kenzer & Co. have put together a tight game, regardless of the quality of the presentation, and I'm eager to sit down and play it. I knew a guy who didn't like The Beatles because "they lacked technical proficiency" with their instruments. "Yeah, they wrote good pop songs as evidenced by their popularity even today," he'd say, "but their ham-handedness, instrumentally speaking, relegates them to the list of 'also-rans' in the musical canon." Or some crap like that. To wit I'd reply, "Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani may be gods in their technical proficiency but that doesn't change the fact that their music is some of the most pretentious and boring crap I've ever heard. There's more depth and soul in a child's playground taunting than in anything they've produced. The jangly opening note of 'I Feel Fine' displays more of the Human Condition than the entirety of both their bodies of work combined."
What I'm trying to say with the above anecdote is hopefully this has come across as the informative constructive criticism I intended it to be -- because I think they've got something here -- as opposed to mere *****ing for the sake of hearing myself moan. This is a game I want to play. Looking at the cover makes me giddy but reading it makes me want to punch little girls in the face. With a puppy.