I’m a brand new Hackmaster GM about to run his first adventure, who has never had the opportunity to even be given a demo of the game.

I think I (mostly) have my head around the system, but one thing is nagging at me, and that has to do with what I understand to be the – for lack of a better word – “realtime” model of combat. In other words, every second is meant to be happening simultaneously.


What if character A and character B are fighting with weapons that have the same reach and rate? It is possible that their counts will keep coming up at the same second. So if Character A says they’re going to do a certain thing, then Character B knows that and can choose something advantageously off-setting, or vice-versa.


How do I decide which character declares first, essentially even "acting" first in realtime (not game time)?

Note for answerers: I’ve run or played in almost every edition of D&D since AD&D, and played many other RPGs too. This isn’t a basic question about how RPG combat rounds work, but a specific one about HM 5e’s unique combat time system.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Dave, I have edited your question a bit for format and to fit into the standard SE method. There is no need to identify "edit" in your text, this board keeps track of all edits in an edit history. Click on the "edited x time ago" right above the editor's name and you'll see the edit history. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2017 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note to answerers: posts that show no knowledge of Hackmaster 5e's combat system will be removed. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15, 2017 at 0:00

1 Answer 1


The simple answer to your question is simply ‘it happens simultaneously’. As long as a creature has reach advantage, it will attack first, threatening reach being calculated as 5′ plus the weapon’s listed reach (PHB 223, second column); small creatures have a −1′ penalty to this. (See PHB 248 and 223 for this.) As is written on p. 223:

If neither has a reach advantage, both characters attack at the same time and results are tallied simultaneously.

Rules-wise, in other words, the correct answer to the main part of your question (“How do I decide which character declares first, essentially even ‘acting’ first in realtime (not game time)?”) is: None of the characters will act first; they act simultaneously. If this means they both end up killing each other in that one telling blow, they both die at the same time (I’ve had that happen at least once in one of my Hackmaster-games).

You did—however—add an interesting problem, which I’ll quote:

So if Character A says they’re going to do a certain thing, then Character B knows that and can choose something advantageously off-setting, or vice-versa.

This would clearly be against the idea of the game. If it is a PC–NPC-battle, you could simply ask the player to declare his actions to you first, since you already have decided what your NPC (ɔ: monster) is going to do anyway. If it is a PC–PC-battle, it could be an idea to have your players write you a short note of what they want to do. Usually, however, it won’t be an issue in that case, as it rarely happens that they have both the same reach and initiative.

In case there is something unclear with the answer, please let me know, and I’ll edit it to improve it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Cheers, mate. Funny thing is, after 2 years of playing Hackmaster (mostly as a GM—or HM), there still are very basic things I find challenging. I suppose the reason is I’ve been playing D&D for so long, I have to get rid of some old habits of thinking. \$\endgroup\$
    – Canned Man
    Apr 20, 2017 at 15:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand the concept of game-time simultaneous action. My question was entirely about the second part you quote. Since the time I originally asked this question, I concluded the same thing you described, realizing that PvP would only be happening rarely, so cumbersome note-writing wouldn't often come up. I also found that, as you stated, it was rare that weapon speeds came up on the same turn for two opponents. A big fear of mine was that I would be unable to deal with keeping enemy NPC intentions unbiased in such a situation, but it turned out to be easier than I expected. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2017 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ (In other words, I didn't "add" a question - that WAS the question ;) ) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2017 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveMunger Please, if you are satisfied with the answer, select it as your chosen answer. If not, feel free to enlighten us as to what needs further clarification. \$\endgroup\$
    – Canned Man
    Jun 22, 2017 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer assumes I don't understand what simultaneous combat means even though I clearly said, "every second is meant to be happening simultaneously." Instead, the comment ignores this and kind of assumes I don't grasp the basics, explaining what I just said in that quote. It then concludes by saying I "added" an interesting problem, quoting what the heart of the question actually was, but doesn't really say much to address it. I also think I made this clear already in a previous sub-comment here. It sort of seems like you're just wanting me to accept your answer as a solution anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2017 at 21:25

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