Kenzer & Company received many requests from fans of the comic to produce an actual HackMaster game, but initially they thought that licensing Dungeons & Dragons would be impossible. However, when they asked Wizards of the Coast about creating a derivative work, they reached an agreement that led in 2001 to the publication of HackMaster 4th Edition, sometimes ironically referred to as the most realistic and complete set of role-playing rules in existence.
K&C acquired the rights to produce HackMaster after the Dragon Magazine Archive software was published where Wizards of the Coast failed to get permission to reprint many of the original articles such as the Knights of the Dinner Table comic in the electronic media archive. A lawsuit was settled out of court, and K&C started producing HackMaster afterwards. In part of that ability to use AD&D rules, K&C is required to maintain a higher level of humor than in the Knights of the Dinner Table comic for products that are revised from previous AD&D material. Completely original works for Hackmaster are not subject to this restriction imposed by Wizards of the Coast.
Whereas Wizards of the Coast overhauled the rules for 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons, Kenzer & Company took the opposite action by revising the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First and Second Edition rules (including various supplements such as 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures and the mid-90’s Skills & Powers supplements) into a more coherent system and adding an element of parody. However, as a nod to the version from the comic, the first edition of Hackmaster was published as the 4th Edition.
The Hacklopedia of Beasts, the Hackmaster version of the Monster Manual, was next released as 8 separate volumes, costing $19.99 each. These books were somewhat optional as creature statistics from the 1st and 2nd edition versions of AD&D were compatible with Hackmaster. Kenzerco later released the Hackmaster Field Manual, which contained the more popular Hackmaster creatures in a single volume.
Since its release in 2001, HackMaster has evolved into a fully-fledged role-playing game, spawning over forty add-ons, supplements and game aids. Most notable products include a 32-panel gamemaster’s shield, a 16-page character sheet and a 10-volume monster encyclopedia.
In 2002, HackMaster won the Origins Award for Game of the Year 2001.