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The Monsters & Magic RPG

April 30, 2013

Monsters & Magic RPG

The Monsters & Magic RPG

It’s been a busy few months! My last post on RPGs was way back in January, mentioning a little thing I’d been working on since Christmas I was calling “Monsters & Magic” – my own take on the old school renaissance group of RPGs, which aim at replicating and emulating that old school fantasy roleplaying experience. Well – things have definitely moved on, and we’re now in layout on the new RPG from Mindjammer Press – Monsters & Magic!

We announced the game back in March, in a joint press release with Angus Abranson’s Chronicle City, who’ll be producing and publishing the print version of the game. Since then we’ve been heads down playtesting and polishing, and finally I think we’re in a good position to start talking about the game in detail. Thanks for your patience!

Monsters & Magic is a modern-rules fantasy RPG with a distinctly old school flavour. It’s a complete game in its own right – the core book is approximately 80,000 words, and we’re expecting it’ll exit layout between 128 and 156 pages in length. It’s going to be a gorgeous paperback, with all new artwork by such RPG industry luminaries as Jennell Jaquays (of old school Judges Guild and TSR fame, and of course much more!), Jason Juta (Warhammer 40K, Wizards of the Coast, etc), who did that gorgeous cover, Eric Lofgren (Fantasy Flight, Paizo, etc), Linda Jones (Triple Ace, Mongoose, etc) and Gill Pearce (Mongoose, Moon Design, etc). On the writing side I’ve been fantastically supported by our “Monsters & Magic Working Group”, which includes RPG writers such as Ben Monroe, Graham Spearing, Tim Gray, Gianni Vacca, Colin Speirs, Mike Olson, and more; and the layout and graphic design is in the hands of the awesome Michal Cross (Achtung Cthulhu, Mindjammer 2e). We’ve kicked the rules around and incorporated cool ideas for what we wanted this RPG to be.

Old School Fantasy - New School Play

Old School Fantasy – New School Play

But, although Monsters & Magic is a complete standalone game, it’s not designed to be used in isolation. No – one of the impulses for writing it in the first place was to provide a rules set incorporating all the latest RPG rules developments which could nevertheless be used to play all the classic, much-loved, and voluminous old school fantasy supplements, adventures, and resources we’ve all got on our shelves. Dust off those multi-adventure campaigns, those wilderness maps and encounter tables, those bestiaries, spellbooks, and gazetteers, and revisit them with this new set of rules.

Since our announcement back in March a lot of people have quizzed me about the “old school renaissance” aspect of Monsters & Magic – what that means, whether M&M is an OSR game, and so on. Let me start by saying that its core design concept is profoundly OSR: Monsters & Magic has been written to allow you to play classic fantasy type games, using your classic fantasy resources without having to convert them, of the shelf, as is, with minimal prep. It’s a game I’ve been playing myself for the past 4-5 months in my old Judges Guild campaign – we’ve been fighting giants in the Steading, and pretty soon we’re heading back (via a feast in the banquet hall of Huberic of Haghill) for the City State of the Invincible Overlord itself – and then on to further adventure! All of the things you’d expect to be able to do in that kind of fantasy game, you can do in Monsters & Magic – but you can do more, and that’s where the “modern” bit comes in.

Monsters & Magic uses a rules mechanic we’re calling the “Effect Engine”. Basically, you roll 3d6 plus modifiers against a target number, and the number of points you get above or below that target act as a currency you can spend to take all manner of cool actions. Some are standard actions – doing damage, moving, knocking people over, etc – and some are custom actions specific to your character class or even invented by you as you level up. It’s a simple and yet extensible system.

You’ll find a lot in the M&M rules that’s familiar – there are attributes, modifiers, and hit points; there are traditional character classes, there’s an Armour Class, and there are levels and hit dice. But there are mental hit points, too, and effects you can place on yourself and others, some standard, some improvised, which can give you bonuses or penalties and have other cool game effects. The system is specifically designed to be easy to remember, flexible and permitting lots of improvisation, while retaining a solid “gamist” backbone, non-arbitary and as crunchy as you like.

Effect Engine OGL

The Effect Engine OGL

The Monsters & Magic rulesbook contains eight chapters, covering creating characters, with races and classes, the game system (including the Effect Engine core mechanic), core equipment, advancements, running the game, as well as a selection of spells and monsters focussing on low-level play. There are also rules for high-level play, including running things like ships, castles, and kingdoms as extensions to your character – if you’re familiar with the work I did on Legends of Anglerre and Burn Shift, you’ll feel right at home here. Remember: you can use your favourite spell books and bestiaries with Monsters & Magic, as well as using the game standalone. The book finishes up with an introductory scenario, and an appendix on using off-the-peg classic fantasy material with the rules.

Monsters & Magic will be released under the OGL, and at the moment we’re anticipating releasing the “Effect Engine” as an open license too – just working on the wording of that at the moment. So if you want to write material for the game – and even create your own games using the Effect Engine – you can. It’s a non-setting specific RPG – use with your favourite fantasy setting, commercial or homegrown. If there’s appetite in future, we’re considering releasing further material for the game including expansions, settings, and scenarios. Just let us know.

That’s it! We’ve set up a Monsters & Magic Google+ community for the game, so please stop by and say hi, and we’re be maintaining a Monsters & Magic page at the Mindjammer Press website for game-related information, downloads, and so on. We hope you’ll enjoy the game!

Normandy, April/May 2013

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  1. Monsters & Magic – a sample character | Sarah Newton - Writer

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