Monsters & Magic RPG: Introducing the Effect Engine
Last week, we looked at character creation in our upcoming Monsters & Magic RPG, available June from Mindjammer Press. As the launch date approaches, I’d like to talk a little about the core mechanic of the game – what we’ve called the Effect Engine. We’ll be releasing the Effect Engine under an open license, with its own SRD, so you can use it to power your own games, as well as to tweak and customise how you use Monsters & Magic.
Our design goal with Monsters & Magic has been to create a game which would suit old school games, but also incorporate the latest thinking in RPG mechanics. Most importantly, it would allow you to use your old school and classic fantasy RPG material with little or no conversion, on the fly. The Effect Engine is the result: a flexible core mechanic which takes the traditional classic fantasy attributes and statistics as its “inputs”, ties them into a system of “action checks” (either static or rolled on 3d6 + modifiers), and outputs “effect points” which you can use to cause a wide variety of freely-narratable in-game effects and consequences. Today’s preview showcases two double-page spreads from the game system chapter of Monsters & Magic, introducing the Effect Engine.
So what is the Effect Engine? Simply put, it’s a rules mechanic which generates effect points, which you then spend to create effects. Effects can be almost anything you could “do” with an action – physical or mental damage, knockback, wounds, throwing sand in someone’s eyes, distracting someone, even turning them to stone, on the negative side; but also positive things like getting yourself into superior tactical position, “powering up” before casting a spell, successfully hiding in shadows before your ambush, and so on. Pretty much anything which can result from your action can be an effect, as long as you can describe it.
The number of effect points you generate on an action check is equal to the amount by which your action check result exceeds the resistance. If you get a check result of, say, 20, against a resistance of 15, you get 5 effect points. If you outclass your opponent, you can generate very high effect point totals, and even create multiple effects. On the flipside, if you fail your action check, you generate consequence points (basically negative effect points), which can result in you coming a cropper – the Effect Engine equivalent of fumbles and botches. But, again, consequences can be descriptive and very varied – and are usually described by your opponent. That’s right; if you screw up your sword strike against that ogre, the ogre gets to say what happens. Or, more likely, the GM…
Effects change how the game plays; they can give bonuses or penalties to your abilities, as well as restrict how you describe what you’re doing and what you can do. There are restrictions on how many and which effects or consequences you can inflict on an opponent, or incur on yourself, and choosing your effects is a freeform yet tactical process, which gives genuine in-game weight to how you describe your character’s actions. There are many cool tweaks and extensions to this broad-brush system, which you’ll be able to read about in detail in the Monsters & Magic core book.
That’s a quick summary of the Effect Engine; check out the Preview for more details, and feel free to stop by at the Monsters & Magic community if you have questions. Next week, I’ll post an Example of Play, so you can see how the Monsters & Magic game works at the table.
Good gaming, and may your dice ever roll true!
Normandy, May 2013