Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Monsters & Magic Review (part 1)

This is the first part of a multi-part review of Monsters & Magic, the new OSR ruleset by Sarah Newton.

First I'll cover what the game's goals, it's hopes and dreams. The basic mechanics, etc.

Basic Mechanics: Tosses the d20 and utilizes 3d6, I like it already, as you must know if you read my blog about my d20 hate.

Here are some of the gaming concepts which differentiate Monsters & Magic from the original classic fantasy rules:

Narrative freedom. If you can describe your character doing it, the rules should model it. If you want to draw on your love for the dead king to persuade the tournament audience to give you their moral support in resisting the intimidating power of the Black Knight’s reputation, the rules should let you do so. Monsters & Magic does so, seamlessly.

Interpersonal mechanics. Do you want to terrify your foes? Confound your enemies at the Sages’ Guild with webs of logical argument? Drive men and women wild with your beauty and charms? Monsters & Magic lets you do these things.

Teamwork and leadership. The Monsters & Magic system lets you model characters giving one another aid and advice; warlords briefing their troops, strategists planning the battle, thieves casing the temple sanctum and orchestrating an elaborate heist. Rules for collaborating and helping others provide layered and flexible mechanics 
Monsters & Magic incorporates many other roleplaying concepts, as well as a few innovative tweaks you may not have seen before. It’s a fresh look at classic fantasy gaming, a way to explore new vistas in your favourite fictional worlds. We hope you’ll like it…

At the heart of M&M is The Effect Engine. This is an interesting system, utilizing the 3d6 roll versus the resistance (target number or contested roll); the result ends with either positive or negative effect points. Effect points are used to buy...effects! Negative results result in consequences (fumbles) to you. Similar to FATE, which makes perfect sense since Sarah also wrote Legends of Anglerre, a Fantasy FATE system.

Traits in M&M don't rely upon hero points to be used, rather they just provide bonuses when they do apply.

Rounds in M&M veer pretty far from traditional D&D, going from 6 seconds to a full minute. But more on gameplay later.

Character Creation
This part feels like Old School character gen, with a few twists.
First off, the 6 ability scores will be very familiar:
Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.

Stats are derived in a manner common to old school dice rolls (various, including 3d6, 4d6, even 5d6 drop 2.) or from point buy.

The attribute modifiers, this is where things start to deviate a little. First, they seem similar to 3rd edition, 10-11=+1, 12-13=+1, 18+=4, etc, looks like 3.5. This holds true except for the prime attribute.Prime attributes 'double' the bonus, and if the stat had a penalty, it is bumped up by two. This means a character with an 18 in a primary has a +8 bonus...WOW, that's huge. I need to see this in play to see if it's too powerful. Now, it doesn't appear that the stats increase above 18 at this point. Sub-classes (more on these later) have a secondary attribute as well. A Primary stat 15+ gains a 10% XP bonus.

As secondary stat doesn't grant the double ATT bonus, it actually makes a Fighter/Magic-User and the Magic-User/Fighter different on a whole other level.

Again, the races feel familiar, utilizing attribute modifiers which should feel normal to anyone who has played OGL. Elves have the +2 Dex, and -2 Con for example. It does have some old school feel, dropping the class freedom which came with 3rd edition. Dwarves can't be magic-users as another example, and half-orcs have -2 charisma with other races.Where M&M deviates race wise is the the traits. This is where the influence of FATE really starts to appear; Highly Adaptable, is a human trait, but you're allowed to rename these traits while keeping them mechanically the same, in order to fit your character's vision; so if you have a character that is good at everything, change it to Jack-of-all-Trades. The Elven trait of Keen Perception, could be called: Eyes of the Falcon.

In addition to Racial Traits, there are background and cultural traits. These traits lend much to extended play. Perhaps your character was a Gong Farmer, and you're searching for clues to what happened to the family at the abandoned farmhouse, you'd get a bonus to your search through the gong for clues!

Feats in M&M are called advancements. (more on this in part 2.) For example a human starts with 2 advances instead of just 1.

Classes & Sub-Classes
The normal gamut of classes is available in M&M, however many races are restricted in class selection. There's so much to character creation, that tomorrow (Part 2) I'm going to actually do a step-by-step character creation, I'll cover some of the class selections, etc.

More t Come:
One interesting thing I'm really looking forward to reading about is scaling. The game starts at Adventure scale, but ramps up to heroic, epic, legendary, and finally mythic...but that part comes later.

THERE is a LOT to absorb in this book, it features lots of Old School feel, but you need to comprehend everything before you can really enjoy it.