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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review - Monsters & Magic - Part 1 - Familiar Yet Strange (OSR "New Wave" Ruleset)

Alright, I know there really isn't any OSR "New Wave" category or label. Maybe I should have used "OSR / Fate hybrid". Monsters & Magic feels very familiar to the OSR that I know until it doesn't. Maybe I need to explain that a bit.

The intent of the author when writing M&M was to combine the classic feel, gameplay and most importantly (at least from my POV) compatibility to the OSR / Classic / pre 3e adventures and sourcebooks while also including more modern gaming concepts from the "narrative" side of the gaming fence.

I guess Dungeon World does this to some sense, but it really isn't "plug and play" with OSR and classic D&D adventures.

Anyway, back to M&M. It's built on the same classic ability score you know and love. You can even roll 3d6 in order if that's the way you make your players roll.  Score range from 3-18.

M&M includes all of the classic AD&D classes (including all of the usual sub-classes), the usual races (even Gnomes and Half-orcs) and the races have the abilities you expect, even if they are redefined as traits. Heck, it even includes racial restrictions to classes (although if every other race can have clerics, I dont see why halflings can't)

Weapon damage pretty much uses the dice you'd expect. It all feels very familiar, until you realize the system has done away with the d20.

I'll let that sink in for a few seconds, as it's near sacrilege amongst much of the old school.

Monsters & Magic does not use a d20.

Instead, M&M uses 3d6 with modifiers added to the total for task resolution / checks / combat / etc. Which actually makes prefect sense, as the bell curve makes a really high roll (or low one) less likely and makes modifiers more important. Look at that. I'm okay with losing the d20 ;)

Did I mention you have two types of hit points, physical and mental? You even get different sized hit dice to roll.

Interestingly enough, most monsters from classic sources are easy enough to convert to M&M. The more comfortable you are with the idea that "close enough" is good enough, the easier the conversion process. That goes with converting characters and NPCs over too. The play is different but the "data" need to run things is pretty much the same, its just the interpretation that differs.

Time to break for the moment. In part II I'll start by talking about "Advancements", which are sorta like powers, feats, skills - and then some. They are integral in personalizing your PC. Oh, and I'll "scales of play", which includes domain level play and more. And of course the more "narrative" aspects of play such as effect points.

Monsters & Magic is a very similar and very different take on the D&D I know.

(Hey, I have a free PDF copy of Monsters & Magic to give away! - expect a post later tonight on the give-away)


  1. Very interesting to hear, as I did away with the d20 for almost everything in Crumbling Epoch--but I went a different direction than this did.

  2. Are you rolling 3d6 to beat a target number or are you rolling them under your ability scores?

    1. The big problem I see with this is that "+1" loses its customary "+5%" interpretation. Also when you set a target number for your players, you now have to remember these percentages: http://anydice.com/program/246e

    2. Bug fixed: http://anydice.com/program/246f

  3. The question is "Do you, as an OSR type, find it interesting enough to play?"

    1. I'm reviewing as I'm reading, so I don't have a definite answer on that just yet.

      I suspect I'd find the transition much easier as a player then as a DM, but I'll know more as I read more.

      It is damn intriguing tho ;)

  4. Since the d20 used to only be available with 0-9 twice, the d20, as we know it was the last of the funny dice to be added to D&D. The early playtest has the to-hit chart as percentages (which is easy with the original d20s) and the saving throw chart in OD&D was designed for and rolled with 3d6.

  5. i'll work out the give-away tomorrow (friday)

  6. Saw this floating around my G+ today and wondered about it. Thanks for the quick review, gives me an idea of what it is. Looks like it could be fun, backwards compatibility is always a plus. Using 3d6 for basic resolution reminds me of the (Dragon) AGE RPG. I'm interested in how the narrative stuff integrates with the rest.

  7. Sounds like exactly what I would look for if I were ever to run a swords and sorcery type game - i find d20 a bit too skirmish-y.

  8. i and a few other bloggers have been reviewed as new wave osr - which sounds oxymoronic to me but i think it applies to oldschool dnd with weird science and weird fantasy - clark ashton smith - i think i earned it from my planet Psychon setting i blogged about a bit including magic guitars for wizards to battle with in the progroc post apoc wasteland