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Friday, June 28, 2013

Review - Monsters & Magic - Part 3 - Taking Action and Refocusing

Actions are, not all that surprisingly, the things you can do whose success or failure comes down to an "Action Check".

So, what does it cover?

Melee attacks, spell casting, finding hidden things (this is your secret door check), non magical healing, hiding and moving silently, helping or hindering another character's action check, intimidation, making camp (this kinda falls into the "why" category, but whatever), making a "touch attack" (formerly known as "hitting AC 10"), persuasion, picking pockets, terrifying someone (wouldn't this fall along the lines of intimidate?), traversing the wilderness (what, no tracking?), tripping an opponent and shooting a bow are examples.

The above come with a short paragraph with examples suggesting the stat you would use to resolve the check. I'm kinda surprised that find / remove traps and picking locks weren't listed examples, as they are certainly more prevalent in "Old School" play than "making camp".

In any case, class abilities, combat situations and situations that might otherwise fall under a general "DM Fiat" ruling get wrapped up nice and neat into the Actions that PCs can make. I've participated in conversations / discussions / rants about DM Fiat in the past, but to summarize my thoughts on it, I think it's one of the things that defines "Old School Play".

Which brings up something that I think needs to be pointed out. Monsters & Magic is not an "emulator" of "Old School Play". You are not going to use M&M to game with the expectation of a 0e experience. This isn't a way to install Windows on your Macbook.

Instead, Monsters & Magic is more like a "translator" of sorts. You get to play your classic adventures in a "New School Environment" with minimal fuss. It's a different experience. It's closer to using Pages in an OSX environment to manipulate a Word document. Maybe not a prefect example, but it helps.

This means I need to do a 180 on my approach to M&M, which had been "how well does M&M evoke 'Old School Play' with modern play additions". Instead, I need to look at "how well does M&M translate 'Old School Adventures' to a modern play system". Two very different questions, and part of the reason for the length of time between the 2nd and 3rd parts of this review as I struggled to redefine my focus.

It's not that Monsters & Magic isn't up front with the intention of being a translator and not an emulator, but the presentation and trappings are certainly old school in nature even if the system isn't.

I'm not sure I'd still refer to it as "New Wave OSR" as I dig deeper, as the Old School is in the translation and not the play. I'm impressed with what I see so far, and as a tool to bring some classic adventuring to players on the modern "storytelling" type of RPG it seems to be on the money. The play will be different, but those coming from outside the OSR probably will never notice the difference ;)

I'll probably hit on "Effects Points" in the next part.


  1. So M&M is designed to take a 1st edition AD&D module and run it 'as is' like Castles & Crusades does?

    From your report I think their choice of putting themselves in the d20 category is misleading.

    1. as far as I can tell, it doesn't even use a D20:

      This book contains all the rules you need to play. You’ll also want
      pencils and scratch paper, and at least one of each type of the polyhedral
      hobby dice — four-sided, six-sided (ideally at least three of
      these), eight-sided, ten-sided, and twelve-sided, abbreviated d4, d6,
      d8, d10, and d12 respectively.

      C&C uses a 3e base to emulate AD&D

      M&M uses a "story telling" types system to translate Old School modules for use in New School play


  2. Interesting way of looking at it. I think the OSR needs both emulators and translators, so it's cool by me. How do you like it as a translator? Are you going to include playtest details at some point? Maybe you already have and I missed them...


    1. No playtest yet, and convincing my regular group to participate in such isn't something I'd put money on - there are some strong opinions on "stroytelling" and "Fate-like" systems ;)

      As a translator I think it does an able job, but I don't think (I could be wrong) the old school play will traslate along with the old school mechanics.

    2. So we have been using this as the platform of our game instead of Labyrinth Lord. and you know what? Even though the dice are different... we can hardly tell the difference...except WOW the creativity it has enabled because the effects points generated can be used to great ehh uhmm effect in play and so can consequences. Its surprisingly old school because you can like in the old days make a ruling only now the mechanics can come to your aid and provide some underpinning for the choice. You could more or less just start using the idea of effect points in your normal game. The easiest example is when a player fails poorly and you make them fumble and you extend that idea to a social situation or a chase scene. Then think ohh criticals I like that idea and use it already in my games and you think well instead of just damage I'm going to go with the idea the player just had (or in new-speak the "narration') see non of this is new this is really stuff we are already doing. Moreover M&M is a hell of a lot more on topic/point for OS play via rules then DCC or even Grey Matter . You could use it and the players would hardly ever know.