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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

New OSR RPG in Beta Testing - Mages & Monsters (free download)

Before anyone asks - no, I haven't had time to read the rules for Mages & Monsters. Apparently running 12 (plus) Days of OSR Christmas with all of it's moving parts is damn time consuming ;) I've actually known about the game for nearly a week and was hoping to find time to read it and it hasn't happened. So, I'm throwing it out to you all to investigate at your leisure.

It does look interesting, but I'm not sure how much of a need there is for yet another ruleset that houserules what has come before it.

From the FAQ

Q: How is M&M different from other OSR RPGs?

A: M&M uses the classic OSR design basis of other retro-clones, but combines them with modern d20 mechanics.  Compared to the classic basic, expert, or advanced fantasy RPG, you have more consistent mechanics (example: ascending Armor Class and higher-is-always-better rolling), simplified combat process and saving throws, fewer restrictions on races and classes, and greater choice and customization in class abilities.  Compared to other d20-based games, you have a more streamlined game that doesn't overload players with choices and offers easier rules adjudication, simpler stat blocks, and easier adventure design for the Game Master. Plus, it's free!

- The initial pdf release has four races (Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling) and five classes (Cleric, Fighter, Mage, Thief, and Swordmage -- the latter is a fighter/mage hybrid). Any race can take any class; all classes are 20-level progressions with class abilities "built in". You can fully replicate the classic basic/expert class system with this document.

- Classes allow choices of skills (a simplified attribute-based system -- proficiency or no), weapon proficiencies (with an option to increase in proficiency), and some classes have a fighting style proficiency that allows other fighting options. However, there is no feat system as in d20; choices are internal to the class.

- There are no restrictions on skill choice, or weapon choice, so that players can more readily tailor to a concept (these things are balanced in otehr ways to keep classes distinct).

- Classes have a base attack bonus and three-save progression (Fortitude, Reflex, Will) and the d20 mechanics of "roll high against a DC" is used, with a fixed DC progression (Easy, Average, Difficult, Very Difficult, Nigh Impossible)

- Classes use a unified progression; no balancing classes against each other by using XP advancement.

- Math is flatter than the base d20 system (max BAB for a 20th level fighter is +6). Attack rolls and AC stay very flat with relatively small increases over time; damage and hit points scale more.

- There is no multi-classing; it is "built in" to hybrid class designs like the Swordmage which allow an equal progression in fighting and spellcasting (but are not quite as capable in either as a single class). The plan is to increase the number of hybrid classes significantly in the Expanded rules.

- Spell lists are more limited but spell descriptions are more flexible and spells allow power scaling to compensate for fewer choices. Spell power does not depend on caster level in the majority of cases ... yet a more powerful mage can still throw a more damaging fireball than a low level mage.

- Monster stats are "one line" stat blocks like the old basic game.


  1. Just popping in to say Merry Needfest and I hope you and yours had a Happy Midwinter's Night!

    Best to you and yours, Erik!

  2. Sounds a lot like Castles & Crusades in its design goals, but with the 3E (Fort, Ref, Will) save system, which I don't really care for. I'll give it a read. I like to read rulesets. And very cool they're offering a free beta. One line stat blocks are so hot.

    1. C&C was the first thing that came to mind for me, too.

    2. They've got a tough situation as not only does C&C absolutely nail the "First edition feel with modern unified mechanics" but the the siege engine is probably more modern and unified than even anything that 3E/4E did. It's clean and simple enough that you don't even _need_ to strip the saves down to 3. If you want old school style play with clean and modern unified mechanics, play C&C. If you want old school gameplay with perfected old school mechanics, play Adventures Dark & Deep. :)

  3. C&C is not to everyone's tastes. I realize it deserves some credit for being the first game to take d20 and old school, but that SIEGE mechanic is just awful...

    Adventures Dark & Deep also costs what, $50 for just the PDFs?

    I'm not saying this is good, necessarily, but there's a lot of unexplored room even in retro-clones, just saying something is better isn't necessarily the case. It's just different.

  4. I never said C&C was "better" than anything else so there may be some misunderstanding if you're responding to me. I just said they seem to have similar design goals and that C&C is very good at achieving them. That means they're designing to a niche that is already covered, which will make it harder initially. What about siege do you find awful? I think it's downright inspired. I've yet to run a system that comes closer to running itself. It makes rulebook lookups a thing of the past. It frees up the game for player agency and creativity in a way that few other systems can manage. It makes for a system that takes house rules and subsystems from other games and accepts them without breaking anything. I'm certain it's not for everyone. No game is.

    And C&C and ADD are very different systems hitting very different notes. I would recommend them to different groups with different goals. But If your point is that free is always best, well, that's another discussion.

  5. Maybe I'm just being obtuse here, but how in the world do I download this? I can get it to display in the google drives thing, but to honest the only way I'm ever going to tinker with this is if I can get the PDF and put it on my laptop and iPad. Are downloads disabled? That docs.google site makes me feel like a caveman with more thumbs than fingers.

  6. An OSR/d20 hybrid? This sounds similar to Blood & Treasure.

  7. @Drew

    If you click the "print" symbol it allows you to save it as a pdf.

    What do you mean "How should I know that?"

  8. This is why I stopped writing on my own game. This one uses a lot of the ideas I came up with, and are apparently being used elsewhere as well (I'm not up to speed on all of the OSR and retro-clone games out there). So, I just put mine up for free on my blog page. I wish them luck with this. It seems this market is one that is very difficult to break into with any originality.

  9. lots of ideas from various moment of the D&D next playtest

  10. @Akiyama
    Thanks! I grew tired of smashing my head against my keyboard.