Digging Into Infinity: Monsters & Magic—Old School Fantasy, New School Play

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Monsters & Magic Cover

Monsters & Magic Cover

Monsters & Magic a new RPG from Sarah J. Newton’s Mindjammer Press hit the shelves last week and is making a well-deserved splash. Sarah sums up the game as “a new take on the [Old School Renaissance (OSR)] – a game which combines modern rules concepts with an old school vibe, and which allows you to use your classic fantasy material – spellbooks, bestiaries, modules, and rules supplements – with little or no conversion.” Get the PDF of Monsters & Magic and read the reviews at RPGDriveThru or RPGNow. A print version is forthcoming, slated for release around GenCon 2013.

You can read the reviews and conversations linked throughout, but in this post I want to share helpful resources and focus on game concepts of greatest interest to me, and set up future posts which further explore ideas sparked in the M&M G+ Community, personal games and elsewhere.
Monsters & Magic sidebar

Old and New

One of the main things I like about M&M is that it’s designed specifically for backward compatibility to honor and re-employ classic materials from older versions.

I have two local groups, one that loves 3.x and one preferring 4e. Although neither of these versions are technically ‘classic,’ I believe M&M finally allows both groups to play together, retaining and enhancing what they love about each edition, while retaining what I love about more modern ‘new wave’ games. In a review at SF Signal, Paul Weimer says, “Monsters and Magic, rather than just being just a straight clone, has some innovations of its own, and ideas from much more modern games.” (Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Monsters and Magic and the Old School Renaissance)

I particularly enjoy the M&M game concepts that allude to ideas in Fate, Dungeon World, Reign, Mouse Guard and others. Furthermore M&M’s core system, the Effect Engine is a manifestation of exactly what I wanted to implement in my 4e campaign last year.

Goals, Constructs, and Changing the World

One of my favorite parts of any roleplaying game is the influence characters develop over the world at larger scales than just their individual impact. I thrill when players take up and accomplish goals of establishing trade syndicates, spy networks, family dynasties, schools, followers, ship crews, kingdoms, and brand new worlds. These aspects of play are naturally included in M&M’s gameplay (if the GM so chooses) through a combination of player Goals and Constructs. Goals remind me of player incentives in Reign or Mouse Guard or somewhat the alignment system in Dungeon World.

Constructs meanwhile are players’ way of gaining and developing sidekicks, ships, crews, titles, strongholds, kingdoms, and more that make a real difference beyond the individual scale. These remind me of Sarah Newton’s excellent elaboration of large-scale communities in Burn Shift, her setting for Fate Core. In fantasy settings, being responsible for and assisted by armies, admirers, family dynasties, or students make the important bridge away from stories simply about self-centered, dungeon-crawling homicidal transients.

Check out this example of play demonstrating Higher level play and Constructs in a battle between a mage with her ship crew against an enemy’s fortified tower.

Next Time

In the next post, I’ll dive into another element I’m eager to explore more in play: Social pressure and conflicting motivations using M&M’s robust alignment system.

Thereafter I plan to share new races, classes, advancements, and more that I and others in the community are developing. If you have questions or requests, leave a comment below or in the Google+ M&M community.

Some Helpful Monsters & Magic Resources


Erik Tenkar has begun a multi-part review over at Tenkar’s Tavern.

Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Monsters and Magic and the Old School Renaissance – by Paul Weimer on SF Signal


Samples, Previews, and Downloads (including character sheets and examples of play) on the Mindjammer Press M&M site.


When my M&M games get to higher levels, I plan to employ a combination of online spell sources, such as a handy AD&D (1st ed) Spell Table and this thorough Old School Spells Reference by kellri.


If you have questions about the game, leave a comment here, or check out the M&M FAQ initiated by the responsive and helpful M&M Google+ Community.

Here is a transcript of a FAQ chat session with Sarah Newton at The Hardboiled GMshoe’s Office yesterday, June 17th, 2013.

About Adam

I'm a husband, father, explorer of the inexhaustible, and synergy cultivator. Starting with D&D, my explorations into role-playing and game design have brought me to savor mining diverse systems, initially Cortex Plus, then PbtA, ORE, Forged in the Dark, and now anything I can get my hands on.