Monsters and Other Childish Things (The Completely Monstrous Edition)

From: Arc Dream Publishing
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Monsters and Other Childish Things (The Completely Monstrous Edition) is a new Role Playing Game from Arc Dream Publishing.

Monsters and Other Childish Things (The Completely Monstrous Edition) (Monsters) is a interesting little “indie” roleplaying game with a very interesting premise.  It is like cross between Monsters, Inc. and Pokemon, in some ways.  You play normal children with family, lives, friends and school.  But you also have something else that makes you different – a monster.

A monster in this game is your child character’s best friend, pet and guardian all rolled up into one.  The have powers, abilities and motivations all their own.  They are a shared character between the player and the GM. In combat, the player controls it but outside of that, the GM can take control whenever he wants.  It tends to get the child character in troubles at times, while other times it protects the child.  The monster is only seen when manifesting powers or attacking, but otherwise, it lurks in the shadows, stays invisible or otherwise in unseen.  However, the child knows its there and has his back.

The game itself is about how these monsters can get into trouble while the children try to stay out of trouble.  It is an interactive game if child’s play and monster mayhem.

From the front inside cover:
“Mr. Cuddles is my pet spider monkey.”

Content:  Contained in this tome is all you need to play Monsters.  The Introduction entertaining explains the basics of the theme of the game as well as the basics of role playing in general.  With subtitles like “What’s This All About” and “What Happens In The Game”,  it makes understanding the basics of the game setting and role playing in general child’s play.

The Characters section centers on character creation.  That is further elaborated on a little more below.  Characters are children in this game.  The character restrictions are fairly vague and they leave a lot to the GM.  There is no class system, of course.  It is fairly simply. After the Character chapter, is the rules of the game, covered in the chapter called Conflicts.  Following this is the chapter on Monsters.  The Monster “generation” system is equally simple and abstract.

After reading through the above chapters, you really get to know what the game is all about.  Not only is it about having fun as a kid with a pet monster, but it is also about relationships and how the help a person obtain their goals.  This is represented by key stats, Relationships, which are explained later.  It is definite a unique concept that sets this game apart.

The chapter entitled Janitor’s Closet is basically the GMs chapter.  Contained in here is solid advice for any GM but in particular a Monsters GM.  It explains that a game of Monsters is a balance of conflicts and relationships.  Depending on the type of game you are playing – short term or long term – the GM would focus on one more than the other.

Through the book, it references the players as kids and children however I had a hard time finding a reference to what specific age the kids were.  In the  Janitor’s Closet chapter, it gives the GM the Grade Level rules for Monsters. The game can be played at three different grade levels – Elementary, Junior High and High School.  Each has a different feel and flavor.

Although presumed to be in a modern or pseudo-modern setting, in truth, a game of Monsters can you played in any setting – fantasy, modern or sci-fi.  The game boils down to conflicts and relationships and any GM worth their salt can work that into any setting.  Janitor’s Closet provides good advice on the Themes common to a Monsters game.  For instance, Kids are Powerless – meaning that kids in the real world don’t have a lot of ways to influence their surroundings.  Also, School is a microcosm of the real world – meaning school shows the kids that the whole world is unfair, harsh and uncaring.

The Janitor’s Closet also provides a One-Roll monster Generator for GMs to use.  This is quite handy for creating those on-the-fly Monsters the players may encounter.  It is very easy to use.

The Chapters to follow – Being Sombody, Antagonists, and Somebody Else – provide characters and non-players characters for the GM to play Monsters.  What I like most about this is that Being Somebody provides complete characters for a pick up or convention game.

The book ends with Campaign Jumpstarts (a short chapter with two short descriptions of potential campaigns), Monsters & Wild Talents ( a chapter on how to combine Monsters with another ORE game, Wild Talents), and What did you get for Christman? (a starter adventure).  It also have some appendices on  How to play a Role Playing Game and How to run a Role Playing Game.

 System:  Character Generation is fairly abstract and simple.  Characters are represented Stats, Skills and Relationships.  All three have a certain number of starting dice and a certain number of points you allocate into them which covert to dice.  For example, Stats for a kid include Feet, Guts, Hands, Brains, and Face.  Each start out with 1d as the base and the players have a certain number of points to spread amongst them to increase the number of dice.  Stats are your basic ability scores.  Each Stat has a set of Skills associated to them that focus their talents like one would expect skills to do.

You are not limited to the skills listed, however.  With GM approval, other skills can be brought into the game.  Skill provided on the character sheet include P.E. (running and other athletics), Wind, Shop, Out-Think, and Putdown. These are explained in the text.

Monster Generation is my favorite part of this game.  You first have to draw your monster.  That’s cool.  I like it maybe because I like to draw monsters.  Then you assign hit locations, and determine its qualities – Attacks, Defense, and other Useful things like flying or wall walking.  You also determine Personality, a Way to Hide and Favorite thing to the monster.  Many things cost dice, and a monster has a dice pool of 50 dice to spend on these things. Monsters are very nasty creatures as you find out when you make one.  They can not die, the really can mess up a regular human, and basically nothing in the normal world can stop them.

The system is the much heralded (by some) One Roll Engine (ORE).  It is the house system of Arc Dream Publishing and is used in other role playing games like Godlike, and Wild Talent.   The system uses 10-sided dice.   All Stats, Skills, and Relationships are a number of dice that can be rolled.  Usually, the player is rolling a number of dice equal to Stat + Skill – called a Pool.  The system uses a very unique approach of using dice matching (rather than adding) to create a system that only requires one roll (as the name implies).  You simply roll the dice Pool, and match up the dice values.  The value of a set of matching dice is the Height and the number of dice in a set is the Width.  Using one roll, you can determine success, degree of success and how much damage you did to the opponent.  It is a very slick and easy system. I can’t say it is elegant because it has its quirks that you have to adapt to, but it is definitely innovative.

From the back inside cover:
“ Today I took Mr. Cuddles to the park.”

Layout: The hard back book is very eye catching and thematic.  It is done in a brilliant style of a child’s notebook, with the occasional scribbling or doodle on the margins.  The background to the pages look like lines notebook paper.  Occasionally, there is art placed in the notebook like a photograph.  The art is stylistic and simple but does not take away from the look of the book.  The layout overall is brilliantly done and very appropriate for the game.

In conclusion, this game is all about fun.  It is hilarious that it takes itself so seriously with such a silly and absurd concept.  Not only well written but it is entertaining to read.  The writers have a great sense of humor and are really in touch with their inner child.  They’re gamers… duh!  The game itself is meant for the type of gamer that does not take his gaming too seriously.  A good group of goofy players can have a blast with this.

For more details on Arc Dream Publishing and their new Role Playing Game “Monsters and Other Childish Things (The Completely Monstrous Edition)” check them out at their website, and at all of your local game stores.

Monsters and Other Childish Things (The Completely Monstrous Edition)
From: Arc Dream Publishing
Type of Game: Role Playing Game
Written by: Benjamin Baugh
Contributing Authors: Greg Stolze
Art by: Robert Mansperger
Number of Pages: 182
Game Components Included: One hardback book
Game Components Not Included: dice, paper, pencil

Reviewed by: Ron McClung
Date: 4/7/2009