[Let’s Read] Macchiato Monsters ZERO – Core Mechanics

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Let’s continue our series on Macchiato Monsters ZERO. Today we’ll look at core mechanics.

MMZ is an old-school D&D derivative. So you have the classic attribute scores and you use a d20.

The base mechanism is a stat check. Roll d20 under or equal to one of your stats, chosen by the referee.

There are rules on what stat to use. A melee attack uses STR and a ranged attack uses DEX. Magic uses either INT, WIS or CHA, depending on your character concept.

I like the simplicity of using the attributes. No ability modifiers.

The game uses the advantage/disadvantage rule which became popular with D&D 5e. Roll two dice. For advantage, take the best result. For disadvantage, take the worst result. Sometimes a high roll will be the best roll, and sometimes a low roll. That depends on the check.

MMZ lavishly uses the risk die mechanism. What is that?

A risk die, or dR, is a d12, d10, d8, d6, or d4. It represents a threat or dwindling resource.

You roll it to track ammo, armor, food, etc. On a roll of 1-3, the resource depletes and the die type drops down. For example, a dR10 becomes a dR8.

The resource is gone/not usable anymore on a 1-3 on a dR4. But there are some special rules for armor, etc..

The mechanism is almost the same as the Usage Die from The Black Hack (TBH). But in TBH, you downgrade a die on a 1-2 instead of a 1-3.

Let’s compare average usages of MMZ’s risk dice and TBH’s Usage Dice 1:

Macchiato Monsters Risk Die

So, in MMZ you can use a dR6 approximately three times until the resource is gone. A dR4 is probably gone after one use, etc.

The Black Hack Usage Die

As you can see, MMZ is more brutal in comparison to TBH.

Resource management is a big deal in old-school D&D. Why is it important? Because you might delve deep into a dungeon. And if you run out of equipment, it is hard to get new stuff. So, resource management is a way to pace the game. It provides decision points for the players. Do we continue to another level or do we go back and recoup?

So, is the new mechanism better than tracking stuff with a scratch-out-list?

Personally, I find it fun to roll dice to see what’s left of my stuff. The outcome of a die roll is uncertain. Thus, there is an element of suspense.

It also cuts down on the minutiae. You don’t have to track every arrow you use. You just roll your arrow dR after a fight (not for every arrow you shoot).

But the abstract nature also makes it harder to grasp what your character has at hand. How many torches are dR4? Is it four torches, but three are unusable? You can’t pin it down exactly. “Uhm, I have dR4 torches left. So, we rest now and I roll if I still have some. Uhm, a 1. So the torches are gone, right?”

I can imagine that some players might find that off-putting. “Geez, gimme four torches and I scratch one out when I’ve used one. How many torches left? Three, ok.”

The mechanism makes it easier to reconcile for magic items. How many charges does this magic wand have? Even in original D&D, it’s often unclear. The element of uncertainty is more believable for the magical than for the mundane.

So, that’s it for core mechanics. Next time we’ll look at character creation.

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  1. Thanks to Stefan Aust for the original code for TBH. I copied it and changed it slightly for MMZ. It is only a rough method do eyeball probabilities. 

4 thoughts on “[Let’s Read] Macchiato Monsters ZERO – Core Mechanics

  1. I thought the dR on a torch was for the duration of the light when lit. If that is true, then you have both: 4× torches dR6, so you don’t know how long each one will last.

    At least, that’s how I run it.

  2. Some of the wording had me reading it multiple times to understand. Saying that a disadvantage keeps “the best dice result” is confusing because “the best” in the d20 portion of the mechanics a low result under the stat. It would have been better to say – “keep the highest result”.

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