This is a Let's Read series in the vein of [Let's Read] The Nightmares Underneath.
Bookkeeping Notes: I get commissions for purchases made through some links in this post.
We'll be looking at Macchiato Monsters ZERO (MMZ):
Macchiato Monsters is a rules-light, old school, slightly collaborative roleplaying game. I designed it for adventure, exploration and survival in all kinds of perilous dungeonverses. If that were legally safe, I might have called it Dangers & Decisions. You can also say it’s an OSR and DIY D&D game, if labels are that important to you. Key features:
- Classless characters: emulate an classic concept or come up with something unique
- Freeform magic: name your spells and pay hit points when you cast them
- One-roll combat rounds: no initiative, no maps, no quarter given
- Risk dice: a simple attrition mechanic for armour, gear, encounters, treasure, etc.
What do you need to know?
MMZ is a beta version of the game. It is playable and has all the core features. Some tools for the Game Master (GM) to create campaigns, sandbox tools and tables are missing.
I commented on an early draft of the game and the author, Eric Niedan, kindly mentioned me on the second page. But I bought the game with my own money and will do my best to be fair in my review.
Eric Nieudan is a French first time OSR author. Paolo Greco from Lost Pages, a UK-based one-person shop that makes beautiful OSR products, publishes the game.
Buying the game will get you the core PDF and extra downloads, e.g. a die drop table.
There is also an "Easter egg" in the game on page 3 which leads to additional extras.
I will use v1.1 of the PDF as it is most up to date. The PDF clocks in at 34 pages.
Origins of the Game
Whitehack builds upon Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox. But it made significant changes to character creation and uses free-form magic plus collaborative world-building. There are reviews of the first edition and the second edition.
The Black Hack (TBH) is another rules-lite old-school D&D version. Only the players roll dice. The tracking and usage of equipment is abstracted into a Usage Die. Movement is abstract (e.g. Near or Far). Review here.
Intro and Look'n'Feel
The MMZ PDF uses a simple layout and a readable font. No digital bookmarks.
The artwork is black and white. It consists of whimsical silhouettes of monsters with a coffe cup. You'll find a coffee stain here and there. The tables use grid paper and give the booklet a school-type feel.
The presentation fits the DIY movement nicely.
After the table of contents, we come to a welcome page which explains what MMZ is, inspirations and a shout-out to people who helped creating the game.
The following statement stands out, as it adheres to a particular gaming philosophy and might be interesting as an overall theme of the game:
All the rules I need as a referee are within these pages, but you may want to ignore or replace some of them. That's perfectly fine. It's what old school gaming is about.
Inspirations for the game include Whitehack, The Black Hack, OD&D, B/X, Into the Odd, NanoChrome and Maze Rats. NanoChrome is a french Cyberpunk game, the others are available in English.
Then we'll get a look at the changelog for v1.1 and also that this is a living beta and where we can leave feedback.
MMZ uses the OGL which you'll find on the last page. Only the art, logos and the name Macchiato Monsters is Product Identity. The rest is fair game. So this is a generous license which allows you to do a lot of hacking.
Page 4 starts with the game mechanics. That is a post for another day.