Being a kid is tough. Being a kid with an extra-dimensional shambling gibbering drooling non-Euclidean monster for a pet? That's something else entirely. Welcome to Monsters and Other Childish Things.
Monsters and Other Childish Things is a role-playing game in which all of the player characters are children. They have to deal with many of the same problems as real children: bullies, parents, mean teachers, creepy guys, other children, cultists, demons, nameless horrors, living nightmares, and so on. Luckily, they also have help – their own pet monsters, great lumbering beasts (or whispering stalkers, or anything else you can imagine) that always have their kid's back.
The monsters have a bunch of attributes that make for fun role-playing. They truly love their kids, and try to help them whenever they can. The problem is, they don't really understand humans all that well, so their helping tends to go awry in pretty severe ways. Monsters can hide, so kids can keep them around at all times and adults or monsterless children are none the wiser (unless the kid talks to his monster in public, which can be awkward). Each monster hides in a different way. Maybe it turns invisible, or takes on an innocuous form, shrinks to nothing or folds itself into another dimension.
The core rulebook is packed with hilariously bizarre concepts. My personal favorite is the giant fanged teddy bear named Yog'So-Soft. There's also a multi-tentacled math teacher called an Excruciator and another favorite of mine, O'Malley the Anti-Drug Dog. He's just a guy in a giant dog costume telling kids not to take drugs, but the police don't remember hiring him, he seems to stay around for days on end, and no one's ever seen him out of costume. Weirder still, when monsters look at him, they don't see anything at all.
The rules for Monsters and Other Childish Things are based on publisher Arc Dreams' Wild Talents system. Each action requires a roll of several ten-sided dice (the better you are at something, the more you roll). The number of matching dice you roll combined with what number is on those matching dice determines your level of success at an action, whether that involves having your monster bite another kid's monster, or just picking a lock.
While the subject matter is certainly dark, the game takes a fairly lighthearted approach, with liberal doses of humor (if you couldn't tell by the Lovecraftian teddy bear). It draws inspiration from any number of books or movies about kids dealing with dark, dastardly or supernatural events. The tone is such that imaginative and mature kids could play it themselves. In fact, one of the upcoming releases from Arc Dreams is a simplified version of the rules aimed directly at kids, and at least one 5th grade teacher has been using Monsters and Other Childish Things campaigns as projects for her gifted students.
The genesis of Monsters and Other Childish Things began with a single power in the first edition of Wild Talents. Arc Dreams Publisher Shane Ivey explained:
It started out as a discussion on theRPG.net forums. Benjamin Baugh had an idea for a Wild Talents setting that was mostly based on one particular power in Wild Talents, a power called "Sidekick." With Sidekick, your character manifests a sort of imaginary helper who's not all that imaginary, who can help you out or defend you. Ben wanted to extend that in a big way and have a setting where the heroes were normal kids with no superpowers or anything, who had friends that were horrible, super-powerful monsters.
The hardcover version of Monsters came out in 2007, and in 2008 it was a finalist for Ennie Awards at GenCon for Best Writing, Best Game, and Product of the Year. Since then, they've put out a campaign sourcebook called Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor, in which orphans must uncover a series of dark plots; Curriculum of Conspiracy, about a cultist-infested middle school; and SkyMaul, a short adventure about a class trip on a vampiric airplane. This year they'll be putting out a soft cover version of the core rules, the aforementioned basic rules in boxed set form, and a book of even more horrible monsters called Bigger Bads.
The Arc Dreams site has more information on Monsters and Other Childish Things, along with the other games they currently publish (Wild Talents and Godlike).
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