DriveThruRPG Review – Monsters of Murka

Satirical sourcebook of United States culture, politics, and cities.

DrivethruRPG Review

A review copy has been provided. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Action Fiction

Making fun of the United States of America isn’t exactly a challenging endeavor. Our culture of celebrities, excess, and ignorance pretty much mocks itself at every opportunity. Satire can be a bit more difficult, but when carefully crafted and applied, can contain a multitude of messages and realizations draped in humor.

Monsters of Murka is an effective satire of American culture and politics, a sourcebook for a fantasy world that reflects our current (or at least, circa 2016-17) state of political divisiveness alongside huge leaps in social media, technology, and globalization. Not all of it is overtly clever, but there’s more than enough content, including new player options, to craft an entire campaign in the tumultuous land of Murka.

Monsters of Murka spans nine chapters and over 200 pages, with much of it devoted to building this fantasy version of the United States. Chapter 1 covers the Revolutionary War from the Braggish Empire; Manifest Destiny, Slavery, and the Civil War; leading up to the 2oth century with the Nightmare War, Frozen War, and modern divisions along party lines.

Modern day Murka is a time of political upheaval and factions, including Queen Killary and the Shadow Kingdom, The Don’s Party of tromps and trumplins, and the Communal Party, headquartered in Kale’Fornia.

The satire here isn’t exactly thinly-veiled, but it is extremely well-produced, well-written, and well-organized, with lovely original artwork adorning every page, including fun celebrity depictions of DnD adventures. Who doesn’t like Terry Crews in heavy armor?

Much of the content reads like one big joke book, with varying degrees of success. Thankfully the sourcebook also includes legitimately clever player options in the form of over a dozen new player subclasses and over 40 magic items.

The subclasses won me over instantly as fun reflections of American culture and stereotypes. These new player options are born out of endearment rather than mockery, such as the Cleric Explosion Domain, Druid Circle of the Furkin, Fighter Action Hero Archetype, Ranger Conclave of Bovine Youth, and Monk Way of the Wild Ensemble (WWE!).

The Action Hero, for example, gains adrenaline points for doing Cool Stuff, like dashing into the fray, taking large amounts of damage, and rolling a crit. They can then use the adrenaline to deploy signature action hero moves, like Catchphrase, Spray and Pray, and Dodge This.

The new magic items, detailed in chapter six, share a similar love of American pop culture and technology, with Brotein shakes, Bath Bombs, the Mantle of Old Glory, and the Dwarf Foreman Stove. My personal favorite, the Wand of the Forgotten Password, requires an Intelligence check to magically open a lock. If you fail, the wand loudly yells “Incorrect password” out to 300 feet, and you must wait 10 minutes before trying again.

The Murkan pantheon, detailed in chapter nine, is another great example of tackling familiar references with fun characters and gags. The Dark Father is basically just Dark Vader with a healthy serving of Star Wars jokes, but the pantheon also includes the exuberant explorer Erwin and his kahki shorts, Stan Ley as the gifted god of creation and magic, and the dreaded Kaeren, the bob-cut goddess who is always quick to anger.

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I was less enthused with the regional chapters of Washtown, Sea-Addled, and Holly Woods, which collectively take up about a quarter of the sourcebook. While I think it’s important to provide a detailed example of one big city in Murka, trying to tackle three of them paints too broad a brush, repeats many of the same simple name-swapping jokes, and relies on insider knowledge of their real-world counterparts.

For that reason I would’ve stuck to either Washtown for its political relevance (Trump is a major looming presence of tyrannical evil in Murka) or Holly Woods because Southern California is a more well-known epicenter of culture (New York City, despite its iconic familiarity around the world, is strangely absent here).

My other big complaint are the lack of adventures. Any adventure hooks or story ideas are relegated to simple bullet points at the end of each regional chapter. They read like rambling afterthoughts, in stark contrast to the otherwise well-written and detailed world-building and player options.

Adventure ideas are one of the most important elements to any sourcebook, as they provide a direct reason for how and why we should be adventuring in that world. I would’ve replaced one of the region chapters with more detailed adventure hooks, if not an entire sample adventure.

The monster chapter is mostly Trump-related, with several different versions and statblocks such as charismatic fascist The Don, the monstrous beholder-like D’lanod, goblin-like trumplins and troll-like tromps.

Now don’t get me wrong, Donald Trump is a horrible human being in every way and I would love to see him in prison let alone out of office, but I was hoping for a bit more variety and parody than just beating us over the head with the same joke. A good example are the draguns, unique dragon-like creatures with giant guns and cannons for heads. They also lead to a unique and clever form of Murka world-building: the reason Murkans are so obssessed with guns is because of these powerful creatures.

Extending a joke or series of jokes for hundreds of pages should be disastrous, yet Monsters of Murka packs so much content and humor within a well-designed package that it’s impossible not to love it, despite its flaws.

Just like Murka.

Pros:

  • Professional layout and design with amazing original artwork.
  • Over a dozen fun new subclasses that lovingly reflect American culture and excess.
  • 40 humorous magic items that satirize modern technology and popular references.
  • Clever Pantheon of ascended celebrities and pop culture icons.

Cons:

  • The regional chapters are mostly thinly-veiled repeats of the same tired jokes.
  • Story hooks and adventure ideas are limited to bullet points.

The Verdict: While some of its satire lands sharper than others, Monsters of Murka successfully expands a silly idea into a 200+ page sourcebook with clever world-building, and fun new player options.

A review copy has been provided. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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