Designer’s Notes: Moop’s Monster Mashup and Munchkin Magical Mess
By Steve Jackson and Andrew Hackard
We’ve been writing Munchkin a long time. Over those 17 years, we’ve had a lot of downright silly ideas for card names. Many of them found homes in whatever sets we were working on at the time, but many were held until we could find the right place to put them.
Andrew: Back in 2015, we were talking about writing a new fantasy Munchkin set and reviewing our file of ideas. We kept coming up with silly cards like the Boomerangutan and the Drizzly Bear, combining animals and objects to make monsters and weapons. Pretty soon, Steve realized we had the makings of a game just from that idea alone — the twisted creations of a wizard gone mad (or at least mad-ish), running around making whatever weird mashups he could.
Naming that wizard took longer than you might think, and we won’t burden you with the list of rejected ideas. “Moop” was one we could both eventually agree on, and when Amber Cook mentioned that it meant “materials out of place” at Burning Man, we realized we couldn’t do better than that. During this discussion, the wizard’s appearance took shape, including the idea of using a whisk as his magic wand (because of all the mixing he did).
With our wizard created, our game named (Moop’s Monster Mashup — and we’ll discuss the reason it doesn’t say Munchkin in a minute), Steve went off to write a game, with lots of helpful (and “helpful”) suggestions from the staff. Here’s Steve to discuss it further.
Steve: Not that we need an excuse to be extravagantly, childishly silly . . . but this was the kind of concept that encourages us toward greater, ever greater, insanity. We also had a great deal of fun with alliteration, especially when we noticed how many marvelous, magnificent words begin with M.
Andrew: Here’s the problem with getting into the rhythm of writing silly mashup card titles — it’s very hard to STOP. Steve used some of my ideas for Monster Mashup — I’m especially proud of Amoeba Earhart — but I had several left over, just in case. It turned out that Moop’s Monster Mashup sold well enough that we could think about a sequel.
Steve: We had another problem with the set — or perhaps it’s more fair to call it an opportunity. Moop’s came out at a time when John Kovalic was already overcommitted.
Andrew: Fortunately, our work with BOOM! Studios on the Munchkin comic, and our series of Guest Artist Editions, gave us the chance to work with some other great talents. To our great good fortune, Ian McGinty stepped up and was able to turn in illustrations for Moop’s that are very clearly Munchkin cards and let his own style show through.
Before that sequel, however, we decided to bring Moop more firmly into the Munchkin “continuity” (however loosely you want to define that) by having me write a couple of Moop stories for the Munchkin comic. The first of those stories was a pun-filled backup feature that introduced Moop’s hapless halfling apprentice, Minn, and gave me a chance to sneak in a few jokes that previewed the new Moop game we were already working on. In the final issue of that run of the comic, Moop meets up with Spyke and Flower and they have several very odd adventures, thanks to some very special brownies. Our thanks to BOOM! for letting us have some fun with our newest hero.
Steve: I’m going to point out here that Moop needs a second apprentice, named Max. Yes, I should be ashamed of myself. No, I’m not.
Andrew: Max is definitely happening as soon as Moop is in the market for more magical minions. And maybe a third, named Mid . . .?
As we worked on the second Moop game, we decided that the title should include the word Munchkin because we’d experienced some brand confusion with Moop’s Monster Mashup. In some ways, Moop’s was an experiment; would people buy a Munchkin game without “Munchkin” prominently featured in the title? It turns out that yes, they would, but maybe not as many as would have otherwise.
Steve: I still think that we may end up retitling Moop’s Monster Mashup as Munchkin Monster Mashup, just because we’ve learned that our retailers really want Munchkin titles to have Munchkin in them. Preferably right at the beginning.
Andrew: For continuity, we wanted another alliterative title. “Magical” was an obvious word to start with, Moop being a wizard, and we tried out several possibilities (Mayhem, Menagerie, Monomania) before deciding to keep things simple: Munchkin Magical Mess.
While we were in the process of naming the game, I was also going back through our old notes and writing new ideas as they came to me. Some of the cards seem obvious in retrospect — of course Moop would create a Chimpanzebra! — but at the time, I spent days trying out various combinations of animals and other words and seeing which ones made the folks around the office laugh (or groan) the loudest. You can’t help but enjoy a job where you get to have serious discussions about whether Centipete or Millipete is funnier.
Steve: We were lucky to have Ian back to illustrate the second set, too. I feel like I should apologize to him for making him draw some of the cards Andrew wrote, however . . .
Andrew: Ian’s art for the Belugazelle still creeps me out. It’s exactly what I imagined it would be, and yet something about it is deeply unsettling. Maybe it’s that slight smile it has. Or maybe it’s just the idea of a beluga standing on gazelle legs.
I also continued Steve’s idea of putting Moop’s name in as many card titles as I could. Fortunately, Moop is an easy name to rhyme (or come close to rhyming), and where rhyming failed, our old friend alliteration came to the rescue.
The problem now is the same one we had after Monster Mashup: stopping. Even now, as Steve and I work on cards for upcoming Munchkin sets, we’ll sometimes stop and think, “Isn’t this really a Moop idea?” and set it aside for later. I have a folder with even more Moop-tastic ideas, from Steve, myself, and other helpful coworkers and friends.
Steve: It wouldn’t surprise me if Moop made more mashups, messes, and marvelous mugwumps* down the road. Do you want more? Let us know in the forums!
Andrew: If you’re interested in learning more, go check out Moop’s Monster Mashup and Munchkin Magical Mess at your Friendly Local Game Store; they’ll be happy to help you out! Or you can buy the games directly from our online store, Warehouse 23, and we’ll throw in extra Munchkin promo swag, including new cards you can mix into your game!
* A mugwump is an indecisive bird that sits on a fence with his mug on one side and his wump on the other.