Munchkin (game)

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Munchkins are universal.[1]

Kill the monsters. Steal the treasure. Stab your buddy.

Admit it. You love it.

You are in a dungeon. Also present in this dungeon are monsters and treasure. You have been sent on a holy quest to kill the monsters and steal the treasure. Unfortunately, everyone else in your party is trying to do the same thing.

Munchkin is a card game series by Steve Jackson Games. The fundamental rules are simple and easy to learn, but the text on the cards regularly changes the rules. If you keep a sharp eye on what the rules say at this very moment, you will uncover situations where your half-Elf half-Halfling Barbarian Cleric can wield four weapons at once, send any monster he fights over to another player instead, and get the treasure from it anyway.

This is very Munchkinly. Do it.


Tropes used in Munchkin (game) include:
  • Actually Four Mooks: "3,872 Orcs" (which only counts as 1 monster)
    • Also some "monsters" in Super Munchkin such as the "Wimpy Thugs" series.
  • All Women Love Shoes: In Star Munchkin, the Bionic Bimbo can be deterred from attacking you if you give her shoes. Indeed, she even pays you handsomely for the footwear item, with 3 Treasures. You can then fight her anyway.
  • Exclusively Evil: Player characters. Players, too, when they stand to gain a level.
  • An Adventurer Is You
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: Squidzilla, The Big Ole Planet Eater Guy, The Unspeakably Awful Indescribable Horror and Big Foot.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The Pollymorph potion turns your opponent into a parrot. Nice when a "friend" sends a plutonium dragon after you.
  • Beyond the Impossible / Fridge Logic: Two of the cards that can be played to make combat difficult are Last of Its Race and And Its Clone. They can both be played on the same monster.
    • There's also Mate and Brood, both of which would be rather illogical to play on a monster that had been made Last Of Its Race. Munchkin Cthulhu also adds "...and its Spawn."
    • Or Last Of Its Race and Is Your Father... Or just Is Your Father, period, given some of the monsters you can throw it on. Like a comfy chair. Or the aforementioned 3,872 Orcs. All of them are your father, apparently. (Apparently, Your Mom Really Gets Around.)
    • "Cheat With Both Hands" (the seventh expansion for the main game) is this trope in card game form. Along with the titular card (which lets you cheat for two items), there are cards which provide extra or even unlimited Races and Classes.
    • The card called "Cheat" allows you to disregard all restrictions when attached to an item card. Depending on how loosely your group interprets the rules, this may lead to physically impossible things (such as wielding more weapons than you have hands).
  • Bilingual Bonus: If you can read Tengwar, check out The Other Ring.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: As noted elsewhere, you normally have to kill a monster to gain the winning level except when you get the Divine Intervention card which allows you to gain a level (including the winning level) if you're a cleric. The card grants you the right to mock the other players mercilessly if you win the game this way.
    • If someone is killed by The Great Cthulu, all other players get to go up a level to mock them. There is nothing that says these can't be winning levels.
    • Actually, the rules directly say the winning level HAS to be from killing a monster unless the card specifically says you can win via its level up power.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: For instance, The Wicked (a Variant of the standard munchkin die) Dice, which are actually used to track your Character Level and not to generate a random number, come with instructions that say the holder of a die starts the game with a +1 Character Level bonus.
    • There are also level-up cards which notionally involve bribing the GM.
    • And all of this is gleefully lampshaded and parodied, so much that it counts as Reconstruction.
    • There was one special release of a cookie which, upon eating it, would resurrect your character and undo a death. Everything that the studio has created has a bonus when Munchkin is played.
  • Butter Face: The Geisha Gorgon.
  • Chainsaw Good: The Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment, which is a fairly decent weapon.
  • Cthulhu Mythos: It's got an entire deck dedicated to it.
  • Character Level: The objective of the game is to get to Level 10, or 20 if you are playing Epic Munchkin. There are no Experience Points, though; beating one monster usually gets you one level.
    • Go Up A Level cards are also a staple part of the game. Selling items worth 1000 gold also gives you a level, but you don't get change. Note that players cannot attain a winning level by selling or Go Up A Level cards. They must kill a monster or have a card that specifically says that it can grant the winning level.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Half the fun of the game boils down to this. There's a reason the tagline's third part reads "Stab Your Buddy". A fair chunk of the cards serve no purpose except to screw with other players.
    • Cards that give one-time bonuses to combat are common. Cards that give bonuses to one specific side are rare. Help or hinder, the choice is yours.
  • Combat Medic: Clerics don't seem to spend much time actually healing anything (although they can resurrect dead cards, sort of).
  • Crossover: With Axe Cop. Given how the heroes act in that series, this was inevitable.
    • Munchkin Cthulhu had 3 expansions and a line of plush toys.
    • The Unspeakably Awful Indescribable Horror in the standard deck may also be a Lovecraft reference.
  • Cute Is Evil - it's not a fluffy kitty, it's the set's nastiest, most powerful monster. Called 'The Evil'.
    • Also, the My Little Cthulhu doll, which makes it impossible to avoid Joining The Cult
    • And the Perfectly Normal Bunny, which can become "That Bunny" due to a dice roll.
  • Dead Man's Hand: A curse card that forces you to discard your whole hand.
  • Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: A player who dies keeps his Class, Race, and Level, instead only losing all of his other cards. He revives at the start of his next turn and even gets a new starting hand of eight cards.
  • Deus Ex Machina: The Divine Intervention card.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Munchkin Cthulhu and Star Munchkin
    • Made even more humorous when the outcome of the battles inevitably rely on which player has the best one-shot items.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: "Of Doom" is an Equipment Modifier, there's the Duck of Doom, and a piece of equipment in Munchkin Cthulhu is the Sushi Knife of Doom. Yes, this means that if you play both versions together you may end up with the Sushi Knife of Doom...Of Doom!
  • Dump Stat: Space Munchkin introduces Stat X, a mystery stat in addition to the traditional six stats. Though the joke is to treat this like a default dump stat, the Gamemaster is also encouraged to make Stat X somehow pay off if one of the players puts his best score in it anyway.
  • Dungeon Crawling: There's no actual dungeon map, but the game assumes that you're in one.
    • For a similar game with a dungeon map, there's the spinoff Munchkin Quest.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: Munchkin Fu
  • Evil Is One Big Happy Family: Cultists from Munchkin Cthulhu gain larger bonuses the more cultists are on play.
  • Exact Words: Let's put it this way: This game had to have errata added to clarify that, yes, the bad stuff 'you are roasted and eaten' means 'you are dead'. The game's played by Munchkins, what else do you think they're going to do about rules they don't like?
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Cheat card. And the Level-Up card. And the Curse/Trap card. And.. well... you get the point.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Since Death Is Cheap, replacing the dead's hand and items with eight random new cards, a fair few monsters have Bad Stuff even worse. King Tut forces the discard of everything without the replenishing hand, and the Wight Brothers reduce the player's level to 1.
    • On the other hand, some Bad Stuff has no in-game effect, but can be terrible regardless. If you lose to the level 1 Goldfish, for example, the Bad Stuff is that "all the other players get to mock you". Because you just lost to a fish in a bowl.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief
  • Fungus Humongous: What you get if you play the "Humongous" card on the "Fungus" monster. "Don't truffle with the Humongous Fungus!"
    • To elaborate, the "Humongous" card increases a monster's level by 10. The fungus is a Level 5 Monster that states that, should it become humongous, gains 25 levels instead of 10. "Do not truffle" indeed.
  • Gag Nose: the Floating Nose and its shadow.
  • Gender Bender: The "Change Sex" traps. There's also a "Freudian Slipper" that lets you alternate between genders, but if you lose it and you're stuck with the wrong gender, then you're at a disadvantage.
    • And there are Merch T-shirts that while worn, define your character's sex (which normally starts out as your own). People have been known to layer these.
  • Goddamned Bats: Invoked, adding Bat type enemies into a fight already including one is a free action in Munchkin Bites. With some nasty luck, that level 2 Bat monster just became a horde of bats, combined level 29. Bat Masterson from The Good, The Bad, and The Munchkin counts btw. Hong Kong in Munchkin Fu, Goths in Munchkin Cthulhu and Sharks in Munchkin Booty (which, naturally, includes the lawyer) work the same way.
  • Happy Fun Ball: The "Duck of Doom".
    • The text on it also qualifies as Don't Touch It, You Idiot!--"You should know better than to pick up a duck in a dungeon!"—and Noodle Incident—why would a duck be such a dangerous thing to pick up in a dungeon?
  • Have a Nice Death: the "Bad Stuff" on some monster cards
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: The guy who did The Unspeakable Vault of Doom did the artwork for one of Munchkin Cthulhu 's expansion pack.
    • The Magnificent Hat card features art by Phil Foglio. Double Bonus: It's sported by a Jaegermonster.
    • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, featuring Aubrey from Something*Positive.
    • The regular series artist is famed gaming cartoonist John Kovalic, best known for his Dork Tower comic series.
  • House Rules: Inevitable, considering that "Argue about the rules" is actually in the rules.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: This game tends to bring out the worst in people; if you're not threatening, counter-threatening, and backstabbing your "friends" at every opportunity, you're playing the game wrong.
    • The Good The Bad And The Munchkin has a character class that gets bonuses if other players face the "bad stuff" of a monster after a defeat, and the Schadenfreudian Slip item works in a similar fashion, encouraging backstabbing even further. This is also a feature of the "Dark" race modifier.
  • I Know Kung Faux: Parodied in Munchkin Fu, with techniques like Drunken Monkey Kung Fu, Fee Fi Fo Fu, and Stomach Fu.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Most of the cards. Most notably "The Punster" from Super Munchkin, who's stated as being "just a card. Ha ha. Kill him right now."
  • Infinity+1 Sword: Most notable in Star Munchkin, where you can stack up anything with its name ending with '-aser'. This can lead to a plus-24 Laser-Dazer-Raser-Maser-Schmaser-Bobaser-Bananafanafofaser-Laser[2] if you're lucky. This is strong enough to beat everything.
  • Kneecapping: The card game gives us the Hammer of Kneecapping, usable only by dwarves.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: More rules get added every deck. There's even a rule lampshading this.

"When the cards disagree with the rules, follow the cards. Any other disputes should be settled by loud arguments among the players, with the owner of the game having the last word."

  • Low Level Advantage: Some of the more powerful monsters will not chase characters below a certain level, allowing them to automatically run away. The lowest level player will also receive everyone else's extra cards as Charity.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: The Munchkin card game has several cards and extra collectibles that allow manipulating the dice. Also, cheating at the game actually does qualify for this trope, as Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught is an actual part of official rules.
  • Magic Knight, and any other cross-class you'd care to name, if you have a Super Munchkin card
  • Micro Monarchy: Parodied on the "Ruler of A Small European Country" card, which shows the character standing in a "country" about one foot square.
  • Metagame: Most of the gameplay is metagaming. You could even say that the metagame is the game.
  • Mooks Ate My Equipment
  • More Dakka: The Good, The Bad, and the Munchkin has a modifier card called Infinite Ammo, that gives +2 to a one-handed weapon that uses bullets, +3 to a two-handed weapon that uses bullets. There's also a +5 Gatling Gun. Combine the two for days of fun (and bullets)!
  • *ahem* Munchkin
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Half the fun of the game is trying to make your character as awesomely ridiculous as possible.
    • Half-Breed and Super Munchkin cards deliberately invoke this trope, letting you combine races and classes respectively. Combining different themed decks increases it. Incidentally, with the right combination of sets and cards, you can be a Ninja Pirate Zombie Cyborg.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: The other half is not getting caught cheating like hell.
    • It's actually in the rules that one can "Equip anything they want, so long as they have the proper number of hands, are the right race or class, have a Cheat card, or don't get caught".
      • However, it should be noted that this line was apparently meant to be a joke that would up being taken seriously. The creators have since tried to state that this is a joke, and more recent versions of the rules don't have the "don't get caught" line, saying that only "Cheat!" cards let you cheat. Some groups keep this in as a house rule, but don't be surprised if you find yourself with a group that doesn't allow cheating.
    • Subverted with the Cheat cards, and the Mixer set card "Cheat Like There's No Tomorrow", which lets you do just that for one turn.
  • Not the Intended Use: Using "go up a level" cards on your opponents to force them to fight monsters. Among many others.

Question: Can we use "Go Up A Level" cards on other players to make them fight a monster that would otherwise ignore them?
Answer: We want to say no, but that's just such a Munchkin thing to do that we have to allow it.

  • Obvious Rule Patch: The Loaded Dice card originally let players ignore one die roll of their choice and just call the number they wanted the roll to be. This being Munchkin, players quickly noticed that they could call any number, and started using Loaded Dice to make die rolls come up as ten million, or negative thirty thousand, or any number of truly ludicrous results. Combined with other cards that keyed off of dice rolls, the game was soon being broken in new and inventive ways, and a ruling was handed down that Loaded Dice card allows you to change the face of the physical die that was rolled.
  • One Curse Limit: Very averted. The rules state that curses (or traps) may be played at any time. A player can get a pile of curses at once, but then, driving your opponents to tears is a viable strategy if it makes you win...
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Includes werepenguin, a werehamster and a weremuskrat. They are all oversized and sharp-toothed - even the penguin has fangs.
  • Pinata Enemy: The Pinata is a measly level 3 and gives a treasure to every party member when killed.
  • Prehensile Tail: Star Munchkin's Tailgun, only usable by Felines, depicts one such Feline curling up a fairly normal-looking gun in one.
    • In addition, the Super Munchkin deck offers a pair of Prehensile Pigtails, which give the player two extra hands.
  • Punny Name: Most cards.
  • PVP-Balanced: While being a Monster Whacker will penalize you against monsters level 16+, none of the races or classes will really make you much worse at killing stuff, and no other race or class has any penalties at all, after a revision.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Many cards vary by something that applies to you in real life. Your character's sex is always your own until a card changes it, and there are cards like the Tommy Gun that give a bigger bonus based on your name. One set has some cards that give bigger advantages to members of the military.
    • Actually, there is one case where your character's gender will not be your own at the start - if you are wearing a Munchkin t-shirt (yes, they do make them, and they can be made into some of the most powerful swag), your character starts off as the gender of the munchkin on the shirt, not yours.
    • While most of Munchkin Zombie has art by John Kovalic, one card, Meals On Wheels, isn't. Kovalic refused to do the card as he had recently become a father (and if you're wondering why that would make him refuse, see where the pothole leads.)
    • Some cards vary in effect based on what day of the week your playing. Some cards have all of the above conditions applied to them.
  • Recycled in Space: Star Munchkin, naturally, even spoofing it in its subtitle: "Kill the monsters. Steal the treasure. Stab your buddy... IN SPACE!". Other expansions are recycled in various other settings.
  • Roaming Enemy: You draw monsters from a deck, and in some circumstances you can sic them on other players.
  • Rubber Forehead Aliens: A racial option in Space Munchkin which acts as a catch all for the entire trope. You get to pick your one inhuman physical feature, the hat your planet wears and the one concept from human culture your race doesn't have a concept for (loyalty, dignity, hygiene, etc).
  • Running Gag: There's a variant on "Everyone starts as a level 1 human with no class" in the game set-up portion of every version's rules. Later editions started lampshading the hell out of this.
    • "You have no class and no style."
    • In later sets: "Everyone starts as a Level 1 character with no class. (We never get tired of that joke.)"
    • Everyone starts as a Level 1 zombie with no Mojo. (This is a zombie movie, so nobody has any class.)
  • Screw You, Elves: Never accept help from an Elf. (They get a level when they help you kill a monster.)
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Fights can sometimes develop into this, especially if there are many players with extended card holding rights. Say you've encountered a Plutonium Dragon and its Evil Twin, facing painful death should you fail to beat them or run away. After numerous bonuses and anti-bonuses have been played on the monsters, the dragon's Baby Clone, and its Mommy, have been introduced to the fight, multiple Powers and one-shot items have been used to help or hinder you, several different methods of backstabbing have been employed, lengthy negotiations of teaming up have been had, and you're ready to reap your whopping eight levels and twenty-five treasures... Some asshat plays a few cards, leaving you without any levels or treasure, and everyone many cards poorer. Which is, of course, very munchkinly indeed.
  • Shout-Out: All but made of them. Some of the more obvious ones are:
  • Superhero: Super Munchkin. That's right, munchkins trying to play superheroes. Weep.
  • That One Rule: Invoked in the rulebook. "Decide who goes first by rolling the dice and arguing about the results and the meaning of this sentence and whether the fact that a word seems to be missing any effect."
  • Too Awesome to Use: The Annihilation card permanently removes one card from the game. Try to find the perfect card to use it on.
  • Torpedo Tits
  • Tradesnark™: Professor Tesla's Electrical Protective Device (pat. pending).
  • Visual Pun: Many. A card called "Steal a Level" depicts the theft of the tool, for example.
  • We ARE Struggling Together!: It's easy to forget that in the premise of the game you play a group of adventurers that are ostensibly working together.

Tropes referenced in-game
  • Amazonian Beauty: The fairy on one of the "your powers have grown" cards.
  • Blade on a Stick: The Swiss Army Polearm
  • Cardboard Prison
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The picture for Cleavage Stun. Actually, the whole point of Cleavage Stun.
    • And, of course, Undo Top Button.
    • Also the improperly revealing ripped dress in Munchkin Bites expansion set Pants Macabre - it rips more, gaining an additional +1 with each sex change the character wearing it goes through.
  • Faceless Mooks: The Faceless Army.
  • Jumping the Shark: the name of the supplement about pirates.
  • Hachimaki: The Badass Bandanna
  • Most Common Superpower: In Super Munchkin, the Cleavage Stun and the spray-on costume. (The former is only usable by females, while the latter grants a higher bonus to females than males.)
  • Naughty Tentacles: Implied - the below-mentioned Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know is depicted as a mass of tentacles behind a censor bar. The description says it doesn't mind knowing female characters.
    • There's also the Dungeon of Manga Wrangling card, which makes it harder for female players to beat any monster with tentacles, but increases the reward if they win.
  • Red Shirt: A hireling in star munchkin.
    • Stupid Sacrifice: Whose 'special ability' is to sacrifice himself even if you're winning.
  • Rules Lawyer: The "Invoke Obscure Rules" card. (Also highly encouraged in the gameplay.)
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: The card is "Cute Shoulder Dragon," and was considered as a Trope Namer.
  • Stronger with Age: The "Ancient" monster buff card.
    • And the "Baby" nerf card showing it to be even more true.
    • Inverted with the Plutonium Dragon in the tabletop version of the game, whose strength is cut in half with each age category.
  • Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: A monster from Star Munchkin. It doesn't mind women, who gain a level if they don't fight it.
  • Underwear of Power: A card in Super Munchkin.
    • Also there's the Pantyhose of Giant Strength.
  • Weapon as Familiar: Singing Sword, which dances after you on legs of its own, counts towards your attack damage, and sings.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: Inverted by the "Sword of Slaying Everything Except Squid". It gives a substantial bonus but against squid (there are two in the decks so far - karate squid and Squidzilla) the fight is automatically lost.

Notes

  1. Not shown: Munchkin Zombies, Munchkin Axe Cop, and Munchkin Conan.
  2. Wot, no Memymomaser?