numenera jack

Monte Cook has been designing roleplaying games for over 20 years, including Dungeons and Dragons third edition, and games he published through his own company, Arcana Unearthed and Ptolus.

On August 1, he will be releasing the PDF of his new game, Numenera. The print books will follow on August 14. The science fantasy RPG raised over $500,000 on Kickstarter, as well as a whole community of supporters.

In part 2 of our two-part interview with Monte Cook, we discuss his career, what he has learned about self-publishing, and how Kickstarter helped shape Numenera.


numenera nano

Monte Cook has been a roleplaying game designer for over 20 years and is best known for working on the Planescape setting for Dungeons and Dragons, being one of the designers of Dungeons and Dragons third edition, and a variety of games such as Arcana Unearthed and Ptolus that he self-published through his company Malhovac.

After a hiatus for several years, he has returned to game design. Numenera is an original game and unique setting with the tendency toward the strange. The game will be released as a PDF on August 1, with the printed book to follow on August 14.

In part 1 of our two-part interview with Monte Cook, we discuss the creation of Numenera, the feel of the game, and the power of ideas.



Recently, Monte Cook hired his friend Charles Ryan to join Monte Cook Games as Chief Operating Officer to help launch the science fantasy roleplaying game "Numenera" later this summer. Ryan has been working in the RPG industry for 20 years, including a stint as the brand manager for Dungeons and Dragons third edition. MTV Geek talked to Ryan about his relationship with Monte, what he brings to Monte Cook Games, and the future of "Numenera."


Perhaps you haven't heard of "Fiasco." If so, throw out what you think you may know about roleplaying games, and instead, absorb this simple description from it's designer, Jason Morningstar: "You’ll play ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. There will be big dreams and flawed execution. It won’t go well for them." It's commonly referred to as a "create your own Cohen brothers film" kit, but with some free supplements released this month, players will be creating horror movies in no time.


Each fall, Luke Crane (designer of the "Burning Wheel Fantasy Roleplaying System" and the "Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game") brings RPG players together in New York City for one intense weekend of gaming. The event is called Burning Con, and it is unlike any other RPG convention. In order to attend, players must step up to the challenge of running their own game. What's more, players are limited to running games designed by Crane and his special guests. This year, Vincent Baker ("Apocalypse World") and John Harper ("Danger Patrol") are joining the event, making Burning Con a spectacular celebration of Indie RPG talent.

But one weekend is not long enough to run an extended RPG campaign, and as such, Burning Con attendees will have to run one-shot scenarios. With that in mind, Luke Crane has taken to the Burning Wheel Blog and provided attendees with some sharp advice on crafting RPG scenarios.


Monte Cook has been designing RPGs for a long time. Possibly longer than you've been alive, although now you're making us all feel old. Over the past 24 years, Cook's biggest claim to fame has been his involvement with "Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition" back in 2000, so when it was announced that he'd be joining the Wizards of the Coast team creating "D&D Next", it felt as though the dream team was being assembled.


The "Star Wars" fan community might be busy talking about some new television show, announced at Star Wars Celebration VI this weekend, but the big surprise for gamers was Fantasy Flight's announcement of a brand new "Star Wars" roleplaying game.

Iconic D&D art displayed on-screen during Gen Con's keynote address

So far, 2012 has been a year packed with Dungeons & Dragons news, and Gen Con 2012 was no different. Wizards of the Coast led off the year with the announcement of D&D Next, a new version of the popular roleplaying game that would replace D&D 4th Edition, and for that matter, all editions that came before it.

Dungeons & Dragons basic rules pamphlets, circa 1981. Image by Jennie Ivins

Over the course of the past four weeks, we've been chatting with the men behind Dungeons & Dragons: Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, Bruce Cordell, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins, to discuss their history with the  franchise. If you missed the first few installments, go read about the group's favorite settings, favorite play experiences, favorite all-around products, and proudest accomplishments while working at Wizards of the Coast. Today, we'll conclude this series with a look towards the future, asking each of our interviewees about their expectations for the future of Dungeons & Dragons: D&D Next. 

But they're not going to get off easy. D&D Next is being billed as a massive unifying effort, bringing together all roleplayers no matter which D&D edition they hold dear, and convincing them to drop the edition-speak entirely. Since a modular ruleset should allow players to combine their favorite aspects of past editions, we asked our panel exactly that: which two features of D&D's past they look forward to merging in future games of D&D Next. 

Mike Mearls: This is an easy one for me. I can’t wait to use basic D&D’s speed and ease of character creation with 4e’s adventure design guidelines.

Back when I lived in Boston, I used to run a lot of pickup D&D games. It got to the point where I spent a day creating a set of eight player characters for my friends to pick from. If we wanted to just play D&D, it took an hour to make 1 st-level characters, or much longer to make a 3rd or 4th level one. By the same token, as a DM I had to either write up stuff ahead of time or draw from a set of adventures I had read beforehand.

I like that the 4e rules make creating a short adventure fast and easy. In Next I want to make it even easier by introducing the option to use
random tables for monsters and treasure that are built on a system like 4e’s.


The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, as advertised in Marvel Comic's The West Coast Avengers issue #15 Dec 1986. Photo by user Nazhuret, used under Creative Commons License.

Over the course of five weeks, we'll be chatting with Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, Bruce Cordell, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins about their history with the Dungeons and Dragons franchise. If you missed the first three installments, go read about the group's favorite settings, favorite play experiences, and proudest accomplishments while working at Wizards of the Coast. Today, we'll force our interviewees to make some tough choices by asking them which product, out of everything Dungeons & Dragons-related ever released, they view as their favorite.

Image by Wikimedia user Moroboshi, used under Creative Commons License.

Over the course of five weeks, we'll be chatting with Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, Bruce Cordell, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins about their history with the Dungeons and Dragons franchise. If you missed the first two installments, go read about the group's favorite settings and play experiences. Today, we'll ask the group to share the contribution they are most proud of during their time working at Wizards of the Coast.

Mike Mearls: I’ll always be fond of the Player’s Handbook II for D&D 3.5. It was the first big project I worked on at WotC, and it gave me the chance to work on classes, feats, spells, and all sorts of stuff. I remember working on the feats chapter on my flight to that year’s Gen Con. That was when it really hit me that I was contributing to the D&D canon.


A group of Dungeons & Dragons players gather to create their own play experiences. Image by Jason Coleman, used under Creative Commons license.

Over the course of five weeks, we'll be chatting with Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, Bruce Cordell, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins about their history with the Dungeons and Dragons franchise. Last week, we asked the group about their favorite setting, but now, we'll go deeper into their gamer histories to hear the tales of their favorite play experiences.

Rodney Thompson: This is a really tough question to answer, because the great thing about D&D isn't that it's about individual moments, but about the stories that develop over weeks and months of being together with your group. For example, I'd be very tempted to call out the Age of Worms adventure path from Dungeon magazine as something that shaped my current view of what makes D&D great, and it still stands as one of my most successful campaigns I've ever run.

For one adventure, my girlfriend cooked a multiple-course meal that matched the weird feast taking place during the adventure. I had a good friend (who is also a professional illustrator) do character illustrations for each of my players' characters. I even have a little shrine to that campaign at my desk here at work, with that illustration (plus a matching illustration of the same characters by Order of the Stick artist Rich Burlew), and a signed art print of the cover image from the first adventure by Wayne Reynolds, all hung up on the wall. My players' character names from that campaign also occasionally creep into books I'm working on as the example names given for various character types.


A painted Beholder mini at DDXP 2008. Image by Flickr user Benimoto, used under Creative Commons License.

If you've been living under a rock, or simply don't read up on RPG-related news, you may not have heard about the upcoming changes to Dungeons & Dragons. Big changes. Currently in playtesting, the RPG's fifth iteration (codenamed D&D Next) is aiming to be the definitive version of Dungeons & Dragons, tying together the signature aspects of all prior D&D editions in a modular system.

With such a focus on leveraging the past to make a great new product, we felt it would be a great time to get inside the heads of the Dungeons & Dragons team to see just what sort of history they've had with the game. No two players are likely to have the same experience with a property as expansive as D&D, but looking at what inspires today's current crop of designers can give plenty of clues for the future. Read More...

Hulk, smash? Roll some dice and find out. In a free downloadable supplement to their Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, publisher Margaret Weis Productions has given players several new character sheets: The Hulk and U-Foes team members Vector, Ironclad, Vapor, and X-Ray.

All of this new content is tied together in a "What If?" scenario that puts a new twist on the New Avengers "Breakout" story arc. In the new playable RPG scene, Bruce Banner is held prisoner at the bottom of the Raft in place of the storyline's actual prisoner, the Sentry. Read More...

Mark your calendars for this Saturday, June 16th, and get to your local game store.

Comic book fans aren't the only ones who get free stuff, roleplaying game players have their day too. But unlike comics which just require someone to open a book to get involved, RPGs have a much higher barrier to entry. You have to convince a whole group to play, and someone has to put extra work in to actually run the game!

Roleplaying games can also carry a bit of a stigma, as they can evoke the most negative of geek stereotypes in outsider's mind. Check those judgements at the door. Self-identifying gamers owe it to themselves the experience of having tried an RPG at least once in their lives, and Free RPG Day is just the way to do it. Read More...

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