AMA with Monte Cook (Numenera, D&D, Monte Cook Games, Malhavoc Press)

Not open for further replies.
Starting August 10, 2015, I will be holding an AMA right here on EN World! So, what would you guys like to talk about?

Of interest to ENWorlders, I've been professionally designing games for 27 years, and have worked on Rolemaster, Champions, and D&D 2E, including Planescape, and a little Dark Sun and Forgotten Realms. I was a co-designer on D&D 3E, and worked for a time as lead designer on 5E. I am the designer of the award-winning Numenera and HeroClix, and co-designed the now (!) ENnie-award winning The Strange with Bruce Cordell and the upcoming No Thank You, Evil! with Shanna Germain. I also just got inducted into the Academy of Adventure Design's Hall of Fame, which was a big honor for me. I am the co-owner of Monte Cook Games, but also ran the d20 Studio, Malhavoc Press for a time where I published stuff like the Book of Eldritch Might, Arcana Evolved, and Ptolus. I worked full time at Iron Crown Enterprises, TSR, and Wizards of the Coast.

In short: Worked on a lot of games.

Believe it or not, I also do stuff that isn't related to tabletop games, but who cares about that?

Bring on the questions!


Hi, Monte!

Love you guys, love the Cypher System.

While it was initially billed as a standalone product, is there now a chance we'll see support books for the Cypher System Rulebook? It seems like there would be room for the equivalents of Numenera and The Strange's key sourcebooks: a bestiary, a techbook, and perhaps an expanded genre book instead of the worldbooks.

And now the hard hitting question: do you expect any Nibovian Wife/Thunder Plains-like resistance to the witch creature in the CSR?


Hi Monte,

1. If you were tasked with building your most bad-ass character ever, what would it be and what music would you have on (Artist and Album) while you were writing it up?
2. Can we count on Into The Night being a return to the ideas/paradigms of Planescape?
3. What question do you get asked most often at conventions?
4. What question do you wish someone would ask?
5. Do you get spotted as a gaming celebrity much outside of conventions?
6. Do you ever wrestle with fans desires to be actual friends with you vs your personal need for privacy?
7. I'm still a proud owner of the autographed version of Ptolus. I cant help but notice the inside cover symbol leeks very much like the cover symbol on the Deluxe Leatherbound Edition of Numenera (which is also the shape of the super-continent). Where does this symbol come from and can you talk about its importance to you.


PS. I still insist you are this generations' Gygax!


First, let me say I'm a big fan of your work.

1. It's touched on in the rulebooks, but how do you personally deal with players that don't simply roll with the "weird" in Numenera? In my Numenera game I had players that behaved more like Starfleet scientists and bristled at being told things were beyond their comprehension.
2. In "weird" games like Numenera, how do you allow for characters with complex backgrounds tied to the game world without giving the players too much information about all the oddities and secrets of the world?
3. Do you have an detailed story bible for Numenera's prior civs, or are they just painted in broad strokes?
4. Given that you had some input in 5e, is there any interest in MCG doing a product for 5e? (Also, where is my pipe dream University of Doors/City of Doors crossover? The Lady can't keep this going forever, some of the faculty have already noticed that the headmistress is playing hooky.)
5. Do you feel that people are more sensitive about how sexuality is portrayed in RPGs these days? Is it harder to put some of the bawdier elements into products now?

Last edited:


Support for Numenera in Spanish

First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to you for all of the amazing hours of truly wonderful gaming your products have brought to me and my friends. Your work is responsible for more hours of imaginative exploration than any other author.

Having recently moved to Mexico and finding myself in a difficult situation due to the fact that there are few here who speak English at the level to read through Numenera, I was curious if there will someday be a version released in Spanish? Perhaps another Kickstarter?


Hypothetically, if the gaming industry utterly collapsed, what kind of job would you have instead?

Also, if you were to re-write Numenera today, would we still have Glaives, Jacks, and Nanos, or would it look more like the Cypher System Rulebook (with Speakers and Explorers instead of Jacks)?
I have been a huge fan since your work on 3rd edition D&D

I am a backer at the Reliquary level for the boxed set Kickstarter for Numenera. I never got my rewards because I failed to receive the email explaining the order process that occurs after paying. After getting no responses to my email inquiry 10 days ago about the missing coupon code - and seeing the posts recently about selling the leftovers at GenCon - let's just say I am very scared that I will never get my rewards. But I also know GenCon is a busy time for all of you over at MCG. Am I SOL/are the Numenera Reliquary boxed sets all gone?

I read before on the Numenera site that MCG was not interested in licensing the Cypher System for use with additional games at one time. However, the Cypher System is now licensed to new games. Has that stance changed?


Well, that was fun
Staff member
I enjoyed your Geekseekers show with Jen Page. Do you have any plans to do more of that, or any other shows? Do you have a wish-list of stuff in that vein you'd like to do, or people you'd like to work with?

Zak S

In Ptolus--which I understand was the actual campaign you ran for a long time--the final dungeon at the end of the whole campaign contains a lot of basically numerically-intense monsters, like: x levels of fire resistance plus an amulet of lightning resistance plus immunity to necrotic damage plus...

...suggesting that the endgame for that era of your campaigns was basically players finding largely system-specifc (as opposed to genre-specific) ways to counter system-based problems. i.e. "We need to find something that gives us at least a +15 frost attack here...".

1. Is this an accurate view of how things went down at the end of your Ptolus campaign?


2. Is this still what you're into?


Would MCG open to collaborate with WotC for a DnD5 book adventure campaign like "Prince of the Apocalypse". Would be great for something Far Realms or Planescapy!



Been a fan of yours for a long time and early supporter of Numenera. Congrats on the success of that line!! It is well deserved.

As a long time fan, I have noticed that the old Web files (Errata, extras, etc) for your older lines has gone away. Specifically, those for Malhavoc Press in my case. Are there any plans to return these items for download? I was looking for then for a while and have given up recently - so I may have missed something.

Thanks for your time!


Jester David

1) Would you ever release a revised version of Ptolus for another system, like Pathfinder or 5e (assuming a licence was released)?

2) It's been asked before, but I'll ask as well: if WotC made the offer, would Monte Cooke Games do an adventure for 5th Edition?

3) Biggest regret in your RPG writing career?

4) Best moment or biggest triumph in your RPG writing career?

5) If you had to leave tabletop games, what field would you look for employment in?
Last edited:
I really enjoyed the Cypher System Rulebook, are there any plans to expand that line? I'd love to see a companion book that expanded the genre chapter quite a bit.
Second Question - There have been a lot of awesome RPG's that have come out this year, along with the Cypher System (You have caused me to lose Wife Faction personally ;p ). Anything new that you enjoyed?


AMA Monte Cook - Question


Similar congratulations on all the successes of MCG! Look forward to seeing your products grow for years to come. With that in mind, I have two questions:

1) (Seconding GrissTheGnome) Does MCG intend to produce modular game settings to complement the Cypher System Rulebook? Something like extended Genre Guidebooks (~90pg?) for "Steampunk," "Fantasy," etc.. I've really enjoyed the amount of customization and tweaking that the CSR allows for/encourages, but I can see how that degree of interpretability could be daunting to a newer GM wanting to pick it up to run a particular style of game. These Genre Guidebooks could provide things like accessible descriptor+foci lists, full type+flavour ability options for that settings' "types" (Pilot, War-Mage, etc.), as well as extended equipment lists and expanded discussions of GM tips for that genre.

2) Would you be interested/available for a written interview (via e-mail correspondence)? I would love to discuss the new CSR with you and share our discussion!

Thanks in advance for your time!

Mitch at dLinear
Writing Process and Tools

I always find it fascinating to learn about how people work, especially for creative endeavors such as design and writing. I'm not sure I've ever read about how RPG game designers actually work.

1) What tools do you use to craft a game? Word, Markdown, Scrivener? (Mac or Windows? :))
2) How do you get inspired? Do you have to be in a specific place to design/write? Or do you find the distraction of a coffee shop/others working in your studio a spark? Group discussions with notes sprawling a page or whiteboard?
3) Do you outline, or just spew words on a page and then clean up until what's left is your game?
4) Considering your books arguably have the highest production quality in the industry, how long does layout take? What tool(s) do you use for such things? Outsourced or do you oversee every illustration and punctuation detail? Someone else on staff who oversees that?
5) Probably goes without saying that it's awesome that Bruce, a childhood friend, is working with you, but how do you guys handle disagreements in game design?
6) While it's certainly in the purview of MCG to charge for 3rd party licenses, why charge for fan created items since you undoubtedly don't make that much money from that channel? To keep the barrier of entry and therefore production values higher? (This is arguably the strategy that Apple uses for apps.)

I've definitely used up my allotment. Love the games so far. One regret is not backing the box. Any chance of a French version similar to the Italian version? :)
Last edited:


Hey Monte,

1) Where are the jobs in the table-top gaming industry?
2) If somebody wants to get into game design/writing, how does one get involved with an established publishing company/studio?
3) Where do you see the industry in 10 years?

Scrivener of Doom

Monte, one of the things that attracted me to Ptolus was your website with its write-ups of your session reports.

I was wondering, what campaigns are you currently running and/or playing in for fun (as opposed to simply for playtesting purposes)? I'm just looking for the quick elevator pitches, if you will.

Best wishes for the continued success of Numenera, the Cypher system etc...; they're great games.


Possibly a Idiot.
Hello there!

How did you get into the games and the game industry?

What is your favorite mechanic?

What is your least favorite commonly used mechanic?

Do you prefer to come up with an interesting idea first, then work it into a rule? Or do you like to come up with a nifty rule, then build an idea around it?

Which idea gave you the most trouble when translating it into a game rule?

If you couldn't use dice (or a dice app I suppose), what would you use in their place?

What do you feel is the biggest hurdle you face when you design games?

Do you prefer hot coffee or cold coffee?
Not open for further replies.