AMA with Shanna Germain (author, editor, co-owner of Monte Cook Games, lead designer of No Thank You, Evil!)

Starting June 1st, 2015, Shanna Germain will be holding an AMA right here on EN World! A writer, editor, and instructor for more than 20 years, Shanna's award-winning short fiction, essays, novellas, articles, poems, and books have been widely published. She is the co-owner of Monte Cook Games, LLC and the creative director for Numenera, The Strange, and the Cypher System Rulebook. Currently, she is the lead designer for No Thank You, Evil!, an upcoming RPG for creative families. Before she became a full-time writer, she worked as a bartender, plant wrangler, ice cream topper, firefighter, paramedic, house sitter, and groundskeeper. She owns a rescue dog named Ampersand and an invisible dragon named Interobang.​


I'm going to be popping in and out to answer questions as I have time, so feel free to start throwing stuff at me! I'm happy to talk about anything (except for my superhero alter ego. We don't talk about that). See you then!
 

Dahak

Explorer
Hi Shanna! In recent years, gaming has become fragmented between those who might be called advocates for free expression and those who favor diversity at all costs. MCG has seemingly tried to encourage both free expression and diversity, and has taken flak from both sides. Do you see any way to resolve this schism in gaming?
 

Xantherion

Visitor
Hello. I love both Numenera and The Strange, I also helped kickstart The Strange. I am also looking forward to the new Cypher system rulebook. I would love to hear about any future products, I have heard that there are some secret ones. Can you give some information on how much product support these products will receive in the future. Thank you for your part in these products, give my best to Monte and Bruce as well. I am greatly looking forward to what you all have coming in the future.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
What have you found to be the primary challenges in engaging kids to play RPGs? Have any expressed surprise at a non-video game RPG, or are they all on board with the concept?

From a design perspective are there any elements, other than simplicity, that you try to include when writing for kids?

Do you plan to write an RPG for dogs? My dog is feeling left out!
 

Dark Kain

Visitor
Can you reveal something about MCG scheduling for this year?
When are we going to see the "Worlds Numberless and Strange" supplement? Also is the strange compendium supplement going to be published this year?
 

Desh-Rae-Halra

Explorer
Hi Shanna,
I am also wondering about the focus for MCG. Each year you have had a product, starting with Numenera, then The Strange, and this year the Cypher System Rulebook and No Thank You, Evil!
I know there is ongoing product development for the current lines (I was a KS Strange Superfan Backer, so there is still a ton of books in the pipeline just on that project alone).

The Strange gave up about any setting a player can imagine, and the Cypher System Corebook is giving foci and descriptors to all sorts of Genres, again, either complementing The Strange or holding their own as homebrew settings.

Are we likely to see another Corebook+ Setting like Numenera from MCG in 2016? Any hints?
i LOVE that you MCG gives the fans all the tools, and at the same time, I say to myself "Oh crap, they gave us all the tools, what could be left?"

OR another way to tackle the same type of question: What genre has MCG not tried yet?
 

Corrosive

Adventurer
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions Shanna.

Do you guys see the Cypher system as a universal system (a la GURPS, Fate, Savage Worlds)? If so was that the initial idea, or is it something that developed naturally?

I've seen you tweet about negativity on the internet. Is that something you struggle with? Either individually or as a team?

Cypher is fairly light on the mechanics to start with. What got trimmed out for kids in NTYE?

Do you guys have roles at MCG? Like I see Bruce Cordell as more science fictiony, Monte as more weird stuff (meant in a good way), you as championing inclusivity. Or is that just a weird filtered perception of my own?
 

marroon69

Explorer
Hey Shanna,
I am looking for a little inspiration and a good book always helps. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind sharing your favorite books and authors. Maybe a list by genre (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Science, Fantasy, fiction) and why you like them?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
When you have three designers (plus other members of MCG) like you, Bruce, and Monte, are there ever areas of contention, design-wise? For example, is there ever a tendency for one of you to want to go a certain way and the others have to pull it back a bit? Is that a way a team dynamic can complement each other?

I'm trying to think of examples. OK, bearing in mind I'm just making this up, so it's not an example based on reality. Say Monte had a tendency to want tons of random tables, and you guys are like "random tables are cool, but let's keep the number down"; or Bruce wants to put mathematical equations in his work, and you guys are all "Bruce, it's a game, not a textbook". Those are really silly examples, I know. I just took two things I tend to do and attached Monte and Bruce's names to them. But the short version of the questions is: are there any individual tendencies that teamwork tends to help smooth out?
 

tgmoore

Explorer
No Thank you, Evil seems to be firmly aimed at younger kids but scale-able for all ages of play. Will there be more complex rules aimed at older teens and adults to expand the No Thank you, Evil system?
 

Hangfire

Visitor
Hello Shanna, thanks for doing this AMA. I was curious about something you mentioned in your call out for kids to come and play-test No Thank You Evil - you made a point to include kids that might have special needs, including color-blindness, autism, and dyslexia. Had you given children with special needs some thought before you started writing the game? My daughter has down's syndrome, and I fully intend to get her into geeky things when she's older (including No Thank You Evil!), and it was nice to see a game designer being so inclusive. Keep up the great work.
 
As a retail store owner I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Kickstarter. You guys are much more supportive of retail locations than a lot of other kickstarter companies, so thank you very much for that.
 

Klaus

Visitor
Why is your editor so awesome?

A "No, Thank You, Evil!" game is about to start: what character do you make up?
 
Hi Shanna! In recent years, gaming has become fragmented between those who might be called advocates for free expression and those who favor diversity at all costs. MCG has seemingly tried to encourage both free expression and diversity, and has taken flak from both sides. Do you see any way to resolve this schism in gaming?
I don't think that it's a schism so much as a bell curve, with the majority of gamers (and game designers) between those two extremes.

As a creator, I don't accept the dichotomy that you can either have inclusivity or free expression. Inclusivity doesn't hamper anyone's ability to create whatever you want. It gives you the ability to create whatever you want and make it available and interesting to everyone.
 
Hello. I love both Numenera and The Strange, I also helped kickstart The Strange. I am also looking forward to the new Cypher system rulebook. I would love to hear about any future products, I have heard that there are some secret ones. Can you give some information on how much product support these products will receive in the future. Thank you for your part in these products, give my best to Monte and Bruce as well. I am greatly looking forward to what you all have coming in the future.
Thanks so much, Xantherion!

There are some secret projects in the works--a whole bunch of them, in fact. Unfortunately, they have to stay secret for a while longer.

I can say that we have some products we'll be announcing soon for both the Strange and Numenera, including some new PDF-only books for both (one of those will be a glimmer that ties into Strand, the upcoming short film). We also have three Strange books to finish for the Kickstarter, and some exciting Numenera developments in the near future.
 
What RPG have you played recently beside Monte Cook Games? If none, anything out there that's tempting you?
We play OD&D about once a month or so, which is really fun because it's a great group (mostly of other game designers) and I feel like I'm back in high school again. The only problem is that I keep trying to make my own defense rolls.

I've been intrigued by both Mind Jammer and Eclipse Phase, and I'm really looking forward to the new Star Wars game.
 
What have you found to be the primary challenges in engaging kids to play RPGs? Have any expressed surprise at a non-video game RPG, or are they all on board with the concept?

From a design perspective are there any elements, other than simplicity, that you try to include when writing for kids?

Do you plan to write an RPG for dogs? My dog is feeling left out!



So far, the kids have been totally on board with gathering around a table to play. It seems like maybe they don't see the two kinds of gaming as being all that different--they just want to do something fun, and it doesn't matter as much what form that fun thing takes.

The hardest part is that kids are just so smart and so creative. They blow me away with their solutions to problems and the kinds of characters and world they want to create. So I never want the game to talk down to them or say no to that brilliant creativity. So we built the rules to give them parameters inside which their creativity can really shine.

We tried to get Ampersand, our dog, to play one of those iPad games designed for pets. She was supposed to push on a creature with her nose or her foot, and it would squeak. She was totally not interested. She IS really interested in the bird sounds at the start of the Borderlands game, though. Every time that game starts and the logo comes up, she knows the bird sound is coming and she gets ready. I think if we did an RPG for dogs, it would have to be heavily sound--and food--oriented, if she's any indication.
 

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