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Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG: An Interview with Ilaria Gaia Russo

Coming from Italy, Here Be Dragons Games is converting Dungeons & Dragons 3e material by Monte Cook for use with Monte Cook’s Cypher System in the Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG Kickstarter. Christopher Robin Negelein, who I’ve spoken with at the Tessera Guild and reviewed here on EN World, connected me with Ilaria Gaia Russo of Here Be Dragons Games to discuss how this project came about and what the Kickstarter offers.
Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG.jpg
EGG EMBRY (EGG): Ilaria, thank you for taking the time to talk with me about this project. What is Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG? How did this project come about?
ILARIA GAIA RUSSO (ILARIA)
: It is my pleasure. Diamond Throne is our first international project in which we can put all our passion for GDRs*, but also all our experience accumulated over the years in this sector and on the Cypher System – as well on many other titles and systems. The idea for this project was born several years ago when our team met Monte Cook. The proposal to develop a version of Arcana Evolved for the Cypher System immediately appealed to him. From there, over the years we have developed it to become a real game line that will complement the wonderful products published by Monte Cook Games. Diamond Throne will be a complete fantasy game. The Diamond Throne setting isn’t just a unique, lavishly detailed fantasy world ruled by seafaring giants and populated with fascinating beings, like the leonine litorians and dragonkin dracha. It is also a world that grows, changes—evolves as your characters do through ritual and ceremony, runes, and the magic of crystals.

*GDR = Gioco Di Ruolo, Italian for 'roleplaying game'. Thanks to Davies for the catch.

EGG: This project reimagines the OGL D&D 3e books, Arcana Unearthed and Arcana Evolved, both by Monte Cook, using Monte Cook’s Cypher System. On the campaign page, you state, “this new beginning could not come about without [Monte Cook’s] support!” Is Monte Cook writing any new content for the books? What is the world like?
ILARIA
: Monte Cook and the whole MCG team is participating and supporting the project. Monte will be the eye that will watch over us all the time. That is particularly important because we are going to work on one of his original creation, developing it with new contents and ideas both for the setting and the rule systems. Even if it may seem a bit intimidating, Monte’s Eye for us (unlike Sauron’s Eye) is benevolent and is an incentive to give our best. Monte wants to write an introduction to this new edition, which for us is a guarantee of its approval. Then, who knows, the future always holds surprises…

EGG: I’m glad Monte is so involved. Why go with the Cypher System over Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition?
ILARIA
: One reality does not exclude the other, and the two systems are both extremely popular. But our first choice is the Cypher System, precisely because it is an original system created by Monte Cook Games and it seemed natural to us to propose this awesome setting with that. Furthermore, at the time the idea of resuming Arcana Evolved was born, the 5th edition had not yet come out! We believe that the Cypher is the right evolution for this setting - at least for now. This does not exclude that maybe in the future Diamond Throne could be adapted to 5th Edition. We would be delighted because we love this setting, and like us, we believe thousands of players love it too...

EGG: Let’s discuss the books. What will fans discover in Diamond Throne “Unearthed” Corebook 1?
ILARIA
: This volume introduces the people, cultures, and places of the land of the Diamond Throne, along with their history and special features that affect the background of Diamond Throne PCs. It covers the world’s cosmology, gods and religions, and the theoretically other planes of existence. It also includes material for adventure and campaign building, a plethora of unique creatures and monsters, adversaries and allies, and threats and dangers!

Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG 04.png

EGG: In the second book, Diamond Throne “Evolved” Corebook 2, what content should fans expect? What Cypher System extras will they find?
ILARIA
: This volume focuses on character creation, giving you all the types, descriptors, foci, background aspects, skills, and equipment you need. And it contains the complete Cypher System game rules, along with cyphers and artifacts. We will develop new systems of magic and ceremonies. Both will have their own rules and game effects. Spells for example will work in a different way as before, more like cyphers than special abilities. Ceremonies can be used to give characters a new advancement or other benefits. They can be temporary or permanent to change you character forever. You do not need to own the Cypher System Rulebook to play Diamond Throne. For both books, many extras have been unlocked during this campaign. For example. we have unlocked a section about animal companions, mounts and familiars which we would like to expand, and special locations to use as adventure starting points. In our team, we are designers and writers, but above all we have been playing for many years and have a number of good ideas from those experiences, with non-trivial features and interesting backgrounds, which is always very useful. We have other material to add, like more equipment, traditions, and magic school or dominion for all characters who want a faith or a philosophy.

EGG: You’re offering add-ons and have a stretch goal to add a GM Screen. What extras are you offering?
ILARIA
: We have a list of stretch goals we would like to reveal and unlock, if the backers trust us. We have unlocked our first campaign (three adventures books with a great description of the capital city of De-Shamod, and new monsters), useful accessories as the XP card deck, customized dice, a GM Screen, and a world map. Not so far away there is the character notebook, a new series of adventures that will explore other places in the setting, and perhaps advanced game options for players and GMs. And we want to enrich the books in order to make them even more beautiful both in both images and content.

EGG: My friend, Christopher Robin Negelein, talked to me about your Kickstarter and his role in it. What is Christopher slated to create for Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG?
ILARIA
: Christopher was an incredible addition to Diamond Throne. He immediately showed interest and participation in the project, so adding him to the team came naturally. Christopher will be engaged in the third part of the trilogy writing a complete adventure that will reveal one of the secrets of the city of De-Shamod and conclude the first trilogy. We are confident that he will amaze with the quality of his writing and the creativity that distinguish his editorial productions. But we know how to showcase his talent and we are sure that his contribution will be extended to other works.

EGG: You’re an international label out of Italy, what else have you published? What do you have coming after Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG?
ILARIA
: We have worked on a lot of projects, starting with Malhavoc Press and all Monte Cook Games product lines (Numenera, The Strange, Cypher System), and with Green Ronin, Free League, Schwalb Entertainment, and other international partners.

EGG: I appreciate you taking the time to discuss this project. For fans interested in covering the game and Kickstarter, where can they follow you at?
ILARIA
: You can go to our Facebook pages Here Be Dragons Games and Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG, our website, and follow also on Twitter and Instagram.

Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG from Here Be Dragons Games
End Date: Thu, October 8 2020 5:30 PM EDT.

“We’re bringing back Monte Cook’s acclaimed Diamond Throne setting as its own RPG powered by the Cypher System.”
 
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Egg Embry

Egg Embry


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For the D&D vs. Cypher System debate, I want to point out this portion of the interview.

ILARIA: ... Furthermore, at the time the idea of resuming Arcana Evolved was born, the 5th edition had not yet come out! We believe that the Cypher is the right evolution for this setting - at least for now. This does not exclude that maybe in the future Diamond Throne could be adapted to 5th Edition.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
Not saying every game must be D&D based, but just looking at the numbers here, and Diamond Throne for Cypher is not pulling the big crowds because Monte Cook himself is not the one running the show (the hundreds of thousands of US Dollars get pledged when Monte is present in person).

On the other hand, here is Stargate for 5th Edition D&D already topping 60,000 plus US Dollars (in one day).

View attachment 127086

Bad example, you've got two large fan bases here. DnD and Stargate. Hell I'll probably back it because it is Stargate and I'm not really into backing DnD Kickstarters. So thanks for the heads up on the StarGate Kickstarter. (y) :cool:
 



Christopher era un'incredibile dipendenza da Diamond Throne
I mean, try to write:

So, was DIamond Throne smoking Christopher? Chewing him? What form did the addiction take, and did they use AA to quit Christopher, since it's implied past tense? Inquiring minds want to know.

in italian.
 



MaskedGuy

Explorer
As someone with strong taste of distaste for 5e, I don't mind the acknowledgment that Cypher system IS pretty obscure/niche system(people are lazy to learn new systems in general, so its been pain to convince my pathfinder party to try it out. Whenever I get them to play oneshots of it they do like it, but they don't feel like learning a new system :p), I do however mind all the jeers about how it should be on 5e instead since I'm seriously getting sick of idea that D&D SHOULD have the monopoly on top of being most well known rpg brand :p
 

Dragonsbane777

Explorer
Showing my group Cypher as we speak, they seem enthusiastic. Of course, I have the title of Forever DM as no one else will DM anything, so as I told them... it's either what I prepare, or what they prepare :) Been playing DND since the 1980s, and many issues I have with DnD (way too many HP at high levels, optimizers with strange class combos, etc) are not present in Cypher, so let's go!
 

Von Ether

Adventurer
I play and enjoy Cypher. But when I want to attract players to my games, Not D&D has proven to be the biggest dealbreaker of them all. When I had an opening in my Numenera game on Roll20, I advertised for a month on Roll20, and ended up recruiting out of MCG's Discord. When I have an opening for my D&D games, I have a dozen applications on Roll20 within the first 24 hours. Heck, one time, a player accidentally dropped the game, and before I could re-invite him I had three applications to play because the setting made the listing go live.

So, while I love Cypher, I have to pass on this because I expect to never be able to use it.

Have you checked out the Cypher Unlimited Discord? It's got like 2K members in it.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Showing my group Cypher as we speak, they seem enthusiastic. Of course, I have the title of Forever DM as no one else will DM anything, so as I told them... it's either what I prepare, or what they prepare :) Been playing DND since the 1980s, and many issues I have with DnD (way too many HP at high levels, optimizers with strange class combos, etc) are not present in Cypher, so let's go!
The Cypher System is like bonkers easy to GM. I had a player who played only one prior game of Numenera before trying their hand at GMing it.
 

Mixed feelings here. I loved Arcana Unearthed and Arcana Evolved in their original forms and still have my copies so I'm glad to see the setting getting some attention.

BUT
They were D&D settings - twists on D&D standards and assumptions. Given that, AND 5E's popularity, AND Monte's Kickstarter clout ... it really seems like these would do better as 5th Edition settings/supplements. That's not an "Everything should be D&D" sentiment, that's a "D&D campaigns would fit better (and probably do better) as D&D supplements. I have a ton of other systems and like most of them but I don't see anything that makes Cypher a better fit for this.

This does not exclude that maybe in the future Diamond Throne could be adapted to 5th Edition.

Yes, yes - but this is what they're working on and promoting right now, so that's what we have to discuss!
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
Arcana Unearthed was quite possibly my favourite 3E book. I still use classes, races, spell templates etc from this all the time.
The best part of this is we will get more art for some of those rare races/heritages like mojh and faen. I have already converted all the races from the 3E book to 5E D&D.
It would be cool to see a 5E version too. I like Cypher System too though.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Mixed feelings here. I loved Arcana Unearthed and Arcana Evolved in their original forms and still have my copies so I'm glad to see the setting getting some attention.

BUT
They were D&D settings - twists on D&D standards and assumptions. Given that, AND 5E's popularity, AND Monte's Kickstarter clout ... it really seems like these would do better as 5th Edition settings/supplements. That's not an "Everything should be D&D" sentiment, that's a "D&D campaigns would fit better (and probably do better) as D&D supplements. I have a ton of other systems and like most of them but I don't see anything that makes Cypher a better fit for this.

This does not exclude that maybe in the future Diamond Throne could be adapted to 5th Edition.

Yes, yes - but this is what they're working on and promoting right now, so that's what we have to discuss!
The interview discusses at least two reasons why the Cypher System was initially chosen: (1) they proposed the project to Monte Cook before 5e was published, and (2) it converts Monte Cook's AE/DT to Monte Cook's primary system for his new company.
 

The interview discusses at least two reasons why the Cypher System was initially chosen: (1) they proposed the project to Monte Cook before 5e was published, and (2) it converts Monte Cook's AE/DT to Monte Cook's primary system for his new company.
Yes ... none of which changes my point. Launching this game -now- as a 5E adaptation would be better in every way than as a Cypher game.

Also - so they've been working on this for over 6 years? That seems like a ridiculously long time to convert an existing game and setting to a different existing rules system. The original AU/AE didn't take that long to be written, published, and revised for a second edition, so that seems like a really slow development process.

As far as converting MC's setting to MC's rules system - sure. No issue with that. No reason not to. There seems to be very little demand for it though, and it's taken a long time, and it appears to be taking priority over that other adaptation option ... so again - it's an odd choice.

Edit: Numenera was released in August 2013, which means the Next playtest had been going on for more than a year prior. It's not like 5E was a surprise ...
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Yes ... none of which changes my point. Launching this game -now- as a 5E adaptation would be better in every way than as a Cypher game.
That is certainly your opinion, but I don't think that Monte Cook would have given Here Be Dragons his blessing had he not believed them capable of making a suitable adaptation of his setting and rule set using the Cypher System.

Also - so they've been working on this for over 6 years? That seems like a ridiculously long time to convert an existing game and setting to a different existing rules system. The original AU/AE didn't take that long to be written, published, and revised for a second edition, so that seems like a really slow development process.
HBD did not say that they have been working on this for 6 years, but, rather, that they had the idea before 5e was released. It's also not clear whether their statement refers to the 2014 English release of D&D 5e or even the 2016-2017 release of the Italian edition of 5e. Maybe @Stefano Rinaldelli can correct me if I am wrong. But I have at least not seen German editions of D&D 5e in Austria until the past three or so years. Either way, it's important to remember that this is an Italian company that has also done a lot of translation work with the Cypher System, and it's not as if all of Europe flocked to 5e D&D to the same pace and degree as the English-speaking countries.

As far as converting MC's setting to MC's rules system - sure. No issue with that. No reason not to. There seems to be very little demand for it though, and it's taken a long time, and it appears to be taking priority over that other adaptation option ... so again - it's an odd choice.
You say that there is little demand for it, but it's more than enough demand for Monte Cook Games to support a staff and to produce regularly high-earning kickstarters. Their kickstarter for Numenera: Discovery and Destiny ($845K) made more than either their kickstarters for Ptolus for 5e ($783K) or Arcana of the Ancients ($520K). A kickstarter for a three book supplement for Numenera garnered $378K, so it's not exactly as if there is little demand for the product. Meanwhile, you have fairly prominent TTRPG YouTube channels like Nerdarchy and WebDM that praise the Cypher System and regularly run games with it. This particularly project undoubtedly would have garnered more money and publicity had Monte Cook Games been running this Kickstarter, but I don't think that 535% funding of a licensed project by a first time Kickstart is anything to scoff at.

Edit: Numenera was released in August 2013, which means the Next playtest had been going on for more than a year prior. It's not like 5E was a surprise ...
Of course not. Monte Cook also briefly worked on D&D Next as well before deciding to go his own direction, but it's not as if Monte Cook decided to publish for 5e once it was released. It has only been in the last year that he has really entertained the idea of publishing for 5e with Arcana of the Ancients and Ptolus. The Ptolus adaptation for 5e will also include one for the Cypher System as well.

Overall, what I'm hearing from you is that you want a 5e adaptation and you are flummoxed, frustrated, and annoyed that this company chose to make an adaptation for Monte Cook's Cypher System rather than the system that you would prefer. Even if you would prefer a 5e adaptation, there is nothing at all odd about Here Be Dragons choosing to adapt Arcana Evolved for the Cypher System. I personally recall that there were hopes and talks around the internet since 2013 that Monte Cook Games would bring back Diamond Throne, Ptolus, and their other games in some form or another.
 

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