AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Monte Cook

You’ve been long involved in the roleplaying game industry but you recently had a blockbuster success on Kickstarter with your Numenera RPG. Tell us about the game. 

Numenera is a far-future, post-apocalyptic science fantasy game with simple to use, story-based mechanics. Basically, Numenera is based around the Arthur C. Clarke quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The characters in the game are surrounded by the leftovers of long-gone, ultra-advanced civilizations, and to them it seems like magic. In some ways, then, it’s a science fiction game masquerading as a fantasy game. And it really focuses on the weird.

Just for folks who don’t know your impressive RPG pedigree, share a little of your background as a game designer. 

I’ve been doing this professionally since I was in college, which means I’ve never had a real job. I started in 1988, and have worked on a lot of different games, perhaps most notably in 2000 when I co-designed the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. For the last 11 years or so I’ve been producing mostly my own games rather than working for another company.

Given all that, why did you decide to fund Numenera via Kickstarter? 

Kickstarter does two things, and they’re both awesome. First and foremost, it’s a way for a creator to reach players (or readers) directly. There is no “middle man.” That’s really nice because the creator can tailor the rewards of the Kickstarter to really give those supporters what they want. Secondly, though, Kickstarter is like making a big pitch, but instead of pitching to an editor or a publisher, you’re pitching directly to the people you hope would be interested in buying the end product. It’s free market research. If you succeed, you know you’ve got something people want. If your Kickstarter fails, then it wasn’t an idea that people would be interested in. Better to find that out before you produce it rather than after!

Soon after the pen-and-paper version of Numenera was funded, the people behind the Planescape: Torment video game came calling and Kickstarted–and mega-funded–Torment: Tides of Numenera. But now you’re back with a new RPG: The Strange. Tell us about that. 

The Strange is a game about exploring new worlds that lie just beyond our own shadows. The Strange itself is an artificial layer of reality created eons ago by some unfathomably alien civilization. It hosts worlds that begin as fiction and turns them into realities called recursions. Many recursions are nested in the Strange intentionally, but there are some that pop up through what we call “fictional bleed.” So your favorite setting from a book or novel might be a real world deep in there somewhere waiting to be discovered. What’s more, as a part of the game, the player characters will get the opportunity to eventually create their own recursion.

I guess The Strange is both what’s next and what you’re working on now, or at least one of the things keeping you busy. What else is there on the horizon for you? 

Well, I have to write a short story for this cool Kickstarter-based anthology that’s coming up! My company, Monte Cook Games, is going to continue to support Numenera in a big way, and I’m writing some of the computer game you mentioned, Torment: Tides of Numenera, so that should be fun.