Interview with Monte Cook!!!!!

Firstly thank you for making a geek’s dream come true. I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, especially with your busy schedule.

Thanks for asking!Could you please tell us about yourself: age, hobbies outside gaming, so on?I’m 44. I live in Seattle. Besides gaming, I really enjoy writing fiction, reading, travel, music, and movies. I also am really into Legos! So, I’m a big geek.

How did you initially get into playing RPGs?I heard about roleplaying games when I was about ten years old, in Sunday school of all places. Two brothers were talking about a map on graph paper, traps, monsters, and a magical crown. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I knew I wanted in.What was the first gaming system you played in? Can you remember anything about your First Character?D&D (the original, small booklets from 1974) was the first game I played. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I actually owned any rpg products, the first being the just-released AD&D DMG. My first character was a fighter, and I don’t remember much about him. Later, though, I remember having a
ranger named Thad the Brave.Do you get to play in a campaign, how often do you play? When you do, what system do you normally play?Until just a couple of weeks ago, I was in a play test for the new, upcoming edition of D&D. Before that, I was running a variation on 3rd edition with a lot of house rules (most of which appear in the books The Book of Experimental Might I and II) for a few years.

What is your favorite character you have played, could you tell us something about them?

That would probably be Malhavoc, a D&D wizard/cleric that I played long, long ago. He was an evil character that redeemed himself in the end.

Mostly, though, I don’t play much. I run games instead. I’d say I’m the GM about 98% of the time when I play an rpg.Do you have any funny gaming moments?

Sure. Thousands. I think everyone does. One time, a paladin vain about his appearance was on a quest to bring a villain named Helmut Itlestein to justice. He followed him into this otherworldly realm where an evil demigod lived. The demigod told the paladin that the man was dead. The paladin demanded proof to take back with him. So the demigod burned the words “Helmut Itlestein is dead” onto the paladin’s beautiful face.

I can be a mean DM.

Do you have any gaming superstitions?

Not really. I’m not touchy or particular about dice or sheets or anything.

Considering all of the items you’ve published throughout the years, what is the one thing you’re most proud of?

That’s really hard. I suppose it might be the campaign setting, Ptolus, just because it came out so wonderfully. It’s beautiful, it’s a feat of game design and editing (it takes a lot of broad steps forward in how a product can be presented), and I’m still quite in love with the content.

That said, D&D 3rd Edition made hundreds of thousands of people really happy for a lot of years, so I’m proud of that too.

What’s a typical day in the life of Monte in terms of preparing your own role playing campaign

I usually make a lot of chicken scratch notes that would make sense to no one but me. For NPCs, I’ll often just prepare the most important stats, or just take something out of a published source and change what I need to (sometimes on the fly). Basically, I often prepare the big stuff, and sometimes the cool descriptions of things (I’m a very visual person), and then pull together the details on the fly.

I try to make that kind of “on the fly” GMing as easy as possible, though, so I keep things like lists of cool names, books with cool art, and products with stat blocks, cool spells, monsters, and whatnot close at hand.What’s the secret to being a good GM outside of following the official materials?

The number one key is making sure everyone’s having fun. Sounds oversimplified, but if you do that, you’ll run a good game. Fun trumps rules, story, and anything else. And remember, “everyone” includes you, too.

What do you think of the changes the way the RPG industry is currently changing, and heading towards more digital products?

I think we going to see interesting melding of tabletop and digital over the next few years. But tabletop will always have value for its social components.

What’s next for you?I also am writing a lot of fiction. You’ll see some of my short fiction popping up in various places this year.

Do you have any other parting words for all of the gamers out there?

Worry less about what other people are doing in their games, and focus more on having fun in your own. Edition wars are so tired, and have done terrible damage to the game and the audience. If you love your Honda, but someone else drives a Ford, it doesn’t affect how you drive. It’s a game no one is going to win, no matter how pithy your criticism of someone else’s system might be. We’re all gamers, and we all love games.