Monte Cook Games is still establishing the bar high for tabletop role-playing after a decade

Monte Cook Games is still establishing the bar high for tabletop role-playing after a decade ...

Monte Cook and Shanna Germain, the owners of their Ennie-winning publishing company, have had a busy month. They had the opportunity to raise more than $2 million in backer support for their first crowdfunding campaign for Numenera, powered by Cooks' own Cypher System, in August 2022.

Cypher is a rules-based RPG game engine that emphasizes narrative and ease-of-use. GMs concentrate less on dice and more on keeping the story moving, and players can dive right into them because they are capable of making cyphers a single-use tool that encourages discovery, experience, and creativity. In the rich science fantasy setting of Numenera, which takes place after humanity has risen and fallen eight times previously, cyphers encourage both characters and story.

Ten Years of Adventure is a hardback collection from MCG's numerous public events throughout the years, including this years batch, and will be available in Indianapolis and the MCG online storefront for a limited time. The Cypher System Open License will make it much easier for independent designers to develop and market games compatible with Cypher.

The Weird is about to launch a second crowdfunding campaign, this time for GMs and players. Backerkit is a system- and setting-agnostic tool.

Monte Cook, MCG's creative director and co-founder, said there are several great books out there that are just meant to enliven your imagination. Everything from player characters to NPCs to spells and abilities, will be covered in the book, as well as guidance on how to incorporate (a lot or a bit) weird into your game.

The MCG design team aspired to achieve immersive, compelling weirdness while fostering a sense of accessibility through the elegant and easy-to-learn Cypher System and its mechanics, according to Cook. It's an approach that has informed much of the publisher's success in the years following.

Senior designer and co-founder Germain describes how accessibility and inclusion in games is actually implemented.

From dyslexic people to nonverbal individuals, or for kids on the autism spectrum, or who have ADHD, we looked into everything. How do we make games that allow them to interact without having to jump through a bunch of hoops?

From Cypher, which began as a way to stoke the interests of individuals who saw the rules and number-crunching of many TTRPGs as a barrier to play and story, to the thoughtful design of No Thank You, Evil! forming as a response to how parents used Cypher with their kids, it's evident that MCG's designers pay attention to how they use their goods and attempt to avoid any difficulties they may encounter.

Everything MCG does is infused with that critical and compassionate spirit, from the time it takes to ensure that its artwork is accurate and representative of its audience, to the language it uses, to providing free consent and safety tools for the wider community of TTRPG players.

Both Germain and Cook agree that the joy of working on this is seeing individuals embody themselves in the worlds MCG has created.

Cook claims that this is particularly pertinent because he can recall, from his years at TSR and Wizards of the Coast, the subtle and sometimes explicit ways that corporate policy dictated how open and inclusive the creative teams should be. Germain has said, "The issue with this product is that it doesnt have a white male on the cover," said the speaker. "I wanted to have a company that was willing to emulate that toxic culture in its own hands."

Coleman Charlton, Terry Amthor, Kevin Barrett, and Pete Fenlon, all key figures at Iron Crown Enterprises who were responsible for the Middle-Earth Role Playing (MERP) and Rolemaster lines in the 1980s, all aided him in his career, and he is now trying to pay them back.

Having been in the business for a long time, a lot of my efforts are geared toward assisting new entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs in the same way that I was helped, like Charles Ryan, Tammie Ryan, Bruce Cordell, and Sean Reynolds. MCG has welcomed newer designers to the fold, including Dominique Dickey, known for their work on TRIAL, Tomorrow on Revelation III, Thirsty Sword Lesbians, and the latest from Wizards of the Coast, Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel

After being recommended to MCG as an intern in 2019, Dickey met Ajit George, a fellow game designer and creative writer who coordinated the production of Dungeons & Dragons Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, who they met at the Science Fictions & Fantasy Writers of Americas Nebula Conference.

Dickey took the time to learn and develop their own games and received the encouragement to begin writing and releasing their own games. At MCG, they had an opportunity to not only write but shadow everyone else at the company at every stage of the production. This past May, she joined MCG as both a designer and editor.

Dickey says they really feel like they're working with people who know them and understand how they work. Cook returned with a comment that Dickey says they've now hanging above their desk: I didnt hire you because I couldn't get you to publish Dominique Dickey products.

And that was the moment when I was like, Oh, I feel very heard and valued here for the whole breadth of what I am able to achieve.

Germain said of the past decade: I'm able to bring all of my personality to bear on the creation and growth of this company and in doing so I think we've built a company that invites all of our employees to do the same. They come through the door and we want them to be as they are. We want their creativity and their passions.