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

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

Monte Cook and Shanna Germain, the owners of their Ennie award-winning publishing company, have just released another successful crowdfunding campaign. Old Gods of Appalachia exceeded its targets, and Kickstarters own tabletop successes raised more than $2 million in backer support. In August 2022, the two launched their first crowdfunding campaign for Numenera, powered by Cooks' own Cypher System.

Cypher is a rules-lite RPG game engine that emphasizes narrative and ease-of-use. GMs focus less on dice and more on keeping the story moving, and players may dive right in because they have the ability to create whatever they desire. In the rich science fantasy setting of Numenera, which takes place after humanity has risen and fallen eight times previously, cyphers motivate both characters and story.

Ten Years of Adventure is a hardback anthology that the MCG team has developed and bound from many public events theyve sponsored at Gen Con over the years, including this years batch, for a limited time. The Cypher System Open License will make it much easier for independent creators to develop and market games compatible with Cypher.

They're planning to launch a second crowdfunding campaign for The Weird (the first for them to use Backerkit), a system- and setting-agnostic resource for GMs and players alike.

Monte Cook, the book's creator, and creative director, have shared an exclusive first look at the planned cover as well as some of the fantastic artwork that will accompany the book. The crowdfunding campaign will begin later this month.

The MCG design team aimed to create an immersive, compelling weirdness while promoting an openness through the attractive and easy-to-learn Cypher System and its mechanics, according to Cook. It's an approach that has shaped much of the publisher's success in the years since.

Senior designer and co-founder Germain describes what it means to prioritize accessibility and inclusion in No Thank You, Evil!, a kids-and-family-focused game.

We looked at everything, from what fonts are good for someone who is dyslexic to lowering the barriers for someone who is nonverbal, or for a kid who is on the autism spectrum, or who has ADHD?

From Cypher, which started as a way to stoke the interest of those who saw the rules and number-crunching of many TTRPGs as a barrier to play and story, through Invisible Sun's 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 products and strive to remove any obstacles they might encounter.

MCG's commitment to excellence goes beyond the artwork it takes to ensure that it is accurate and relevant to its target audience, to the creative language it employs, to providing free consent and safety tools to the larger community of TTRPG participants.

Both Germain and Cook agree that the greatest joy of working on this project is seeing people participate in the worlds MCG has created.

Cook believes this is particularly relevant because he can recall, from his years at TSR and Wizards of the Coast, the subtle and at other times explicit ways that corporate policy dictated how open and inclusive the creative teams could be. Both Cook and Germain have been inspired by the desire to establish a truly ethical working environment in their own company.

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

Having been in the industry for a long time, a lot of my efforts are geared toward assisting new artists and young artists in the same way that I was helped, according to Cook. MCG has welcomed newer designers to the fold, like Dominique Dickey, who is well-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 creation of Dungeons & Dragons Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, who they met at the Science Fictions & Fantasy Writers of Americas Nebula Conference. It was also extremely rewarding for me as a designer that I can make anything from start to finish.

Dickey took up the challenge of seeing their own original work published for the first time, giving them the confidence to begin writing and releasing their own games. At MCG, they had the opportunity to not only write, but shadow everyone else at the company at every stage of the production. This past May, she returned to MCG as both a designer and editor.

Dickey says they feel at ease working alongside people who know them and understand their work. Cook brought back a piece of advice that Dickey says they have now hanging above their desk: "I didn't hire you because I can write MCG products."

And thats when I was like, Oh, I feel very valued here for the whole breadth of what I am capable of creating.

Germain said of the past decade: I'm able to bring all of my personality to bear on the way to run and grow this business, and in doing so I think weve 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.