Monte Cook is one of the most prolific voices in the RPG industry today. Since 1988, he has been working in and around the industry. From his start on “Rolemaster” and “Champions” to his co-creation of 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons to his epic setting book based upon his own home campaign, “Ptolus,” he has been influential in bringing hours of enjoyment to thousands of RPG gamers throughout the world.
First off, let me thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for the ENnies. I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk about the ENnies, especially since next year is its 10th anniversary.
Starting off with a more personal question, I first heard of you when 3rd edition came out. I know that you’ve worked in the industry since 1988, starting with Iron Crown Enterprises, and are still going strong today. What keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?
Well, actually my attention has been diverted to other fields. I recently published a nonfiction book, The Skeptics Guide to Conspiracies. This year will see a lot of fiction from me. But RPGs keep calling me back. It’s just a fun, wonderfully creative field to work in. Plus, gamers are great to interact with, being people interested in fun and imagination about all else.
What made you want to work in the RPG industry?
I was in a bookstore and saw a module called Dwellers of the Forbidden City. Rather than saying “by Gary Gygax” on it, like most of the others I’d seen, this one said, “by David Cook.” I thought to myself, “Cook? That’s my name. Hey—it’s someone’s job to write this stuff. I want to that to be my job someday.” I was about 12 or 13 years old, but I never strayed from that thought.
In 2001, Malhavoc Press’ The Book of Eldritch Might was nominated for Best Rulebook or Accessory, Best Writer, and Best Editor. It went on to win Gold in all three categories. The website was also nominated for Best Website and won that as well. What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated and won? Did you expect the ENnies to be around longer than that year or just a handful of years?
It was great to be nominated, and even though my wife Sue and I were on vacation at the time, we made a point of being in the chat room when the winners were announced (the ceremony was entirely online then). It was a lot of fun and I figured that the ENnies would be around a long time after that. They were much needed in the industry.
Did your nominations and wins affect sales of your products? Did they have a lasting effect on sales in general?
I wish it was easy for me to answer that question with definitive figures, but it’s not. It’s just not that easy to track specific influences on sales. That said, I feel that the added recognition for the products helped them, and even more, I think the awards helped increase awareness for Malhavoc Press as a whole, particularly at the beginning.
What is your book, The Skeptics Guide to Conspiracies, about? How different was it to write a non-fiction book compared to writing RPGs or fiction in general?
Well, it’s about conspiracies. It’s an overview of everything from the JFK assassination to Freemasonry and Roswell to Nazi bases in Antarctica with a little Elvis thrown in for good measure. It’s a light hearted, wry take on it all, but it’s informative. I used much of the same research for this book that I used when working on the Dark Matter RPG product that came out a few years ago, so in some ways it was the same. The tone of the book, and the presentation, however, is very different from an RPG product. It’s more direct and approachable.
For works you’re releasing in 2011, to what are you most looking forward to being published?
I have a fantasy novel set in an original setting that I’m working to get out this year (fingers crossed). I guess that’s what I’m most excited about.
How did you initially get into playing RPGs?
I heard a couple of kids talking about D&D in Sunday school one day and I didn’t know what they were talking about, but I knew I had to know more. I was hooked instantly.
What was the first gaming system you played in?
D&D (white box).
Do you get to play in a campaign, regular or irregular? When you do, what system do you normally play? Is the campaign based in Ptolus?
I run a regular D&D game, although it’s currently on hiatus. I also have been playing off and on in a few D&D campaigns as well. I’ve stuck with the 3rd edition of the game, with lots of my own house rules, which can be found in the Complete Book of Experimental Might which I wrote a few years ago. Although I ran campaigns set in Ptolus for almost 10 years, my most recent campaign was not set there, but instead in the Underdark.
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 to answer. I guess the obvious answer is D&D 3E, but Ptolus is also something that’s near and dear to my heart. And a lot of other things too. Truthfully, I’m proud of it all, because I’m the kind of person who wouldn’t put out anything I wasn’t proud of.
Now that we’ve been around for almost a decade, what do the ENnies mean to you both personally and professionally?
Frankly, the ENnies are the only game industry awards that I pay much attention to. I think they’re important to the industry and to the fans. The ceremony at Gen Con is always a lot of fun.
If someone who had never heard of the ENnie Awards walked up to you today and asked, “So what are these ‘ENnies’ you keep talking about,” how would you answer them?
I’d say that they’re the primary awards for pen and paper roleplaying games. They do a nice job of really analyzing products in the market while representing the will of real gamers out there actually playing the games.
Thank you to Monte Cook for answering my questions. To learn more about Mr. Cook, you can visit his website at http://www.montecook.com.