Male. Married; wife's name, Sue. Education: Graduate, Clarion West writer's workshop, 1999. Hobbies and other interests: Game playing, runs games, watches DVDs, builds dioramas out of LEGO building bricks, paints miniatures, reads comics.
Agent—c/o Wizards of the Coast, P.O. Box 707, Renton, WA 98057. E-mail—[email protected]
Game designer, author. Iron Crown Enterprises, Charlottesville, VA, game designer, editor, 1988-92; TSR, Inc., game designer and Wizards of the Coast, Renton, WA, game designer to 1994-2002; Malhavoc Press, founder, 2003.
Origins Award, 2000, for Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons Game Design; Nigel D. Findley Award, 2000, for Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook; EN World Award, 2001, for The Book of Eldritch Might; nominee, Origins Award, 2001, for Of Aged Angels; EN World Award, 2002, for Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game; Pen and Paper Fan Award, 2002, En World Award, 2003, for The Banewarrens; Fan Favorite Author/Designer, Pen and Paper Fan Awards, 2002, 2003; EN Award, Best Publishers, 2003, Malhavoc Press; Weird Gamewyrd Award, 2003, Pen and Paper Fan Award, 2003, for Arcana Unearthed; inclusion in Pen and Paper Fan Award Hall of Fame.
game design credits
Creatures and Treasures II, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1990.
Champions in 3-D, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1990.
Rolemaster Companion IV, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1990.
Dark Space, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1991.
Rolemaster Character Records, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1991.
European Enemies, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1991.
Rolemaster Companion V, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1991.
Spell User's Companion, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1992.
Champions Universe, Iron Crown Enterprises (Charlottesville, VA), 1992.
Elminster's Ecologies, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1994.
Glantri, Kingdom of Magic, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1995.
Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1995.
Labyrinth of Madness, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1995.
Planewalker's Handbook, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1996.
Hellbound: The Bloody War, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1996.
A Hero's Tale, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1996.
A Guide to the Astral Plane, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1996.
The Great Modron March, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1997.
Dead Gods, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998.
Planescape Monstrous Compendium III TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998.
A Paladin in Hell, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998.
Faction War, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998.
Tales from the Infinite Staircase, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998.
Vecna Reborn, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998.
The Inner Planes, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998.
Dark Matter, Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 1999.
D & D Third Edition, Dungeon Master's Guide, Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 2000.
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 2001.
The Book of Eldritch Might, Malhavoc Press, 2001.
Demon God's Fane, Malhavoc Press, 2001.
Beyond the Veil, Atlas Games, 2001.
The Book of Eldritch Might II, Malhavoc Press, 2002.
Queen of Lies, Fiery Dragon Productions, 2002.
Call of Cthulhu d20 Roleplaying Game, Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 2002.
HeroClix: Marvel Comics Collectible Miniatures Game, WizKids, 2002.
The Banewarrens, Malhavoc Press, 2002.
Requiem for a God, Malhavoc Press, 2002.
The Book of Vile Darkness, Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 2002.
Book of Eldritch Might III, Malhavoc Press, 2002.
The Book of Hallowed Might, Malhavoc Press, 2002.
Ghostwalk, Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 2003.
Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed: A Variant Player's Handbook, Malhavoc Press, 2003.
A Plague of Dreams, Fiery Dragon Productions, 2003.
Arcana Unearthed DM's Screen and Player's Guide, Malhavoc Press, 2003.
The Diamond Throne, Malhavoc Press, 2003.
Chaositech, Malhavoc Press, 2003.
The Complete Book of Eldritch Might, Malhavoc Press, 2004.
Legacy of the Dragons, Malhavoc Press, 2004.
Book of Hallowed Might II, Malhavoc Press, 2004.
Beyond Countless Doorways, Malhavoc Press, 2004.
Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, Malhavoc Press, 2005.
The Glass Prison (novel), Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 1999.
Of Aged Angels (novel), Wizards of the Coast (Renton, WA), 2001.
Contributor of articles and short stories to magazines including Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Magazine, Amazing Stories, Forgotten Realsm, and Game Trade Magazine. Contributor of stories to anthologies including Realms of the Arcane, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1997, Realms of Mystery, TSR Inc. (Renton, WA), 1998, Best of the Realms, Wizards of the Coast, 2003, and Children of the Rune, Malhavoc Press, 2004. Editor of numerous games and game rule books for Iron Crown Enterprises.
Monte Cook is a game designer who has worked on over one hundred titles since his professional start in 1988. Best known for his work on the core titles of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game, he has also worked on various individual titles for game companies, including Iron Crown Enterprises, TSR Inc., and Wizards of the Coast. In 2002 he set off on his own to found a design studio, Malhavoc Press, and with that imprint has brought out games and manuals, including The Book of Eldritch Might, Banewarrens, and Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed. Cook told Kosala Ubayasekara in an interview for Silven Cross that he doesn't look upon game design as "a science, it's an art." Cook further noted that "there isn't a right/wrong way to do something. What might be 'wrong' in a WotC (Wizards of the Coast) product could be just right for an independent publisher…. A smaller company can take more risks because they can easily survive with a smaller audience. It's like with movies. The big studios have to put out the big blockbusters to pull in the large audiences. But the smaller, independent studios can do more cutting-edge, really 'different' movies." Such a philosophy and a lot of hard work and long hours have earned Cook numerous industry and fan awards and made his one of the foremost names in game designers.
From Monopoly to Dungeons
Cook told Ubayasekara that he "started gaming when I was about ten." In an interview with Michael Burnaugh for GamingReport.com, he further explained, "I come from a game-playing family who loved all kinds of card games, chess, board games like Monopoly, Risk, Payday, and so on. From an extremely early age, about as soon as I could write, I was designing my own board games—the kind where you roll a die and move that many spaces and then follow the instructions on that space." As a youth Cook invented hundreds such games, all with little squares drawn on paper, some of them "quite involved," as he told Burnaugh. From these he graduated to role-play games (RPG) such as Dungeons & Dragons, the first game of its kind, invented in 1974. In a profile piece on the Wizards of the Coast Web site, Cook recalled how an early D&D book, The Temple of Elemental Evil, got him excited about the RPG scene. "I begged for [the book]," he noted. "I loved this adventure when it came out. I got it for my birthday when I was in high school and read it from cover to cover immediately. It was the first adventure that really went into depth about the organization of the creatures that lived there. This wasn't just some old ruined dungeon and some orcs in one room and beholder across the hall. Here, they all worked together, they had enemies and allies in the dungeon—it was a microcosm. It introduced me to the idea that a 'dungeon' can really have a sort of working ecology …, a dynamic set of politics, and pretty complex theme. It was the next step in D& D adventure evolution." Later, as a professional game designer himself, Cook would have the opportunity to update this adventure with the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil.
Cook first worked professionally in the burgeoning gaming industry in 1988, while still in college. With Iron Crown Enterprises he was an editor on games including Rolemaster and Champions. He stayed with that firm for several years, then went freelance for a time before taking a position as game designer with the originators of Dungeons & Dragons, TSR Inc. That company was later bought out by Wizards of the Coast. Here he worked on game design for the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which brought RPG into the mainstream of gaming with more simplistic and realistic play and characters. Cook also authored the Dungeon Master's Guide for the third edition of the game.
Sets Out on His Own
Wizards of the Coast developed what is known as the d20 system for their third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which takes its name for a twenty-sided die used for the chance part of the game. The d20 system is an open system, meaning other designers may use it free of charge in an attempt to bring a new generation into gaming and RPG. Cook took advantage of this Open Gaming License to set up his own design studio, Malhavoc Press, with himself and his wife as the two principles. "I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have the creative freedom to write and produce what I want without anyone looking over my shoulder, wanting to make changes just for their own gratification, or because of some silly imposed rules," Cook told Burnaugh. He also explained the operations at Malhavoc: "I still spend the vast majority of my time writing, which is exactly the way I want it. My wife, Sue, handles most of the 'running of the company' types
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of duties, like contracting artists, mappers, dealing with the printer." Malhavoc contracted a joint deal with Sword & Sorcery Studios for storage and distribution of their book products. Other products from Malhavoc are sold directly to customers over the company Web site as a PDF file, or Portable Document Format, which allows formatted documents to be transmitted via the Internet. The goal of his press, as Cook told Joe G. Kushner in an interview for OgreCave.com, is to release "quality, imaginative work. I don't like writing bland, 'just what you expect' sorts of material, and I don't think most people want to buy it. I want every product to trod new ground. I want every product to be so good that no one's faith in Malhavoc is ever so much as shaken." Cook further commented, "I don't have dreams of becoming some big publisher. The point, ultimately, is to have fun and put out cool, high-quality books."
Speaking with Ubayasekara, Cook noted that "in the beginning, I never thought that Malhavoc Press would actually amount to too much. Sales of our first product blew me away. I am indeed very proud—both of the … content of our books and the success of Malhavoc Press." Some of the most popular titles from Malhavoc were the 2003 Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed: A Variant Player's Guide, and the 2004 Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, each of which offer new and improved magic systems for traditional D&D gaming. Also popular are the numerous titles and downloadable articles supporting the game of Ptolus, based in an ancient city with a long and very complex history.
Cook himself prefers RPGs with a mixture of action/conflict and with characterization that brings out the emotion in the participating character (PC). Speaking with James Rozee on Gaming System Design Web site, Cook noted that playtesting is vital to a good game, and he and his team try out their own products thoroughly before publishing them. Ideas come to Cook from many sources, as he told Rozee: "Personally, I'm influenced by everything around me. It's common that a scene in a movie or book will inspire some part of an adventure. For example, if I see a movie with characters running around in a volcano dealing with explosions and lava flows, I might decide that an adventure (or part of an adventure) should be set in a volcano. Lots of times, visual media—movies and comic books—inspire a vivid scene or character." For Cook it is important, as he explained to Rozee, to "push the limits" in design. "Don't set a fight encounter in an empty room when you can set it in a room with a fire pit and a swinging pendulum blade. Surprise the reader."
Cook has also ventured into novel writing, publishing The Glass Prison in 1999 and Of Aged Angels in 2001, both with Wizards of the Coast. On the Wizards of the Coast Web site Cook characterized the writing of the latter novel as "painful and pleasant at the same time." The book includes many of his favorite themes: "modern day conspiracies, secret societies, and cutting-edge occult matters." Cook further explained that Of Aged Angels has a "character that uses his laptop computer to help him create chaos magick rituals, and investigations into the Knights Templar. And it's got Jim Morrison. So really, what's not to like?" Speaking with Burnaugh, Cook noted the difference for him between game design and writing novels: "Gaming products are more fun, but fiction is somehow a bit more satisfying."
If you enjoy the works of Monte Cook
If you enjoy the works of Monte Cook, you may also want to check out the following:
Nobilis, a role playing game by R. Sean Borgstrom.
In Nomine by Steven Jackson Games.
The Magic--The Gathering series of role playing games.
For the future Cook intends to continue in both fields, publishing short fiction in his house imprint along with the game books. In a GameWyrd.com interview Cook elaborated on the future of d20 games: "I'm generally excited about the gaming industry right now. I'm excited by the d20 industry because it seems that all the obvious books are out of the way—the fighter book, the dwarf book, etc. We're done with that now…. This forces designers (I hope) to get more creative, which can only lead to cooler products." Cook concluded to Kushner, "I hope that a few years from now d20 and Malhavoc are still going strong. I'm having tons of fun and wouldn't mind seeing it continue at all. That's my hope."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Gamegrene.com, http://www.gamegrene.com/ (June 13, 2003), "Yes, That Monte."
GameWyrd.com, http://www.gamewyrd.com/ (October 4, 2003), "Monte Cook Interview for Downloader Monthly."
GamingReport.com, http://www.gamingreport.com/ (May 25, 2003), Michael Burnaugh, "Interview with Monte Cook of Malhavoc Press."
Gaming System Design, http://www.gdse.com/ (November 21, 2004), James Rozee, "Interview with Monte Cook of Wizards of the Coast."
Official Monte Cook Web Site, http://www.montecook.com/ (November 21, 2004).
OgreCave.com, http://www.ogrecave.com/ (May 26, 2003), Joe G. Kushner, "Interviews: Monte Cook/Malhavoc Press."
Silven Crossroads, http://www.silven.com/ (May 1, 2003), Kosala Ubayasekara, "Q & A Session with Monte Cook"; (November 21, 2004), Bradford Ferguson, "GenCon 2003: Weekend with Malhavoc Press."
Wizards of the Coast, http://www.wizards.com/ (November 21, 2004), Michael Ryan, "Monte Cook Interview" and "Ghostwalk Designers"; (November 22, 2004), "Product Spotlight: Monte Cook."