The Saving Throw
An Interview with a Cook July 24th, 2009
Monte Cook, that is

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Roll Them Bones!

I am back from the beach, just in case you could not figure that out. I had not intended to post a column this week, but Monte Cook had already answered your questions, so I decided to post them. Take a look below to see what Monte had to say in response to your queries. Especially if you are curious about Monte's

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Gaming Tip of the Column -- Use your body slots. Even if you can only afford an item that gives a +1 bonus, more often than not that +1 can save your skin.

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You Asked, Now Monte Cook Answers

   Saving Throw: Can you give us an overview of

Monte is my subscription-based adventure site where I am building a dungeon-based campaign, one encounter at a time. The website is updated every weekday with a major encounter, plus frequent behind-the-scenes blog entries, numerous monthly bonus encounters, and more. There's even a podcast. Members will find an active forum where they can ask questions, give feedback to me, exchange tips and ideas with each other, and help build into a community of dungeon (and dragon) enthusiasts. The site features cartography from award-winning artist Ed Bourelle, as well as art from artists like Tyler Walpole, Eric Lofgren, and more. It utilizes the Open Gaming License and its 3rd-edition compatible rules, but because it is fairly rules-light, is easily used with other editions as well. Jason Bulmahn, designer of the Pathfinder rpg, provides Pathfinder conversions.

ST: How deep will the dungeon go?

MC: Every level of the dungeon roughly equates to a character level, and I expect to take people to at least 20th level, so there will be at least 20.

ST: Has the number of subscribers to date met your expectations?

MC: It has exceeded them. I had a goal for where I wanted to be by the end of the summer and I met it after my first week. I had a goal for where I wanted to be by the end of this year and I met it a few weeks ago. One promise that I made the membership is that the more members I get, the more content I'll provide. It's my way of rewarding those people who go out and recruit their friends or post about on their blogs or on a messageboard somewhere. This means that I'm providing more content than I was expecting to at this point, but that's OK. It's fun.

ST: Launching a new subscription service is always a risky proposition even in good economic situations. Do you think the current economic situation has hindered or helped

MC: Oh, it hindered it. I heard from lots of people that they really, really wanted to subscribe but they had just lost their job or their hours had been cut back at work and they just couldn't swing it. I think the way that a recession affects the game industry is this: people don't stop spending money on their hobby, but they don't spend it as casually. It's not the gamer who spends $20 now and again on a book that changes his habits, it's the guy who was dropping $200 a month that slows down his purchase. The hard-core gamer has to think twice about purchases that normally he would have made without thinking. The problem is, my stuff has always appealed to the hard-core gamers, and is no exception. My products seem to appeal to the people who want something a little different, or who are really invested in the love of the game (because that's how I'd describe myself). Plenty of them have subscribed to, but I now believe that if the current economic climate were better, it would be doing even better. But what's a guy to do? I can't change the economy, and I'm not going to hold up a cool idea just because the economy's not where I wish it was. Like all publishers, I can only try to move forward and provide a product that is worth people's harder-than-ever-earned-dollars. I guess that's ultimately how I look at it. While I've always strived to provide quality content, it's now more imperative than ever to make sure that the stuff I produce is worth the price.

ST: Do you feel we will see more subscription services sprouting up?

MC: It's a really, really good method for getting material into people's hands. It would be interesting to see if other people come up with other uses for it.

ST: Sticking with economic issues, one complaint about pen-n-paper RPGs has always been the perceived high cost of entry. What do you feel the industry has to do, especially in these tough economic times, to bring in new players and fight the perception of being too expensive?

MC: I think constantly exploring new venues and options (like I'm trying to do with is the best way to find the proper means to get content into the hands of players that is most useful (and thus, most valuable and worth their money) to them.

ST: How was working as a Rules Consultant for the Pathfinder RPG?

MC: It was fun. Basically, Jason would ask me the occasional question or would bounce an idea off of me, and I told him what I think. I also reviewed new material he came up with and gave my 2 cents. And that's really about it. I wasn't a designer on the project, I was a resource. I was happy to be asked to be a part of it, though.

ST: With all the different projects you have worked on over your career, is there a subject or topic you have wanted to work on that you have not been able to fit into your schedule?

MC: I'd love to work more on non-fantasy stuff, specifically more science fiction or horror.

ST: What project or product do you feel was the most rewarding during your career?

MC: D&D 3rd Edition.

ST: Are there any projects you wish you had not released? Or ones you felt pressured to release before you felt they were truly completed?

MC: Not that I published myself. That was one of the nice things about being a publisher, and one of the reasons I left WotC and started Malhavoc Press. Things didn't come out until they were ready. Further in the past, though? I remember, for example, being called in at the last minute to help salvage an early 3E book called Sword and Fist. A whole crew of us at WotC did our best to pull it together, but it still got published with a lot of problems. Much farther back, like when I worked as an editor at ICE, there were lots of things. Back then, I was basically given a month to work on a book, regardless of whether it was a 32 page module or a 160 page sourcebook. Some of those manuscripts were awful and you just did as best you could with the time and material you had.

ST: A couple years ago you worked on a conversion of the World of Darkness setting to the d20/3.5 rules set. Are there any other settings that you would like to convert?

MC: You know, I understand why people consider it a d20 conversion, but that's not really what it is. It's an entirely different imagining of the setting. The vampires in that book aren't really standard WoD vampires. White Wolf asked me to take the setting and do whatever I wanted to with it for this one book, and so I did. The setting is more post-apocalypse than anything. When it came to the rules, I ended up making them roughly d20-based because that's what I like, but there's a lot there that's completely new as well, like the magic system.

To answer your question, however, no there's nothing more I'd like to convert myself. I'm always interested in seeing what other people do, though, and the nice thing about the OGL is that it will always be an available option.

ST: Any chance we will see a conversion of Ptolus to any of the new rules sets, such as Pathfinder RPG?

MC: Not from me. I'm not too interested in going back and making conversions of older stuff. I'm more interested in new stuff.

ST: Any chance the Dragon's Delve may someday be published as a print product?

MC: Well, never say never, I guess, but that's not a part of my current plan. Dragon's Delve is designed to take full advantage of its current format, and so that's all I'm thinking about at the moment.

A special thank you to Monte Cook for taking time out of his schedule with to answer our, and your questions.



And that ends another column. Do you have any follow-up questions for Monte? I'll compile them and do another interview later, perhaps at GenCon. Until next time, keep on rolling them bones.

Martin "Trying to Avoid Lame Comments" Drury

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