Thursday, February 23, 2017

Get Your Strange Box on Kickstarter through March 17th!

One of the first questions we get asked at every convention is whether we're going to do a boxed set for The Strange like we did for Numenera. Because of that, we asked fans of The Strange to let us know how much they'd like to see this. They responded enthusiastically. Since we love The Strange and its fans, we decided to give them the most spectacular experience with The Strange that we can create with a deluxe boxed edition.

As you can probably imagine, we want to make it absolutely beautiful and crammed full of all the coolest extra content we can come up with: character sheets, XP cards with a brand new design, and maybe even a gorgeous cloth version of the Ardeyn poster map, if we hit some stretch goals. We did it once before, and with your help, we’re going to make that dream a reality again, this time to create a deluxe boxed edition of The Strange!

(Already own The Strange? Don't worry—we've got some things that will interest you as well as those new to the game.)

Check it out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/montecookgames/a-strange-box

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Power Out, But My Prius Is A Mini-Generator!

When the power went out in my house yesterday, this inverter turned my Prius into a sort of mini generator. It was able to power lamps, and more importantly, charge up my computer and phone. The phone I used as a wifi hotspot to get my computer online, which allowed me to stay up to date about weather conditions and outage forecasts, plus the ability to keep working from my home office.

(I normally use this device to keep my phone charged when I drive to locations using the phone google Maps to navigate).

If you ever want to turn your Prius into a mini generator, have an inverter like this one handy. Turn the Prius on, but only after you put it outside or at least hang its butt out the open garage door, because the car needs to run about 10 minutes out of every hour to keep itself charged up.

Run an extension cord out the cracked window and under your front door and into your office (or wherever). Voila! You've got a bit of power. Though word to the wise: if you try to power something that requires too much, it won't work. Stick with lamps and charging personal electronics.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Drain The Swamp

News of regulation rollbacks meant to save the average Americans about 17 billion in unnecessary fees to Wallstreet might make you think that the POTUS has a weird way of following through on his campaign promises to "drain the swamp" when it comes to Wall Street.

But if you think about what a swamp actually is, you'll see his promise makes sense.

A swamp is the very definition of a wetland. And you know what wetlands, do, right?

Wetlands "mitigate the impacts from storm damage and flooding, maintain good water quality in rivers, recharge groundwater, store carbon, help stabilize climatic conditions and control pests."

So yeah, the POTUS is draining the swamp alright, as he promised. Yay?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Privilege

Should it be considered a 'privilege' to *not* have to face constant discrimination based on your race, sex, gender identity, disability, or age? I mean, that's sort of implying that discrimination should be considered normal.

(It should not be considered normal.)

Which makes me wonder, is employing the word 'privilege' in this case helpful? Maybe, maybe. I totally get why it might be the correct term to employ, because it frames things in a new way. But I don't think lots of people with this privilege understand that framing.

Then again, what *would* they get?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"When The Night Stole Her" teaser from Tales Beyond The Ninth World


The wonders of the Ninth World—our Earth, a billion years in the future—aren’t bounded by worldly shores. The ancients built their empires into the seas, the stars, and even into other realities. Go beyond the Ninth World’s shores in Tales Beyond the Ninth World, an anthology of three short stories, including "When The Night Stole Her" that begins as so: 
Kalice’s daughter Neela used to sleep on the terrace on warm nights, the small girl’s hands and head poking out of the blanket. Seven years old, Neela hadn’t yet learned to be afraid of the dark. She loved the stars. Kalice used to point out constellations to her daughter, making up names for the ones she didn’t know. Kalice had loved the stars, too, until the night Neela was killed.
Kalice started awake from a dream of a black sun and smoking furrows extending long, tumbling scratches across the sky. Grey-haired Lthermo was across the room, bent over his scintillating device of synth and kinked wires that he’d assembled in her foyer. 
Why was he—? Oh. Sleep lifted its cloak of un- remembering. Her daughter was gone. The emptiness of her loss seemed to widen as she rediscovered its depths, like an actual pit in her chest carved through her ribs and heart. Kalice gasped in real pain. 
Lthermo heard her. Seeing that she was awake, he gestured at his mechanism. “It’s fixed. I’m sure of it this time. The power source was weak. I’ve replaced it.” He opened his mouth again, then closed it, leaving something unsaid. He did that sometimes. 
Kalice didn’t have the emotional space to wonder what he wasn’t saying, because anguish filled her. She massaged her neck. He presumably had a whole house of secrets. To her, it was sorcery. Before Neela had gone missing, Kalice didn’t wonder about the magic of the ancients. Now, it was the only route to her salvation. She had to find her daughter. She had to! Nothing else mattered. Not even the fact that her daughter was dead.
Dead here, but not dead everywhere.

And so Kalice goes looking for her daughter in parallel dimensions where Neela wasn't killed, which is just one of three new short Tales Beyond The Ninth World.



Monday, October 24, 2016

Internet Promotes Self-Delusion Via Non-Statistical Validation

I have a hypothesis regarding some of the impetus behind Trump and related hate rhetoric of recent years. It's the internet.

Ok, it's more than the mere existence of the internet. It's an originally unforeseen emergent property of the internet: No matter how wrong or bad the behaviors you exhibit or promote are, it's easy to find a population of people who'll support it. That's the "beauty" of an online network that transcends walls, streets, cities, and states. It's a strength of the internet that you can find those like you, with your same interests.

But that isn't where I'm going, because that's obvious. My hypothesis is that the internet is a great tool for self-delusion. Because here's the thing. You'll find tens, hundreds, or in the case of Trump, thousands of people willing to validate every "Sad," "really terrible," and racist implication you utter. But consider.

Human brains aren't great at statistics. Prime example: sharks kill about 10 people a year, if that, worldwide. Accidentally falling on the stairs kills more than x10 that a year in the US alone. Stairs clearly need far more attention than sharks.

Which leads me back to the internet's role of self-delusion via non-statistical validation: It only takes a relatively small number of likes/loves/+1s/upvotes to make you think that the potentially sketchy thing you just said or posted was actually genius. Consider for a moment that internet validation might not be your best measure of what is actually moral, ethical, and reasonable.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Goodbye Posie Niobe



I had to say goodbye to Posie today. Grief has me in its grip. The only constructive thing I've been able to do today is to assemble a photo album of some of my favorite moments with Posie. I adopted her in 2011, so she was only with us for five years.










Like all cats, Posie could be prickly. But she could also be sweet and affectionate. Sure, mostly when it was time to eat, but not always. She was a wonderful office companion, especially these last few years when I've been working from a home desk.









Goodbye, Posie.




















Full album:
https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipPMD_L_F_2dpUPS8g_Xwzqwsbplt40p69JoWxwDz5uA5e0UU3CYxY5aiyGuwqe9yQ

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Saying Something Doesn't Make It So, Unless You Say It Often Enough

Years of character assassination and relentless allegations don't actually make someone an inveterate liar if most of it leads to nothing significant. Hillary Clinton being a "liar" is mostly a product of years of hard work by GOP strategists and for-profit media who want flashy headlines. (Yes, Clinton has taken some liberties with the truth, but less often than most other politicians.)

As a matter of fact, apparently the "liar" allegation-turned-meme goes all the way back to when Clinton was as a 27-year old lawyer investigating Nixon. To discredit her after the fact, the allegation was made that she was fired from the Watergate investigation. That allegation has never been proven, and in fact, it is provably false. But right-wing TV and radio hosts repeat it over and over again, along with all the other allegations, as if the weight of allegations themselves, despite being created by those with a motive to smear her, could be construed as truth.

It's easy to see how average people, even progressives, would eventually buy into the false narrative at some level, without ever realizing it.

Call it another win for The Big Lie strategy. Add it to all the other wonderful outcomes Big Lies lead to. Or shake it off, and try to find the truth, which I grant you is a nuanced and complicated picture of a human being who is no saint, who's made mistakes, and who's a politician. But someone who is a far cry from Evil Incarnate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dragon Con 2016 — My Schedule

I'm heading to Dragon Con 2016 next week, which runs from September 2nd to September 5th. Maybe I'll see you there?

Here's my panel and signing schedule:

Title: All in the Game
Description: Gaming is one of the fastest rising, most exciting careers for writers. Our pros give details on succeeding in this market.
Time: Fri 05:30 pm Location: Embassy CD - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Elonka Dunin, Cam Banks, Bruce R Cordell, Jay Little, Erik Mona)

Title: Monte Cook Games
Description: All the latest from the makers of Numenera, The Strange, and No Thank You Evil! The lead designers of the company are all here! They talk about their current products and SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS!
Time: Sat 01:00 pm Location: 204 FGH - Mart2 (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Monte James Cook, Shanna Germain, Bruce R Cordell)

Title: Autograph Session
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: International Hall South - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Alex Matsuo, Dan Jolley, Bruce R Cordell)

Title: Monster Creation Lab 
Description: Speak with some of the best designers in the business on creating your own monsters within a game system.
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Centennial I - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Jason Bulmahn, Bruce R Cordell)

Title: Help! My Game is On Fire! 
Description: With just a side of sarcasm and humor, our guests will help you fix those seemingly unfixable problems within your own games. Join some of the top level designers in the business to help you put out those fires!
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Monte James Cook, Bruce R Cordell, Cam Banks)

Title: Demons, Devils, and the Occult 
Description: How do you portray "pure" evil in a game? How can you add that touch of the sinister in your game? Can darkness and flames be portrayed without losing its mystique?
Time: Sun 08:30 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R Cordell, Bill Bridges, Erik Mona)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What To Expect From The Invisible Sun Kickstarter

As I write this, it's day 2 of the Silver Sun. Tomorrow, a new sun will rise, marking day 3 of a 34-day Kickstarter for Invisible Sun.

The Invisible Sun crowdfunding campaign is written in the voice of characters who live in the world of the game, those who know our "real" world as a lie; as shadows designed to obscure and confuse.

Writing in voice is great for immersion. But in-character text doesn't directly address gameplay. Which is why there will be updates that aren't written in-character that talk about creating player characters, game mechanics, and so on.

As a for-instance, check out the 2nd update that describes 3 modes of game play for Invisible Sun, or modes, depending on the situation. Each has its use to address certain types of narrative in the game, and each solves certain types of issues that can arise.

Other updates will continue to be in the voices of characters from within the Invisible Sun universe, like those we heard revealed along the Path Of Suns.

Or in other words: More—much more—will be revealed as we walk the Path of Suns to its end, then turn about and retrace our route along the Nightside. Watch, read, and learn, if you care to, about what it means to summon the infamous Black Cube from the void.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Gen Con 2016

Gen Con 2016 was one of the better cons I've attended. I had a great time, and I'm energized.

Even though I was slightly busier this year— both MCG duties and Writer Symposium functions required my time—I was much more part of things. Actually, being so busy in multifarious activities was one of the contributing factors to my satisfaction with this con. For instance, the Writer's Symposium was a great way to re-connect with the kind of panels I used to do at Norwescon a few years ago. I also met several interesting fellow authors on those panels and at related functions.

I also spent a lot of fun time with the MCG crew, both while working and in grabbing a meal here and there, which I enjoyed a lot since I count everyone at MCG as a friend. I was proud of our Instant Adventure seminar where we played in front of a crowd [video link pending] and our announcement of the Invisible Sun roleplaying game, a secret we've long kept.

Of particular note, I was grateful for all the people who told me about their positive experience playing games of The Strange and Gods of the Fall. For whatever reason, it struck me that I was part of their happiness because of the work I'd done on those products. Yes, I know that's been true for years starting with my D&D writing going back two decades, but it's easy to lose sight of that when you're always working on the next thing. For me, Gen Con 2016 was a great touchstone. I met tons of people who are actually buying and enjoying material I'd helped create. It left me feeling validated that it's not only all worth it, but also made me realize that I'm actually achieving something actively positive in the world. 


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Converting Gods of the Fall for Numenera and The Strange

Look, Ma, I did another thing!

Actually, this thing just connects the dots between a few other, bigger things I've done lately. This conversion guide (called Gods Beyond) walks you through a few strategies for taking stuff out of Gods of the Fall and using it for your ongoing games of Numenera or The Strange. (Assuming you don't just start a Gods of the Fall game—hint, hint!)

You can get Gods Beyond right here.

Wait, you haven't got Gods of The Fall yet? You can get Gods of the Fall over here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"Breath Of God," a Gods Of The Fall short story excerpt

Want to know what it’s like to live in the Afterworld, forty-two years after the gods died and the world was ruined? Read "Breath of God," a short story set in the Gods Of The Fall universe, where the world is broken. But a few still look for hope, stand up for what’s right, and try to redeem both themselves and their world.

The following is an excerpt from "Breath of God:"


He trudged along in the dust, pausing occasionally and adjusting the straps holding a massive book that rode his back like some mute ungainly infant. The road was deserted and bone-cold under the moon’s dreaming face. Dim light from the pearly glow surrounding the moon’s disk revealed dead trees, tumbled structures, and the ruins of a failed civilization in all directions except ahead, along the road.

Indignant trumpeting came from somewhere behind him. He looked around. An elephant was catching up to him, but was still far back along the dim track. The swaying lanterns on the carriage fixed to the beast’s back jolted with each step.

He shuffled to the road’s edge and took out his pipe. Red light flared as he set matchstick to tobacco brick. Smooth smoke gave him a moment’s peace from the tome’s weight as he watched the plodding beast advance.

When the elephant finally drew even, it stopped with a jingle of reins.

A craggy female face peered down at him from the sedan chair surmounting the carriage. “Need a ride, padi?”

“Padi? I’m no teacher. Call me Sabien.”


“My apologies. The book you bear . . .”


Sabien adjusted the straps, which were cutting into  his shoulders. “No. I do not instruct. But I’ll take that ride.”

“Two stars,” said the elephant driver. “For that, I will carry you all the way to Corso. Four stars, and you can ride in the carriage. It’s warmer.” The driver’s smile was ingratiating.

Sabien knocked the ashes from the bowl with a tap on his boot heel. “No carriage. I’ll ride with you.” The carriage driver let down a rope ladder, and Sabien joined the woman on the sedan chair. He counted out two gold coins into the driver’s gloved palm.

The driver pocketed her payment and twitched the reins. The elephant heaved into motion. He unbuckled the straps securing his burden, shrugged it around with a relieved sigh, and took the book’s weight in his lap. He leaned his head back against the cracked headrest, closing his eyes. The elephant’s dry, faintly sweet odor somehow made the chill air less biting.

“I’m Bolaz,” came the driver’s voice.

Sabien grunted, his eyes still closed. He hoped she would recognize his desire for silence—

“Lone travelers on the road between Corso and Somorrah are rare. Are you a trader?”

Sabien counted to three, then opened his eyes. “I have an appointment that is long overdue.”

“Oh?” Bolaz’s attention flickered from Sabien to his book.

How many stars to buy your indifference? Sabien wondered. But he grunted in acknowledgment.

“What’s it about? If you don’t mind my asking. It looks important.” The driver’s eyes lingered again on the weighty tome. It was bound between two sheets of blank, yellowish iron. Bolaz presumably couldn’t see the faint nimbus surrounding the book, a nimbus Sabien had only learned to see himself a year ago. The secret silver glow took the form of a single floating symbol: a gust of wind inscribed in silver that never tarnished. For all its beauty, the thing was heavy as guilt.

He rested one hand on the metallic cover. “Important? Yes. But also dangerous.” He guessed that Bolaz was nearing sixty. She’d known the gods before the Fall. Maybe she fondly recalled the magnificent time that Sabien, only eighteen, had never known. If so, perhaps she wouldn’t turn him over to the first Reconciliator they saw in Corso if he told her the truth.

Because, more than anything else, Sabien wanted to tell his story.

------

If you liked that, you can continue reading the "Breath of God" here.

Want to know more about Gods of the Fall, an RPG setting using the rules of the Cypher System? Get a copy for yourself, or at least check out the free preview here.



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bodies In Translation – Gear and Foci vs. Stat Pools In The Strange

In The Strange, player characters travel into limited worlds called recursions; seeded from myths, novels, movies, and comics. Each time a PC steps into a new world, their body and mind adapt so that they become part of that world in a process called translation. For example, when Katherine Manners translates from Earth to the fantasy recursion of Ardeyn, she gains a general understanding of that world and its languages and arrives wearing appropriate clothing.


An oddity of translation is that—except for cyphers—travelers don’t take their gear with them. Instead, their gear goes into abeyance. It isn’t lost; the gear is returned to travelers the next time they come back to a previously visited recursion. Continuing the previous example, when Kate returns from Ardeyn to Earth, she doesn’t bring back the magic implements, spirit companions, or gold coins she found on Ardeyn. On the other hand, she regains all her gear from Earth: her trusty revolver, her fractal arm tattoo, her Earth clothing, as well as her expensive smart phone.

On the other hand, your character's stat pools remain constant between alternate worlds. How does that work? (Answer: Check out the full blog at the MCG site where it just went live.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Meet the main characters in Myth of the Maker

Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter, my novel Myth of the Maker is a reality. Publication date is pending, but I'm working on the 2nd draft even as we speak. Want to know a little more about my novel set in universe of The Strange? Alright: Meet the novel's four main characters. Rather than write up a bio for each of them, I've provided a short excerpt from the first chapter in which each character appears:
Carter Morrison
The planetovores breached the starting grid. Jason had attacked me, trying to select himself as the one to return home. He’d panicked. Only one of us could print back to Earth. He hadn’t understood all the implications. There’d been no time to explain. He said I was a selfish prick, and worse.
Was I? Maybe.
But the whole fucking planet was on the line.
Katherine Manners
The port scanner failed to turn up a single open connection. The spoofing attack hadn’t fooled anyone. And the packet sniffer was a complete bust because there just wasn’t any data. Kate’s usual techniques, plus a few of Raul’s paranoid schemes, had been for nothing. BDR’s servers were locked down.
So Kate resorted to social engineering. It was a cliché, but only because it worked. Success just required a bit of play-acting. Picking up the phone and pretending to be an angry supervisor threatening the job of a confused customer service rep had gotten her results before.
Not this time.
Jason Cole
The Lord of Megeddon had many names. To some, he was War. To others, Legion. To most, he was simply the Betrayer. But among himselves, he was Jason.
Homunculi peered at Jason from their stations on either side of the exit. Each was a copy, but their bright scarlet coloration denoted their status as inferior clones of the original.
Of him.
Elandine, Queen of Hazurrium
Sword in hand, Elandine walked the borders of the Strange under a red sun. So close to the edge, the light seemed old and used up. Beneath her boots, the land was convulsed. Long ruts dragged scars down to the west as if made by the monstrous talons of a colossal Stranger unable to retain its grip on Ardeyn. The occasional cactus and thorny tree drooped, wilted with pestilence.
The splintered landscape was Ardeyn’s edge, where only the insane or suicidal trespassed. Beyond it drifted a sporadic scatter of free-floating skerries like barnacles on reality’s border. And beyond them lay the Strange. She rarely glanced that way.
Elandine traveled a path parallel to the chaos that spurned all rules, not into it. The Strange would not try her strength, not today.
The Maker willing, it never would.