Gen Con 2016 Report Part 7 – An Evening with Monte Cook

The title ruined the surprise. In my previous post, I teased how Gen Con, on Thursday night, was one of the best gaming experiences of my life. Now you know. I played a game of Numenera run by the legendary Monte Cook.

This opportunity came, indirectly, through the “Numenera: Into the Ninth world” Kickstarter. Monte Cook Games (MCG) had a pledge level to play with Mr. Cook at Gen Con. I was not able to open my wallet that wide. But leading up to Gen Con, the extra seats were auctioned off for charity. After realizing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and making suitable spousal sacrifices, I set to bidding!

Somehow, some way, I won.

Going into it, I admit, I was a bit nervous. Not because of Mr. Cooks fame. I am not a starstruck sort of person. Everyone is just a soft bag of goo, variating in size, shape and color. But, I worried that he would not live up to the height of my internal pedestal where he sat amongst the gods of game.

You know how you watch a movie adaptation of your favorite book, and it just feels flat? Or worse? There was no question that Monte Cook stands among the few top-level RPG designers. I’ve been to his seminars, I’ve chatted with him, and I’ve shook his hand. He is as nice a person as you can meet. But, was he a good GM? Would this taint my gaming world view?

I have seen Mr. Cook GM during the Instant Adventure seminars at Gen Con. I have seen brief GMing clips on YouTube. But those were short sessions. And some of them, probably scripted. What would the experience be like for a 4 hour game slot?

Then I started making some advanced excuses for Mr. Cook. You know, “He is jet-lagged from flying into Gen Con.” And, “He has been working in the booth all day, dealing with fans, he is probably exhausted.”

In the end, good or bad, I was content. Content that it would be a worthwhile experience. If anything, just to be able to say “I gamed with Monte Cook.”

Well, I already spoiled it. This was one of the best gaming experiences of my life.

Monte Cook offered a schooling in the art of being a GM. He put the “Master” in Game Master. I think of myself as a pretty good GM. But, I was in awe.

Mr. Cook sat down at the table with a notebook. Written on a page, he had 3 words. That’s it. Three words. Three “reminder” words to run four hours of game. We were not gaming a pre-made adventure. We were not gaming off of design notes. There were no maps, no monster stats, no list of objectives. Just three words. We were gaming inside the mind of Monte Cook. And it was amazing.

When we went to a new location, there was no delay while he thought it up. It just took form. When we used a strange ability or cypher, he did not pause to decided the outcome. It just manifested. When we threw those fun RPG curve-balls, he did not take a moment to contemplate. They just resolved. The adventure was non-stop fun, excitement, puzzling, and weird.

I left that game with many feelings. I felt accomplished, at the crazy mission we just succeeded at. I felt humbled at how much better of a GM I could become. I felt gracious that Mr. Cook (and the rest of the MCG team) would take time not only to help charities, but to give these experiences to the fans. But mostly, I felt euphoric from a dream come true.

I gamed with Monte Cook.




Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.