The Ptolus Kickstarter campaign is now live. Check it out!
Two decades ago, over the course of several years, I ran my own personal D&D campaign set in a huge fantasy city called Ptolus. That was when I was working at Wizards of the Coast, finishing the design of 3rd Edition D&D, and following that up with a variety of products like Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, d20 Call of Cthulhu, and the Book of Vile Darkness. My players were, for the most part, co-workers—a veritable who’s who of D&D and d20 at the time—and we had a great time developing and exploring a rich and detailed setting built from the ground up as the type of city that might thrive in a true D&D world.
Almost twenty years ago I left Wizards of the Coast to found my own design studio, Malhavoc Press. The campaign continued, however, and one of the last things Malhavoc published, not surprisingly, was Ptolus itself as a campaign setting. By then I had developed a lot of material, and more importantly a lot of insight on what a GM really needs to run an urban campaign, and to easily make use of a very large amount of information. Ptolus wasn’t designed like other gaming products that came before it—it was designed like a travel guide, so that information was always right at the GM’s fingertips even though it was a mammoth 672-page book. It was a deluxe (and admittedly, expensive) book unlike anything that had come before.
The original printing of Ptolus sold out almost immediately, and although it remains available in PDF and print-on-demand (in a lower-spec format than the original printing), using it with the most modern version of D&D requires a lot of conversion by the GM and players. So I’ve decided to make Ptolus available again, in a beautiful new edition that matches the premium quality of the original printing, in versions compatible with both 5e and the Cypher System.
The lessons I learned working on Ptolus took root in everything I’ve done since. Numenera, Cypher System, Invisible Sun, and more—they all owe a lot to Ptolus. So it seems right to me that I should return to that setting once more, and make it available to a whole new generation of gamers and to the latest and most popular game systems.
Ptolus came out long before Kickstarter existed, but in a way, it was crowdfunded. We launched a preorder program for the book, and, due to the cost of such a large and premium product, could only release it if we got a certain number of preorders. Those orders came fast. The book came out in 2006 and sold out almost immediately. Due to its size and cost, we weren’t able to really reprint (although DriveThruRPG eventually made it available as a PDF and a print-on-demand book). So I’m excited that there’s a new way for us to reach gamers who missed out before, those who have maybe only ever heard the name Ptolus spoken of in gaming circles, and those who are entirely new to the setting. And of course, to those Ptolus veterans who simply want to see the material adapted to the 5th Edition rules, or to my own Cypher System.
Returning to the Ptolus setting is exciting, nostalgic, and a lot of fun for me. I’m still extraordinarily proud of this material, as well as the beautiful art and physical design that went into it. MCG will of course preserve all of that, while updating it as needed. There are so many stories to tell in this setting, and I’m glad that you’ll be able to join me in doing so.
The critically-acclaimed Ptolus: Monte Cook’s City by the Spire is a 672-page hardcover with additional physical and digital content and premium production values. It details the fantasy city of Ptolus, an adventurer’s haven built atop vast underground dungeons and adjacent to a massive, mysterious spire. The book is lavishly illustrated and contains scores of detailed maps, along with uncountable NPCs, creatures, locations, and items. The original printing sold out upon release, and is one of the most highly sought-after RPG titles on the collector’s market. It has since been available as a print-on-demand title, but in a two-book format that lacks premium features.
The new Ptolus will release in two versions: one for 5e, and another for the Cypher System. The book will follow the format of the original as closely as possible, and retain all of its premium design features. The Ptolus Kickstarter campaign launches in February.