In this series of articles, members of the team here at MCG look back at products we’ve released over the past decade and talk about their personal experiences in their creation, and the influence the titles have had on them as gamers, professionals, and just, well, people. It’s part of our celebration of Monte Cook Games’s first ten years. In this post, Community Coordinator LaTia Jacquise talks about one of her favorites so far: Claim the Sky.
When it comes to tabletop roleplaying games, before anyone gets a look at the words of a game, before they sit down to read a book or parse the rules, they see the art.
Art is one of the best ways to attract attention to a product, and that’s no exception for our games. If I can be so bold, the artists we have doing work in our books and games are some of the best of the best, and what I love best about the art we get is that it’s gorgeous, spans a wide range of styles and genres, and it’s incredibly diverse.
Claim the Sky was the primary book funded by the Heroes of the Cypher System Kickstarter, the first one launched after I started with the company, a scant two weeks after my first day. Its cover, out of all of the amazing art procured by MCG for our books, was one of the first pieces of art I saw, really saw, and because of that, it’s one of my favorites. At first glance, it’s a very simple and unassuming piece: a superhero soars majestically before a city skyline as the sun sets behind them. Their gaze is skyward, and they’re smiling. It’s in very pleasant shades of red, and on the cover itself, it’s enclosed in a speech bubble to reflect the comic book origins of so many of our favorite superheroes.
But noticing the smaller details made it all the better to me:
- The most obvious one is that they are female (or female presenting, if you don’t want to generalize);
- They are strong, not just in pose, but you can see the outlines of muscle in their silhouette. They are not a hero to be messed with;
- Their hair. Those tightly wound curls in a fuzzy halo around their head? There’s no mistake about it; this superhero is Black.
Just the fact that it existed was so important to me. Diversity and inclusion rarely make waves in this industry, let alone the world; I was going to be promoting a book that I could quite literally see myself in, not just as a footnote, but as a front and center focus, and that was huge. And the further back I looked through our art, the more represented I felt.
There was a sort of sense of relief in me that I felt when I looked through the art. I knew that MCG was going to be a place where I’d be seen. Little did I know, it was a place where Black and brown people like me had always been seen. Our books are full of gorgeous art full of diverse characters of all skin colors and body types in all manner of professions and occupations.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my journey with MCG would largely reflect a lot of what I saw in that art. The sky was the limit for her; likewise, I felt that the sky was the limit for me. Like the superhero on the cover, I was limited only by how high I let myself fly. Like the book, which is filled with a fantastic menu of options to create amazing and unique superheroes with extraordinary abilities, I had been given the opportunity and ability to make magic happen in the space I’d set my heart on bettering. As community relations coordinator, it was my mission to foster a community that could be superheroes on its own, to show other people like me that they too could be heroes if they’d just reach up and claim that sky.
We play the parts of superheroes in games for many reasons: through their abilities we find ways to deal with problems that, from the sky, suddenly don’t seem so terrible. In the boots of a superhero, we feel stronger and more capable than we do in our everyday lives. Sometimes we just wanna play the role of the hero! But at the core of it all, superheroes all have one thing in common: when things get dire, they will always be there to lend a hand or a shield. In the world of superheroes, literally anything is possible.
Claim the Sky, by Monte Cook, was funded as part of the Heroes of the Cypher System crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in 2020 which also funded The Origin and First Responders. Claim the Sky was released in 2021.