Our First Ten Years: The Strange

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 Senior Designer Bruce Cordell talks about one of his favorites so far: The Strange.

Bruce R. Cordell

Cover art for The Strange, by Matt Stawicki. Bruce’s favorite art from the book.

Some time ago I decided to write a science fiction novel that treated Fermi’s Paradox. Why in this vast universe filled with billions of other galaxies is there no evidence for any other intelligent alien life? Lots of science fiction writers treated the topic. I wanted my go, too.

So, I began telling a tale of how the accelerating expansion of the universe itself was to blame. What exactly is dark energy, the culprit behind that acceleration? I proposed dark energy was an artifact of long-dead aliens who arose soon after the first suns formed in the early universe. Those long-forgotten beings tried their hand at cosmic engineering. They failed, destroying themselves in the process. In the billions of years since, the remnant dark energy network—a vast expanse I dubbed “the Strange”—endangered any newly arising civilization that grew sophisticated enough to ping it. Because what answers that ping, by and large, are world-destroying planetovores.

And now Earth is on that same cusp…

Around this time, I told my friend Monte about my idea. He liked it. He liked it so much that he suggested that maybe there was a game property in there somewhere. I agreed, but something maybe I’d think about after the novel was finished—

“How about,” Monte said, “we write that game now?

By Matt Stawicki

Which is how I joined MCG and how the company launched The Strange game line. That line features not only the RPG corebook, but also more than two-dozen supporting products, including several adventures. In The Strange, PCs discover that other realities lie below the real world, many seeded by popular fiction. Fiction that tries to bleed back into reality in dangerous ways, not content to lie quiescent in their own limited dimensions. All sorts of adventures were possible, and we loved bringing them to life on the printed (and digital) page.

One of the first standalone adventures was Eschatology Code, which debuted at Gen Con 2014. In Eschatology Code, PCs experienced what it was like, for the very first time, to translate from the real world into a “recursion” (one of the limited dimensions seeded by a particular story, movie, popular game, or myth).

When PCs translate, they physically change to fit the context of the recursion, potentially taking on completely new and wondrous abilities. Perhaps unsettling at first, but ultimately freeing after PCs grasp that the limits of who they can be are as endless as all the worlds of The Strange.

A look at the many worlds of The Strange.

Eventually, the game line expanded to include the novel that started it all, delayed by years while we worked on the game. Published in conjunction with Angry Robot Books, Myth of the Maker introduced my central POV character Carter Morrison. Carter didn’t want to trap his friends, let alone himself, in a limited virtual world forever. But he had a good reason. It was them—or the end of all life on Earth. Their sacrifice saved the world. 

At least for a little while.

Bruce 

The Strange, by Monte Cook and Bruce R. Cordell, was the focus of Monte Cook Games’s second Kickstarter campaign in the autumn of 2013, and was released in August 2014 as a 416-page hardcover or PDF.

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