Monte’s big adventure: Arcana Unearthed

By some miracle we haven’t reported on this yet – probably because the title Arcana Unearthed: The Malhavoc Handbook kinda “buries the lead,” as they say in our country. ‘Cause, see, what it really is, is much more interesting than it sounds. It’s essentially the Player’s Handbook, OGL-happy and free of a D20 logo, with the standard-issue races and classes replaced with new ones. Not Monte Cook’s take on the old ones – those revisions are scattered throughout his D20 work – but new archetypes to replace the old. Fae, giants, and wacky new races instead of standard-issue elves and dwarves and such. Crazy swashbucklers and intense martial monks to replace ordinary rangers and fighters. The same framework as standard D&D, but with new playing pieces.

Me, I think this sounds pretty entertaining, but I wonder if it’ll be properly marketed, or even deemed necessary by most gamers. Here’s a FAQ (good readin’), a column about it (more good readin’), and the weekly design diary (lotsa good readin’). When you’ve had your fill of all that, weigh in below – good idea, bad idea?


  1. A lot of people were initially skeptical of MUTANTS & MASTERMINDS (one of the first of many OGL-based products, others being GODLIKE and EVERQUEST) before it came out, and it did fine. I honestly don’t know how many copies Green Ronin ordered for the First Printing run, but there are already talks of ordering up a Second Printing. As for Monte Cook, he is a well-known figure in the RPG community, particularly the d20/D&D network. He started up Malhavoc Press to get a piece of that market. If his book is pretty good, then by word of mouths and reviews on the internet and game magazines, d20/D&D gamers will pick it up, probably for a different take of a fantasy roleplaying game, or perhaps complementing the D&D game. Wait and see.

  2. Sorry to be a pedant without also adding to the discussion: I think it’s a fine idea, though I’m not sure I’ll have any need for the book myself in the near future.Which is to say, it’s a smart product with a reasonable degree of risk that is going to miss certain consumers altogether. As far as I’m concerned, the real treats are in the design diaries.

  3. Unearthed, unleashed… yada yada yada. Just more evidence that a book of this (apparent) caliber needs a less generic name. It was late, OK?

  4. The title itself definitely seems like a dud – of course most of you already know it’s a play off the title of the old “Unearthed Arcana” supplement to AD&D.

    Strange to be playing off such a supplement when what Monte is creating here is a whole new world, with new races, classes, and even a new magic system. I would have gone for a title with a little more flair, I think. This book definitely isn’t just about “Arcana”.

    That said, I think the book will do moderately well – Monte’s well known and gets a lot of traffic to his website. In addition, he’s known for putting out some quality products with Malhavoc.

    All the same, I think there’s a fair amount of folk (myself included) who don’t really feel that D&D *is* D&D without wizards, fighters, rangers, elves, dwarves, and orcs. And when the time comes for me to branch out into d20 variances, I think I want to try something way out there like the Star Wars d20 game, or Spycraft… not just a different flavor of D&D.

  5. By “Arcana,” you mean plural of “arcanum,” which means a secret known to a select few, right? As for a different flavor of D&D, why not? FORGOTTEN REALMS gave us the Purple Dragon Highknight and Red Wizard, DRAGONLANCE gave us Solamnic Knight and Robed Wizard of High Sorcery, and I’m sure KINGDOM OF KALAMAR and SOVEREIGN STONE offer more classes, so I welcome more. AFAIC, Malhavoc Press are well known to publish d20 products tailor-made for fantasy genre. If Monte Cook is comfortable giving us this kind or products in stores, so be it.

  6. Maybe I’m mistaken, but this will be more of a difference than the rest of you are implying. This is a new world for D&D only if FR, Greyhawk, DL, DS, PS together are one “world”

    This will be the difference between CyberPunk 2020 and Shadowrun…Star Trek and Star Wars…This is a whole new Universe, within which there can be whole new worlds of FR calibre.

    It’s been a while since I’ve played D&D in any form, but this is tempting me to return in force…both to old haunts, and new.

  7. I’m sure it will do well, but I think I’d rather see Monte focus on his Ptolus setting. I think a P. setting book would be an excellent read and more widely received.

    If I were interested in buying a D&D variant,however, I’d be more inclined to look at Hackmaster. I like elves and dwarves, but a different set of mechanics to govern how play runs is more to my liking.

  8. I am really excited about this. I read the design diary, etc. and there is a lot I like about it. I really like is that the designer had a pre-thought out magical cosomology/world view that guides not just the setting but the whole system. Ursula le quin wrote that the key to creating a consistent fantasy world is to have an understanding and paradigm for what magic is and how magic works in that world. That is exactly what Monte has done– magic is a transformational power through which beings define and guide who/what they are; their destinies.

    If Monte Cook’s claims are true, I also like the idea that castles work. In normal dnd castles should never have evolved, since they are too easy to take with even moderate level spells.

    And the faen and giants are cool player races to boot!

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