It seems to be an established tenet of the conventional wisdom that Monte Cook does not like Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.

However, I came late to this party and never read the criticisms Monte had as they came out. Now, it seems that his critiques of 4e are hard to find - I wouldn't be asking here if a simple google search of my question title revealed the answer.

I am not interested in anyone else's problems with D&D 4e. I am not interested in anyone's defense of D&D 4e. I am only interested in what Monte Cook had to say on the topic. I would prefer answers with summaries of the points he made and links to the substantiating documents where he made the arguments.

EDIT: While it may be a tenet of the conventional wisdom, it seems that this assertion is, indeed, pretty hard to prove and may in fact, be false. It looks as if most of his criticisms of 4e stem from the pretty-much-universally-reviled GSL. While this is interesting, I was hoping for insight into game-design elements that this well-respected designer, critic, and opinion-maker had serious qualms about.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it certainly established that Monte Cook does not like D&D 4E? A reference would be useful. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 1, 2012 at 18:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious, what's the point? I know Monte Cook was a part of the dndNext design team until recently, but what problem does this question solve? \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this question is much different in spirit from a question on Super User that's getting a lot of attention at the moment. Getting an explanation of something that an expert has said is reasonable. That said... It needs a great deal more specificity at the moment. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertKleinsasser - Any survey of forums discussing his recent departure from the D&DNext team will certainly give you that impression. Finding a reference was exactly the point of asking this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Based on his D&D5 blog posts, I don't think he paid much attention to D&D4. Otherwise he wouldn't devote so much space to reinventing the same concepts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


Monte actually had very little to say about 4e other than that he didn't like its licensing. However, you can guess what he doesn't like about it from his comments on 3e, 3.5, and game design in general.

Practically Mandatory Miniatures

Monte on 3.5 (from here):

The game has an even stronger focus on miniatures. 3.0 had a strong focus on miniatures, but we wanted to at least address the fact that you might not want to play the game that way. But everyone in the Wizards of the Coast offices does, and so now you have to as well. And Wizards has a new line of miniatures to sell you. Seriously, though, for those wanting to play the game sitting on the couch, the game now offers a new barrier for you. The Combat chapter in the Player's Handbook now reads like a miniatures game. More and more of the game stats use "squares" rather than feet (or both). This is a huge step backward toward the "inches" used in 1st Edition.

No Vancian Casting

I don't have a link or quote handy, but Monte has made it clear on several occasions that he's a big fan of Vancian casting (or at least considers it a defining feature of D&D compared to other products), that is wizards having only daily spells, no encounter or at-will spells. Which is probably why when he was one of the design leads for D&DNext he brought it back (as discussed in some of the Q&A sessions transcribed here).

General Design Philosophy

Also, from Monte's blog, you can see that he's a fan of simulationism (3/3.5 were simulationist, 4e was narrativist/gamist) and that he prefers a more loosely written ruleset (i.e. one that encourages DM adjudication; the difference between 3.5 and 4e in this area is very much open to debate, but most 3.5 fans perceived 4e as having much less player improvisation / DM adjudication).

4e also butchered a lot of other sacred cows, and in general went in a very different direction from 3e, for which Monte was the design lead.


Well, I think it's fair to say Monte hasn't been an outspoken 4e hater, he's written little explicitly on the topic.

He did say on his blog that he didn't plan to do any work in 4e with his company Malhavoc partly because he wasn't all that into 4e but more so because of the GSL licensing:

And in case you were wondering, don't expect any 4E-compatible material or conversions of our stuff to 4E. (Even if I wanted to do 4E stuff, and to be honest I really don't, the morass that the current licensing situation appears to be in is not at ALL attractive to me as a publisher.)

Other than that, he did join Paizo and support Pathfinder for a fair while. He did get hired by Wizards to work on 4e but it turns out that was really to work on 5e. It would seem that as a professional game designer he found Pathfinder a better deal than 4e, but that has all kinds of other factors tied up in it.


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