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7 Questions With Bruce R Cordell

"Every land to drown in the avenging sea of blood"
. Prophecy of the Deep Mother, Sea of Blood

My first experience with the Dungeons and Dragons game was with an adventure called The Sunless Citadel.  I was a goblin, trekking along with the rest of my friends in those long lost ruins.  I remember almost falling off a cliff, trying to negotiate with the other goblins I encountered, and simply trying to survive.  That adventure was written by Bruce Cordell, and it is because of his work that I began my journey into the world of D&D.  At Christmas, I ran another adventure written by him, and so when I was thinking about who to interview, he immediately sprang to mind.  After contacting him via Twitter, he generously agreed to answer some questions and give a little more insight into his publication history and personal involvement with the game.  Ironically, he just announced this week that he is leaving Wizards of the Coast to pursue other things.

I asked Bruce to introduce himself and give us a little more background to his publication credits.

Hi, I'm Bruce Cordell. I've worked on Dungeons & Dragons over the course of 4 editions as a writer and developer; to date I've written over 100 D&D products, including Gates of Firestorm Peak, Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, Gamma World, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide AND of course, the Sea Devils adventure trilogy. Before leaving Wizards of the Coast, I worked as a designer on D&D Next for 2 years.
I am also a novel author. My credits include nine novels, mostly set in the popular Forgotten Realms world. My most recent publication is Spinner of Lies (2012), a sequel to the acclaimed novel Sword of the Gods. I also wrote the Aboleth trilogy (2008-2010), and several stand-alone novels.


1. How did you end up as a writer?  Your wikipedia page ( only says so much.

I started out as a game writer first, of course. When I was a kid, I was introduced to D&D through my Boy Scout group in the early 80s. I was so fascinated by the game that before long, I was producing my own modules, complete with cover, cover art, blurb, and the credits "By Gary Gygax" on the front, because, hey, everything D&D at the time was from him, right? Seemed only fair that my mock-modules would also give him credit. Though of course the insides was content of my own creation, hand-written, though I was careful to include cards that had art I could show my players (which at that time consisted of either my brother, or other kids in my boy scout troop).

This fascination continued right up through high school and college.  It was during college I landed my first free-lance writing contract, which was for a Iron Crown Enterprises supplement called SpaceMaster.  With those credits plus a few others from ICE, I was able to parlay an interview with TSR to write their online MUD.

Of course, as you may know, no online MUD was ever produced by TSR—I ended up writing paper and pencil games instead. It all seems to have worked out well though :-).

I have a similar story-track in regard to pure fiction writing, but I think I've gone on long enough on this question.

  2.  Can you tell us about your past D&D games?  What kind of games did you run?  Who was your favorite character to play?

Some of my earliest games included evil characters. I plead being 13. Of course "evil" simply meant our characters dressed in dark clothing and had some sort of hybrid lineage. Though, my players were blamed for burning a town down, though in fact they were only responsible for making people THINK a tavern was on fire by using an ever-smoking flask. It was some NPC wizard jerk who showed up and cast flaming hands, which actually started that conflagration.

I've had several favorite characters, hard to pick just one. Japheth the warlock, Lord Dessatyso (a wizard with psionics), Count Astock Anananthor Darseen (a ridiculously powerful character who carried the Machine of Lum The Mad around in a portable hole), an Lokuetus (NOT of borg, but a monk who could reshape reality itself through effort of will). To name just a very few.

  3. What's the story behind the Evil Tide adventure path?  I've never really been able to find any history behind it.

The Evil Tide adventure path got its start by being part of a planned series of "coffee-table-like books with lots of great art" (called Monstrous Arcana) that each would feature one of D&D's most notable monsters. Illithids, beholders, sahuagin, for starters. Each of these coffee-table books were slated to be supported by three connecting adventures. Skip WIlliams had already written the source book Sea Devils. But I was given the opportunity to write the three supporting

I did a bit of research looking at Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh, but ultimately decided to go entirely my own way. And that's the story behind Evil Tide, Night of the Shark, and Sea of Blood.
My home version of an Evil Tide skirmish.
Based on my work on those, btw, I was lucky enough to be chose to write the Illithiad (the Monstrous Arcana book for mind flayers) and the three supporting adventures A Darkness Gathering, Masters of Eternal Night, and Dawn of the Overmind (all my titles, too, btw).

An ithillid (mind flayer)
4. Did you create the Anguiliians?  Should the community be making a push to see them included in D&D Next?  I personally feel like we need some more deep sea adversaries.

Yes, I created the anguiliians (and Anguileusis, their god) for the adventure. I'm of the opinion that every adventure is due a few completely new and cool monsters.

An anguiliian. Note the Sarlaac-like mouth, the pincers and pure evilness these guys possess.
5. What is your favorite part about the Evil Tide adventure path?  This can be a character, a certain location of exploration, or just something you included that you thought was fun.

Hard to pin down one favorite part. Hrm. Well, I have to say I really liked the setting of the creepy operation theatre players discover aboard the abandoned ship in Night of the Shark. The picture
accompanying the text tells the story of how disaster was spawned in
the form of the apodalypse ;-)

6. What has been your favorite project to work on to date?

Ouch! Too many to have one favorite. Let's say that most recently, I've been very excited about D&D Next. Right before that, I am immensely proud of the Gamma World boxed set that Rich Baker and I put together. And I'd be remiss if I were to leave my novels out--Sword of the Gods and its sequel, Spinner of Lies, are some of the best things I've ever done.

But I have great affection for almost all my earlier projects, including the sea devil trilogy we discussed in this interview.

7. Now that you've left Wizards, what do you plan on doing next?

You'll have to wait and see!

Bruce, thanks again for taking the time to participate in being interviewed for Artificer's Intuition.  Best of luck in the future, and I look forward to seeing where it takes you!
You can follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceCordell and, as always, you can find me @artificeralf


  1. Really nice interview. Bruce has contributed so much to the game. Thanks, Bruce!


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