Bruce Cordell

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Bruce Cordell at Gen Con on August 22, 2004
Bruce Cordell at Gen Con on August 22, 2004
BornBruce R. Cordell
1968 (age 54–55)[citation needed]
Watertown, South Dakota, United States
OccupationGame designer, novelist
GenreRole-playing games

Bruce Robert Cordell (born 1968)[citation needed] is an American author of roleplaying games and fantasy novels. He has worked on Dungeons & Dragons games for Wizards of the Coast.[1] He won the Origins Award for Return to the Tomb of Horrors and has also won several ENnies. He lives in Seattle.

Early life and education[edit]

Bruce Cordell played Dungeons & Dragons as a youth, and even recalled playing the original Tomb of Horrors adventure with future fellow game designer Monte Cook when they were in high school together.[2] Cordell was a wrestler and a debater, and also earned a degree in biology from the University of Colorado.[2] Cordell once worked in the biopharmaceutical industry, where he learned to synthesize DNA.[3]

Roleplaying work[edit]

Cordell worked on freelance game design while working in the scientific field, and was eventually hired as a full-time game designer by TSR in 1995.[2] Cordell created the Far Realm for the adventure The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996).[4]: 299  He authored the Sea Devils Adventure Trilogy, The Illithiad, the Shattered Circle, Bastion of Faith, the Dungeon Builder's Guidebook, and the adventures Die Vecna Die!, Return to the Tomb of Horrors, and Return to White Plume Mountain for the AD&D game, as well as the Tangents sourcebook and The Killing Jar adventure for the Alternity game.[2] Cordell and Steve Miller worked on Die Vecna Die! (2000) together, an original adventure that brought an end to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line.[4]: 284  Cordell was also one of the designers working on the first new adventures for the 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons game, beginning with The Sunless Citadel.[2] Cordell and Rich Baker wrote a new version of the Gamma World Roleplaying Game (2010), which was based on the fourth edition D&D rules.[4]: 302 

He won the Origins Award for Return to the Tomb of Horrors, and ENnies for Mindscapes, If Thoughts Could Kill, and his work on the Manual of the Planes.[3] Bruce wrote the novels Oath of Nerull, Lady of Poison, Darkvision, Stardeep, and the Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy.[3] Short stories he's written have appeared in various anthologies, including "Black Arrow" in Realms of War.[3]

Bruce Cordell's RPG work includes many scenarios and sourcebooks; many of which are directly or indirectly concerned with monsters of a Lovecraftian bent (particularly mind flayers and psionics).

Cordell frequently references certain characters, ideas, and organizations in his RPG works, creating a private continuity between various supplements. For example, The Illithiad references the character of Strom Wakeman and the organization known as the Arcane Order (an organization detailed heavily in another of Cordell's works, College of Wizardry). Wakeman was quoted occasionally in Planescape books by Cordell, such as A Guide to the Ethereal Plane, and was instrumental to the course of events in the adventure Dawn of the Overmind (books which were themselves also connected through a phenomenon called an ether gap). Meanwhile, the Arcane Order returned in Tome and Blood as a detailed organization and the basis of a prestige class.

Most of Cordell's work for Malhavoc Press has followed similar patterns, creating a sort of story arc across When the Sky Falls, If Thoughts Could Kill, and Hyperconscious, connected by the god-like Dark Plea and, to a lesser extent, the kureshim race. In an interview with Monte Cook, Cordell himself described his style as including "subtle story threads that connect seemingly unrelated projects".[5]

Cordell co-designed the 4th Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide,[3] and Gamma World Seventh Edition.[6]

After working for a few years as a designer on the fifth edition of D&D, Cordell left Wizards in July 2013.[7] In August of the same year he joined Monte Cook at Cook's company Monte Cook Games, LLC (also called MCG) as Senior Designer.[8] Not long after, MCG Kickstarted another RPG, The Strange.[9] The Strange, co-written by Cordell and Cook, was published in August 2014.[10]


  • Myth of the Maker (a novel of The Strange), April 2017
  • Spinner of Lies (Forgotten Realms Novel, #2 in series Sword of the Gods), June 2012
  • Sword of the Gods (Forgotten Realms Novel, #1 in series Sword of the Gods/Abyssal Plague tie-in novel), April 2011
  • Key of Stars (Forgotten Realms Novel, #3 in series Abolethic Sovereignty), September 2010
  • City of Torment (Forgotten Realms Novel, #2 in series Abolethic Sovereignty), September 2009
  • Plague of Spells (Forgotten Realms Novel, #1 in series Abolethic Sovereignty), December 2008
  • Stardeep (Forgotten Realms Novel, #3 in series The Dungeons), November 2007
  • Darkvision (Forgotten Realms Novel, #3 in series The Wizards), 2006
  • Lady of Poison (Forgotten Realms Novel, #1 in series The Priests), 2005
  • Oath of Nerull (Writing as T. H. Lain), 2004

Short stories[edit]

  • "Wandering Stones", Realms of the Dead, Forgotten Realms Anthology, January 2010
  • "Black Arrow", Realms of War, Forgotten Realms Compilation, March 2008
  • "Not all that Tempts", Dragon's Return, Malhavoc Press, 2005
  • "Hollows of the Heart", Children of the Rune, Malhavoc Press, 2004

Role-playing games[edit]


2nd Edition AD&D[edit]

3rd Edition D&D[edit]

4th Edition D&D[edit]

Cypher System[edit]

  • The Strange (2014)
  • The Strange: The Dark Spiral (2014)
  • The Strange: Eschatology Code (2014)
  • Encyclopedia of Impossible Things (2016)
  • Gods of the Fall (2016)


2nd Edition AD&D[edit]

  • College of Wizardry (1998)
  • Dungeon Builder's Guidebook (1998)
  • Bastion of Faith (1999)
  • The Illithiad (1998)

3rd Edition D&D[edit]

Third-Party d20 System Sourcebooks

  • If Thoughts Could Kill (Malhavoc Press, 2002)
  • Hyperconscious (Malhavoc Press, 2004)

4th Edition D&D[edit]

  • Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (2008)
  • Draconomicon I: Chromatic Dragons (2008)
  • Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (2009)

5th Edition D&D

  • Player's Handbook (2014)
  • Dungeon Master's Guide (2014)
  • Monster Manual (2014)

Cypher System[edit]

  • The Strange (2014)
  • The Strange Players Guide (2014)
  • Numenera: The Ninth World Bestiary (2014)
  • The Strange Bestiary (2014)
  • Jade Colossus: Ruins of the Prior Worlds (2017)
  • Numenera 2: Discovery & Destiny (2018)

Media mentions[edit]

Bruce Cordell has appeared in the following newspaper and magazine articles, websites and podcasts.


  • RPG Countdown:[11] Bruce appeared on these episodes: 28 January 2009[12] (Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead), 25 March 2009[13] (Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress).


  1. ^ Dizon, Kristin (3 July 2003). "Title's a big feather in cat's cap but Bengal takes it lying down". Post-Intelligencer. p. E2. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kenson, Stephen (February 2000). "ProFiles: Bruce Cordell". Dragon. Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast (#268): 22.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Bruce R. Cordell". Archived from the original on June 12, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  5. ^ A Talk With Bruce R. Cordell, "A Talk with Bruce R. Cordell". Archived from the original on 2006-11-16. Retrieved 2006-09-15.
  6. ^ "D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game". Archived from the original on 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  7. ^ "Bruce Cordell Resigns from Wizards of the Coast - RPGG News". Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  8. ^ McDonald, Josh. "Battleground Games & Hobbies". Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  9. ^ Grabianowski, Ed (30 October 2013). "Explore infinite worlds in an alien computer in RPG The Strange". Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  10. ^ "The Strange, a Tabletop RPG by Bruce Cordell & Monte Cook". Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  11. ^ "RPG Countdown". Archived from the original on March 7, 2009.. RPG Countdown on Facebook.
  12. ^ "RPG Countdown (28 January 2009)". Archived from the original on May 25, 2009.. Retrieved 28 January 2009.
  13. ^ "RPG Countdown (25 March 2009)". Archived from the original on 26 May 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2009.

External links[edit]