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Bruce Robert Cordell (born 1968) is a Dungeons & Dragons writer who has worked for TSR and Wizards of the Coast. He has written numerous roleplaying game products and novels, and is the winner of several awards including an Origins Award and several ENnies.

He is usually credited as Bruce Cordell or Bruce R. Cordell. His last name is pronounced "cor-DELL".[1] He lives in Washington state with his wife Dee and household of pets.[2]

Life and career

Early life

Bruce Cordell was born in Watertown, South Dakota, USA, in 1968.[citation needed] He was raised Catholic, and served as an altar boy.[1] He first discovered D&D in the late 1970s while in Boy Scouts, and was instantly hooked. Around 1981, in eighth grade, he became friends with Monte Cook, who would later go on to be a prominent Dungeons & Dragons writer.[3]

In 1992 he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology from University of Colorado at Boulder. He was hired as a Research Associate by NeXstar,[citation needed] where he worked on a team involved with RNA and DNA synthesis. Through the company he was able to gain access to the Internet, where he played early online computer roleplaying games including AmberMUSH and Elendor.[1]

Cordell's earliest published roleplaying game works were freelance submissions to Iron Crown Enterprises. Cordell was introduced to the company by long-time friend Monte Cook, who worked for that company as an editor at the time and often encouraged him to submit freelance work.[1] He is credited as a design contributor on the Spacemaster Master Companion II (1993), and the Rolemaster product Creatures & Monsters (1995).[4] Cook recommended Cordell to David Wise.[3]


In October 1995, Cordell was hired by TSR, and after two weeks relocated to their headquarters at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[5] Although initially hired to run an online MUD for TSR, the company abandoned the project by the time Cordell arrived at the company, and instead moved him into an opening on the core D&D team. His first published work for the company was The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996), a 96-page adventure module designed for use with the Player's Option rulebooks. He gained a reputation for meeting deadlines.[1]

Cordell's next major design role at TSR was as leader designer of adventure module trilogy of Evil Tide (1997), Night of the Shark (1997), and Sea of Blood (1997). He also served as a playtester for various sourcebooks, and was the inspiration for the character of Bruis Blackheart in Of Ships and the Sea (1997).

Cordell worked on a second multi-user game on a team involving Jim Butler, Sean K. Reynolds, and Keith Strohm. This game also canceled, due to TSR's bankruptcy and acquisition.[3]

Wizards of the Coast

In 1997, TSR declared bankruptcy and was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. Bruce Cordell relocated to the new company's headquarters in Seattle.

Prior to the release of D&D 3rd edition Cordell wrote several influential lore-heavy late-AD&D sourcebooks, including College of Wizardry (1998), Bastion of Faith (1999), and The Illithiad (1998); a mind flayer focused adventure module trilogy of A Darkness Gathering (1998), Masters of Eternal Night (1998), and Dawn of the Overmind (1998); the massive Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998) boxed set; the Dungeon Builder's Guidebook (1998); A Guide to the Ethereal Plane (1998); and the adventure modules The Shattered Circle (1999), Reverse Dungeon (2000) and Die Vecna Die! (2000). He also designed the Diablo II: The Awakening (2000) licensed AD&D product, and was credited on the D&D 3e adaption Diablo II: To Hell and Back (2001).

Cordell contributed to the design of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, as well as its 3.5 revision. He wrote several notable third edition adventure modules, including three of the eight-part Sunless Citadel series: The Sunless Citadel (2000), Heart of Nightfang Spire (2001), and Bastion of Broken Souls (2002). He was lead designer on prominent third edition sourcebooks, including the Psionics Handbook (2001), Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004), Complete Psionic (2006), Underdark (3e) (2003), Libris Mortis (2004), Sandstorm (2005), Weapons of Legacy (2005), and several Eberron sourcebooks including Grasp of the Emerald Claw (2005) and Magic of Eberron (2005). He also authored a third edition revision of the classic S1 Tomb of Horrors (1e) (1978).

Cordell's work in the AD&D 2e and D&D 3e era was characterized by references to characters and ideas from his other Dungeons & Dragons works, creating a sort of private continuity between various supplements. For example, the Arcane Order detailed in College of Wizardry appear in The Illithiad and the D&D 3e sourcebook Tome and Blood (2001); and mind flayer expert Strom Wakeman from The Illithiad is referenced in A Guide to the Ethereal Plane, Dawn of the Overmind and the Epic Level Handbook (2002). His work also often featured mind flayers and psionics.

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".[3]

He continued to work with Wizards of the Coast in the design and development of Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, joining the codename "Orcus" design team from February to March 2006. His works for D&D 4e included the H1 Keep on the Shadowfell (2008) introductory adventure module, Arcane Power (2009), Open Grave (2009), The Plane Below (2009), and Player's Handbook 3 (2010).

He was part of the design team on Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, credited for his work on the core rules released in 2014.


D&D books

D&D articles

This section is incomplete. Please add information on Dungeon magazine, and 4e Dragon/Dungeon magazine; and remove this {{secstub}} notice when finished.
  • Arcanopath Monk, Dragon Compendium Volume 1 (2005)
  • Monk of the Enabled Hands, Dragon Compendium Volume 1 (2005)
  • Mindstalkers, Dragon #245 (Mar 1998), p.36
  • Return To the Tomb of Horrors, Dragon #249 (Jul 1998), p.38
  • Mage Vs. Machine, Dragon #258 (Apr 1999), p.28
  • Revenge of the Sheens, Dragon #270 (Apr 2000), p.32
  • Vs. Goblins, Dragon #275 (Sep 2000), p.106
  • Calm Amid the Storm, Dragon #281 (Mar 2001), p.32
  • Campaign Corner, Dragon #284 (Jun 2001), p.64
  • Campaign Corner, Dragon #285 (Jul 2001), p.66
  • Vs. Vampires, Dragon #286 (Aug 2001), p.84
  • Expand Your Mind, Dragon #287 (Sep 2001), p.54
  • Oath Order: The Monks of the Oath of Nerull, Dragon #299 (Sep 2002), p.46
  • Revised Psionics Preview #1: New Psionic Races, Dragon #314 (Dec 2003), p.64
  • Revised Psionics Preview #2: Psionic Feats, Dragon #316 (Feb 2004), p.78
  • Expanded Psionics Preview #3: Psionic Power, Dragon #317 (Mar 2004), p.88
  • Expanded Psionics Preview #4: Psionic Monsters, Dragon #318 (Apr 2004), p.90
  • Erudite: The Scholar-Thieves of Thought, Dragon #319 (May 2004), p.46
  • Enter the Far Realm, Dragon #330 (Apr 2005), p.20
  • Psicrystal Substitutions, Dragon #345 (Jul 2006), p.88


  • 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
  • Black Arrow, Realms of War, Forgotten Realm Compilation, due March 2008
  • Not all that Tempts, Dragon's Return, Malhavoc Press, 2005
  • Hollows of the Heart, Children of the Rune, Malhavoc Press, 2004

Other works

  • Dungeon Tiles: DT4 Ruins of the Wild
  • Chainmail Miniatures Core Rulebook (Wizards of the Coast, 2002)
  • If Thoughts Could Kill (Malhavoc Press, 2002)
  • Hyperconscious (Malhavoc Press, 2004)

Reception and influence

Influence on later D&D works

Cordell introduced several notable Dungeons & Dragons concepts which were used by later works.

The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996) introduced the concept of the far realm, later established as the home of the kaorti. The Illithiad (1998) introduced notable lore on the mind flayer and the process of ceremorphosis, which forms a central part of the plot of the video game Baldur's Gate 3. College of Wizardry (1998) introduced the idea of metamagic, and the primal langauge of magic which inspired the concept of epic spells in the Epic Level Handbook (2002).

In Rules Compendium (3e) (2007), Cordell described his involvement on the team which developed flanking with a D&D board game during D&D 3e's development; and in developing the swift action and immediate action mechanics with his work on Miniatures Handbook (2003) and Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004).

Cordell was credited in several D&D 3rd edition sourcebooks which used information from his earlier works. Works crediting Cordell in this way include Defenders of the Faith (2001), Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), Faiths and Pantheons (2002), Races of Faerûn (2003), Shining South (3e) (2004), Underdark (3e) (2003), Ghostwalk (2003), Monster Manual II (3e) (2002), Complete Psionic (2006), Complete Warrior (2003), Unearthed Arcana (3e) (2004), Draconomicon (3e) (2003), Lords of Madness (2005), Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004), Champions of Valor (2005), Magic of Incarnum (2005), City of the Spider Queen (2002), Lord of the Iron Fortress (2002), Races of Stone (2004), Stormwrack (2005), Stronghold Builder's Guidebook (2002), Spell Compendium (2005), and the Dragon Compendium Volume 1 (2005).

Canonical Dungeons & Dragons characters named Cordell include general Cordell of Maztica and a character named Cordell in Eye of Pain (1996), although a connection to Bruce Cordell is not explicitly stated.


The Sunless Citadel (2000) was the most widely played D&D third edition adventure module.[1]

In 2020, Skip Williams considered Bruce Cordell his favorite writer to work with.[1] Monte Cook described Cordell as "one of my very favorite game designers".[3] The article The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time, Dungeon #116 (Nov 2004), p.70 described Cordell as "arguably the finest adventure designer currently working for Wizards of the Coast.


Cordell has won numerous awards, including an Origins Award for Return to the Tomb of Horrors (1998) (Best Roleplaying Adventure), and at least eleven ENnie awards, including for Manual of the Planes (3e) (2001) (Best Rules Supplement), Elder Evils (2007) (Best Monster Product), and Player's Handbook 3 (2010) (Best Supplement).

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Gabbin' at Lord Peak's Haven #117, Nov 2020, LordGosuba, Twitch.tv.
  2. Sandstorm (2005), p.224.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 A Talk with Bruce R. Cordell, MonteCook.com. Archived May 13, 2008.
  4. Design Credits, Bruce R. Cordell.
  5. Psionics Handbook (2001).