This was always going to come down to two particular writers for me but before I discuss them, and pick a favourite, I think some other folk need an honourable mention. Keith Baker is first, for Eberron, amongst other things. Eberron was developed specifically for D&D 3.5 and I was shocked that it was god enough to stand against the great D&D campaign settings from the past. Eberron is a fantastic world that brought something new to D&D and Keith deserves major credit for that.
Next up is the combined team of Weis and Hickman. Now they get a mention mostly because of the Dragonlance novels, which isn’t specifically RPG related. However both have had significant involvement in other settings such as the original Castle Ravenloft, which kickstarted that setting and the Margaret Weis’s own companies development of such lines as Serenity, Dragonlance, Supernatural and others, including the excellent Cortex system.
But, as I’ve said, it was always going to come down to two people for me, Monte Cook and the late, great, Nigel Findley.
Monte Cook’s list of RPG achievements is huge. The man was instrumental in Planescape, which is one of the most ingenious campaign settings of all time. He wrote Ptolus, which is a holy grail item for me and one I often kcik myself for not picking up many years back. Then there is 3rd ed D&D, a game he co-developed and that set the standard for fantasy RPGs. Finally there is his latest ventures, Numenera, The Strange and the Cypher System. Anyone who has either read this series, or my Numenera reviews knows my love of that game and system and so Monte keeps going from strength to strength.
That brings me to Nigel Findley. Nigel died very young, in his 30’s but he left an indelible mark on two of my favourite campaign settings, Ravenloft and Shadowrun. In the former Nigel is responsible for the creation of Rudolph Van Richten, the famous monster hunter and archetypical hero for that setting. Van Richten’s name graced a long running series of books in Ravenloft, the Van Richten’s Guide to ……. series and these are some of the best in game fluff books in any setting, ever.
In Shadowrun Nigel developed the character of Dirk Montgomery in the novels of 2XS and House of the Sun. I mention these as RPG accessories since they are the books I give to new players to introduce them to the world of Shadowrun, being perfect examples of the tone and flavour of the setting. In terms of actual RPG products he wrote the magnificent source material in the Universal Brotherhood adventure and has heavily involved in the development and writing of the NAN books.
So who is my favourite? Of the two, I think I have to give it to Monte, by virtue of the sheer size of his body of work and how many of those aren’t just products I like, but ones I love. I have no doubt that had Nigel lived longer then he would have undoubtedly gone on to bigger and better things but with such a limited catalogue of work he gets out performed by Monte.