Monday, 24 January 2011

review: kobold quarterly 16 by open design

Metric: Kobolds.  Anything else just wouldn't be right, would it?
DISCLAIMER: Review based on PDF copy provided by Open Design.
Overall: kobolds.
As sleek as the mermaid on the cover, KQ 16 has a great synergy, it's articles meshing together to provide instant game fuel.  Ecology of the Gearforged, Minion Academy and Clockwork Monsters makes synergistic traps and creatures a snap, while The Clockwork Adept and Dancing Brooms, Skittering Sconces offers a Pathfinder experience that will have your party distrusting anything that isn't living.  KQ16 walks a fine line and does so with style.

Content: 4.5 kobolds.
The editorial announces the Midgard patronage project - fleshing out the setting for Open Design's products including Court of the Shadow Fey and Tales of the Old Margreve.  Given recent announcements about Green Ronin's AGE RPG system being preferred over 4E, this will be an interesting project to follow.  The love for 4E in this issue is significant.  Stan's 10x10 toon reminded me of early computer RPG days when innocuous items held immense modifiers.  Stan! also has an archive.  Sage Advice offers just that on illusions. d20Monkey is a new toon and funny with it.  Book reviews covers new releases by Connie Willis, Elaine Cunningham's new Pathfinder book and Mike Resnick's steampunk cowboys.
Ecology of the Gearforged (Henry Brooks) presents souls incarnated into mechanical bodies for 4E D&D.  They are a different feel from warforged (having been someone before) and offer a diverting option for campaigns who dabble in technology or clockpunk.  While Zobeck is heavily referenced, it would be simple to convert these into a variant PC race with appropriate backstory.
Odalisques and Concubines (Stefen Styrsky) offers a variant bard for 3.xE/Pathfinder and a number of courtesans for Zobeck and Mharoti, an Arabian-inspired setting for Midgard.  A combination of beauty, intrigue and danger suits the swashbuckling elements of a campaign well and while the spells remind me of the old White Dwarf houri the article handles this subject intelligently.
If You're Having Fun (Jeremy L.C.Jones) is an interview with Robin D. Laws, including an overview of Robin's more recent works including GUMSHOE, Hamlet's Hit Points and his Pathfinder fiction.
Magic Items of Golarion (various) offer a dozen Pathfinder magic items from Paizo's RPG Superstar 2010.  A mixture of quirky, obscure and downright deadly awaits the reader.  The illustrations and line notes amuse, and these are a balanced mixture that could throw a few curveballs at your party.  Of course my favourite is the tankard of the cheerful duelist, why do you ask?
The Clockwork Adept (Jason Sonia) lets you tinker with machines in 3.x/Pathfinder as an arcane prestige class.  A natural accompaniment to warforged or anyone converting gearforged over.  Rules for clockwork creations are good and the Knowledge (Clockworks) skill is brilliant for those with Advanced Feats: Secrets of the Alchemist.  Maybe next issue we can see some clockwork creatures as examples?
The Royal Order of the Golden Fox (Russell Jones) offers 4E love for Midgard's band of noble hunters who seek to slaughter monsters.  A nice take on the hunting-obsessed nobles offering a plethora of magical items for consideration.
The Curse of The Blue Titchyboo (Willie Walsh) is a Pathfinder sidequest involving a tengu finishing school. Be afraid, right? Playing 'Spot The Mikado reference' was fun and it's going to be a very particular party who makes it through this one with their reputations and money purses intact.
The Ring of Rule-Breaking (Monte Cook) is one part shaggy dog story, one part 'winging-it masterclass'.  Monte has always been inspiring to read and this anecdote about a magic ring shows how sometimes, faking the rules can provide a great game experience.
Dancing Brooms, Skittering Sconces (Michael Kortes) offers traits for those animated objects that creep into your 3.x/Pathfinder adventures.  The gem in this article is the Lesser Animate Objects spell which gives you the chance to re-enact the broom scene with the Sorceror's Apprentice at lower level.
Places of Sanctuary (Jonathan McAnulty) provides safe havens for 3.x/Pathfinder characters.  From temples to sacred palanquins, this encourages traditional behaviour in game play and provides extra options.
Potion Miscibility (Scott A. Murray) 4E finally gets The Table.  This is a slightly more balanced take though Master Mixer does seem to be inviting extensive use as long as you have the healing surges to pay for it.
The Minion Academy (Raymond D. Falgui) offers minions a second chance for 4E.  Buffs for your bad guys, obstacles for player characters and even some nice flavour.  Build your own monster templates to taste.
True Hit Locations (Matthew J. Hanson) offers hit locations and tactical options for 4E.  Despite a strange unicorn-cyclops hybrid in the artwork, this is a solid take on providing weak points and special attacks for monsters including a nice take on the Lernaean hydra.
Beer Run! (Christina Styles) is a Viking-inspired Pathfinder scenario using material from the upcoming Frozen Empires. Taking beer from giants?  What could possibly go wrong?  Well if those giants are thursir, it's not as easy as it first sounds.  If you happen to have a giant-based scenario, this is a worthy sidequest.  Plus magical beer that heals.  Plenty to love here.
Clockwork Monsters (David Adams) offers some powers for 4E automata, be they traps or creatures.  These devices show a mixture of technologies.  And while not everyone will appreciate the (imagine the Dr. Evil voiceover here) laser, there is enough here to satisfy the jaded tactical palate of some DMs.
Banners of Zobeck (Wolfgang Baur) showcases the armies of the city, something that reminds me of the days of Greyhawk when you knew exactly how many people your players would try to kill to get to the King.

Layout: 4.5 kobolds.  Artwork is consistently good with strong colour panels and better black and white sections.  A map of Hurthyr's Meadhall (from Beer Run) is a nice tactical map at the back.  The adverts are unobstrusive but still effective and their quality is consistently good.

The particular strength of KQ16 is how the articles provide synergy for one another.  Use Ecology of the Gearforged in conjunction with Clockwork Monsters, True Hit Locations and Minion Academy and you've got minion traps that can support a mechanical monstrosity whose mechanical heart is it's weakpoint in a dungeon built by gearforged dwarves for 4E.  For Pathfinder, the two scenarios are very different though the idea of a nation of clockwork adepts and their harems would provide a very different feel and magical items to provide additional favours.


  1. Some interesting stuff there, if it weren't mostly 4e.

  2. The majority of the articles are for Pathfinder... Actually, 8 of them are Pathfinder.


  3. I've been posted to by kobold guerillas!

    @Trey - That's not necessarily a bad thing. Even if 4E isn't your cup of joe, conversion isn't hard. Also pretty sure KQ will accept submissions for retro-clones if provided by a quality author. :)


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