Thursday, 28 July 2011

review: kobold quarterly 18

Metric: Kobolds.  It's tradition now.  Plus you don't *want* to be a dragon in this issue.  Too many dragonslayers for it and with editorial support no less.
DISCLAIMER: Review based on a PDF copy provided by Open Design.
Overall: 5 kobolds.  Jam-packed with content, looks excellent.
So. Much. Stuff.  This is a special summer special, relentlessly focussed on content.  Support for AGE, 4th edition D&D and Pathfinder is equally represented.  System neutral stuff is high quality and there is even room for a gritty, urban choose-your-own adventure.  This one will be tough to follow.

Contents: 5 kobolds (a veritable cornucopia)

Gifts of the Gods (5 kobolds, AGE system, Steve Kenson)
Bringing god-given gifts to AGE, this article illustrates how to do priests and domains in AGE using the Midgard setting as example.  An option written by the AGE system designer that allows you traditional fantasy buffs access to the AGE system?  I can see how that might be relevant to our interests...
The Savant (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Ryan Costello Jr.)
A workable scholarly jack-of-all-trades.  I like this class, the concept is for the Renaissance Man (or woman) who isn't a bard, more a medieval Macguyver or Joe90.  While I have plenty of core classes to pick from in Pathfinder already, this one suits a particular flavour of game.
Silus and the Red Dogs (5 kobolds, adventure Matthew J. Hanson)
A gritty urban choose-your-own-adventure.  Excellently put together, sharp and smart.  This is great if travelling and just the right length for short journeys.  Wonder if there's mileage in a collection of these?
Ecology of the Minotaur (5 kobolds, 4th edition, Tracy Hurley)
The minotaurs of Midgard get some wonderful background information as well as a handful of boons for the roles in Triolo society.  What I like about Tracy's article is how well-rounded minotaur society is presented here and that there is a place for the kill-crazed Baphomet worshippers among them.
The Exorcists (5 kobolds, Pathfinder, Tim & Eileen Connors)
You wake up resurrected minor clerics facing a possessed dragon.  Rolling for initiative is going to get you killed.  So what do you do?  A neat twist on the treasure first, now think your way out.
The Dragon Hunter (5 kobolds, Pathfinder, Mike Welham and Adam Daigle)
The dragon hunter is a prestige class which provides PCs with the tools to go toe-to-toe with the big time.  A great fit for a big dragon campaign or where dragons are a threat and useful in other games as well.
Tools of War (5 kobolds, 4E, Matt James)
A companion piece to the excellent 4E sourcebook Soldiers of Fortune.  Siege engines give terrific set-piece encounters and this article has trebuchets.   That alone is worth the price of admission.
Elementary, my Dear Wizard (5 kobolds, 4E, Paul Baalham)
Murder mystery is something many scenario writers aspire to and Paul breaks it down excellently.  Considerations of method, motive and opportunity, structure and an example skill challenge.  More please!
Soul Broker (4 kobolds, 4E, Anthony W. Eichenlaub)
An interesting take on the Faustian deal using glib sales patter and infernal magic.  Probably best as a DM's hook; this trade is something that will burn a party.
Synergistic Magic (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Phillip Larwood)
Some crunch to give wizards some extra kick.  Useful in justifying why low-level wizards hang around mid-level adventures, though examples are a bit limited.
Explaining the Inexplicable (5 kobolds, any, Monte Cook)
Monte breaks down the dichotomy between what's believable and what's not.  Invaluable in developing a GM's craft and worth reading if your players are inclined to quibble.
Battle Wizards and Sword Maidens (4 kobolds, any, Dave Gross)
A tour of Asian fantasy cinema.  I haven't seen many of these but those I have, I liked. Potted summaries offer possible gaming hooks.  As suggested brain fuel for Oriental games, this is nice.
10 Reasons Why Your Characters Should Be in Jail (5 kobolds, 4e/Pathfinder/AGE, Russell Jones)
This is an absolute gem.  The rule of law is something often flouted in games by gung-ho players and these hooks remind the GM of the order of things.  Just so those adventuring types have something to play off.
Into the Dragon's Den (3 kobolds, 4E/Pathfinder, David Schwartz)
Magical lair dressing for dragon encounters.  Some nice touches (heat mirages for red dragons), yet assigning feats to these seem a needless buff.  I like yet the execution seems feats for feats' sake.
The Heroic Flaw (5 kobolds, any, Phillipe-Antoine Menard)
The Chatty DM takes a look at giving heroes something more interesting than generic obligation.  Accessible indie game design concepts for those who haven't tried them.  This encourages people to stretch their gaming wings, often a good thing.  
Who Watches the Watch Fires (5 kobolds, 4E, Jonathan Roberts)
When mercenaries go bad, the party must raise the alarm.  Not as simple as it sounds, a good mix of skill challenge and combat in a confined location.  A good scenario for raising the stakes in a heroic tier game.
Beast Masters (5 kobolds, Pathfinder, Marc Radle)
A nice change to the Leadership feat which gives more options for your cohorts.  Perfect for druids, rangers and the other nature-lovers out there.  Or those who love their animals more than people. 
Ask The Kobold (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Skip Williams)
Waxing sage on illusions and experience point costs for various things.
Cavaliers of Flame & Fury (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Adam W. Roy)
There is definitely a niche for cavalier orders in Pathfinder and this article provides two for Midgard.  One fierce, one fiery and both make excellent opponents.  Great examples of how to create your own orders.
Book Reviews (4 kobolds, William Banks, Wolfgang Baur, Piece Watters)
Books for gamers, including the latest Pathfinder and Forgotten Realms novels and Ari Marmell's Goblin Corps.  Reviews and solid analysis.  Once again, I find myself tempted.
Wing, Scale, and Claws (4 kobolds, Wolfgang Baur)
The exploits of a dragon haunting the Rothenian Steppes and how a degenerate among a society of dragons can conduct a campaign of terror.

The editorial shows a rebellious streak by the kobold-in-chief against dragons.  The loss of a letters page this issue.  While I enjoy the Letters page (precisely because it's so old-school Dragon) this issue is not diminished by it's absence.  The addition of Legend of Bill to the roster of Bolt & Quiver, 10x10 Toon and d20 Monkey who all bring the funny.

Artwork/Layout: 5 kobolds (pretty and shiny)
The cover of two clashing dragons courtesy of Kieron Yanner makes a statement.  Interior use of colour and black & white art is good, with fewer pieces of classical art.  The statblocks are well managed and the advertising is within the usual limits. The map of the Watchfire gives the DM of Who Watches the Watch Fires an instant quality map.

In conclusion, Kobold Quarterly has come of age.  With more content than any two issues of it's draconic ancestor, it's not just about emulating it's forebears, it's now beating them.  Synergies between articles exist which is awesome.  Pathfinder GMs can use the Savant and Dragon Hunter prestige class with the Order of the Firedrake and In the Lair of for a dragon-chasing campaign.  4E DMs have the seed of a war campaign being sponsored by a soul broker against the minotaurs of Triolo.  AGE players may find themselves inspired by the gods under the rule of a tyrant.  This isn't even considering the actual scenarios themselves.  This one will be a tough act to follow.

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