Wednesday, 4 May 2011

villainy springs forth - review: kobold quarterly 17

Metric: Shrunken kobold heads.  Having done kobolds for the last few issues and given this issue is about villainy and getting ahead, it was time for a change.  Anywho...
DISCLAIMER: Review based on PDF copy provided by Open Design
Overall: 5 shrunken kobold heads (little touches elevate it).KQ has always looked good but this issue has little flourishes.  Labels to show the game systems that the articles relate to.  Consistently high standards of artwork including Open Design's use of classical artists.  While there's less of a theme than usual, the variety is consistently good and quality system neutral articles lets KQ offer something for everyone. At risk of repeating myself, if you want to produce a PDF zine, this is the standard to aspire to.

Articles: 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (villainy, shrunken heads, fireworks, food and more...)
So We Meet Again (Michael Kortes) - 3.5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder).   This suggests mutually-agreed abilities for NPCs and PCs based on antagonism.  An interesting idea, some GMs may make cards for these rules.  Others may work out situations where the abilities make sense.  Different strokes for different folks and adaptable to superhero games using d20 I reckon.
The Right Way To Do Wrong (Brandon Hodge) - 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder).  Scams and grift for rogues of all stripes.  Handy flavour for big city encounters and suggested costs for items which PC rogues may want to try out.  Of course, your GM may want to try these on your party first.  And bonus drinking games which will be tried at conventions and LARPs I'm sure.
The Scourges of Vael Turog (Stefan Styrsky) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (4E/Midgard).  Magical plagues have always occupied a valued place in a DM's arsenal.  Here are several takes on disease (as disease, hazard, ritual and even creature) showcasing 4E's versatility and provides some very interesting opponents and encounters for 4E players who have been there, done that...
Ambush in Absalom (Mark Moreland) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder/Golarion) is an Official Pathfinder Society Quest.  A recovery job in Absalom's sewers?  Can't be that bad surely?  Well maybe the sewer-dwelling kobolds might feel differently.  Those going in gung-ho are in for unpleasant surprises.  Looks like plenty of fun.
On The Streets and In The Books (Quinn Murphy) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Dragon AGE) deals with chase scenes and research.  The mechanics look interesting and the results are distinctive, entertaining and varied. This makes a major difference to some systems which allow limited variation in success.
Elf Needs Food Badly (Matthew J. Hanson) - 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (4E).  Humour has it's place in games and these magical foods help.  +1 for Gauntlet reference title.  Some would work with the feasts in Courts of the Shadow Fey.  From dire bacon to poysenberry pie, the jokes fly thick and fast.
Secrets of the Four Golden Gates (David Adams) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (4E).  Societies and magical items for the much-neglected monk class.  Each mystical items has flavour and the associated societies provide limited supporting fluff.  As for the Golden Gates?  That mystery needs greater contemplation.
Value of the Monster (Monte Cook) - 5 shrunken heads (System Neutral).   Monte waxes sage on how to make monsters monstrous.  Taking a look through lenses of threat, fear and revulsion he provides concise insight into what makes for memorable monsters.
Magical Squibs, Crackers and Fireworks (Jonathan McAnulty) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder).  Since Lord of The Rings was written there's been a shortage of magical fireworks.  This article goes some way to repairing this woeful state of affairs.  Some are less obvious than others.  There are plenty of ideas for a GM to unleash on their players and accidental misfires are always fun.
The Black Goat (Richard L. Smith II) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder/Midgard).  A tavern with a magic show, dancing Kariv gypsies and an eldritch secret.  There's always room for taverns, particularly those redolent of Hammer Horror and certain New England authors.   A map of the Black Goat lurks on page 75 to ensnare the unwary.
Feats of Stunning Might & Brilliance (Jeff Tidball) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Dragon AGE/others). This is a breakdown of the stunt mechanic used in AGE and considers how it can be adopted to other systems. An interesting concept, thought-provoking and treated well.
Lackeys, Hirelings and Henchmen (Tom Allman) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (System Neutral).  Where the great lead, others must follow.  The common-sense approach differentiating between these makes it easy for new GMs to use.  An excellent counterpoint to last issue's articles about minions.
Group Concept (Mario Podeschi) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (System Neutral/Midgard).  Examples of how the band get together provide useful hooks not only for player character parties but also for NPC groups with a common purpose.
Getting Ahead (Ben McFarland) - 5 shrunken kobold heads (Pathfinder/3.xE).  This is one set of magic items that players will remember for some time.  The create shrunken head feat is a nice twist on those who think that Create Wondrous Item ought to cover every eventuality and there's inspiration galore...
It's Not Supposed To End This Way (Scott A Murray) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (System Neutral) offers suggestions for when the badly-timed death derails a plot.  Options abound and while some players will likely balk at experiencing these fates, there's always the alternative.
Seven Secrets of the Seven Cities (Wolfgang Baur) - 4 shrunken kobold heads (Midgard) reminded me of the classic Minarian Legends articles from Dragon Magazine.  Snippets of intrigues and plots to inspire GMs offers more flavour on the different parts of Midgard.

Zine Stuff: 4.5 shrunken kobold heads (meta is better...)
Editorial (Wolfgang Baur) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  Evil Willow and Severus Snape at conventions and the lure of rational villainy.  Extremism and ignorance can be as horrific as any rational or insane villainy.
Interview with Jeff Tidball (Jeremy C.L. Jones) - 5 shrunken kobold heads.  Jeff is definitely one to watch and is worth your attention.  Sound advice for freelance designers and players alike.
From The Mines (Letters page) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  Jiro with wings, lively positive discussions and some more stuff on Adopt-A-Soldier.  Did I mention Jiro with wings?
Cartoons (d20 Monkey/Stan!) - 4.5 shrunken kobold heads.  d20 Monkey waxes lyrical on shabby party members (who don't do traps) as Bolt get sizist over Quiver's new look. 
Ask The Kobold (Skip Williams) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  This month goes to the dogs with questions on guard dogs, riding dogs and magical items.  Does a hat of stupidity mean an upgrade for some?
Book Reviews (Various) - 4 shrunken kobold heads.  The books are interesting though the predominance of game tie-in novels makes me a little wary, as there's no shortage of good fantasy out there.
Advertising: 18%  Convention time is coming around, a good mix of in-house, big and small companies.

Artwork (various) - 5 shrunken kobold heads.  Colour art from the awesome Alison Theus cover to colour panels by Mark Smylie and Pat Loboyko.  Monochrome mayhem is provided by Rick Hershey (goblin with fireworks are scary) and Kevin Crossley while whimsy from Darren Calvert keeps things from becoming too Grr! Argh!!

Kobold Quarterly is matching it's draconic predecessor in the best ways.  Where there are references to Open Design products, these are done in ways that encourage portability into other settings.  It shows the strength of KQ that it appears to offer more support for classic 4E in it's pages than WOTC does without  a paywall.  The support for Green Ronin's AGE and Paizo's Pathfinder show that being the Switzerland of the Edition Wars is working out well.

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