Originally posted at http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/07/28/tabletop-review-kobold-quarterly-18/
Like most gamers of my generation, I grew up reading Dragon Magazine. The saddle-stitched issues would usually lose their covers from being thrown in my backpack or piled on top of each other in my footlocker. When I drifted from Dungeons and Dragons to Vampire: the Masquerade, inspired by a positive review in Dragon Magazine, I found White Wolf Magazine lacking. I eventually drifted into Magic: the Gathering, which had a plethora of magazines, though only Duelist inspired me the way Dragon had. Due to the small town I lived in, I only ever read one issue of Shadis, but I enjoyed it and wished it was easier to procure. Fast-forward to the 21st century and paper magazines are largely dead. While I miss the immediacy of a print magazine, the lack of clutter, the ease of portability, and the searchability of the PDF format have changed my mind. A magazine available in both formats that covers multiple D&D editions, including Pathfinder, definitely appeals to my magazine loving inner child and my new media loving adult self. Enter Kobold Quarterly.
The cover for Kobold Quarterly #18 is eye-catching. The red dragon has long been a symbol of Dungeons and Dragons, so it takes something special to capture my attention. The wyrm on the cover is locked in combat with a mottled black and yellow dragon, framed by a perfect blue sky. If I had seen this on a newsstand, I would have bought it on the spot, no doubt about it.
The brief editorial does a nice job summarizing this month’s them: dragons. Wolfgang Baur does a good job framing the attitude, if not the contents, of this issue.
Scattered through the issue are several cartoons. They are universally amusing, though none were particularly memorable.
Gifts of the Gods
Since Kobold Quarterly is billed as ‘the Switzerland of the Edition Ware’, I expected some non-4th Edition and Pathfinder oriented material. I was pretty surprised, though, when the opening article was labelled for the Adventure Gaming Engine (AGE). A bit of Googling later, I found that AGE is the underlying system for Green Ronin’s Dragon Age game. The whole article centers on non-cleric characters with Divine Gifts. The way these Gifts are expressed varies by the domain of the divine power granting them and the character’s degree. While I am not familiar with AGE or the Dragon Age game in the slightest, the concepts and rules from the article should be easy enough to adapt to another system.
The Savant is an optional class for Pathfinder. Instead of being an expert in one specific aspect of the game, like the majority of classes, or a jack of all trades, master of none, like the bard, the Savant is something entirely separate. Much like the Taskmaster in Marvel Comics, a Savant character can copy actions he has seen and recorded in his notebook. While not a class I would want a PC to take, because it easily lead to excess spotlight time for the Savant player, as an NPC, the Savant has some interesting plot hooks built in.
Silas and the Red Dogs
My very first RPG purchase was a solo Marvel Superheroes module I bought at a KB Toys in the mall for the lofty price of one dollar. Thunder Over Jotunheim used a red plastic decoder to read blue text hidden beneath blue squiggles. Silas and the Red Dogs is very similar, though it eschews the gimmickry. I ran through it twice and printed a hard copy. Almost every game group has down time and this little adventure is a great way for a player with nothing else to do to kill time.
Ecology of the Minotaur
Minotaurs don’t get a lot of use in Fantasy RPGs, so any extra material is welcome. While this article is aimed for players of the Midgard setting, it is flexible enough to use for most settings. My preference is for RPG books to be nice and crunchy, but I like my magazine articles to be fluffy and flexible. This is a keeper.
This is an entry level adventure for four 1st level characters. Unlike most entry level adventures, this is a rip of an adventure, built around a moral conundrum that lacks easy answers. Best of all, after completing the quest, there are plenty of hooks for later quests, none of which I want to spoil here. A nice touch are the Sample PC backgrounds, which are interesting enough to be attractive to players.
The Dragon Hunter
I am not a huge fan of prestige classes, being more of a 2nd Edition kind of guy. That said, I really like the Dragon Hunter is one of the best prestige classes I have seen. Earned by having a high Knowledge (Arcane) skill and killing a dragon under certain circumstances, the Dragon Hunter prestige class is logical. The powers are useful enough to want while being narrow enough to be balanced. I can see a certain type of player, of which I am one, aiming for this class from an early level.
Tools of War
A 4th Edition article, Tools of War adds siege weapons to 4th edition in a clear way. I am not a big fan of 4th edition or siege weapons, so I am not the most qualified person in the world to talk about this subject. I can see the value in this article, regardless.
Elementary, My Dear Wizard
While this article is billed for 4th Edition D&D, I value it as being too valuable to be game specific. The art of building a mystery for the party to tackle is one I have long tried to master and this article does an amazing job of spelling it out. I can honestly say that, regardless of edition, this is a must read for GMs. By itself, this easily justifies the purchase of this issue.
I try not to let my tastes influence my opinion of these articles too much, but this was just not for me. The idea of PCs trading in souls and contracts has zero appeal to me. If that is your bag, fine. I just don’t get it.
Rare is the magazine article that leaves me wanting more pages. This is that kind of article. In three scant pages, the rules for combining spells are spelled out. Basically, if you have any interest in hacking the Pathfinder magic system, give this article a look.
Explaining the Inexplicable
Monte Cook’s opinions on GMing are something I will always be willing to give a read. This column is particularly useful, not just for GMs but for anyone who wants to sell a fantastical world to a player or reader.
Battle Wizards and Sword Maidens
I always find that lists like this have widely varying mileages. There are dozens of blogs written by people whose lives were changed by the infamous Appendix N. My iTunes account can vouch for the influence that the various bands referenced in the first generation of World of Darkness games on my music tastes. If you are interested in sword and sorcery with an Eastern flair, this list is pretty good.
10 Reasons Your Characters Should Be In Jail
Plot hooks are always welcome and this article explores a theme I have had in mind lately, namely prison. Putting part of, or all of, a gaming party under arrest is an interesting direction to take a campaign. Most of the crimes in the Crimes and Punishments list are things a party will assuredly do at some point, so it is easy to use these hints.
Into the Dragon’s Den
The gist of this article, giving Dragon’s Feats that make their dens have more character and danger, is brilliant. While none of the content is revolutionary or anything, I strongly recommend this to anyone who wants their players to traipse into a Dragon’s den. Nice synergy with the Dragon Hunter prestige class, too.
The Heroic Flaw
I like to think of character creation as an adventurer’s job interview. Just like saying your only flaw is ‘working too hard,’ making a character hew exactly to their class, race, and alignment is not a plus, it is annoying. The ideas in this article are a great starting point to push your players in the right direction, towards more interesting characters.
Who Watches the Watch Fires?
This is a nice, clean, and succinct 4th Edition adventure for level 4 characters. While it is mostly combat based, I can see a decent GM really ratcheting up the drama and anticipation and making this a very memorable gaming session. As a bonus, it is low on crunch and could be used in whatever flavor of D&D you prefer.
By spelling out a Feat, Beast Leadership, that belongs in the Core Pathfinder game, this article does Druid, Barbarian, and Ranger players a huge favor. Sure, it could get as tiresome as any other Feat adding followers and NPCs to a party, but I think it fills a huge gap in the game. Plus, it really makes me want to play some Pathfinder.
Ask the Kobold
A simple rules Q&A for some Pathfinder questions. The answers were certainly in-depth enough to pass the smell test, but I cannot claim an intimate enough knowledge of the Pathfinder rules to argue either way.
Cavaliers of Flame and Fury
An exploration of dragon riding cavaliers in the Midgard setting for Pathfinder, this is the definition of a niche article. I gave it a ride and there are some neat uses for these Cavalier Orders, with or without the Midgard setting. I have to say, this certainly has deepened my interest in Midgard.
Three simple, well-written reviews of genre novels, there is not much for me to say. I do not read fantasy novels, save the occasional Robert E. Howard or Michael Moorcock paperback I find for cheap or the works of A. Lee Martinez.
Wings, Scale, and Claws
This simple scenario and map are set in the Free City of Zobrek and involve a dragon who may or may not be the offspring of the Midgard Serpent. Coming to the Free City of Zobreck party late, I can’t really comment on this.
In the end, Kobold Quarterly #18 throws a lot of material your way for $5.99. I find myself being quite fond of this magazine and look forward to the next issue. The content is mostly useful, no matter your D&D flavor. For the adventures and the Dragon Hunter prestige class alone, I call this a must buy for most GMs.