First premise: I'm almost halfway in reading this book. My intention was to review the book after reading it cover-to-cover but it's taking me too long and I want to give a quick review in the meantime to share my thoughts with other buyers. I'll come back after finishing the book to give my definitive rating about it.
Second premise: I played a D&D Wizard character for 12 years, porting it from 2nd Ed. AD&D to 3.5 D&D as the campaing evolved. Magic is my dearest topic when it comes to gaming and as a GM I have a sweet spot for the argument, to the point that all of my efforts ever went in the direction of "bringing magic back into magic". This is not a trivial effort for an amateur like me, taking into account I'm probably not a good GM, nor a good game designer. But I had years to dissect the problem and I matured a polyedrical point of view. Maybe what follows won't apply to each and every reader, so please take into account I'm very demanding when it comes to magic in games.
MY TEMPORARY REVIEW:
So, two stars.
For a Kobold publication? REALLY?
I read both the "Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design" and litterally devoured the "KOBOLD Guide to Worlbuilding". Both are, IMO, must reads for any GM or GD, from wannabe to pro.
This is not the case with this new issue of the series. I won't go deep into details until I'll finish the reading. What I think sums up as follows:
- 99% of what I've read so far ends up in... nothing. Essays almost always pose a question and don't responde it. It seems that even skilled game designer can't give anything for sure (in game terms) when it comes to magic. There are a couple of noticeable exceptions (an essay by Ed Greenwood and one about secret magical societies which is very very good), but for the rest it seems the "Shoulders shrugging festival".
- Some of the essays are way under level if you compare them to other KOBOLD products. There is one on divine magic that I can't just read through to the end. I can't make heads or tails out of it and I got bored to death. Personal taste maybe but I didn't even got to understand what the scope of the essay was. Period.
- There is redundancy. OK, this is not bad "per se", since different points of view on the same central topic could be interesting to read, given they are actually different. And given they ends up in useful, practical advices for the reader. I already read three different essays in "how to bring back magic into magic" (which comes down to: when you have to give magic a structure to it like a tool, is there a way to recover the sense of wonder and the unexpected?). Actually it seems to be no real solution, but I had to read a lot of blurbs to find out that "I can do anything or nothing... who knows?". The Greenwood essay actually ended up into something but the solution boils down to "throw in some ancient magic that doesn't obey the system rules and go with it". Mmmh... It could be a starting point, but it's been widely ab... ehm... overused.
As I told, I could be too unforgiving, but after two weeks of reading I'm bascially muscleing my way to the end instead of enjoying a great reading. It may be me.
I'll be back to fix this blurb (and give more precise indication on what I found interesting and why) when I'll reach the end. In the meantime I beg pardon to the KOBOLD crew. I love you guys, and you always did a great job. I know this is not an easy topic to cover but I expected a bit more.
[2 of 5 Stars!]