Thursday, 10th February, 2011, 12:37 AM #1
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Review of Kobold Quarterly Issue 16 (Winter 2011)
As though alluding to the great Blizzard of 2011, the first issue of Kobold Quarterly for the New Year carries with it the somewhat forboding subtitle of “Digging Deathtraps All Winter”. But as the self-proclaimed “Switzerland of the Edition Wars”, the recently released Kobold Quarterly Issue 16 continues on in its tradition of offering a wide variety of feature articles, content piece, and editorials designed to offer D&D gamers plenty of new material, whether they are playing 3.5, 4E, or Pathfinder.
For those unfamiliar with my previous Kobold Quarterly reviews at the Neuroglyph Games website, I had been rating the content of articles on a 0-5 scale for both Fluff and Crunch – and a 0 rating meant that the content had no application to D&D 4E. But since EN World News is also “edition neutral”, I have decided it would be best to rate each article’s Fluff and Crunch on a 1 to 5 scale with regards to overall quality and how it relates to the particular game for which it was written.
[Author’s Note: For those interested, I have added links to my previous Reviews of Kobold Quarterly at the end of this article for additional reading!]
Kobold Quarterly Issue 16 (Winter 2011)
- Editor: Wolfgang Baur (Kobold in Chief)
- Illustrations: Kieran Yanner (cover)
- Publisher: Open Design LLC
- Year: 2011
- Media: PDF (76 pages)
- Price: $5.99 (On sale from the official Kobold Quarterly site)
Kobold Quarterly #16 is the first installment of the four quarterly issues due out in 2011, and I believe is the first “web-linked” PDF copy I have ever reviewed. This new “web-linked” format allows Readers to click advertisements to head directly over to game product websites, which I must admit is a pretty nifty new feature. As always, the production quality of Kobold Quarterly is excellent, with smart, beautifully lay-outs, and is a pleasure to read even in PDF format.
The cover art by Kieran Yanner, entitled “Siren” is certainly eye-catching and beautifully rendered - but when I try to merge the ideas of “winter edition” with this highly aquatic vixen, my mind blunders off imagining some bizarre new fantasy-world’s version of frozen fish-sticks. While I think the cover is some great fantasy art, personally, I believe it might have been more apropos gracing the front of a Summer or Fall issue.
Opening this issue is A World Lit Only by Magic, an editorial by Kobold-in-Chief Wolfgang Baur, announcing that Open Design LLC will be producing the author’s home campaign of Midgard as a new “stand-alone” campaign setting. He will be collaborating with Jeff Grubb and Brandon Hodge, along with Open Design Patrons to bring this new world to the D&D gaming community!
Ecology of the Gearforged is an article by Henry Brooks featuring information on this race of warforged-like automatons used in the Free City of Zobeck setting by Open Design. Surprisingly, the article goes beyond mere fluff to offer useful crunch for both Pathfinder and 4E rules sets, including both spells and rituals for Soulforging, player-character racial templates, and even information on the “Gear Goddess” Rava. An excellent article for DMs wanting to offer an alternative to Eberron’s constructs in their campaign.
Odalisques and Assassins by Stefen Styrsky brings to life the “Courtesans of Zobeck” under the Pathfinder ruleset. This lavish article offers not only a new way to play bard, sorcerer, or rogue classes (or combinations thereof), but has new spells, magic items, and even variant rules on using the Perform skill to bring your own “Mata Hari”-style character to life. There is definitely some really superb writing, and enticing ideas here!
If You’re Having Fun is a great interview/conversation with notable game designer Robin D. Laws. Written by Jeremy L. C. Jones, this interview discusses his previous works, as well as his recent forays into the GUMSHOE system by Pelgrane Press. A very enjoyable read about one of the gaming industry’s “treasures”.
Magic Items of Golarion is a collection of twelve new Pathfinder magic items from the first round of the 2010 RPG Superstar Contest at Paizo. These items were chosen for their “originality, playability, and command of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game mechanics”, and offer some really fun new treasures to entice player-characters. Included with the article are images from the Game Mastery Item Cards by Paizo.
The Clockwork Adept is a new Prestige Class by Jason Sonia designed for the Pathfinder system. Designed to allow wizards to master clockwork creatures such as those found in Midgard (Free City of Zobeck) setting, this class has some interesting features if clockworks form a major part of your campaign world. Otherwise, this master of “Mechanical Precision” would be hard-pressed to find much to do in settings without gear-filled dungeons and clockwork beasties.
The Royal Order of the Golden Fox is a 4E article by Russell Jones, introducing Midgard’s society of noble monster hunters. Although designed for Open Design’s campaign setting, the Golden Foxes could easily be used in most D&D 4E settings as a way to introduce side-treks and full adventures to player-characters. The article also includes some nifty new magic items, all centered around a huntsman’s theme, for use with the Order.
The Curse of the Blue Titchyboo is a short Pathfinder adventure for 2nd to 3rd Level characters by Willie Walsh, featuring an “elementary” school set in a small inner-city community of tengu – humanoid avians described in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary. The adventure is a humorously written urban-setting adventure with plenty of role-playing opportunities for the characters to interact with the tengu-children in the course of their investigations.
The Ring of Rule-Breaking is a Game Theories article by Monte Cook, offering advice to Game Masters to consider the empowering effects of having less rather than more rules. The article is a great inspiration read, and one I plan to whip at a certain player the next time he dives into his copy of the Rules Compendium in the middle of my gaming session!
Ask the Kobold is Skip Williams’ forum to offer advice on niggling and troublesome rules in the Pathfinder system. This time around, he takes a look at the question of the major image spell to produce other spell effects, and the usefulness (or uselessness) of the non-detection spell.
Dancing Brooms, Skittering Sconces is a Pathfinder article by Thomas Baumbach, which has some suggested rules and rule variants for handling the use of the animate object spell to manufacture quick battlefield constructs. Offering not only a dozen or so new traits and drawbacks for various objects that can be transformed into useful soldiers, but the author also has stat blocks for a few examples, such as an Animated Hooded Lantern, Animated Hearth Tools, and an Animated Oak Apothecary Hutch.
Places of Sanctuary, while written for the Pathfinder rules by Jonathan McAnulty, offers some very interesting and inventive sanctuarial auras, which could be adopted into 4E rules with a little creative re-writing. These auras can be created in specific locales, with some suggestions provided by the author as adventure seeds, and provide both benefits and hindrances to those they protect.
Potion Miscibility by Scott A. Murray is a 4E adaptation of the previous D&D rules governing the dangerous and sometimes humorous results of mixing magical elixirs and potions together – whether in a flask or in the tummy of an over-imbibing adventurer! Given that nearly half the time mixing potions results in some seriously bad effects, it is likely most adventurers will stick with downing their potions using the recommended dosage.
The Minion Academy is a D&D 4E article by Raymond G. Falgui offering DMs new ways of “Making the Most of Your Minions”. The article contains a whole selection of new abilities to add to minions which will make the most of their impending demises, as well as a template to create an “elite” minion called a Toady. A great and funny read, as well as content well worth using for almost any kind of minion!
True Hit Locations is an article on how to design D&D 4E monsters “with weak spots”. Author Matthew J. Hanson has some monster-design variant rules for creating creatures that have parts that can be specifically targeted during tactical combat in order to impair extremely dangerous attacks, lowering unusually high defenses, or possibly slaying a seemingly unstoppable monster outright. While clearly not meant for every monster, the authors ideas can certainly be used to design some very memorable encounters, particularly against elite and solo type creatures that can only be bested by the most canny heroes.
Beer Run! is a new Pathfinder adventure by Christina Stiles designed for 5th level Pathfinder characters. The adventure is fairly linear in design, but features a pretty nifty map of an ice giants drinking haul (located later at the end of the PDF – I discovered it quite by accident, as there was no referenced to it with the adventure.)
Clockwork Monsters is a monster theme for use in transforming D&D 4E creatures into clockword-cyborgs. Author David Adams offers an interesting array of powers in the theme, but some of them feel a little too much like science-fiction as opposed to magically mechanical constructs. Overall, some inventive powers which might be appropriate for some campaign settings.
Book Reviews is a regular column in Kobold Quarterly, offering a few in-depth reviews of fantasy and science-fiction. This quarter, writers Ben McFarland and Pierce Watters review two historical-fantasy books by Connie Willis entitled Black Out and All Clear, the Pathfinder novel Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham, and a “Cowpunk” novel by Mike Resnick called The Buntline Special. Excellent reviews - and I will admit to finding myself totally enticed to pick up the latter novel, which is an odd hybrid of Western and Steampunk!
Banners of Zobeck is a Free City of Zobeck setting article by Wolfgang Baur, detailing information about the armed forces within the city, as well as mercenaries and other fighting units from the region. While lacking much in the way of crunch, this article packs in a lot of fluff about the armies which can be called upon to protect Zobeck from outside forces.
Overall Grade: A-
Overall, Kobold Quarterly seems to just get better and better with each issue, and KQ #16 is no exception to that rule. Obviously, the magazine was a somewhat focused on Midgard/Free City of Zobeck, but that is to be expected considering the big announcement in the opening Editorial about the Midgard Setting project by Open Design. While the majority of the content was a little more Pathfinder-heavy than I would have preferred it, there is still enough D&D 4E content to make picking up a copy well worth the buy-in for the PDF. And of course, for Pathfinder gamers, the Winter 2011 Issue of Kobold Quarterly is almost a “must have” resource, with tons of new content for GMs and players alike.
So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.
- Presentation: A
- - Design: A
- - Illustrations: A
- Content: A-
- - Crunch: B+
- - Fluff: A-
- Value: A-
For further reading, please feel free to check out these previous Kobold Quarterly Reviews from Neuroglyph Games:
Review of Kobold Quarterly #15 Fall 2010
Review of Kobold Quarterly #14 Summer Edition
Review of Kobold Quarterly #13 Spring 2010
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