Review of Kobold Quarterly Issue 18 (Summer 2011)


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    Review of Kobold Quarterly Issue 18 (Summer 2011)

    Summer has been a busy time for reviewing, and I have received over a dozen new products over the past couple months that are just begging to be checked out and discussed in the weekly EN World Review. And while at GenCon 2011 over the past weekend, I scored a whole pile of new material that needs to be added to the review schedule – not only for D&D 4E, but for several other game systems as well – and with the promise of more products on the way!

    But it would a severe dereliction of my duty as a reviewer not to give some well deserved attention to the Summer Issue of Kobold Quarterly magazine before the seasons rolled on into fall. Kobold Quarterly has taken on the rather daunting task of not only covering articles for two editions of Dungeons & Dragons (3.5 and 4E), but also for Pathfinder RPG, and has now added content for the DragonAge RPG as well.

    As with my previous reviews of Kobold Quarterly magazine, I will be rating each article for Crunch and Fluff, on a scale of 1-5, to give readers an idea of how useful the material is for their game system. The scores will be tallied and averaged, and as always, you can check out the final score at the end of this review.

    Kobold Quarterly Issue 18

    • Editor: Wolfgang Baur (Kobold in Chief)
    • Illustrations: Kieran Yanner (cover)
    • Publisher: Open Design LLC
    • Year: 2011
    • Media: PDF (100 pages)
    • Price: $5.99 (available from the KQ Store)

    Kobold Quarterly #18 (Summer Edition) is the third of four yearly issues to be published in 2011, and is notably larger than the previous two issues this year – one presumes to coincide with the “Best Four Days of Gaming”. The production quality of the magazine is vivid and well designed, with plenty of advertisements for a wide range of role-playing games and support products. I like that most of the ads in the PDF version have links to the advertisers’ company websites, making browsing the magazine a multi-media affair. The PDF comes complete with both a table of content and bookmarks for easy navigation through the pages, which is essential in a document of this size.

    The cover art by Kieran Yanner, entitled Book of Drakes, is a vivid depiction of a red dragon roaring in pursuit of a yellow-mottled wyvern in a desert landscape. I rather like the fact that the wyvern appears to be sneaking in a strike from its stinger tail on the unsuspecting red, but my money is still on the dragon.

    KQ 18 opens with an Editorial from Wolfgang Bauer, extolling the virtues of heroes engaging in wanton dragon-slaying. Likening dragons to Wall Street bankers might be a bit of a stretch, but his points about dragon-slaying being a totally heroic and expected practice in almost any fantasy-based RPG is spot on.

    The Articles

    Gifts of the Gods
    by Steve Kenson is an article to add divine gifts to DragonAge RPG Warriors, Rogues, and Mages. Each of the gifts are attributed to a different divine dominion, such as Chaos, Death or Protection to name a few, and comes in three levels of potency – Novice, Journeyman, and Master. The author also provides sidebar information by listing the dominions for the various gods of Zobeck, optional rules for a gifted character to have a crisis of faith, and rules for calling down a deity’s power in a “divine stunt”. A solid article with some great ideas for offering non-divine characters a little reward for being faithful servants and devout believers in a god.


    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: 4


    The Savant is a new Pathfinder base class by Ryan Costello, Jr. which offers a player the ability to be BarbarianMagePriestRogueWarrior, and freely shift between party roles as easily as a juggler tosses balls around. Sadly, the author failed to note that the very definition of savant is a master of one specific knowledge or trait, not a jack of all trades, and has created a character class which would frustrate not only a Game Master, but every other player at the gaming table. Perhaps this class would be best used in a campaign of one Player-one GM, but for any other campaign, the class would simply be obnoxious.

    Fluff: 2
    Crunch: 2


    Silus and the Red Dogs is a nifty little solo adventure written by Matthew J. Hanson for use with any game system. Rather like a pick-a-path adventure, the decisions made by the reader, portraying the Halfling rogue Silus, determines how you read through the sections of the story, and ultimately decides the outcome of the quest. The author also runs Sneak Attack Press, and is adept at creating some interesting adventures, and this one is no exception.

    Fluff: 5
    Crunch: 4


    Ecology of the Minotaur by Tracy Hurley, is subtitled “Children of the Moon”, and contains 4E content for use with player-characters in the Midgard Campaign Setting. It offers not only background information and role-playing traits for playing minotaur characters in the Midgard setting, but also offers benefits for portraying certain minotaur professions. While the article was informative, I was concerned about the use of the word “boon” for describing powers granted for simply being a particular class, which is not what a boon is in D&D 4E. Additionally, the notes on the minotaur’s Baphomet worship and the subtitle of “Children of the Moon” was pinched from Clive Barker’s novella Cabal, who also wrote of a collection of monsters that lived in an underground maze and worshipped the same god.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 2


    The Exorcists is a Pathfinder adventure written by Tim & Eileen Connors, which features a party of four 1st Level characters attempting to face off with a CR15 dragon. While the adventure has some interesting twists, in the final analysis it really boils down to luck, an extreme bit of deus ex machina, and use of some magic items no first level character should possess.

    Fluff: 2
    Crunch: 1


    The Dragon Hunter is a new Pathfinder class created by Mike Welham and Adam Daigle, and is a nifty class that has powers which offset many of the advantages a dragon has over heroic adventurers. While the class is a bit one dimensional in its capabilities due to its focus on dragon hunting, several of the powers are written such that they would be useful against almost any flying creature or against creatures using elemental effects.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 3


    Tools of War by Matt James is a discussion of siege weaponry for D&D 4E and expands on his work in his Soldiers of Fortune supplement for the Midgard campaign setting. The author has added feats, additional varieties of siege engines, and rules for making it all work together. An outstanding article for adding siege warfare to any D&D 4E adventure or campaign.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: 5


    Elementary, My Dear Wizard is a primer on “How to Build a Rock Solid Mystery” by Paul Baalham in a D&D 4E campaign. The main thrust of the article is for creating murder mysteries for low-Paragon and Heroic tier characters, but it could be adapted to other whodunits with a little modification. The author explains skill use and how to allow characters to run an investigation, and is well worth considering for a change of pace from the typical dungeon delve.

    Fluff: 5
    Crunch: 3


    Soul Broker is a creepy D&D 4E article by Anthony W. Eichenlaub in which characters can barter their souls for temporary bonuses, or become brokers in buying up the souls of others. The article discusses a variety of contract types, the benefits of selling and buying a soul, and the possible ramifications when it’s time to “settle accounts”. A must-read for tiefling characters and infernal warlocks!

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: 4


    Synergistic Magic is a Pathfinder article by Phillip Larwood offering a pair of metamagic feats to combine the effects of two different spells. One of the feats is for single caster use, while the other offers two casters the ability to cast in tandem for altered effects. The author offers 16 spell combos, including such new effects as Acid Tentacles (acid arrow + black tentacles) and Song of Rage (song of discord + rage).

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 4


    Explaining the Inexplicable is a Game Theories column article by Monte Cook, and he takes a look, this time around, at the issues of believability and realism in a fantasy role-playing setting. The author makes some great points about what Gamemasters can and cannot get away with, depending on who is at their gaming table. A good read, as always, from one of the pillars of game design.

    Fluff: 5
    Crunch: NA


    Battle Wizards & Warrior Maidens is a run-down of the “Essential Asian Movies for Gamers” by Dave Gross. The author discusses a “top 10” listing of these movies, detailing the features in the films which will appeal to gamers of all types.

    Fluff: 5
    Crunch: NA


    10 Reasons Why Your Characters Should Be in Jail is a general fantasy role-playing article for any game system penned by Russell Jones. In this article, the author describes 10 different crimes which the players can find themselves accused of, and ways to make them more into adventure hooks that actual punishments. Some of the ideas are useful only once, however, and tend to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but overall it’s not too bad.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: NA


    Into the Dragon’s Den is an article by David Schwartz for Pathfinder, although it is also listed as containing 4E content, which it does not. It details “auras” which dragons put in their lairs to cause certain effects on the lair’s environment or upon creatures while within the dragon’s den. The spell effects are Pathfinder spells, but the article could probably be adapted to 4E with some research.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 3


    The Heroic Flaw is a general role-playing article by Philippe-Antoine Menard which offers a reward system called Trait Points. Trait points are awarded for a player acting out a character’s trait, which is a negative aspect of their background. These could range from stiff Codes of Honor, to the strictures imposed by an Otherworldly Pact, or even a Personality Quirk. Trait points are used to gain bonuses throughout the gaming session, or can be cashed in for experience points. Not a bad “carrot” to get new players to take part in role-playing, but not a system I’d use with an experienced gaming group.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 2


    Who Watches the Watchfires? is a short D&D 4E adventure for five 4th Level characters by Jonathan Roberts. It involves gaining access to and using a guarded watch tower in order to warn of an impending attack. There are a couple skill challenges and a couple of combat encounters, and the adventure is generic enough that it can be used in different ways, and the author includes some suggestions on alternate uses for the module. The map for this adventure is found at the end of KQ #18, and is actually quite good, and easily adaptable to other adventures.

    Fluff: 2
    Crunch: 3


    Beast Masters is a Pathfinder article of an alternative Leadership feat called Beast Leadership, and allows characters to attract animals and monsters as cohorts and “henchmen”. Marc Radle does a good job adapting the Leadership feat to this new use, and I would imagine quite a number of players begging their GMs to use these variant rules.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 4


    Ask the Kobold is a regular column of Pathfinder Q&A by Skip Williams. This quarter, the author answers questions regarding just how far one can go with the use of an illusory figment, and how to handle the experience cost of casting spells.

    Fluff: NA
    Crunch: 5


    Cavaliers of Flame and Fury by Adam W. Roy is a Pathfinder article detailing two dark Orders of knighthood which use drakes and dragons as their mounts. The author discusses both the powers conferred by the orders, as well as their history in the world of Midgard.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 4


    Book Reviews takes a look at various fantasy and science fiction novels of interest to the gaming community. This quarter, there are reviews of Pathfinder Tales: Master of Devils by Dave Gross, The Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell, and Sword of the Gods by Bruce Cordell.

    Fluff: NA
    Crunch: NA


    Wing, Scale, and Claws by Wolfgang Bauer details the lore behind one of the offspring of the World Serpent in the Midgard campaign setting. This “great dragon of the plains” is described in some depth, offering game masters enough information about its lore to bring it to life in a campaign or adventure.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: NA


    Overall Score: 3.25 out of 5


    Conclusions

    There are some really good articles here in the Summer Issue of Kobold Quarterly this time around, but there were a few not so good articles in this batch as well. Overall, Pathfinder gamers will likely find a lot of good material here for use in their campaigns, but D&D 4E gamers will probably find very little reason to buy this issue. Still, the magazine packs in a lot of material for gaming between its virtual covers, and the price is still reasonable for a PDF of this size and content.

    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.

    Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

    • Presentation: 3.5
    • - Design: 4
    • - Illustrations: 3
    • Content: 3.25
    • - Crunch: 3.5
    • - Fluff: 3
    • Value: 3
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    Life is the game that must be played. ~Edwin Arlington Robinson
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    ø Ignore Matt James
    Thanks for the great review of my article on Siege Weaponry. It is much appreciated and I am glad you enjoyed it!
    Matt James
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    Not only enjoyed it, sir, but looking forward to "educating" my player-characters in art of siege engine warfare... as they dodge the ballistae fire!
    Life is the game that must be played. ~Edwin Arlington Robinson
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    ø Ignore Pobman
    Thanks for the review. I've been waiting for your review of my article (Elementary, My Dear Wizard) in particular as I've enjoyed your reviews of other products.

    As I've mentioned elsewhere, even though I wrote the article for 4E, it is very easy to use for other systems. If I was more familiar with Pathfinder and Dragon Age I may well have written it in a system neutral way.

    I hope people enjoy the article, but they don't, then I am sure they will enjoy the magazine in geenral.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pobman View Post
    ... I wrote the article for 4E, it is very easy to use for other systems. If I was more familiar with Pathfinder and Dragon Age I may well have written it in a system neutral way.
    I wouldn't worry too much, because I think your article will still be adaptable to other systems fairly easily, given that there are skills similar to those you rely on in 4E that are in the other game systems you mention.

    Writing whodunits was much harder in older D&D, IMO, because there were so many spells which allow characters to circumvent the investigation process... and often due-process laws as well. I think you targeted the level range well for this sort of adventure, where characters will not be so capable of using magic (ie. rituals) to "flip to the last page" of the mystery, and ruin all the fun.

    Well done!
    Life is the game that must be played. ~Edwin Arlington Robinson
    ...but who the heck is DM'ing?

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