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    Review of Kobold Quarterly Issue #21 (Spring 2012) by Open Design

    A surprisingly meek winter has faded away, and what can only be called a frightfully tempestuous springtime has roared its way in for much of the United States. And with the storms, the newest edition of Kobold Quarterly has blown into town, full of new articles for RPG gamers to ponder safely away from wind and rain!

    Open Design’s Kobold Quarterly, independent fantasy role-playing magazine, offers a wide range of content articles drawn from authors and gamers from the 3rd and 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and Dragon Age role-playing game communities. It earned the nickname of the “Switzerland of the Edition Wars” for being open to all types of FRPG systems.
    As in my previous reviews of Kobold Quarterly, I’ll discuss each article and try to rate its potential use for the game system for which it was written, by measuring both its “crunch” and “fluff” content.

    Kobold Quarterly Issue 21

    • Editor: Wolfgang Baur (Kobold in Chief)
    • Illustrations: Kieran Yanner (cover), Fred H. Ball, Nicholas Bercham, Emile Denis, Rick Hershey, Frank Heβefort, Chris McFann, Jeremy Mohler, Russ Nicholson, Claudio Pozas, Cory Trego-Erdner (interior)
    • Publisher: Open Design LLC
    • Year: 2012
    • Media: PDF (80 pages)
    • Price: $5.99 (PDF available from the RPGNow)

    Kobold Quarterly Issue #21 is the second issue for 2012 of Open Design’s independent fantasy role-playing game magazine. KQ #21 is available in both hardcopy and PDF formats, and contains 13 articles for use with Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, and Dragon Age RPG. The issue also includes an editorial, an interview with Bill Slavicsek, an OGL advice column, and a game theory discussion by Steve Winter.

    The PDF has a good presentation in three-column format, and has both a table of contents and bookmarks to make navigating through the articles a fairly easy process. This issue’s cover art by Kieran Yanner depicts a voluptuous and scantily clad wood nymph striking a pose, which presumably 9 out of 10 male adventurers would find dangerously irresistible. Editor Wolfgang Bauer discusses the use of “cheesecake” in fantasy with an editorial entitled “Women, With or Without Reasonable Armor”, and hints that the Summer issue of KQ might show some “beefcake” to balance the scales for those female adventurers out there.

    Personally, I like the artist’s style for this “siren of the forest”, reminding me a bit of DC’s Poison Ivy, although her skin coloring seems just a shade shy of an Orion Slave Girl – but I’d guess their poses would be about the same.

    The Articles

    The Shaman by Marc Radle is a new Pathfinder article detailing a new class. The class, at first glance, appears to be a Druid sub-class, but I noted that it also incorporates some of the elements of a 4E Shaman, including a spirit animal and some totemic influences. Overall, it’s a pretty interesting combination, although the class might not fit into every Pathfinder campaign.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: 4

    Daughters of Lilith by Sersa Victory details “An Ecology of the Succubus”, and while small amount of “crunch” is all 4E, the article’s “fluff” could be used in any fantasy gaming system. The author pulls few punches about the life cycle of this sexy demonic temptress, and the new class powers, monster traits, and curse (of uncontrollable lust) can make for some nice additions to a 4E campaign.

    Fluff: 5
    Crunch: 3

    It’s a Mystery is a game system neutral article by David “Zeb” Cook which discusses how to make religions more interesting and profound in a campaign setting by using facets of a “mystery cult”. The author discusses mystery cults in our own history, and then gives a step-by-step format to adding them to existing religions in almost any campaign setting. Great stuff here for world-builders!

    Fluff: 5
    Crunch: NA

    Clerical Conflicts by Tim and Eileen Connors is a Pathfinder article about giving cleric player-characters a major religious dilemma to deal with during the course of a campaign. The authors detail five different scenarios and personal hooks which can have a profound effect on the life of a PC cleric, and while the crunchy parts of the article are Pathfinder based, the ideas put forth could make for enjoyable role-playing in any game system which includes clerics and a hierarchical church/pantheon.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: 3

    This quarter’s Howling Tower column by Steve Winter asks and tries to answer the sticky question of “Why No Monotheism” in role-playing games. The author delves into a number of issues which makes the polytheism versus monotheism question a sometimes troubling one for game masters and players, and offers some ideas for how monotheism might be approached in a campaign setting.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: NA

    Fun Happens Here is an interview with Bill Slavicsek by Jeremy L. C. Jones, and the former head of WotC’s R&D department gives some amazing insight into his experiences with D&D, as well as working for Wizards of the Coast. Personally, I found the interview a really remarkable read, although not as revealing on some topics as I would have liked.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: NA

    From the Mines… is a selection of letters and feedback to the editor regarding previous Kobold Quarterly issues and articles.

    Fluff: NA
    Crunch: NA


    A Background in Magic is a DragonAGE article by Rodrigo Garcia Carmona with four new magical character classes – Alchemists, Druids, Illusionists, and Seers. The classes are fully detailed including Benefit Tables and play tips.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 4

    Ask the Kobold is is Skip Williams Q&A column for advice on running Pathfider and OGL D&D games. This article discusses two questions regarding Dexterity bonuses in combat – armor penalties and flat-footed adjustments.

    Fluff: NA
    Crunch: 4

    The Scrivners of Allain is a new 4E article detailing a cult of scibes devoted to a devil lord called Titivillus. The author includes backgrounds on these entities, which are designed for the high Paragon Tier, including information on a summoned Aspect of Titivillus himself.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: 3

    Nine Treasures of Deep Midgard contains information about strange objects of value which might come from the underdark area in Midgard. This Pathfinder article by Nicholas Milasich includes some rare oddities such as Drow Brandy and poisonous Warpweed, and includes stats, descriptions, weights, and values for these treasures.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 3

    Saints of Mavros by Christina Stiles is a Pathfinder article detailing two saints which achieved godhood in the world of Midgard. The author goes into great detail about these divine figures, including their domains, favored weapons, worshippers, and other details needed to include them in a campaign setting.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: 3


    White Tongue, Black Heart by David Schwartz is a Pathfinder bestiary of a vile creature called a witch louse, which some casters can bind to themselves for power. The author includes a stat block for this icky critter, as well as a couple of dark NPCs which have allowed the witch louse to become their symbiotic familiar.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: 3

    The Shadow Lodge Insurgency is a Pathfinder Society Organized Play article by Nicholas Gray, recounting information found in the Pathfinder Chronicles. The author goes into considerable detail about the history and actions during the insurgency, and the article will no doubt help GMs looking to include adventure hooks for their own campaigns from this content.

    Fluff: 3
    Crunch: NA

    Deadly Tolls and Honest Challenges is a content piece by Wolfgang Bauer with more details of the City of Zobeck. The article includes information about the Robber Knights, the Darakhul of the Margreve, and the Dwarf-Bandits of the Lowland Road.

    Fluff: 4
    Crunch: NA

    Overall Score: 3.9 out of 5

    Conclusions

    This issue of Kobold Quarterly has a lot of great stuff in it, and there’s noticeable improvement in article quality, even if there are fewer than last issue. There’s definitely more crunch content here for Pathfinder and Dragon Age RPG, but the few D&D 4E articles were markedly better than the batch we saw in the KQ #20.

    What’s really great here is the caliber of the system-neutral articles, which were real powerhouses this time around from Steve Winter and Zeb Cook. But what I noticed most was how even several of the system-specific articles still contained decent fluff usable in any game system. By my thoughts, that increases the value of the magazine for all role-playing gamers, and makes the Spring Issue of Kobold Quarterly a well-recommended buy.

    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: 4.0
    • - Design: 4.0 (great layout, a good to excellent read for the articles)
    • - Illustrations: 4.0 (sexy cover, and cool illustrations and sidebar art)
    • Content: 3.75
    • - Crunch: 4.0 (lots of good crunch for all three systems)
    • - Fluff: 3.5 (some cool ideas here, would have liked to see more fluff in a few of the artcles0
    • Value: 4.0 (a lot of good stuff here for all three systems – lots of crossover articles)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails kq 21 cover jpg.jpg  
    Last edited by Morrus; Saturday, 9th June, 2012 at 03:00 AM.
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    Nice review, but I noticed something a bit odd: the "Putting the Band Back Together" article is, as I recall, from the previous issue (#20), not this one. I think the same goes for the "Small Spirits" article.
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    Looks nice, still looking for a good hardcopy RPG magazine since Dragon went digital only.

    Would you reccommend this? I'm a 3.x player mostly, but like fluff and ideas from all editions.

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    Only a 3rd of the magizine will be useful to you then under Pathfinder material. There are some useful ecology articles written for 4th edition that can be universal: like the Succubus article here and Minotaurs in a previous issue. Some of the interview articles are entertaining.

    I had a print subscription for 2 years. You only get 4 issues a year. I canceled after they raised the print subscription price ($36). I was never involved with the AGE system and 4th edition turned sour for me. The page count shifts between 70 to 80 pages. Winter typically has less with Summer having the most.

    Sometimes they have free back issues you can download you can browse, or if you are lucky enough your local gaming store may have a single issue for sale you can look at.

    Enjoy!

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    Alzius - Absolutely... my bad! - I was using my previous article as a template for creating an outline for this article, and accidentally left two previous bits in it. Thank you for pointing them out, and the offending bits have been removed.
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    This review, plus Sersa V, plus Steve Winter, plus 4E content = just purchased a copy.

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    System-neutral and 4e support have sold me on the issue.

    I mean in order to be Switzerland, you need to provide for all editions, right? As I understand it, quality 4e submissions are hard to come by for KQ- not any real sort of bias, but it's what make or breaks it for me. Glad this issue exceeds expectations.

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    I'm a 3.x DM and couldn't care less about 4E, and I find TONS of good ideas in KQ. Easily among the best FRPG rags in history.

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    I wonder if KQ could provide more articles that are system neutral, followed by a 4E and 3E component. A monster article, a set of traps, etc. I realize that authors usually speak just one language (I'm happy to create a 4E monster but I won't go back to designing 3E ones, someone else might feel the opposite), but there could be a stable of writers that would take on the task for a low cost (and high benefit to the reader).

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    Man, you beat me to the punch. Oh well, Kobold Quarterly is a great magazine that deserves all the positive press it can get.

    The article on mystery cults is my favorite piece in this issue. I am already jotting notes on how I am going to work more of them into my campaigns.

    Kobold Quarterly Spring 2012 Issue 21 review on Examiner.com

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