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5E Kobold Press (and are they the new Paizo?)

Mercurius

Legend
What I mean by the parenthetical in the title is that they are a third-party publisher producing material for D&D as good or better than Wizards of the Coast. During the OGL era there were tons of 3PP publishers, but Paizo rose above the pack in popularity and quality. In 2006, Wolfgang Baur--who cut his teeth with TSR in the 90s--founded Open Design, and then Kobold Quarterly a year later. In 2012, Open Design became Kobold Press. Like Paizo with Golarion, Kobold's product centers on a homegrown setting, in this case Midgard. Many consider Midgard to be the best currently supported D&D setting, and certainly the Worldbook (a 2018 revision and expansion of a 2012 product) is one of the best campaign setting books I've seen. Their monster books, Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex, with Tome of Beasts II coming out in November, are well lauded, and they've got a bunch of other supplements and adventures.

What Kobold products do you own and enjoy? What are your thoughts on their place in the industry? Where do you think they're going in the future?

I own the two Midgard setting books, Tome of Beasts, and have Tales of the Margreve on order. I'm planning on purchasing Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts II when it comes out in pocket (which is a great size, btw), and the various lairs books.
 

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Scott Christian

Adventurer
What I mean by the parenthetical in the title is that they are a third-party publisher producing material for D&D as good or better than Wizards of the Coast. During the OGL era there were tons of 3PP publishers, but Paizo rose above the pack in popularity and quality. In 2006, Wolfgang Baur--who cut his teeth with TSR in the 90s--founded Open Design, and then Kobold Quarterly a year later. In 2012, Open Design became Kobold Press. Like Paizo with Golarion, Kobold's product centers on a homegrown setting, in this case Midgard. Many consider Midgard to be the best currently supported D&D setting, and certainly the Worldbook (a 2018 revision and expansion of a 2012 product) is one of the best campaign setting books I've seen. Their monster books, Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex, with Tome of Beasts II coming out in November, are well lauded, and they've got a bunch of other supplements and adventures.

What Kobold products do you own and enjoy? What are your thoughts on their place in the industry? Where do you think they're going in the future?

I own the two Midgard setting books, Tome of Beasts, and have Tales of the Margreve on order. I'm planning on purchasing Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts II when it comes out in pocket (which is a great size, btw), and the various lairs books.
I have Tome of Beasts. I liked it and thought it was good. I find the quality, both in print and editing to be a tad below WotC and Paizo. But, it doesn't diminish it enough to take it out of the running as a great supplement.

I too am curious as to what others have purchased and enjoyed.
 

I own almost all of their hardcovers, and I wish I could trade some of my WotC books for more KP stuff. I can't talk for every 5e player/DM out there but, at least for what makes me want to buy a D&D book, those guys learned how the reach the right chords, while the mother-ship appears to have forgotten how to do it after Curse of Strahd.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
I've DM'd, played, and bought tons of Kobold Press so that's my background here. Kobold Press has been in operation for a very long time. I don't see them being the new Paizo because, honestly, they don't have the business chops Paizo's founder Lisa does.

But...

Their materials are definitely the top of 2nd party books. They ask a lot of DMs and players but pay it back in spades. Monsters are interesting and deadly. Scenarios are complex and often dynamic. Roleplaying is encouraged, exploration is important, and door-kicking leads to hilariously bad results.

But...

Let's not forget that 5E came out with a Kobold Press adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen that threw lots of people for a loop consistent with my above description. That adventure was all but unplayable without understanding the unique setup Kobold Press prefers. This is advanced stuff!
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
Addendum: I've used tons of creatures from the Tomb of Beasts and Creature Codex (and one was my submission from the KS!) and I love them. They are a little wonky but that is what makes the game fresh again. I'd love to see more of Matt Colville's ideas in monster manuals as he's the only one other than Kobold Press that is moving 5E monster design forward (that I'm aware of and like).

I have run several of their modules (unusual amounts of TPK issues as written); and am playing in Tales from the Margreve. They aren't everyone's cup of tea; more difficult for sure and bursty in challenge. You have been warned! Run them right and your party won't forget.
 

Bitbrain

Black Lives Matter
Apart from their excellent guides on game mastering and worldbuilding, I’m sad to say that the only thing I found interesting about Kobold Press (and their Midgard setting) were the clockwork mages of Zobeck.
 

Retreater

Legend
Let's not forget that 5E came out with a Kobold Press adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen that threw lots of people for a loop consistent with my above description. That adventure was all but unplayable without understanding the unique setup Kobold Press prefers. This is advanced stuff!
The less said about that adventure, the better. ;)
It actually kept me from purchasing KP books for a couple years because it was so bad.
It wasn't that the rules weren't finalized when they started writing: I can overlook monster stats and encounter balance - if the rest of it is good , I can modify.
It wasn't that it was difficult. I can fix that too.
It was the structure. It was the forced railroaded tour of the campaign setting with no action for weeks. It was the lack of player agency for big portions of the adventure.
The failings of HotDQ have nothing to do with the newness of 5e design. It would've been a bad adventure in any edition of the game.
 


Inchoroi

Adventurer
What I mean by the parenthetical in the title is that they are a third-party publisher producing material for D&D as good or better than Wizards of the Coast. During the OGL era there were tons of 3PP publishers, but Paizo rose above the pack in popularity and quality. In 2006, Wolfgang Baur--who cut his teeth with TSR in the 90s--founded Open Design, and then Kobold Quarterly a year later. In 2012, Open Design became Kobold Press. Like Paizo with Golarion, Kobold's product centers on a homegrown setting, in this case Midgard. Many consider Midgard to be the best currently supported D&D setting, and certainly the Worldbook (a 2018 revision and expansion of a 2012 product) is one of the best campaign setting books I've seen. Their monster books, Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex, with Tome of Beasts II coming out in November, are well lauded, and they've got a bunch of other supplements and adventures.

What Kobold products do you own and enjoy? What are your thoughts on their place in the industry? Where do you think they're going in the future?

I own the two Midgard setting books, Tome of Beasts, and have Tales of the Margreve on order. I'm planning on purchasing Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts II when it comes out in pocket (which is a great size, btw), and the various lairs books.

Kobold's character and monster stuff is pretty much an always-buy for me. I have zero interest in their setting, even though I've liked what little bit I've read of it. Ironically, I actually run Paizo's Golarion using 5e.
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
^I never read or played Tyranny of Dragons, but I think it is forgiveable that the first big story arc for a new edition was rather railroady.
I read and ran it, and it was fine. Not a problem for a DM that wants to put in the work. Problem is, not many do (or inexperienced DM's may not know how). But the adventure itself was only a single track railroad if you wanted it to be. There were plenty of tracks to go down, they just happened to lead to some of the same places. But again, the DM has to put in the work.
 

Their stuff is pretty good. I don't use their Midgard setting, but it's nice to cherry pick from when it comes to crunch. (They have a flipping BEER Domain for their Clerics.)

I have only one book of thiers so far, Courts of The Shadow Fey(limited Edition Hardcover version) and I feel like it's the book to use if you ever want to have the Unseelie Fey in your games.

Case in point, it offers skill challenges and even a Renown system for raising your stature within the Shadow Fey society. You can definitely spin it all around. I also like the fact that the book mentions stuff that Fey are into, like takin people's shadows and how they favor such things more than just gold.

Speaking of which, I like that some of Kobold Press's articles actual do a better job of basing their Fey more on how they are in the actual myths and stories about them.

And alot of people say that their version of the Monster Manuel(Tome of Beasts) is better.
 

Retreater

Legend
I read and ran it, and it was fine. Not a problem for a DM that wants to put in the work. Problem is, not many do (or inexperienced DM's may not know how). But the adventure itself was only a single track railroad if you wanted it to be. There were plenty of tracks to go down, they just happened to lead to some of the same places. But again, the DM has to put in the work.
I had the dubious "pleasure" of running it for D&D Encounters, where we were not permitted to stray from the content. It was especially horrible under those conditions.
 

Gradine

Final Form
I always hope that history will be kinder to HotDQ because it never deserved nearly as much hate as it got. It was definitely rough around the edges (and in some of the details) but there was some good stuff in there, especially for new players.

I'm not super familiar with KPs other stuff, but I'll echo that Tome of Beasts is top notch stuff.
 

Voadam

Hero
I am a fan of a lot of the stuff from Kobold Press. In particular the original Midgard setting does a lot I like, with their story of Baba Yaga and the Gnomes, the time stopped Mythos abominations in the Wasted West that were used as summoned WMDs in a magical war that got out of hand and could only be mostly frozen, not permanently banished, and the setting's Arabic dragon empire. The treatment of Gods taking on masks in different cultures is fun. Their little setting supplements are a lot like Paizo's, pretty good for getting into a specific flavor and eminently useable for insertion into a homebrew. The Southlands has a lot of stuff if you want D&D Egypt. I have their later core Midgard setting books, but have not really gone through them.

I adopted the Baba Yaga and gnomes storyline into my Reign of Winter Pathfinder adventure path game and it was fantastic.

I have their monster books from the big ones like the Creature Codex to the small things like Book of Drakes, their Giants ones, and the Monsters of Sin. A good variety, although the prominence of their Thursir giants in the giants book does not really resonate with me. I loved that they did an ecology series in Kobold Quarterly and collected it in a book.

Their big Demon Cults book is a lot of fun with interesting dark figures to incorporate into a D&D mythos.

I enjoyed Kobold Quarterly, a lot of good stuff that felt really Dragon Magaziney.

The modules generally look interesting in themes, a lot of dark fairy tale that matches well with the setting, but I have not run any. I read through their 5e lairs anthology and it was decent.

I am not that into their player options. The race ones were a little too short, I would have wanted more descriptions in them, and the general magic and class option stuff I have a bunch of from a lot of bundles, but I have not gone into them in depth.

I generally do not have an interest in the Kobold Guides.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I have been a fan of Wolfgang Baur for almost as long as I've been playing D&D (which is to say, since the mid-90s), and I really respect his work and his company. I even had the privilege of writing a couple of regular article series on the KP website a ways back.

I like how Kobold stuff manages to work greater mechanical complexity around 5e's core simplicity. It's not an easy task, and they do an admirable job with it. I don't love everything they do - I really feel they could push the boundaries a bit more, and I tried to do that a bit in my work for them - but generally they turn out quality stuff.
 

I have a fair amount of the Midgard setting materials, and I’m a big fan of that world. (Side note: does anyone know if the Midgard Asia-analog book, Brilliant East, is REALLY getting released in October as I’ve seen documented in a few places? They’ve been very quiet about it if so, but they did reveal the cover art a few weeks back, so it must be getting closer)

I haven’t DMed 5e so I can’t commemt on their monster or adventure material. The player options are a bit of a mixed bag - I love some of the ideas (I’d gleefully play a Pantheon cleric of Nuria Natal, or a mushroomfolk College of Echoes bard), but they do often seem a little underpowered compared to WotC materials, and I’m not convinced the bewildering variety of different magic mini-systems is entirely necessary. Also, they could use a little more rigorous editing in the game mechanics sometimes. It’s often left unclear what type of action it takes to activate an ability, for instance. Could lead to trouble down the track if DM and player have different assumptions as to how something works and it only comes to a head in play.
 


Corrosive

Adventurer
I don't see them being the new Paizo because, honestly, they don't have the business chops Paizo's founder Lisa does.

Being a millionaire helped. As did a lot of personal connections, and retaining the subscriber base of Dragon and Dungeon magazines which they slipped over to Pathfinder subscriptions (which is a bit of a data ownership issue, TBH, but it was a different time then). You can't replicate those two advantages, no matter how good at business you are.

She is also an awesome businessperson though. But without those two advantages, Paizo would be Kobold Press.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I own in print.

Tome of Beasts
Midgard Heroes Handbook
Midgard World Book


PDFs of all of the above plus Midgard/Southland/Unlikely Heroes, Tomb of Tiberish, Southlands and some other stuff.
 


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