Kobold Quarterly issue #18 is our big pre-Gen Con summer issue, fully 100 pages! It’s like a kobold beach party ice chest, but instead of being packed with gnome jerky, KQ #18 has savants, cavaliers, beast masters and dragon hunters for Pathfinder RPG; official Divine Gifts for AGE System from Green Ronin; minotaur ecology for 4th Edition D&D; and three new adventures!
Characters powered with divine magic are common in fantasy RPGs. Rather than treat them as a divine magic-using class, Green Ronin designer Steve Kenson introduces the official Divine Gift talent for AGE System.
With 3 adventures this issue, “The Exorcist” for Pathfinder RPG brings us a desperate plan to raise legendary heroes from the dead doesn’t go quite right. “Silus and the Red Dogs” is a modern update of the choose-your-own adventure books, with a fun solo adventure for a halfling thief. Finally, “Who Watches the Watch Fires?” is a 4th Edition D&D race against time to alert a sleeping city!
What else? So much more!
New and variant characters: savants, cavaliers, dragon hunters and beast masters for Pathfinder RPG
Synergistic magic for Pathfinder RPG
10 reasons why your characters should be in jail
Feats and auras for dragon lairs for Pathfinder RPG
Creating great mysteries in RPGs
Ecology of the Minotaur
Siege weaponry for 4th Edition D&D
Soul brokers for 4th Edition D&D
Monte Cook on explaining the inexplicable, and much more!
At 100 pages in length, this issue ties with issue 14 for being the Biggest Kobold Yet. (Note: Because I have the pdf version, I’m going by the pdf page count. As I’m sure you already know, the pdf format assigns page numbers to everything including the front and back covers, so the count of “interior pages” is just short of 100.)
As long as we’re talking about length and page count, I should mention that the first five of this issue’s twenty-one articles are quite robust, averaging about six pages each. The remaining sixteen articles average out to about three pages each.
All three of the main FRPG rule sets (Pathfinder, 4th Edition, and Dragon Age), are covered in this issue, and there are some system-neutral articles as well, so there is something for everyone. Of course, well-written articles are always a source of inspiration even if they are not for “your” rules, so pretty much everything in this issue is useful regardless of which FRPG you play.
Before discussing individual articles, lets talk about the artwork. Ever since reading the beautifully-illustrated Book of Drakes, I’ve been paying more attention to the artwork in KQ publications, even going back to take a fresh look at past issues. Aside from “obvious” artwork like the front cover, every single article is accompanied by at least a little bit of art. Some articles have beautiful full-color illustrations, and some have only simple woodcut-style drawings. All of it has been carefully chosen to match the article’s subject matter. The indicia (pdf page 8, hardcopy page 6) lists Callie Winters as this issue’s Graphic Designer, which I assume means she was in charge of the artwork. She is doing an outstanding job. Older issues list Crystal Frasier in this position, and her work was every bit as notable.
With twenty-one articles, there are just too many to give each one its own individual discussion. So here are highlights for just five of them:
“Gifts of the Gods”, written for the Dragon Age rules, describes ways for deities to reward faithful followers with special talents. This article points out that characters other than clerics can be faithful, and supports that statement by providing talents which can benefit the Mage, Rogue, and Warrior classes in addition to the cleric. Novice, Journeyman, and Master level talents are provided for each of fifteen divine domains, for a total of forty-five different talents!
“Silus and the Red Dogs” is an adventure for both Pathfinder and 4E, written in a novel and rarely-seen format. It is a solo adventure, in the style of the “Choose Your Own Path” books. You don’t need a DM to run this adventure for you; this one is for players only!
“The Exorcists” is an adventure written for four 1st level Pathfinder PC’s. Intended as a campaign starter, it gives the PC’s a reason to all be in the same place at the same time, and to work together even though they are total strangers to each other. It presents the characters with danger, action, meaningful skill challenges, and at one point it even has a “ticking clock” (a difficult task which much be accomplished within a limited amount of time). There are a number of ways for the characters to achieve victory, but some ways are better than others. If they do everything right they will come out of this adventure alive, with some magic items, several mysteries yet to solve, and a very notable NPC ally who owes them a serious favor. Not a bad way to start an adventuring career.
“Elementary, My Dear Wizard” is listed as being for 4th Edition but it does not actually use any 4E rules. In fact, it is completely system neutral. This article gives good solid instruction on how to set up a crime mystery for your group to solve. It is very well thought out, addresses the issues raised by the use of magic, and is filled with practical step-by-step advice. If you are looking for a way to custom-build the occasional town adventure for your group, this is it for sure!
“Beast Masters” takes a completely new approach to an old problem. Ever since 1982, the year that Andre Norton’s novel “Beastmaster” was turned into a movie, people have been trying to figure out how to create a Beastmaster character class. Some attempts were better than others, but even the best of them didn’t work very well. The problem is that it’s really difficult to build an entire class around one single power. It was like trying to build a spellcasting class around one single spell. However, Marc Radle has solved the problem! The answer is not to make an entire class, but to make a special Beast Leadership Feat instead. The Beast Leadership feat is very detailed and well thought out, allowing multiple ways to make your character a Lord of the Wild Things. I guarantee, with this feat you can make a very credible Andre Norton style Beastmaster.
The other sixteen articles are: “The Savant”, “Ecology of the Minotaur”, “The Dragon Hunter”, “Tools of War: Siege Weaponry”, “Soul Broker”, “Synergistic Magic”, “Explaining the Inexplicable”, “Battle Wizards & Sword Maidens”, “Ten Reasons Why Your Character Should Be In Jail”, “Into the Lair”, “The Heroic Flaw”, “Who Watches the Watch Fires”, “Cavaliers of Flame and Fury”, “Wing, Scale and Claws”, plus the regular columns “Ask the Kobold” and “Book Reviews”.
Kobold Quarterly keeps getting better and better. It has something for everyone, whether you are a game master or player, or run adventures using the 4th Edition of D&D, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the AGE system. Even if you only run games in a single rules system, the others are chalk full of ideas the resourceful GM can snag. Add to this gorgeous art and maps and KQ’s standard articles and you have a magazine that fills the need for a multi-system periodical. From the Pathfinder compatible articles on new classes, class options and adventures to the 4th Edition compatible articles and AGE system compatible articles as well as system neutral articles this is a treasure trove of ideas.
An article written my Monte Cook, “Explaining the Inexplicable”, stands out as worthy advice with regards to creating verisimilitude within the context of the fantasy or other genre game a particular game master wishes to run. It is also worthy advice to some players who like to bicker with their game masters on such topics.
My hands-down favorite article is “10 Reasons Why Your Characters Should Be in Jail” by Russell Jones. This is a set of helpful suggestions for a Game Master that is entirely rules-free. You can apply the ideas within regardless of what system, time setting or other game specific genre you play. For the historically-minded, there is a paragraph on the divisions of Roman law, from which medieval law was based. It is interesting and encourages culture fanatics such as myself to research more on this topic. While traditional campaigns tend to mimic medieval settings, some might want more variation. I am hoping that future articles of KQ will delve into various systems of law throughout history and perhaps extrapolate beyond this for fantastical settings, Midgard particularly.
I also like how you can make use of a particular article whether or not you use the particular system it may be written to serve. For example, “The Heroic Flaw” by Philippe-Antoine Menard has relatively rules-light suggestions for character flaws and traits that could be used for players to refine their role playing ability more so than simply a Trait Point rules mechanic.
My favorite Pathfinder rules supplement specific article is “Synergistic Magic: combining Spells for Twice the Power” by Phillip Larwood. This article includes so-called Synergistic Feats, one of which is a teamwork feat and is also compatible with the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide as well as the Core rules. These feats utilize the fairly standard but easy to achieve prerequisites that are common for most of the Pathfinder Metamagic Feats. I may quibble with the level at which these may be gained for my own home campaign, but the ideas are solid and provide players and game masters ways to individualize spell caster abilities. In addition to the feats are a series of very useful examples of spells created with these feats.
Whether you want articles for use in your own campaigns or to simply read the latest article written by your favorite author, KQ is a nice supplement to have. The number of articles is stunning and the quality of such is always high. And every time I look, it grows in size. I have to admit I don’t have every copy, only a few select magazines that contained articles I really wanted to read. So I can say that this magazine started out good and continues to get better.
I can't rate this at less than 5 stars. This periodical does everything it sets out to accomplish with panache and artistry.