Super Genius Presents—Races Revised: The Kobold Kings (PFRPG) PDF (based on
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Welcome to Races Revised: The Kobold Kings, the latest in the Super Genius Presents line of books. Each of the products in the Super Genius Presents line is the strong vision of a single game designer, bypassing the normal planning, development, and revision process used for most Super Genius Games products. While we consider those processes to be a major part of maintaining a high level of compatibility, quality, and balance in our main product lines, we also know that sometimes a writer has a strong vision that doesn’t exactly match the style of our company, or that the designer doesn’t want to be diluted through normal development processes. In those cases, if we believe in the skill and vision of the designer, we now have the option of presenting their work without laying claim to it as part of one of our standard product lines.
While most Super Genius Games products are the carefully developed work of a team (even when there’s only one designer, the input of the whole Super Genius staff is likely to have affected the product), Super Genius Presents are the editorial pages, the solo rants, and the soapboxes. As a company we’re giving individual creators a chance to present their ideas more directly to the consumer. As commercial works we’ll try to ensure such products are professionally produced and edited, but the tone, content, and voice are largely under the control of the authors.
Owen K.C. Stephens is an experienced and well-known game designer, with credits dating back to the late 1990s for games that focus on fire-breathing lizards and laser swords. He has worked with numerous role-playing game companies, has more than 250 RPG credits, and is currently the Lead Developer of Super Genius Games.
The Kobold Kings
"The Kobold Kings" is a term used by the common civilized races to describe those kobolds that differentiate themselves from the sniveling, fearful, treacherous, and cowardly nature that otherwise defines their race as a whole. Most common humanoid races believe the kobold kings are just exceptional kobolds—paragons of their race who, through a quirk of bloodline or an unusual degree of talent and determination, manage to achieve a higher degree of skill in magic or learn more advanced fighting techniques. In some ways this is true—occasionally, a kobold clan will produce a kobold king child as a throwback to a time when that branch of the race was stronger and closer to their draconic forefathers. But its also an extremely dangerous misunderstanding of what the kobold kings are, for there are places far from other civilized nations where entire kingdoms are populated with the more potent, more noble kin of kobolds. Those nations are generally too far from other settled lands for the kobold king nations to pose a threat, often located in vast cavern systems deep below the ground, in the center of vast swamps, or perches on massive plateaus with no paths to the lowlands. But the day may yet come when the border lands of the humans, elves, and dwarves discover just how numerous and dangerous the kobold kings truly are.
Some lone kobold kings born into tribes of lesser kobolds often have no idea what they truly are, and accept that they are simply more blessed with the courage and power of a distant winged ancestor than their clan-mates. But in lands were the kobold kings have maintained their own civilizations (as well in the few kobold tribes that have remembered how they came to be), the kobold kings know their traditional name. They are the Koldemar, and their history holds the secret of why kobolds think themselves the inheritors of the dragons, and why so few of them show the nobility and power of their distant progenitors.
This pdf is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving a total of 18 pages, so let's take a look!
So what are these kobold kings? Essentially, this pdf assumes that there once was a civilization of dragon-worshipping lizardfolk that turned into draconic humanoids and were subsequently, at the height of their empire, wiped out - only the smallest of them managed to escape and developed (or rather, degenerated) into the race now known as kobolds-While, akin to Lizardkings among Lizardfolk, sometimes a throwback is born to regular kobold parents, the Koldemar, as these last remnants of the draconic humanoids are called, might be still breeding true, dreaming their dreams of reclaiming and rebuilding their former empire, powered by their draconic abilities in some remote place of your campaign world.
Their racial traits are +2 to Dex and Cha, -2 to Str, they are reptilian humanoids, small, count as kobolds, have a normal speed, darkvision 60 ft., +2 natural AC and can choose 3 skills as class skills for all of their classes and they get a +2 racial bonus on them. Beyond these crunchy bits, we also get advice on how to introduce the Koldemar as a player-race and, rather cool extensive information on their nomenclature, including a selection of pre- and suffixes including their meanings - very cool and something I wish more racial books would do. (Yeah, I'm a sucker for linguistic peculiarities - think about it: "Valar Morghulis" is a neat contemporary example and oh so sweet...)
Of course, nowadays every race has some alternate racial traits and the Koldemar also get 5 of them: From the ability to better bond with animals to medium dragonfolk Koldemar (with other attribute modifiers) to colored Koldemar with an affinity for dragons and elemental (and similar) resistances depending on their coloring. Oh, and they can get gliding wings as well as a swim speed of 20 ft. and improved lung-capacity. At least on favored class option for all core, APG, Um and UC-class is given, often even more, e.g. 3 exclusively for those Koldemar of draconic aspects - summoner can even choose between 3! Fans of SGG can rejoice, for we also get favored class options for Archon, Armiger, Death Knight, Death Mage, Dragonrider, Godlings, Magisters, Mosaic Mages, Shamans, Templars, Time Thieves and Wardens, Vanguards, War Masters and Witch Hunters.
The first of the new Kobold archetypes is called Apocalypse, after the fitting term kobolds use for flights/herds/whatever of dragons and is a fighter archetype that emulates dragons to gain harder scales and even natural claw attacks. The Harasser takes the iconic art of trap creation and makes it possible to use these and create them fast - a total of 13 traps are part of the deal. A total of 13 feats lets you further customize your Koldemar by granting them e.g. improved gliding capabilities, the option to use a wand in their tails, draconic resistances or a minor breath weapon depending on the dragon they descend from (including imperial and primal dragons, btw.), tail slaps and, of course, improved sniping and ambushing prowess. My favorite feat, Rune Scales, lets you duplicate the effects of simple wondrous items that grants a constant bonus on your scales.
We also get new equipment with the tail pouch, clawed gauntlets and the tail buckler as well as the new material elfhide. And yes, it's exactly what it says on the lid. Gruesome? Probably. But from the Koldemar's perspective all the people skinning lizards are not better... We also get a new specific magic armor made from elfhide and lesser handy haversack-style pouches that can be worn on one's tail, which is rather cool.
The pdf also includes an appendix with 6 different koldemar-standees.
Editing and formatting are very good, though not as perfect as I've come to expect from SGG. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The pieces of b/w-artwork are ok, but nothing too awe-inspiring. So, this pdf takes the kobold-race and essentially elevates them by introducing a new sub-breed that is intended as a player-race or even a straight-forward opponent with a noble ancestry in contrast to the cliché of the craven trickster. I'd applaud the concept, but honestly, while the idea per se is nice, I never really warmed with the Koldemar.
Perhaps it's a remnant of the "slap-a-draconic-ability/template-on-anything-that-moves"-mania of the 3.5-days of old, but for me the charm of kobolds was that they BELIEVE to be descended from dragons and still are as small and physically weak - and they know it. To counteract the shortcomings, they developed a sense of cunning and craftiness that sets them apart, Midgard's kobolds, which plow away in the mines of Zobeck and create both devious and hilarious traps and clockwork marvels when not on "We not work day" are what epitomizes being a kobold to me.
Koldemar instead felt to me, in spite of the cool naming section and the rock-solid crunch, like yet another reptilian race descendant from dragons with all the abilities you'd expect. Make no mistake, the bases are all covered: Natural attacks? Check. Rudimentary wings? Check. Elemental affinity due to scale-color? Check. Better scales? Check. None of the pieces of crunch felt bad, unbalanced or faulty. But still, as much as it pains me to say, reading this pdf just bored me. Hard. The nomenclature-section being essentially the only one that somewhat elicited excitement from me. The pdf also lacks an age, height and weight table for Koldemar, which is a downer for a player-race.
Are the Koldemar a valid option to play? Yes. Do they have abilities worth picking? Yes. Do they have racial options to customize? Again, yes. But do they even for one second provoke any sense of wonder, any cool "Hell yeah"-moment from me? No. D o they, even once, reach the vast narrative potential of the "Argonax"-pdf? No. Do they come with a unique society or social structure? No. Ultimately, do I think they can bring something new and exciting to my table? The answer unfortunately is no. When directly compared to similar race-books, in spite of the excellent crunch, the Koldemar don't feel like an interesting race, but more like a transformation of one of the most iconic monster-races in PFRPG, carefully nurtured by Paizo and Open Design into a unique identity, into yet another representation of the oh-so-tired noble, scaled savage trope.
This pdf did absolutely nothing for me, and personally, I consider it one of the few SGG-books I will never ever use in my campaign - for me as a person, this is a 1-star book. However, if you're excited by the idea of playing a noble draconic kobold, this might be right up your ally and even a 5-star-pdf. Seeing that reviews reflect opinions and mine will in this case obviously be very different from many other people, I still feel it is my responsibility to acknowledge the solid crafting that went into the crunchy bits and the potential appeal. Thus, my review will fall in the middle, at a solid 3 stars with aforementioned disclaimers.
SGG Presents: Races Revisited: The Kobold Kings
By: Owen K. C. Stephens
Page Count: 20 (with 4 dedicated for the cover, OGC, and some art/images for use as minis)
Sections and Breakdown I. The Kobold Kings (2 pages) ~ Covers the background, history, and how to use Koldemar (or Kobold Kings) in your campaign including how Koldemar and Kobolds are related. At the end of this section is the Koldemar Racial Traits which appear balanced and would work well for a Kobold PC in a campaign.
II. Koldemar Names (1.5 pages) ~ Exactly what it sounds like. Comes with 20 name prefixes, 20 male name suffixes, and 20 female name suffixes making it simple to roll for a name if you so desire.
III. Koldemar Racial Rules (2.5 pages) ~ This section includes alternate racial traits (five in total: Beast Bond, Dragonfolk, Dragon Scaled, Gliding Wings, and Water Adaptation) and favoured class bonus options. The later section is massive, occupying two pages with options for every class (sometimes 2-3 for a class) including all the classes released by Super Genius Games (Dragonrider, Godling, Mosiac Mage, etc).
IV. Kobold Archetypes (3 pages) ~ Two archetypes are included in this section. The Apocalypse (fighter archetype which enchants their natural weapon claws and scales by eating treasure) and the Harasser (rogue archetype which gains the ability to set quick traps instead of sneak attack dice at certain levels). Both appear like they would be a lot of fun to play and fill niches that have been missing.
V. New Feats (2 pages) ~ There are 13 new feats presented in this section. They include: Draconic Aspect, Draconic Breath, Draconic Glide, Draconic Paragon, Extra Draconic Breath, Greater Draconic Breath, Kobold Ambusher, Kobold Sniper, Tail Terror, Old Blood, Rune Scales, Sea Drake, and Tail Focus.
VI. New Items (2 pages) ~ There are 3 pieces of new equipment, one new special material (Elfhide....I laughed), and a pair of new magic items.
This is a good product, both for DMs and players. It establishes an offshoot of Kobolds that work well for a player race and additionally gives DMs all sorts of new options for Kobolds in their campaign. As someone that has played no less than three Kobold PCs and ran an entirely Kobold PC campaign, I can say this gave me all sorts of ideas as both a player and DM. Everything seems reasonable and balanced in terms of power, maybe sometimes erring a bit on the weak side (the Apocalypse archetype coming to mind with some of what it loses).
Personally, I'm a huge Kobold fan and I absolutely love this product. It takes an often under-looked race and gives some absolutely excellent love they truly deserve. Too often they are looked at as simply fodder and this is just the sort of book they needed. It will definitely be getting use eventually in one or several of my campaigns.
With the addition of the SGG Presents line, we now have that line of various material, that may or may not fit into another imprint under the SGG banner, but is focused more upon one author's vision for the material. Interestingly enough, one would assume this particular imprint would be where we wouldn't see Owen's name, as he handles practically all of the design work for the remaining SGG lines, and yet, this is his baby none the less. And what a baby, an interesting to say the least re-imagining of the kobold race, their evolution and origin, and an entire new sub-race (in the same vein that a drow or duergar are sub-races).
Weighing in at 20 pages (front cover, OGL, and paper minis eat three of those pages), we are given an immense amount of new material to digest here, all pertaining to what are known as the koldemar, those kobold who still retain enough of their draconic connection to be a race worth playing or utilizing. Far from the sniveling craven kobolds that so many GM's have thrown en mass at their players, the koldemar are an interesting, advanced species, on par with any of the races available for play currently.
Editing and format follow the dual column approach, with embedded B&W line art (some really good, at least one piece odd in its perspective). There are a few typos, both in punctuation and spelling, but nothing so garbled that you can't make out the meaning.
PDF is fully bookmarked, with a full introduction to not only the series, but the concept of what this addition to the line hopes to accomplish, as well as how a GM can easily incorporate this new sub-race into their campaign, either as a stand alone option, or as the rare oddity born to normal kobolds. In short, before you have even started reading the crunch, this book will have sold you on the concept of bring the dragonfolk into your campaign, and finding the koldemar a home.
Included is a handy listing of common naming elements (numbered for those wishing to let their dice decide), with meanings behind the prefixes and suffixes. Very cool, and extremely useful in helping to distinguish these particular kobold kin from their simpler cousins. One thing that should be noted, in regards to the simpler kobold species, is that racially speaking, the koldemar are still kobold, and therefore the variant traits and rules presented here are equally available to kobold characters as well, opening up many new options for a crafty GM to take advantage of.
Offered up in the new variant traits are such options as dragon scaled – various color schemes all having their own energy type resistances, dragonfolk – greater strength and charisma in place of the normal racial adjustments, gliding wings – pretty self explanatory, beast bond – bonuses to handle and ride checks, and water adaptation – showing a lineage to an aquatic dragon within one's bloodline, gains several aquatic physical traits, a swim speed and the capacity to hold one's breath for minutes equal to one's Con score.
Now, with the idea of favored classes, and the variant bonuses one can get from taking said class, the next section of this book covers 41 possible variant bonuses...yes, I said 41 possible variant bonuses. Owen left nothing out, for convenience sake, the potential bonuses available to this race from the APG are reprinted here (totaling 11 of the options), as well as 16 SGG classes. There are multiple options for several classes, as well as options that are exclusive to this race. Basically, long story short, lots and lots of favored class options...all collected together to make life easier on you. Well done.
Introducing two new archetypes designed for the koldemar (but still available to kobold or half-dragons), the next section gives us the Apocalypse and the Harasser. The apocalypse being a fighter archetype with a focus on the physical power and might of the dragon, learning to harness and utilize an armored hide, better claw attacks, a portion of a true dragon's spell resistance vs. certain spell like abilities, as well as gaining the ability to consume precious metals and gems to fuel an effect similar to the Rune Scales feat (covered later within this work). The harrasser is the quintessential trap building nightmare for a playgroup, and an interesting archetype for a rogue styled koldemar. Thirteen trap concepts are presented here for usage by this archetype, and its quick traps ability.
Thirteen new feats are presented, varying from Draconic Aspect – colored scales with appropriate energy resistance, Draconic Breath – ties right back into aspect, as your scale colors determine what type of breath weapon you have, Tail Terror – utilize your tail in combat, Rune Scales – bind magical enchantments directly into your body, by turning your scales into living magical items. There are some pretty specific limitations on this, no doubt in the hopes of keeping this balanced, but it looks to be the type of thing that could be a lot of fun to explore as an option, and lends itself to a seriously memorable high level NPC.
What would a racial guide be without new equipment, both magical and mundane, combat and ordinary, right? How about a buckler for your tail, or clawed gauntlets, pouches designed to be worn upon the tail, or Woodstalker Armor ( a +1 shadow elfhide studded leather (yeah, you read that right, elfhide leather, lol). Last new item would be the propitious pouch, a variant on the handy haversack, just designed to be a little more friendly to those hanging pouches off of their tails.
Now, in regards to the elfhide leather, that's brilliant. Presented in full write up as a new material, with table for cost modifiers to armor types and all. After all, if elves can wear dragon scale armor, why can't the dragonfolk make a leather of their hides? Owen, this I love, and it will be introduced as of my very next game session, totally dark and twisted, and yet so obviously practical, yet another Genius moment.
The whole thing wraps up with full color paper mini options for a variety of koldemar characters (6 total). Whereas I don't personally use them, I thought it was a nice touch to include them, and wouldn't be opposed to seeing more publishers follow this example *cough* - pawns - *cough*...oh, sorry, allergies...
OK, so final thoughts...for far to long have I looked upon the kobolds as a race of cannon fodder, and I mean honestly, who hasn't? Owen has managed to give a viable option to this race of cravenly cowards, an option to explore a different side of this race that could easily prove to be an interesting and entertaining player race, as well as make for some encounters that would keep a playgroup guessing, as the koldemar are so not our father's kobolds, lol. So, design wise, solid, formatting, excellent, only one piece of art not up to par with the rest (and to be honest it still looks alright), which leaves me with the 4 typos, all clustered together, like there for a moment there was a distraction at the keyboard while the book was being written. I can not, in good faith, subtract a half star for four typos of this small of a nature, nor can I overlook them, so I am going with 4.75 star, and yeah, that rounds up to a 5, so good job Owen, way to make me rethink the kobold menace.