Kobold Quarterly's big summer 2012 issue is the most diverse ever, with articles for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, 4th Edition D&D, AGE System, Castles & Crusades and 13th Age. Old school, new school, and everything in between: this issue's got it!
The archdevil Barbatos, gatekeeper of Golarion’s Hells, official writeup by Paizo staffer Wes Schneider
Dragonkin servitors of Midgard's Mharoti Empire
Four monsters from Journeys to the West
Blood Brothers, a new Pathfinder rogue archetype
AGE System rules for black powder weapons
KQ #22 also features an interview with Pathfinder RPG lead designer Jason Buhlman, and a crunchy preview of 13th Age, the new fantasy RPG by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. Rob introduces the game's Escalation Die mechanic, exclusively for KQ.
Here's the full table of contents for this issue:
An awesome dragon-rider cover by Craig J. Spearing
Barbatos: ￼Gatekeeper of Golarion’s Hells by Wes Schneider - Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Dragonkin by Brian A Liberge - 4th edition D&D
Monsters of Morphoi by Christina Stiles with Ben McFarland - Castles & Crusades
Blood Brothers: Rogue Archetype by David Schwartz - Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Elven Archer Magic by Charles Lee Carrier and Nicholas Milasich - Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Weapons for a new AGE by Rodrigo García Carmona - AGE System
Dwarven Magical Rings by John E. Ling. Jr. - Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society Guide to Varisia
Hold 'Em for Questioning: Interrogation
The Escalation Die by Rob Heinsoo
The Scaled Steamhall
Game Theories: The GM Influence on Character by Monte Cook
Howling Tower: Total Party Kill or Total Buzz Kill? by Steve Winter
As always, with the arrival of a new Kobold Quarterly, we are in for a plethora of new RPG goodness. Our summer issue does not fail to deliver on this front, with articles touching on a handful of game systems as usual. This issue weighs in at 84 pages, and honestly, I'm not sure of the ad count this time around, lol. I know that there's a good balance, as flipping through it, and then reading through it felt balanced, not to many ads as to become crowded, but not so few that I wasn't aware of cool new things coming and companies I might want to go check out. The cover this time around is a Craig J. Spearing piece, and frankly is screaming to be turned into wallpaper on my system (hint hint)...hopefully one of these days the Kobolds decide to grace us with a PDF of cover artwork, as several of their covers have been amongst some of the greatest pieces of cover art, ever.
Wolfgang starts the ball rolling with his intro, covering the current state of role playing, and the state of flux that has been created with several different game systems all becoming more “mainstream”. And no, I don't mean that in a bad way, at all. I'm thrilled to see more game systems rising towards the top in popularity, as it means more game play, and better more broad articles to mine for ideas, for in the end, that's one of the coolest things about KQ, the articles written for the various game systems, as all of them bring great ideas to the table, for all game systems.
This issue will bring you articles for AGE and 13th Age, Castles & Crusades and 4e, as well as Pathfinder (with an article by Wes Schneider), as well as the system neutral articles designed specifically for everyone's usage.
First article on the table is for the Pathfinder setting, and details (and I do mean details, lol) Barbatos, the Gatekeeper of Golarion's Hells. Now, this article caught me for a few reasons, not the least of which was the full name of this demon. By declaring him the gatekeeper of Golarion's Hells, and this article being written by Paizo's own Mr. Schneider, is this cannon? Is this sanctioned Paizo? As that puts a big smile on my face folks. Of course, if I am wrong in my understanding of this, ah well, I guy can hope, lol. Now, the article itself, 5 1/2 pages of everything one would ever need to utilize Barbatos, his realm, his personifications, the names by which he goes, his minions and servants, oh the sheer amount of evilness that is here...and the art piece, folks, the art portraying this dude is flat out amazing, and I would love to see a full screen image of this sans text...oh someday the Kobolds will hear my plea and give unto us a PDF of art filled goodness...lol
4e takes center stage for the following article, with a focus on Dragonkin, the Mhraoti Empire's Legions. Offering up the Midgard dragonkin as an alternative to the 4e dragonborn with racial traits and options, this article is accompanied by artwork from Russ Nicholson. The art is of a slightly cartoonish slant, but works, the second piece being far superior to the first.
Anyone familiar with Open Designs knows of the Midgard setting, and knows of the patronage projects that are a steady source of fantastic product from this great publisher. Journeys to the West is one of these patronage projects, currently under works for the Pathfinder system I do believe. But here, to show some love to the Castle & Crusades crowd, Christina Stiles w/ Ben McFarland give us a look behind the curtain with a preview of a few creatures presented under C&C rules. If these offerings are any where near the standard for this project, this is indeed going to be on amazing collection of awesomeness when it releases.
Bringing a very interesting archetype concept to the table, David Schwartz offers up the Blood Brother Rogue, an archetype for two. Two players, committed to paring their characters via storyline and game mechanics, giving an in game technique for handling those friendships that go beyond simple drinking buddies, and venture into the realm of being able to do what no one single person can on their own. Replacing rogue talents with team talents, the archetype supplies a talent list more suited for a tandem team, with such offerings as Good Cop, Bad Cop and Tag Team. An interesting archetype, with a great deal of potential if put in the hands of the right type of players.
Monte Cook brings us another Game Theories article, this time addressing the GM's influence on character. Doing what he seems to do best recently, Monte again stirs the pot with yet another viewpoint that I am sure will spark a few debates and arguments, lol. This time around he is addressing the fact that a developed character tends to be far more interesting than a created character, regardless of system, and I for one agree with him. Well written, and thought provoking as always, agree with him or not, still a great read.
Rob Heinsoo introduces us to 13th Age not with the typical “Hey everyone, look at how cool we are and what we're doing that's so much better!”...and I am beyond thrilled. See, far to many companies make that mistake, they try to get our attention by waving their arms in the air and telling us how cool they are. Rob didn't do that here, heck he even pokes some fun at those who do. No, what he does is present an interesting mechanic from 13th Age, the Escalation Die. Stripped down to bare basics, its a 6d that you turn every round of combat (starting with the 2nd) to show a bonus to the playgroup for that round. Reason? Simple, dramatic story progression, more epic battles, and a closer to how we all picture those battles being...hero's rallying as the fight goes on to win big and battle back from the brink type of thing. Very simplistic mechanic to introduce into any rule system (yes, he covers this, lol), and one I think I will be trying myself at my next game session. For such a simple idea, this is the type of thing that can drastically change the landscape of a game night, and I love ideas of this nature.
Charles Lee Carrier and Nicholas Milasich hit Pathfinder elven archers with a slew of new spells, 20 to be exact, ranging from first to fourth level. I'm not going to go to deep into them here other than to say there are some gems in here, but one I have to cover, because that little kid in me demands it, is the first one up. Conjure Energy Arrows so screams for all of us who grew up watching a certain cartoon with a particular group of kids with a tiny unicorn. It may not be exactly the same, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I read it, and that brought a smile to my face. And in the end, is that not what good design is supposed to do? Bring us happiness?
This installment of Howling Tower sees Steve Winter tackling the age old topic of TPK. Giving some excellent advice on how to navigate these potential campaign killers, and tips on salvaging without losing face, or direction, this is an excellent read for every GM out there, regardless of system they play under.
Rodrigo Garcia Carmona brings us some Black Powder options for the AGE system with the arquebus, musket and pistol. Presenting not only the basic mechanics and crunch required, the article also introduces a few new magical items, one of which I will be converting for my PF campaign as the story idea behind them is fantastic.
A sit-down with Jason Bulmahn gives as a Q&A session with this lead designer, and proves to be a very interesting read as far as giving us a look into the mind behind his creativity. Jeremey L.C.Jones steers the train for this interview, and gets us some answers into the design process, why Jason is an RPGer, and several other topics.
Jeff Ibach gives us a solid article on the topic of interrogation for both the 4e and Pathfinder systems, complete with a breakdown of what skills would be useful, how to utilize them. He covers alignments, and what tactics they may use, or at least be comfortable with, as well as giving full randomized lists for results of questioning. One article I will certainly be printing out and adding to my game folder, an excellent tool, and one I was surprised to find tucked within KQ, as it would have required very little work to have been developed into a product that could have been released as it's own PDF for a few bucks. Well done!
John E. Ling Jr. gives Pathfinder players 15 new magical rings of a dwarven nature. Throughout the fluff of several of these rings there are various mentions that make it obvious that they were designed for the Midgard setting, as references to setting specific fluff are dispersed throughout. But, fluff is fluff, and does not in anyway detract from these rings working in any setting or campaign that you might wish to use them in.
Will Doyle serves up The Scaled Steamhall for 4e, a decadent bathhouse and hatchery for a dragon cavalry. With descriptive text that makes you want to literally visit this locale, Mr. Doyle does an amazing job of bringing the imagery, with Stacey Allan's old school cartography bringing it all together.
A section of book reviews covering such titles as Star Wars Scourge, A Hero for Wondla and Crucible of Gold covers the next section of the magazine, with reviewers William Banks, Shelly Baur and Pierce Watters featured.
Alex Greenshields handles the Pathfinder Society Guide to Varisia, with Rob Lazzaretti's cartography accompanying the article. A great into to many areas within the Varisian lands, and a great jumping off point for Society players. Best part would be the two included traits for Society players (yes, I'm willing to bet GM's would allow them at unsanctioned tables also, lol).
Wolfgang himself closes us out with the article The Void of Veles, addressing the heavens above and beyond Midgard, and a few of the things one might expect to encounter if they were to adventure there. With just enough fluff to entice, and inspire one to read a campaign sourcebook a little closer, this article teases, while still satisfying, and those sometimes are the best type of articles to come across.
All in all, the Kobolds have done what they always do best, and that is impress the heck out of anyone who picks up a copy. With each issue they prove why they are at the forefront and this magazine is considered the heir apparent. I can give this no less than a solid 5 star rating, and with confidence state this issue is well worth the price of admission.
As the variety of RPGs grows KQ faces a daunting challenge; to provide meaningful content to tabletop gamers regardless of their chosen system. The good news is KQ continues to deliver. I find even the cross system content is easily converted for pathfinder use and I appreciated the slick layout and graphics.
I think you'll like it; I certainly did! Here's why:
KQ 22 starts off with the most magnificent devil article I’ve read in a very long time. Although described as an arch-devil for Pathfinder’s Golarion setting, the description of Barbatos is wonderfully portable to any other FRPG setting. For those of you running a non-PF game there are a couple of stat blocks to convert if you want Barbatos or his special minions to make a personal appearance for your players, but any good DM (uh, sorry, I mean GM) can handle that task without batting an eye.
One of the things I like most about this article is that it explains, in detail, how devils manage to lure in followers. Unlike in the real world, in a fantasy world the horrible consequence of following evil are obvious. So why would anyone but the most insane or depraved ever turn to evil? This article explicitly describes how and why that happens. Do you want the diabolic servants opposing your players to have some variety, rather than being just another set of crazed cultists? Do you want your villains to have easily-understandable (and often tragic) back-stories? Do you want them to feel real, and be believable? Then this article is for you!
Next is an article on Dragonkin, written for 4th Edition D&D. This is a rules-heavy article so if you want to use it in a non-4E game there will be a lot of conversion work, but if you like Dragonkin it will be worthwhile. Brian A. Liberge, the author, has given us a variety of interesting and flavorful Dragonkin powers that are useful without being overpowered. (To be fair, I don’t know enough about 4E rules to be absolutely sure they aren’t overpowered in their native system. However, the few I’ve converted so far look pretty safe in my 3.5 game.)
“Dwarven Magical Rings” by John E. Ling, Jr. provides fifteen new magical rings to enrich your game. They have a wide and imaginative range of powers, for both combat and non-combat uses. In my opinion this article ties with “Barbatos” for best article in this issue. Because the meat of this article is rife with Pathfinder magic item stat blocks, you’ll need to do some conversion if you want to use this article in a non-PF game. However, I think you’ll find all of these items are worth the effort
One of the things I really appreciated about Dragon Magazine back in its heyday was that it covered every RPG system out there. Dragon belonged to TSR, but the editors were perfectly happy to publish articles on other company’s games - even games that were in direct competition with D&D. I was able to extract ideas from Castles & Crusades, Runequest, Divine Right, Empire of the Petal Throne, and many more whose names I no longer remember, but whose influence helped make me a better Dungeon Master. It was useful then, and it is useful today, to see the approaches taken by other game systems.
I mention this because KQ22 has articles for several game systems beyond the “standard” 4E and PF. “Monsters of Morphoi” is written about an adventure currently being developed for Pathfinder, but this article presents the stat blocks that you would need for Castles & Crusades. Rob Heinsoo’s article “The Escalation Die” is written for 13th Age rules, but is so portable to other systems that its article tag lists 4E and PF in addition to 13th AGE. Rodrigo Garcia Carmona uses the Dragon Age system to give us “Weapons for a New AGE”, discussing the always-controversial mixing of gunpowder with Sword and Sorcery. However, I think the controversy over this article will be low, because Mr. Carmona does such a good job of introducing the new material.
Of course there are also plenty of system-neutral articles, useful to all RPG players and game masters. “The GM’s Influence on Character”, by Monte Cook, discusses an all-pervasive but rarely considered aspect of interaction between PC’s and the game world. Steve Winter’s Howling Tower article “Total Party Kill” talks about what to do when you see the dreaded TPK looming on the horizon. True, some weenie GM’s rejoice at the thought of “winning” by killing all the PC’s, but real GM’s dread this event as much as the players do.
P.S. There are a number of articles I didn’t mention in this review. Just because I skipped an article doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. For example, I am intensely pleased to see Elven Archer Magic in print, but I didn’t think it would be fair for me to review that particular article.