Rudis Review: Kobold Quarterly #11

Kobold Quarterly #11
Length/Type: 82/Magazine
System: PFRPG, OGL/3x, 4e, other
Author(s): Wolfgang Baur (editor)
Publisher: Open Design, LLC
Licensor/Endorser: n/a
Rating: 5 of 5 rudii

I’ve reviewed Kobold Quarterly before, but the magazine just keeps getting better and better! For those of you new to the Kobold, Eric Mona - the guy who puts the publisher in Paizo Publishing – has called KQ “…the spiritual successor to Dragon magazine…” and I still agree with him.

In this issue, however, KQ shows strong signs of growing beyond its spiritual predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, for D&D nothing beat Dragon. Nothing beats Dragon today, but today there are at least three D&Ds: 4e, OGL/3e, and my favorite, Pathfinder RPG (think of it as 3.5 reloaded). Kobold Quarterly services them all, plus it delivers a fair balance of system-neutral creativity, articles, advice, insights and more – mostly from veteran designers, but not leaving out the brilliant newcomer. Finally, if I’m not mistaken (and I frequently am – just ask my wife baDUMbing), I detect hints that tomorrow's Kobold might cover Call of Cthulu or other popular games. Exciting, though it’s just my speculation at this point.

After you get done drooling over the cover (above), Advance of the Death Knights by Richard Clark, take a look at the TOC to see what I mean:

Editorial and Letters – always interesting. Wolfgang’s take on all things RPG and his sincerity in responding to his subscribers always comes through. A pleasant read for those who like these parts of a magazine.

A Broken Mind – by Scott Gable. Fun rules, fully fleshed, to bring Call of Cthulu like sanity checks to your D&D game. Ostensibly for 4e (the article mentions using 4th edition cosmology as a baseline against which to measure whether any given experience threatens characters’ sanity), but so edition neutral as to be RAW for any D&D. PFRPG/OGL, 3x, 4e.

Uvandir: The Pride of Craftsmen – by John Wick and Jesse Heining. As I’d expect from the folks at Wicked Fantasy Factory, a re-invention of the core dwarf race with unique and interesting flavor, new crunch, and unorthodox spin. PFRPG/OGL/3x

Howling Werebeasts: How to Play Lycanthropes as PCs – by John E. Ling, Jr. A great article. Introduced by a brief history of the werewolf in myth and literature; role-playing guides and aids; and as I would expect from veteran Ling, lots of crunch for playing a variety of were-creatures. OGL/3x.

Ecology of the Vampire – by Tim and Eileen Connors. Few folks in the industry do horror like Tim and Eileen; so I the stakes were high (stakes – get it? get it?) for this ecology, and the Connors did not disappoint. Starts with the psychology and physiology of vamp-dom, into a host of fluff and a bit of crunch for bringing the classic vampire to your game, tossing in some gruesome history and ending with a short bit on vamps of legend. Great article. Ostensibly OGL/3x or PFRPG, but so light on specific rules as to approach system neutral.

Running Across the Screen: A GM Roundtable – by Christopher L. Dinkins and Jeremy L. C. Jones. The subtitle says it all. A GM roundtable on the essence of being a good GM with industry luminaries and serious veterans: Monte Cook, Jason Bulmahn, Robin D. Laws, Jim C. Hines, Cam Banks, Chris Perkins, Mike Mearls, Greg Stolze, Kenneth Hite, Greg Stafford, James Wyatt, Will Hindmarch… jeez. What a list!

Book Reviews – by Cynthia Ward and Pierce Watters. Great book reviews. Fantasy only, but just as good and informative as any I read regularly in the pages of Locus.

Haunted by the Spirit of the Rules – by Monte Cook. Monte’s column this issue is on playing to the spirit of the rules and not the “strangely cynical and negative pursuit” of combing the rules for exploits. Monte speaks to the spirit of the game. A good read.

Wishing Well – by Garrett Baumgartner. An article for helping GMs energize the use of wishes in their 4e games. Solidly grounded in the literary history of wishes, a sprinkle of fluff, solid crunch. Useful. 4e

Cartoons – by Stan! Always a good chuckle. Sometimes a guffaw. I’ve long enjoyed Stan! toons.

Whack Jacks and Harpy Nets: New Weapons for Old Monsters –by Adam Daigle, Stefan Happ, Tim Hitchock and Mike Kortes. New weapons from these guys? Sold. I didn’t have to read it to know the article would rock, but of course I did read it. And it rocked. The Giant’s Arbalest, the Massacre Mace, the Necksnapper and, of course, the Whack Jacks – these are just a few highlights to titillate. Exotic weapons lists will never be the same. PFRPG/OGL/3x

Torture and Fear on the Tabletop – by Hank Woon. Great little rules subsystem for bringing the drama and fear that torture represents in real life to the gaming table. No longer will your players shrug off the burning poker in the eye just because they have enough hp left. More importantly, Woon brings the drama and tension to the playing of the game. I almost want to be tortured after this piece. Brava. PFRPG

Same Rules, Different Treasure – by Ken Marable. A nifty little article to help GMs spin the fluff on magic items and other treasure to keep it new and fresh for you players. Solid stuff. I particularly like the black silk gloves that function like a staff. Got to get me some. System Neutral.

Monstrous Paragons – by Phil Larwood. Racial paragon paths for “the unsavory races” like the bugbear and the minotaur. As I’d expect from a veteran like Larwood, the article delivers rich, well-crafted crunch and just that dash of fluff to pull it all together. My favorite fluff line, from the minotaur paragon path: "I am no mere dumb beast or demon's slave, human. I have the blood of Asterion flowing through my veins! 4e

Mysteries of the Philosopher’s Stone – by Mario Podeschi. Starts with a little history of the philospher’s stone, then introduces an artifact, the Hermetic Arcanum, the book by which the stone is created. Solid crunch and lots of advice for using the Arcanum to drive a campaign arc, complete with role-playing tips and quest ideas. It ends with a surprising sidebar on using this artifact in a New World of Darkness campaign. 4e.

The Spell-less Ranger – by Marc Radle. A variant base class for the PFRPG. As the opening line puts it: “Aragorn didn’t cast spells…” A solid recasting of a favorite base class. This article is already much discussed – and much played, if I read things right – on the Paizo message boards. Nice. PFRPG

Farragum, the Howling City – by Dan Voyce. A solid little setting piece, complete with tasty maps. This (largely) fluff article brings a distinctly Lovecraftian city to life for use in your D&D game. Tasty, and specifically written for multiple editions. PFRPG/OGL/3x/4e.

Road and River – by Wolfgang Baur. I hate this article. What was Wolfgang thinking?! No I don;t - just kidding! I love poking fun at Mr. Baur. He’s a great straight man. Road and River is a sweet little article enriching a GMs understanding of trade in the world of Zobeck. Good, inspirational stuff, even if you don’t campaign in Zobeck; though, the more I read about it, the more I want to go there. Nice map. System Neutral.

So after all that, I’d planned to expound how Kobold Quarterly is such good a magazine and a great value. How it gets better every issue, etc., etc. Really, though, isn’t it just kind of self-evident?

Game on!


Nail me to my RPG writing cross

It's the curse of the RPG writer - well, at least this RPG writer - that the more time spent writing for the game, the less time there is to play it. Wah. Wah.

Many gamers face the difficulty of "no game". Adult schedules grow increasingly difficult to coordinate. Gamer buds slowly but surely disperse about the country. Kids. Worse - kids not old enough to game! My problem began when we moved two hours north of NYC. If you're in NYC, it's simple. Nerdnyc will get you all the game of any game that you can handle on just about any schedule. Great community.

When you live semi-rural, putting together a weekly group of adults for at least 5 hour stints proves more challenging. Take me for example: writing hours aside, I had game for a bit. After I moved, my friends made the valiant effort. They traveled up. They spent the weekend. Some still do, if intermittently, but eventually the trek proved too much. The final straw came when one of my player's job took him to Washington DC. What's a gamer to do?

You beg. You plead. You cry into your pillow. You try virtual tabletop.

I recently decided enough was enough and ventured something I've never ventured before: to game at my FLGS (friendly local game store). It took a little more doing than simply showing up in the store, but I figure if it worked for me and you're in a similar boat, what I tried might work for you.

I hit my FLGS, the Dragon's Den in Poughkeepsie, and they were downright excited, warm and welcoming. They agreed to do what they could to help me find players. There's the rub. Players. Players of the right stripe. Players you don't know. Scary. I girded my loins.

Loins girded and not one to rely on a single iron in the fire, I stumbled on and tried RPG Game Find and...found gamers! The ad was free and hit enough people to snag two players. One of these fellows is a history professor at a local university (can't wait to get him running Ars Magica!), and he had interested friends. I found two more players on message boards I frequent, Paizo and Sinister Adventures. The store hooked us up with our final player, and the game launched.

The table chose Pathfinder RPG - what I consider the 4th edition I always wanted to see - for our system, and that gratified me; although I admit I advocated a bit. I offered up a variety of options for our campaign-to-be, but my new group chose to playtest a book I've been working on for over a year, now. My little project, among other things, includes world-building guidelines to help the GM help everyone at the table contribute their creativity to the setting and campaign.

Eventually, my process - and the wonderful folks I now game with - produced a unique setting for our adventures. To top it off, my new table taught me a bunch for improving this section of my little book

Now we're off and running, and I for one am glad to have some game again. One of our player's is posting play reports, written in character, over here. Inspired, other players are getting in on the fiction act. For example, in broken green English and green font, our half-orc braggart chimes in, frequently calling our gnomish chronicler "stooopid" and a teller of "liez". Now maybe this will only entertain those of us who were there. In which case, "Sorry. You had to be there." On the other hand, if you find these tales of our adventures amusing, I'd love to hear it. I ROFLMAO every time I read them.

Great gaming to everyone and rock on!

- Lou

PS Our game seems to have activated latent interest in PFRPG -- or maybe its just the way we yell, hoot and curse. Either way, the Dragon's Den will soon be launching Pathfinder Society events, so check 'em out!


Necromancer Releases Slumbering Tsar!

Necromancer releases the first installment of Greg A. Vaughan's magnum opus, Slumbering Tsar in PDF!

We first learned about this 500,000 word - you read that right. Not an accidental extra zero. Five. Hundred. Thousand word -- beyond mega adventure into the realm and machinations of Orcus back in December of 2008. Necromancer and Paizo have since both wrestled with how to publish this...this...monolith...this planetoid of an adventure.

The answer is PDF in three parts. Part one just hit the virtual shelves.

I tasted a preview of this baby at Paizocon 09, and it's not to be missed! Vaughan -- a long-time fan favorite over at Paizo and an author with serious pedigree -- has a unique flair for breathing new edition life into that classic 1e feel. Suddenly, dungeons make sense. Villain machinations tie in, and cliched encounters blossom with originality. Vaughan adventures somehow reignite the essence of D&D while provoking the imagination, and now we have a half million words of it. With Orcus.

More about parts 2 and 3 as I hear. Gotta run!

*runs off to buy Slumbering Tsar*