Book: Kobold Quarterly 13
Length/Type: 64 pages/magazine
System: OGL/Pathfinder, 4e, System Independent
Author(s):Phil Larwood, Aeryn Rudel, David Mallon, Matthew Hanson, Monte Cook, Adam Daigle, Maurice de Mare, Mario Podeschi, John Flemming, Hank Woon, Ryan Costello, Jr., Chris Pramas, Jonathan McAnulty, Brandon Hodge, et. al.
Publisher: Wolfgang Bauer
(5 of 5 rudii)
I love Kobold Quaterly. It's true. I gush with abundant gamer love for this magazine, more so every issue. Yet, as a reviewer I'm always looking for something critical to say, something to help my readers decide whether they want to buy this issue or not. Never works. It's all just varying degrees crunchy-fluffy goodness. Even the edition split fails as a sorting criteria. KQs articles are carefully crafted for use across editions, even when they are written for one. On top of that, for each edition there's always at least one article for which it's worth buying the whole magazine, while many articles work for all editions. Wolfgang and the KQ crew really hamper the critic, let me tell you.
In response, I've decided to take this approach: if you're a gamer, get yourself a subscription to KQ. Period. You won't regret it. And they don't pay me to say that; I just think it's true.
Whew. Good. That's out of the way. Now on to what's inside Issue #13. Here are some highlights:
Ecology of the Shoggoth
The articles start with Phil Larwood's Ecology of the Shoggoth. Phil is an interesting, inventive and prolific designer. Instead of trying to inject a little D&D into his Lovecraft, Larwood chose to inject a little Lovecraft into his D&D. This ecology slates the origin of the shoggoth firmly into aboleth history, explicates the relation between shoggoth and gibbering mouthers, fluffs out cults, variant shoggoths, magic items and lore. A fantastic guide to slotting some cthonic horror firmly into your D&D world. Written for 3.5/PFRPG but so rules lite as to make the distinction meaningless.
Following up on the cthulu/horror theme, Aeryn Rudel gives us Lovecraftian Gods in 4e. From Azathoth to Nyarlathotep, replete with divine and horrific magic items and new abilities, this article helps GMs cement the cthonic into their campaigns. The rules might read 4e, but these are divinities. The important parts are the fluff and ability ideas. Easily adaptable to any edition.
Here I'm going to decline to comment. Conflict of interest. I've written my own take on black powder weapons in a piece titled Brace of Pistols (forthcoming) for Sinister Adventure's Razor Coast. Anything I might say would be informed by my own design work, rendering me less than partial. You'll have to find out for yourself on this one folks, but I know gunpowder is a hot topic for many so it seemed worth a mention.
Swiftly becoming one of my favorite bits in KQ, the magazine follows the time-honored Lotus format to explore recent works of sci-fi and fantasy. This issue includes a review of Vandermeer's Finch, J.A. Pitts Black Blade Blues, a collection of Dying Earth short stories edited by GRRM and Gardner Dozois, and Peter Straub's Dark Matter. For reasons of my own, I've long been burnt out on urban fantasy with female heroine's - especially set in the continental Pacific Northwest. Too much Charles de Lint and Emma Bull, I suspect. That said, Janna Silverstein's review of Black Blade Blues left me excited to dip back into this sub-sub genre. I'll let you know how it goes.
The Thrill of the Unknown
What gamer doesn't love an advice column by Monte Cook? This issue covers guidelines for leaving just enough unsaid - and specific creative techniques for doing so - to add mystery and lasting terror to your campaign. Monte is always worth the read.
What issue of KQ would be complete without a monster? And who better to deliver than the winner of the KQ King of the Monsters contest, the Master of Minions himself, Adam Daigle! KQ13 presents Adam's contest winning entry, the Spark: an extraplanar, possession inclined, life burning electricity elemental. Great stuff!
By John Flemming. This might have been my favorite piece in the whole issue, and I don't play 4e. Games of chance transformed into wondrous magical items. Four dice games, three coins of luck, and five gambling tokens plus assorted paraphernalia. I loves me some wondrous items!
This issue also includes a fantastic little 2-page interview with Green Ronin's Chris Pramas. I know a few things about interviews myself and found this one enthralling. The interview spotlights Pramas' most recent accomplishment, designing the Dragon Age RPG boxed set. And what better way to back up the interview than with an excerpt of Pramas' own work: Freeport Backgrounds for Dragon Age. Not to be missed by pirate lovers in any edition.
The Wreck of the Goodwife
Those of you who know me know I'm editing Sinister Adventures pirate campaign setting and mega-adventure, Razor Coast. So I approached the Wreck of the Goodwife by McAnulty and Hodge (sounds like a law firm in a Cthulu adventure! hmmm...) with the jaundiced eye of a self-assured pirate snob. And swiftly forgot all that nonsense in sheer wonder over this little shipwreck set piece. Hooks, new organizations, new magic items, new templates, new spells, new monsters, and an underwater encounter complemented by a gorgeously mapped, full-page shipwreck. How they fit all that in four pages plus map, I'll never know. I'm just mad I didn't hire these two to work on Razor Coast! Great stuff. Pathfinder, but (again) easily adaptable.
There is more in this issue than I've listed. All good stuff and how not with the Kobold's stamp of approval. Above are just my favorite bits, but I'm sure you can see why I'm telling you KQ #13 is just another in a long line of winners. It's starting to feel like I'm getting my Dragon back.