Oct 23, 2009

Kobold Love - Or why I stopped worrying, and learned to love the magazine.

Greetings minions, casual readers, and all others.  Happy friday and all that. Today, we are going to do something a little different. That’s right! You are going to witness Donny the DM take up the reviewer stick and try beating some sense out of a REAL hapless product!

After much consideration, I chose to take up an offer from the good folks at Kobold Quarterly. For the bargain basement price of one free .PDF copy of KQ 11 (fall ’09) I have taken the plunge and read a gaming magazine that is NOT the long lamented Dungeon or Dragon magazines.  I've heard a lot about this magazine, but have not yet had a chance to actually READ one.  That ended yesterday, and is continuing through an alarmingly large part of today.  While the newest incarnations of the beloved duo of D&D nerds the world round's replacements ARE useful (as a 4E player), the old school Paizo and prior magazines really raised a high bar in terms of look, feel, and content. I’ve missed them, I’ve missed them dearly. I’ll admit I never used 98% of what I saw in their pages, but rather – I basked in the possibilities that each of their content or ad plastered pages represented. Remember drooling over the Reaper miniatures ads? Or wishing you had just $100 bucks to take up the wargames west low price challenge? I mention this because that’s exactly how I felt reading this issue – nostalgic!

This was (needless to say) a pleasant way to begin my reading of this magazine. After skimming through just the first dozen pages, it becomes readily apparent that this product aims to sit square astride the massive OGL content of third edition, as well as the rapidly evolving fourth edition. We have a long list of articles and features (as well as those wonderful ads) that was fun to read even if it wasn’t MY game per se.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if there were any stinkers I glossed over, but I will tell you this, the micro-ruleset on torture was fabulous! Writer Hank Woon has brought the warm and fuzzies on, by giving us a workable,  set of rules regarding torture and interrogation!

Having lived through the exact example he gives in the opening flavor-shot, I can attest that the grittier elements of the game often get overlooked from a rules perspective. Good role-playing requires a robust platform to be placed upon. Nothing breaks immersion quite as badly as crashing headlong into a clumsy fix or a clearly broken subsystem. Most of my readers will cringe a little, remembering the terror, when I add that they tried to dramatically grapple during an interlude. Having a dramatic moment ruined by the rules sucks.

Here we have a system written by someone who obviously enjoyed The Book of Vile Darkness as much as I did. These however, as much simpler in implementation – as well as having utility with both 3E, 3.5, and Pathfinder. I can already see that it will likely work in my 4E games with only a very small amount of compromise!

While this was (obviously) my favorite article of the bunch, I also enjoyed the articles regarding:

Alternate takes on dwarves – as a race, that I found to be just plain fun to read.
Advice for running a lycanthropic character.
Weapon porn supreme!
Wishes and Miracles.

And even more! Gosh, is it just me, or am I getting schillish? Hmmm….better tamp down that nerd-tastic feeling, and bring up my gripes. In my humble opinion, it seemed a little short. Another 18 pages (making it an even 100) would have felt better. Also, the art. It varied wildly, in both style and quality. Remember all of those lavish full color spreads from the olden days of Paizo yore? Well, they are going to remain there. They have been replaced with many smaller ½ and ¼ page MOSTLY black and whites, though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful ½ page color shot that headlines “A broken mind – sanity and mental disorders". Overall these are still just minor quibbles of one spoiled by full color gaming books methinks.

With annual subscriptions for print & PDF at 36 bucks a year, or PDF only for 16, I cant help but mention that this would be a valuable addition to whatever fantasy game you run, even alongside your DDI toolset. I give this product my personal recommendation, and will be keeping tabs on this magazine as it no doubt continues to grow.

Go here - Kobold Quarterly - Learn more.

DISCLAIMER: Just to make sure we are all on the same page, no compensation was made to me besides a review copy of the PDF. I have no business ties with KQ, or any of their affiliates. I own my brain, and only plug products I have not only personally reviewed, but have enjoyed. If you have any specific questions regarding my “review” or any opinions I have brought up, please feel free to comment below.


Bog97th said...

I am also a big fan and have all the issues so far. I think it is a great magazine and a wonderful start. Just remember what the first years of Dragon looked like. :)

Also, you might want to try "Level Up" magazine from Goodman Games. It is 4ed but has some good stuff in it.

Wyatt said...

I thought the paragon paths had some garish errors in them (the lack of tiered bonuses to some powers, or an implement/weapon keyword, totally cripples them) but overall it was a good issue. I loved "The Wishing Well" and "The Philosopher's Stone" best.