Previously, I briefly touched on the demise of the magazine Dragon & Dungeons, but that wasn’t the end for fantasy gaming periodicals. Kobold Quarterly fills in the gap with—you guessed it—seasonal issues, both print and electronic. And they do fill that gap! There are four kinds of people that Kobold Quarterly will appeal to. The first two are players of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition & players of Pathfinder or DnD Third Edition. Kobold Quarterly is actually neutral in the edition wars, and you’ll find both of the “big two” supported inside—which means that if you play Old School DnD you’ll have a go at it, too (I guess that technically makes five types of people, but stick with me). The third type are people who play some other system that KQ supports—the AGE system of Dragon Age, for instance.
The last kind is of reader is like me; someone who just likes reading about roleplaying games, who appreciates the magazine as a madcap piece of literature. I don’t expect to find rules content for the game I run—it has long since become too crazy for that—but I like reading KQ for its own sake, and to mine it for raw ideas. The Winter 2012 Issue, Kobold Quarterly #20, starts off with the headlines that a magazine should be shouting! It appeals to both your outer gamer and your inner adventurer. “Five New Magic Arrows!” Yeah, that beats out a Cosmopolitan lede any day of the week. “Tieflings, Gnomes & MINOTAURS” is the promise I want from my magazine covers.
Pathfinder/Third Edition gets the most attention this issue. “The Elven Archer” is a new Pathfinder base class; I’m not crazy about it. On the plus side it seems balanced and has at least had the tires kicked by previous playtesters, but it isn’t anything you wouldn’t expect. A grab bag of powers from the Ranger and the Rogue with some Arcane Archer tossed in for color. I guess I’m spoiled; I set the benchmark for new archery classes with the Scout from Complete Adventurer. “Arrows of the Arbonesse” has a few magical and alchemical tricks for any would-be Green Arrow… or for a clever Dungeon Master looking for a way to make the players really, really hate a new archer antagonist. Lop off a few limbs with Razor’s Filament Arrow and they’ll take notice. “Fey Hunters” has a few more enchanted arrows and poisons; I wish the two articles had been coordinated with each other better. Still, magic items are a bit of a snooze. But then! “Derro Ooze Magic!” A wizard school, a sorcerer bloodline, a subschool of magic, ooze familiars—hey, I played a goblin wizard with a miniature gelatinous cube for a familiar—new spells, enhanced spell components yeah! That is a heck of an article. That right there is worth the price of admission alone.
“Servants from Beyond” is handy if you’ve got an urge to be a summoner or have a player who does—it has four critters ready to use with the lesser planar ally or binding spells. I like the flavorful inclusion of “negotiation tactics.” A pegasus, a fire mephit, a ghost paladin and an angel of prophecy, so not too crazy on the weird axis but serviceable, eminently useful. “Night Terrors” on the other hand goes in the other direction, and how. A hideous caterpillar thing that crawls into a baby’s crib and charms everyone into loving it? Dire naked mole rats!? “Captured in the Cartways” is a Pathfinder adventure for 5th level characters taking place in Zobek, the Kobold Quarterly supported metropolis that is part Lankhmar, part New Crobuzon and part Waterdeep. Barghest gangsters is just the start of it.
“Putting the Band Back Together” is a meditation on the oft overlooked “Aging” tables, complete with feats to support playing characters who starting to get long in the tooth. I’ve never liked the tendency of PCs to climb from 1st level to 20th in the course of a weekend getaway, so I’m all for it. “Small Spirits” is lovely little article about small kami-like spirit using favorite mechanic from Fourth Edition, Boons. Essentially granting “treasure” without granting items, the Boons are a good way to add knick knacks to a character without overburdening him with Wayne Reynoldsesque amounts of treasure. Creepy-crawly Lurker in the Caves, you are the best! And it is both Pathfinder and Fourth edition compliant, too. Later, “Fish of Legend” takes the statistical benefits of a potion and puts them into scaly form; fantastic fish that grant benefits to those who consume them, and Skip Williams answers some FAQ questions about poison and disease.
AGE has a single article here, “AGE of Specialization.” New specializations for their classes seems like a good value, since I imagine there isn’t the same wealth of material for AGE that there is for the d20 games. As far as Fourth Edition goes, we’ve got “The Bardic Arts.” I don’t know that Bards need a new Class Feature; the Bard in my Fourth Edition party seemed plenty potent, though it seems like swapping this in for Rituals Casting would be balanced. “Unearthed Ancestry” provides Racial Utility powers for Gnomes, Tieflings & Minotaurs; a much needed bit of depth for some under-supported races. In general interest, we have Monte Cook—presumed architect of the forth coming edition of DnD and éminence grise of the Third—in a column musing on the role of the Game Master. There is a lengthy interview with Christina Stiles, freelance writer and editor for a host of game publishers. “Make Haste” is an article about adding urgency to adventures with a practical and simple use of “haste points” as a DM tool. Clever and easily implemented. 10′ x 10′ Toon, Bolt & Quiver and D20 Monkey bring gamer-centric humor, including a joke about Viagra and Conan the Barbarian. Book reviews close the whole thing out with a bang.
Next issue: Clerics! Shamans! Angels! Oh my!