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Review of Kobold Quarterly #13 Spring 2010

In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Kobold Quarterly #13 is out, and I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy by Kobold Minion #1.  And I have to say it’s rather eye-catching.   It boasts at the top of its cover -“Sex and Romance in RPGs”- and has a rather entertaining cover of two, umm, buff, green-skinned immortals celebrating some sort of spring rite involving unicorns satyrs and other fey folks.  Entitled “Green Gods”, it is apparently the third piece by Malcolm McClinton that has made the KQ cover.
KQ13 cover

Kobold Quarterly #13 also touts that it is “The Switzerland of the Edition Wars”, which is quite an assertion, considering how heated some of the exchanges between various Edition-Janissaries tend to get.  I decided I’d have to put that claim to the test as I reviewed the articles in KQ #13, and so I devised a scorecard. 

Since my blog is heavily D&D 4E focused, I would give each article a Crunch & Fluff Rating of 0 to 5.  A 0 rating means that the material is barely applicable to a 4E system or setting, while a 5 rating represents the material being not only applicable, but really good stuff!

Kobold Quarterly #13
  • Editor:  Wolfgang Baur (Kobold in Chief)
  • Illustrations: Malcolm McClinton (cover)
  • Publisher: Open Design LLC
  • Year: 2010
  • Media: PDF (69 pages)
  • Price: $5.99


The production quality of Kobold Quarterly is always very good, and KQ 13 is no exception.  It’s got a great cover this month, an easy to read layout, and some great interior art and maps.

The first article is an Editorial by Wolfgang (Kobold in Chief) regarding being  quite a role-playing snob when he was younger, particularly disliking cross-genre material, such as Spelljammer, where high fantasy has sci-fi gimmicks thrown in.  I have to say I felt same way, as I used to fall into that same headstrong mindset regarding those elements when I too was a younger Dungeon Master.  But now, I find a blurring of genres, if done properly, to be something of an inspiration.  And apparently, the Kobold in Chief feels the same ways these days.
Crunch: NA
Fluff: NA

Ecology of the Shoggoth By Phillip Larwood is a Pathfinder article, but it is incredibly well-written and discusses one of the all-time famous lovecraftian monsters in great detail.  Although the crunch portions of the article are not 4E, there is more than enough fluff to inspire plenty of protoplasmic horror in almost any D&D 4E campaign.
- Crunch: 1
- Fluff: 4

Lovecraftian Gods by Aeryn Rudel – who I must admit I’ve become quite a fan of his work- has a great article about adding terrible elder gods to your D&D campaign.  He even includes Channel Divinity powers and magic items for use by Characters that are devoted to the likes of Azathoth and Nyarlathotep!  Clearly, becausemost of these entities are profoundly evil, they will not be useful in some campaigns by Player-Characters, but it still has uses by DMs to create mad NPC cultists.  The artwork of the Clerics of these horrid “divinities” by Cory Trego-Erdner is superb, and quite inspirational – in a scary lovecraftian kinda way.
- Crunch: 5
- Fluff: 5

The Arquebusier (A Gun-Toting Base Class for the Pat hfinder Roleplaying Game) By David Mallon is a really nifty class concept, designed for Pathfinder.  Sadly, the information is the article is not really of much use to a D&D 4E game.  Inspired 4E gamers might be able to hash out a workable Class, if medieval firearms can be introduced into your campaign setting, otherwise, it’s definitely all Pathfinder.
- Crunch: 0
- Fluff: 2

Book Reviews (All tomes read by candlelight) by William Banks, Janna Silverstein, and Pierce Watters has some thoughtfully written reviews of Finch by Jeff VanderMeer, Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts, Songs of the Dying Earth edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, and A Dark Matter by Peter Straub.  In particular, Black Blade Blues sounds really intriguing, mixing a modern setting with mythology and the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I need to look for it next time I wander over to my favorite Barnes & Noble booksellers.
- Crunch: NA
- Fluff: NA

Alternate Objectives: Capture the Flag By Matthew Hanson is a nifty discussion about building a scenario around capturing an objective rather than the typical kill-all-the-monster scenarios which are the staple of most D&D adventures.  The author not only provides his basic premise, but also a sample CTF scenarios (Level 8 Encounter), complete with monsters and maps (Cartography & Art by Jonathan Roberts).  While not useful in every adventure, this is an interesting scenario build that might be worth trying out every now and then in a long-term campaign.
- Crunch: 4
- Fluff: 4

The Thrill of the Unknown By Monte Cook.  Monte writes a Game Theories column, and this one discusses how sometimes “less is more” when it comes to revealing information about a campaign setting or an adventure, where discovering the unknown might hint at even a greater unknown, and using it to build suspense.  This theory-based column does not have any crunch for any D&D edition, but a lot to think about in terms of DM theory and adventure building.
- Crunch: NA
- Fluff: 3

Spark By Adam Daigle announces the King of the Monsters Contest Winner – the Spark!  This nasty little critter is unfortunately written in Pathfinder stats.  However, there is a full write-up of its ecology, powers, and abilities, so it can easily be converted to 4E should you want a spark to electrify your heroes.
- Crunch: 1
- Fluff: 5

Scions of Shadow By Maurice de Mare is another Pathfinder article regarding the practice of shadow-based magic, and offers a bloodline for Sorcerers and a description of a school  for Wizards.  I wasn’t really impressed with the writing, having little fluff to really sink one’s teeth into, and the crunch is all Pathfinder.
- Crunch: 0
- Fluff: 2

The Heart of a Hero: A Guide to Sex and Romantic Subplots in Fantasy Adventure Gaming By Mario Podeschi   is a compelling article about how to add romance and sex to a mature D&D game – and without it all becoming trite and shallow.  I have to admire the Author for tackling the subject, given how introducing romantic plotlines in most D&D campaigns often illicit snickers around a gaming table, even by the most advanced and mature gamers.  Like Monty Cook’s article, it is edition non-specific, but the Author’s theories and adventure ideas are definitely fresh and enticing.
- Crunch: NA
- Fluff: 5

Gambler’s Magic: Wondrous Items of Chance By John Flemming is a great D&D 4E article, introducing a range of wondrous items that are based upon enchanted game pieces – dice, tokens, coins, etc.   The items are really nicely thought out, and present all manner of possibilities to add them to a campaign.  Given that several of these items have attacks, they could represent a great “holdout” weapon, like say, in a place where swords and daggers might be confiscated at the door.  Very well written ideas here!
- Crunch: 5
- Fluff: 4

Destined Weapons by Hank Woon is another 4E article with some great potential in many campaigns.  It allows Player-Characters a feat which grants them “destiny” points, which they use to imbue their weapon with a variety of standard enchantments.  I can see this having a lot of potential in low-magic campaign settings, and this rules variant offers some great role-playing opportunities.  And because gaining a particular power for a weapon requires an “achievement”, such as using that weapon against specific foes (example: kill X number of a certain creature-type), or doing really heroic things with it (example: do X number of critical hits), before it becomes ready to be enchanted.  This offers some ready-made adventure hooks for the Characters who want to empower their family heirloom.  Some awesome ideas here, and just a solidly written 4E article.
- Crunch: 4
- Fluff: 4

Gnomish Flying Contraptions by Ryan Costello, Jr. is a Pathfinder article detailing a range of back-mounted devices created by gnome artificers in order to fly.  The article was quite amusing and very Krynn-ish in conception – a darned good read overall.  However, it is of limited usefulness in a D&D 4E setting, where flying is a fairly restricted power until higher tier play, but still there is enough ideas here to make some interesting adventures and items from.
- Crunch: 0
- Fluff: 3

New Blood, Raw Power, and Capturing the Creative Spirit: A Conversation with Green Ronin’s Chris Pramas by Jeremy L. C. Jones & Christopher L. Dinkins is an interesting and thoughtful interview.  Given that Chris Pramas used to be a WotC employee, and has recently written the Dragon Age RPG, it’s definitely an enjoyable Q&A to read through.
- Crunch: NA
- Fluff: 4

Freeport Backgrounds for Dragon Age By Chris Pramas is written for the new Dragon Age RPG, and fans of the computer-game will recognize the setting elements in these Character Backgrounds.  While I am not interested in running a Dragon Age RPG, I must admit that I loved the computer game, and the article made me curious about the tabletop version.  Might be worth taking a look at to see if the setting can be adapted to 4E!
- Crunch: NA
- Fluff: 5

The Wreck of the Goodwife by Jonathan McAnulty with Brandon Hodge is an adventure designed for Pathfinder, but again, can readily be adapted to 4E.  It is an undersea map of the wreck of a galleon, with encounters, treasures, and dangers all on the sea floor.  The adventure has some solid writing, and the map is beautifully drawn by Jonathan Roberts.
- Crunch: 2
- Fluff: 5

Daughters of Perun By Wolfgang Baur is a piece written for the Free City of Zobeck setting by Open Design.  It details the matriarchal duchy which controls river trade near the Free City, and has a lot of interesting history and societal information.  It is written edition non-specific, so it could apply to the setting regardless of what system is used.
- Crunch: NA
- Fluff: 4

Overall Grade: B+

At first glance, D&D 4E does not seem to be as well represented in KQ 13’s pages as the other editions are.  But really, Kobold Quarterly #13 is a solid good read, despite what appears to be an mediocre serving of 4E “crunchiness”.  Although few in number, I’ll be the first one to admit that what 4E articles appear in those pages are real show-stoppers!  The D&D 4E pieces have some fantastic concepts and excellent new material, and well worth consideration for any Dungeon Master’s D&D campaign – if not now, then maybe in a future one.  And coupled with the Pathfinder and 3.5 articles which have the potential for a 4E “conversion”, it makes the PDF price of $5.99 seem like a great deal.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card

  • Presentation: A-
  • - Design: A
  • - Illustrations: B+
  • Content: B
  • - Crunch: C+
  • - Fluff: A-
  • Value: A-

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

Comments

5 Responses to “Review of Kobold Quarterly #13 Spring 2010

  1. Anon says:

    I was put off a bit by the editorial. It used to be okay to be a 100% TSR/WotC fanboy, but now that he’s on the outside looking in (and trying to pick up a dime doing it), it’s okay to like other things? Yeah, really sincere. Just words to take up space.

    Anyway, good issue on the rest of it, just thought the editorial was sort of hypocritical – especially considering his stance on submissions for retro-clones and earlier editions of D&D.

    Oh, and as far as the “Old Boys Club” goes – did we need to PAY for yet another Chris Pramas interview/advertisement?

  2. Great review and I’m really pleased you enjoyed the maps. The Goodwife is one of my favourites and I’m really pleased it made it into the print edition in full colour!

  3. [...] Review of Kobold Quarterly #13 Spring 2010 from NEUROGLYPH Games (neuroglyphgames.com) [...]

  4. Geshko says:

    One thing you failed to mention is that KQ is a user driven magazine. That is to say, they accept submissions from readers for most of their articles.

    Therefore, if you want KQ to be more 4E crunch-friendly, all you have to do is submit some good 4E crunch-friendly material. Same thing with Pathfinder, or Chuthulu, or what have you.
    Game on! ^_^

  5. Very true, and as it just so happens, I just submitted a 4E article which should be out in KQ 14! And I certainly hope that there are other 4E writers out there who will step up and shoot Wolfgang you’re article suggestions… it’s not hard to pitch an article to KQ, and you can download the guidelines here.

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