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Review of Kobold Quarterly #15 (Fall 2010)

kobold quarterly coverI got my copy of Kobold Quarterly #15 just last week, and it is the last KQ published… in the year 2010, of course!  And with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, this issue was proclaimed by Kobold Minion #1 to be the “special holiday” issue – which made me start thinking about wanting to start getting my 4E Gamer Christmas Wishlist started early!

And as I did with my previous reviews of Kobold Quarterly, I am rating the articles for Fluff and Crunch factors on a scale of 0 to 5, based upon how useful and applicable the content is to D&D 4E.  A 0 rating means that the material is barely applicable to the 4E system, while a 5 rating indicates it is some really great content which D&D 4E players and Dungeon Masters should be scrambling to add to their campaigns!

Kobold Quarterly #15

  • Editor:  Wolfgang Baur (Kobold in Chief)
  • Illustrations: William O’Connor (cover)
  • Publisher: Open Design LLC
  • Year: 2010
  • Media: PDF (76 pages)
  • Price: $5.99 ($7.99 in print version)

Kobold Quarterly #15 is a bit smaller than last issue, but larger in page length than KQ #13 – but given that KQ #14 was the GenCon 2010 extravaganza issue, I would expect it to be a whopper.  The production quality of the magazine is excellent as always, with a great cover illustration by William O’Connor entitled “Merlin and Arthur”, which is also evocative of the old New Years’ image of the old year holding the baby new year in his arms.  The “special holiday” issue of KQ boasts five main feature articles, five regular columns, eight smaller features, and two cartoons, plus the Editorial.  This quarter’s editorial discusses the nature of traps and their use in role-playing games, which coincides well worth two of the features on portable traps for thieves, and some nasty new pitfalls.

The Articles

Nature’s Orders is a Pathfinder article by Ryan Costello, Jr. and discusses two variant druid classes for that game system.  Although well-written, it is heavily Pathfinder crunchy, and has little fluff usable by 4E gamers.

  • Crunch: 0
  • Fluff: 1

Ecology of the Giant Ant by Jonathan McAnulty is another Pathfinder article, but is packed full of great fluff about the lives of these macro-insects, as well as ideas for using giant ants in adventures.  Although the crunch is all Pathfinder, 4E DMs should be able to easily adapt the giant ant variants to make some creepy and terrifying encounters.  A great read regardless of which D&D you choose to play.

  • Crunch: 1
  • Fluff: 5

Reasons to Ride is a 4E article by David Adams, and is filled with some amazingly good material to expand mounted combat rules in D&D 4E campaigns.  The author includes not only includes new weapons and feats for would-be heroic equestrians, but adds new equipment and three new mounts, including spiffy Paragon Tier and Epic Tier horses for higher level characters.  Great writing, and is definitely some useful material for players and Dungeon Masters alike!

  • Crunch: 5
  • Fluff: 5

Rig This! is another 4E article, discussing the use of mechanical traps by Player-Characters trained in Thievery.  Written by John Flemming, this article introduces a new type of formula used by roguish trapbuilders called Rigs.  These rig schematics can be used to build traps which can be used to warn, harry, and even briefly incapacitate the heroes’ enemies, and are used not unlike alchemical formula rituals as discussed in Adventurers’ Vault.  A very good article, with some great writing and some very handy ideas, which will doubtless inspire many characters to become nefarious engineers.

  • Crunch: 4
  • Fluff: 4

Pits of Despair by Andrew Hind is a Pathfinder article with a dozen new types of pit traps.  This article has some downright nasty pit traps in it, which reminds me of some of the more diabolical creations found in the old Grimtooth Traps compendiums.  Needless to say, the crunch is all Pathfinder, but the trap concepts themselves can be easily modified to D&D 4E by any evil Dungeon Master who wants to give their heroes a bad time in their next dungeon delve.

  • Crunch: 0
  • Fluff: 5

Masters of Great Skill is a 4E article by Anthony Eichenlaub which offers 13 new stances based upon the premise of skill powers introduced in PHB 3.  Regretfully, many of these new “skill stances” are woefully overpowered, or make little sense as to how mastering a skill could grant powers as potent as the ones described in the article.  The writing is good, with examples of four characters who founded these stances, but even still, I would never allow these variants on skill powers anywhere near my campaigns.

  • Crunch: 1
  • Fluff: 3

Collaborative Killers is a Pathfinder article by Michael Kortes discussing the use of special tactical maneuvers for groups to use against their foes.  The writing is solid, and there are some really nice ideas here which can be used in 4E encounters as well, but the crunch is not really applicable without some work.

  • Crunch: 0
  • Fluff: 4

Blades from the Past by Alex Putnam discusses 10 new weapons for use by Pathfinder gamers.  These weapons are taken from historical texts and the article provides an interesting perspective on other weapons used in ancient times beyond the broadsword and the longbow.  The author gives a nice short description of the weapon in historical context as well as Pathfinder stats.

  • Crunch: 0
  • Fluff: 3

King of the Monsters: Horakh is a gruesome new monster for D&D 4E by Jobe Bittman.  This dungeon lurker, aptly nicknamed “The Eater of Eyeballs”, is a frightening Paragon Tier threat which would make any delver quake at the thought of encountering one.  This is one nasty beastie.

  • Crunch: 4
  • Fluff: 4

Those Dark Dungeons Blues is a commentary on the negative hysteria encountered by early D&D gamers by so-called experts and Christian groups.  Written by former TSR employee James Lowder, this article is a fascinating discussion on just how misunderstood D&D was back in the day.  In case you have never seen the infamous Dark Dungeons pamphlet discussed in the article, it is worth checking out… at least once.

  • Crunch: NA
  • Fluff: NA

Simulating Game Reality is the topic Monte Cook’s regular Games Theories column, and dicusses his perspective on simulation versus game play.  Some very good advice and commentary here regardless of which version of D&D you happen to be playing.

  • Crunch: NA
  • Fluff: NA

Dragons, Con Artists, and Space Outlaws features an interview with Margaret Weis, written by Wade Rockett.  In this intereview, Ms. Weis discusses world-building and the worlds such as Dragonlance’s Krynn which she brought into existence.  A fascinating read, with some great insights.

  • Crunch: NA
  • Fluff: NA

A Call to Awesome by Quinn Murphy is an alternate system of critical hits for D&D 4E gamers to use in their campaigns.  The author introduces Critical Actions and Scene Criticals which trades the maximum damage effect of a standard critical for different combat effects and even changes of venue!  Some really excellent ideas here in a very well-written and creative article.

  • Crunch: 5
  • Fluff: 5

Children of the Wood by Stefen Styrsky introduces new bloodlines, domains, and schools for Pathfinder wizards who come from more natural or faerie settings.  Some nice ideas here, but again, the crunch is all Pathfinder and not particularly useful for 4E gamers.

  • Crunch: 0
  • Fluff: 2

Going Vertical is an article by Mario Podeschi suggesting how side-scroller video games can be used to inspire what he calls “side-view dungeons”.  The article contains a great bit of cartography by Jonathan Roberts depicting an encounter involving heroes chasing a drider bent on maliciousness up a tower.  Great ideas here for some very original new encounter settings!

  • Crunch: NA
  • Fluff: 5

Book Reviews is a collection of reviews by Pierce Watters of recent fantasy novels on the market.  Included in this column are reviews of Antiphon by Ken Scholes, The Wolf Age by James Enge, and Tongue of Serpents by Naomi Novik.

  • Crunch: NA
  • Fluff: NA

Jack in a Trap by Philippe-Antoine Menard introduces several new 4E monsters that are traps and traps that are monsters.  The article presents some interesting combinations which will certainly leave heroes befuddled and surprised by these strange trap-monster constructs.

  • Crunch: 3
  • Fluff: 4

The Cartways by Wolfgang Baur is a short article discussing a portion of the Free City of Zobeck notseen by many.  A very interesting setting feature, that could be also be adopted to other settings on other worlds.

  • Crunch: NA
  • Fluff: 3

Conclusions

Although fairly equally split between Pathfinder and 4E articles, there is still a lot in Kobold Quarterly #15 to offer D&D 4E gamers.  Although several of the Pathfinder articles have little that can be adapted to the current D&D ruleset, the majority of the 4E articles show some really great content for the most part.  Add to that the ruleset-neutral columns on world-building, game theory, and particularly the fresh idea of adopting side-scrolling game maps for encounters, and KQ #15 Holiday Special Issue is well worth picking up this season.

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: A-
  • Content: B
  • - Crunch: C
  • - Fluff: B+
  • 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.

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