Kobold Quarterly issue 12

Kobold Quarterly #12

      Kobold Quarterly enters its third year of print with issue 12. No theme this time, just an assortment of fantasy RPG articles contributed by regular writers and eager fans. Once again, 3.5 Private Sanctuary analyses the articles of most interest to 3.5 loyalists.


     An issue of KQ used to be heralded by a new episode of the Open Design Podcast interviewing the writers and previewing the articles. Unfortunately, Ed Healey has moved on from his work with Open Design and it seems like the show is either over or on indefinite hiatus. For that reason, I was surprised to receive an e-mail about the latest issue already available.
KQ #12 is 65 pages long, the shortest issue since #9. There is no set length for this magazine, and I don’t think reading into page count is worth it. Seven articles taking up 29 pages are dedicated to 3.5/Pathfinder. Five articles taking up 16 pages are dedicated to 4E. Finally, nine pages are system-neutral content. The rest is advertising space.

Content breaks down as follows:
•    Keep it Short, Wolfgang Baur’s editorial. He talks about the advantages of shorter, more to the point encounters, especially in canned material. It is the kind of insight that only someone with the experience of a Wolfgang Baur can have. One of his best editorials.
•    Telkari, Inevitable of Death by Tim & Eileen Connors (3.5) So torn. Despite an interesting roll in the fantasy RPG cosmology, the robot-theme always turned me off inevitables. I also can’t escape hard feelings towards the marut, one of which TPKed my warrior party during a playtest of the Pathfinder Beta rules. However, since KQ #11’s Ecology of the Vampire, I have been a huge fan of Tim and Eileen Connors. Unfortunately, in this case, the strong prose was not enough to win me over. The article, which outlines the history and motivation of a marut named Telkari, failed to make me like the inevitable.
•    The Ecology of the Froghemoth by Jonathan McAnulty (PF)  Like a complete reversal of the last article, I love the froghemoth and would have bought the issue (if I didn’t have a subscription) for its name on the cover alone. It is a bizarre and over-the-top monster that won me over fifteen years ago in 2E. McAnulty, who wrote KQ #10’s On the Care and Keeping of Gelatinous Cubes, clearly shares my love of less iconic monsters. This article embraces the froghemoth’s b-movie kitsch but takes it seriously enough to attempt to justify its existence. Creature stats for younger froghemoths (woghemoths and tadhemoths), and even trap stats for deadly froghemoth eggs add value and diversify the froghemoth as a threat. The writing is complimented by zany artwork that gets the tone of the article perfectly. Biased or not, this is my favourite Kobold Quarterly article ever.
•    Burnt Offerings on Stage by James Jacobs. I counted this as a 3.5/Pathfinder article even though it is more of a general interest piece. James Jacobs reflects on seeing an adventure he wrote adopted into a stage play by the da Vinci Arts Middle School. The pictures tell of the high production value of the play, and although the article is words light, it’s a nice inclusion.
•    The Holy Remix – Specialty Priests for the Pathfinder RPG by Scott Gable (PF) This article introduces four cleric-themed mash-up classes: the Sohei (Sacred Fist), a monk/cleric; Phantom (Sacred Palm or Cultist), a cleric rogue; Emissary (Sacred Voice), a rogue/cleric; Sage (Revolutionary), a cleric/bard/rogue. The article felt unfinished, like the ideas were laid out and left that way. All four classes seem to be interesting albeit overpowered, but it is hard to tell because of the unusual format used. What should have been one of my favourite articles really left me indifferent.
•    Impossible Caravans and Unseelie Ambassadors – Introducing the Winter Court by Neal Hebert and Jon Cogburn (4) I feel the same way about Zobeck articles in Kobold Quarterly as I did about campaign-specific articles in Dragon magazine: I read them begrudgingly and last, and I can not help but skim through them. I almost exclusively set my games in homebrewed settings and articles set in established worlds always meander towards their point, taking time make references than I’m sure fans of the setting enjoy but are of absolutely no interest to me. In this Zobeck article’s case, being 4E on top of everything, I only read it for review purposes. It was okay, it had some interesting ideas, but I would have preferred the same article in a vanilla setting. It does win points by including a hand out, although if you are not running in Zobeck, you can’t edit those bits out.
•    The Myths and Realities of Game Balance by Monte Cook. Monte Cook’s system neutral editorials are usually appreciated, but it feels like he never cracks the shell of this issue’s topic, game balance.
•    Elves: The Fallen Ones by John Wick and Jesse Heinig (3.5) The third instalment of Wicked Fantasy,  John Wick and Jesse Heinig’s adaptation of the 3.5 standard races into a generic dark fantasy setting. This is the most tragic interpretation of elves I have ever read, distancing itself from almost everything established about this normally noble and long-lived race without compromising the idea of elves at all. This series has improved with each instalment. I have a hard time picturing them topping this article and yet I have no doubt that they will. Interestingly, this is the first Wicked Fantasy that did not also feature 4e rules.
•    Spiked Pits, Poisoned Arrows, and Healing Words by Scott A. Murray (4) This is a great idea regardless of edition. The title is a bit misleading, but this article is about boon traps, devices found in dungeons that aid its denizens in some way.  The format of 4e traps is a bit tough to convert to 3.5/PF and unfortunately more than half the article is stated out boon traps. Still, it’s such a good idea I hope a 3.5/PF version appears on koboldquarterly.com.
•    Spice Up your Combat Encounters: The Combat Skill Challenge by Phillipe Menard (4) The well-respected Chatty DM talks about including skill challenges in combat. Despite skill challenges being a new mechanic for 4E, they are really just a codified concept that has been around for at least as long as I’ve been role-playing. Even the crunchy parts of this article can be translated easily into 3.5/PF mechanics, and the advice is definitely applicable to any RPG.
•    Lessons from the Shadows: History’s Greatest Assassins by Catharine McDonald (4) This article may be accompanied by a 4, but there is not a game mechanic in it. Not even a reference to a skill. This is purely an insightful look at the real ninja upon which legend and pop culture icons were based. A fun read with some okay advice on using these tactics in your game.
•    Sanctus et Virtus: Relics & Reliquaries of Zobeck by Brandon Hodge (3.5) The issue’s second Zobeck article. There are some interesting artefacts, all with stories of their creation, and a nice section on adventure hooks. I don’t tend to use artefacts, personally.
•    Eight Plagues and Diseases by Stefen Styrsky (4) The 4E disease format is surprisingly hard to understand if you are not familiar with the system. These diseases can be converted to 3.5/PF, but unless a DM absolutely needs a disease and none of the existing 3.X diseases will do, it isn’t worth it.
•    Vilest Evils of the Abyss by Phillip Larwood (3.5) This would be a great article except for a major flaw. It introduces majors villains, the BBEGs campaigns are based around. But instead of stating them out as creatures, they are stated out as gods. So I know their favoured weapons, their domains, everything I need to create a cleric of Agoziel or Thazrinu or Uvapula but would have to invent statistics for them (based on a detailed outline, granted) to have them appear in my game.
•    War Wagons of the Magdar by Wolfgang Baur. The third and final Zobeck article, this one is system neutral. Unlike other system neutral articles, this one does not stand on its own. It describes war wagons and the training of the infantry that uses them, which screams for stats and feats. It left me crunch-hungry.
•    Dragon’s Lair by Corey Macourek This is a nice addition at the end, a map of a dragon’s lair that can be converted to any cave layer. Funny that there is no accompanying article but it’s pretty self-explanatory.

     Kobold Quarterly #12 surprised me. I didn’t like or have use for many of the articles I thought I would. I really liked and can find use in articles I never thought I would. Strangely, I think I can get more out of the 4e articles this time around than I can out of the 3.5/PF articles. This isn’t a criticism of the quality of the 3.5/PF articles. In this issue, the specific and potentially niche articles just all happen to be 3.5/PF while the generic, broader articles are 4E.
     I don’t know what to say about this issue as a whole. I would warn anyone considering buying this issue that it’s a little all over the place and would not recommend it to someone as their first issue of KQ. I liked it enough to recommend it to someone exactly like me, however, but KQ#12 had me at froghemoth.

Jefferson Thacker

Before Perram joined Know Direction as the show’s first full time co-host, the podcast could have best been describe as a bunch of Pathfinder RPG stuff. Perram brings a knowledge of and love for Golarion to Know Direction, something any Pathfinder podcast is lacking without. On top of being a man on the pulse of the Pathfinder campaign setting, Perram is the founder of the superlative site for Pathfinder spellcasters, Perram’s Spellbook, a free web application that creates customized spell cards.


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