Magazine Review: Kobold Quarterly Fall 2010 Issue 15

Every issue of the Kobold Quarterly gives me something to chew on for a while. No, I’m not eating actual pages but I always have something to noodle over. And the Fall 2010 issue holds true to form.

This issue had me thinking from the time I opened the PDF. Immediately I had to ponder the meaning of the gorgeous holiday-themed cover from artist William O’Connor. Was it religious? Mythical? For the answer, I turned to the table of contents on page 3 and the light bulb came on. I won’t spoil it for you, but was happy at the ultimate meaning.

In the Editorial, Wolfgang Baur considers the role of traps in roleplaying games. They’re a staple for sure, but he had me laughing when he compared in-game traps to a physics lesson – “Hey, your hero may defeat dragons, but he still plummets at 9.8 m/s(squared).” There are many reasons for including traps and though vindictiveness plays a part from the point of view of GM, they are definitely the “ultimate expression of competitive, head-to-head rivalry between players and GMs” as he puts it. A little creativity can make a ho-hum encounter memorable for years whether it’s the GM gloating behind the screen or the players gloating in front of it!

The issue continues with “Nature’s Orders” by Ryan Costello, Jr., which brought forward a concept I am shocked I had never considered before. When I think “druid” – I think of a lone gray robed figure in a tree-lined clearing in the forest trying to achieve the balance nature deserves. But I can truthfully say as a GM I’d never considered what a druid might think of a zoo. Zoos in medieval cities never even crossed my mind, but what a horrible affront to that tricky balance druids are trying to achieve.

Costello suggests some different druid variants as a way for druids to right wrongs against the incursions of cities on the wild. The Bestial Druid takes an approach like Vixen from DC Comics, gaining the powers of animals to protect the innocent. As he says, “bestial druids aspire to fly like eagles, climb like apes, fight like lions, swim like fish, and wrestle like bears.” I certainly wouldn’t want to mess with one. The Godai Druid Order on the other hand seeks to master elemental spell
abilities of air, earth, fire, and water. The Godai seem to be more cleric-like than wizard-like, giving them flexibility over their rather limited spell lists. Lastly, the Purist Druid Order worship life and hate the undead. Not only do they hate them, but they’re trying to destroy them all while helping the living. Definitely a few concepts to consider the next time I attempt to play a druid in a campaign.

Now after spending seemingly endless hours playing Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, I thought I’d seen all the giant ants I ever wanted to see. Jonathan McAnulty seems to have other ideas in “Ecology of the Giant Ant.” Not only does he break down the general physiology, social structure, and combat descriptions for the ants in general, he then goes into detail on twelve variants on “ye olde giant ant” that even William Shatner probably couldn’t have imagined in Kingdom of the Spiders. I for one don’t want to run into a nest of Giant Death Ants, Giant Exploding Ants, or Giant Gliding Ants (yes, they can glide and do “death from above”-type attacks) in any games I play in the near future. Becoming ant food is something to avoid in my book!

Mounted combat is one of those things that I’ve seen in D&D since the Cavalier was popular way back when. But “Reasons to Ride” by David Adams provides a great overview for using mounted combat in your games. He includes an impressive list of equipment riders would need for jousting both on and off the tournament field as well as numerous feats and powers to make both rider and mount more unique. If I run into a combatant on a “Feyblooded” mount however, I may sit down and cry. Imagine crossing a blink dog and a knight’s steed and you get the idea…

And then we get to the traps that Wolfgang alluded to in the Editorial… And there are some doozies – from having a rig to quickly set up a trap (“Rig This!” by John Flemming) to new and horrible ways to skewer your victims players when they fall into a pit (the aptly named “Pits of Despair” by Andrew Hind) to monsters who ARE the traps in 4th Edition D&D (“Jack in a Trap” by Philippe-Antoine Menard). There’s traps galore whether you are a GM or a player. Pick a few off the menu!

These are just a few of the articles that await you in the Kobold Quarterly Fall 2010 Issue 15. Those darned kobolds have been hard at work carefully crafting the paper (virtual or physical), art (black and white or color), and text (whether bold, italic, or plain jane) for your nightmares amusement. I know every issue is a trap I will happily set off to get my gaming fix!

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