Magazine Review: Kobold Quarterly Issue #22, Summer 2012

What is it about those darn kobolds? Every three months they produce a magazine covering several different systems: Pathfinder, 4e, the AGE System, and now for the first time with Kobold Quarterly #22, Castles & Crusades. There’s even some talk about the new system from Rob Heinsoo & Jonathan Tweet – 13th Age. The kobolds definitely get around!

When KQ #22 arrived in my mailbox, the first thing I noticed was the gorgeous cover from Craig J. Spearing. The dragon-rider brought back fond memories of Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonriders of Pern series and the beautiful covers of Michael Whelan, so that was a great start to the issue.

Though I always look forward to the summer edition ahead of Gen Con, the article mix was a bit odd this time. None of the articles was poorly written or anything, but the articles seemed to run unevenly and I wish I knew why. Even so, I found several gems…

Brian A. Liberge’s “Dragonkin: The Mhraoti Empire’s Legions” presented an entirely new race – the Dragonkin – who apparently are roaming around Midgard. The art by Russ Nicholson presents these dragon humanoids as looking much like The Lizard in this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man, but with a better tailor. Even so, I wouldn’t want to tangle with a Dragonkin or The Lizard in a dark alley.

Designed for 4e, I love some of the racial powers and abilities. Spell-like powers such as “Waft,” which allows them to fly short distances and “Puff of Smoke,” which can be used to produce a smokescreen-type of effect to confuse your enemies. I also appreciate some of the new feats like “Blood Memories,” which increases how far a dragonkin can fly and “Elder Claw Technique,” which sounds like it should be in a martial arts movie and enables a dragonkin to use their claws in unarmed fighting for additional damage.

Also pertaining to Midgard is “Monsters of Morphoi” by Christina Stiles and Ben McFarland. This article offers a sneak peek at some of what we can look forward to in Journeys to the West and does a great job of wheting my appetite for maritime adventures in Midgard. The article features details about the Morphoi Lamia Matriarchs, which could definitely be nasty if you don’t want to forget who you are in the middle of the battle… Not only can they drain your Wisdom, but they can drain 1d4 days of your memories with a touch. Though it might be a useful skill to have if you have a weekend like The Hangover, I’d just as soon keep my brain intact.

And you’ll also find details about the Morphoi, a shapeshifting plant-based race with a truly unique look like something out of a Guillermo Del Toro movie (Hellboy 2 or Pan’s Labyrinth). Adding to that Del Toro spirit is the Morphoi’s cousins, the Nethysule – also plant-based but looking a bit like red umber hulks. Neither group may want to eat you, but I recommend not getting into a fight with them.

I have to say that as we learn more about the various parts of Midgard, it’s not just the places that have me wanting more, but the people – so keep ’em coming folks!

David Schwartz’ article “Blood
Brothers” for Pathfinder presents an intriguing option for tightly-coupled characters… You know how Druids and Wizards have a bond with their animal companions and familiars? Well, what if two PCs could bond in a similar way? It’s not a new idea, since I can remember a few cartoons where it’s been used, but it’s something I would never have thought to have brought into a game. Team talents such as “Deliver Touch Spells” where one character could cast a touch spell and the other could deliver the touch is intriguing, as is “Good Cop, Bad Cop” which enables the two characters – one with Diplomacy and the other with Intimidate – to work on a subject to get information…

I’d worry about it being overused in-game, but the GM could always separate the two PCs to reduce their effectiveness I suppose. And knowing some of the attendance issues of some of the groups I’ve played with, the idea of having one player play two blood-bound characters in a campaign with fewer players has some definite benefits. But definitely a cool idea to try in a campaign.

Though there are other solid articles in the issue, the last one I’ll mention is “The Escalation Die” by Rob Heinsoo. In it, Heinsoo describes a mechanic of 13th Age‘s rules system that can be applied to other systems like 3e/3.5e/Pathfinder, 4e, AGE, and Feng Shui. Roughly this die equates to something like a countdown timer, but in this case it’s counting up.

Take a d6 and find something to use as a pedestal to make it more visible during a combat. The second round, set the die on the pedestal with the 1 showing. Now all the PCs get a +1 to attacks and damage. Next round it goes to a 2, for a +2… Round after that it’s a 3, for +3, etc. The only other tweak is that you adjust the opponents’ AC by +1 at the beginning so they’re harder to hit. If the PCs survive to round 3, they have an advantage that grows round by round.

I love this concept because it really ratchets up the dramatic tension. PCs start in the hole where it’s difficult to get any ground, but by the end they’ve hit their groove and are really swinging for the fences. It may not work with every group or situation, but it will definitely adjust tactics and the ebb and flow of combat. (Plus, it makes me really curious to check out the rest of 13th Age!)

There are 80 pages in Kobold Quarterly #22, featuring 18 great articles, artwork, and comics. I’m still not quite sure why not all the articles resonated with me, but I’ll just chalk it up to a brainworm eating away in my gray matter. Be sure to pick up your copy wherever Kobold Quarterly is sold near you, at the KQ store, or at RPGNow.

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