Review: Kobold Quarterly #23

Kobold Quarterly

An issue of Kobold Quarterly #23 arrived at The Iron Tavern this week, the print and PDF magazine from the Open Design/Kobold Press group. I have been a steady reader of the magazine, but it has been several issues since I have done a review on an issue here. The last review I did was for issue #19.

With Wolfgang Baur at the helm as the Kobold-in-Chief and a complement of staff providing editing and graphic design services the magazine remains a premier periodical for the RPG market. Kobold Quarterly comes with the feel of the Dragon magazine of old with its production quality and articles covering many game systems, including Pathfinder, D&D, AGE, and recently 13th Age. This issue is no different.

Issue #23 is the Autumn 2012 issue and includes an impressive array of contributing authors. Monte Cooke, Ed Greenwood, Wes Schneider, and Wolfgang himself all contributed articles to this Autumn issue along with a host of additional authors. This issue of the magazine is appropriately themed Demons and Devils. A stunning cover by Emile Denis titled “Master of Demon Mountain” further reinforces the theme for this issue.

This issue contains 20 articles ranging from articles geared towards characters, design and DMing, Game Theory along with four feature articles. I will take a brief look at each of the feature articles and then highlight some of the other articles that stood out in my opinion.

Feature Articles

First up is Dispater by Wes Schneider. This article is a continued examination of the lords of Hell in the Golarion campaign setting from Paizo. Dispater is an archdevil who holds a reputation of Hell’s reasonable, rational and honorable overlord. The article goes into great depth about all things concerning this archdevil. Corruptions, Allies and Enemies, Souls and Servants, the Cult of Dispater and more are all covered. The article provides a wealth of information for the GM looking to bring Dispater to life in their campaign.

Next we have Slithering in Moonlight by Marc Radle. This brings the lamia to Pathfinder RPG as a player race. Details of physical description, society, relations, alignment and religion are all covered. Mechanics of playing a lamia including racial traits, a new oracle mystery, and new racial feats are also detailed. If you have players who prefer to play races out of the ordinary or as a GM you want more information for recurring NPCs, the lamia article will provide you with the information you need.

Of the four feature articles, Pages from Asmodeus by Ed Greenwood was my favorite. An article that covers the Vile Black Book we learn of an oversized spellbook with traps within its pages, spells that move about on the pages from one reader to the next and a wealth of new spells. Spellbooks is an area I consider an interesting area to play in. This article hits the mark quite well. Introducing this book into your campaign or using it for a model for other particularly notorious spellbooks in your game will cause players to use caution with new spellbooks they find.

The final feature article is Mechuiti by Adam Roy. Detailing the demon lord Mechuiti in the Midgard Campaign Setting. Lord of apes and cannibals this CR25 creature is not to be trifled with. History, allies and enemies, cults and followers are all described in this article. A full mechanical write-up of this massive beast is also detailed as well as some lowlier minions.  Whether you play in the recently released Midgard Campaign Setting or simply “borrow” this write-up for your own, there is something to keep your players on their toes.

Article Highlights

Continuing on into the magazine there are several other gems for GMs and players alike. The article Selling your Soul by Rodrigo Garcia Carmona was an interesting read. It outlines the process of striking a deal with the devil, covering research, summoning and negotiating for the deal. I found it an interesting look at this process that we often write off as “making a deal with the devil”. This article gives the GM some tools to add a little more to that transaction.

Sundering does not come up too often in my games, but the rules in Simplifying Sunder by R.C. Higgins brings an item condition scale that you move up as you attempt to sunder weapons. Also included are some additional modifiers for CMB and CMD stats for the weapons themselves. A good read and if I were to build a character with sundering in mind I would likely ask the GM if we could incorporate the ideas in this article.

Fruits of Friula by Christina Stiles provides more background of the city of Friula in the Midgard Campaign Setting and 14 inks and poisons. I sometimes think I am in the minority when it comes to enjoying reading about mundane or items just a touch above mundane items.  This article details poisons adding new descriptions and effects that Friula is infamous for. Rare inks and magical inks are also detailed. This is a strong article that can only add depth to your game as you incorporate these new poisons and inks.

Those are only a few of the articles in the magazine this quarter. Some will be interested in the Living Gods for 13th Age, or Ask the Kobold column or Monte Cook’s Different Kinds of World Building, and more.

The Art

Not to be overlooked is the art and graphic design of the magazine. A long list of artists’ work grace the pages of this magazine. All enhance the magazine really rounding it out and bringing things the articles talk about to life.

Wrap Up

The Autumn issue of Kobold Quarterly is again a stellar offering from the folks over at Open Design/Kobold Press. With articles to inspire, add depth to your game, and more it is well worth picking up. Even the system specific articles are easily ported over to your system of choice.

Kobold Quarterly is available from the Kobold Store in Print+PDF or PDF-only.

Tankard Rating
5 Tankards out of 5 Tankards

Note: The Iron Tavern was provided a review copy of this magazine, though that did not influence the review.

Mini-Review: Midgard iPad Atlas

Today I received my regular Kobold Courier email from the now Kobold Press. Immediately catching my attention was the phrase ‘Midgard iPad App‘. With my attention caught, I hurriedly opened the email to discover that Kobold Press has released a Midgard Atlas application for the iPad. This sounded very cool.

For those that are unfamiliar with Midgard, it is Wolfgang Baur’s personal campaign brought to the masses via the Open Design Project. With Wolfgang’s notes as a basis and lead design work by Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Grubb, and Brandon Hodge the patrons of the project worked hard to bring this campaign world to fruition. With efforts to produce rulebooks from Midgard for Pathfinder, D&D, and AGE rule systems it strives to be a setting for groups regardless of rule system choice.

This application for the iPad brings the entire world atlas to the iPad in zoom-able form. The map was created by Jonathan Roberts, a name well recognized in the RPG map-making community. Here are just a few of the highlights from the product page in the iTunes store:

  • Detailed maps of 9 major cities
  • Animated clouds
  • Removable text
  • High-resolution

I have played with the map on the iPad and was very impressed. I had some concerns my generation 1 iPad might be a little laggy with this application, but it zipped right along. I was able to zoom and move about the map with almost no delay.

The resolution of the map is spectacular. I could zoom in quite close on any terrain feature I wanted to see and it was quite clear. As noted above nine cities are included with detailed maps. I could readily tap on one of the detailed cities and pop open the city map and also zoom in and see wonderful detail as well. The detailed city maps are keyed with numbers as well.

The animated clouds passing over the campaign world are a neat touch as well. The animated clouds can be removed from the map at a touch of the button. The same goes for the text that is placed on the map, a touch of the button and it is removed form the map as well. Tap it again and the text reappears with city names and other noteworthy landmarks.

My only wish for the application would be to include textual pop-ups when in the detailed city map. Key buildings will have a number on them to indicate what they are in a look-up table. I would like to be able to tap the number on the detailed map and have the name (and since I am wishing here, a short description of the place too!) of the building pop up in a text box.

I think Kobold Press has shown other RPG publishers the new standard in electronic campaign maps. The application is available for $3.99 from the iTunes store. Check it out, if you like maps I think you will love this app.

While several screenshots are available at the iTunes store, I took a few to show folks some of the areas from the Midgard Atlas. I tried to show non-descript areas to avoid giving too much away. I also scaled the images down some as well.

Week In Review: 1/15/2012

image from Brendan Adkins

Welcome to another week in review at The Iron Tavern. I use these review posts to cover several items in one post that do not quite merit a post in and of itself.

Troll in the Corner

I recently became a contributing author over at Troll in the Corner. Ben had gone on a search for more authors to keep the content over there fresh and interesting. It looks like he has brought on a good crew and I am looking forward to see what the other new folk bring to the site. If you are interested you can catch my articles over there on Tuesdays.

Kingmaker Campaign

Things are going well in the Kingmaker campaign I am running. We missed this past week as one of our players could not make it and there was something that involved his character coming up that I did not want him to miss. Normally we would have gamed one player down, but circumstances and story dictated otherwise.

The group has faced their first major threat to their kingdom from another kingdom. The group was not real happy with the mass combat rules. I tried to let them know it was not a full mass combat system ahead of time so there would not be disappointment. We made it through, but I think their expectations were higher. Given the level of the characters when this occurs I think it might have been better to have the mass combat come earlier when the players would have been more content to lead armies than put themselves on the front lines.

If we can keep up our schedule for the next month and a half or so I suspect we will be wrapping the Kingmaker campaign up in early to mid-March. We shall see. It has been a fun campaign, but I will be looking forward to a chance to be a player again for a bit.

Open Design – Journeys West

I have been participating in the Journeys West project by the Open Design folks. So far I have been extremely pleased with my decision to participate in the project. Everything from the practice of pitching to the other patrons, to watching the others design and build and tweak to the Google Hangout opportunities with some of the others has made it a worthwhile experience.  I have made several pitches for various items so far and I think I have been making some improvements along the way. I look forward to what lies ahead for this Open Design project.

Timeless Adventures

Carl Bussler of Flagons and Dragons fame has been working on his self-publishing effort under the guise of Timeless Adventures. He’s tweeted a bit about it and been active on Google Plus as well. He has previewed various maps along they way and it looks like the project is going well.

I volunteered as a reader and hopeful play tester of the adventure. Those of us doing so received the first part of the module earlier this week and the final part arrived today. It looks very interesting and I am particularly interested to see how one mechanic works out.

I’ve started wrangling a play test group together. It is shaping up to be a remote session for those involved. At the moment I am leaning towards using Google Hangouts and sharing a Google Drawing document for combat encounters. I played with that setup earlier today and it seems promising and more lightweight than a full on MapTool session. Hopefully schedules will cooperate and we will get to see how that goes – both the adventure and the Google Hangouts and Drawing combination.

Gaming With Kids

As I have mentioned on the blog previously, my son received the Beginner Box for his birthday in December. We have had several sessions with that and he has been having a great time. He has also been studying the rule books on his own and seems to be retaining a lot of the information. He certainly reminds me of myself when I was only a year or so older than him and learning the D&D Basic Set.

We missed last weekend as I did not get an adventure prepared in time. I am all set for this weekend and will be playing Hollows Last Hope later today. He has been playing a Dwarven Wizard and his sister helps out as an Elven Cleric. We usually bring along one of the pregens as well. I let him choose which pregen to bring and he usually chooses either Merisiel or Valeros.

Weekly Wrap

And that is the week in review! I have certainly been keeping busy. Remember to watch for my Tuesday article at Troll in the Corner and keep an eye here for more!