Kobold Quarterly #17’s editorial dedicate this issue to villains (and villainy) and gives, right away at its first article, probably one of best treatments to the subject. Michael Korte’s “So We Meet Again” presents a simple, yet intelligent, nemesis rule through the use of metagame powers. The choice of using or not these special abilities is left to the players. Each nemesis ability gives a special power to both the player character and its nemesis. They can be used “on the fly” and are a brilliant way to reward memorable NPCs.
The next article presents famous cons and swindles, for rascals or thieves (practically systemless). Also on this side of the rules (or their absence) is “Lackeys, Hirelings and Henchmen”, a short but instructive text about these (un)important NPCs. “Its Not Supposed to End This Way” is one of my favorite articles of this edition and deals with an extremely interesting subject (consequences other than death to player character’s failures), although I did miss mechanical examples for some of the alternatives.
“The Scourges of Vael Turog”, for D&D 4th, is an article about magical diseases, based on the tiefling empire of Caermalrath, from the Midgard setting. Some of the plagues are so powerful (or weird) that they work like hazards or monsters. Also for the 4th Edition, “Elf Needs Food Badly” is about magical foods – small effects (like potions) that normally are activated during short rests. Finally, we get four new monk orders (whose background can be used in any system), each with a new magic item.
“Ambush in Absalom”, an official Pathfinder Society Quest, is a short chain of encounters in the sewers of the famous city. It can easily be incorporated in any urban adventure, and it reminds me of the Set-Piece encounters, from Paizo’s Adventure Paths. “Magical Squibs, Crackers and Fireworks” is all about magical pyrotechnical stuff (for obvious reasons it required a goblin illustration). “The Black Goat” is a nice variation on the tavern’s theme, by mixing it with a Lovecraftian monstrosity (and no, it’s not that lady). “Getting Ahead” is a great article about magical heads (including a new gruesome incantation).
“On the Streets and In the Books” which expands Dragon Age’s Stunt mechanics to chases and researches. And talking about DA, “Feats of Stunning, Might and Brilliance” show how famous the Stunt mechanics is and adapts the same design philosophy to Pathfinder and D&D 4th Edition. This is another highlight of this edition – I just wish the author had given some concrete examples.
For those Midgard fans out there (including me), “Group Concepts” is a delicious read, about how to establish backgrounds for adventurers groups. Each concept is followed by tantalizing examples taken from the Midgard campaign setting, which are more interesting than the article itself.
Monte Cook brings to us, basically, a “101 on Monster Creation” (systemless). While definitely useful to starter GMs, the article is too short and I got that impression that it was made just to fill this edition’s quota.
KQ #17’s interview is with Jeff Tidball, the author responsible for, among other things, the eagerly anticipated Dragon Age Set 2, from Green Ronin.
KQ #17 got, at least, 3 articles of amazing quality that are worth alone this issue’s price. At the ends this is another fine number of what I still believe to be the best RPG magazine in the market. It definitely is the most egalitarian, when the subject comes to game systems, and it has been very interesting to watch the continuous rise of the Adventure Game Engine system (from the Dragon Age RPG).