Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Augury - Kobold Quarterly #18 Special Edition

Kobold Quarterly special 100-pages edition is here, with probably the best cover in the magazine’s history. It’s literally gorgeous and with a classic touch that reminds of the best covers of DRAGON. However, you may take this compliment with a grain of salt as I recently discovered that I’m a total fan of Kieran Yanner color art – especially when it deals with dragons. In Wolfgang’s editorial we get the confirmation that this is a dragon-themed issue and how “jerky” these mythical beasts can be – which always increase exponentially the fun of hunting and slaying them.

Ok, now to articles.

Steve Kenson’s Gift of the Gods, for the AGE system (from Dragon Age), has probably the beast take on divine characters for fantasy RPGs. Instead of using a cleric class, we got different “templates” of divine champions that can be applied over warriors, rogues and mages. This approach is in my opinion perfect for Sword & Sorcery games. We also get new rules for Divine Stunts.

The next article is a full base class – the Savant proposes to be a “jack-of-trades” class. The Savant has medium Attack Bonus (and d8 as HD), good Fortitude and Will saves and a good selection of skills (including all knowledge skills). The class’ abilities are based on trades or roles that a Savant keeps on his notebook – these grant access to knacks or powers, which range from buffs, abilities of other classes to even spells. The Savant also possesses numerous unique abilities, like the invoking Avatars of Legend – special cohorts. It’s a difficult class to grasp with a first reading as it’s really very open-ended. My personal beef with the Savant is similar to my problem with the Factotum class from Dungeonscape – they’re too “metagamic” for me. I know that they were made to be “chameleon classes” but the way the authors choose to grant their abilities doesn’t make any sense to me within a campaign setting’s verisimilitude (i.e. the Savant/Factotum is just a bunch of cool powers put together and called a “class”, without any cohesion or logic).

This Kobold Quarterly brings solo adventurers – which are always fun to play, particularly for those of us that played Fighting Fantasy books.

This issue’s Ecology article is for D&D 4th Edition and deals with the minotaur culture of Midgard, keeping the setting’s excellent tradition of mixing lesser know mythologies and legends with edgy and interesting twists. The minotaurs of Midgard are clearly Greek-based, with a lawful mindset and a deep hate of dragonkind. For the rules-minded reader, there’re new divine boons for the horned champions.

Now, my favorite part of this Summer issue – “The Exorcists” is a fiendish non-orthodox 1st level adventure that will probably drive your players made. It’s that good! To give you (a vague) idea of the adventure, it puts the player characters against a demon-possessed golden dragon. It’s a wonderful one-shot design, something that I rarely see done with Pathfinder.

The next article is also for Pathfinder and presents the Dragon Hunter prestige class. No more commentaries needed. Going back to the 4th Edition we get rules for siege engines and game advices for running your classical Sherlock Homes mysteries with fantasy elements. Yet on the D&D, there’s a very interesting article on the esoteric (and infernal) art of selling souls and the benefits found therein. On Pathfinder now, we have rules for syngergistic magic – how to combine two spells in one.

Monte Cook’s Game Theories talks about how the Gamemaster deals with suspension of disbelief within his group – especially when certain fantasy elements or aspects are considered almost “physical laws” by most players.

“Battle Wizards and Sword Maidens” brings a list of asian fantasy movies that should give good ideas for Gamemasters and players alike. Another systemless article is “10 Reasons Why Your Character Should Be In Jail” – some quite original in RPGs like being arrested for NOT carrying a weapon, missing church or draft dodging.

“Into the Dragon’s Den” has rules for introducing aura spell-like abilities – supernatural traits shared by a dragon’s allies (or any creature) inside the monster’s lair. The article provides rules for Pathfinder and D&D 4th.

“The Heroic Flaw” introduces character traits for D&D 4th in the form of background elements (like Otherworld Pact or Code of Honor) which – when responsible for the good roleplaying or some noteworthy action – results in the player gaining Trait Points to spend in temporary bonuses (it’s very similar to Fate Points, from the FATE system).

“Who Watches The Watch Fires” is a 4th Edition adventure for paragon characters of 4th level.

“Beast Masters” is a great article for Pathfinder that provides an alternate version of the Leadership feat focused on beast companions, including the much needed guidelines for awakened animal cohorts. Still on Pathfinder, “Cavaliers of Flame and Fury” describes 2 new draconic cavalier orders for the Midgard setting.

Finally, “Wings, Scales, and Claws” details the weird dragon knows as the Kharalang that haunts the Rothenian Steppes of Midgard. As usual with all Free City of Zobeck articles, we get one page of pure flavor and adventure ideas, based on Eastern Europe (or One Thousand and One Nights) legends or style.