Thursday, July 12, 2012

Augury - Kobold Quarterly #22

A new Kobold Quarterly is here, this time with more game systems! This issue’s Editorial highlights the moment of our hobby, mentioning not only D&D 5th, but also other exciting games like 13th Age and even retroclones, like Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It really seems that we’re seen some kind of resurgence, like in the good old days of D&D 3rd (11 years just flew by).

The first article is about Barbatos, the Gatekeeper of Golarion’s Nine Hells (Pathfinder). The Bearded Lord is very different from your typical devil and has a great vibe for a witch patron, in the best Salem-like (or Lovecraft-like) style. Barbatos view of chaos and nature also provides ample game hooks. The article also presents us with a cool new infernal bloodhound, although what really stands out are the new infernal manifestations – haunt-like mechanics that capture, with simplicity, the flavor of infernal and heretical rituals easily accessible to any sinner (or player character).

The next article is for D&D 4th and details the Dragonkin, a variant of dragonborn for the Midgard Campaign Setting, together with new powers and feats.

Monsters of Morphoi is a Sneak Peek of the Pathfinder patronage product Journey to the West. The entire setting of the Isle of the Morphoi has a fascinating and mythic Greek vibe to it, with trapped goddess, cursed priests, ancient prophecies and lots of monsters. The article details not only the shapeshifting (and delicious weird) morphoi, but also provides stats for other monsters. However, the coolest part is that these stats are for Castles & Crusades (being easily adaptable to AD&D 1st, 2nd and almost any retroclone out there). Kobold Quarterly indeed is the Switzerland of RPG these days – and I’m very glad for that.

Blood Brothers, our next article, provides a new rogue archetype for Pathfinder, representing classical heroes, like Fafrhd and the Grey Mouser. The cool part is that this is an archetype that must be taken by two characters.

Monte Cook’s article – The GM’s Influence on Character – raises a very interesting and often overlooked point: how characters built after the campaign started are different (considerably) from those PCs that manage to stay alive since the first levels. This usually comes up when a PC dies in the middle of a campaign and the player builds a new one from scratch – rarely this new character is as interesting or unique as those that survived so far. While this may sounds obvious to some, the question of how to insert and better “personalize” this new PC is an important and useful subject. Unfortunately, Monte doesn’t go that far with his article.

The Escalation Die marks the first presence of 13th Age at the pages Kobold Quarterly and it couldn’t have picked a better topic. Basically, the Escalation Die is a d6 that measures dramatic tension – it starts at 0 and increases by 1 each round. The number on the dice is added to the PCs actions (and in 13th Age it also indicates when some special abilities are used or activated). The greatest aspect of this mechanic is that it simulates flawlessly the dramatic trait of movies and novels where the main hero only use his most powerful moves at the end of the combat (can you remember the last time it happened at the game table?). The article provides advices on using the Escalation Die in Pathfinder, D&D 4th (and previous editions), the AGE system… even Feng Shui.

This Quarterly’s Howling Tower addresses total party kills (the famous TPK) and how to deal/avoid them. It’s short but very useful and refreshing, listing not only the most common reasons, but providing solid and good advices for actually taking advantage of TPK situations. One the best GM’s advice articles that I’ve read.

Weapons for a New Age brings firearms rules for the AGE system, together with new talents and magic items. Articles like these are making each Kobold Quarterly into an (official?) AGE supplement and really expanding the game’s horizons. Another ‘must have’.

What’s right for the game is an interview with Paizo’s luminary Jason Bulmahn.

Hold’em for Questioning is all about PCs trying to extract information from NPC, particularly those you (the GM) didn’t expected. The cool bit here is the various tables with NPC reactions – excellent if you love improvisation. Although aimed at Pathfinder and D&D 4th, it’s practically system-less.

Dwarven Magical Rings brings 15 new magic items for Pathfinder. There’re conventional rings here, but these days I’m a little tired of bonus and spell-like abilities. Thankfully, we also have unconventional ones – and these are a blast! – like the band of second chances, the corpse’s peace and specialist’s band.

The Scaled Steamhouse, for D&D 4th, is a mix of a location, a few additional “terrain” powers and a series of game hooks for (Paragon or Epic) adventures in the region of the Mharoti Sultanate (in the Midgard Campaign Setting). However, the location is easily adapted to any setting.

A Pathfinder Society Guide to Varisia is a primer to Golarion’s most famous wild region, home to the first three Pathfinder Adventure Paths (including the all-time classic Rise of the Runelords).

The Void of Veles is our obligatory 1-page of new material for the Midgard Campaign Setting. As usual, Wolfgang doesn’t disappoint. In this short essay he addresses some cosmological traits of Midgard and the dangers that inhabit the Void. Excellent stuff!

Kobold Quarterly #22 is now clearly becoming a full RPG magazine, not only a d20-specific magazine. I can only hope that this approach is kept in the future (and that, maybe, we can see one or two article for really different games in each quarterly). I can’t wait for the next issues.