Descended from Dragons: Kobold Quarterly

Posted in EpicTable Blog on July 31, 2008 at 1:57 am

Kobold Quarterly, Issue 5 - CoverKobolds. Plucky little reptilians that some (well…some of them anyway) say are descended from dragons. In the case of Kobold Quarterly however, one can easily see the Dragon heritage.

Hopefully, Kobold Quarterly is old news to you by now. If it’s not, and you’re a d20 gamer, you need to check it out. KQ fills the massive void left by the discontinuation of the printed versions of Dragon and Dungeon magazines. If you’re playing d20, you’ll find loads of information that’s very relevant to your game. Even if your gaming tastes run counter to d20, Kobold Quarterly might be worth a look.

Why you should consider Kobold Quarterly

Okay, first of all, the production values are outstanding. Kobold Quarterly doesn’t have the budget that Dungeon or Dragon magazines or the Paizo Pathfinder series has. Still, it has a surprising number of the same names among its contributors, and it’s very professionally done. KQ’s fifth issue was out this summer, and while it’s been a quality publication from issue 1, it has improved with each issue.

Pretty or not, a magazine has to provide some value to your game (or to your mind, I suppose) if you’re going spend your time and money on it. The value to d20 folks is pretty apparent, but if you parted ways with D&D when it went to 2nd or 3rd edition, I think you’ll still find a lot to like here. True, many articles have a d20 focus, but there’s a good bit of system-neutral content as well, and a lot of it has the flavor of 1st Edition with the sophistication of 3rd Edition. Even if you’re into story games and the like, there’s a good bit of material that can serve as inspiration.

Let me see if I can convince you to check it out with a few examples….

d20 Players

  • Character Design articles provide advice on character concepts, effective use of class abilities and feats, etc. Rather than a single column, they seem to often come in crunch/fluff pairs. For instance, Optimizing Power Attack dealt with the mathematics of combat, while “More than Dragon’s Blood” discussed the use of ancestral spirits as the source of your sorcerer’s power.
  • Can you really resist “Ecology of the Cloaker”? How about “Ecology of the Lich”? Homunculus?
  • “Unique Altars” will spice up that next temple your party sneaks into.
  • “Lessons from Arabia” discussed using language to add depth to your setting.
  • Skip Williams’ “Ask a Kobold” column provides answers and insight on rules questions.
  • “Eight Ways to up the Action!” presented rules variants meant to create a more cinematic game. I started using these in my game with a wild elf character, whose player was already disposed towards cinematic actions. It wasn’t long before the other characters started running around doing intersting, creative things as well.

Old School D&D Players

  • KQ is the spiritual successor of Dragon. The ecology articles, letters column, the current series of articles about the rulers of the Hells, even the black and white interior pages, ads for a wide variety of games and accessories…. It all harkens back to the early days of D&D. But don’t think this is just a rehash of the 70s and 80s. This is fresh, relevant content.
  • Never made the move to d20? “Ecology…”  articles for the Cloaker, Lich, etc. are useful, regardless of which edition you’re playing.
  • “Dangerous Doors” – the stats may be in d20 terms, but the ideas are universal and would make Grimtooth proud.
  • C’mon–it’s a kobold on the cover. Can you really be an old school D&D player and pass up a magazine with a kobold on the cover?

Story Gamers

Honestly, if you’re really into story games, there’s not a high percentage of content of interest to you. It’s definitely a D&D focused magazine and doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. However, there’s some content that’s game system neutral or nearly so, and certainly useful as inspiration if nothing else.

  • “Jezebel, Princess of Poison Winters” and “Arbeyach, the Prince of Swarms” are articles about rulers of Hell that provide great inspiration for a horror campaign. I’m dying to try some variant of these two as demons in a Sorcerer game.
  • Keith Baker’s article “Hardboiled Adventures” provides advice on noir campaigns. It’s useful, game system neutral info.
  • In articles on “The Free City”, Wolfgang Baur (Kobold in Chief) describes aspects of a fantasy city useful to a swords and sorcery campaign.
  • “Improving Your Improvisation” by Nicolas Logue offers advice on collaborative fleshing out of the setting and storyline.
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