Magazine Review: Kobold Quarterly Winter 2011 Issue 16

When the kobolds choose to cut loose one another issue of Kobold Quarterly, you can’t help but take notice. Kobold Quarterly Winter 2011 Issue 16 holds true to form from cover to cover. It’s tough to go wrong when you start with artist Kieran Yanner’s “Siren” seeming to gaze right through you with scales in all the right places. And then to end with a glimpse of Wolfgang Baur‘s Midgard campaign setting the issue just whets your appetite for the next issue.

But let’s dive into this issue, shall we?

Kobold Quarterly Winter 2011 Issue 16 Cover

The excitement in Wolfgang’s editorial “A World Lit Only by Magic” only reinforces the thought that Midgard will be a special place. His trepidation at releasing his campaign world – nay, his baby – into the world is tempered by the knowledge that he has help with the massive effort from Jeff Grubb and Brandon Hodge along with the patrons and freelancers assigned parts of the world. He and his book-shaped child will not be alone for long, as I suspect the world within is alive and teeming with people, places, and things to discover. I know I’ll be waiting to catch a glimpse of the magic of Midgard when it’s released!

From there, we’re carried to interesting worlds filled with a cross between magic and steam. “Ecology of the Gearforged” by Henry Brooks not only describes what the Gearforged (GF) are, but a bit of their history. Heroes of the City of Zobeck, the GF are mechanical masterpieces of clockwork and divine magic of the priestesses of Rava. Originally built to save the city, they live on as long as their spirits are willing and the mechanics can find parts. Though they may last forever, they aren’t without flaws and weaknesses. One of my favorite parts of the article is the “Limitations of Gears,” which focuses on how they may be corrupted over time. The thought of being limited by the soul inhabiting the GF is quite interesting in its own way, leading me to questions of what does a soul look like? What are the limits of a soul? What happens when the soul is corrupted in cruel ways by evil (or well-intentioned) beings?

After the Gearforged, we’re treated to a treatise on the courtesans of Zobeck called “Odalisques and Assassins” by Stefen Styrsky. It’s a tough transition from clockworks to courtesans, but somehow I think most of us can probably survive. This has to be the most detailed description of a harem I’ve ever read, and though there’s usually a “house of sin” in most of my campaigns, I have *no* idea why I never thought to make the ladies world-class assassins. It’s a perfect cover occupation. And once I hit upon the “Machine Mistress” comment on the second page, I understood why this article and the previous one work together so well… Though I was fascinated by the “Scholar-Courtesans of Seven Cities” and the “Temptresses of the River King,” I was shocked and intrigued by the “Famous Courtesans of Midgard” – especially Ou-Betta, a medusa bard/diviner. What a dangerous combination!

Then Robin Laws brings us all back to the reason we all game in an article by Jeremy L.C. Jones – “If You’re Having Fun: A Conversation with Robin D. Laws.” Why do we game? To have fun, of course! As Laws says – “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.” And he’s proven that he’s still having fun time and time again throughout his career… He’s still playing with his GUMSHOE System in his recent works. It’s been streamlined to keep the pace fast and frustration to a minimum. Like other systems, he’s found that it works in multiple genres from Cthulhu-mythos-based investigations to mutant worlds and the upcoming space opera Ashen Stars… The interview goes on to talk about Laws’ work with Pathfinder, the use of technologies for gaming, and even his work in fiction. The kobolds have done well to score another awesome interview!

Beyond that, the issue is crammed full of gaming goodies – from new magic items (“Magic Items of Golarion”, with some cool images of several of the items) to prestige classes (“The Clockwork Adept”), from a secretive brotherhood of hunters (“The Royal Order of the Golden Fox”) to a mini-adventure involving the tengu (“The Curse of the Blue Titchyboo”)…

But one article made me squeal with glee… “The Ring of Rule-Breaking” by Monte Cook talks about… you guessed it… a magical ring that has no rules. It’s not that the “power” behind the ring speaks like a surfer (“Like holy crap dude, you should really go check out the awesome thing here…”) or that sometimes the voice within doesn’t answer right away (“Hang on, I’ll get him”) but that the whole idea is that the ring talks to a gamer’s cell phone. Yes, you read that right. This gave Monte some amazing leeway in really helping or hindering the PC whenever he felt like it. He could tailor make effects to fit any situation however he saw fit. And though I’m sure it led to some entertaining situations, it also seems to have helped Monte out of a few tight corners as well. Having the freedom to break the rules behind the scenes sometimes is a powerful tool that all GMs should remember!

Though the fish lady on the cover might give you the evil eye, don’t let that stop you from opening Kobold Quarterly Winter 2011 Issue 16. There are treasures therein my friends… Treasures with few traps to trip you up!

(For reviews of older issues, be sure to see my review of KQ#15 and KQ#14!)

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