Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review: Kobold Quarterly #10

When Kobold Quarterly came out initially, I was hesitant. I was a true fan of Dragon Magazine in it's heyday, and was sad to see it switch to 4e - a transition I was less then psyched about. From what I'd heard about KQ, it was designed to sort of pick up where Dragon left off. Truth be told, I've heard some great things about KQ and have been trying to come up with some article topics so I could write something for them, but I simply haven't had the time.

Regardless, I've wanted to sneak a peek at Kobold Quarterly for a while, and lucky me - here comes issue 10, and I've been asked to give a review/preview of it! I've seen a truckload of other bloggers already discuss the magazine so rather then give a breakdown of the whole issue, I'll discuss my thoughts on the parts which stuck out.

4e On The Horizon?

Several of the "letters to the editors" were from concerned readers worried or angered about the encroachment of 4e on the magazine. The response was a respectable one - namely that the magazine would follow what the subscribers were interested in. If subscribers played 4e, they would publish more 4e content, and same for 3.5 D&D.

This is quite sensible of KQ - why wouldn't you print what your subscribers wanted to read? It's nice to see that Kobold Quarterly is a flexible magazine that is both capable of growth, and eager to please.

Admittedly, being a diehard 3.5 fan, were I a subscriber it would be worrisome if KQ wasn't consistent with it's material, knowing that the next issue might only have a handful of articles I had any interest in. Dragon Magazine, for example, simply was 3.5 back in the day. Readers could count on that and it was never an issue - they knew they would get their moneys worth.

Now, this is hardly a soap box moment, but that issue caught my eye since I'd always heard KQ described as the new 3.5 magazine. Flexibility is a good thing, though I can see how some other 3.5 maniacs like myself might be a little put off by it.

Reader Friendly Layout

All in all, the magazine itself is a well-laid out collection of articles. Ads are quite large, but rarely invasive. The artwork is absolutely stunning. And the general type is easy on the eyes, and very readable.

I got a lot of old-school Dragon vibes from the layout and was overall very pleased with what KQ put forward. The magazine was masterfully crafted and a pleasure to read.

Great Article Content

There was a lot of great content throughout the magazine. From prestige classes to magic items to everyone's favorite monster: the gelatinous cube! Very cool.

As mentioned before, there were some 4e content articles which I skimmed over. I don't really know enough about the edition to know if the content was usable, but if the rest of the magazine was any indication, KQ is full of ready-to-use content.

The more I read, the more I was impressed by all of the many topics this issue covered. Spells, artifacts, playable templates, notes on classes, player advice, monster stats, and an entire playable character race! One of my favorite parts of Dragon Magazine was that I could find content on pretty much every page that was usable in my very next gaming session. Kobold Quarterly does not disappoint!

Unique Insights

One of the best parts about Kobold Quarterly was that the authors went above and beyond all the normal RPG topics to develop content dealing with unique and creative aspects of Dungeons & Dragons that I never would have even thought of.

One such article that really grabbed my attention was the introduction of Death feats and flaws - additions that can only be granted to a character after they've been brought back from the dead. Before I'd even finished the first page of the article I was printing it out and adding it to my Dungeon Master's Notebook.

Another article that stuck out to me was a short discussion on Lycanthropy and how to make it still instill fear in your players. Skip Williams offers some really great advice on the subject - the same great level of advice for both players and dungeon masters offered throughout the entire issue.

Informative Reviews

One really great feature that I'm glad to see echoed over from Dragon was a series of reviews for fantasy and RPG books on the market now. I was particularly happy to see a review of Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1 with a handful of the "best" articles in there pointed out.

My articles sadly didn't make the cut, but all of the reviews were well-thought-out and very informative.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, this magazine is great. Issue #10 is KQ's longest issue to date, but if the other issues carry the same density of ready-to-use content, then I am thoroughly impressed. I've heard wonderful things about KQ and this issue went above and beyond anything I could have expected. All the things I loved about Dragon Magazine have carried over beautifully in addition to the unique content KQ's writers have come up with beyond what I would have expected. Bravo.

You can check out Kobold Quarterly, purchase issue 10, and subscribe to their magazine releases at the KQ website:


Sam said...

I have heard comments that when 4th edition content is added they will simply increase the size of the magazine, so no 3.5 content will be lost at the 'expense' of 4e.

Storyteller said...

They did indeed hint at such a change in that very same section, but the whole issue I felt was slightly vague and noncommittal. The larger impression I got was that they would try to keep up the larger magazine size to add 4e if it seemed to be coming on board, but in the end if they had more interest in 4e then 3.5, they would wind up printing primarily what the subscribers wanted to read. In the end I certainly think they WANT to keep the 3.5 content strong regardless, but they didn't come right out and say they would never skimp on such content if 4e got a wide following among their subscribers.

I did fail to mention that in my post though (as I was trying to not let myself get dragged down in an edition war soapbox moment over a few letters to the editor) so thank you for pointing that out, you make a good point. They are certainly going to make an attempt which is very respectable.