[Review] Kobold Quarterly 22
The gaming landscape is changing again (not that it’s ever really stable) with Pathfinder continuing to grow, the promise of a shiny new 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the upcoming 13th Age, and many more RPGs covering countless genres and play styles. Wolfgang Baur and the kobolds prove, once again, that they can deliver a Kobold Quarterly that not only caters for the biggest RPGs, but also introduces readers to (and enables them to try) new or different systems, while still providing a healthy helping of system-neutral advice.
A sampling of my favourite articles, from issue 22, are:
Blood Brothers, by David Schwartz, introduces a new twist on Pathfinder character archetypes. The blood brother archetype must be applied to two separate characters, which, after each taking the first level, are from thereon bonded as blood brothers. This rogue archetype includes a number of specialised rogue talents, called team talents, that allows a pair of players to create a variety of different characters, including a muscles and brains duo, a good cop and bad cop pair (or a bad cop and bad cop pair), or even a cunning pair of con men. The article goes beyond the mechanical though, giving advice about running bonded characters which can apply to any character build or RPG system beyond the blood brother archetype.
Rob Heinsoo introduces the Escalation Die mechanic from the upcoming 13th Age RPG. In this article, Heinsoo discusses the design ideas behind the mechanic and suggests how to incorporate into other systems. I thought that this was a great way to preview an upcoming game – it adds something to my existing games, while generating interest about 13th Age. The mechanic is actually quite elegant. At the beginning of an encounter, during the 1st round, the escalation die starts at zero and increases by 1 at the beginning of every following round. Players add the value of the die as a bonus to their rolls (different systems apply this bonus to different rolls). Additionally, all enemy defenses are at least one point higher than normal. This means, that in the first round of combat, the fight starts off really tough and rather desperate, but, if the heroes can survive for a few rounds, they can pull themselves together (thanks to the escalation die) and win the day. I like this mechanic so much, that I’m considering it for the next Pathfinder Adventure Path I run.
Hold ‘em for questioning, by Jeff Ibach, discusses the tricky topic of interrogations. Interrogation scenes tend to be some of the more difficult scenes to GM, depending on the players, the characters and theme and mood of the game. Ibach provides an interesting, yet powerful toolkit to help GMs run NPCs under interrogation, including attitudes, bargaining tools and tactics, and likely responses. This would definitely help me avoid the pitfalls commonly associated with player-led interrogations – frustrated players or long arguments about the morality issues and alignment implications surrounding torture.
Kobold Quarterly 22 is jam-packed with even more great GM advice, including a discussion on TPKs, by Steve Winter, and an article about the GM’s influence on a player character’s development, by Monte Cook. I’ll definitely keep issue 22 close to my Dungeon Master and Game Master guides and refer to it in all future planning. Of course, I highly recommend Kobold Quarterly 22.