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Kobold Quarterly Magazine 23
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/01/2012 12:33:19
This issue of Kobold Quarterly has a distinct slant toward demons and devils, which is quite fitting for a Halloween issue. However, if fiends from the lower planes aren’t your thing, don’t despair – this issue also has over a dozen articles covering a wide variety of non-infernal topics. Let’s look at a few of them first.

What does your older brother plus a water balloon have in common with spreading dread amongst your players? More than you might think. The connection is explained, very eloquently and entertainingly, by Steve Winter in his Howling Tower article, “Real Scares, 11 Techniques for Creating a Strong Horror Atmosphere at the Table.” And no, absolutely none of the techniques involve hiring your older brother to ambush your players with water balloons.

James Thomas brings us “A Few Suggestions, 8 Ways to Influence Weak Minds.” With humor, concise examples, and even a Star Wars reference, Mr. Thomas shows that the humble suggestion spell is unfairly neglected by GM and players alike. And of course, he also shows how to easily remedy that neglect.

“Slithering in Moonlight” by Marc Radle is a guide to using Lamia Commoners as player characters. In addition, he also explores lamias in a way that recalls the excellent “Ecology Of…” articles from back in the print-edition days of Dragon Magazine. Whether as prospective PC’s or just as better-developed foes, this article improves the usefulness of lamias. Also, I thought the story fragment used to introduce this article was particularly effective.

“The Gauntlet Witch” by Morgan Boehringer and Jim Wettstein is an archetype that lets characters mix martial and magical arts. This is the most well-developed archetype description I’ve ever seen. Most archetypes are described in a couple of short paragraphs which say “swap this power for that power.” That’s not the case here. Brace yourself for a detailed, in-depth discussion.

This issue includes two adventures: The first adventure, “Devil’s Food” by Michael Lane, is suitable for a 6th level group. It involves autumn festivals, chocolate, and some wonderfully nasty gnomes. This adventure is set in the world of Midgard, but as with all good adventure modules, some careful name changes will let you securely place it in your own world.

The second adventure, “The Urge to Evolve” by Adam Daigle is a Pathfinder Society Quest. It is nicely compact, should be playable in the course of a single game session, and even includes a sidebar suggesting how to scale it for your group.

I do have one nit to pick with both these adventures. Both use the “I have a job for you” setup, which is one of my least-favorite ways to start an adventure. However, this complaint reflects my personal prejudice rather than any flaw in the adventures themselves, both of which looks like they will be properly entertaining.

Now let’s look at a sampling of the Fiendish Articles:

“Dispater” by Wes Schneider provides everything you need to bring this Arch-Fiend to life in your campaign. Giving major foes a real personality and complex, understandable motives can be quite a challenge … for me, anyway, but apparently not for Mr. Schneider. He shows exactly how to do it for this iconic arch-devil. He has even included a sidebar on the real-world history of Dispater.

Ed Greenwood gives us “Pages from Asmodeus”, a book unlike any I have ever heard of before. This evil object is more imaginative and intriguing than any of the Artifacts from back in 1st Edition days, yet it is suitable for use with a group of almost any level.

“Selling Your Soul” by Rodrigo García Carmona presents a detailed and excellent set of rules to guide both GM’s and players in striking a Fiendish Bargain. I am not familiar with the Age system for which this article was written, but that doesn’t matter. The information in this article is so clearly and logically presented that I know I’ll have no trouble at all adjusting it for use in my 3E/PF game.

Please be assured, I enjoyed all the articles in this issue, even the ones I didn’t choose to mention here. Every article had something interesting, useful, or entertaining to say.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 23
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Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/08/2012 14:31:09
The first thing to notice about this book is its beautiful cover art. The next thing to notice is it size - it is just shy of three hundred pages. Even though I received a reviewer’s copy a few days ago, it is so massive that I’m still just scratching the surface. It is also staggeringly imaginative - not surprising, as there were a hundred or more people contributing ideas for Midgard’s editors to pick through and use.

This book has all the things you expect and need from a campaign setting: Regions, races, geography, culture, gods and pantheons, customs, trade, technology, maps, new feats and regional traits, new magic items, new spells, political intrigue, wars… The list of things that need to be discussed to do justice to Midgard seems endless. However, the time and space to discuss them aren’t. So, to keep this review manageable, here are my three favorite discoveries so far:

Ley Lines: Mythology and literature often describe certain “places of power”, where magic is stronger or stranger then elsewhere. While there has never been anything stopping DM’s from creating such locations, early FRPG’s offered little to no support for this idea. Current editions do noticeably better, but still leave most of the details up to individual GM’s, offering encouragement but scant guidance. The Midgard Campaign Setting has richly developed the idea of ley lines. Descriptions, tables, and imagination positively drip from the pages. Want to surprise your players with some locations where magic takes on a life of its own? Here it is, all laid out and ready for you to use.

Divine Masks: Sometimes, the gods are not who they seem to be. I’m particularly happy with this idea for three reasons: First, it’s historically accurate. The Romans used a concept very similar to this when they wanted to reconcile their ideas of how the gods worked with their neighbors’ ideas of how the gods worked. (“Minerva? Sure the Egyptians worship her just like we do, but they call her Isis.”) Second, I’ve never seen it used, mentioned, or even hinted at in any FRPG until now. In other words, from a gaming perspective, this idea is 100% novel and new! Third, masks help restore a sense of mystery, power, and grandeur to the gods; something they’ve struggled to maintain ever since the first printing of “Deities Demigods and Heroes” rolled off the presses almost forty years ago. I think this idea is going to help GM’s make the religions of their world more vibrant, interesting, and meaningful.

Portability: Since Midgard is an integrated, self-contained campaign setting, I wasn’t really sure at first how much of it could be harvested for use in my own world. To my great delight I have found that most, maybe all, of the basic ideas in this book are portable. As I already mentioned, Ley Lines and Divine Masks can easily be used in anyone’s current game world. Even entire regions can be transplanted if you so desire. Portability is important to me because that’s how I use almost all gaming supplements: I extract the ideas and fit them into my already-existing campaign. Portability means the Midgard Campaign Setting is valuable to me even though I’m not planning to give up my own homebrew world. I can use the vast amount of information and ideas in this book to make my own world better.

I leave you with three conclusions I’ve come to regarding Midgard.

Conclusion #1: Everything I’ve read adheres to the exceptional quality I’ve come to expect from Kobold Quarterly’s Open Design process.

Conclusion #2: This book will provide many weeks of enjoyment simply from reading it to discover all its secrets.

Conclusion #3: Once you begin actually using its secrets in your game, it will provide many years of additional enjoyment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
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