I was lucky enough to receive a review, PDF copy of Kobold Quarterly #10 recently. When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I've been very curious about the magazine since it launched. It's received great reviews, even being called the rightful heir to Dragon magazine. Part of my curiosity, though, comes from the fact that Wolfgang Baur is the "Kobold in Chief." Mr. Baur gave me my first official rejection letters when I first started working on getting published professionally. They were very nice, personalized rejection letters, which made it clear that yes, he'd read it, and thought it was pretty good, but my stuff needed some work. And he was right. Since then, I've kinda kept half-an-eye on what he's been up to. His patronage-run Open Design project is fascinating from an industry viewpoint and has apparently turned out some neat product as well.
But both the Open Design and Kobold Quarterly are primarily focused on 3.x and 4e gaming. So while I'm interested, I've been more focused on Knockspell, Fight On!, Green Devil Face, and the like. Having read Kobold Quarterly #10, however, I'm tempted to make it part of my regular reading.
The cover looks like Dragon from '90s. It's got that glossy, "high quality," you-are-there look that reminds me of Parkinson, Elmore, and their ilk. The artist is Malcolm McClinton. I've only a passing knowledge of his work, but I like what I've seen. Unfortunately, like Dragon in the '90s, Kobold Quarterly clutters the cover with blurbs about what you'll find inside. While I'm sure it increases the number of people who pick up the magazine, and Mr. McClinton clearly made allowances for this sort of blurbage, it still makes me want to take a ball-peen hammer to someone's kneecaps. ;p
Inside, you'll find a veritable who's-who of D&D, stretching back into the '70s. We've got articles from Ed Greenwood, Monte Cook, John Wick, and Mr. Baur, and an interview with Jeff Grubb. While the crunch is heavily focused on 3.x and 4e, there seems to have been some attempt made to reach out to the Old School community. Most of the articles are idea, rather than crunch, heavy, and Ed Greenwood's article on a dwarven goddess has stuff that's easily transferred to any fantasy game. Monte Cook launches from the controversy over his use of the term "old school" when discussing his Dungeon-a-Day project to expound on just what the Old School movement is about. It's a surprisingly clear-eyed article which gets to the bedrock of what Mr. Cook sees as two separate themes which make up the Old School Renaissance. It's also another nudge towards me realizing that, while I love the OSR and working with the folks who are making it happen, my heart truly lies in the sort of gaming Mr. Maliszewski terms "Silver Age."
To continue the old school themes is an ecology of the hill giant. There's also an article on the halberd, for those of you who were infected with Mr. Gygax's polearm fetish. ;)
The big draw this issue, however, is probably the teaser material from Paizo's upcoming Pathfinder RPG. We get a quick overview from Jason Bulmahn of Paizo, which includes discussion of the open playtest process they went through and a sneak-peek at the shadowdancer prestige class. There's also some very interesting stuff on their Proteans.
Overall, there's a strong emphasis on cross-ruleset appeal. They've apparently started adding 4e material and beefed up the page count of the magazine so the 3.x fans don't feel cheated. A lot of what's in the magazine is also just cool ideas, with a few mechanics tacked onto it. Michael Kortes' article on feats and flaws available to characters who have been brought back from the dead is just asking for the Jeff Reints treatment of being turned into a random table, in spite of it clearly being written with 3.x in mind.
Overall, I had fun with this magazine, but not the sort of fun I had with Dragon. Part of that has to do with the goals of the magazines. When I started reading Dragon Magazine, with #74 in '83, it was the voice and town square of the hobby. In the days before the internet, we feuded and shared and bonded over the pages of that magazine. There were others out there, but Dragon was the biggie, and it carried ads and articles for all sorts of RPGs, boardgames, genre literature, and the like. From those days, Dragon always had an air of seriousness about it, a certain gravitas necessary to maintain its position as the voice of a hobby that sometimes found itself under fire. This only became more so after the infamous "Angry Mother Syndrome" editorial by James Ward and the magazine later becoming a house organ for WotC.
Kobold Quarterly, by contrast, has no such responsibilities or pretensions. It is, first and foremost, a magazine about entertainment, and it seeks to entertain. Mr. Greenwood's article about the dwarven goddess Ninkash is a subtle paean to the social benefits of alcohol. Mr. Baur's article is entitled "Elven Lust and the Green Gods". Things don't quite delve into the sort of juvenile, titter-inducing nonsense mainstream comics wallow in these days; this is no T&A magazine. But, like Paizo, the Kobold Quarterly folks seem quite happy to poke at the envelope of what is considered "acceptable" material for RPGs. The magazine is also laced with a certain playfulness that only showed up sparingly in the pages of Dragon. That sense of daring and fun appeals to me. Even if I don't get a subscription, Kobold Quarterly is now on my radar, and I'll be sure to at least thumb through the next issue to see what Mr. Baur has assembled to tempt me with.