Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kobold Quarterly #13: A Must Buy for Dragon Age RPG Fans

Longtime readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Wolfgang Baur and his Open Design Project. I am also a big fan of his quarterly role playing game magazine Kobold Quarterly and have been a subscriber since day one. I have watched as this magazine went from a primarily pdf product, where one had to special order the staple bound black and white version of the first issue, to the full color slick paper state of the art product it is today. This quick transition is no surprise as Baur has extensive experience as a magazine editor.

Throughout the magazine's run, I have only had one small complaint -- and it is very small. I have been disappointed that the magazine limited its focus to d20 (and after the new edition's release 4E) articles. The magazine's subtitle has been "The Switzerland of the Edition Wars. The market lacks a non-house organ magazine, one that covers gaming products from a wide variety of publishers. Early in the gaming hobby, there were a number of magazines that covered the role playing hobby as a whole. TSR's Dragon magazine and Games Workshop's White Dwarf weren't always house organs that only provided content related to their respective companies, they covered the industry as a whole. Add to these magazines like The Space Gamer, White Wolf, Shadis, and Pyramid, and you have a long tradition of magazines covering the broader hobby.

This tradition largely died when Pyramid ceased print publication and became an online subscription. Fans were left with only one magazine that covered the field, Knights of the Dinner Table. While Knights contains articles that cover he hobby, it cannot be argued that the magazine's primary purpose is the comic strips it contains and the promotion of Kenzer Company related gaming products. Knights is a good magazine, that does have some broad coverage, but it is still primarily a house organ. There is also the small print run magazine Polymancer, but that product has yet to get wide enough distribution to fill the much needed hole in the market -- a hole made all the bigger when ceased to be the news source for the gaming hobby.

Thankfully, Kobold Quarterly has begun to see some generic and non-D&D (retro, modern, post-modern versions) content filling its pages of late. Key among these offerings is in the Spring 2010 issue. In the issue, Chris Pramas -- lead designer on Green Ronin's excellent Dragon Age RPG -- has written an article that will allow fans of Green Ronin's flagship Freeport line of products to translate their tales to the AGE engine used by the Dragon Age RPG. It will also help to expand the gaming horizons of new gamers who were introduced to the hobby by the Dragon Age RPG. The article provides character creation rules for nine backgrounds based on Freeportian archetypes. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Green Ronin's Freeport, it is a setting that combines traditional fantasy elements with tropes from pirate stories and horror elements from the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft. Imagine Elven pirates wielding fireballs while battling Eldritch Horrors who fire cannons from their tentacle beards and you have some sense of the setting -- make sure you don't forget the Serpent men and the Yellow Sign. It's a fun setting and it is nice to see Kobold Quarterly publish support material for an wonderful new role playing game. The fact that the material is based on content originally designed for d20 makes the publication of the article even more appealing. It demonstrates that Baur is willing to promote articles that seek to expand the gaming horizons of all of its readers.

This takes Kobold Quarterly beyond the status of "The Switzerland of the Edition Wars," and places it at the "Publication on a Hill Promoting All Aspects of the Hobby" status.

Kudos to Baur, and thanks to Chris Pramas for giving us Dragon Age RPG fans a background for Gnomes. The DM in me cringes at the incorporation of Gnomes, but one of the players in my group will certainly be grateful.

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