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Seems I've been somewhat in the dark with RPG magazines of late - the later issued Dragon and Dungeon magazines weren't quite exciting me as, say, my copy of the Dragon Magazine Archive (Issues #1-#250 of Dragon). The few WotC published "Dragon Magazine" articles I saw published on the web weren't any more appealing to me. So I pretty much assumed the print market for RPG Magazines related to D&D had dried up.
I was recently lent a stack of Kobold Quarterly magazines by an old friend. The glossy covers were certianly appealing, but artwork alone isn't enough reason to buy an RPG magazine. When I read through Issue 10 (the first issue this friend had) I was stunned at the writing. A ton of great material, fodder for campaigns, rules explanation and enhancements and stuff I could use across any version of D&D (Issue #10, apparently, was the first version of the magazine to put little boxes up top that indicated if the material in the article was for 3.5, Pathfinder, 4.0, etc).
Since Issue #10 was recently reviewed (quite favorably - a review I agree with), I decided to take a look at Kobold Quarterly - Issue #11.
Like the previous (and subsequent) issues, this one has a nice glossy cover with a reasonable amount of fine artwork throughout. The layout is near perfect as it doesn't force you to jump to the back-end of the magazine to finish an article. You can read this almost like a book - each article typically spans one, two or three pages with the occasional side-bar box with rules/flavor or maybe a clever cartoon. When you open the magazine, the first real page is a big, bright table of contents without any additional clutter which helps you locate an article of interest. More than once I've gone back looking for something and knowing I can glance at the first page to see where the article is.
I noticed some familiar names when reading this particular issue. John Wick and Monte Cook are two of my favorite designers/writers and I was pleased to see they got some good page time here and apparently this is true of other issues a well. One of the more lengthy and well-written articles is about the androgynous breed of Dwarves called the Uvandir who are unsurpassed as craftsman and hard workers. Those Uvandir Dwarves remaining are the last of their line - they have no way to reproduce. But they seem to last a long time - and they produce goods and works so fine that their work will live long after they are gone. It's a fascinating sub-culture of Dwarves which can be blended into any fantasy campaign (though the article was specifically written for 3.5).
My favorite article in this issue was The Spell-less Ranger which works from the premise that Aragon was a ranger who was not a spell caster. This article offers a full treatment of modifications to the standard Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ranger with the removal of spells. In place, there are a number of new Class Features and tweaks which balance out the loss of spells to make a truly classical Ranger-type. At higher levels (where the Pathfinder rules would grant spells), the Ranger now selects from a number of Ranger Talents where they gain expertise in a particular area. Many are in tracking, hunting, additional favored enemies, trap handling, etc. All very cool and all very much in keeping with the Aragon-image of a Ranger. There are also new feats specific to this Ranger build that allows a higher level of expertise and potency while in their favored terrain. The article concludes with a full table showcasing this new Spell-less Ranger from Level 1 to Level 20. I'm very likely to play this class in the future as the thought of a Ranger without spells really fits with my original internal concept of the class.
Issue #11 of Kobold Quarterly seems on par with the others I've read (Issue #10 - #16) and that's no bad thing. The quality of the periodical is very high. With 3 months between issues, they can really cram a large number of high-quality articles (in this case, 18 articles plus the opening letter from the Kobold-In-Chief Wolfgang Baur). If you haven't checked out an issue of KQ yet, you can get back-issues both in print and in PDF. Their typical print distribution includes a copy of the same issue in PDF (though a lower-cost PDF only distribution is available). If you were part of the Haiti bundle in 2009, you also got a copy of this very issue (#11) which is likely sitting on your hard drive going unnoticed. Read it!
I was recently lent a stack of Kobold Quarterly magazines by an old friend.
I used the creatures from the Ecology of the Phantom Fungus in Issue #6 extensively in the Mutants and Masterminds campaign I ran last year for you guys. So this periodical inspired me to use a set of monsters for a completely different system (albeit still d20). I highly recommend these magazines for all sorts of inspiration.
paz AKA Matt Lewis
Going gentle into that good night
Badger badger badger
On the subject of rangers without spells, there is also the Skirmisher variant in the Advanced Player's Guide (page 128).