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1,000-Word Rebuttal: Against the Fetish of Progressive Design

220px-Action_Comics_1This blog hosted “Penny Dreadfuls: Against the Nostalgia Fetish in Fantasy Roleplaying” yesterday, a pleasant-but-perhaps-confused rant against nostalgia in roleplaying game design, and in favor of progress and modernity. Maybe I’m just old enough to see the upside of the conservative worldview, but let me be the first to say “bah, nonsense!” and offer this brief rebuttal in the voice of reason. I fully realize that in doing so, I can expect to insult every active gamer in a slightly different fashion than Mssr. Hebert did.

Yes, roleplaying games in general and Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder RPG in particular do revel in the antique, the ancient, the dusty tomes—as part of the genre, and as a focus for world building. But this is hardly a fetish for nostalgia or a clinging to the outworn and lackluster rules of yesterday. It’s just part of the character of its novels and settings. Fantasy RPG fans also like Renaissance fairs, medieval weapons, and tales that lean toward sagas and hero-quests. Comes with the territory.

Steady Improvement
But RPG fans preferring antique game design? Not at all, and to the contrary. Most gamers are happy to recognize and embrace a core of functional, pleasurable, and workable rules, rather than chasing after every gaming fad and novelty.

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Defenders of Midgard Are Here! Seven New D&D Themes and More

The Defenders of Midgard coverThe next edition of Dungeons & Dragons is on the horizon, and players have more options than ever to get their tabletop fantasy fix. It’s in this spirit that we present The Defenders of Midgard, available at DriveThruRPG and Paizo, with 7 outstanding new themes — and lots of other crunchy D&D goodness — made possible by the generous patrons of the Midgard Bestiary for 4th Edition.

Lead designer Brian Liberge says,

“The options in this book showcase what makes Midgard unique and fun for players. We focused on granting options that can be of use immediately, so almost everything is for the heroic tier of play. With this in hand, you can craft a Midgard player character who stands out from the PCs of any other setting.”

4th Edition D&D players now have a toychest that offers more options and new powers well-suited to adventures in a Dark World of Deep Magic. Read more about what’s included after the jump:

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Kobold Quarterly 23 Now Available

KQ 23 CoverBursting from the infernal depths in a cloud of fire and brimstone comes Kobold Quarterly’s Fall 2012 issue! Either this is the promised “demons and devils” issue, or the magazine is being guest-edited by Ronnie James Dio.

This issue is packed with Stygian foes, diabolical adventure, cannibal demon apes, soul-sundering artifacts and evil chocolatiers. Kobold Quarterly # 23 includes:

  • The dark aristocratic glory of Dispater, First King of the Infernal City by Wes Schneider
  • The Vile Black Book, a grimoire written by Asmodeus himself, with five new diabolical spells by Ed Greenwood
  • Mechuiti, Midgard’s demon lord of apes and cannibals, with new spells, monsters and adventure hooks by Adam Roy
  • “Devil’s Food”, an adventure among Midgard’s sinister gnomes by Michael Lane
  • “The Urge to Evolve”, a new Pathfinder Society Quest by Adam Daigle
  • GM tips from Steve Winter on creating an atmosphere of horror at the table

KQ # 23 also features inks and poisons from Midgard’s Seven Cities by Christina Stiles, worldbuilding with Monte Cook, Living Gods for 13th Age by Ash Law, a lamia PC race by Marc Radle, plus devil-smiting, soul-selling, and the ever-popular Ask the Kobold with Skip Williams.

The full table of contents for this issue is after the cut:

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You’re Cursed!

An engraving depicting the pirate Edward England with, in the background, the fight of the Fancy (left) and the Cassandra
Imprecations—curses—are as old as recorded memory. They appeal to supernatural powers to inflict harm on a person or group. Practiced by many cultures, the curse usually involves crafting an effigy of the victim with clay, stuffed cloth, wax, or wood, and marking or painting to represent the target. Though malicious and spiteful evil magic, the curse is sometimes used by good- and neutral-aligned characters to harm enemies. Those acquiring a curse may have disturbed a restful tomb, stolen a particular object, or pushed the alignment envelope. A curse can also be a blessing in disguise: it can help flesh out a character’s persona by adding an attack or ability, or it could provide the gamemaster ample fodder for adventure design. For example, African and European cultures mixed together among the islands of the Caribbean Sea, spawning legends of cursed men, places, ships, and treasures. Those enjoying the short and merry life of corrupt codes, debauchery, and scoundrel deeds paid them great heed.

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Howling Tower: Rise of the Miniature

Philip J. Viverito's "Siege of Alesia" game at Cold Wars 2010 (Photo: Steve Winter)
It’s a piece of RPG legend that D&D arose from wargaming. Although that’s true, it’s a case of something not really meaning what people think it means. A more accurate statement would be that D&D arose not from wargames but from wargamers. After all, the magical spark at the core of D&D is that it wasn’t just another wargame; it was a little of this and a little of that rearranged into something startlingly new and different.

But the inventors and early adopters of D&D were steeped in wargaming ideas, and they left a strong imprint on the game. Typically, this influence gets simplified to the most recognizable of the wargamers’ tools—miniatures—yet miniature figures are probably the least of the ways in which wargaming influenced RPGs. Early editions of D&D stated clearly that the game didn’t need miniatures at all. That was an important declaration, because rules for miniature wargames are what TSR published in the early 1970s. Anyone who bought a rulebook from TSR expected it to be for and about miniatures; hence the need to be up front about what people were buying.

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