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Kobold Ecologies $9.99
Average Rating:4.8 / 5
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Kobold Ecologies
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Kobold Ecologies
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Benjamin M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/31/2009 15:35:25
This is a nice soft cover, perfect bound collection of mostly OGL and a couple 4E baddies-- each with a hearty helping of "fluff," in the form of background, lore, physiology, society, and then something specific to the monster. For the centaur this was equipment and medicine. For cloakers, it was psychology. For the maened, this was religion and the derro gave us a very cool set of incantations to play with later. The text is decently edited, and reads well enough that you forget this is a book with over a half dozen contributors, rather than the work of one author.

Then there's all that delicious crunch to go along with it. We get feats, crafts, poisons, and of course, with every entry, a fleshed out stat block of an example that puts the material through its paces. The bargest would make a good reoccuring lieutenant or low/mid-level primary villain. A great story arc could be focused on the liches and an entire campaign could be based around the phantom fungus. It's great to have all the material from nearly three years worth of magazines compiled into single book. The two new entries-- the half-giant and the retreiver are excellent additions, providing an OGL take on a closed content race, and putting an interesting spin on a monster that never quite got the proper transition from its Planescape roots.

My only complaint about this book has to do with some of the artwork. Many of the primary pieces for the entries were either in color in the original publications, or slightly smaller. Now the pieces are either too dark because the original color image was simply printed in black and white, or slightly pixellated. Both are frustrating, because I know the art looks good on the PDFs, and probably in the PDF of this book, but it's not done justice in the printed book. I know there are difficult choices to be made for small press print runs, but I think that the images should have been converted to more legible black and white before the print run, or we should have paid the extra for the color plates in the interior.

Overall, I'd recommend Ecologies, but mostly for the OGL player and those 4E players who don't mind doing their own conversion work. It's a tough sell for the time-pressed 4E crowd with only two entries-- they might be better served purchasing KQ7&9. For the OGL crowd, it gives you some great twists on known creatures and plenty of time-saving stat blocks. This is definitely a nice purchase for you.

EDIT: Having seen the price for the color interior @ http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/kobold-ecologies--
vol-1-full-color/6947927, you could have the PDF and the print for the cost of the color Print copy. Wow! Something to consider...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobold Ecologies
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2009 21:04:24
Monster ecologies are undeniably a classic staple of the world’s favorite fantasy role-playing game. Almost from the beginning of its official magazine, various issues would have an ecology article dedicated to fleshing out monsters that often seemed to make little sense when only viewed through their oftentimes all too brief stat block. While they took many forms, these articles never got old, because there were always more monsters left to write about; a lesson that Kobold Quarterly didn’t fail to take to heart from its very first issue, as each issue has contained an ecology thus far. These ecologies, plus a few extras, are now collected for the first time as Kobold Ecologies vol. 1.

Don’t let the name of this book fool you, though, as kobolds themselves are nowhere to be found here. Rather this book covers a dozen classic monsters – the derro, barghest, lich, cloaker, homunculus, phantom fungus, centaur, golem, maenad, half-giant, retriever, and revenant all get coverage here. While the first nine creatures are from the pages of the first nine issues of Kobold Quarterly, the last three are all-new. It bears noting that most of these ecologies are meant for 3.5 gaming. The centaur ecology is 4E-specific, and the maenad ecology has some 4E sidebars, but that’s the sum total of 4E support.

There’s little commonality between the articles in terms of style, because each is written by a different author, though all take the form of out-of-game dissertations on the monster in question (though often with snippets of in-game writings about the creatures), rather than telling a story with footnotes (a la the old “Monster Hunters” ecology articles). Given that, it’s hard to rate the book overall, as the quality of the articles varies depending on which one you read. The ecology of the lich, for example, doesn’t really expound on the creature very much beyond what we already know, basically going over that liches perform unspeakable acts to become liches, that they occupy their endless time with myriad long-reaching plots, and that they eventually become demiliches. On the other hand, the phantom fungus article blew me away with its bold reimagining of the creature, painting it as just one part of a Lovecraftian “fungal collective” which include the mi-go at the top; a brilliant idea that makes this otherwise-silly monster into something else altogether. Luckily, the majority of the articles are of a higher quality like this one, so the book carries itself very well.

It’s also worthwhile to point out that all of the ecology articles have some level of crunch in them. From stat blocks for new monsters to new feats and more, each article has a disparate amount of new materials to add to your game, though it’s always specific to each monster. If you want your retrievers to be customized with different powers from the standard fare, for instance, you’ll find a wide selection of alternate abilities here.

Finally, the book does a good job on the technical side of things as well. Bookmarks to each ecology are present, and the text layout is crisp and easy to read. Each article opens with a piece of artwork, usually color, and often has a few more pieces spread out through its length. Bookmarks are present at the top and bottom of each page, but they’re relatively minor. There is no printer-friendly version of the book, however, so if printing is an issue, you might run into a few problems here – it’s unlikely though, as the book never feels cluttered with art.

Altogether, Kobold Ecologies volume 1 does a good job living up to the standard set by its predecessor. The articles are, for the most part, very insightful and do a good job breathing new life into classic monsters, both with evocative flavor text and great new rules mechanics. If any of the monsters covered by this product are ones that appear in your games with some frequency, you should definitely pick up Kobold Ecologies.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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