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Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekend R&R: Fantasy Races Unlocked - Kobolds

For a few gamers, the name Christina Stiles will be a bit familiar.  The first time I encountered the name was with a pair of Dungeon Crawl Classics modules published by Goodman Games.  These were 'Assault on Stormbringer Castle' and 'The Stormbringer Juggernaught' -- both great modules written for D&D 3.x.  Christina has been involved in many different gaming projects over the years and also been a friend to Castles & Crusades.  Recently and under the label of 'Christina Stiles Presents', she has joined the tiny and select membership of third party publishers to produce material for C&C and has released a PDF entitled 'Fantasy Races Unlocked: Kobolds'.

I was initially excited to hear about the release.  Some my enthusiasm had to do with seeing others publishing for one of my favorite games.  The biggest reason for my excitement was because of what this release reminded me of -- 'The Complete Book of Humanoids'.

The Complete Book of Humanoids was part of the Player Reference series of brown books published by TSR for AD&D 2nd Edition.  There were many books in that series (15 if I remember correctly) but many were ones I could do without.  Not this one.  It became a favorite in my gaming group as it gave us a chance to play something a bit different.  I distinctly remember creating and playing a goblin which the party named Stoop.  He was a great underdog and fun to play.  The only humanoid which could be considered even more of an underdog though would be the lowly kobold.  Fodder for first level adventurers, kobolds get little respect but that doesn't mean that playing one couldn't be a lot of fun.  Who needs 'dragonborn' when you can play a kobold!  And yes, I realize they are a lot more reptilian than they are dog-like now if you compare the classic version of the kobold to the more modern rendition.  It is what it is folks. 

With the publication of this new gaming aid, you can for C&C.  What hopefully will end up being the first of many, Fantasy Races: Unlocked gives you all that you need to create and play a kobold for the C&C system and, by extension, other d20 based rules-light games.  For C&C 'purists', those gamers will be happy to know that the article follows the format of races as is found in the Players Handbook.  There sections covering description, society, personality, racial affinities, and their environment.  This is followed by an array of racial abilities and skills which will flesh out a kobold player character for the game with an array of bonuses and penalties distinct to the kobold.  The one thing I have noticed which helps this gaming aid stand out (since I already mentioned my fondness for a certain 2nd edition accessory) were the Alternate (and Optional) Racial Traits.  This represent a chance to play a Kobold slightly differently than what one may expect.  Think of it as a Kobold with a twist, if just having one as a PC wasn't enough.    Each are meant to replace one of the 'standard' kobold varieties and I really enjoyed seeing this included.

It's  a solid gaming aid even if it is very specific in purpose.  This, and the price may cause some fans to question its necessity.  I can't argue with the singular purpose with the game aid but, as indicated earlier, it is with hope we will see more and that helps justify this first step.  As for pricing... that's a tough call and very subjective.  As a developer and publisher, pricing is not something I take lightly.  People deserve to get paid for their work and a hefty investment (besides time) goes into something like this.  The PDF is a four page document but unfortunately, 2 of those pages are the cover and the credits/OGL page.  The document is professionally laid aid, editing top notch, and the art piece used is a bit whimsical and well done.  Fans of his art will recognize Peter Bradley's signature flair and this piece is simple and well done.  Artwork and layout costs money and, if you factor in RPGNows! cut, not much is gained if you consider the $2 price tag.  Some people will try to over think and justify not spending the couple of bucks but, given that I pay a lot more for a good cup of coffee, the amount of money spend on this gaming aid is a drop in the bucket.  I have always enjoyed Christina's work and this is a fine addition to the gaming library albeit short... just like a kobold should be.

You can find it HERE.


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