Kobolds are infamous for being cowardly, weak, little lizard people to most. However, these little dragon-kin have certain tricks up their sleeves that more than make up for their weaknesses.
A Kobold’s life is almost inseparable from being enslaved, bullied or exploited by larger creatures. They live in constant fear and anxiety when they are alone and will very rarely risk an altercation. Fortunately for kobolds, they often exist as parts of large closely knit communities inhabiting underground cave systems created by their own hands and defended by their cleverly devised security systems.
Expert Tunnelers and Builders
Kobolds are expert tunnelers. They have a very keen sense of their underground environment, knowing which rocks are strong, weak, load-bearing, and susceptible to cave-ins, have rare valuable resources, water, etc. They use these skills to create secure homes in places other creatures wouldn’t frequent.
A kobold lair would typically have passages too thin for anything larger than a kobold to pass, tunnels designed to collapse the moment a creature heavier than a typical kobold enters, chasms connected only by ropes that can only hold kobold weight, etc. but their security measures don’t stop there. Kobolds are also creative at making crude but elaborate traps. They make use of natural hazards, scavenged tools, and other creatures to make contraptions ranging from irritating and annoying to straight up deadly.
Other creatures recognize the resourcefulness of Kobolds and often make use of them. Some humanoid communities have been known to hire kobolds to create sewer tunnels underneath their cities. Depending on how properly they are treated, Kobolds may settle in these underground tunnels, expanding the tunnels for the city and securing a home for themselves. These “City Kobolds” often make some occasional trips to the surface to scavenge supplies from their new neighbors.
Kobolds are also skilled at identifying broken, misplaced or leftover items that can still be put to good use. They typically prioritize these kinds of items because a kobold will seldom dare to take anything that would raise attention to itself or its tribe.
If there is a risk of discovery or retaliation, you can safely bet a kobold will be nowhere near that place. However, depending on the value of the item to the tribe, the nature of the item and the people who own it, particularly their sworn enemies, the gnomes, some exceptions can be made.
Kobold tribes are organized into specialized roles that protect and sustain the community. The strongest become warriors and hunters, the clever become crafters and strategists, the toughest may become tunnelers and beast tamers, etc. even the weakest or stupid can find a job picking up scrap. Kobolds understand the importance of their effort in the survival of the group and are fiercely loyal to their tribes. Kobolds of the same tribe often have the same skin color. Kobolds speak common and Draconic
Kobolds are egg laying creatures. There are no marriage or family structures in kobold culture. Mates are chosen out of convenience and the eggs placed in a communal hatchery where they are all raised by the tribe as belonging to the tribe.
Every kobold in a tribe considers the other a cousin as their eggs are almost impossible to trace back to a parent. Kobolds can also change their gender during their lifetimes to ensure the survival of the tribe especially when the tribe is left with few survivors after a calamity.
Kobold eggs usually take about 2 to 3 months to hatch. Kobolds grow very quickly reaching adulthood by the age of 6. Most die by the age of 20 from accidents, violence or disease but, in ideal situations, kobolds can grow to reach the age of 120.
When kobolds die, the body is burnt or disposed of in the next best convenient way. In cases of food scarcity, the body is cannibalized efficiently. Kobolds don’t have burial ceremonies. They believe that once a kobold dies, Kurtulmak, the god of kobolds, immediately snatches the soul of the deceased and sends it back to the tribe as the next egg laid in the hatchery.
When a prominent kobold dies, the communal hatchery is monitored closely for the next egg. Immediately a new egg is lain, it is set apart from the rest. After it hatches, the young kobold is groomed till adulthood and then thrust back into the prominent position he is believed to own.
Little Dragon Helpers
Kobolds believe that Tiamat, the queen and mother of all dragons created them from the blood of dragons. This belief influences a lot of their behavior, culture and interactions with other creatures. Of particular note is the incredible reverence kobolds have for dragons which they consider to be demigods. Kobolds willingly subject themselves to the commands of chromatic dragons as they see them as avatars of deity.
The God of Kobolds, Kurtulmat
Kobolds may worship dragons and Tiamat, but their true racial god is Kurtulmak. The story goes that Kurtulmak was a vassal of Tiamat. After Garl Glittergold, the god of the gnomes, broke into Tiamat’s lair and stole a treasure, Kurtulmak was sent after him. Glittergold lured Kurtulmak into a maze-like cavern and collapsed the exits, trapping him forever. Kobolds consider Kurtulmak to be the one who taught the first Kobolds how to mine, tunnel, create traps, and ambush.
Kobolds wish to free Kurtulmak from his eternal prison and constantly seek out ways to do so. Whenever a kobold spots an arcane artifact, it may abandon its careful approach during scavenging and will do its best to secure the magical item for the tribe’s chief sorcerer.
Enmity between Kobolds and Gnomes
Kobolds take on the bitterness their deity has towards gnomes and will go out of their way to antagonize gnomes wherever they find them. If they are out scavenging carefully and spot a gnome’s residence, they will target the valuables of that house with fervor. Even when they don’t steal anything, they often leave behind the pettiest gifts and traps.
They might sabotage their furniture, disassemble their appliances, leave their dishes on the edge of the table so that they topple off and shatter at the slightest touch. Anything to make gnome lives miserable. If they are encounters as an enemy, the presence of a gnome in the adventuring party eliminates any room for negotiation.
Urds: Winged Kobolds
Occassionally, winged kobolds emerge from the communal hatchery, seemingly at random. One would think the possession of wings and the ability to flyon normally wingless kobolds would be interpreted as a blessing from Tiamat. However, ordinary kobolds resent urds and don’t get along with them.
Urds remind kobolds of Kuryaulyek, a winged godling servant of Kurtulmak, who betrayed his master. Kobolds see urds as Kuryaulyek’s favorites and transfer their aggression towards them. Some believe that the animosity between the regular kobolds and the urds actually comes from jealousy that the urds have been blessed by Tiamat.
This would make the Kuryaulyek’s favourites argument simply justification for their bitterness.
Physical Appearance and Traits
Kobolds are very short wingless reptilian humanoids. They tend to be about 2-2.6 feet in height. Their scale colour varies in appearance but is generally consistent among kobolds of a particular tribe. Some colours include black, red, blue, brown, gray, green, orange, tan, white, or multiple patterns.
Kobolds with colours that don’t match the colours of the rest of the tribe are often outcasts.
Kobolds are very cautious and cowardly creatures. They acknowledge their weakness and compensate for it by being clever with their hands. They take pride in their kinship to the powerful dragons and take pride in their work. They are not the brightest creatures and can be easily tricked. When they realize they’ve been played the fool, they hold grudges to the bitter end.
Kobolds are very vindictive creatures just as their deity but their vindication is limited by their unwillingness to get into conflicts. However whenever they see an opportunity, it will retaliate, sometimes in the pettiest of ways.
Kobolds find comfort in being prepared for the worst. If they have tactics to minimize the risk of getting hurt, a way of escape, or the strength of numbers, they can act more courageously. If they are alone and cornered, Kobolds may enter a state of hysteria and panic making them very unpredictable and dangerous.
Skills and Tactics
Kobolds use traps, ambushes, terrain, other creatures and any other advantage they can find in combat. Standard kobold tactics include
Hit-and-run attacks targeted at small enemy units
Luring enemies into prepared traps
Attacking light sources
Using poisons, etc.
In combat involving large numbers of kobolds, kobolds favouring surrounding the enemy and attacking separately to destabilize their opponent’s ability to react properly to attacks.
When in combat, a kobold gains advantage on all attacks provided he has an ally adjacent to the enemy being attacked.
Kobolds priests are also known to use arcane abilities in combat. Kobolds favor magic of arcane origin as wielding it makes them feel closer to the dragons. Kobold sorcerers are commonly from the draconic bloodline origin and specialize in destruction magic for attacking and mining, transmutation magic and divination magic useful for finding treasure or preempting threats to the tribe. Healing magic is very rarely valued as a single hit is often enough to kill a kobold; there is no point knowing how to heal wounds if the injured die immediately.