Kobold

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Greyhawk creature
Kobold
Kobold01.jpg
A kobold warrior. Art by Sam Wood.
Alignment Lawful evil
Type Humanoid
Subtype Reptilian, dragonblood
First appearance D&D White Box


Kobolds, called celbit in Flan, are small humanoid creatures. They are aggressive, xenophobic and industrious, noted for their exceptional skill at building traps and preparing ambushes.

Ecology

In newer versions of the game, kobolds are distantly related to dragons and are often to be found serving them as minions. In their original game appearance, kobolds were described as doglike humanoids with ratlike tails, horns and hairless, scaly skin, and were not associated with dragons. They were originally considered goblinoids, in the Monstrous Compendium series and Monster Mythology, along with goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, orcs, xvarts, and gremlins, although the word didn't have the strict meaning it acquired in the game's Third Edition. In newer game editions, the term "goblinoid" is strictly reserved for goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, norkers, and similar creatures. Kobolds are much more explicitly reptilian in more current editions, although they were known as "egg-layers" as far back as First edition AD&D. The Greyhawk Player's Guide said they have "certain features that are both reptilian and doglike."

Kobolds are omnivores with no scruples about what, or who, they eat. They can digest bark, dirt, leather, eggshells, even their younger siblings, if they're desperate enough.

Kobolds are extremely fecund egg-layers, having the highest birth rate (and death rate) of all humanoid species. A fertilized female kobold lays her clutch of hard-shelled eggs after two weeks, which must be incubated for an additional 60 days before they hatch. Kobolds reach maturity at about eight, or nine years and are considered "great wyrms" by the age of 121 years. They have been known to live up to 135 years. While they do bond with one another, they have no concept of monogamy.

Kobolds have an extreme hatred for gnomes -- with whom they compete for the same areas and mining rights -- as well as pixies, brownies and sprites. They are often at war with goblins, and the numerous kobold-goblin wars help to keep the populations of both races down to a manageable level. Xvarts often act as intermediaries between kobolds and goblins. Xvarts usually dominate kobolds and take out their aggression upon them.

Kobolds have been known to sell some of their captives as slaves, if there is a nearby market for them.

Environment

Kobolds are to be found in all climates. Being cold-blooded creatures, however, they are required to eat up to three times as much when in colder climes. They seem to prefer dark, damp, underground lairs and/or overgrown forests. They are industrious miners and, if left to their own devices, can carve out massive tunnel complexes, which they rapidly fill with their progeny, due to their rapid rate of reproduction (which would explain their use as cannon fodder).

Many kobold lairs are guarded by boars, or giant weasels. Their lair's location continually fluctuates since new tunnels are continuously being excavated, as old ones collapse. Most lairs include a temple, or shrine, a kiln, an egg hatchery, and larder (a place for storing food). Larger lairs also contain places for cultivating food and livestock.

Typical physical characteristics

Kobolds stand a little over 2' tall, with scaly, hairless hides, reptilian heads and tails, and weigh approximately 40 pounds. Males are, on average, about three inches taller and ten pounds heavier than the females. Kobold hides are typically rust-brown to reddish black in color, with ivory-colored horns. Their heads have been described as doglike, but in more recent gaming supplements they are illustrated as looking more more draconic, similar to a crocodile in appearance. The eyes glow red, and they can see accurately up to 60 feet away in a lightless environment. The odor given off by kobolds has been described as a cross between damp dogs and stagnant water.

Unlike their dragon cousins, kobolds are cold-blooded. The scales covering their bodies have a texture like that of an iguana, or other large lizard. The scales covering their tails are very fine and hairless, resembling those of rats. Kobolds lose and gain new teeth throughout their lives. They often save their lost teeth, making necklaces from them. Kobolds favor raggedy-looking red or orange clothing, often made from leather, or the silk of giant spiders. They never wear shoes, but they very are fond of jewelry and other ornamentation.

Kobolds shed their skin once a season. The skin comes off in patches, during the course of a week. They tend to keep themselves well-groomed, regularly polishing their horns, claws, and teeth.

Alignment

Kobolds are usually lawful evil.

Society

Kobold society is influenced by their lawful evil alignment. They will industriously plan and dig mines, while at the same time laying cruel traps for any interlopers. If they must confront an enemy, they will mass their troops for an ambush. Among the monstrous humanoids, kobolds are known for their cunning plans; unlike other monsters, they also share those plans among all the tribe members. General plans and goals are common knowledge, and detailed plans are shared with all tribal members who ask, this allows all to work fruitfully for the good of the entire tribe. Kobolds have a natural hatred of other non-draconic creatures, because of the historical mistreatment of their race.

Kobolds do have specialized laborers, yet the majority of kobolds are miners. The most coveted careers are trapmaker, sorcerer, caretaker, and warrior. Kobolds typically apprentice in their chosen profession at the age of three. A kobold's job may change over the years, based upon the specific needs of the tribe. Kobold tribes are gerontocracies, ruled by their eldest member. This kobold leader is known and called by the title of "the All-Watcher." Oft-times this leader is a powerful sorcerer. Kobold laws may change along with their leaders. Kobolds prefer exile to execution as punishment and, in some disputes, kobolds tribes will split in order to spread their kind over a larger region. Kobolds often lay eggs in a common nest, with specialized foster parents to watch over the eggs and wyrmlings (young under one year).

Kobold society is tribal, with war bands based on clans. As many as ten families can be part of a clan. Each clan is responsible for patrolling a ten-mile radius. The most numerous kobold tribes include the Torturers, the Impalers, the Gougers, the Cripplers, and the Mutilators.

Religion

The primary deity to be worshipped by kobolds is Kurtulmak, the god of War and Mining. Another god receiving considerable worshipped by kobolds is Gaknulak, the god of Protection, Stealth, Trickery, and Traps. A lesser-known kobold deity is the demigod Dakarnok. Individual kobolds and even entire kobold tribes may worship other deities of the draconic pantheon; Tiamat and Io often play a significant role in kobold creation myths. Kobolds and gnomes have an instinctual hate of each other because of a "prank" played upon Kurtulmak by the gnomish deity Garl Glittergold. According to some kobold myths, Garl collapsed Kurtulmak's cave because the gnome god saw that they were likely to become the dominant race in the world. The draconic god Io offered Kurtulmak the chance to become the god of his race, or to give him the strength to clear the mine. Kurtulmak chose to lead his race in the form of a god. The gnomes, naturally, have their own version of the myth which casts their god in a considerably better light.

Clerics of Kurtulmak are known as the Eyes of Kurtulmak. They rarely live long enough to become chieftains, but they have a great deal of power and influence, serving as mine supervisors and directing the tribe toward "divinely inspired" goals. Organized religious services are almost nonexistent, but most kobolds do recite small prayers throughout the day.

Many kobolds believe in reincarnation, which Kurtulmak may use as either a reward or a punishment, depending on one's service to one's tribe. One of the duties of a cleric is to watch over the tribe's eggs and hatchlings, which are thought to be reincarnations of distinguished kobolds.

Language

Kobolds speak a version of the Draconic tongue, with a yipping accent (their voices are said to resemble the sound of small dogs barking). Some also learn to speak Common, Goblin, Orcish, and Undercommon.

The written form of Draconic was originally developed by kobolds in the service of dragons, as dragons themselves see little reason to write (and often have no fingers and thumbs to write with).

Notable kobolds

Kobold subraces

Urds are a subrace of winged kobolds, who otherwise maintained separate societies from standard kobolds. In third edition, urds seem to have been replaced with a subset of kobolds known as the dragonwrought kobolds, who occasionally have wings or other draconic qualities, and hold an elevated status in kobold society.

The aquatic kobold, the arctic kobold, the desert kobold, the earth kobold, and the jungle kobold were all introduced in Unearthed Arcana (2004).

History

Kobolds have a disjointed history. Kobolds turn up in various, isolated regions for no apparent reason, even given their often nomadic nature. Divine agency is often evoked as an explanation as to how the kobold race has spread so far and wide. Kobolds are thought to have begun their existence as the servants of dragons.

Unlike goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs, no Suel name for kobolds is given in The Scarlet Brotherhood, which might suggest that their race was unknown in the ancient Suel Imperium.

Creative origins

The kobolds of Dungeons & Dragons were originally inspired by the kobold sprites of German folklore. Aside from their shared association with mining and their small stature, the two creatures have little in common.

Publishing history

The kobold was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), where they were described simply as similar to goblins, but weaker. Kobolds were further detailed in Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975).

The kobold's first AD&D appearance was in the Monster Manual (1977), where it is described as a tribal creature with war bands, found in dank, dark places. The mythology and attitudes of the kobolds were described in detail in Dragon #63 (July 1982), in Roger E. Moore's article, "The Humanoids." A few years later, in Roger Moore's editorial "Tucker's kobolds" in Dragon #127 (November 1987), a scenario is described where a band of well-prepared kobolds uses tactics to significantly challenge a far more powerful party of adventurers.

The article "Hey, Wanna Be a Kobold?" by Joseph Clay in Dragon #141 (January 1989), presented kobolds, xvarts, goblins, and orcs as player character races along with two new character classes, the "shaman" and the "witch doctor."

The kobold first second edition appearance was in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989), which also introduced the urd. The kobold was detailed as a playable character race in The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993). The kobold was presented as a playable character race again in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995).

The kobold's first third edition appearance was in the Monster Manual (2000). The creature later appeared in the revised Monster Manual for the 3.5 edition (2003).

The kobold was detailed in Dragon #332 (June 2005), in the "Ecology of the Kobold". The kobold was detailed as a player character race in Races of the Dragon (2006).

The kobold made it's fourth edition debut in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008). In addition, Dragon #364 contained a variety of additional kobolds.

Bibliography

  • Arneson, Dave. Blackmoor. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1975.
  • Clay, Joseph. "Hey, Wanna Be a Kobold?" Dragon #141. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1989.
  • Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1989.
  • Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1977.
  • Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1974.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1977.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1981.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
  • Kestrel, Gwendolyn F.M., Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, and Kolja Raven Liquette. Races of the Dragon. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2006.
  • Slavicsek, Bill. The Complete Book of Humanoids. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
  • Smith, Mat. "The Ecology of the Kobold." Dragon #332. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2005.
  • Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.
  • Williams, Skip, Jonathan Tweet, and Monte Cook. Monster Manual. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
  • -----. Monster Manual: Core Rulebook III v.3.5. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.

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