On the Ecology of the Kobold



There is a special note at the end.*

"It is the worst and best thing about living beneath the earth. The endless responsibility and pleasure of
slaying the revenge of the stone." - Smoke

Nomenclature: Kobolds, Cobalts, Koboldi, Knockers, The bold,

Description: Underground demons spawned from earth

Things that are known:

  • They are small
  • They hate gnomes
  • They have an aversion to melee combat
  • They are sensitive to light
  • They have facility with traps and mechanical object
  • They can see in the dark


Rumors and other whispers in the dark:

  • They are actually halflings. When a dragon swallows a halfling whole, the resulting egg hatchlings are kobolds
  • Kobolds are related to kabouter, common garden gnomes
  • When moving alone through tunnels, kobolds are capable of dilating time, allowing them to reset traps faster than humanly possible
  • Kobolds have a secret penchant for tipping cows. On adventurers.
  • A secret breed of kobolds in the eastern mountains called Perkmandelz can turn invisible and run around with a lantern, imitating a subterranean will 'o wisp
  • Kobolds are not scaled. Those are actually dermoliths: Little stones that grow in kobold skin, letting them blend in with their rocky habitat
  • They are immune to petrification, because they are already petrified creatures
  • Kobolds collect coins quite quickly and quietly congregate in clammy caves to count and cackle
  • Kobolds feel compelled to count a loose pile of coins lying around. Then they store it in a small sack with the value written on the outside. The reason for this compulsion is unknown. It does irritate dragons who just want to sleep on coins, not little sacks filled with sacks of 100 coins each.
  • A kobold can count 50 coins in a combat round
  • Kobolds are the animate leavings of slain dragons. 
  • They lust and revenge themselves against man-races, trying to reclaim the glory of their dragon creators
  • Kobolds and dwarves are related, which is why they are often found as dungeon maintainers
  • Kobold horns are noted aphrodisiacs among orcs. Kobolds themselves cannot breed until their horns grow back
  • A kobold's horn is regenerative, and a whole new kobold can grow from one horn. This explains the difficulty at eliminating the infestation. A single kobold can break apart it's horn and grow a whole new batch of fresh kobolds
  • Kobold horns grow all over their body
  • Kobolds wouldn't be the problem they are today if it wasn't for the early kobold genocide attempts. The bodies were hacked to pieces and the horns often became shattered. Each kobold then became hundreds
  • Trapmaking is the highest art among the 'bolds
  • Kobolds have serrated beaks, not teeth
  • "This is absolute nonsense, the Kobolds of Underpnod have mobile, wrinkled faces, like disgusting little monkeys or withered, wizened halflings." -Vaziry of Pnod
  • Kobolds are untamed feral dwarves, murdering and eating trespassers and hoarding ancient treasures
  • Kobolds work for death and keep the damned as slaves to toil in the mines
  • A dwarf is a civilized kobold that lives among humans and speaks a human language
  • Civilized kobolds ("Dwarves") no longer burn in the sun, but they cannot see in darkness. Kobolds and "Dwarves" are both misshapen little old men with flinty, inhuman eyes, knobby joints, and at least one exaggerated facial feature. Beards are optional
  • Kobolds turn to stone in the sun and are often collected as garden ornaments
  • Kobolds are to goblins as gnomes are to dwarves
  • This being the case, they are smaller, lighter, and unlike gnomes being focused on trickery, they are more direct than goblins. They use magic that causes explosions of spellfire, telekinetically hurled objects, and tunnel collapses. Even with their magic potential, the kobolds themselves are small scrawny things that rarely go into combat. 
  • Kobolds are very good with animals and often train small and medium creatures like boars, spiders, and giant weasels as mounts.
  • They create their homes using telekinetic magic used while in a meditative trance. This allows them to function as if they were humanoid sized
  • Kobolds have remarkable singing voices, however they are unlikely to share this with outsiders due to their terrible stage fright
  • Kobolds are to gnomes as drow are to elves
  • The viciousness and cruelty of kobolds has absolutely nothing to do with height envy.
  • Kobolds are castaways from another dimension, pulled into ours by the smelting of ore. They emerge under darkness from the slag heaps
  • They breath stone, swim through air and walk on water, They need air to drink, but wind is a very dangerous current. Near slag heaps you will occasionally find drowned kobolds. Cave systems and mining tunnels are more like gentle rivers and much safers
  • They collect metals that they can find, hoping their shamans can use them to find a way home
  • Kobolds have multiple rows of teeth which grow and grow until they die. Perhaps they are the humanoid descendants of sharks?
  • Kobolds like the color blue
  • Kobolds sometimes live in the forest, but have adapted to survive. They defend and mark their territory well, with guerilla patrols, snares, traps, deadfalls, and other deadly protections. 
  • One reason for the effectiveness of kobolds is their shamans focus on divination magic, and their easy access to communication methods (familiars, magic) and crystal balls (dug from the earth).
  • In southern lands, they are seen as less evil (koboldi) and can be entertaining, due to the fact that they are always aroused and can drink to bacchanalian excess
  • They fill mines with foul air, poison gas, toxic minerals, or worst of all, koboldium, the burning metal
  • The kobold god has a harem of chosen kobold maidens. Many semi-divine kobold warriors are born, whose skin blunts weapons and when slain, curse the killer
  • Kobolds are not only mechanically inclined, but also alchemically, skilled with black powder, incendiaries, mines, and poison gas
  • The entrance to a kobold lair is always disguised
  • One fated night, long ago, a very drunk, lusty, and desperate gnome had relations with a giant salamander he 'surprised' and took advantage from. The resulting spawn from this rape was several hundred kobold.
  • They speak the language of insects and all crawling creatures. This is why the most poisonous and deadly don't mind being dropped by them, through muderholes on passing adventurers
  • Kobolds speak no languages. They capture poisonous insects and torture them till they are only filled with rage and evil, then they release them through murderholes on passing adventurers
  • Kobolds have no noses. That is why they smell terrible. (rimshot)
  • Kobold tails are a delicacy. Even kobolds themselves think so.
  • Kobolds feast on dragon corpses. This is the reason for their magical nature
  • Kobolds have very specific dietary needs, this is why they are never found away from underground complexes and tombs
  • Kobold shamans smear gold, silver, and copper coins into their skin, forming a heavy, glittering, armored layer, as a ritual to fuel their spells and magical abilities
  • A kobold that has lived an extended life and died of natural causes is reborn as what the kobolds call an Earthen One who can pass through any type of earth. This includes metals.
  • Kobolds specialize on setting traps because eating tendons from the flesh of a living creatures while they scream is the greatest delicacy.
  • The first kobolds emerged from the torn tooth sockets of the titans that tried to destroy the world. The pain and death of those great forms was too great to be contained, and the kobolds were forced from their gory, cracked jaws. Their word for themselves is "homeless" and their mission is to harvest parts to build a new titan home; the trouble is, they don't know how, and all they remember is pain. So they collect that in jars. But they can't actually collect it. So they hurt people and wave glass at them. It's their religion.
  • Kobolds have a flying relative the Urd. Urd are tougher, more intelligent and nastier. Their existence has nothing to do with the depredations of the kenku. 
  • Kobolds will hate gnomes until Garl Glittergold ceases his never ending teasing and trickery of Kurtulmak. 
  • Kobolds are bastard children from wild bacchanalian parties among the woodlands keepers, being a cursed combination of druids, rangers, animal companions, fey liquor, and practical jokes
  • Kobolds are the immune system of an animistic living earth. The scar tissue from gouges and wounds on the surface takes the form of kobolds defending their mother
  • Kobold eyes, when plucked and dried in the light of a full winter moon, will become semi-precious stones. If dice are made from these stones, they are magically loaded that shift +1 in the direction you prefer when you roll them. 
  • Kobolds who do enter melee often have tail attachments that they use to wound opponents. These have been know to throw black power, alchemist's fire, or substances even worse.
  • They hate gnomes because gnomes are cheaters; dirty, nasty, lying, cheaters. Illusions aren't fair, traps are. Using illusions to win prank contests isn't fair. You can't win if you're dead.
  • Stupid wizards. The combination of a ring of wishes, a german shepard familiar and some inadvisable things said about the usefulness of said familiar led to the kobold removing the ring from the wizards fresh corpse. The last charge is the cause of the piles of kobolds everywhere
  • Kobold lariats are woven from the skin of sentient creatures. They are fascinated by hides
  • If a kobold is skin, the hide dissolves into sand in 1-4 days, no matter how it is preserved
  • Kobolds were originally swarming, agile, flexible, and mechanical boarding constructs for spelljammer ships. A bribe of being both made of flesh and fertile to breed was made. Their original creators, furious, rounded up all they could find and marooned them on a quarantined planet. Releasing them is a capital offense
  • In ancient times, when all races were reptilian, kobolds ran the oppressive empire. All other races did their bidding. To this day they seek to manipulate and control the other races.
  • In the far future, humanity seeks to save themselves from a seared sky and fouled earth. They built a time gate and sent a group to save humanity from itself. Upon arrival they became sick and only their young survived. In three generations, all was forgotten leaving a primitive culture seething with hatred for humans
  • Kobolds are the progenitors of the elves, banished from the surface and forgotten by their children
  • Kobolds wear lederhosen and make beer from rock
  • If a kobold becomes wet he flies into a rage. A great artform is creating intricate dust and soot patterns on their skin to mimic scales
  • A kobold can transform into mist on nights with a full moon. This is how they migrate from cave to cave. The mists are cursed and many believe can cause migraines, ague, and loose bowels
Kobold special attacks and abilities

  • Agile: Kobolds are small and flexible  They can move in, around, and under other creatures bypassing them easily and immune to any bonus attacks gained via opportunity or due to fleeing
  • Mob attack: Kobold receive bonuses to hit equal to the number of kobolds in melee with a target.
  • Bombs: Kobolds can throw bombs with various alchemical effects (Alchemist's fire, Smokesticks, Tanglefoot bags
  • Trappers luck: Kobolds can attack a player and do no damage, but moves them into a nearby trap
  • Magical blast: Kobolds can generate and throw energy orbs that focus their magical force. The type of energy is dependent on the strain of kobold
  • Earth step: Kobolds can meld with the earth, allowing them to disappear into the ground. They move incredibly quickly this way, reappearing anywhere within 100'
  • Painful stabs: Kobold attacks do little damage but really hurt. When striking, after rolling damage, they can choose to do only 1 point of damage, but apply a -1 circumstance penalty to that players combat rolls (attack and damage) until that player receives some form of healing.
  • Sluggish step: Kobolds can cover the floor with bags of their sticky poop. These cause people moving in those squares to move at half speed. Kobolds themselves are unaffected of course.

Here is a wonderful free list of Kobold traps provided by certain coastal wizards: Kobold Traps

A Historical Note

Provided by Patrick Stuart: "The element Cobalt is actually named after Kobald, an earth spirit. The miners who dug out and smelted ores to find useful metals, which included the cobalt ore, which was poisonous with arsenic and ruined other metals, blamed Kobald when things went wrong because the spirit didn't want them down there.

When Georg Brandt found out what was actually poisoning the miners and ruining their ore, a new element, he named it after the spirit in tribute to the men who dug it out."

A Question about Ecology

*Christopher asks: "With these ecology rumors and such, how do you apply these to your games? Are they things that NPCs say to adventurers or are some of these ideas actually applied to change the race up and make things fresh? Or is it a mixture of both? I'm interested because I think some of these ideas are way better than the original ecology for the creatures. "

Take this information and actually change up the monsters. Then take other bits and rumors some correct and incorrect and feed them to the players. Use a group of a dozen or so redesigned and well thought out monsters for your campaign. Profit.

The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  

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