How to Role-Play a Kobold in D&D
Kobold sprites are originally found in German mythology, where they are invisible creatures that can transform into other shapes, such as a candle, a child, or even fire. These evil beings are equally as likely to do household chores as they are to murder entire households. Their malicious nature manifests in various forms throughout folklore, where they serve as servants of satanic or pagan cults, and possess a wide variety of powers.
In TTRPGs, Kobolds were reinvented as humanoids known for their skill in building traps and mining. The only similarities they share with their Germanic ancestors are their size and affinity for mining.
Kobolds are imagined in Dungeons and Dragons as small reptilian humanoids with scaled skin in hues of brown, black and red. Their eyes are dark orange or red, and their jaws are shaped similarly to a crocodile’s. They have short horns and spikes that protrude from their heads as well as claws, chicken-like feet, and long tails.
Kobolds often wear rags but more sophisticated kobolds, or those that regularly interact with society, wear more sophisticated clothing. However, it is rarely of high quality or particularly clean. Kobolds are usually dirty and have a strong odor, often compared to the scent of a wet dog. Kobolds often carry tools and simple weapons with them, such as spears, knives, and other crude tools.
Other subraces of kobold are known to exist. These subraces live in a variety of environments, including arctic, desert, jungle, and aquatic. However, the exact physical appearance of these subraces is not well known, as they are incredibly rare.
Similar to goblins, kobolds live in vast underground societies which are frequently overcrowded, with little concept of privacy. A large cavern houses women and children, while the male kobolds are expected to hunt, mine, and guard the caves. It is rare to see a single kobold, as they frequently travel in small groups and rarely stray far from home. Because they are sensitive to light, kobolds spend almost all of their time underground, emerging only to trade with outsiders or in emergencies.
Kobolds spend a great deal of time, energy, and effort designing and constructing their cavern networks. They commonly build surprisingly sophisticated and well-concealed traps to thwart intruders. Some kobolds specialize in alchemy and engineering, resulting in unique and diverse traps and defense tactics. Alchemy fire, sticky-bombs, and stink-bombs are some recent discoveries of kobold inventors.
With a tendency towards lawful evil, kobolds care primarily for their survival and the survival of their society. Because average kobolds tend to have low intelligence, they can easily be tricked into taking non-advantageous deals. Kobolds are also easily bullied by larger, more powerful Underdark creatures, who force them to mine for their own purposes or use them as the first line of defense against adventurers.
Without direction from more intelligent beings, kobolds are left to their own devices, which involve mining and expanding their society. Though kobolds are evil, they rarely interfere in human affairs and are not commonly encountered as enemies unless they have something the characters want or are being manipulated by other enemies.
Kobolds possess melee and ranged attacks. The Dagger and Sling attacks have the same attack modifier and damage, meaning that kobolds are equally strong at range and in melee.
However, if kobolds have tankier allies in combat, they will try to stay at range and utilize their Pack Tactics to gain advantage on enemies adjacent to their allies. They also can use Pack Tactics in melee combat but, because they have low AC (12) and low hit points (5), they are likely to be incapacitated quickly without doing significant damage.
Because kobolds possess Sunlight Sensitivity, they will not fight while in direct light unless they are absolutely forced to do so.
Cowards in battle, kobolds will flee if they find themselves to be outnumbered or if their companions die quickly. Despite being small creatures, they have a 30 ft movement speed, allowing them the opportunity to escape most PCs. They will squeeze into narrow cracks, holes, or tunnels to escape, if necessary.
Creating Kobold NPCs
While kobolds tend to be lawful evil and a tad unintelligent, exceptional kobolds do exist. A kobold, benefitting from its draconic bloodline, may be a sorcerer. Leaving his society behind, he travels into the world to find real power, which he plans to use to protect his friends and family in the caverns back home. Though his methods are unorthodox and rather uncivilized, he brings a new perspective to the magical community which is unrivaled.
An adventuring party of kobolds recently formed after their entire society was consumed by a demon deep beneath the earth. They managed to escape, using skills they never knew they had, and are working to assimilate into above ground society while also studying magic, fighting, and religion in libraries they never knew existed.
Have you role-played a kobold in your campaign recently? What was the NPC like? Tell us about it in the comment section below!