Kobolds are small reptilian humanoids averaging around three-and-a-half feet tall, with a lean, gangly frame. Their large eyes, positioned high on their heads, give them good all-round vision, befitting their rank near the bottom of the monstrous food chain. As with most reptiles, males and females are nearly identical. Males may tend towards having more and larger hornlets and crests than females, but this is by no means a certain means of identification.
Females lay clutches of seventeen to twenty-four pale, leathery shelled eggs, which incubate in communal nesting chambers for around seven months. The hatchlings, perfect miniatures of the adults, instinctively travel upwards through the tunnels to the surface where they will scatter, traveling in groups of between five and ten, attempting to find another colony to join, or discover a suitable burrow to settle in and start a new one of their own (the dispersal of the newborns in this way helps to ensure diversity across the species and means that a single kobold family line can stretch across continents). Their only sustenance during this time is the remnants of their egg’s yolk, and the majority perish after failing to find a suitable location within the few days they have. Though it is the exception rather than the rule, female kobolds have been known to lay viable eggs even in the absence of males.
Kobolds tend towards a nervous disposition, and can descend into fits of anxiety if they are away from the soothing dark of their enclosed tunnels. This has led to the belief that all kobolds are frail cowards by the civilized world at large, but the truth is the majority of the population have not encountered kobolds in their native territory. Underground, kobolds are as capable of defending their home as any other race, though they prefer guerrilla tactics, ambushes, and traps to conventional warfare.
Kobolds divide neatly into two distinct subtypes. Warren kobolds are kobolds left to their own devices; simple miners and trap builders. When a colony discovers, or seeks out a dragon egg or wyrmling, their society entirely changes to that of the more grandiose and self-important dragon kobolds.
Kobolds speak a derived, simplified version of Draconic also known as Low Draconic. Speakers of Draconic typically find the kobolds’ variant grating and irritating, largely due to its rule that repetition is the same as emphasis; ‘good good’ means ‘very good’, for example. This may go some way to explaining dragons’ commonly murderous attitude towards them. Warren kobold names tend to be short and simple, but higherranking dragon kobolds tend towards longer, more aggrandizing names in the fashion of true dragons.
Examples of Warren Kobold Names: Akkom, Atkan, Bektik, Hakshut, Kabik, Nektesh, Nushek, Rennet, Sefk, Shafak, Zadikha, Zankath, Zashra
Examples of Dragon Kobold Names: Akathrazar, Bathrakaz, Iokathorax, Kashadran, Pazakaron, Rakaramaz, Shazathrar, Zanakal
Warren kobolds live modestly and generally have little interest in, or quarrel with, the world outside their tunnel network. The majority of their number work tirelessly, maintaining the tunnels, excavating new ones, or tending to the group’s beasts. Warren kobolds almost always keep a number of beasts known only as ‘lizard-hounds’, which provide the group with an additional layer of defense, as well as eggs, meat, and hide. As reptiles, these creatures require only a fraction of the food a similarly sized mammal would need, and so are able to get by on the meagre diet the kobolds can afford them. However, this does not stop the occasional beast master providing the hounds with food in an altogether more violent and spectacular manner if rations run low.
With little in the way of resources but the ore they bring up while expanding their tunnel network, warren kobolds dress simply, with a few metal adornments and spines from their hounds as their ornamentation. Their weapons are basic but well made, with spears and tall, narrow shields being preferred for their effectiveness in a restricted space. It is common for them to forgo armor and rely on the natural toughness of their scaly hide, but an armor of leather or metal scales is sometimes used to augment this, especially by high ranking individuals and their retinue.
Warren kobolds have a very loose system of leadership whereby any individual in a warren may declare themselves king and take over leadership. The strength of their claim is based on the strength of the bribes or, more rarely, warriors they can raise. The position is more or less arbitrary, as it is generally in the best interests of everyone that the majority of the group continues to mine and expand the tunnel network, so this continues to happen regardless of whoever calls themselves king. It is not uncommon for kobold warrens to contain multiple kings, each of whom claims complete sovereignty and denounces the others as pretenders.
While this theoretically puts many kobold warrens in a constant state of civil war, violence is rare, and is usually restricted to oneon- one scraps between kings. Where one king is triumphant, the loser may or may not renounce their claim, but if the kings are equally matched, it is common for each to gracefully concede part of their domain and so become ‘King of the Western Tunnels’, ‘King of the Deep Caves” or so on.
Very rarely, warren kobolds can be found as an underclass of a multicultural society, most likely in settlements of dwarven origin, given their dislike of bright, open spaces. Sometimes these are kobolds who have been exiled on the whim of a king, or have been forced out of their tunnels by natural disaster, another monstrous race, or an adventuring band, but occasionally a clan will surface by chance in a settlement and see the benefits of the richer life they could potentially lead there. Kobolds can scrape a living as tinkers, scrappers and miners, but rarely receive much love or respect from the population at large, who will usually view them as eccentric fringe dwellers at best and dangerous pests at worst.
Most warren kobolds will never see the sun in their adult lives. Enough rumors and tales make their way underground of kobolds with an adventurous streak coming to a sticky end above ground, or simply never being heard of again, that most are content with their subterranean life. The complex dwellings of warren kobolds more than live up to the name. Winding labyrinths of cramped, pitch black tunnels crisscrossing and overlapping one another at different levels in a manner nearly impossible to map accurately (kobolds, who usually remain in the tunnel network that they travel to after hatching until their death, are able to navigate their confusing habitat with ease).
A few of these tunnels are rigged with traps, and only used in the event of an attack. Triggered tunnel collapse is a straightforward, if somewhat unimaginative, favorite, but some are more inventive, such as a weakened floor giving way to anything heavier than a kobold, dumping the victim into a pit full of poisoned spikes (or the lizard-hound den), or a steep narrow tunnel with a large rolling boulder. Kobolds are taught from an early age only to use these tunnels if they are luring an intruder into one of these traps, but this doesn’t stop a few adventurous or absent-minded individuals wandering in from time to time and becoming the victim.
Although able to regulate their body temperature to a certain extent, kobolds have a marked preference for warmer areas. Large populations of kobolds can usually be found in the vicinity of volcanoes, but such extremes of temperature are not necessary for their survival so long as it doesn’t approach freezing point.
Warren kobolds are easily cowed, threatened or coerced, and the majority of their number are natural followers. If told to do something simple with enough authority, they will typically comply with little fuss. Their kings are another matter, convinced as they are of their own importance and the loyalty of their subjects. It is not uncommon for them to overplay their hand in this regard, overestimating the expendability of their minions and finding out the hard way that even a self-proclaimed king among kobolds is still just a kobold.
Warren kobolds avoid combat whenever possible unless they are in the familiar surroundings of their home tunnels. Their usual tactic is to retreat into tunnels too small for larger creatures to fight in effectively, where they can present greater numbers than their opponents. Their tunnels can usually be collapsed in order to funnel their foes through such tight spaces if they wish to proceed further into the warren.
All kobolds have a clear mental map of their tunnels, so know the most efficient routes to outmaneuver and flank their opponents and, if the kobolds are taken by surprise or the odds turn against them, the closest trap or hazard they can draw the enemy towards. If traps and battle fail them, warren kobolds are more likely to throw themselves at their enemy’s mercy than to flee, offering themselves as servants or slaves in return for their lives.