Deep in the mountains, scratching and muttering can be heard in their caverns. Through narrow passageways and vicious traps, the kobolds make their living. These bipedal reptilians have made their society on the desire to be safe and secure, where they can pray for the day that their dragon lords come for their chosen people.

Kobolds from D&D 4e

The kobolds are easily recognised by their short stature, reptilian appearance, and the short horns on the back of their heads. Coloration ranges from dull red to green to grey, with paler individuals found in deeper parts of the settlements, where they are less likely to have seen the sun. Colour variants were originally split by location, but as kobold territories have interacted with one another over time, different colour blends have been found. Kobolds are adapted to a mountainous existence, with large lungs and good senses of hand-eye coordination.

Kobolds have short lifespans, living only up to 20-30 years on average. They usually find themselves at the lower end of this timeline due to the presence of predators, natural disasters, trap accidents, and attacks from rival races. This short lifespan has shaped much of kobold society. They typically aim to conserve the little time they have as much as possible, creating their homes in mountains and caves where they are hard to attack. These systems are often made with various pathways and tunnels, with large tunnels for transport of resources and large groups, and narrower tunnels made for escaping larger threats. Their military styles often also reflect this preservation of life, with open forces often resorting to shield wall formations accompanied by hidden archers, or alternatively relying on guerrilla warfare.

Kobold government and society ranges from being borderline nonexistent to highly organised, and the crux of this is based on how kobolds choose to live their lives. On the one hand, some kobolds believe that they must live their lives to the fullest, by acquiring as many skills as possible and seeing as much of the world as they can. These individuals tend to form small tribes, which can be found in dungeons, urban areas, forests, and even in desert regions as nomads. These kobolds are the most commonly encountered by other races, leading to the belief that kobolds are unspecialised and unorganised, but also as being quick and eager to learn new skills. These groups often treat each other like family, and there are many tales of kobolds sacrificing themselves so that the rest of their tribe can continue to pursue rich and fruitful lives.

On the other hand, other kobolds think of their lives beyond the experiences of the individual, instead focusing on how their actions will affect future generations. These kobolds are commonly found in large mountain settlements, with governments varying on the political spectrum. Within their strongholds, the kobolds often exhibit strong job specialisation, with individuals learning their skills through apprenticeships instead of schools. Those that try not to work are often exiled from society, or put through rigorous training and interrogation to find what role in society they can fulfill. These societies are seen in some regions as central to their societies; an organised kobold city can control transport of goods between two sides of a mountain or across a mountain path, acting both as guards from bandits and tariff collectors.

Kobold Miner by Bryan Syme

In these societies, kobold age is measured through lifelines- necklaces with the teeth the individual kobold has lost during their lifetime. The more teeth a chain has, the older and wiser a kobold is perceived. This lifeline is eventually buried alongside the kobold when they pass away. The majority of the body is discarded and used for animal feed, but the skull and life line is kept, which is then stored in a communal crypt beneath the settlement. These crypts can be almost as large as the colony itself, with some settlements annually discarding the oldest generation of skulls to make room for the next generation. These expansive graves have also led to many kobold legends about undead creatures clawing their way up through the mountains. In order to protect themselves, kobolds that travel into the crypts often carry head lanterns on their persons to scare away malicious spirits.

The majority of kobold culture outside of their need for security comes from their belief that they are descended from dragons. Kobolds are taught that their ancient ancestors were either dragons themselves, or that they were created from the blood of dragons. Some of this is partially supported in a few ways: kobold language is an old, rune based system akin to that used to commune with the great wyrms of old. Their appearance invokes that of dragons as well, including the facial horns not commonly found on other reptilian beastolk. When kobolds have access to magic, the magic often manifests through breath weapons. What’s more, the fact that this belief is found in kobold colonies that have never interacted with one another indicates that there may very well be a degree of truth to it.

This dragon worship manifests itself through dances and statues in honour of their ancestors, collection of dragon relics via theft, scavenging, and raiding, as well as choosing names for themselves that invoke the old names of the great wyrms. Kobolds typically find their heritage to be of great pride to them, and this in turn relates to their relationships with their ancestors; they bear the names of their father and mother (akin to a joint surname) as a sign of respect, even if they rarely interact with one another.

Kobold homes are extensively protected with various traps, trick walls, and spikes. Kobold society values inventors and tinkerers, due to their ability to ensure safety and security of a stronghold. The rich sources of metals in the mountains and collection of other resources in the surrounding areas provide the kobolds with a steady supply of resources, meaning that they are amongst the more technologically advances races of their homelands. Tribal kobolds will also take part in inventing, though a lack of training can lead to some of their creations being rather unorthodox, such as tying venomous animals to sticks or filling boxes with agitated wildlife. A kobold can often find work in another race settlement as a salvager, repairer, or smith.

Food is gathered through foraging, thieving, and raiding. They commonly steal mountain goats and sheep from unwary shepherds. Kobolds can raise some animals in their caverns and in secluded green patches of the mountains, which they allow to roam free and feed on food scraps. In return, the kobolds use them as work animals, as well as taking their hides, bones, and meat when needed. Work animals include hunting dogs, guard geese, and goat mounts. Settlements at the base of kobold mountains often make deals with nearby farming communities, asking for livestock in return for metals that the kobolds mine.

Kobold Grenadier by WanderingInPixels

Kobolds have a view on sex and gender that is rather liberal. They are capable of changing sex over a period of months, which is done when colonies lose too many males or females from disease or war. Because of this, they have no strong concept of gender, using the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ to refer to biological sex, and a neutral term to refer to the gender of individuals. Because sexes change over time, same sex relationships are perfectly acceptable, as are polygamous and monogamous relationships. Mating in large societies is heavily controlled; kobolds can produce many eggs, and as such their breeding must be controlled to ensure that there are not resource or space constraints.

Kobold children are raised communally, with no education given until they choose or are given an apprenticeship. Children will sleep in the homes of their parents, but live in the houses of their neighbours and friends. The fast maturity rates of kobolds mean that childhood is short, reaching sexual maturity at 8 years old.

Interactions with other races have rarely been entirely pleasant. The kobold need for security and self-sufficiently is just as great- if not more so- than any human, and as such there is a high likelihood of conflict occurring over resources. When kobolds and other races come to violence, the kobolds typically will only attack when they feel the need to do so, preferring defence and avoidance over direct conflict. When interactions are amiable, however, kobolds have proved to be valuable allies. Their ability to work with tools and machines often spur agriculture and industrialisation, as well as working as miners, blacksmiths, carpenters, and architects. Tribal kobolds can also prove to be beneficial, regaling villagers with their tales and exploits, or trading gifts they have collected during their travels.

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