K is for Kobolds!

Kobolds: What is it about these guys that makes them so darn special? How is it that a horde of cowardly little chihuahua-dragon things that drop in a single hit can give a group of tough-guy adventurers so much trouble? Simply put, kobolds are the Viet Cong or the French Resistance of the D&D universe. The rely on cunning traps and hit and run ambush tactics to wear down adventurers.

The wiliness of kobold-kind also makes them one of the most entertaining adversaries to run as a GM. My players have never been so worn down by a dungeon as they were when they cleared out the Kobold Temple of the Eye. When I designed the dungeon, I actually drew inspiration from maps of Viet Cong tunnel systems. I built in lots of long hallways with arrow slits at the end, murder holes, looping side passages and hidden escape routes and diabolical pit traps full of monsters, not to mention the gaggles of yappy little guerillas waiting around every corner.

I also think that the innocuous appearance of kobolds (little, green, annoying) makes them ideal templates for elaboration. These absurd little beasties sit at the center of two of the most memorable episodes in my game.

Don’t you just want to pinch his lizardy cheeks!?

The first occurred when my players met Ashii, the lone surviving member of a kobold colony that had been turned to zombies by an elemental evil, which had taken up residence in their warren. When my players took pity on Ashii, promising to evacuate him from his hiding place once the coast was clear, it led to the establishment of the group’s secret codeword, “bunkbed” which is still in use today. It also led to perhaps my favorite NPC I have ever created -He WILL show up in my game again some day. See, after my players rescued Ashii, they realized they couldn’t just abandon him on the streets. After all, his whole family was dead. So, they decided to find a new home for him. When they failed to make headway with the thieve’s guild -a natural fit for an evil, trap-making, ambush-laying, back-stabbing beastie- they decided instead to make him a ward of the church of Pelor. Here is why this is funny:

In the standard D&D universe:
Kobolds = evil, thieving, murderous, tricksy subterranean ambush predators who are very light sensitive.
Pelor = good, loving god of healing and the sun.

So, why on earth would a kobold agree to become the ward of a goodie two-shoes church of horrible burning light? Simple, the church of Pelor excels at zombie killing and is probably best equipped to protect twitchy wee Ashii from future outbreaks of undeadness.

At some point, I am determined to reintroduce Ashii as a permanently sunburned, zombie-hunting cleric of Pelor… because the image is just too precious to resist.

The second memorable moment occurred in the massive kobold warren I mentioned at the very beginning of the post. I began thinking about what a kobold celebration might look like. Large chunks of questionable scavenged meat on spits of course! and then, what kobold music might look & sound like… and darn it, it just popped into my head… kobold mariachi band. The brassy, dramatic, jittery staccato of mariachi just seemed to suit kobold culture in my game. And, so I had my players stumble upon a feast day celebration. Of course the kobolds heard them coming setting up what I hoped would be a Desperado style showdown. Instead, the fight looked more like this with the singing telegram girl representing the kobold musicians and the gunshot representing a fireball hurled by the group’s sorceress. This moment unexpectedly became one of the funniest and fondly remembered bits of my whole campaign.