Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Races of Fold: The Kobolds

For some context: Within Dungeons and Dragons, Kobolds are one of the weakest humanoid races presented in the books. Over the years, they've become something of a joke as DMs use them as a low-level minion creature to throw at beginning characters. They rarely become a credible threat, or even seem "playable" for a character. Books were published that gave the kobolds some absolutely amazing fluff and character, as well as some options to make aspects of them seem playable (which are highly abusable if one chooses to attempt optimisation). I wanted to make the kobolds seem a lot more playable and balanced in my setting, as before they had very little in the way of abilities and suffered a massive -4 penalty to their strength score. The alterations to their stats have generally received positive feedback as being solid and playable without breaking any sense of power balance.

For some background on the origins of kobolds: 

The dragons of Fold are a formidable force; their motives often inscrutable to anyone except another dragon, and their power matching and sometimes surpassing the Titans and the giants of old. Their skill in arcane spellcraft and their sheer physical might in battle are both unquestionable. They hold ancient lore and hoard vast collections of treasure. The only thing keeping their numbers in check is their in-fighting; almost bred into them from being hatched in large clutches who must then conquer their clutchmates to survive. Their frequent use of an ability to adopt a humanoid form has led to them producing dozens of humanoids gifted with their innately magical bloodlines and is theorised to be one of the sources of sorcerous ability in many races.
One race, however, claims that it is directly descended from dragons, and professes supreme sorcerous power because of it... Much to the dismay of many dragons. They are the kobolds, small, wiry reptilian humanoids found in two environments; temperate hills, filled with cave systems and tunnels that link to the deeper world within Fold, and the searing deserts of the Wastes. Kobold communities are a genuine commune, where everyone contributes and wyrmlings are raised by the collective adults, and all are led by a chieftain, almost exclusively a sorcerer of some power. Kobold chieftains run their tribes with the advice of their selected council; these advisors are often priests, artisans and the occasional sorcerer, something between a rival and a protegé of the chief; their aim is to replace the chief, but also to learn their secrets. Kobold artisans have a strange reputation for making items of exacting quality, but never making them in a particularly exquisite fashion; as a race, they hold utility and function above form and decoration.

Kobolds in general possess a paranoid and suspicious outlook on the world, which is reflected in the preferred "artform" of both the mountain and desert races; traps. Kobold traps are simultaneously ingenious, simplistic and barbaric, and often rely on something heavier than a kobold to be triggered (meaning they rarely have to worry about their own traps). Due to their insular nature, kobolds have incredibly tight-knit communities and are rarely seen outside of their territories, those few that are seen frequently are either designated envoys, or exiles. Exiles will sometimes find employ in the mines of other races, or possibly as "security experts". These so-called security experts are either used to test the defenses of mansions, palaces and tombs, or to provide the 'security'. While they aren't seen as being anywhere near as savage as the orcs, or possessing the reputation of the goblinoids, kobolds are rarely found in the same numbers or in positions that grant them prestige or high regard. Kobolds will rarely cause trouble in a community, and if exiled will often "adapt" and try to blend in, feeling the need to recreate the sense of community they're used to, though some will be incredibly withdrawn and will cling to the ways of their people.

Mountain Kobolds

The "Mountain kobolds" have claimed an existence in the mineral rich mountains just below the freezing Northlands, where their underground mines and tunnels maintain a warmth from the earth itself. Being a cold-blooded race, they tend to avoid moving to the surface unless necessary, such as when they need to hunt or maybe trade some of their mineral wealth. While dwarves are unmatched in their skill of working with stone and metal, kobolds are supremely diligent in their efforts to mine the materials; even a wyrmling is trained to hold and swing a pickaxe. Kobolds are quite a xenophobic race, and while willing to trade for supplies and riches (they share their ancestors' love of pretty baubles and coins) they avoid other races as much as possible, even cruelly dispatching trespassers, unwitting or otherwise. Their fear and paranoia has led them to lay numerous traps within their tunnels, to the point where trapmaking is an artform. Should the traps fail, or if no other option is available, a kobold will fight tooth and nail (literally) to defend its home, but a kobold understands that its size and relative weakness will do it no merit when pitted against larger beings. Kobolds make up for their size by fighting with guile, and with large numbers; a kobold community will often band together to drive off intruders.
Mountain kobolds are small, rarely exceeding 3ft in height, and rarely, if ever, weigh more than 50lbs. Their scaly hide (called squamae) is strangely velvety, though bumpy and comes in various shades of orange and tan, often mottled with greys and browns. Their heads are broad at the back, but lead to a narrower snout. Their typically green or yellowish eyes are large and slightly protuberant, and the orbits are topped with six bony projections. Kobolds are a primarily nocturnal race, and coupled with their subterranean life, this has led them to eschew the sun almost completely; a kobold out in the mountain sun is at a disadvantage. A kobold's mouth is a considerable part of its skull and contains many sharp, needlelike teeth, and a slightly stretchy tongue which grants them a surprisingly powerful bite, should they need it. Another feature of the kobold anatomy are the surprisingly resilient claws on their hands and feet, as well as unusually textured pads that seem to provide an almost indescribable ability to find purchase on tunnel and cavern walls.

Kobolds dress in utilitarian, hard-wearing clothing; for them work and toil is part of everyday life and ostentation and finery is to be left for special celebrations. Non-kobolds find it near impossible to differentiate between male and female kobolds when they're dressed in their 'work clothes'. In a typical community kobold priests will lead their community in worship of Tiamat, the now ascended and cosmically-empowered "goddess" and forebear of the chromatic dragons, proclaiming her the great progenitor of their race. Unlike most venerators of the Queen of Scalykind, kobolds don't make aggressive attempts at conquest and plunder, believing their diligent digging and harvesting of the earth is a fitting tribute of claiming wealth in her name.

  • Ability adjustments: -2 Strength, +4 Dexterity, -2 Constitution.
  • Race: Humanoid (Reptilian, Dragonblood)
  • Speed: 30ft land speed, 20ft climb speed.
  • Size: Small.
  • Darkvision 90ft.
  • Light sensitivty: Mountain kobolds are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
  • +1 natural armour bonus to AC.
  • Kobolds gain two claw attacks (1d4) and one secondary bite attack (1d4).
  • Kobolds gain a +4 racial bonus on Craft (trapmaking) checks. Craft (trapmaking) is considered to be a class skill for kobolds.
  • Kobolds receive a +2 racial bonus on Profession (Miner) and Search checks. Mountain kobolds receive a +8 racial bonus on Climb checks and may always "Take 10", even when rushed or threatened. A kobold may use its Dexterity modifier on Climb checks instead of its Strength modifier.
  • Kobolds are proficient with light and heavy picks. Kobolds can also treat greatpicks as martial weapons.
  • Automatic languages: Draconic.
  • Bonus languages: Common, Undercommon.
  • Favoured class: Sorcerer.

Desert Kobolds

Within the scorching sands of the great Wastes surrounding the nations Kashia and Denfise, the land is scoured for water and the remaining relics of the ancient and collapsed human empire that lived there. Between the hazards set by the terrain and climate, explorers, nomads and adventurers are often beset by beasts of the sands, all seeking to slake their thirst, but there lies a less obvious threat; the desert kobolds. Through sheer luck of reptilian physiology, kobolds seemed oddly well-adapted to the desert lifestyle; they need heat to maintain a number of bodily functions and their incredibly efficient usage of energy and water means they don't need to eat or drink anywhere near as much as a human, or even a gnome or halfling. Desert kobolds live within the foothills and badlands of the Waste but, unlike their temperate cousins, they don't live underground as predominantly. As such, their ability to see in the dark is lessened, but they aren't as hindered by the sun. Their society is largely similar, but they are less inclined to dig for riches, often choosing to waylay travellers and caravans for their riches instead. This is less a sign of being braver or less paranoid, but more an indication of a slightly more foolhardy nature, possibly even a stronger connection to the avaricious nature of many dragons. That said, these kobolds also have something of a knack for finding food and water in the desert, and can often be encouraged to aid other races in exchange for gold, jewels and similar items, though their skill pales somewhat when compared to the ability of the goblinoid bhukas.
Desert kobolds are stockier than their mountain analogues and have a much rougher looking and slightly spiked squamae, and bear a strong resemblance to some of the desert species of agamids. Their heads are flatter and broader, with similar spiky protusions to their mountain cousins above their eyes, which are smaller and less prominent. Their mouths and claws are just as dangerous though. Their hide is usually a sandy colour, though stony greys and beiges are often mottled or marbled through it, with some individuals possessing flashes of vibrant earthy reds, oranges or yellows and their eyes are often shades of yellow or brown-green. Desert kobolds have the unusual ability to flex their muscles and skin in a way that makes the rougher and more spiny edges of their hide stand prominent. This is presumably some kind of defense mechanism against larger predators snatching them up, and often utilised as such.

Desert kobolds do not share the mountain kobolds' cultural bent for mining, and as such do not train in the use of a pickaxe, but do possess the same affinity for traps, owing to a similar xenophobia. Desert kobolds are also cunning and wily enough to utilise the landscape against their foes, understanding the terrain and flora of their homeland as few others do. Traps used by the desert tribes often involve the terrain features either as a natural trap, or as a way to make their victims more likely to hit their devices.

  • Ability adjustments: -2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom.
  • Race: Humanoid (Reptilian, Dragonblood)
  • Speed: 30ft.
  • Size: Small.
  • Darkvision 60ft.
  • +1 natural armour bonus to AC.
  • Natural attacks: Two claws (1d4) and one secondary bite (1d4).
  • Kobolds receive a +4 racial bonus on Craft (trapmaking) checks. Craft (trapmaking) is always a class skill for kobolds.
  • Kobolds receive a +2 racial bonus on Climb, Search and Survival checks. Kobolds can use their Dexterity modifier instead of their Strength modifier on Climb checks.
  • When grappled by an opponent at least two sizes larger, a desert kobold can make a touch attack against the opponent grappling them as a standard action. If the attack succeeds they deal 1d6 points of piercing damage.
  • Automatic languages: Draconic.
  • Bonus languages: Common, Undercommon.
  • Favoured class: Rogue.

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