Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Monster Monday: Kobolds in the Shadow of the Black Giant

What? It's still Monday somewhere... west of where I am. It'll probably still be Monday for awhile by the time I finally get this post up. Once in awhile, I get an idea that creeps me out so much I have to write it down; it was from a very bleak corner of my imagination that these kobolds came, inspired by my very deliberately unsettling readings of traditional German folklore. 

Just as many fantasy settings fail to understand the true, nefarious nature of gnomes, so too do they frequently misinterpret the lowly kobold. Not "lizardy-dog-man" nor diminutive "dragon people," one of the key facts about kobolds is often overlooked, for, if kobolds were not by necessity and definition blue, we wouldn't have named a particular blue sort of metal "cobalt," would we have? (Yes, we actually did name cobalt after kobolds, look it up.)

As the gnomes are sprung from the root of the Black Giant, wherever those dark roots may find purchase and bring living stone to cruel and roguish animation, similarly do the kobolds owe their birth to the same dark father. Where gnomes are not unlike the tree that sprouts from another's root, kobolds are akin to the aphids, beetles, borers and other pests that dine on the meat of that elder tree. Kobolds, you see, nourish themselves on precious metals and gems, leaving behind a "goblin iron," a slag-like blue metal that releases a toxic arsenic cloud if smelted, a process which results in a strangely beautiful and hardy metal. The dwarves, gnomes and kobolds of the Alps all vie for the same resources, the same treasures, rarely coming to terms with one another, each seeking outside aid against their rivals, none possessing any lasting advantage.

Of the three Alpine races mentioned here, humans by and large find the kobolds the most disturbing for a number of reasons. From far away, the percussive stuttering sounds they use to navigate through pitch-black tunnels can sound like gentle, inviting human laughter as it echoes through those same caverns, as if a small group of people were enjoying each other's company just beyond the edge of the delver's torchlight. Further, kobolds naturally adhere to any stone surface and so are often found walking on walls or the ceiling of tunnels and subterranean corridors, where they frequently spring down upon unsuspecting adventurers who tend to carry surprising quantities of the precious sustenance that the kobolds need to survive. However unsettling these two important features of the kobold are, men tend to find the appearance of the kobold even more disturbing, for the kobold resembles nothing so much as a newborn human baby with blue skin, pitch black eyes with white pin-point pupils and, gangling limbs similar to those an adult (but emaciated) human, with hands that end in three large digging claws and scaled, taloned feet reminiscent of those of a common chicken. The largest kobolds have bodies the size and general appearance of a hairless three-year-old, while the more common, smaller members of their warrens resemble one-year-olds.

Kobolds attack with their fore-claws which, designed for digging, sink deep into the flesh of their opponents, allowing them, if both claws hit the same victim, the kobold also may rake the victim with its chicken-like feet. Due to their ability to walk equally easily on any stone surface, they often surprise their foes from above, granting them a 3-in-6 chance to surprise. Although they cannot metabolize organic compounds like the flesh of their victims, once a victim falls, any kobolds not currently engaged in combat will set about picking over the dead body, looking for any metals or precious stones they may devour. In combat, the ability to metabolize these materials does not manifest in any special ability to do harm to weapons or armor; the kobolds' metabolism and tastes are such that they would prefer to devour valuable metals first, then less precious metals, from which they derive the most nutrition and flavor.

Most kobolds are of the minor variety; for every six common kobolds (a pack), there will be a 1d8 Hit Die alpha (the damage statistics for the alpha are noted below in parentheses) which will be obviously larger than the others. Every pack has a 1-in-12 chance to include a kobold brute as well, a 2d8+1 Hit Die creature (damage statistics are the same as the alpha, noted below in parentheses), and if more than one pack is encountered at a time, there will be at least one brute "king" that leads the group (with a 2-in-6 chance of there being a second brute "queen"). In kobold warrens, any treasure found would amount to, effectively, their food stores. Kobolds have an imperfect (30') infravision, which takes a backseat to their natural echolocation for navigational purposes which gives them knowledge of their surroundings, which is particularly effective underground (and allows for nearly instant detection of any secret or concealed doors or traps, so long as the kobold can speak and hear). Being only mildly intelligent, kobolds speak a smattering of the Gurgir tongue, but rarely speak any other language.

AC: 7
HD: 1d4 (or 1d8 or 2d8+1)
Attacks: 2 claw (plus rake)
Damage: 1d2/1d2/1d3 (1d3/1d3/1d6)
Dexterity: 13
Move: 15
Alignment: Chaotic (3 CE : 1 N)
Treasure: 15 (5) 

For game purposes (and despite their inherent oddness), kobolds are considered humanoids. Kobolds are not particularly resistant to magic (or anything else), and they are unsteady in daylight, fighting at -1 in such condtions.