Of the diminutive races, the kobolds have adapted best to the changing world. Enslaved long ago by reaver dwarves, kobolds quickly carved a niche for themselves as miners, scouts, and tinkerers—small enough to be useful and small enough to be dismissed as a threat. At first they were tolerated, then largely ignored. As a result, the shadows of dwarven society are rife with kobold rogues and entrepreneurs (many of them secret worshipers of Loki), seemingly subservient but busily trading dwarven goods for resources extracted from the dwarves’ own mines and storehouses, right under the noses of their alleged “masters.”
Free kobolds defend their mines viciously, but otherwise maintain the ruse of a harmless and subservient little folk—at least until the opportunity to sheathe a knife in someone’s kidneys presents itself. Other small races have adopted the kobolds’ strategy, including the worship of Loki, embracing his cunning ways and the advantages of guile and cunning over brawn and bravado.
More than anything, kobolds are survivors. Their scaly skin and keen night vision as well as their dexterous claws and sensitive snouts make them quick to sense danger, and their clawed feet move them out of peril with a cowardly speed. They fight on their own terms, small and fierce, and their weight of numbers helps them survive in places where larger but less numerous races cannot sustain a settlement. They are great miners, good gearsmiths, and modest alchemists, and exhibit a curiosity about the world that frequently gets them into trouble. They serve as merchants to both the Underdark and the surface world, with their greatest cities hidden deep below the earth. Their enemies are the diabolical gnomes and the dwarves, competing mining races that seek to overthrow the kobold dominance of dark, rich territories.
The kobold queen of queens—in all her radiant dragon-blooded perfection—rules from Harkesh, the capital of the Dragon Empire. Kobold society is exceedingly social and built around the clan, matriarchal lines of descent, everchanging male kings, and the crucial importance of clutch-mates (those who hatched about the same time, since kobolds are reptilian and hatch from eggs). Relatively few kobolds become adventurers, but those who do generally have either oﬀended a kobold king (and been exiled from the mines as punishment) or have lost their clutch-mates.Adventuring kobolds wish to leave their homes to grieve and find new friends. In many cases, a kobold will “adopt” an adventuring party as new clutch-mates.
Kobolds are deeply enamored of their tools and spend a great deal of eﬀort to improve them. Mining picks, a mason’s hammer or jeweler’s loupe, and even simple items like a spear or dagger are all named and cherished. At the same time, kobolds tend to gnaw on tool handles, forget to oil blades, or even pry out inlays or decorative gems to improve them. As a result, most kobold items are entirely distinctive and unlikely to be mistaken for anyone else’s possessions. Some believe this decorative urge may be a form of defense against theft.
One category of tool deserves special note: traps. Kobolds create wildly impractical traps and simple, deadly ones as a hobby, and few leave home without string, springs, or other triggers for their traps. Kobolds are the only race that recognizes “trapsmith” as a profession. The kobolds are closely allied with and related to the dragonkin, drakes, and dragons. The kobold kings (and there are many kobold kings, since no kobold ruler is ever satisfied with being merely a chieftain) admire the dragons as the sources of wisdom, power, and proper behavior.