January 2, 2013

Dragon’s-Eye View: Re-imagining Kobolds

The new year kicks off with a monster that low-level parties everywhere love kicking, kobolds. There seems to be two camps on kobolds: one wants them to have a dog/rat-like look, while the other prefers the more recent draconic association. I guess it largely depends on whichever kobold you saw first (which for me, if you are not counting D&D, would have been the red blobs from Hydlide).

I have no idea.

Though I owned the Basic set most of my earliest D&D memories stem from 2nd Edition, which mentions them having scaly skin, small horns, and a rat-like tail, but that is about it. No mention of an otherwise rat- or dog-like appearance, though if it were not for Tony DiTerlizzi’s drawing—which I feel were the best in the book—I would have probably assumed a tiny, reptilian creature (especially because, yapping-language or no, not all animals make the noises you assume they would).

Maybe that is why I did not mind the change to their appearance in 3rd Edition, and in fact felt that it made them more visually interesting. I also enjoyed their new-found association with dragons, and have used this on numerous occasions to add young dragons to kobold lairs, flavor their spellcasters, and create champions and variants with more draconic properties, like breath weapons and wings.

Given all of this it is probably no surprise that I have almost no issues with Jon’s mission statement. Almost.

First, I do not see why the eyes need to be particularly large. Does that mean that drow are going to have larger-than-normal eyes? Duergar? Darkvision is not a “real-world” thing, so unless the look fits the theme they are going for I would not bother adhering too closely.

While I like that they are sticking with the draconic essence, I think that WotC should go a step further and give them the same scale colors, horns, and crests that dragons have, something that I wished that they would have done this with the dragonborn (which, had they made dragonborn metallic-only could have made for a nice dichotomy…hint hint).

Some people are against the idea of prehensile tails, but I actually dig them, if for no other reason than it is not something I have really seen in D&D. I mean, tieflings could take the Clever Tail feat to nab items and make Thievery checks with them, so why not kobolds?