Folk Vs Fiction: Kobolds

LucasPuryear
*Quick introduction* Hello, I am Lucas Puryear, and artist and designer. I have a huge appreciation for worlds that feel alive, even as they rest solely in the realm of dead trees. I live in Dallas with my wife and 2 space heaters, I mean cats, and lots and lots of Dice, Paper, and Art Supplies.   *And now for our regularly scheduled program* A proud adventuring party has just waylaid a small band of Kobolds on the road west of town, and they feel accomplished. Smiles all around, players leaning back just counting the XP in their heads. The dust clears, and rather than a band of maurauding man beasts, there is what appears to be a small cleaning crew laying lifeless on the ground, still clutching tiny pails and brooms. The players sit back, confused, especially the player of the Paladin, moral center of the party. One player bursts out “Oh well, they were just Kobolds right.”   What has happened is that the DM was envisioning folklore when running the Kobolds down that road, the players were stuck in popular gaming fiction. Over the years in games Kobolds have strayed far from their origins in European Folklore, so far in fact that the closest thing to a Kobold in modern media is Dobby the House Elf from the Harry Potter series. The little yappy lizardmen are something completely different.   Where does the Kobold lore come from? Germany is the foremost epicenter of the creature’s origin, tiny folk that do household chores for personal fulfillment, and crumbs left inconspicuously about. They are generally good natured, becoming a boggart when they turn evil. Sometimes a Kobold could be swapped out with the terms Hobgoblin, Goblin, Sprite, Brownie, Domovoy, Gnome, and Dwarf. In fact a lot of folklore peoples are interchangeable as far as names go.   Why do I not consider the current visual state of the Kobold in RPG’s as a Kobold at all? To be honest it has to do with the way Kobolds are paid for their work, even though they do it for personal accomplishment and pride. To pay a Kobold, and not release them from their duties, one is to place small food items amongst the mess, as well as milk or mead in thimbles and other small basins. If you do this correctly and you don’t believe Kobolds exist, you have just made your home much more amicable to rodents. A Kobold should visually be somewhere between human and a rodent, and what is more they can become invisible at will should they feel threatened. Yes, paying them in a clothing item does release them, so don’t leave your socks laying about willy nilly   So when comparing Folk vs Fiction, Kobolds are radically different than they are portrayed in most game systems. You are far more likely to run into a Kobold in the kitchen or bedroom than in a dungeon.   SAMPLE ENCOUNTER: FREEBOLD! This encounter is best placed within a catacombs or cave system near a large mansion or castle. As the characters come around the corner to the next chamber, they see a Kobold crouched upon a pile of debris, clutching and caressing a satin glove. He is muttering to himself aimlessly, like a lost child trying to figure out what trouble he might be in for being away from home at a late hour.   “Hemmel was a good worker. Hemmel was nice to the children. Why has Hemmel been cast out by his family.” His face turns and his large pupils flash against the torches the players carry, and he throws down the glove screaming, “What insult is this? I suppose they didn’t just want Hemmel out of the house. They want me out of this life.” If the players take a calm reassuring tone and deal diplomatic with Hemmel, they could avoid combat all together, he really just wants to have a purpose in life. However, if they should be in any way threatening towards him, he pops himself invisible and initiative is rolled. Each round of combat he will bite the lowest non armored area on a random player, and because the invisibility is a natural act for him, it does not break the effect. He only reappears when he is caught, and then he begs for his life. If the players are friendly at this point he may even offer his services to the party, if not he will try the invisibility trick and run away as soon as he is let go.   *The illustration provided is a quick sketch of a Hemmel for a visual cue.*