(this was originally published on my Patreon on April 17, 2017)
It’s Kobold Week, which means I’ll be spending time each day writing about my favorite monster race, kobolds! For this first piece, I decided to find as many homebrew versions of kobolds as a playable race as I could, and give a short summary/review, and then review the official playable traits given in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. I found all of the homebrew kobolds from Dungeon Masters Guild.
This document provides some flavor text for kobolds that seems to fit nicely with their description in the Monster Manual and other official sources, with the basics like their love of treasure, servitude to dragons, and mastery of traps explained in a little detail. It’s formatted like a race entry in the Player’s Handbook, though there are a few format errors. I like the actual traits given to kobolds, though it seems to ignore the traits of the MM kobolds, as they lack both sunlight sensitivity and pack tactics. I appreciate the attempt to make kobolds a more viable race than what’s presented in Volo’s Guide, but overall the race still feels underpowered.
In addition to the racial traits, this document also includes three kobold-exclusive feats. I’m a bit iffy on my understanding of balancing feats, but to me the first two (a breath weapon and a couple spells) seem underpowered and the last one (urd wings) seems overpowered.
Right off the bat I’m disappointed by the fact that while the sales page describes this document as a “Watermarked PDF,” it is in fact a Word document. While it is fairly well-formatted for a Word document, it still could have easily been converted into a PDF. That said, the content of the document is fairly solid. It contains almost two pages of well-written flavor text, though it sticks mostly to established kobold lore, so there’s not much of interest. The traits are numerous, from the core Monster Manual traits of sunlight sensitivity and pack tactics to new abilities such as proficiency with stealth, heightened senses, and trapmaking. It’s truly a heroic kobold, and I’d suspect that the listed traits could easily stand toe-to-toe with any of the PHB races in terms of viability, despite taking penalties to both Strength and Constitution.
This seems to be a plagiarized version of the document of the same name by Rick Johnson. The downloaded file is exactly the same, but this version was published later than Rick Johnson’s.
Short, sweet, and to the point, this playable kobold race contains only three paragraphs of flavor text before jumping right into the traits. These kobolds have not ability score penalties, though they retain their sunlight sensitivity. However, pack tactics is conspicuously missing. To make up for that, kobold receive trapmaking abilities and two subraces: tunnelers and urds. Tunnelers are sneaky and are able to communicate with underground beasts, while urds can fly while wearing light armor. These kobolds seem quite powerful, unlike their Monster Manual counterparts.
The background on this document gave me a headache, and the formatting was pretty bad. That said, the interpretation of kobolds was fairly interesting. They were presented as hardy, artistic creatures rather than the frail, utilitarian beings seen in the Monster Manual. The three subraces include Cave Dwellers, which are the basic MM kobolds complete with sunlight sensitivity and pack tactics; Urds, your standard flying kobolds; and Scalesingers, creative and naturally lucky creatures. I didn’t spend any more time with this than I had to because of the background giving me a headache, which is a shame because what I read was a very unique take on kobolds.
The background on this document is an obnoxious orange, but it at least doesn’t give me a headache. The formatting is pretty poor as well. The writing is obnoxious and the traits seem to be given almost at random. The kobolds still have sunlight sensitivity, but the three subraces have almost no cohesion besides the standard winged kobold. Past the kobold traits it lists in very scant detail a few traps that kobolds may use, but with no suggestion on how they would work mechanically.
I love the name, but unfortunately that’s the only thing about this document I love. The background image both gives me a headache and makes it nearly impossible to read the text. I gave up before I could get a good understanding of the kobolds and the FIVE subraces included. If you can stand the headache-inducing background, maybe check this out, with five subraces there should be at least something interesting in there somewhere.
Volo’s Guide to Monsters
While I’m grateful to Wizards for providing official playable stats for kobolds, I’m honestly not too thrilled with what they’ve given us. Kobolds are pathetically weak, and they play that up with their trait “Grovel, Cower, and Beg,” but I feel like giving them this ability limits them to being pathetic rather than being foolishly heroic or deeply loyal. In my own games, I treat that feature as nurture rather than nature, so I give kobolds other options instead of that if they prefer. Other than that, the most interesting thing I noticed was the fact that kobolds can live up to 120 years old. It’s hard to imagine a kobold living anywhere near that long.