Scales and Surprises: Kobold Lore in Dungeons & Dragons
What are Kobolds?
Kobolds have been a staple of D&D since its early inception decades ago. They are small creatures that are capable of intelligence and often cunning as well. Their small size means they’ve had to find ways to survive in a world full of monsters and much larger creatures. This often means skulking around in caves and operating in large packs.
Despite their small size and relative lack of strength, they are actually related to the rather terrifying and imposing dragons. With scaly, reptilian skin and some traits inherited from their dragon cousins, kobolds are more capable than they might at first seem.
With the introduction of Volo’s Guide to Monsters and a large update in Monsters of the Multiverse, kobolds are now a playable race in D&D 5e and our guide below is here to help you get the most out of a kobold character.
Kobold Features in 5e
|Ability Scores||+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores|
|Traits||Darkvision, Draconic Cry, Kobold Legacy, Craftiness, Defiance, Draconic Sorcery|
|Book found in||Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse|
If you want to play as a kobold, your character will have the following traits and abilities:
Darkvision – You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can only see colours in darkness as shades of grey though.
Draconic Cry – As a bonus action, you let out a cry at your enemies within 10 feet of you. Until the start of your next turn, you and your allies have advantage on attack rolls against all affected enemies. You can use this trait a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus and regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Kobold Legacy – Kobolds’ connection to dragons can manifest in unpredictable ways. Choose one of the following legacy options for your kobold:
- Craftiness – You have proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice: Arcana, investigation, medicine, sleight of hand or survival.
- Defiance – You have advantage on saving throws against the frightened condition.
- Draconic Sorcery – You know one cantrip from the sorceror spell list. You can use intelligence, wisdom or charisma as your spellcasting ability (you choose when you create your character).
Draconic Cry Support: In combat, utilize Draconic Cry to grant advantage to yourself and allies. Coordinate with the party to strategically time this ability for maximum impact, especially when key attacks or spells are being unleashed.
Booming Blade and Melee Strikes: If you opt for Draconic Sorcery and take Booming Blade, combine it with your natural kobold agility. Engage enemies in melee, delivering potent strikes, and then strategically retreat to trigger the additional thunder damage. Consider taking the ‘Mobile’ feat in order to breakaway more easily.
Hit and Run: Leverage your small size and agility for hit-and-run tactics. Dart in with Draconic Cry-empowered attacks, then quickly retreat to safety. Use terrain and even medium/large allies for cover.
Which classes are good for kobolds?
With Monsters of the Multiverse and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything allowing playable races to choose any ability score to improve, the benefits of playing a kobold come down to its traits. Darkvision is commonly available but often useful. Draconic Cry is a great way of giving yourself and allies advantage against a small number of enemies very easily but is primarily useful for martial classes. Finally, Kobold Legacy grants some small bonuses depending on which option you choose.
Your most powerful ability as a kobold is Draconic Cry (though access to a sorcerer cantrip could be valuable for some classes). Draconic Cry does require being fairly close to your enemies when used so while occassionally handy for ranged combatants, it’s an excellent option for martials, especially ones that may not be using their bonus action too often.
Best Classes for kobolds
Kobolds truly shine in the rogue’s role, particularly when focussed on melee combat. The Draconic Cry ability is key for this class, not only bestowing advantages to yourself and allies in the midst of the frenzied battle but also serving as a clever manoeuvre to secure a crucial sneak attack – the linchpin of your damage potential.
To elevate your rogue game even further, consider opting for Draconic Sorcery as part of your Kobold Legacy. This choice opens the door to cantrips like Booming Blade, a fantastic addition to your arsenal. What makes it even more enticing is that it infuses extra damage into your attacks without gobbling up your precious bonus action. One turn could open up with Draconic Cry, setting the stage with advantage and sneak attack, then Booming Blade kicks in, adding an extra punch to your damage output.
A Kobold can make a formidable fighter, particularly when considering its unique traits and abilities. The Draconic Cry ability, which grants advantage to both the kobold and its allies, is especially useful in the context of melee combat. Fighters often find themselves in the thick of battle, and Draconic Cry enhances their effectiveness by increasing the likelihood of successful attacks. So a fighter Kobold can afford to be in danger, knowing they are more likely to hit.
As mentioned with the rogue Kobold, the strategic choice of Draconic Sorcery, particularly the selection of the Booming Blade cantrip, can be very effective. This synergy with Draconic Cry, which provides advantage, ensures that the Kobold fighter can consistently deliver powerful attacks in melee engagements. Casting Booming blade is a spell action, so will be a great choice until your fighter reaches level 5, and unlocks a second attack. At this point, the extra attack is a much better choice in terms of action economy. However, during those perilous lower levels, Booming Blade can be a great tool for a fighter Kobold who loves to hit and run.
For all the same reasons as Fighters and Rogues, Kobolds make great paladins. Draconic Cry will give you advantage on attack rolls (though you may have to sacrifice uses of your smites, but with limited spell slots, you weren’t going to be using those all the time anyway). You can time uses of smites when you already have advantage and Draconic Cry for when you don’t.
While a cantrip may seem like a lesser smite, your spell slots are limited so having a spell like booming blade in your repertoire means you can always be granting yourself a bonus to your damage from attacks.
Worst classes for kobolds
Basically any class where you won’t be using Draconic Cry very often which will likely be spellcasters like sorcerors, wizards and warlocks (except hexblades). These classes will also gain little from an extra cantrip from your Draconic Sorcery (though the other options available are decent too).
Barbarians are also a poor option for kobolds despite being the martial-ist of martials! They can’t cast spells while raging so Draconic Sorcery would be wasted on them and reckless attack makes Draconic Cry at least partly redundant.
Standing around two to three feet tall, Kobolds possess scaly skin that ranges in colour from rusty brown to dark, mottled green. Their faces feature elongated snouts, sharp teeth, and small, cunning eyes that gleam with a mischievous intelligence.
Kobolds are often adorned with small horns or frills, emphasising their draconic lineage. They are also known for their wiry and agile builds, allowing them to navigate the intricate tunnels and subterranean lairs they often inhabit. In addition to their reptilian traits, kobolds typically possess a long, slender tail that aids in balance and agility.
Kobolds are known for their spirited and crafty personalities. Despite their small size, they possess remarkable confidence and a strong sense of community. In their tight-knit groups, kobolds often display a blend of loyalty and mischief, working together with cunning tactics to overcome challenges. While their mischievous nature can lead to pranks and traps, it also reflects a playful side, showcasing a certain joy in their endeavors.
Kobolds revere dragons and might have a bit of an inferiority complex, compensating with bravado and a determination to prove themselves. Overall, the typical kobold is a clever, energetic, and communal creature, fiercely protective of its kind and ever-ready for the next adventure.
Roleplaying as a Kobold
As with any race, kobolds have a wide variety of personalities and attributes meaning you can play a kobold however you like. You may however, want to consider aspects of your past and your lineage that shape who you are such as:
- Play Up the Team Dynamic: Kobolds often live and work in close-knit groups. Highlight your character’s strong sense of camaraderie and loyalty to their fellow companions. Consider doing things like using “we” instead of “I” in your speech to emphasize the collective nature of kobold thinking.
- Show a Bit of Bravado: Despite their small size, kobolds have big hearts and often try to compensate for their perceived weaknesses. Roleplay your kobold with a touch of bravado, a determination to prove themselves, and a fearless attitude in the face of danger.
- Respect for Dragons: Kobolds have a deep respect and reverence for dragons. Consider incorporating this into your roleplaying by referencing dragons in your speech or behaviour. Your character might use dragon-related idioms or express admiration for dragon-like qualities. They may speak of great tales of ancient dragons and will certainly want to appease a dragon they meet.
- Fearful Yet Courageous: Kobolds are often portrayed as somewhat fearful creatures, especially when facing larger foes. However, they also have a courageous side, particularly when protecting their community. Balance fear with moments of bravery to create a dynamic and engaging character.
- Think Small, Act Big: Emphasize your character’s small size by considering how they interact with the environment. Climbing, hiding, and squeezing through tight spaces can be key elements of your roleplaying, showcasing how your kobold uses their size to their advantage.