Not so bold
Kobolds are small, bipedal, reptilian creatures that are often dismissed as being cowardly, weak and unintelligent. However, kobolds actually have a sophisticated social structure that emphasises co-operation as a tribe, demonstrate capabilities with their hands and work furiously to overcome their physical deficiencies.
Kobolds typically engage in digging, searching for the magic that will enable them to free their imprisoned god, Kurtulmak. Generally, they wish to be left alone to carry on with this work, but generally, they are bullied and enslaved by stronger creatures. For this reason, kobolds are constantly in fear of being dominated and while they are timid and shy on their own, they are vicious when cornered or protecting their eggs.
Kobolds are instinctive tunnelers. They seem to know which stones are weak and easily dug, which areas are loading bearing and which are safe to excavate. They are also cunning in how they dig, creating passages large enough for them to pass comfortably, but small enough that large creatures would struggle. Where tunnels open up into larger chasms, they’ll build rickety rope bridges, not because of a lack of skill at building a better structure but to ensure that kobolds can cross easily, but larger creatures would cause the bridge to collapse. Even the small walls they build along precipices are built tall enough to keep a kobold safe, but short enough that they become a tripping hazard for larger creatures.
While most humanoids tend to despise kobolds and see them as having few redeeming qualities, their ability to tunnel is at least well-respected. Usually, when kobolds are enslaved, they’re put to work enlarging a dwelling, mining or digging tunnels for some purpose.
As a rule, kobolds generally tend to live away from other societies, sometimes though, humans will hire kobolds to build sewer networks beneath their cities offering them food and tools in return. When well-treated, the kobolds will industriously build and expand the sewer network while often also creating a warren in which they can live under the city. Because the kobolds want to stay hidden, most humans may never notice the kobolds live there. Usually, they’ll gather food at night and remain as discreet as possible.
Kobolds are also excellent scavengers, finding uses for discarded objects and finding food where most humanoids might see refuse. Kobolds also don’t shy away from stealing if they think they won’t get caught, especially as objects that haven’t been thrown away tend to be in a better state. If they are caught (or in danger of being caught), kobolds will tend to run away rather than confront their victim. This means that they often don’t receive retaliation for these acts.
Kobolds do have a hatred of gnomes, this means that if they are in a community with gnomes, that they’ll tend to target them for thievery wherever possible acting in a passive-aggressive manner. This means performing small acts of minor aggression such as balancing dishes in a way that they’ll easily smash, spreading sewing needles on the floor or spitting in their milk. Even then, they fear retaliation so will tend to do so discreetly and will still run rather than fight a gnome that discovers them. These acts are always small enough not to warrant gnomes hunting the kobolds down and killing them, but enough to cause frustration and pain. Because of this, gnomes will avoid settling in areas where there’s an infestation of kobolds and likewise, kobolds will often be quickly driven out of places where there’s a large population of gnomes.
Kobolds are particularly keen to steal magical items. While they often know little of how to work such items, they are convinced that their tribal sorceror can work out an item’s magical properties, even if the approach is more trial and error than anything else. This love of magical items means they’re more likely to risk discovery to steal a magic item.
Kobolds believe they were created by Tiamat from the blood of dragons. Their reptilian (or as they would say, draconic) appearance certainly supports the idea that they are small draconian creatures though this is an unverified opinion. The tradition of kobold ancestry has been passed down from generation to generation and is now imbued within their very being the pride that they are of draconic descent.
The greatness they feel about their “draconic” line is transferred to their sense of awe and wonderin the presence of an actual dragon. Kobolds will fawn over dragons and will eagerly obey any instruction given by a dragon, seeing them as some kind of demi-god. Even when an instruction is dangerous, the very fact that a dragon told them to do it, will over-ride their naturally cowardly disposition causing them to risk all to demonstrate their devotion to their much larger “cousins”.
Kobolds are not wary of magic as other similar humanoids are. Dragons themselves are great magic wielders and perhaps this is why kobolds do not fear it. Most obtain their magic, not through the divinity of their god, Kurtulmak, as priests and warlocks do but due to their draconic ancestry giving them natural, sorcerous abilities. Kurtulmak is unable to provide kobolds with magic due to his imprisonment, but even then, the use of healing spells is of litle use to kobolds that are so fragile that a single strike from most humanoids is enough to kill a kobold outright.
Kobolds have a very strong sense of unity. Their actions are to benefit the tribe and each kobold has a role. The strongest work as hunters, the smartest will work as crafters and strategists, the toughest care for beasts and work the mines, even the runtiest kobolds have a place picking mushrooms or caring for hatchlings. All kobolds have a role that they know and work towards.
While kobolds generally work ammicably in a unified manner, they also do not feel the strength of feelings that other humanoids have for their friends or family. There may be a greater feeling of kinship towards a kobold that’s been known for many years, but this feeling is not as strong as it would be between humans for instance. Because of this, they rarely pair up into marriages, but rather, mating is a matter of convenience. Kobolds are even able to change their sex slowly over time, meaning that during a shortage of males or females, some kobolds will slowly change their sex to allow for more hatchlings to be born.
Kobolds grow quickly. By the age of 6, kobolds are considered adults. They can live to around 120 years if not killed by some accident or disease, which is actually quite common. This longevity is likely due to their relation to dragons. Kobolds don’t have funeral services for dead kobolds. Usually, their bodies are burnt or disposed of quickly, or even eaten by certain cannibalistic tribes.
Kobolds believe that dead kobolds are sent back to life by Kurtulmak by being born as the next egg that hatches. If a particularly important member of the tribe dies, the egg that will hatch next is carefully protected to ensure the newborn version of that important kobold is protected.
Kobolds are omnivores, despite the sharpness of their teeth suggesting they might be carnivores. They will eat just about anything edible though usually they won’t eat what they call “talking meat” or intelligent humanoids. This is less about the principle of eat and more to do with the fact they don’t want the retaliation associated with eating humanoids. When push comes to shove though, they’re willing to abandon these principles.
You can learn more about kobolds and other creatures of the D&D universe by buying a copy of Volo’s Guide to Monsters.