IFAQ: Kobold Character Hooks

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month, someone asks…

Could you expound on the role of kobolds in Eberron? They often seem to be lumped together with goblins as “small, chaotic humanoids oppressed by those in power,” but they don’t have anything as interesting as the Dhakaani or Khesh’dar hooks that the goblins have. What are some interesting hooks for kobold characters?

Before looking at kobolds, take a moment to consider orcs in Khorvaire. In the Demon Wastes, the devout Ghaash’kala fight fiends and channel the power of Kalok Shash. In the Mror Holds, the Jhorash’tar follow the Path of Bones. In the Shadow Marches you have the rising corporate power of House Tharashk, the ancient primal Gatekeepers, and those who cling to the Old Ways of the Dragon Below. Just next door in Droaam, there’s the peaceful culture of the Gaa’ran and the aggressive Gaa’aram.

Kobolds are just as diverse as orcs; we just haven’t had time to explore many of their cultures in depth. I don’t have time to go into detail now, but here’s a quick overview of some of the canonical kobold cultures.

The Seawall Mountains. Kobolds have a strong presence in the Seawall Mountains and have often clashed with Zil gnomes seeking to expand their mining operations. This is one of the main places where you’ll find the iredar and irvhir cultures described in this early Dragonshard article. Rather than the traditional association with flesh and blood dragons, these kobolds believe that they have a direct connection to the PROGENITOR dragons.

Zil Kobolds. The Zil clash with the iredar and irvhir in the mountains, but over the centuries there are kobolds who have chosen to live alongside gnomes, sharing their cultures. This isn’t as strong a blending as you see between orcs and humans in the Shadow Marches; there’s only a few such villages along the edge of the Seawall Mountains. But because of this, you can find kobold agents of the Trust, kobolds teaching at Korranberg colleges, and so on.

Stormreach. City of Stormreach infamously suggests that there’s a bounty on kobold hides in Stormreach. This is a nod to the grinding needs of the video game set in Stormreach, and not something I use in my campaign. In my Stormreach kobolds have an important role in the community maintaining the sewers and serving as guides to the lower levels of the ancient city. And, of course, the kobold Hassalac Chaar is one of the most powerful spellcasters in the setting.

Q’barra and the Poison Dusk. We haven’t talked much about the peaceful kobolds of Q’barra, and they could follow the same iredar/irvhir traditions as the Seawall kobolds. But what we have said is that the kobolds of Q’barra are especially vulnerable to the influence of the Cold Sun and are frequently found within the Poison Dusk—recently discussed in this article. So if you’re looking for kobolds serving an evil dragon, Rhashaak and the Poison Dusk are what you need.

The Oppressed People of the Barrens. As called out in Exploring Eberron, kobolds and goblins have long been oppressed in the Barrens of what is now Droaam. This is beginning to change with the rise of Droaam, most notably because of Kethelrax the Cunning and Shaarat Kol. However, Kethelrax is still fighting on behalf of Shaarat Kol and of those smallfolk still suffering cruelty at the hands of tyrannical chibs.

Kanonical Kobolds of Droaam. Just as you have the Gaa’aram and Gaa’ran orcs in Droaam, there are multiple kobold cultures in Droaam. Frontiers of Eberron discusses the Khaar’paal, kobold spreads across the Graywall Mountains. The Khaar’paal are referenced in the Kethelrax article I linked above, but here’s another tiny preview from Frontiers. Keep in mind that this specifically refers to a small group of Khaar’paal artisans living on the edge of Quickstone; they come from a city in the Graywall Mountains that is largely and considerably more sophisticated than Quickstone.

The Khaar’paal are a group of about sixty kobolds camped on the southern edge of the Tents. They don’t work metal; their tents are made of leather, their tools of wood and stone. At a glance most assume these kobolds are a primitive nomadic tribe. This assumption is wrong on every count. Khaar’paal means “mageblood“, and the Khaar’paal kobolds have an innate talent for arcane magic not unlike that of a sorcerer. They may not use metal, but they have talented magewrights who make use of mending, prestidigitation, magecraft, continual flame and similar magical techniques and tools, and work with exotic materials like quickstone and wyvern hide. Their wands may not be as well-tooled as those produced by House Cannith, but the Khaar’paal scouts are wandslingers as capable as any Brelish arcane dragoon.

So how about some hooks?

The above examples are just some of the kobold cultures in Eberron. But any of these could provide a foundation for a kobold adventure. Consider…

  • A Zil kobold sage—a former Korranberg professor who might secretly be an agent of the Trust.
  • A Stormreach kobold sorcerer who’s a child of Hassalac Chaar. They could be adventuring on a mission from their father, or they could just be a nepo baby out on a lark.
  • A Droaamite champion of the Dark Six. Proud to be a vessel of their deity, and willing to challenge anyone who dares look down upon them. A cleric or bard tied to the Fury could seek to rally and inspire allies; a kobold paladin of the Fury could be a holy avenger determined to right the wrongs they see in visions.
  • A Droaamite agent of Kethelrax the Cunning, sent out into the wider world to gather allies and resources for Shaarat Kol, and perhaps to hunt down envoys of Rhesh Turakbar or others who have abused the smallfolk of Droaam in the past.
  • A Khaar’paal wandslinger looking to make their fortune among the slow-moving softskins of the east.
  • A Seawall iredar kobold druid or ranger who believes they are guided by Eberron herself, following a series of visions.
  • A Q’barran kobold warlock who was part of the Poison Dusk. They broke the fiendish hold of the Poison Dusk and they’ve fled Q’barra to put some distance between them and its influence, but they are still tapping its powers and gifts as a warlock… slightly afraid that every use of its power could be pulling them back into its thrall.

Random Kobolds

So, there’s a lot of options for kobolds. When you meet a kobold on the road, what could their story be? You can easily choose the answer drawing on any ideas above, but if you know me you know I love a random rolling table, so here’s one for kobolds. While this can get you some very random possibilities, you can generally figure out which culture they might relate to. Kobold warlocks are probably tied to irvhir or the Poison Dusk… though they don’t have to be! Likewise, a kobold artificer could be a Khaar’paal alchemist, or perhaps they’re a Zil prodigy who studied evocation at Korranberg and designed siege staffs during the Last War!

d8A…KoboldWho is…
1EnthusiasticSorcerer… Working for the Trust.
2GrimWarlock… Possessed by a fiend.
3ElderlyCleric… Fabulously wealthy.
4BrilliantWandslinger… Seeking revenge.
5ArtisticArtificer… Carrying a powerful magic item.
6YoungPaladin… Guided by a vision.
7EmotionalBard… On the run.
8ArrogantNoble… Possibly a dragon in disguise.

That’s all for now! If you’d like to see more articles or ask your own questions, check out my Patreon! I run a monthly campaign that patrons can play in, and I’ll be doing a live Q&A for patrons on June 28th.

8 thoughts on “IFAQ: Kobold Character Hooks

  1. Thanks, Keith! Do any of the Eberron kobold cultures have the symbolic partnerships with (dire/horrid) weasels in other settings like goblins do with worgs/wolves?

    • Canonically, no. If I were to do something with it, I’d either tie this to the iredar as the kobolds of the Dragon Between, or I’d introduce an entirely new kobold culture in the Towering Woods that has a close bond to the giant Wood Weasels.

  2. I have some ideas about the Zil language. The first thing is for sure that ARGOnessen and zilARGO, as well as Col Korran and KORRANberg are connected. Can we assume that most of the names and toponyms were invented by gnomes?
    The second is the word zil itself, which means “wise”. In my eberron, this is a term denoting the perfect balance between different mental and social abilities. And so the words “nerd” and “jock” are originally slang of zil.
    The third is the Zilargo accent. Loving the beauty of the word and well aware of the danger of mispronunciation, gnomes of Zilargo speak without any accents (except when them need to seem funny) and with an abundance of metaphors, quotes from famous people from the interlocutor’s country and other word games.
    The fourth is a system of words that has not yet been created to denote various types of information. For example, as the word “rumors obtained in a hidden way”, “truthful information passed off as a lie”, “Lies told unintentionally”, and so on


    • A very interesting comment! Personally I’d lean more towards them embracing and cultivating dialects, often learning a multitude of them to converse in many different ways. They aren’t formed from a single strong state, but smaller city states which confederated in times outside stress. Still they seem to value the difference between the cultures of the major cities and have done little to make it one conform nation, so I don’t really see them eradicating the distinct dialects that have developed over the years. It’s the antithesis of being a keeper of knowledge and culture – Zil gnomes love linguistics after all!

      This also makes a sweet distinction from the elves who in practice CAN’T have a dialect due to how Sylvan works in kanon. Thus the gnomes can bring nuances to their language that the elves can’t – showing good will by using the other gnome’s word for “greetings”, referring to a particular enemy just by saying “rival” in their dialect, or writing a literary dialogue where “x said” becomes superfluous.

      Thank you fot making me ponder the subject! <3

    • Canonically, no. I just did a search on Dragons of Eberron and apparently it doesn’t even include the word “kobold.” But if you want to make a few of the Seren tribes kobolds, go ahead!

    • Rumors is all we really got on kobolds on the continent of Argonnessen. No reason why they couldn’t be there though!

      Here’s what page 41 of Eberron Player’s Guide has to say:

      Goblins have a militant and imperious nature; orcs
      practice savage and tribal ways. Kobolds, on the
      other hand, seem to have no particular way at all. As
      individuals, they have an array of motivations—greed,
      faith, patriotism, hunger—yet no singular cultural
      identity drives their race. Or at least, there isn’t one
      that the civilized humanoids of Khorvaire have been
      able to identify.
      Small kobold tribes live in most mountainous or
      jungle regions, but few sizable populations exist. The
      largest kobold population dwells in Shaarat Kol in
      Droaam. Large kobold tribes are also prevalent in the
      jungles of Q’barra and in the Demon Wastes. Kobolds
      come into conflict with other races most frequently
      in the mountains of Zilargo, where they battle against
      gnomes. Scholars believe that a large kobold population
      exists on the continent of Argonnessen, but no
      one can say for certain.”

  3. In my eberron I have the Irsvern too, in secret mountains hold, devoted to Siberys and mantaining she is not dead, but only sleeping.

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