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.
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!
|… Working for the Trust.
|… Possessed by a fiend.
|… Fabulously wealthy.
|… Seeking revenge.
|… Carrying a powerful magic item.
|… Guided by a vision.
|… On the run.
|… 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.