James Wyatt: Regarding kobolds and dragons...

You recently posted the following poll results for kobolds in your latest Wandering Monsters article. Here is it again for the edification of all.




























Kobolds: Dragon blood?
1 -- No dragon blood.22117.6%
2 -- I like the wishy-washy answer.73158.1%
3 -- Definitely dragon blood!30624.3%
Total1258100.0%

I'd like to take a crack at interpreting these results.

82.4% of those polled like the 'possibility' that kobolds are descended from dragons, if not definitively linked to dragons with no question in their mind what-so-ever.

You made it clear that you want to de-couple kobolds from their dragon lineage, but I think this poll disagrees with your sentiment.

You also made it seem like (in the previous Wandering Monsters article) there are no D&D precedents for kobolds being descended from dragons, writing:

"The most contentious part of the description seems to have been the kobold claim to dragon descent. That's one of those things that has worked its way into my mind (and not just mine) without ever really being explicitly stated in the core rules, at least not that I could find."

Let's start with a quote from the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set.

"They have scaly, rust-brown skin and no hair."

Fair enough, scaly-skin does not a dragon make. So let's follow this quote up with two more from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Monstrous Compendium, Volume 1.

"Barely clearing three feet in height, kobolds have scaly hides that range from very dark rusty brown to a rusty black."

...and...

"In a lair there will be 5-20 (5d4) bodyguards, females equal to 50% of the males, young equal to 10% of the males and 30-300 (3d10x10) eggs."

Eggs. A picture of kobolds as reptiles is beginning to form, which is eventually firmed up in Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition, Monster Manual.

"Kobolds are short, reptilian humanoids with cowardly and sadistic tendencies."

...and...

"A kobold's scaly skin ranges from a dark rusty brown to a rusty black color."

Fast forward and couple of years and guess what? The secret is out. Let there be no doubt!

Here is a picture of a 'dragonwrought kobold' figurine, made by Wizards of the Coast and hosted by the Wizards of the Coast web site.



Here is the book, published by Wizards of the Coast, in which kobolds were featured and described as having strong game-mechanical ties to dragons.



Here's some beautiful interior art of a 'winged' dragonwrought kobold from Races of the Dragon (no doubt responsible for inspiring the above-posted figurine).



Which leads me to ask...how hard did you look for connections between kobolds and dragons in D&D lore?

Also, based on these easily discovered examples of winged kobolds, I think you may be premature in leaving the 'urd' aside for now. The urd kobolds seem to be alive and well (in some form or another).

You asked what D&D players think. Well, D&D players have spoken. Please listen to them.
Specifically, 1,258 of the 80,000+ D&D players taking part in the playtest have spoken.

Just a matter of perspective.

Danny

I think when they say "D&D Lore" they mean editions 2 and earlier.  Clearly the dragon-kobold thing in 3e is pretty solid. In earlier editions, they're reptitian but not draconic.

"Edison didn't succeed the first time he invented Benjamin Franklin, either." Albert the Alligator, Walt Kelly's Pogo Sunday Book  
The Core Coliseum: test out your 4e builds and fight to the death.

In edition 1 and 2, they were small lizardmen. However, strangely enough they were also considered to be goblins. This was never particularly well explained-- except that "goblinoid" just seemed to sort of mean basic, mundane badguy demi-humans.

It was only when WotC took over that they became dragonoids. If dragonborn aren't thrown out though, they might serve the purpose of being the dragonborn's small people race-- such as halflings with humans, goblins with hobgoblins and gnomes for dwarf/elfs.

I love this thread.
They like to believe they are dragons, and the nobelest of their kin are dragon decended, but dragons are known to get around. Kobalds are just one of the more willing races to have draconic blood introduced, but that does not mean they all are dragon decended.
3rd Edition is indeed where this idea first started.  The earilest reference I can find is in The Sunless Citadel.  The kobold chieftain Yusdrayl says when asked why the kobolds are here...

"As all know kobolds are heir to dragons.  As the mightiest among my people, I have led a brave few to this holy site, where dragons were revered long ago."



I believe Deekin Scalesinger the kobold bard from the Bioware's Neverwinter Nights video game also made frequent references to kobolds' draconic heritage.

Kalex the Omen 
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the way i see it, why not just let them have it? it makes them more interesting than just being another wimpy race of level 1 fodder.
The way I see it, leave the answer as a mystery, all wishy-washy.  Maybe they are dragon-blooded, maybe they're not.  If it's something that becomes important in a game, the DM can decide for himself based on his preferences/setting.  If it's not important to the game, it's just one of life's unanswered questions and adds flavor to the game.
82.4% of those polled like the 'possibility' that kobolds are descended from dragons, if not definitively linked to dragons with no question in their mind what-so-ever.



And at the same time, 75.7% of those polled like the 'possibility' that kobolds are not descended from dragons, if not definitively unrelated to dragons with no question in their mind what-so-ever.

Speculative interpretation of vague data is fun.
Does it really matter if they are or not?

So long as kobolds believe that are and have their own lore that relates to a draconic heritage (whether it is true or not), then I'm happy to settle for koblds being level 1 fodder that believe they are decended from dragons.
You also made it seem like (in the previous Wandering Monsters article) there are no D&D precedents for kobolds being descended from dragons, writing:

"The most contentious part of the description seems to have been the kobold claim to dragon descent. That's one of those things that has worked its way into my mind (and not just mine) without ever really being explicitly stated in the core rules, at least not that I could find."

You asked what D&D players think. Well, D&D players have spoken. Please listen to them.


Races of the Dragon was not a core book, it was a supplement.

 The majority prefer the issue not be specified.
The majority tends to be a rather crude and easily minterprested measuring stick.

Before you factor in ignorance and poor presentation. 
That background should be optional, but I accept the idea kobolds were created, transformered (by magic) or "domesticated" by dragons to be their slaves or servants (and sometime worshippers). 

A question = Gobling + Kobold = D&D Gremlin? (it was canon, wasn´t it?) I imagine it like goblin with the reptilian template from "Savage Species" sourcebook. Something like the kobolds from Capcom D&D videogames (Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara), monkey-like little fays with horns.

I think the most popular monster humanoids are who can be the archenemy race of som PC race, for example orcs and drows for elves, gobling and kobolds to haflings and gnomes, giants to dwarfs, githyankis to githzerai.

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

In edition 1 and 2, they were small lizardmen. However, strangely enough they were also considered to be goblins. This was never particularly well explained-- except that "goblinoid" just seemed to sort of mean basic, mundane badguy demi-humans.


Kobold is Deutsch (German) for Goblin (or Imp). (Goblinoid)
They were often blamed for poisoning mines. (Trap and Tunnel association)
They were also sometimes shapechangers like many other fey (early D&D was grabbing names of faerie critters and inventing new roles for them at rnadom, so a loss of shape changing is consitent with typical early and current D&D name appropriation) and the domestic varieties were actually very helpful (yeah, not good fodder for monsters, so also discarded or split off into other fae)

There were many breeds of mythical Kobolds. I'm guessing D&D latched onto the mine dwelling ore poisoners. 

I have an answer for you, it may even be the truth.
We agree the canon D&D kobolds are repltlians humanoid, with possible link to dragons, but I would like a open door to a second link, the fays, because the were in the faywild or kobolds were enemies of races like gnomes.

Some kobold subrace may be fay humanoids who were changed by magic forces.

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

In edition 1 and 2, they were small lizardmen. However, strangely enough they were also considered to be goblins. This was never particularly well explained-- except that "goblinoid" just seemed to sort of mean basic, mundane badguy demi-humans.


Kobold is Deutsch (German) for Goblin (or Imp). (Goblinoid)
They were often blamed for poisoning mines. (Trap and Tunnel association)
They were also sometimes shapechangers like many other fey (early D&D was grabbing names of faerie critters and inventing new roles for them at rnadom, so a loss of shape changing is consitent with typical early and current D&D name appropriation) and the domestic varieties were actually very helpful (yeah, not good fodder for monsters, so also discarded or split off into other fae)

There were many breeds of mythical Kobolds. I'm guessing D&D latched onto the mine dwelling ore poisoners. 




Yes, the name is German for goblin... but they were also particularly nasty versions of goblins, not little petty wimps that a child could easily kill.

If I were going to reinvent the wheel, I probably would have used "Goblin" in the place of "Goblinoid" as the family name and called the small ones Kobolds.

But then-- hobgoblins are supposed to be friendly, prankster goblins. The hob part has the same connotation as it does in "hobbit". But the whole idea of a good race of goblins (outside of halflings), sort of like the drow, duegar or dark gnome of the goblin race, was never really explored. Well, someone too a stab at it with the Bhukka thing in the end of 3rd edition. But, I guess if someone did go for it-- they could always still call it a Lutin or Dokkaebi (French and Korean words for hobgoblin).

But, returning to the orgiinal point. If goblinoids were clearly mammalian, it was very odd that something that was being described as very reptillian was being grouped in as a "goblinoid" even if the name attached to the concept was really just the  German word for "goblin".

I mean if one does any bit of research on what a "Troglodyte" is outside of D&D, one must wonder how the word ever became attached to lizardmen.

We agree the canon D&D kobolds are repltlians humanoid, with possible link to dragons, but I would like a open door to a second link, the fays, because the were in the faywild or kobolds were enemies of races like gnomes.

Some kobold subrace may be fay humanoids who were changed by magic forces.



If any humanoid is going to be linked to Fey, it is the Goblin that ought to be in line right behind the Elf (even if the hobgoblin has rejected the heritage as throughly, the fey spirit is very much alive in goblins and bugbears). But-- that is assuming the Feywild stops being an Arcane plane like in 4E and goes back to being the source of chaotic nature-magic. 

Goblins are nearer that kobolds of fay background, but kobolds could be descendent of survivors from a faywild failed invansion by khaastas. They can be linked because being past enemies of fay people.

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

But-- that is assuming the Feywild stops being an Arcane plane like in 4E and goes back to being the source of chaotic nature-magic. 



Yes.. please disconnect Feywild(or whatver it is to be called) from Arcane..    fey are chaotic nature spirits, not arcane...
If Feywild must be connected to a 'powersource' it should be Primal.
Why did I grow up (as a player 30 yrs ago) always thinking kobolds were dog-men with all this "dragonesque" description laying about...

"The turning of the tide always begins with one soldier's decision to head back into the fray"

Why did I grow up (as a player 30 yrs ago) always thinking kobolds were dog-men with all this "dragonesque" description laying about...



Because AD&D 1e kobolds looked a little like scaly dogs, and their language was described as sounding like the yipping of dogs.

Kalex the Omen 
Dungeonmaster Extraordinaire

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

This is just the sort of thing that is best left to the DM.  I prefer the monster manuals be written from the perspective of someone living in the world.

Description Idea:
Rumors abound that Kobolds are in fact descended from Dragons.  Others think they original migrated from the fey world.  Among kobold scholars the theories of their origin abound.



The monster manual does not have to be insider knowledge.  The beauty of such an approach is that players can read it all they want.  Only the DM knows the truth about his world.  I believe that is the force driving the middle vague vote.  We don't need WOTC to spell it out absolutely.  But I like putting forth various theories for flavor.  DMs can pickup the one they choose or just keep it a secret never to be known.
Other opion is humanoids who were transformed by magyc, like dracoborn champions of Bahamut from "Races of dragons".

Or lot of time ago a little humanoid comunity tried steal the secret of dragon power, and the kobold were the product by they tried become true dragons.


Kobold origins could be without link with dragons, but this one was later, it were wished or it wasn´t, when they were eslaverd or allied with dragons (like a feudal pact, kobolds are good miners).  

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

But-- that is assuming the Feywild stops being an Arcane plane like in 4E and goes back to being the source of chaotic nature-magic. 



Yes.. please disconnect Feywild(or whatver it is to be called) from Arcane..    fey are chaotic nature spirits, not arcane...
If Feywild must be connected to a 'powersource' it should be Primal.

Seperating Fey from Arcane is like seperating Rage from Barbarians.
But-- that is assuming the Feywild stops being an Arcane plane like in 4E and goes back to being the source of chaotic nature-magic. 



Yes.. please disconnect Feywild(or whatver it is to be called) from Arcane..    fey are chaotic nature spirits, not arcane...
If Feywild must be connected to a 'powersource' it should be Primal.

Seperating Fey from Arcane is like seperating Rage from Barbarians.



Funny you should mention that. 1e and 2e barbarians had no rage ability.
I just want them to bring Kurtulmak back (accidental rhyme, sorry).

Not that he left in my campaign. 
Funny you should mention that. 1e and 2e barbarians had no rage ability.




Exactly, if any class deserves to be a Background, it's the Barbarian (barbaric clerics etc).  Being "culturally primitive" does not make you angry.

If they desperately need to make a rage-shtick class, well, Berserker. 
Funny you should mention that. 1e and 2e barbarians had no rage ability.




Exactly, if any class deserves to be a Background, it's the Barbarian (barbaric clerics etc).  Being "culturally primitive" does not make you angry.

If they desperately need to make a rage-shtick class, well, Berserker. 



Agreed.
I have to agree -- with those who have said so already -- that individual dungeon masters should be the arbiter of whether or not kobolds are descended from dragons, but as the poll suggests (from the those who cared enough to vote) more people like the idea of dragon blood than don't.

To that end, the 'urd' (winged kobolds) definitely captures the imagination of such people. After all, it's not every race that sprouts wings once in a while, whereas it 'has' been the case with kobolds for some time (and across various editions). That makes the idea of draconic-descended kobolds a strong narrative throughline in D&D. Does it confirm dragon descent? Leave that for each campaign setting (dungeon master) to decide.

But for James Wyatt to say that...

"...maybe it's best to just leave the urd aside for now..."

...
is premature and a little bit biased.

For that matter, his original description of kobolds, which garned an 82.5% approval rating (voting either 4 or 5), included the following description:

"One last peculiar characteristic of kobolds is that they claim that the blood of dragons courses through their veins. They believe that their god, Kurtulmak, was created by Tiamat, and Kurtulmak in turn infused some of his draconic essence into the race he created. That might just be empty boasting, but occasional dragon-winged kobolds (called urds) appear among kobold tribes, a mutation that tends to run along family lines. Regardless of the truth of this assertion, kobolds often serve and worship dragons."

The entire design team seems motivated to give the D&D player-base what they want. If that's really the case, then I hope they won't impose their personal whimsies when it goes against popular feedback. The recent poll James conducted supported the idea of dragon-blooded kobolds more than it didn't. A previous poll (about how accurately he described kobolds) gained overwhelming approval, which included dragonic-winged kobolds. These polls have been informative.

To their credit (so far) Wizards of the Coast is not paying 'lip service' to wanting player feedback. They seem to genuinely crave our opinions. That being said, this is one of the few places where it looks like player ideas and game designer ideas stand at odds. Why else would a designer ask for 'additional clarification' after dragonic-winged kobold were already approved (along with the rest of their monster description)? Well, James did ask, and he got his answer. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
But-- that is assuming the Feywild stops being an Arcane plane like in 4E and goes back to being the source of chaotic nature-magic. 



Yes.. please disconnect Feywild(or whatver it is to be called) from Arcane..    fey are chaotic nature spirits, not arcane...
If Feywild must be connected to a 'powersource' it should be Primal.

Seperating Fey from Arcane is like seperating Rage from Barbarians.



Also, the wizard realm in the Harry Potter setting accurately describes Faerie (Feywild). And the denizens are Wizards (arcane).
Races of the Dragon was not a core book, it was a supplement.

Restricting any D&D search of kobold lore to 'core books' is ingenuous, especially when kobolds got their own chapter in a non-core supplement.

The majority prefer the issue not be specified.

Which is all well and fine, so long as it's also pointed out that the next highest majority prefer dragon-blooded kobolds over non-dragon blooded kobolds.
So long as kobolds believe that are and have their own lore that relates to a draconic heritage (whether it is true or not), then I'm happy to settle for koblds being level 1 fodder that believe they are decended from dragons.

This.

They THINK they are draconic.  The PCs can chose to believe this or not, especially the dragonborn.

This is what I like about the Elder Scrolls RPG, every race has a different version of history and gods.  Especially orcs.   No kobolds in those games though.

Such a concept is very realistic, just look at Earth history as an example.  History is written by the victors and rewritten by the conqueror.