I don’t often editorialize on here. I try to stick to useful material for whatever games I’m playing. So this is going to be mostly editorial, but with some game stuff in there too for B/X and Labyrinth Lord games. You can just skip the editorial part if you want, I won’t be insulted – I tend to do that on your blogs when you start talking about what you like and dislike instead of showing me something awesome.
When I wrote about Baboons and Goblins last week, my mind wandered off to kobold-land also. I avoid kobolds in my games – for a few reasons. They are over-used in level 1 adventures and, well, because of Tucker’s Kobolds.
All you old-schoolers out there know what I’m talking about with Tucker’s Kobolds. For those of you unfamiliar with these demonic dog-lizard-men of evil, here’s a few bits from the relevant Dragon Magazine (issue 127). This isn’t the whole editorial, just a few choice bits. When I originally wrote this post, there was a website that contained the editorial in whole, but it has since died – so I have posted a full copy of the editorial HERE.
In all the games that I’ve seen, the worst, most horrible, most awful beyond-comparison opponents ever seen were often weaker than the characters who fought them. They were simply well-armed and intelligent beings who were played by the DM to be utterly ruthless and clever. Tucker’s kobolds were like that. These kobolds were just regular kobolds, with 1-4 hp and all that, but they were mean. When I say they were mean, I mean they were bad, Jim. They graduated magna cum laude from the Sauron Institute for the Criminally Vicious.
(we were) ambushed by more kobolds firing with light crossbows through murder holes in the walls and ceilings. Kobolds with metal armor and shields flung Molotov cocktails at us from the other sides of huge piles of flaming debris, which other kobolds pushed ahead of their formation using long metal poles like broomsticks. We were cut off by kobold snipers who could split-move and fire, ducking back behind stones and corners after launching steel-tipped bolts and arrows, javelins, hand axes, and more flaming oil bottles. We ran into an unexplored section of Level One, taking damage all the time. It was then we discovered that these kobolds had honeycombed the first level with small tunnels to speed their movements. Kobold commandos were everywhere. All of our hirelings died. Most of our henchmen followed. We were next.
Tucker’s Kobolds show up in discussions about good DMing, bad DMing, challenging the players, and how to make monsters more interesting instead of more powerful.
I hate the little fuckers.
Seriously, any critter can be dangerous. Kobolds are nothing special, and when I hear of yet another DM screwing over his players with overwhelming numbers of would-be “harmless” critters, I cringe and move on. I fell into the Tucker’s Kobold trap myself at least once as a teen – I remember drawing a dungeon full of kobold rapid-deployment tunnels, murder holes and so on. But really, the point is that any critter can do it, so give up on the kobolds already. And don’t keep using them to show how some DMs suck because they fail to slaughter the PCs using 1/2 HD monsters.
But that said as a variant on whatever the name of the rule that says you can’t just bitch without providing something cool; here’s Tucker’s Kobolds as a B/X D&D or Labyrinth Lord class.
Requirements: Str 13 or less, Dex 9
Prime Requisite: Dex
Hit Points: 1d4
Maximum Level: 6
Tucker’s Kobolds progress in levels (XP amounts) as a cleric and make saving throws as a halfling. Their armour use is level-dependent. At levels 1 and 2 they can wear up to leather armour. At level 3 and higher they can wear chainmail, and can move into plate mail at level 5. They can wield weapons as a halfling (no large or two-handed weapons). However, because they are so small, they gain a -2 bonus to AC when fighting creatures larger than human-sized.
They gain a +2 to hit when throwing grenade-like projectiles. Beginning at level 4, when they miss with a grenade-like missile, they halve the distance that the missile misses by.
At level 5 they gain the coveted ability to split-move-and-fire like a GEV from OGRE. That is to say they can move, attack, and then move again, allowing them to step out from cover on their initiative, attack, and then step back behind cover as long as the total movement covered is within their normal movement rate. Some elite units of level 5-6 Tucker’s Kobolds go by names such as GEV Squads, AFV Teams, Chainmail Elves, and a variety of other meta-game inspired titles.
Tucker’s Kobolds have the following abilities as a thief of 50% higher level than their actual level (round up). So a level 1 Tucker’s Kobold has these abilities as a level 2 thief, and a level 6 Tucker’s Kobold has these abilities as a level 9 thief. These abilities are: Find Traps, Remove Traps, Move Silently and Hear Noise. Further they have the ability to set traps equal to their ability to find and remove them, and can find secret doors using the Find Traps ability. At level 2 they gain the thief ability to back stab.
When working in a team with other Tucker’s Kobolds, they all gain a bonus to their Initiative roll equal to half the level of the highest level Tucker’s Kobold in the group (round down). Once per day per level they can make a “commando move” of twice their normal movement rate for one round.
Tucker’s Kobolds get a +2 on saving throws versus fear.
This is post 11 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge – K is for annoying little weasel-like kobolds.