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On the Kobolds of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
Posted on Sun, June 05, 2005 by Dongul
CruelSummerLord writes ""As feeble as rats, as cowardly as rabbits, and with more grudges than ten times their number in dwarves" - The Archmage Bigby, on kobolds.

On the Kobolds of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
By: CruelSummerLord
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

Social Mores and Practices

Kobolds are short, twisted little runts covered in rusty-brown or rusty-black scales, with reddish-hued eyes and small horns of tan to white. They have long, rat-like tails that continually twitch in a furtive, sneaky manner. Reeking like stagnant water, kobolds skitter around like rats or beetles, communicating all the while in loud, shrill voices that will remind most listeners of nails on slate. Even smaller than goblins, they have even larger chips on their scrawny shoulders.

Known as celbit in the old Flan tongue, kobolds are scavengers and hunters who are continually torn between provoking other races to goad them into a fight and then running away from the larger and stronger beings. Kobolds will raid humans and elves, but their true hatred is reserved for gnomes, pixies, sprites, brownies and other fairy creatures. Whenever possible, kobolds prefer to live in the homes of defeated enemies (conquered gnome burrows are a favorite), but can settle for dismal underground caverns, fetid swamps, or dank forests. Even more so than orcs or goblins, kobolds are adept at living in the midst of mankind, raiding and stealing from him. Kobolds in civilized lands are usually more of a nuisance than a true threat, but their sneakiness and ability to avoid face-to-face combat usually means that village militias and lone patrols have a terrible time against them in battle.

Wherever they live, kobolds will have rigged the areas around their homes with deadly traps, snares, spiked pits, rigged crossbows, and a thousand and one other traps. Even the mightiest of heroes, who show no fear against demons or giants, can be reduced to pitiful targets and humiliated failures when dealing with the cunning and even genius of kobold booby traps. Beyond all these traps is whatever complex the kobolds have moved into. If they must carve out their own homes out of hillsides or marsh hillocks, kobolds usually produce a twisting, winding network of tunnels where each small family has its own individual room to live in. Kitchens, torture dens, latrines and other areas are communal. The eggs laid by kobold females are all kept in the respective family hovels. For this reason, kobolds are always ready to expand individual caves to accommodate growing families.

Kobold families are very tight-knit, and females and young rarely see any male kobolds besides their husbands, brothers and fathers. Kobold wives can spend their whole lives confined to one small notch in the oerth, never leaving their residence after males select them as brides. When they reach maturity after about thirty years, kobold children are cast out of their parents’ homes to find wives. Those kobolds that can find brides among their own tribe will stay and expand it. Kobold males that fail to do so are on their own in a large, hostile world until they acquire enough wealth to purchase a wife from a male kobold in another clan. Those kobolds that survive the experience are even more hateful and embittered than the rest of their kin, often avoiding death only by a hair’s width on multiple occasions.

Kobolds are ruled by chiefs, similar to goblin society. However, kobold tribes do not have rites of challenge for one kobold to depose another and take over as chief. Instead, the chief is expected to have many wives and many children, so that his line may never die out. If it does, the tribe is dissolved; the various kobold families are left to wander until they find another clan to take them in, or simply perish. On occasion, tribal chiefs may order certain families to set up another tunnel complex a few kilometers from the main one to prevent overcrowding. These smaller groups, known as ‘war bands’, are responsible for defending the paths to the main tunnel complex, and so their numbers often include those kobolds of the tribe who are most skilled in war, stealth and traps. As kobolds die off (a common occurrence) newer families can rise to take their places. Kobold social structure has a high turnover rate, given that its members all tend to die off quickly, whatever their social rank.

Every kobold tribe usually has half a dozen or more other groups of other races it counts as enemies, for kobolds count almost all other races as enemies. They are alternately allies and enemies of goblins, engaging in war for territory and plunder one year and banding with them the next for survival. Orcs, ogres, bugbears, gnolls and hobgoblins all take a sadistic pleasure in torturing the much smaller kobolds, and so the kobolds hate them right back. Gnolls and ogres are especially hated for their sickening habit of eating kobolds alive while forcing their families to watch. Trolls are generally ignored, the kobolds being able to drive the trolls off with fiery traps and being too small to make a good meal for the trolls. Giants, especially hill giants, have no such reservations, and treat kobolds as only so many bite-size snacks to be devoured by the handful.

Adventurers may encounter small gangs of kobolds in head-on struggles, but they are more often lured into traps and ambushes by the little creatures, who exploit their reputations with the bigger folk. Pretending to attack, then running away and causing their larger foes to blunder into traps is a favored kobold pastime. Rarely, if ever, do kobolds engage in open warfare; on those occasions when they raid human, dwarfish or gnome communities with goblins, they serve as siege engineers and sappers at sieges. Their diminutive statures keep them from openly attacking, except when they have an overwhelming advantage of numbers.

History

The kobolds of the Flanaess do not have history so much as a long and very tedious set of myths of all the various races that have done them wrong, and of the sadistic revenge kobolds have managed to take on rare occasions. This vengeance is described in exhaustive detail, as if to compensate for the self-pity kobolds hold over their lowly station in the world. Kobolds seem to be alternately caught in a cycle of feeling sorry for themselves, nursing grudges against their enemies, and then thinking over those few successes they have attained, as if to deny the self-pity and grudges they bring upon themselves.

Gnome and elven scholars claim that kobolds were spawned by the devil Kurtulmak4, who had been banished from the Nine Hells for his whining and wheedling. Kurtulmak worked feverishly to create his own race, as if to prove to himself and others that he was indeed a great being – and ironically also to have a collection of creatures he could bully and boss around. Once again, this cycle of depression and self-loathing, and then actions to try and deny those sentiments, repeats itself endlessly in kobold religion and society down to the present day.

Although Kurtulmak had made kobolds skilled in mining and trap-laying, he noted sourly how the gods of the dwarves and gnomes and their peoples were more skilled than him and his own race. The gods of many humanoid peoples also enjoyed beating on the diminutive devil, just as their peoples enjoyed bullying the kobolds he had created. Only Maglubiyet had any sympathy for the little fool, who had skills despite his general pathetic nature, although he bullied him mercilessly.

Of all the gods, however, the gods of the gnomes, their general joy and merry ways, were taken by Kurtulmak as a personal slight; he thought they were laughing at him, and so he attempted on many occasions to attack and kill them. Most of the time, they captured him and humiliated him in some way. In yet another example of gnomish paradoxes, the gnomish gods were as harsh and vengeful towards their foes as they were jolly and kindly towards their friends. It is also reflective of kobold society that Kurtulmak was the instigator of the conflict, based on perceived slights from the gnomes, but attributes to them all the blame for the humiliations he has suffered.

The various schemes Kurtulmak pursued over the years to better himself usually ended in miserable defeat, even as he elevated some of those kobolds who were not total losers in life to godly status. The collection of gods, much like their mortal charges, were a pitiful lot, huddling over past defeats and starting fights against innocents, then holding grudges against those innocents when they defended themselves.

Such has it been for the kobolds of the Flanaess. Every day is a struggle to survive, and all kobolds know they could meet death at the hands of almost any other living thing. Their schemes, their grudges, and their failures reflect those of their gods, never able to do more than survive at the fringes of society, lucky only to survive.

Famous Kobold Tribes

-The Cripplers: This tribe dwella in the wilderness of the Hold of the Sea Princes and the Hool Marshes. They are famous for rigging traps that break the joints of larger folk and for their long-running enmity with the gnolls of the wilderness, a conflict that often spills (or spilled, as the case may be) into the Sea Prince society. The Cripplers are ruled by Chief Koklec’tun, He Who Wields the Crippling Hammer.

-The Gougers: These kobolds inhabit the Banner Hills west of Bissel and south of Ket. The Gougers are famous for being a nuisance to both countries, rigging traps that involve scything blades and for selling their services to whoever offers the best price, whether human or humanoid. This tribe is ruled by Chief Skek-ell-ettel of Kurtulmak’s Divinely Blessed Spear of Gouging.

-The Impalers: These kobolds infest the Phostwood east of the Pale and north of the County of Urnst. They are famous for rigging traps that involve poisoned stakes, rigged crossbows, or otherwise skewer or impale victims and for being able to eat the raw, often putrid, flesh of prey they catch with their hunting snares. The Impalers are ruled by Chief Barakulak of the Drilling Lance of the Vengeful Gods.

-The Mutilators: This band lives in the Riftcanyon. They are famous for rigging traps that ensnare, but do not harm, enemies so that the kobolds may mutilate their foes, their long-running feud with the Men of the Rift and the Shield Landers and for their work at sieges against the Leering Keeps of the Bandit Kingdom of the Rift. They are ruled by Chief Ungrek, The Mask Chosen to Wreak Eternal Vengeance.

-The Torturers: This last band dwells in the Rieuwood on the border between Ahlissa and Sunndi. The Torturers are famous for rigging traps that knock out their victims so the kobolds may torture them, for being hunted for sport by the Aerdi nobles and for kidnapping sprites and fairies, then torturing and maiming them, before releasing the wounded creatures to make their way home as best they can. They are ruled by Chief Lekanak, Driver of the Eternally Stretching and Winding Rack.

"
 
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