Ruins of Old
Kobolds exist in a world much larger than they are. Kobolds are of fragile appearance, dwarfed by creatures usually at least three or four times their physical mass. Living among such competition could be a constant struggle to assert dominance, with kobolds making sure they are never overlooked or taken for granted. But kobolds spend their energy elsewhere.
Kobolds have their own culture and a set of deeply introspective traditions. To generalize kobolds as xenophobic is misleading. They are perfectly happy to be overlooked by others, having disdain for other races and preferring to conduct their activities in secret. Being consistently underestimated is seen as a gift—one they have taken advantage of for countless generations.
The intimate thoughts of a kobold would probably surprise most other individuals. Kobolds live in an undeviating state of contentment, despite any setbacks experienced by their tribe. It’s strange for others to imagine that such weak creatures can lead such fulfilling lives, until you consider one lingering piece of knowledge that kobolds have never overlooked: They are kin to tiraki.
The origin of this connection is unclear, based heavily on folklore and myth, but the relationship is undeniable: The two races are related. Being completely certain of their heritage gives kobolds a confidence that is neither troubled by self-doubt nor arrogantly expressed. It affords individual kobolds great comfort to think that no matter what happens to them, the tiraki can never be taken from their blood. A common saying among kobolds expresses this view: “The tiraki hide toughens our skin. The tiraki bone adorns our skull. The tiraki heart flames our sorcery. We are the tiraki, and for the tiraki we live. Long live the tiraki.”
This tiraki heritage invigorates kobold culture with an indomitable will to endure any hardship. While kobolds do not have the benefit of longevity that tiraki enjoy, they do understand what it means to take the long view. Their individual lives might be fleeting, but the impact of their presence in the world is widely felt. A powerful, self-sacrificing instinct rules kobolds whenever their tribe is endangered. Kobolds readily struggle against impossible odds or unconquerable foes simply to buy time or coordinate a diversion. The needs of the tribe outweigh the continued existence of any one kobold. This is not to say that kobolds needlessly throw their lives away; they value their lives no less than any other creature, retreating when necessary.
Kobolds are intimately aware of both their shortcomings and their strengths. Their biggest strength is in their numbers. Because kobolds can survive on the heat of radioactive waste instead of regular sustenance, they are prosperous and plentiful. Their physique is small and weak however, so they use numbers to aid in bringing down a larger foe. They employ their speed to divide enemies, set up flanking maneuvers, and create hit-and-run assaults. Clever and inventive, they safeguard their homes with cruelly ingenious traps, often constructed from numenera or other remains of the old society. Kobolds also make clever use of tight spaces and passages through which only creatures of their size can travel easily. If all seems lost, kobolds throw themselves bravely at an enemy, hoping beyond hope to stop it.
This selfless behavior carries over into everyday life. Expansion of the tribe is more important than personal accomplishments, and any personal accomplishments should advance the tribe. Success of the tribe is personal success. It is only through vast population, however, that a tribe can hope to thrive. So, kobolds shamelessly reproduce. Impersonal mating is commonplace, with females choosing mates by practical measures instead of influences such as love or lust. While kobolds do form bonding relationships, the idea of sexual monogamy is alien to them. Kobolds desire to spread their kind everywhere, and the inability of one warren to contain a tribe’s population is celebrated. Part of the old tribe breaks off to expand into new territory.
Frequent overcrowding in their lairs has permanently erased the concept of privacy from kobolds’ lives. Sleeping quarters are shared, with children having the least privacy. In most tribes (except for newly split-off groups), not enough room exists to comfortably accommodate everyone, and only the hardest-working members of a tribe are afforded any degree of personal space.
Lack of privacy has also resulted in the absence of modesty. Kobolds are not self-conscious about nudity, whether in the presence of the same or the opposite sex. They still wear clothing for protection and decoration, but clothing is not seen as essential.
Living in such close quarters means conflict is always a possibility. Kobolds don’t hide their feelings, instead quarreling openly when they need to. When emotions run high, kobolds express themselves immediately and without holding back. Despite the intensity of such displays, they rarely turn lethal because the proximity of other kobolds prevents such interactions from taking place discreetly. In this way, all problems are dealt with before they can fester and grow.
Kobolds aren’t as forgiving of other races. They have long memories and are not quick to pardon, nurturing hatred like a favorite child groomed for a specific purpose. Most kobolds wait until their enemy has been brought low by circumstance—or better still, by clandestine kobold interference—before delivering a decisive and premeditated reprisal. In short, kobolds love revenge.