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Our Kobolds Are Different

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Aventurians are familiar with many different kinds of kobolds, such as the hardworking and friendly Warhome hammerlings, the Warunk imps, and the dexterous Angbar gnomes. Dwarves fear bosnickels in particular because they can convert precious metals and stones into worthless junk with just a touch. Invisible teasers sit on people's necks and manipulate them into causing mischief. Bookbolds create chaos in libraries, while klabauters are practically cherished at sea for the aid they give to ships and crews.
The Dark Eye: Aventurian Bestiary

Kobolds originate in Germanic folklore, where they were goblin-like spirits alternatively believed to live in mines, in households or aboard ships. They were a fairly diverse lot, and ranged in personality from helpful household spirits to cruel tricksters. In this meaning, which is still prevalent in German-speaking areas, "kobold" is used as a catch-all term for humanoid fairy beings in European folklore, and in some European languages the term is still used as translation for "goblin", "gnome", "leprechaun", and similar things.

In Anglophone media, kobolds remained relatively obscure until they showed up in Dungeons & Dragons, at which point they entered the ranks of uncommon Fantasy races. From there they spread to Japanese media, where they are more commonly depicted as canine creatures. Due to their origins as mine-spirits, modern fantasy kobolds are almost always depicted as living underground, either in caves or in complex tunnel systems they dig themselves. They're often prolific miners, and may be depicted as skilled engineers and crafters.

Kobolds are rarely dangerous or powerful creatures. They're generally stuck firmly at the bottom of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, usually either as minor nuisances or as weaker minions of more powerful beings. They will often rely on cleverness or sheer numbers to face stronger foes.

In terms of appearance, they are typically short, goblin-like humanoids that may or may not have varying degrees of resemblance to other mammals, chiefly canids or rodents. However, in works influenced by Dungeons & Dragons, which originally depicted them as doglike humanoids before giving them their current reptilian look, they can resemble miniature Lizard Folk or Draconic Humanoids.

See also Our Goblins Are Different, Our Gnomes Are Weirder and Our Dwarves Are All the Same, for other fantasy races with similar origins and habits.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Delicious in Dungeon: Kobolds are a race of humanoid dogs with heightened senses of smell and resistance to poison. The most prominent example is Kuro, a member of Kabru's party.
  • Monster Musume: Polt is a kobold of the dog-like variety, and is most commonly seen exercising. She (and kobolds in general) is pretty wealthy due to her race's association with mining cobalt.
  • Record of Lodoss War: The typical canine Japanese kobolds are featured as one of Beld's mooks. However, instead of being goblin-like in size, they are only slightly shorter than humans and thus look more like werewolves.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Kobolds are small humanoid creatures, typically with red skin and pronounced, muzzle-like faces. They're a fairly rare creature type; while kobold cards were printed early in the game's history, there was little to differentiate them from goblins in terms of playstyle — they were both small, basic Red creatures, and as goblins were more common and iconic they were kept over the kobolds. In-Universe, kobolds are restricted to the plane of Dominaria, where they live in the Kher Ridges. They're extremely resilient creatures and managed to survive the various disasters and apocalypses that struck Dominaria over its history, enduring into the setting's present where they worship the dragon Prossh as a god.

    Comic Books 
  • Bodie Troll: One shows up in the third issue of the series. It's a buck-tooth, bald-headed being with spines on his head and arms that can use magic and apparently Eats Babies. He also works on Rumpelstiltskin-like rules when it comes to claiming ownership — if you can guess a kobold's name, they'll be sucked into the ground (though it has to be the true parent of the baby that does so, otherwise it's null).
  • Masters of the Universe: In Slave City!, the kobolds are hunched, purple-skinned humanoids with protruding backbones. They are minions of the villain Lodar, and are banished underground alongside him by the heroes.

  • American Gods: Hinzelmann is a kobold who was "born" when an ancient Germanic tribe ritually sacrificed a young child to create a minor god. In the present day, he appears as a kindly old man who brings good fortune to his town but secretly sacrifices a town child to himself every year to maintain his power.
  • Crowthistle Chronicles: Kobolds, so-called because they're some form of construct made of cobalt, are the diminutive, aggressive and stupid servants of the goblins. The goblins themselves are very elf-like — tall, skinny, aristocratic and vegan — but their stereotypical appearance comes from people thinking that their more common kobold flunkies are the goblins themselves.
  • The Dark Profit Saga has dog-like kobolds as a sub-clan of gnolls. There's a bit of a fashion among elven ladies for "purse kobolds", and it's considered a cushy job for NPCs (Non-Combatant Paper Carriers).
  • Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: Kobolds are Wolf Men about the size of humans. They live underground, particularly within the Cyrene Mines, and are skilled metalworkers, although not to the level that dwarves and gnomes are.
  • House of Many Ways: Kobolds are little blue people who live in the mountainous nation of High Norland. They serve as House Fey for Wizard Norland, but have gone on strike because he planted pink flowers in his garden (in addition to blue, the color that flowers are supposed to be). They also seem to be craftsmen who sell their products to other races.
  • Kings of the Wyld: Kobolds are described as short creatures that look like bipedal rats. They're intelligent enough to speak in broken sentences, but feature as minor monsters that are often forced to take part in the arena shows that modern adventuring bands take part in.
  • The Long Earth: Kobolds are introduced as a subspecies of elves in the second book. Neither as xenophobic as elves or as welcoming as trolls, kobolds are still regarded as dangerous, but have learned human languages and are willing to trade with other species. This makes them one of the few sources of information on how the Long Earth is doing in relation to the other alien species.
  • Magic Kingdom of Landover: Kobolds are a type of fairy resembling large-eared monkeys with mouths full of sharp teeth. They don't talk, but communicate through gestures, hisses and other noises. Two named Buinion and Parsnip work as servants in the King's living castle.
  • The Oddmire:
    • Kobolds are a kind of animal that live underground and can phase through solid rock. Madame Root (a rået) keeps them as pets. We also see kobbs, which are a related, almost extinct species that are much larger.
    • Delvers (the race that humans call "Tommyknockers") basically fill the niche that kobolds have in other series. They look a bit like humanoid bats and turn out to be bringing about The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: Kobolds appear in Princesses in the Darkest Depths, and have their own language, which "resembled a mix of barks, yips, and yelps" and is revealed to have lost some words in their ~3000 year long history. In the past, they've interacted with the gnomes, and destroyed one of their cities about 2000 years ago. Their children only get names when they do something spectacular and are named after that.
  • Spells, Swords, & Stealth: The world of Spells, Swords, and Stealth is based on Dungeons & Dragons, and as a result it, too, has kobolds as a race commonly seen as minions. The most prominent kobold in the story is Grumble, who in antiquity ascended to godhood and made himself the God of Minions. One of the protagonists, Thistle the gnome, was a minion in his past and remains a devout follower of Grumble — devout enough that, when he and his friends must take on the lives of traveling adventurers, Grumble offers Thistle the chance to serve him in the role of paladin.
  • The Spirit Ring: In Lois McMaster Bujold's historical fantasy novel kobolds (also referred to as gnomes or "rock-demons") are brown-colored humanoids, two feet tall, with narrow chins, thin arms and legs, long fingers and toes, "joints like the knobs of roots", and pointed tongues. They live in the earth (and can move through soil and stone as if they were air) and have a strong affinity for metal. They also greatly desire milk (including human milk). Many miners distrust them, fearing they may play mischievous or even dangerous tricks, but they can be helpful when they feel like it, even putting ore in a miner's basket. In the climax of the story the protagonists are able to strike a bargain with them for their help; they don't help the humans for altruistic motives, but do faithfully keep their end of the bargain. The book's conception of kobolds is drawn from traditional European folklore; in an author's afterword, Bujold notes her kobolds came from a footnote in Herbert Hoover's translation of De re metallica, a 16th century treatise on the mining and refining of metals.
  • Sword Art Online: An early boss, Illfang the Kobold Lord, is a hulking, muscular, large-bellied kobold with greyish (in the manga) or red (in the anime and games) fur and a kangaroo-esque design.
  • Too Many Curses: Nessy is a doglike kobold employed as a housekeeper and general assistant by the evil wizard Margle. It's mentioned that most kobolds live underground because the gods seem to make a sport of dropping things on them, one of Nessy's uncles getting crushed by an ox that dropped out of a clear sky.
  • The Treachery of Beautiful Things: Kobolds are tree spirits, made by carving the wood of their trees. Oberon has enslaved them all.
  • Tales of MU: Kobolds are goblinoids, an order of humanoids that aren't mammalian or reptilian. They resemble goblins, but with red skin instead of green. They live in mines beneath mountains and fight dwarves for territory while trying to protect their wealth from human looters. Their society is rigid and more stratified than the goblins'.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Carnival Row: Kobolds are extremely short (around 1 foot or so) humanoids with flat faces, long ears and armoured skin. Though they can't speak and most people assume they're unintelligent animals, Runyan Millworthy has a trained troupe of kobolds who serve as actors in his street shows.
  • Kyūkyū Sentai GoGoV: The Psyma Clan member Kobold, besides sharing a name with the mythological creature, is the leader of the Earth Demons.
  • Pumuckl: The eponymous protagonist is identified as a kobold. He's a small, elf-like creature with bushy red hair and the power to turn invisible, lives in and old woodsmith's workshop and likes to play pranks on people.

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • Kobolds originate in German folklore, where they served as the primary local version of the tiny, mischievous, sometimes malevolent and sometimes helpful little people of folklore. They typically appeared as tiny human figures, generally either little old-looking men or children, but could also take the shapes of animals or other natural entities, as well as disembodied voices. They were generally placed in one of three environments, with different stereotypes broadly associated with the kobolds found in each place:
    • Some kobolds were household spirits, living in houses or shops and helping perform domestic chores, care for animals and run the shop. They demanded respect and offerings of food in exchange, and could become vengeful and angry if insulted or neglected; slighted house kobolds could take out their anger by causing accidents around the house, or by causing magical bad luck or disease. These kobolds were typically depicted as miniature versions of local peasants.
    • Some kobolds lived underground, often within mines. German miners believed that they were expert miners and metalworkers, and that the sounds sometimes heard underground were the kobolds digging, smithing and drilling. They were considered hostile and territorial, and accidents such as cave-ins and rock slides were blamed on angered kobolds. They occasionally left nasty surprises in the form of a worthless, poisonous metal that would break mining equipment. This substance we now know as the element "cobalt", the ore of which is naturally found bonded with arsenic oxide forming sharp, brittle shards. Some tales however claim them to be potentially helpful, and if treated with respect they can lead miners to rich veins of mineral.
    • Ship kobolds, also called klabautermanns, lived on ocean vessels and performed maintenance tasks such as fixing sails and ropes and filling in holes. They shared their terrestrial cousins' tempers, however, and if upset would cause mischief such as by tangling rigging. They were considered best when heard but no seen; a kobold in plain sight was a sign of terrible bad luck.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chivalry And Sorcery: In the 3rd Edition adventure Stormwatch, red-eyed kobolds living in a copper mine have been kidnapping, killing and eating human miners and other villagers.
  • The Dark Eye: Kobolds are relatives to fairies and extremely varied, both in appearance and in behavior. Some are diminutive humans with additional traits such as mouse tails, green or wrinkled skin, large and pointed ears and noses, and the like; others look like small humanoid bears or monkeys instead. They are typically mischievous and fun-loving, but beyond that can range from helpful house and shipboard aides to cruel tricksters who spread chaos and disorder, steal children to replace with their own changelings, and turn precious gems and metal to worthless junk. Most live in human dwellings and ships, although many prefer to live in nature under trees and rocks, in riverbanks, inside huge mushrooms or underground. They speak a clicking, whistling language that most other species can't pronounce, which is good for them, as someone who knows a kobold's true name can magically control it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Kobolds are a small, subterranean, generally evil species who are Dirty Cowards but superlative Trap Masters, and generally have some connection to dragons. They're usually seen as those wimpy monsters that you fight when you're first level and should be able to curb-stomp by second level. They worship Kurtulmak, the god of war and mining, whom they believe created the first kobolds from an egg discarded from the dragon goddess Tiamat's nest.
    • 1st edition depicts them as relatives of goblins with doglike features; in 2nd, the doglike traits are dropped in favor of depicting kobolds are short, large-eyed goblins. 3rd edition reimagins them as miniature Draconic Humanoids who serve and sometimes worship true dragons. This depiction is kept into the 4th edition, and although 5th edition artwork largely sticks to the previous model it also gives kobolds doglike noses.
    • Tucker's Kobolds (named for their DM, who believed in playing the monsters smart) could do serious damage to 6th-12th level characters while still being 1d4 hit point monsters through clever use of traps and tactics. Later versions of the game interpreted this to mean that all kobolds are naturally gifted at turning their lairs into mazes of traps and pitfalls.
    • Sometimes, kobolds are hatched with wings and other signs of a draconic heritage. 2nd refers to them as urds, and depicts them as the descendants of ancient kobold/dragon matings and as living in a separate society from the rest of kobold-kind. Later editions refer to them as dragonwrought kobolds instead; instead of living separately from other kobolds, dragonwroughts are sporadically hatched from regular kobold eggs and are believed to be throwbacks to the kobolds' mythical dragon ancestors.
  • Flying Circus: The kobolds of Himmilgard, the game's Kaiserreich-style setting, draw influence from their traditional Germanic folklore origins, rather than the Dungeons & Dragons version. Himmilgard's kobolds are one of the Fae, and they are a cohort of the faeries' landed nobility, along with being messengers and servants. They're described as having the form of a small animal, and the rulebook's artwork depicts a kobold as a seemingly normal-looking rabbit.
  • GURPS, being a determinedly generic system, offers various options for kobolds.
    • In GURPS Banestorm, kobolds are smallish blue humanoids (related to the setting's goblins) who are not very bright, tend to live downtrodden and sordid lives — and are vicious practical jokers.
    • GURPS Fantasy Folk: Kobolds reviews kobolds' legendary origins and evolution through tabletop games, and details three types (with variants): the quite formidable folkloric type (basically a small earth elemental), a "mean" dungeon fantasy species with a taste for traps, and the Banestorm version.
  • Kobolds Ate My Baby: Kobolds are small, stupid, evil humanoids who eat babies. They're also perfectly happy to eat each other should babies be in short supply. Their stupidity often causes them to die in droves, something they compensate for by being very, very numerous.
  • Pathfinder: Kobolds, much like the ones in Dungeons & Dragons, are small, reptilian humanoids distantly related to dragons. Second edition reimagines them as squatter beings with almost toadlike faces and broad, backwards-pointing horns. Their myths generally link them to dragons in some manner, usually with kobolds being dragons who were stripped of their power in some manner or with dragons having been created by empowering preexisting kobolds. In the modern day, kobolds live underground in mazelike warrens behind layers of deadly traps, are ancestral enemies of the goblins, dwarves and gnomes and worship dragons as living gods. The vastly more powerful dragons, in turn, mostly see kobolds as a cheap source of expendable minions and as a source of mild embarrassment otherwise.
    • All kobolds have the scale color of one of the five types of chromatic dragon (white, black, green, blue and red). This is normally purely cosmetic, but a very rare variety, the dragonbreath kobolds, are able to use the Breath Weapon of their associated dragon type (respectively ice, acid, poison gas, lightning and fire).
    • Culturally, kobolds are defined by strictly hierarchical societies, profound xenophobia towards anything that isn't a kobold or a dragon, fanatical devotion to their tribes and a vastly overwrought sense of self-importance — kobolds believe themselves to be the true rulers of the world and as the creators of most forms of technology and civilization.
    • While most kobolds live in complex tunnel systems underground, some tribes of green-scaled kobolds live nomadically deep within ancient forests.
  • Small World: In the "Cursed" expansion pack, kobolds are depicted as tiny, humanoid creatures with pink skin and Pointy Ears. They are one of the most numerous races in the game.
  • Warhammer: The background material for some editions mentions that Kobolds are a sub-species of Goblin with longer arms and smaller hips that give them a crooked appearance. While they have never been officially represented on the tabletop, one White Dwarf article for the game's 6th Edition did include unofficial rules for Fire Kobolds that have a red patches on their green skin, spit fire and are resistant to heat.

    Video Games 
  • Armies of Exigo: Kobolds are part of the Beast hordes alongside the goblins, ogres, trolls, and Lizard Folk.
  • Curious Expedition 2: Kobolds are very goblin-like and much more similar to traditional depictions than the lizard-like folk variety found in Dungeons & Dragons, who also happen to be hermaphrodites. They are companions that can be recruited and found in the wilds on Avalon maps.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara: Kobolds are the lowest level mooks, being shorter than goblins (which aren't even in the first game) and having a doglike appearance except for a small pair of horns.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Kobolds are small, squat humanoids with pointy ears and glowing yellow eyes; they're described as reptomammals, creatures related to true mammals but still bearing reptilian characteristics. They are one of the main sapient races in the world alongside dwarves, humans, elves and goblins, and are the most primitive of these; they're generally strictly in the Copper Age. They live in simple tribal groups, usually inside caves, keep poisonous animals as pets and often sneak inside fortresses to steal things.
  • EverQuest: Kobolds are a race of quadrupedal anthropomorphic dogs. They were the first of numerous races that Brell Serilis, God of the Underfoot, had created. With each new race he created afterwards, the the kobolds felt more and more despair for being forgotten, and lash out at other races in hostility. Various clans exist all over Norrath, including The Warrens zone on Odus, the Mines of Gloomingdeep, and in the Steamfont Mountains.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Kobolds are short, long-eared, and mole-like beast men who wear protective gear, which completely cover their bodies, and live in a complex tunnel system beneath Mount O'Ghomoro. They are skilled, mining-obsessed craftsmen and alchemists and believe the wealth of the earth to be a gift to them from the primal Titan they worship, and as such are extremely protective of their mineral rights. The kobolds the player can befriend fall under Lovable Coward, but it doesn't seem to be a species trait.
  • In Gems of War, kobolds look like short dragonoids, and in fact think that they are descended from the dragon Emperina (much to her annoyance), but they are actually a subspecies of goblin.
  • Idling To Rule The Gods: Kobolds resemble mixes of goblins and wolves, and are described as being stronger than either.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has kobolds that are... living lower-case letter Ks, as part of its Whole-Plot Reference to NetHack. They're described by Monster Manuel as lizard-dog men, a reference to the monster changing between editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Neverwinter Nights is set in the Forgotten Realms setting and features standard D&D kobolds — small, yapping reptilian humanoids, weak, cowardly, and not particularly bright, but deceptively skilled with traps and ambushes.
    • In Shadows of Undrentide, a tribe of kobolds attack Hilltop at the beginning of the game, poisoning your mentor and setting the plot into motion by stealing four artifacts left in his keeping. They serve a young, unusually friendly white dragon named Tymofarrar. Dealing with the kobolds forms one part of the main quest for Chapter One — Tymofarrar even trained one member of the tribe as a bard, Deekin Scalesinger, who goes on to be a potential party member and an early example of a heroic kobold in D&D.
    • Deekin was popular enough to reappear in a major role in Hordes of the Underdark, the Hero of Waterdeep's sidekick and Tagalong Chronicler, where he achieves epic level and the Red Dragon Disciple Prestige Class, and so endlessly loyal that he cannot be convinced to turn against you even by the Archdevil Mephistopheles. He even has a cameo as a shopkeeper in the main campaign of Neverwinter Nights 2.
  • Pillars of Eternity features "Xaurips" which are effectively D&D kobolds in all but name. They're diminutive reptilian creatures, sapient yet still considered vermin, who are (almost) Always Chaotic Evil and have a primitive religion centering around dragons.
  • In Phoenotopia and Phoenotopia : Awakening, Kobolds are humanoid wolflike alien mercenaries who act as a scouting force for the (also alien) invaders. Unlike most examples here, they are Consummate Professionals, elite troops, and among the some of the most dangerous groups of enemies you meet in the game. With their technological superiority, they manage to take over the Daean royal palace, killing the king and queen and capturing the prince.
  • Pokémon: Sableye is a hybrid of traditional kobolds and the Kelly-Hopkinsville aliens, being a diminutive cave-dwelling goblin-like creature who digs for the gems it eats. While largely solitary and apathetic towards others as long as you don't get in its way, many Pokedex entries allege that it can steal souls whenever its eyes glow, but this is likely superstition.
  • Quest for Glory: You encounter a kobold as part of your general quest to save the kingdom. He's hiding a cave guarded by a bear in a collar and will attack you via Teleport Spam when you approach him. The key to beating him is to first blind him, either with Erasmus's Razzle Dazzle spell or a sudden flashbomb depending on your player class, then attack. Defeating him is crucial as he holds the key to unlocking the bear's collarnote  transforming it back into the Baronet you're trying to save... unless of course you killed the bear first.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Kobolds are frequent early-game enemies that belong in the Jirae race and are usually associated with the Neutral alignment. Like all other demons, they can be recruited and fused by the player.
  • Suikoden: Kobolds are humanoid dogs who may not always be the brightest, but are just as capable at fighting as any human, and their profile pictures are adorable.
  • The Tenth Line: Kobolds are humanoid fennec foxes about the size of a human child, whose fur is sought after by hunters.
  • Warcraft: Kobolds are rat-men found in tunnels and dungeons and who wear candles on their heads as primitive miner's lights, sometimes available as mercenaries. They speak in grunts, but as of World of Warcraft they became better known as the Trope Namer for You No Take Candle.

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 
  • Fen Quest: The Northern Empire is home to a half-dozen kobold races, reptilian and mammalian alike, each born from the death of a Greater Beast (and native to the region where the Greater Beast met its fate). The Southern Empire houses yet more kobold races, the only one seen being avian in aspect.
  • Orion's Arm: Kobolds are a type of humans adapted for life on high-gravity worlds. They're a meter tall and about as wide, with stout limbs, barrel chests and flat noses. They usually live in extensive burrows beneath their worlds' surfaces, and are known for a cultural tendency to be skilled jewelers.


Video Example(s):


Polt the Kobold

As the dog-like variety often seen in Japanese works, Polt has nearly endless amounts of energy.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / OurKoboldsAreDifferent

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