- "Speaking as a fellow kobold, I'll be as direct as possible. The odds of you dying by adventurer are high. So high, in fact, that if you accidentally drank a quart of poison it would only reduce your chance of dying at the hands of an adventurer by five percent."
- — Mokumok the Shaman
Kobolds are a species of dimunitive, weak humanoids, who may compensate for their weakness with cunning traps. They are famous in D&D lore for being examples of weak, cowardly, and wicked, often being amongst the weakest creatures that any adventurer faces.
Kobolds have been described in various ways in various sources throughout various editions. They have been frequently described as hairless, and with red skin, and many sources describe them as somewhat reptilian, or somewhat dog-like. In more recent editions, they are more explicitly reptilian, often with a close relationship to dragons.
Kobolds are essentially self-interested cowards, with no concept of loyalty or trust, and often with a giant chip on their shoulder. They rarely fight fair: only overwhelming numbers are considered "enough," and they use traps, ambushes, and poisons to secure a victory at any cost.
Kobolds are often recruited into the forces of bigger, stronger humanoids, such as goblinoids. They have a particular affection for dragons, and can often be seen serving them.
Kobolds and gnomes share a passionate hatred of each other, as both favor tricks and tactics when fighting, rather than direct assault.
Kobolds may domesticate dire weasels and wild boars to serve as guardians in their lairs.
Kobolds have an antagonistic relationship with goblins, and frequently war with the creatures. Humanoids known as xvarts serve as go-betweens between the goblins and kobolds.
Kobolds are usually Lawful Evil. They are organized and cooperative, but thoroughly nasty to anything outside of their clan, and even to each other much of the time.
- Urd (2e Monstrous Compendium): A flying version of the kobold with mottled yellow-red skin and bat-like wings. They attack by dropping rocks, and have shamans that can speak with bats.
- Environmental and Elemental Variants (3e Unearthed Arcana): Aquatic, arctic, and jungle kobolds, as well as the elemental earth kobold, are described as racial variants, with adaptations to the environment or a slight elemental nature.
- OD&D: Kobolds appeared in the White Box as a monster "related to goblins," but with less HP. They have Light Sensitivity.
- Holmes OD&D: These evil dwarf-like creatures behave much like goblins, but are less powerful.
- 1e: Kobolds appeared in the Monster Manual.
- D&D: Kobolds appeared first in the Basic Set. Here, they are described as dog-like, but with scaly skin.
- 2e: Kobolds appeared in the first Monstrous Compendium, along with the Urd, a flying version.
- 3e: Kobolds appeared first in the Monster Manual. Here, they are explicitly reptilian in nature, and linked to dragons.
- 4e: Kobolds appeared in the first Monster Manual, and retain their draconic and reptilian features.