The kobold is a small, reclusive creature that lives in deep caves underground hollows. Also called stone imps or knockers, they are known for their deep voices and glowing eyes.
Kobolds have been sighted many times throughout history, though they are often mistaken for goblins, dwarves and other small supernatural creatures. They are known for appearing in the darkness of deep caves and mines, their eyes glowing like lanterns in the deep darkness. They have led miners and explorers to their deaths by drawing them into the unexplored caverns and tunnels of the mountains, but other legends have them leading lost people out of the caves or towards veins of gold and gemstones.
Kobolds do not seek out humans; they will be found in the caves around their homes, but they will not venture outside. Any legends of this scenario was likely a goblin.
Traits and Behavior
The kobold is a small creature with pale skin, large eyes and bat-like ears. They are spindly, with long skinny limbs to assist in climbing and tough outer skin. They have long, thick fingers used for tapping along cavern walls. Using their enhanced hearing, they tap along the walls of caves and tunnels to find veins of gems or precious metals, similar to an aye aye searching for insects under bark. It is this habit that earned them the nickname knockers, as the tapping can be heard for great distances. Kobolds can also tap with their toes, which are nearly as long as their fingers, and they can be used almost as well as hands.
Kobolds are extremely sensitive to light, and cannot go outdoors in the daylight no matter how overcast. Even the light of the moon is painful, so kobolds will only ever go out during the new moon, or occasionally while covering their eyes entirely and using sound to navigate.
Kobolds live in communities deep in the underground, and are often found in deep mines. They seek out veins of precious metals and minerals, but unlike other species seem content to locate them only, as they do not mine them. Kobolds tunnels are often carved to run alongside these veins, so their walls sparkle and gleam with the materials.
Despite minimal interest in mining themselves, they find the process and results of others mining fascinating, and will seek out mining tunnels to sneak along, or carve their own around them to listen in. They have been known to steal mining tools, scraps and small pieces of the remaining rocks or even the metals themselves if they have been removed from the rock already. These are used for decoration around their own tunnels.
Kobolds are especially fond of crystals, and they frequently carve large caverns for the purpose of growing them. These growths can go back centuries, tended by kobolds over generations. Kobolds struggle to see color due to their light sensitivity, but love the complex light and shapes the crystals produce.
Kobolds can climb horizontally and vertically along cavern walls, as both their fingers and toes are designed for grip against even the smoothest stone. Their eyes glow in the dark in a yellow-orange color, and reflect light. In proper lighting they are effectively blind, but can see in almost pure darkness. They also use their hearing to move around, and speak in a pitch similar to bats. It is unclear if they use echolocation as bats do.
Kobolds rarely have children, but when they do they are born in large groups, and raised communally. They are considered an adult at 2 years old, and can live up to a century. An adult kobold may choose to venture to another mining vein to join other communities, or may start one themselves, but they rarely leave the mountain they were born in unless there is no longer enough space. Instead of traveling above ground they will dig new tunnels to another area, using their tapping to find other veins of metal to settle by. A mountain chain can feasibly hold hundreds of these communities, connected by small tunnels or caverns. Kobolds are not especially territorial, and welcome other mountain dwellers into their homes, even non-kobolds. They will retreat temporarily if their homes are discovered by humans, but often try closing off the access tunnels instead of leaving.
Kobolds are omnivores, eating small insects and fish found in underground lakes and rivers, as well as species of lichen and moss. They often cultivate the moss themselves to ensure a steady supply.
Because of their interest in miners, kobolds often end up lingering on the edges of mining tunnels, and their tapping can often be heard nearby. Some miners will follow the tapping, as it frequently leads to the metals that kobolds are fond of. Other times, however, it can lead to deeper, darker caverns and has lead many explorers and miners to their presumed deaths. It isn’t known if kobolds are intentionally leading people anywhere, or if being heard is incidental. There are some legends of kobolds tapping frantically to warn of impending cave collapses, which does seem to happen on occasion. If they are seen, though, they are quick to retreat to their own tunnels, though this could be to hide from the light of mining lamps.
Kobolds are not inherently dangerous, as any harm to others seems incidental and not intended. If one needs to escape one, blinding them is the most effective method, and leaving the caves for the outdoors a guarantee they will not pursue unless there is no light outside.