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[Let's Read] AD&D 2e Monstrous Manual [Part III, Ki~?]

Of the following monsters from the first half of the MM, which do you like best?

  • Ankheg

    Votes: 18 8.9%
  • Beholder

    Votes: 58 28.6%
  • Carrion Crawler

    Votes: 22 10.8%
  • Dwarf

    Votes: 5 2.5%
  • Elf

    Votes: 5 2.5%
  • Feyr

    Votes: 4 2.0%
  • Gnoll

    Votes: 37 18.2%
  • Hobgolin

    Votes: 19 9.4%
  • Imp

    Votes: 9 4.4%
  • Jackalwere

    Votes: 8 3.9%
  • Kenku

    Votes: 18 8.9%

  • Total voters
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Five Eyes

Pirate basketball team
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The best use I can think of for a Kirre is as some sort of gladiatorial beast - like, as a replacement for normal animals, more powerful/renowned gladiators have to fight naturally-psionic, semi-intelligent relatives.

In a CS where psionics is relatively unknown, or presents a potent threat to most parties, having the party be sent to "round up" a slew of some of the many "Normal beastie + psionics" for a local colloseum could be fun, especially if the party's not entirely certain what the beasts can do.

Gnolls, of course.


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I'll just assume "Hobgolin" is the same as sea caballero, and vote for that, eh? ;)
Ay Caramba! The Sea Caballeros thank you for your support, despite you conflating them with those scourges of the sea, the Koalinth.


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The kirre pisses me off. Why?

1) It has a gore attack. That's cool. But then why do its horns face backwards, where they can't actually poke at anybody?

2) The flavor-text mentions that it is a favored game animal for many peoples in Athas' jungles. No wonder everybody is starving on that planet. Don't feed only on top carnivores, people! There's not much nutrition in 'em!
I had no memory of this creature being in the Monstrous Manual at all. Maybe psionic eight-legged horned tigers just aren't interesting enough to stick in the mind. Anyhows, regarding your points:

1) Yes, being able to gore and bite in the same round used to bother me about gargoyles with their claw/claw/bite/horn routine, Even if they have a whole minute to use both attacks, realistically they'd be better off trying to strike with their horns or fangs twice rather than switching between them, but that's just the way the AD&D melee round works.

...Although I do like the idea of headbanging psionic eight-legged horned tigers. Kirre are sapient after all, and sages say that even dumb beasts can enjoy music. Now I'm imagining them shaking their stuff to Eye of the Tiger.*

(2) To be fair, the 2E MM description says that Kirre are favoured game because they're particularly tasty. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're a major source of food for the Athasian hunting tribes, they're more likely to be prestigious prey items.

*EDIT: Speaking of eyes, the MM illustration shows a Kirre with blue eyes, but the accompanying description says "The yellow eyes of this creature against the dark grey fur of its face create a fearsome appearance." It's not the first illo-text inconsistency in the Monstrous Manual, and I suspect it won't be the last.

Mulling it over, I think I prefer Kirre with blue eyes. Gives them a spooky air, like those creepy Persian cats so beloved of superspy Nemeses like Blofeld.
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Booze Hound
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Here they are. Everybody's favourite whipping boys. Indeed, it's my theory that kobolds are the most commonly encountered D&D monsters - more frequently found even than orcs or goblins. That's because they're the easiest fodder for 1st level characters, who orcs or hobgoblins can easily be too tough for in numbers.

Like probably everybody I like kobolds. I do however recognise that there's something odd going on with their makeup: why is there such ambivalence about whether they're little dog creatures or little reptilian creatures? There is definitely a place for little dog humanoid creatures in D&D, so why they muddied the waters with the scaly skin is a bit of a mystery.

Some interesting points to note:

  • Kobolds attack gnomes on sight, and will not either take them prisoner or even eat them. I wonder if there was ever a justification for the gnome v. kobold idea, other than an attempt to make gnomes seem more interesting?
  • Kobolds will generally not attack humans, elves or dwarves unless they outnumber them by 2 to 1, and even then will not attack until they have softened up their opponents with missile attacks. There's plenty of scope for sneaky attritional tactics.
  • A favourite tactic is to drop poisonous insects on enemies from murder holes when in their dens. In all my years of playing D&D I don't think I've ever used, or encountered, monsters dropping poisonous insects on people - but I will now. As always, you have to regret the fact that there are no greatly detailed rules for different kinds of natural poisons in AD&D.
  • Kobolds also apparently hate goblins, not just gnomes and pixies and the like; there are 'numerous' kobold-goblin wars, which dwarves appreciate for keeping their numbers down.


Urds are a bit like the flind to the kobold's gnoll, except with wings. They are a tougher, more intelligent, nastier version, who like to drop rocks from above.


Cheesey Goodness
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Validated User
Tucker's Kobolds pretty much redefined the entire *concept* of humanoid monsters for me, from "Faceless mooks" ala "10' by 10' room with an orc and a chest" to "Actual thinking, feeling opponents. And they have a plan."

I can't say enough good things about them!

Adventure hooks generally come out of the 3.5 version, with clerics and sorcerers and Draconic lineage, but, we don't have that here, aside from the Bird... pardon ... Urds, who have wings.

But there's that Gnome hate.

Perhaps, as trapmakers, Kobolds just detest the idea of 'cheating' with magical illusions, which Gnomes are famous for? In ancient history, they were friendly races who shared a common love for pranks, but, a huge contest for one-upmanship on trapmaking and prank-crafting turned on Gnomes busting out mad illusion skills and the Kobolds, feeling betrayed, decalared neverending war?

Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
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  • Kobolds attack gnomes on sight, and will not either take them prisoner or even eat them. I wonder if there was ever a justification for the gnome v. kobold idea, other than an attempt to make gnomes seem more interesting?
Presumably it is a sly wink to their mythical antecedents -- both kobolts and gnomes being little folk associated with underground, mining, etc.

In-game, of course, it got mythologized to a feud between Garl Glittergold and Kurtulmak, which I've always thought was a nice riff (much like the tiff between Gruumsh and Corellon Larethian).


Cheesey Goodness
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Validated User
And now I get to ask:

Tell me more! I'm fascinated.
Back in the Olde Days, before the idea of "Monsters with CLASSES?!" took off, there was a Dragon Magazine article about a DM named Tucker and his Kobolds. These Kobolds weren't skittery lil' yapping guys who ran away at teh first sign of trouble and died in droves to a 3rd level party. No, TUCKER'S Kobolds were kitted out with posioned arrows, fired in fusilades from hollow walls and murder holes. They'd trigger pit traps beneath a party then rain Green Slime on them while they were in teh hole, or rig a door to lockafetr being entered, then push a 10' tall pile of burning debris ahead of them with metal 10' poles until eventually they pinned the adventuring team between a cold hard wall of rock and a 10' by 10' pile of burning wood, pressed until dead.

They were every nightmare story of a Vietnam Vet's come to life, sneaky bastards, full of hate, and they woul dkill you just because you were taller than they were.

(quick websearch)

Ahh, here we go!

Ladies, gentlemen, and newbies, let me present to you the very first bonified *revolution* in monster encounters... Tucker's Kobolds.

Dragon Magazine #127 said:
Tucker’s kobolds

This month’s editorial is about Tucker’s kobolds. We get letters on occasion asking for advice on creating high-level AD&D® game adventures, and Tucker’s kobolds seem to fit the bill.

Many high-level characters have little to do because they’re not challenged. They yawn at tarrasques and must be forcibly kept awake when a lich appears. The DMs involved don’t know what to do, so they stop dealing with the problem and the characters go into Character Limbo. Getting to high level is hard, but doing anything once you get there is worse.

One of the key problems in adventure design lies in creating opponents who can challenge powerful characters. Singular monsters like tarrasques and liches are easy to gang up on; the party can concentrate its firepower on the target until the target falls down dead and wiggles its little feet in the air. Designing monsters more powerful than a tarrasque is self-defeating; if the group kills your super-monster, what will you do next—send in its mother? That didn’t work on Beowulf, and it probably won’t work here.

Worse yet, singular supermonsters rarely have to think. They just use their trusty, predictable claw/claw/bite. This shouldn’t be the measure of a campaign. These games fall apart because there’s no challenge to them, no mental stimulation - no danger.

In all the games that I’ve seen, the worst, most horrible, most awful beyond-comparison opponents ever seen were often weaker than the characters who fought them. They were simply well-armed and intelligent beings who were played by the DM to be utterly ruthless and clever. Tucker’s kobolds were like that.

Tucker ran an incredibly dangerous dungeon in the days I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C. This dungeon had corridors that changed all of your donkeys into huge flaming demons or dropped the whole party into acid baths, but the demons were weenies compared to the kobolds on Level One. These kobolds were just regular kobolds, with 1-4 hp and all that, but they were mean. When I say they were mean, I mean they were bad, Jim. They graduated magna cum laude from the Sauron Institute for the Criminally Vicious.

When I joined the gaming group, some of the PCs had already met Tucker’s kobolds, and they were not eager to repeat the experience. The party leader went over the penciled map of the dungeon and tried to find ways to avoid the little critters, but it was not possible. The group resigned itself to making a run for it through Level One to get to the elevators, where we could go down to Level Ten and fight “okay” monsters like huge flaming demons.

It didn’t work. The kobolds caught us about 60′ into the dungeon and locked the door behind us and barred it. Then they set the corridor on fire, while we were still in it.

“NOOOOOO!!!” screamed the party leader. “It’s THEM! Run!!!”

Thus encouraged, our party scrambled down a side passage, only to be ambushed by more kobolds firing with light crossbows through murder holes in the walls and ceilings. Kobolds with metal armor and shields flung Molotov cocktails at us from the other sides of huge piles of flaming debris, which other kobolds pushed ahead of their formation using long metal poles like broomsticks. There was no mistake about it. These kobolds were bad.

We turned to our group leader for advice.

“AAAAAAGH!!!” he cried, hands clasped over his face to shut out the tactical situation.

We abandoned most of our carried items and donkeys to speed our flight toward the elevators, but we were cut off by kobold snipers who could split-move and fire, ducking back behind stones and corners after launching steel-tipped bolts and arrows, javelins, hand axes, and more flaming oil bottles. We ran into an unexplored section of Level One, taking damage all the time. It was then we discovered that these kobolds had honeycombed the first level with small tunnels to speed their movements. Kobold commandos were everywhere. All of our hirelings died. Most of our henchmen followed. We were next.

I recall we had a 12th-level magic user with us, and we asked him to throw a spell or something. “Blast ‘em!” we yelled as we ran. “Fireball ‘em! Get those little @#+$%*&!!”

“What, in these narrow corridors? ” he yelled back. “You want I should burn us all up instead of them?”

Our panicked flight suddenly took us to a dead-end corridor, where a giant air shaft dropped straight down into unspeakable darkness, far past Level Ten. Here we hastily pounded spikes into the floors and walls, flung ropes over the ledge, and climbed straight down into that unspeakable darkness, because anything we met down there was sure to be better than those kobolds.

We escaped, met some huge flaming demons on Level Ten, and even managed to kill one after about an hour of combat and the lives of half the group. We felt pretty good, but the group leader could not be cheered up.

“We still have to go out the way we came in,” he said as he gloomily prepared to divide up the treasure.

Tucker’s kobolds were the worst things we could imagine. They ate all our donkeys and took our treasure and did everything they could to make us miserable, but they had style and brains and tenacity and courage. We respected them and loved them, sort of, because they were never boring.

If kobolds could do this to a group of PCs from 6th to 12th level, picture what a few orcs and some low level NPCs could do to a 12th-16th level group, or a gang of mid-level NPCs and monsters to groups of up to 20th level. Then give it a try. Sometimes, it’s the little things used well that count.

Roger E. Moore
Let me add, here, that 6th level was fairly big back then and double-digit levels were nearly unheard of. I *never* saw a legit game go past 12th level (That'd be about 34th in 3rd edition terms!), so, you should realize how BIG this sort of thing was.


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Ahh... kobolds. Love those little guys. Love them so much, I ran an entire campaign based on them--a prehistoric world where all of the races were reptilian. Kobolds were the Empire, with loads of oppression, bureacracy, and getting bigger races to do most of the fighting for them.

The first mastermind villain of the first dungeon I ever wrote was a kobold. Kojark was a kobold sorcerer who, for kicks, would give adventuring parties cursed items, then invite them to test themselves in his castle (built within the skull of a dead god) to see if they were worthy enough to give it back. The whole scenario was something very much akin to a Gygaxian ludicrous dungeon, full of unfair monsters, ridiculously deadly traps and sheer goofiness, written by someone (me) who'd never seen a Gygaxian dungeon in his life. It was deliriously fun, and people who played in it occasionally try to get me to convert it and run it again, but I think the joy would be lost.


Making the Legend
Validated User
And now I get to ask:

Tell me more! I'm fascinated.
To expand on the tuckers kobolds editorial, another excelent example of this was the megadungeon classic Dragon Mountain. There, your primary foe was an entire mountainfull of various tribes of kobolds, each with their own distinctive sets of tactics. (although all made heavy use of type E poison, which is the great equalizer, which combined with natural 20's always hitting, made them dangerous to adventurers no matter how tough they were.) The combination of these tactics were more than enough to be a challenge to 10th-15th (the expected party level ) PC's, but also allowed for a dungeon that was hard but doable (if your characters played things similarly smart) for a far wider level range than usual. If you managed to make it through the dungeon, the dragon played on this, essentially saying if you had so much trouble with kobolds, how do you think you'll fare against a Great Wyrm Dragon, puny mortals? Rather demoralising. :D

Essentially, the big lesson here is that raw power counts for less than you think, if you can't ever get into a position to properly apply that power. If you control the battlefield, get good equipment, and work together properly, you can take on giant monsters which could swat you in a single hit and win. It's something that is integral to the success of humans in the real world, but it works just as fine against us if we forget to apply those lessons, and just wade in with swords swinging and no plan other than attack till they die. And Kobolds have become the ideal means to apply that lesson.
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