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  • D&D 5e: Let’s Build A Kobold!

    August 30, 2021 10 min read

    Author: Rhenn Anthony Taguiam


    Aside from Goblins, it’s the Kobold in Dungeons & Dragons 5e that gets a bad rep for being “stereotypical” minions. These humanoids have distant relations to urds and dragons, which explains their small reptilian and dragon-like appearance. They get easily annoyed when others mention their height, especially when Kobolds at large are proud and resourceful. Kobolds have a strong sense of tribal culture, but they also explore the world to prove their skills. Players interested in creating smaller characters with a playful yet complex attitude, a Kobold may surprisingly fit their tastes.


    In this quick guide, we’ll explore some of the best ways to make a Kobold for your D&D 5e campaign that can add a new element of excitement to your party.

    Basics: The Traits

    Due to their small stature, Kobolds aren’t as strong as other Ancestries. However, what they lack in Strength, they do make up for their excellent Dexterity. Moreover, Kobolds naturally lean well towards groups, with their Ancestral Traits innately encouraging them to group together and perform better in the company of others.


    • Ability Score Increase: DEX + 2, STR - 2
    • Age: Kobolds can live up to 120 years of age and reach adulthood at 6.
    • Size and Speed: Small (2 to 3ft tall, 25 to 35 pounds average), 30ft walking speed.
    • Alignment: Kobolds are naturally selfish, making them have an inclination towards Evil alignments. However, their reliance on their strength as a group makes them lean towards Lawful associations.
    • Racial Features: Kobolds have these racial features:
      • Darkvision, which lets Kobold see 60ft of dim light as though it’s bright and in darkness as though it’s dim light, albeit they only see in greys.
      • Grovel, Cower, and Beg, which gives the Kobold the ability to cower in fear to distract foes. Kobolds that do this grant their allies Advantage on attacks against enemies within 10ft that can see the Kobold. This trait can be used once every short or long rest.
      • Pack Tactics, which gives Kobolds an Advantage on attack rolls against enemies within 10ft that the Kobold and an ally can see. This trait can be used once every short or long rest.
      • Sunlight Sensitivity, which makes Kobolds have Disadvantage on WIS (Perception) checks and attack rolls when they rely on sight when making a check or an attack to a target in direct sunlight.
      • Languages, of which the Kobold can write, read, and speak Draconic and Common.

    Kobolds: The Best Classes To Build

    Given the Small size of the Kobold, they work best with Classes that allow them to take full advantage of their Dexterity. However, just because they suffer a penalty in Strength doesn’t mean they can’t become other Classes.


    Thanks to their Dexterity bonus, Kobolds may open better opportunities for more of their kin to become Fighters or even Bards, as their nimble nature may allow them to lean towards ranged weapons and tools that require finesse.


    • Bard: A Kobold who’s been with too many teams may have a lot of stories to share with everyone. And for Players who want to make use of Kobold's stereotypical attachment to villains, they may arrive at their party with a lot of tales and wondrous stories in mind. As a Bard, a Kobold may have stories of victorious battles, hilarious failures, and a penchant to possess knowledge in multiple skills they’ve gathered through the years.
      • Despite the Kobold’s Strength penalty, their Dexterity Ability Score Bonus can make for quite the talented Bard, especially if they prefer to tell their stories in the form of dance or other forms of performances. Moreover, the Kobold Bard can use this innate dexterousness to dance in and out of combat, as well as to perform impressive long-ranged maneuvers with the bow and arrow.
      • The Kobold Bard will appreciate the kinds of skills and traits they can learn given their connection with the Class. Its Spellcasting alone gives Bards an impeccable edge inside and outside of combat, with its Bardic Inspiration making them an invaluable asset to the party. Moreover, Jack of All Trades and Expertise allows them to further diversify their list of skills, with Countercharm and Song of Rest in later levels giving the Bard a more all-around role in the party.
      • The Kobold Bard may fit the College of Swords, College of Spirits, or College of Whispers if Players want a Kobold that specializes in combat. However, Players who want to explore the more roleplay aspect of their characters may want to make a Kobold Bard under the College of Glamour, College of Lore, or even the College of Eloquence in order to open the gateway to new encounters and roleplay opportunities.
    • Fighter: A Kobold’s attachment to the minion stereotype can be maximized with a Kobold Fighter. Unlike their more inexperienced counterparts, a Kobold Fighter may have had the right training and skills to be able to use the entire field of battle to their advantage. Regardless of if they use ranged or melee weapons, their knowledge on combat tactics, battlefield maneuvers, and the way their enemies fight can give the Kobold Fighter a tremendous advantage.
      • Some might wonder why make a Kobold Fighter when they get a penalty in their starting Strength and a Dexterity Ability Score bonus. However, one should remember that not all Fighters have to fight in melee and a Kobold might be able to circumvent this trend by creating a sharpshooter that can outclass even the best of archers. Moreover, their battle prowess and learnings on the battlefield will enable them to direct the fight without having to go melee.
      • Despite Kobold's small stature, the Fighter’s flexible Class options will eventually give them an edge in combat. Fighting Style and Feats (in replacement of Ability Score Improvement) alone enables Kobolds to choose their combat tactics of choice. Moreover, their Extra Attacks and Action Surges enable the Kobold to do more in a single turn compared to their other companions.
      • Players may want to try playing along with the Kobold Fighter’s stereotype as a “minion” to take advantage of unique Martial Archetypes. These include the Brute, the Cavalier, the Scout, or the Sharpshooter subclasses. However, Players can also attempt using more unique archetypes such as the Arcane Archer, Echo Knight, Eldritch Knight, and the Rune Knight to introduce new and unique elements to the story.
    • Monk: Despite the small stature of the Kobold, they can land a mean punch with the right force and training. A Kobold Monk might be the last thing people want to see in a Monastery, but a Kobold, just like any other Ancestry, is capable of becoming a master of both their bodies and their minds. A Player making a Kobold Monk will be capable of dealing devastating attacks - with enemies having quite a hard time hitting them due to their size.
      • While Kobolds indeed receive a Strength penalty, their bonus in Dexterity does do well to make up for this. Moreover, this bonus also enables them to be much faster and much more mobile compared to other Monks in monasteries. As such, a Kobold Monk may be able to dart around the battlefield, leaving flurries of blows anywhere they go.
      • Kobold Monks gain access to a ton of melee-inspired benefits that take full advantage of their Dexterity Score. For instance, Unarmored Defense and Unarmored Movement relies on their Dexterity to let the Kobold Monk move around the battlefield much faster. Moreover, Ki and Martial Arts allow them to access a myriad of skills that help them become more versatile in the battlefield. Lastly, features such as Stunning Strike, Slow Fall, and Deflect Missiles enable them to perform in the front lines as primary damage dealers.
      • The Kobold Monk may actually fall under Monastic Traditions that can help them hone their skills in combat, including the Kensei, the Long Death, the Shadow, and the Soul Knife. Other Players may also want to attempt creating a Kobold Monk with a unique backstory with a Monk under the Drunken Master, Mercy, Open Hand, and Tranquility Monastic Traditions.
    • Ranger: Kobolds are, by nature, protective of their kin. This makes them perfect for being a Ranger - warriors capable of defending their homes and territories thanks to their innate familiarity with the landscape and the creatures that dwell within them. Moreover, how better to represent a protector Kobold than to give them the appropriate expertise in a territory’s guardianship?
      • Kobolds can make perfect Rangers thanks to their Dexterity Ability Score Bonus. After all, this does allow them to have quite the great aim and a great sense of direction, allowing them not just to outshoot, but also outpace intruders who dare try to get into their territories. Moreover, Kobold Rangers can thank their innate dexterous nature when it comes to escaping unknown and uncharted lands.
      • Kobold Rangers serve as one of the most flexible melee/spellcaster hybrids in the game thanks to their blend of light spellcasting and fighting prowess. For instance, their Fighting Style, Natural Explorer, and Favored Enemy allows Players to create Rangers that can use almost any weapon at their disposal and complement it with spells that make them much faster, much harder to hit, or otherwise irritating for monsters to deal with.
      • A Kobold Ranger may be adept in protecting their assigned territories, which might make them Beast Masters, Hunters, or Swarmkeepers. However, Kobolds may have stumbled upon mystical places or have served arcane masters and in turn granted them training to become Gloom Stalkers, Primeval Guardians, or even Horizon Walkers. Likewise, a Kobold Ranger may have wandered the lands enough to learn the ways of slaying various kinds of monsters, becoming a Monster Slayer.
    • Rogue: Thanks to the Kobold’s size, they can make the perfect agents of the shadows. As Rogues, Kobolds can blend not just into shadows, but also crowds thanks to their expertise in espionage and subterfuge. Players who make Kobold Rogues may be able to outrun and outwit their opponents, using their size and mobility to strike them before they even realize the Rogue has drawn their weapon.
      • The Kobold’s innate Dexterity Ability Score Bonus allows them to navigate not just battlefields, but also cityscapes and other social gatherings with ease. As such, this gives the Kobold Rogue not just a unique nimbleness with the dagger, but also the means to stealthily approach their targets and eliminate them without even the victims knowing they’re falling to the ground.
      • Kobold Rogues dominate mobility thanks to their wide array of abilities. Moreover, they can easily eliminate opponents in battle thanks to their Cunning Action and Sneak Attack. In addition, Uncanny Dodge and Evasion further increases their mobility while Expertise and Thieves’ Cant enables them to further play along the role of an outlaw or a criminal for hire.
      • The Kobold Rogue may receive extensive training in the art of espionage and subterfuge to be quite adept in a Roguish Archetype. These may include usual “roles” such as the Assassin, the Scout, or even the Thief. However, Kobold Rogues may also lean away from these stereotypes and get more unique forms of training such as becoming an Arcane Trickster, a Phantom, or a Swashbuckler.


    Beyond Minions: Interesting Character Backgrounds

    Despite their reputation, Kobolds can be far more than “minions.” And while they seem to be predisposed towards pack tactics and cowering in fear at the first sight of danger, Players and DMs might want to highlight how Kobolds in their respective worlds may be far more than these stereotypical traits. As such, you might want to add a bit of a spin to how your Kobold character may appear in your D&D 5e adventure, and you might want to consider using any of these Backgrounds for them:


    • Archaeologist (Tomb of Annihilation): A Kobold might be the last person anyone would expect to become an Archaeologist, but it’s precisely this entertaining factor that makes them quite fitting for such an unorthodox background. Perhaps a Kobold might have grown tired of the life of fighting and instead got curious with the wonders that temples and ancient ruins have left for adventurers to explore. Aside from making use of their wits and battle prowess to protect themselves from ancient guardians, they get to learn something new about the past every day.
      • Tools: Choose one from Navigator’s Tools, Cartographer’s Tools
      • Languages: Any one of their choice
      • Proficiencies: INT (History), WIS (Survival)
    • Spy (Player’s Handbook): While a Kobold Spy might seem too “stereotypically bad guy,” a lot of Players might actually form Kobold “mercenaries” or “thieves.” Players who want to “stick to tradition” with a bit of creative flair can create other sorts of Kobolds that dabble into subterfuge, such as Kobold grifters or even Kobold spies disguised as diplomats. This not only diversifies the Kobold’s skill set, but this also offers a lot of opportunities for roleplaying.
      • Tools: Gaming Set x1, Thieves’ Tools
      • Languages: None
      • Proficiencies: CHA (Deception), DEX (Stealth)
    • Noble (Player’s Handbook): Kobolds don’t necessarily have to come from tribes and even if they do, it’s not all the time that Players get to create characters who are also parts of nobility. A Kobold Noble can add an interesting dynamic to a party, as the DM and the Player can flesh out just how different Kobold nobles are from their common Kobold counterparts in terms of speech, clothing, and mannerisms.
      • Tools: Gaming Set x1
      • Languages: Any one language of their choice
      • Proficiencies: INT (History), CHA (Persuasion)
    • Knight (Player’s Handbook): Knights usually fight Kobolds and Kobolds don’t necessarily have to be Knights. And yet, a Player looking for an interesting character background might want to make a Kobold Knight to open up intriguing story hooks and even plot hooks for the entire campaign. The Kobold Knight might experience some prejudice and judgment due to their status and part of their character arc might be proving to everyone that Kobolds can be just as honorable as Knights.
      • Tools: Gaming Set x1
      • Languages: Any one language
      • Proficiencies: INT (History), CHA (Persuasion)
    • Folk Hero (Player’s Handbook): Kobolds usually end up being the ones stopping the hero from reaching their goal, but what if they do accomplish this and be heralded as heroes? It would be interesting looking at the Kobold’s point of view as others of their kind treat their activities as heroic and adventurous. What if the money the Kobold brings back to their clan or tribe can actually help feed them for the next month? This will make the Kobold a hero in their eyes, regardless of how the Kobold Folk Hero achieves this endeavor. Regardless of the backstory, the Kobold Folk Hero will definitely open interesting dialogue choices.
      • Tools: Artisan Tools x1, Vehicles (Land)
      • Languages: None
      • Proficiencies: WIS (Animal Handling), WIS (Survival)