Tag Archives: Kobold

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

13 Apr

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

A Kobold in German folklore is a mischievous household spirit (geist) who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons.

Images of Kobolds were sometimes placed in gardens to attract them to come and work for a household. It was sometimes said that if you gave Kobolds human clothing for their labor, it made them think that they were now human, therefore too good to be a house “slave”. Perhaps this is why Kobolds originally appeared w/o clothing in the Monster Manual, etc.

The Wiki says of them:

The kobold (or kobolt) is a sprite stemming from Germanic mythology and surviving into modern times in German folklore. Although usually invisible, a kobold can materialise in the form of an animal, fire, a human being, and a mundane object. The most common depictions of kobolds show them as humanlike figures the size of small children. Kobolds who live in human homes wear the clothing of peasants; those who live in mines are hunched and ugly; and kobolds who live on ships smoke pipes and wear sailor clothing.

(from the Sacred Texts website)

Von Kobolt sang die Amme mir
Von Kobolt sing’ ich winder.

Of Kobold sang my nurse to me;
Of Kobold I too sing.

THE Kobold is exactly the same being as the Danish Nis, and Scottish Brownie, and English Hobgoblin. [b] He performs the very same services for the family to whom he attaches himself.

When the Kobold is about coming into any place, he first makes trial of the disposition of the family in this way. He brings chips and saw-dust into the house, and throws dirt into the milk vessels. If the master of the house takes care that the chips are not scattered about, and that the dirt is left in the vessels, and the milk drunk out of them, the Kobold comes and stays in the house as long as there is one of the family alive.

The change of servants does not affect the Kobold, who still remains. The maid who is going away must recommend her successor to take care of him, and treat him well. If she does not so, things go ill with her till she is also obliged to leave the place.

The history of the celebrated Hinzelmann (http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm087.htm) will give most full and satisfactory information respecting the nature and properties of Kobolds; for such he was, though he used constantly to deny it. His history was written at considerable length by a pious minister, named Feldmann. MM. Grimm gives us the following abridgement of it. [c]

[a] This word is usually derived from the Greek κόβαλος, a knave, which is found in Aristophanes. According to Grimm (p. 468) the German Kobold is not mentioned by any writer anterior to the thirteenth century; we find the French Gobelin in the eleventh; see France.

[b] In Hanover the Will-o’the-wisp is called the Tückebold, s. e. Tücke-Kobold, and is, as his name denotes, a malicious being. Voss. Lyr. Ged., ii. p. 315.

[c] Deutsche Sagen, i. p. 103. Feldmann’s work is a l2mo vol. of 379 pages.


Some Gamemasters prefer a more accurate mythological take on the varieties of fey creatures in their campaigns, but there is nothing wrong with choosing the typical Monster Manual-style Kobold, either. It is a matter of preference. Personally, I think both varieties are great fun in any campaign, but I pick between the two kinds based on the type of campaign I am running at the time.

Kobold from "The Little White Feather", a fairy tale

A is for ARDUIN

1 Apr

A is for ARDUIN

I am doing the A-Z Blogging challenge in April. (see link on my sidebar)

So, beginning with “A”, I start out with the earliest campaign setting/alternative rules set that I played: that of the original Arduin Grimoire trilogy by Dave Hargrave.

Arduin, bloody Arduin!

Vroat vs Phraint

Arduin is a bit of an anomaly in early Roleplaying. It is simultaneously attempting to be OD&D/Holmes supplements, a rule system evolving to stand on its own and a campaign world setting.  It is also part of the hack ‘n’ slash/gonzo/highly experimental time of the late 70’s and early 80’s when everything was new. The nation of Arduin on the world of Khaas was a rough and chaotic place, just like the landscape of gaming was at the time. Beware the Doom Guard that keeps watch over the ancient temple beneath the capital city, Talismonde! The magickal items are the wildest and most arcane, the races are weird and numerous because they come from all points of the Multiverse, the characters are faced with mysteries at every step – this is Arduin!

Many of the races, classes and concepts found in Arduin have been commonly adopted into roleplaying without many people knowing their origin. The reason why Black Hobbits keeping Kobolds as “pets” in the Judges Guild’s Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor is found in the Arduin books as “Kobbits”.  TSR later adapted some Arduin creations silently back into official AD&D publications. One very blatant example is the Thri-kreen insect race of the 1983 MMII, which was an obvious copy of the Phraint of the 1977 Arduin Grimoire vol I. To be honest, that doesn’t bother me, because practically everything in gaming is a reinterpretation of something that came before from somewhere. I just gave the examples to show that Arduin has been more influential than it gets credit for.

The monsters and environments of Arduin do not lend to longevity of characters. If a one does survive for long in an Arduin-style campaign, it is a testament to the luck and resourcefulness of the player. Those that do survive to higher levels end up with some very odd and powerful skills. The classes such as Slaver, Tekno, Star-Powered Mage, etc. are a testimony of the wide-open nature of Arduin, when many of these were completely new to the RPG scene. It is actually very easy to be inspired to create new classes when you play Arduin, because it is meant to be mutable according to the wishes of the GM.

click for larger image

I still have my original copies of the AG Trilogy, which I purchased in ’79 and ’80. They are well worn with use as you can see. I have librarians tape on the spine of two of the volumes because the covers were getting worn through at the edges because I used them so much! In many ways I feel Arduin took D&D to the worlds I imagined myself. On the cover of vol 1, the Clint Eastwood-inspired guy, the Amazon and the Phraint insect warrior are gutting Saurigs. Those reptile creatures are tough, so these characters must be pretty tough themselves! The cover artwork by Greg Espinoza fascinated me when I first saw it and it still does!

Recently, I purchased the reprint of the Trilogy as a single, hardbound volume from the publisher, Emperor’s Choice. The 554 pp of the Arduin Vols I-III material is presented in a very nicely printed, easily legible modern format (unlike the hand-typed, photocopy look of the originals). All in all a great deal and a useful resource any player or Gamemaster would enjoy having. Emperor’s Choice is keeping the Arduin dream of David Hargrave, the Dream Weaver, alive and the organized presentation of Mr. Hargrave’s vision is wonderful!

My upcoming campaign will reflect the experience of raw danger and the unknown that Arduin brings. Many prefabricated adventures and new game systems today are trying to create the feel that Arduin has always had. In some ways, it is still unparalleled to this day. For that reason alone it is worth investigation. The Arduin material is adaptable to many types of campaigns. It’s flavor is a lot of what OSR systems are going for, so you will find that much of Arduin can be easily used with popular Old School/Retro Clone games, such as Swords & Wizardry , Labyrinth Lord or the like.

There is so much that could be written on it, no one article can do Arduin’s content or its history justice, so I will be blogging more installments about certain aspects later.