December 7, 2016

Tucker's Kobolds

Every gamer should know the tale of Tucker's Kobolds. If this legendary D&D story has somehow passed you by, click here to enrich yourself before reading further. (It's a pretty short story, I promise.)

It's not hard to see why Tucker's Kobolds has wormed its way into the D&D consciousness at large: it's essentially a parable of creatively crafting hard, engaging encounters, using even the lowliest of monsters and tools. It's drenched with creativity, and it's entertaining to boot. I think this little story might just be a microcosm of why I love D&D.

In that spirit, I bring you a little hazard to bring Tucker's Kobolds to your table. In fact, these rules are system ambiguous, so share them far and wide -- all RPGs are welcome into the kobolds' lair.

Tucker's Kobolds 

Adventurers can find immense trouble inside kobold lairs, for their warrens are littered with traps and murder-holes large enough for the nimble kobolds to strike and maneuver, but too small for most adventurers to pursue. In turn, kobolds are famous for their ruthless guerrilla tactics, which are named for the great historian Tucker, who first detailed them.

Each round the party is within the tunnels of a kobold lair, roll a d100 for the hazard they encounter. For many of these obstacles, the kobolds presented can't be easily slain, and the hazard can merely be avoided. If the adventures try to hack and slash through their kobold foes, as few as 3 kobolds can present a particular hazard, and the kobold lair may be manned by between 24 and 48 kobold fighters at a time. Otherwise, the adventures can simply run though the tunnels, and will escape after encountering 3d6 hazards. In all cases, the kobolds lock the door leading into their warrens, and bar the exit, trapping would-be adventurers inside.

1-2Kobolds throw firebombs and oil from tunnels above.
3-4Kobolds in low tunnels, with small openings near your feet, attack your legs with daggers.
5-6Kobolds push an avalanche of boulders downhill in your direction.
7-8Kobolds in parallel tunnels attack with spears through narrow murder-holes alongside you.
9-10Kobolds above drop barbed nets to ensnare and lacerate you.
11-12Kobolds have littered the path in front of you with dozens of caltrops.
13-14You are harried from behind by kobolds firing poison darts, who retreat upon your approach.
15-16Kobolds drop basketfuls of poisonous insects and spiders on to you from above.
17-18Kobolds light a fire to discharge smoke into your tunnel, choking and blinding you.
19-20Kobolds ahead release pet giant rats to attack you.
21-22Kobolds ahead release a pet giant boar to stampede down the hallway toward you.
23-24Kobolds pour boiling pitch down a sloped tunnel atop you.
25-26Kobolds near your feet attempt to entangle your feet with ropes and chains, knocking you prone.
27-28Kobolds throw gas bombs from above, choking you with noxious fumes.
29-30Kobolds with hooked poles trip and ensnare the rearmost party member.
31-32Kobolds hurl javelins at head-height from the end of this tunnel.
33-34Kobolds hurl a beehive onto your party, releasing an angry swarm.
35-36Kobolds toss boiling water to extinguish your torches and scorch your skin.
37-38Kobolds ahead and behind toss bags of flour, which causes an explosion with your torches.
39-40Kobolds ahead retreat with ropes tied to support columns, intending to fell the columns and cause a cave-in.
41-42Kobolds roll a makeshift bomb down the tunnel with a lit fuse.
43-44Kobolds with longbows fire from behind a line of shielded allies.
45-46Kobolds behind and in front attack with spears, retreating and advancing as you move.
47-48A monstrous kobold champion, a fully-armored half-dragon, blocks the tunnel ahead alone.
49-50Nimble kobold rogues drop from the ceiling and attack with poison daggers.
51-52A tripwire up ahead triggers a hail of dart traps.
53-54A pit trap up ahead drops only waist-deep, and kobolds with daggers below wait to carve up your lower half.
55-56The floor of the hallway ahead is covered with spikes and broken glass.
57-58The hallway is muddy and contains hidden bear-traps.
59-60The hallway up ahead is riddled with lines of razor wire to shred your skin as you run past.
61-62The hallway ahead tightens, slowing your movement, while kobolds archers pepper you with arrows.
63-64A trip wire ahead triggers a massive swinging log trap.
65-66A pit trap up ahead is filled with dozens of poisonous snakes.
67-68The hallway ahead is littered with crude landmines, buried under gravel and poised to explode.
69-70A pit trap up ahead is filled with poisonous spikes.
71-72Half of the hallway ahead is blocked by an imposing metal wall, which you must squeeze past. A fire has been built and the wall is scalding hot.
73-74The hallway up ahead opens to a tavern with a rickety bridge crossing it. The bridge has been built to flip upside-down on any Medium creature crossing it.
75-76The floor and walls ahead is coated with sticky, flammable tar, and a kobold waits to light it aflame.
77-78A pit trap up ahead is filled with water and kobolds ready to throw weighted nets over their victim.
79-80A heavy ballista fires an armor-penetrating bolt down this hallway at regular intervals.
81-82The only way ahead is up a steep gravel slope. A rope is tied to allow easy climbing, but kobolds wait in hiding above to cut it.
83-84Sections of the floor ahead are built with wood of varying thicknesses, allowing you to step directly through, catching your leg.
85-86The hallway ahead is full of sturdy, horizontal metal poles, which slows your movement, while kobolds with crossbows make targets of you.
87-88There are several pit traps up ahead that you need to jump over. The ground between them is smooth, sloped stone.
89-90The only way forward is down a dangerously steep slope, which has been covered in grease.
91-92A pressure plate in the tunnel triggers a cloud of poison gas.
93-94The hallway up ahead is half as high as the rest of the tunnel, forcing you to crawl as kobolds throw darts at you.
95-96The hallway is flooded to your knees, and snakes swim in the water.
97-98Pressure plates ahead trigger spear traps hidden in the walls.
99-00Several crude explosives are rigged to the walls. The entire tunnel is rigged to explode.


  1. Thanks! just my kind of evil. I'm gonna put some of that in an illegal siegeball game (and thank you for that as well, our party loved it!)

  2. Don't forget that a large portion of the inherent danger of Tucker's Kobolds didn't actually come from the monsters themselves, but rather from the environment and their mastery of it.

    You wanna frighten your players? Follow horror movie rules: put them in an environment that disempowers them.

  3. I'd be curious to test this, as I've found the tactical monster lair works really well with a more PC-style of preparation. How would 100 short rogues with an affinity for fire set up a kobold lair?

    Randomness while making it less predictable, would probably cause rolls that seem out of place at specific parts of the dungeon. Maybe I just too much of an anti-chaotic predisposition.

    Recently working on a monster adventure that starts with cold-opens styled after tuckers for each player race (have 4, aiming for 8-10) playable races. Kobolds, Goblinoids, Orcs, Gnolls, are done so far. Have a Pre-Gen set of human PCs(+a high level backer) go against the group, the monster survivor(s) that get away become the PCs.

    1. How did that campaign go, seeing as I might try that with some of my players?