From age twelve to twenty-five, I was a gaming geek. It started with the Swedish version of Runequest (Drakar och Demoner) and the Lone Wolf solo adventure series, and soon branched out into computer games and sundry board games. Gaming was a big part of my life and I had a lot of fun with it.
In my teens I used to hang out at a gaming store and go to gaming conventions. There my friends and I encountered innumerable somewhat younger and even more enthusiastic gamers who milled around at belly height of us big guys. We scoffed at their “hack ‘n’ slay” gaming style, so much cruder than our own mature and serious role-playing. Everyone called them kobolds.
Dungeons and Dragons was originally conceived as a battle simulation system, not strictly a role-playing game, and to this day it emphasises the slaying of baddies. Baddies are ranked by how hard they are to kill, and the easiest baddie of all is the kobold. Variously conceived of as little goblins or small blue dog-like lizard-men, these beasties are a joke to any D&D character above the first level. Yipping angrily, they’ll show up in belligerent crowds and instantly get chopped up or fried with battle magic, the survivors fleeing squealing down the 10′ wide dungeon corridor.
Historically, a Kobold is actually a German mine sprite, like the Nickel. That’s where the chemical elements cobalt and nickel got their names.
I still remember the thrill of my first Drakar och Demoner game over at my friend Ragnar’s house. What an epiphany for a young Tolkien fan! I sometimes dream of starting a gaming group again one day, probably at the old people’s home. I’m sure some of my co-players will be ex-kobolds too.