Used To Be A Kobold

i-97771998a9e679df0e00647019247453-kobold.jpgFrom 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.

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Comments

  1. #1 Rob Knop
    June 9, 2007

    From age twelve to twenty-five, I was a gaming geek.

    Dude, why did you stop? How sad!

    Although I think you were a bigger gaming geek than I was ;) But still, I am one today.

    I never identified with kobolds, though. I often embraced the “Hack & Slash” nature of roleplaying games, although I also enjoy other stuff. But I’m one of those who always thought that the True White-Wolf-Vampire Ethic is false displays of profundity and angst…. As such, kobolds were, primarily, targets.

    Like orcs. Then again, recently, I’ve been running some games where the PCs are all orcs. It’s fun, because they start with a very different viewpoint on the world than the “typical D&D viewpoint.” (And I use Fudge as my system, because, well, I’m a geek like that.)

    -Rob

  2. #2 Martin R
    June 9, 2007

    I stopped gaming because my group at a time was a little too militaristic for my taste. Always a lot of discussion about weapon calibres, and after each adventure they wanted to get decorated. I was of course rebelling against this, playing gay characters, a midget, a traitor etc.

    The main reason I haven’t gotten a new group together is that I’ve become a dad and married a non-geek. But I don’t really miss gaming. I still get a one-off board game session or two going every year.

  3. #3 Janne
    June 9, 2007

    I still played regularly in my early thirties in a couple of groups in Lund – D&D, Rolemaster and Shadowrun – up until a post-doc moved me a continent away. Unfortunately, if there is a role-playing scene in Osaka I haven’t found it. And, to be honest, up until recently I didn’t have the language skills to join if I had.

  4. #4 Mary Starr
    June 9, 2007

    Ah, yea, you gave it up…we supposed to belive that? Just a couple times a year… Once a DnDer, always…You got time to be writing this or arguing if the extinction of the Tasmanians was genocide, ethnocide, a conspiracy or an accident, you got time to be sneaking a little DMing in…and for me, being basically lazy, being a fighter is just plain easier, roll the dice, take the lick, don’t have to come up w/tricks and spells.
    So, eft you wasn’t wanting to chop im up, how does one placate a kobald? Would a lama, some coca leaf and a bottle of alcohol work?

  5. #5 Martin R
    June 9, 2007

    D&D, haven’t played that in what, 15 years?

    The kobolds I’ve encountered could easily be bought off with pewter miniatures and potato crisps.

  6. #6 Christina
    June 9, 2007

    Ah, well, what you have to do is what my husband did: Bide your time and then enlist your children in your Guildwars guild. Kids make very loyal team members! My friend plays Everquest with her kids, too.
    My oldest one started her own website a few years ago. If you wait a bit, you’ll be able to play her own on-line game soon, I’m sure…

  7. #7 Badger3k
    June 9, 2007

    I’ve played off and on since ’78 or so, and find it a good way to relax with friends (we also play Munchkin (fantastic card game) and other games as well). Anyway, just wanted to say that I never played a kobold, although I did have a troll (in Runequest). In other news (don’t know if you know this), I was surprised to hear that Dragon magazine will be no more in a few months (issue 359). Talk about the end of an era. They will be doing some kind of electronic thing, but that will just make it harder for millions of people who rely on print.

  8. #8 paddy
    June 9, 2007

    I loved Lone Wolf! In fact I have quite a collection of solo games books bought in the 80s, like the first 20 Fighting Fantasy books, and Grail Quest, possibly the funniest solo game books ever made.

    If you want to start up an old farts gaming group, then please let me know, because I’m in! Ever play Axis and Allies..? 15 hours of non-stop stay-up-all-night WW2 fun…

  9. #9 furiku
    June 9, 2007

    My RP group split up for various reasons and I miss it sorely… but now that there’s a chance we could get together again for a game of Eon, I don’t have time. Such is life. :(

  10. #10 Martin R
    June 9, 2007

    Christina, yeah, a few years from now my son and his pals will be old enough to roleplay. But I must say that I’d prefer to wait until they’re about 25. A contributing factor to my gaming hiatus was that I studied archaeology and became unable to enjoy crap pseudo-Medieval fantasy worlds.

    Badger, I never played a kobold, I was one! Dragon Mag closing down? I saw White Dwarf in a shop the other day. Looked exactly like it did in 1990.

    Paddy, cool, I’ll let you know when the next board game sesh is! A lot of the LW books are actually playable on-line!

    Furiku, a gaming geekgrrl! That’s a rare and fine thing.

  11. #11 Janne
    June 9, 2007

    Girl RPers rare? Not where I was playing; it was split almost 50-50 in those groups. One reason could be we had quite a few people also doing various forms of Live playing, which tends to be more popular among women than men.

  12. #12 inget att s�ga
    June 9, 2007

    Used to play Warhammer, for some years and miss it sometimes, it was actually kind a fun. I think the best part was to collect and ensemble miniatures. I didn�t like the geeks that was so deep in, that they didn�t talk of anything else but gaming. When I moved to a small room in a dormitory, I finally stopped play. After a year or two I found my self occupied with a much worse game, to be hooked on: World of Warcraft. Luckily I got out of it before it affected my studies to much. Drakar & Demoner and Dungeons and Dragons have I only played very briefly.
    I don�t see the links between not able to enjoy fantasy and being an archaeologist? I have never in my life compared fantasy and reality. Fantasy is only fantasy. But that�s me and I�m not an archaeologist, yet. All thou gaming take much time of ones everyday life, and I understand that you have much more important things to do, if you got a job, and kids. Family first, always!

  13. #13 Joseph j7uy5
    June 10, 2007

    I always wondered what Kobalds look like. Now I know. I just remember them from Nethack. Shows how old I am.

  14. #14 Martin R
    June 10, 2007

    Janne, live RPs came along in the 90s and did, as you note, involve a lot of girls. The lure of getting to wear absurdly low-cut faux-Renaissance dresses while sitting at campfires seemed strong indeed. This was a development us 80s geekboys could hardly believe — live RP could actually get you nookie!

    I.A.S., I painted miniatures too, but I never got enough done to play! The link between archaeology and Medieval fantasy is that the latter attempts to re-create worlds much like the one the former studies, but usually very poorly and inconsistently. Often you can actually see which abandoned interpretive model an author is using as a blueprint for his world.

    Joseph, I’ve played a little Nethack and a lot of Rogue. The Amulet of Yendor is in my kitchen drawer.

  15. #15 Christina
    June 10, 2007

    Yeah, Martin, I know just what you mean. I figure I’d probably really like Runescape and Ages of Mythology if I hadn’t gone to university…That, unfortunately, also applies to movies that I think I would have probably liked, if I could just have got past the twentyfive errors in costuming and backdrops etc that occured in the first twentyfive seconds of the aforementioned movies.

  16. #16 Martin R
    June 10, 2007

    Argle, yeah, like the 7th century Vendel helmet in Gladiator or the blue-painted “Picts” in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves

    Everyone knows that science fiction ages poorly. We can all spot retro-futurism. But Medieval fantasy does as well! Scholarship moves on.

  17. #17 Hans Persson
    June 10, 2007

    I’ve never been a kobold, mostly for the simple reason that the concept wasn’t really known back then. I started playing with university people when in high school, but I never heard about the concept of kobolds until I got to university myself.

  18. #18 kai
    June 10, 2007

    live RP could actually get you nookie!

    (eyes widen in realisation) Damn! Damn! Damn!

  19. #19 Martin R
    June 10, 2007

    I never partook as I was well supplied at home, but friends told me that the Cloak Trick (Sw. manteltricket) was very effective. You spy a capeless girl at the fireside. Her front is warm, her back cold. Sit down beside her and offer her to share your cloak. Simple as that.

  20. #20 furiku
    June 10, 2007

    Hehe, well, gamer girls aren’t as rare as they used to be, to be sure. I play computer games too but I’m pretty standard as they go; I prefer RPG, adventure and puzzle games and don’t have much interest in FPS and the like.

    I did meet my boyfriend in Star Wars Galaxies though, that’s gotta earn me some serious gamer points!

  21. #21 Martin R
    June 11, 2007

    Aha, FPS = First Person Shooter games, like Doom and Quake. I never liked them either.

    May the Force be with you guys!

  22. #22 Malin
    June 11, 2007

    | Girl RPers rare? Not where I was playing
    I suspect it varies. Where I grew up (small town, Sweden), RP-ing was yet another Never Heard of a Girl Doing That. So, I never got a chance to join a RP group (still haven’t, but now it’s mostly a time issue).

    But since I bought my first own computer, I’ve played quite a lot of computer RPG:s. And board games, whenever I can gather a few other interested players. I decided not to try World of Warcraft or any other online game, though – I don’t have *that* much free time to spare… :)

  23. #23 Martin R
    June 11, 2007

    A friend of mine saw his relationship crash as his unemployed common-law wife disappeared into Everquest.

  24. #24 whomever1
    June 11, 2007

    May I recommend the Knights of the Dinner Table comic book and magazine as a good way to get in touch with your inner gamer. Kenzerco.com has a few storylines on their webpage to give you a taste.

  25. #25 Anonymous
    March 21, 2010

    I play D&D but I don’t like hack/slay gaming style

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