What is a kobold? It actually takes many forms. Some of them helped inspire hobbits, others goblins or dwarves. They took a peculiar turn in the late 70’s when a miscommunication between Gary Gygax and Donald C. Sutherland produced the first diminutive dog-men by that name in art. Since then, we’ve been treated to rat-men, lizard-men, and finally dragon-men. All of them about three feet tall and all of them identified as kobolds.
In this case, I’d like to have a little fun by playing with players’ expectations, in light of something I have discovered.
Apparently, there is a cryptid out of Saxon folklore called an “Attorcroppe.” It’s a tiny, vicious little snake man. Its name derives from similar elements as “Attercop”, the old name for spiders revived by the venerable J.R.R. Tolkien. What’s curious is that there’s very little information available other than what can be found in a book or two and it may be more of an urban legend than an ancient myth.
Poking around online, however, I believe I may have solved the mystery. Well enough to play a game, anyway. At first, I thought exaggerated legends of the cobra, altered by time, culture, and distance might explain the Attorcroppe. My recent discoveries have changed my mind. Apparently, the lowly otter was known in Celtic myth as a water dog. And Saxon folklore called them water snakes. I believe these two terms actually belong to the same creature.
So, can you imagine the unprepared player’s character in a D&D game coming face to face with those dreaded kobolds only to come nose to muzzle with an otter? Ahh! It’s nose is cold! In discussing writing this article with a friend of mine, we were in stitches because they could talk...after characters had imbibed enough of that magic potion called wine or beer! What will the women say?!