This offering in the Tribes line from Raging Swan Press creates its own dramatic tension from the beginning – an underground complex that is home to TWO separate bands of kobolds. Of course they are going to bicker, even if it wasn’t for the two dragons egging them on!
The Contents page has neat summary charts listing the spells, feats and stat blocks (sorted by CR) within as well as a more convention contents list – nice if you are in a hurry to find something in the middle of planning or play. There’s also the customary comprehensive explanation of how to read a stat block.
So, on to the real meat of the product, beginning with the background and history of the place that today is known as the Fallen Halls. Apparently a couple of hundred years ago, a pair of green dragons and their kobold minions turned over an isolated dwarven mining hold, and were in their turn wiped out by a party of well-organised and powerful adventurers. A young green dragon, offspring of the earlier aggressors, survived and continued to dwell in the hold once the adventurers had gone on to other things… until a equally young and self-centred black dragon came along. For a good twenty years now, this pair of juvenile dragons has continued to act as if ‘juvenile’ described their behaviour rather than their size, waging war up and down the subterranean corridors.
Next comes some details of kobold society and habits. Good ‘ecology’ style piece, brings them out as more than mere sword-fodder, even if they are cowardly, devious and inclined to follow anyone stronger rather than select leaders for merit or wisdom. These notes should help you make them come to life in any encounter, even if it’s mostly a combat one.
The next section presents some new feats. At least part of their focus – as in previous volumes in the Tribes line – is in providing a route whereby you can develop the sort of distinctive fighting styles that any group which trains and fights together will display. (Do kobolds actually train? Probably not, but they have grown up together and developed their style through play-fighting before they start on the real thing.) Many require membership in one or other of the kobold groups shown here but you may wish to extend some to being typical kobold tactics in general, or allow a character to develop his own variant of the feat once he has seen them in action. I have one player who would love to have the Sniping Strike feat, which enables you to shoot at your opponents whilst remaining relatively stealthy – she was appalled when I told her how obvious she became as soon as she’d fired a single arrow from cover!
There are some new spells, too; and here’s an interesting difference. The kobold minions of the black dragon have delved far more into arcane mysteries and have a wider range from which to choose. Nice twist, to make them quite distinct in this way.
Being dragons, both the black and the green dragons leading the two factions have accumulated hoards and continue to work on this important task. It is unlikely that the hoards are why your adventurers have come – the whole set-up supposes a little-known corner in which this long-running conflict has festered unnoticed for a long time – but could prove a nice bonus for those who choose to wade into the fray.
Next back to more glorious detail of the two tribes: the personalities, customs and trappings that make the groups distinct and different from each other. Copious notes and extensive stat blocks leave them ready to run, but to run in such a way that even the most dense of adventurers ought to realise that they are not just kobolds but two different tribes that just happen to be of the same species. Naturally both dragons are also presented in detail – a full page each – complete with notes on the sort of deals each will try to cut with passing adventurers should any stop to talk rather than attack. Neither can be trusted, neither is particularly nice… take your pick as to which would make the better ally!
And then a nice bonus: kobolds love setting traps in their lairs, so four of their most notable traps are presented here to catch the unwary. Finally, a few notes on the process of designing additional tribe members should the ones given not prove enough.
So here it is, a complete set-up – all you need is to draw or buy a good ‘underground lair’ map and there is an interesting sandbox adventure laid out ready to run, an adventure that ought to be remembered by survivors for a good few years to come!