You Should Be Playing…
Kobolds Ate My Baby
Tomorrow is a day of feasting and partying, as has been declared by the glorious and magnanimous King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG!). Being prepared for the feast will be all the delicious delicacies available to his kingdom of kobolds. Black jelly over croissants, roast dire rat with myconids and honey, and tossed vegepygmy salad adorned with pan seared treant acorns are only the appetizers. For the main course, King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG!) has declared there will be the most succulent of all treats: human babies. It falls to the young, unseasoned kobolds of his kingdom to seek out the delicious supplies in a nearby human village, with one small caveat. Should they fail, King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG!) is willing to settle for the next most delicious thing to fresh human baby – stewed young kobold and carrots.
Written and created by Christopher O’Neil and Daniel Landis, Kobolds Ate My Baby was first published in 1999 by 9th Level Publishing, with its more recent edition released in 2005 by Dork Storm Press. It utilizes the BEER! Engine, and is the premiere Beer and Pretzels Role-playing game, a family that includes Ninjaburger and Warhamster.
It has been out of print since 2007, with new copies retailing for nearly $180 on Amazon.com. Luckily, electronic copies of the game can be purchased for $10 on DrivethruRPG. For those still seeking physical copies, a successful Kickstarter project was launched for a new softcover edition that will allow print-on-demand copies in the near future.
Kobolds Ate My Baby is set in the fantasy world known as the Würlde, where kobolds are the shortest and most delicious of the semi-intelligent races. Expert gourmets, they are kept as cooks by orcs and bugbears. It is only under the rule of King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG!) that kobolds have been able to carve out their own kingdom, where they are masters of their own destinies. Save for their king, of course. The lot of the kobolds of the Würlde is a tough one, however, and they are beset on all sides by many harsh difficulties. The harshest of these difficulties comes from having to collect the proper supplies for their ever-hungering, often-partying king.
Not every game is meant to be taken seriously. Many games, to the contrary, fall apart if they are taken too seriously. While there are many card games and board games that convey a sense of silly fun, there are not many that do so in the role-playing game market. Role-playing games straddle the genres of horror, adventure, and investigation, but derive most of their humor from unique and unexpected circumstances. Kobolds Ate My Baby is a game devoted to humor from its first page onwards. It is, after all, a game where barely intelligent, dog-like humanoids attempt to kidnap and eat human children, a subject matter itself on the macabre side of the absurd. A session of Kobolds Ate My Baby is not intended to last more than a few hours, and it is difficult to see a campaign lasting more than a couple sessions at most. Like a good joke, Kobolds Ate My Babies last just long enough to be funny without overstaying its welcome.
The rules are extremely simplistic, and character creation is highly random. Kobolds are created by rolling a number of six-sided dice, to assign everything from the four main attributes, to equipment, to advantages and disadvantages. Utilizing the four attributes of BEeR, kobolds possess Brawn, Ego, extraneous, and Reflexes. Brawn covers how tough and mighty a kobold is, with Ego being a measure of their personality. Extraneous covers the “non-useful” skills, such as magic, cooking, and not being eaten by horrible monsters. Reflexes cover dodging attacks and moving quickly and quietly.
Each kobold then selects a specific Skill for each attribute, showing an area of expertise in that attribute. Skills can be labeled with DANGER! giving a kobold either competence at fighting, the ability to cast magic, or effectiveness at being too cowardly to be worth eating. Advantages and Disadvantages are randomly determined, with a lucky kobold being able to heal wounds faster or having empathy with animals, while unlucky kobolds may even pick up the trait “Tastes Like Baby”. Alignment is also chosen randomly by throwing a four-sided dice at a chart, or by hanging the chart on the wall and throwing darts.
Game play itself requires very little prep work, as kobolds depart their cave to a nearby human village. The name of the village can be randomly rolled, as can the contents of each and every building in it. Players take turns exploring the village and taking actions, trying to gather supplies for the feast. While kobolds are always hungry for the succulent meal of babies, they are also on the lookout for vegetables, spices, and chickens. The Game Master is called the Mayor, and they are encouraged to have the players roll for their actions every time there is a chance of failure. Should a kobold fail at a task, the kobold gain a check against the Kobold Horrible Death Chart. Other actions may also incur checks against the Kobold Horrible Death Chart, such as eating a baby before the feast, acting with common sense and caution, and failing to properly honor King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG!) by shouting out ‘ALL HAIL KING TORG!’ whenever his name is mentioned.
What A Strange Way To Go
The game is best known for the Horrible Kobold Death Chart. Every time the kobold earns a check against the Kobold Horrible Death Chart, they must roll two six-sided dice and total them with their number of checks. Should they total more than 12, the Mayor selects which of the four Kobold Horrible Death Charts to use, and the player then rolls how their kobold dies.
The expansive list details everything from random angry mobs, a visit from an angry former employer, to being sliced to death by knives from somewhere, or even being crushed by a cow falling from space. Like many games written as parodies of fantasy role-playing, rules are given for collateral damage, and the remaining kobolds may divvy up the equipment that belonged to the deceased. That is, of course, providing any survived the kobold’s demise.
Kobolds Ate My Baby is written embracing a philosophy of games as a light-hearted medium of social fun. It likens itself unto both beer and pretzels, to be enjoyed in moderation, with a sense of silliness. The rules exist to further this fun, and should be bent and changed as is needed to keep the game entertaining. Players and the Mayor are encouraged to make fools out of themselves, and nothing should be taken too seriously. While some of the jokes do go a little too far, so long as it is taken in moderation, Kobolds Ate My Baby is an excellent way to waste a few hours with your friends. Just make sure you bring the bibs and the black comedy.
And that is why you should be playing Kobolds Ate My Baby.
David Gordon is a regular contributor to the site. A storyteller by trade and avowed tabletop veteran, he is always on the lookout for creative tabletop games. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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