Had I not paused, I would have crushed its skull, thinking it to be a kobold. It was a kobold, and yet it was not – no kobold smokes a pipe, wears blue breeches, and carries a spyglass.
And no kobold would ever quote poetry. Or would it? And would I ever be able to hack my way joyfully through hordes of kobolds again?
Knockers may be simply a sub-race of kobold, or even descendants of some goodly ancient tribe. But while they are almost physically identical to their cousins, they are very, very different in their actions.
Knockers are benevolent creatures, who love to help people, particularly miners, in their work. The motivation for this relationship is simple – knockers love deep dark caves where they can lair in peace, and miners dig such lairs. Knockers are particularly attuned to the sounds of rock, and can alert miners (and adventurers) to potential dangers and rich veins of ore. They usually do this by knocking loudly with their hefty clawed fists or — more usually — with their knocking staves (see below).
Knocker CR ¼
Knocker 1st-level warrior
LG small humanoid (reptilian)
Init +3; Senses Darkvision 60ft.; Listen +2, Spot +2
Aura Faint good
AC 17, touch 14, flat-footed 14 (+3 Dex, +2 leather, +1 natural, +1 size)
hp 4 (1d8)
Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +1
Weakness Light sensitivity
Spd 30 ft.
Melee pick, light +4 (1d3-1)
Ranged spear +4 (1d6-1) or
thrown weapon +4 (variable)
Special Attacks None
Before Combat If they have to fight, knockers fight dirty. They rely on cunning traps which kept working efficiently. One of the most honored knocker positions is that of TrapMaester, who has responsibility to ensure all traps work well. If an alarm is sounded, the knockers know where to go to try to lure intruders into trapped areas.
During Combat Knockers try to lure opponents onto traps. If this is not possible, they throw tanglefoot bags and missiles (preferring alchemist’s fire and acid to traditional weaponry).
Morale Knockers do not like to fight, and if cornered, almost always surrender. If defending a lair or clan home resistance is stiffer, as knockers love their mines. They will fight bloody battles over them.
Str 12, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; Grp -4
Feats Weapon Finesse
Skills Craft (trapmaking) +6, Hide +8, Listen +2, Move Silently +4, Profession (miner) +6, Search +2, Spot +2; Racial Craft (trapmaking) +2, Search +2,
Languages Common, Draconic
SQ Light sensitivity, stonecunning
Combat Gear 3 each of tanglefoot bags, acid and alchemists fire vials;
Organization Solitary, family (4-9) or mine (10-100 plus 1 3rd level sorcerer per 20 adults and 1 leader 4th-6th level druid plus 2-4 dire badgers)
Favored Class Sorcerer
Level Adjustment +0
Ore Scent (Ex): This ability works as the scent feat does (DMG 298) but detects the smell of ore, not living creatures.
Light Sensitivity (Ex): Knockers are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
Stonecunning (Ex): A knocker shares the same stonecunning abilities as a dwarf.
Knocker characters have the following racial traits
– -4 Strength, +4 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence.
– Small Size.
– Base land speed 30 feet.
– Darkvision out to 60 feet.
– Racial Skills: A knocker character has a +2 racial bonus to Craft
(trapmaking) and Search.
– +1 natural armor bonus
– Automatic languages: Common, Draconic.
– Favored Class: Sorcerer
– Level adjustment +0
Knocker Clans: An Endangered People
Knockers love to live in mines – and tin mines in particular. Indeed, they use the smell of tin as a perfume, and are most happy underground. In most mines they are on friendly terms with a humanoid race; the miners leave food and gifts for the knockers, and in return the knockers guide miners to ore. Friendly knockers warn the miners of sudden changes in the rock or strange noises.
Knockers do live on their own in mines, but generally they prefer to befriend a humanoid race, sending diplomatic groups under a flag of truce to reach an arrangement. Foods grown underground are pretty bland, and knockers prefer wine, meat, and especially tobacco. While knockers often have ancient, magical family pipes, no knocker has mastered growing tobacco. While some have developed rudimentary pig farming underground, they are terrible vintners, and brewing anything beyond the weakest beer is beyond their talents.
If an aggressive race enters the mine, knockers almost always move on, leaving the horrid creatures to their own devices.
Knocker Families and Individuals
When a mine becomes too crowded, a clan or family leaves to find a new one. Mineless knocker families are a sad sight on the surface; they loathe the sun and the horrible smells of flowers and seeds and herbs.
A few knockers live and work alone, in particular those who become scale-cursed. The scale-cursed begin life as knockers born among kobolds; these unfortunates face the inevitability of eventually being unmasked in a kobold tribe – they take no pleasure in puling the wings off flies, eating raw smelly things, and hardly ever torment small, fury, animals. These unfortunate knockers must be extremely careful not to let kobolds notice their unusual gifts. Once discovered as knockers, they are either killed, eaten, or both (and not necessarily in any particular order). If they are really unlucky, they are pronounced scale-cursed.
Scale-cursed creatures are outcasts, and marked as such as a warning to other tribes: their tails are docked, and an area of scales is removed just above the eyes. When another kobold encounters a scale-cursed knocker they either immediately attack it, or seek to drive it away. Driven from kobold tribes, and unable to mingle into humanoid society, scale-cursed knockers become hermits and often die of loneliness.
Sometimes, a knocker-wife becomes absorbed into a kobold clan, or genuine love breaks out between the two races who, after all, differ only character. Their children are called knockbolds, and they can be a blessing or curse.
Good-aligned knockbolds take charge of kobold clans and try to reform them. Most such leaders are either short lived or they enlighten the tribe enough that — though they are still bad and take great pleasure in pulling the wings off butterflies for fun — they are neutral rather than evil. Adventurers report that clan members often apologise profusely for accidentally reverting to type.
Bad knockbolds are dangerous – clever, cunning and with the ability to make lots of money (through ore scenting) they are often leaders of kobold clans. The most legendary knockbolds go on to rule whole fields or tiny hamlets.
Tricksy Tribes and Naughty Kobolds
Unscrupulous tribes of kobolds use the relationships created by their more enlightened cousins to their advantage. Such kobolds move into a knocker lair overnight, killing all the occupants and taking their clothes and accoutrements. They then eat the evidence and begin their job of mingling in with the humans.
Many knockers carry knocking staves of a particular design: a large gavel with a metal or hollow stone head. They make a noise that can be heard up to 200 feet away while below ground.
Occasionally, magical knocking staves are found; such objects are of great antiquity and power, and can sniff out gold, silver, or danger below ground. Some are said to be capable of summoning xorns or earth elementals to aid the knocker and his friends.
We return tomorrow with some simple-but-effective traps!