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This question came up when I was using XGE's This is Your Life section for the first time, to discover and develop my kobold's backstory... rolling a 24 in Life Events which would have left me married. A quick google search led me to discover, however, that kobolds are non-monogamous and the females lay up to six eggs a year... but nothing I found about their romantic lives. There was one entry I found (on Google's search page) that clarified that they are reptilian so they lay fertile hard-shelled eggs.

I didn't think of it much at first, just rerolling that event and moving on, but as I started to piece his story together, it dawned on me how impactful it was... If their reproduction cycle was pheromone-based like that of many animals, then they would be naturally asexual resulting in:

  1. A lack of understanding of any romantic subplot development
  2. The complete (and possibly comical) lack of awareness of touching moments such as a marriage, divorce, or proposal... (which now makes me think of how hilarious a kobold acolyte with ceremony would be)
  3. An advantage/immunity to any mundane means to seduce
  4. Any magical means used to seduce would be like using the pheromones as perfume and "release the wild beast" (which might follow the same rules as a Barbarian's Reckless Attack/Rage for that moment)
  5. This might be the most seen as a difference in tone with how that character relates to the group, almost rendering them like the oblivious PG character in a gangbang film.

So I started to look into this and did not find much on the kobold (sorry if I missed any on here), but then realized that other races might be affected too, like the lizardfolk that has an alien/primal mind. So what I was hoping to learn is what playable character races are monogamous, polyamorous, or asexual, and how does that mindset affect the campaign?

Note: I understand that not all campaigns involve sex all that much, but the concept is still present in kids' movies, so I think that would find itself everywhere. For instance, even in CoS, there are heavy romantic elements; with the 3 wives and the whole reason Strahd became a vampire... If my hunch is correct, that would mean that the kobold player in the campaign would be oblivious to the whole reason one should empathize with this character and simply see him as a lawful evil tyrant.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I assume that you are asking according to current 5E lore? This is something that some DMs simply ignore for their own world building so it is important to include that caveat in your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    May 28, 2022 at 1:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure "asexual" is the word you want for the effects you describe. Aces are more than capable of understanding and appreciating romance; all they lack is the active urge to have sex with another person. Aces also usually have some intellectual awareness of sexual attraction simply from living in an allo society. Aromantics, on the other hand, do not experience romantic attraction (though again, they're likely to intellectually grasp it if they grew up surrounded by it). Not all aces are aro and vice versa, so kobolds may well enjoy romance despite a reptilian mating pattern. \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    May 28, 2022 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth Yes, I could have tried to fit RAW there, though I dunno if the lore part is counted in raw for the reason you mentioned, but that is the case. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 28, 2022 at 7:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB It's different for all aces. I'm aroace myself, and while I've learned to mostly grok the "these characters are lusting for each other" trope cues in media, I generally miss them IRL. Also, despite being aro, I can still appreciate a well-done romance story on occasion. My best friend is ace but not aro, and adores romance stories. My point was that asexual does not necessarily mean aromantic (or vice versa) as your question implies. \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    May 28, 2022 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Your question says "...they would be naturally asexual resulting in [...] a lack of understanding of any romantic subplot". I, an aroace, might miss romance subplots, but my non-aro ace friend would 100% notice. Sexual attraction != romance. An asexual race would be fully capable of having/understanding romance, while a sexual race is equally capable of not having romance (as we understand it). This is even in the answer you chose: 3.5e kobolds have sexual but not romantic relationships. In other words, your question should probably be "naturally aromantic" instead of "asexual". \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    May 28, 2022 at 16:02

4 Answers 4

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Look to older editions

D&D publications became a lot more “streamlined,” for lack of a better word,” with 4e, and while 5e has reversed that somewhat, it is still rather slim compared to the monumental amount of material published prior to 4e. For example, as far as I can tell, 5e has less than half a page total devoted to kobolds. The closest we get to hearing about their family life is that they are “egg-laying.”

D&D 3.5e, by contrast, gave them an entire 18-page book chapter. Races of the Dragon is a 3.5e supplement devoted to several “draconic” races. This was the original debut of dragonborn (which have changed massively in the editions since) and the spellscales (who have never appeared again, to my knowledge), and it also greatly expanded the lore for kobolds and half-dragons.

Obviously, it’s been two editions. Even more obviously, as I just said, the dragonborn changed massively between 3.5e and 5e.¹ Things can and do change, including stuff from this very same book.

That said, Races of the Dragon addresses this question—with respect to kobolds, anyway—directly:

Love

[…]

Kobolds only rarely engage in any activity resembling romantic love. Most find their communal life among tribe members satisfying enough. A kobold can live her whole life without forming a bond to any sort of significant other. That doesn’t mean that kobolds are asexual. They mate regularly. The impulse for doing so, however, is mostly instinct tempered with a sense of duty. All kobolds desire to keep their tribe fortified with as many healthy young as can be fed and housed.

Kobolds who form an emotional attachment to another kobold are drawn to that one out of mutual respect and increased productivity. The potential partners often meet because of having to work with one another, and then find that they work better jointly than they did alone. As such, kobolds who don’t work together only rarely become romantically involved.

Kobolds who are attached in this manner take an oath to serve and care for one another, each becoming the other’s “chosen one.” The would-be couple’s all-watcher (see Society and Culture, below) must approve the match, and with that done, a priest witnesses the oaths and blesses the union. Such unions are rarely monogamous, because both sexes are still compelled by mating instincts and are likely to succumb to those influences if separated from one another for long. Since sex itself has little emotional value to kobolds, these extramarital liaisons create no friction between couples.

Couples who bond together in this was are provided with personal living quarters if their status and contributions to the tribe merit such a privilege. Usually, the all-watcher allocates an area that the couple must then excavate.

(Races of the Dragon, pg. 43)

So romantic partnerships are not precisely alien to kobolds, but they’re far from the norm. Those romantic partnerships are committed, but are typically not sexually monogamous; “sex itself has little emotional value to kobolds.”

There is nothing here about “pheromones,” though non-specific “instincts” are mentioned several times. It’s entirely plausible that these instincts are triggered by non-chemical cues; pheromones are just one of many ways that animals can indicate a desire and/or willingness to mate.

Anyway, one way or another, kobolds are sexual, even if they don’t attach emotional significance to the act. They are also capable of romance, though most neither seek nor find it. It is unlikely, therefore, that any of the game-mechanical effects you describe would be particularly appropriate. At best, circumstantial disadvantage for interracial seduction attempts, if the seducer is unfamiliar with the sexual instincts of the seducee, but that can probably said for most interracial pairings in D&D.

But note here that while kobolds rarely do romance, and don’t attach romantic feelings to sex (or constrain sex to romantic relationships), this is primarily because kobolds’ emotional lives are tied so heavily to the tribe. The same section, for example, states (up front, the very beginning of the Love section, as part of the “[…]” in my quote) that kobolds are eager parents:

Kobolds put great energy and care into fostering kobold wyrmlings. Few experiences are more gratifying to an adult kobold than being treated as a model for the life of a young kobold.

Kobold adults go out of their way to encourage juveniles who show promise, to steep them in the traditions of kobold culture. Kobolds teach using simple instruction and swift punishment in case of error or failure. Punishment is often physical in nature, though usually geared toward causing instructive pain rather than injury.

(Races of the Dragon, pg. 43)

Thus, it would be a mistake to see kobolds as purely driven by instinct or incapable of emotional reactions to others. They just have different emotional tendencies and needs.

I suspect most playable races fall in the same boat. But you can look into this more by looking into older editions’ material. Not every race is covered in this kind of detail, of course—lizardfolk don’t have their own dedicated book chapter, for example. But it’s a good place to start, to save you the trouble of inventing it all yourself.

For what it’s worth, though, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a D&D race being subject to differing rules with respect to seduction et al. like you propose. That certainly doesn’t exist in WotC-era D&D. I wouldn’t be utterly shocked to find out TSR had written up some rules like that, but be aware that the further back you go, the less connected it’s going to be to modern D&D. TSR did a lot of things that WotC wouldn’t (and vice versa).

  1. Really 4e, the dragonborn are pretty similar between 4e and 5e.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the kind of lore I was looking for, but am very bad at looking into prior editions. What you wrote does remind me of a factoid about coyotes I found, that states "killing them off does nothing to reduce the population, as the more they are killed, the more they seem to breed." So I would apply that mentality to my character. As for the mechanics themselves, I did not think there would be something without it being explicitly stated, but even the emphasis you put on kobold romance being accomplishment driven, I'd think, would make human poetry sound alien to them, would it not? \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 28, 2022 at 8:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Not to their taste, perhaps, but “alien” seems like a stretch. Kobolds seem to be fairly aware of other races. They need to be in order to better engage in their one true passion—making their warrens into elaborate death traps. Races of the Dragon emphasizes how, unlike almost everything else kobolds do, which has pretty strictly-utilitarian motivation, they turn trapmaking into an artform, and they appreciate traps on artistic levels as well. So there’s a touchstone there for them to understand others’ appreciation of poetry, perhaps. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 28, 2022 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB As for what to look for to get this kind of information from past editions... it’s hard, no question, if you haven’t immersed yourself in that edition already from playing it. In 3e, on this question, there are several other Races of… But I struggle with sourcing lore prior to 3e myself, even though I know a ton of it from playing for a long time with a DM who is a recognized loremaster. Questions of this sort can help out, though of course that isn’t always convenient. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 28, 2022 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't like the term alien either, but I took it from the Lizardfolk mindset entry, so I wanted to use the same lingo. I would say "foreign." That said, I was not really talking about the appreciation of poetry, but its context... I guess to conceptualize it, given the utilitarian view kobolds have on sex, it would be like your friend writing poetry on the beauty of someone else's ability to pee. Sure you can appreciate the rhymes, alliterations, etc, but I doubt the imagery or subject would be something that you could really get into. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 28, 2022 at 15:31
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The rules don't say

You can see the rules for playable races at https://www.dndbeyond.com/races. That's all the rules there are. The rules don't comment on races' mating habits, probably because this is intended to be a family friendly game.

Your DM will have to make something up.

Your DM should use extreme caution in worldbuilding here -- not because it isn't interesting, but because "DM who tries to get the players to participate in their sex fantasy" is a known RPG-horror-story trope, and any attempt to do stuff in this space could get confused for that.

(I once tried to have a side plot -- not even the main story, just mentioned in passing -- about dwarves being single-gender. It fell pretty flat. That wasn't the story my players were interested in hearing.)

My advice is allow players to include stuff like this in their backstories, but not include it in the main adventure unless you're explicitly running a campaign where sexual themes are acceptable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is why I was avoiding using "sexual" in my question, and why I added the note in the end; that attraction would be present even in family-friendly games (as I stated with my example of Strahd). That said, my question was more about the less explicit nuances of being biologically asexual, such as how boldly friendly a kobold might get to a man's partner, or even a Lizardfolk's confusion towards chivalry. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 28, 2022 at 7:45
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Do what you want but be respectful

With our better modern understanding of sexuality & gender, don't expect WotC to put out any standard information about such things, since as IRL humans, every individual is different in these areas.

You have comments on your post explaining better the concepts of asexuality within the world of humans today. This is different from an organism that practices asexual reproduction. Defining reproduction is probably fine however you want it to work. Nothing says that evolution is even a thing in DnD-land. Now, reproduction in a sentient species may be completely different from social interactions among the species. What I urge you to do is to stay away from social and gender standards, because the goal of being respectful is difficult unless you really understand the topic.

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You ask:

what playable character races are monogamous, polyamorous, or asexual, and how does that mindset affect the campaign

This is a matter of world building and character building.

As a DM

As a DM, you are free to do as much or as little worldbuilding on the subject as you like.

You can spend time detailing these subjects for your world, or you can completely ignore them. The mindset of reproduction only affects your world to the extent that you want it to.

The rules

Within the 5e material, there are clues for most races as to what is canon. For example, Volo's Guide to Monsters offers some detail on kobolds:

Kobolds choose mates primarily for convenience. Their lack of emotional bonding means they have no concept of marriage or permanent family relationships.

You decide to what extent that matters in your world. There are clues to many of the other races, and you can choose to fill in details as you wish. For instance, in the description of dragonborn in the Player's Handbook, apparently they lay eggs. Are they mammalian egg-layers? It doesn't say. You decide, it's your world. Perhaps in your world they give live birth. For any race, you can choose to accept the canon, change it, or ignore it.

Sometimes GMs create some documentation such as a campaign guide or a world guide or a character creation guide where they spell out some of these things for the benefit of their players. My own recommendation is to keep such things reasonably lightweight, and only detail what you feel you need to, to help your players create their characters and understand your world. Some players are likely not going to be very interested in a lot of world lore that doesn't directly affect their characters or actual play.

Player characters

In general, the DM designs the stage, the players define the actors. The Player's Handbook, in "Personality and Background", under "Sex", says, in part:

You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior.

Obviously, you want the game to be fun for your players. Again using kobolds as an example, if you have a player who wants to play a kobold, you are free to define kobolds in your world, but you should allow the player to define the outlook of that character, and differ or conform to your worldbuilding as they wish. You define the species, but they define the character. For that matter, what if you think kobolds lay eggs, but your player wants to have been born live? You might consider how to make that work. Maybe this particular kobold was born to human or dwarven parents. Magic, right? In real world literature, stranger things happen all the time. There's a kid's book, Stuart Little, where a mouse was born into a human family. How did that happen, am I right?

I ran a campaign once where one the the PCs was a delightful and memorable female kobold cleric, with a moderately developed backstory. It was a great campaign and we had a lot of fun, and issues of kobold reproduction just didn't really come into the story, really at all, that I remember. I do remember when the cloaker dropped onto the kobold and the player triumphantly cast harm on it, killed the cloaker, pulled the becloaked and blinded wizard back from the cliff edge, and saved the day. It was a triumphant moment and one that we remembered and talked about. The kobold's outlook on romance and egg-laying? Not so much.

You can even go a step further and allow your players to help you define these issues. I mentioned dragonborn earlier. I was in a campaign once where one of the characters was playing a female dragonborn. A conversation something like this took place:

Player: Look, I can't tell if 5e dragonborn have breasts, or not, in past editions they did, in 5e it seems like WotC has tried to make dragonborn breasts less prominent in artwork, or maybe non-existent. On the internet there's wars. Reptiles! Gender stereotypes! I just want to know.

DM: I. Hmm. I don't think it matters to me. What do you think? Do you want breasts?

Player: I think dragonborn should lay eggs in clutches and nurse live, so I think they should have breasts. I mean, it's not a big deal, but that's what I think. I'm cool with however you want it to work.

DM: Okay. You just described how dragonborn work in the city you're from. Since that city is prominent in the campaign, that's how dragonborn work around here. There may be dragonborn somewhere else that are different. I mean, dragonborn, right? There's a lot of different lore about how they were created.

Player: (satisfied) Great, thanks.

The player went on to develop a bit of backstory involving the character's family and was very satisfied. Dragonborn reproduction was really a very peripheral issue, though, and the game moved on.

As a player

What matters is the character you're playing in the game you are playing.

You are free to decide your character's reproductive outlook. If this is important to you, work with your DM to clarify the details.

I can't stress this enough. You can read all the books, rules, and lore you want, and it can be very helpful and interesting, but what matters is the game you are playing in.

You may find your GM has very specific opinions, or very loose ones. Work with them. They surely want everyone to have fun, so they are likely to be pretty accommodating.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer \$\endgroup\$ May 28, 2022 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with the fact that a DM ultimately decides and appreciate everything you said, I was looking for more of a RAW answer. For instance, in MToF, there is a chapter on Elves that states they have sex freely, but reproduce every decade or so... any more and they will actually worry that there has been a slaughter somewhere. So unless a DM changes it, creating an Elven character who came from a large family would actually go against the game's lore. I find that using such lore makes a great baseline to help out in character creation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 28, 2022 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate the feedback. I know in creating some of my own characters I've done a just bit of similar research. Maybe there will be someone who's interested in putting in that sort of research across all of the races. If you've gotten a start on it, you might consider posting an answer to your own question. Players and DMs vary greatly, though, in how much they care about stuff like that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    May 28, 2022 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB sometimes lore doesn't exist. Or going against lore is ok and encouraged at times 🙂 \$\endgroup\$ May 28, 2022 at 17:11

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