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We all know and fear Tucker's Kobolds, a bunch of ragtag CR:1/4 things that hit the party only on a lucky roll but use clever tactics that make a bunch of 10 of them far outstrip their weight class. Like, so the story goes, a gang of 10-20 of them made a party of about a dozen level 10 characters hemorrhage resources and characters like crazy on their way into the dungeon... You get the point, they were mean.

Anyway, that depiction was from an article on AD&D 2nd edition, advocating for a tactic that the author encountered at least one edition earlier, back to 1977-1980. In any way, playing the enemies smart is actually a tactic that I and many other GMs use, even in other games. To sum the idea embodied by them up, the weakest goon can become deadly, especially when the action economy is not providing the PCs with equal or more actions (or chances to take out goons) than the opposition.

But now, Tucker's Kobolds are kind of back in a new dress: they now can get Advantage under Bounded Accuracy by working together. Extra Credits discussed that part recently. And one of the hosts claims that they have become much scarier, especially with how Armor classes were changed (in 3.5 there was a brief respite where AC21+ made Tucker's Kobolds ineffective) and them possibly getting Advantage from each other.

Are the observations of the hosts correct, that clever use of groups of the lowliest enemies - just like Tucker's Kobolds - are deadlier than ever?

What qualifies as Tucker's Kobolds?

Tucker's Kobolds encounters are best defined as taking one of the weakest monsters of the book (usually Kobolds) and using them for example in the following way:

  • Terrain manipulation (e.g. Opening/closing doors) performed by the Kobolds
  • Extensive use of cover by the Kobolds
  • Limited terrain to limit player movement or exclusion of Area-of-Effect spells
  • Targeted attack in numbers (e.g. spears with reach, crossbow snapshots around corners)
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the PDF linked, Moore, writing for _Dragon Magazine in the 2E era, says that he experienced Tucker's Kobolds when he was stationed at Ft. Bragg. This was in 1977, so while his editorial is advocating for use of the strategy in 2E, the actual Tucker's kobolds were 1st edition creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KirtnoQA4mewhilemodsstrike: Or more likely 0th edition, because most of the 1st edition AD&D core books weren't out yet in 1977 (MM in '77, PHB '78, DMG '79). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2023 at 20:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielR.Collins Fair point. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a point on "what qualifies as Tucker's kobolds?", I'd have to add that they're also using lots of gear and tools that are off-book and ruled by DM fiat for effect -- especially lots of fire (e.g., corridor on fire, Molotov cocktails, moving flaming debris piles, etc.). This is well addressed in @Magua's answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15, 2023 at 16:20

5 Answers 5

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Mechanics-wise, they would be deadlier under D&D5E rules.

Philosophy-wise, Tucker's Kobolds have always depended upon DM fiat.

Two points before beginning:

  1. It is my belief that a fair amount of the "player's reactions to the kobolds" is viewed through nostalgia from when Roger Moore was younger, or embellished for greater effect, but that's just my opinion.
  2. When I say "DM fiat" below, I mean the DM making a rules call in a situation not covered by the rules. This is not intended negatively -- it is also my opinion that slavish adherence to rules-as-written is bad, that rule-of-cool is good, and that imagination should be rewarded. But it does need to be understood that this is all up to the DM and has no relation to the game system.

But let's do mechanics first, as it's simpler. Moore states that this happened during his time at Fort Bragg, which would put it between 1977 and 1980. It is unclear if the game being run is one of the D&D versions or AD&D first edition, but it doesn't make much of a difference. I'll go with AD&D1E for simplicity.

Mechanics

In AD&D1E, a kobold has 1-4 hit points (avg 2.5), a THAC0 of 20, 1-6 damage, and an AC of 7. In D&D5E terms, that translates to...

AD&D1E D&D5E
HP 1-4 5
Attack bonus +0 +4
Damage d6 (3.5) d4+2 (4.5)
AC 13 12
Damage per round (AC 15) 1.05* 2.38**
Damage per round (AC 20) 0.18* 1.25**

*: AD&D1E did not have any official rules for a critical hit, so there is no bonus damage on a 20.

**: Not including the D&D5E's kobold pack tactics, which would significantly raise this number.

(Now, fighters are not really comparable, given that the D&D5E fighter has a wide selection of feats, subclasses, etc to modify themselves with. The D&D5E fighter has more hit points, but not twice as many more, comparable AC, and comparable attack bonuses. However, this trip down memory lane did remind me that a 10th level AD&D1E fighter got 3 attacks every 2 rounds -- 1 on odds, 2 on evens -- but would get 10 melee attacks a round against kobolds.)

As you can see, in a straight stand up fight, the D&D5E kobolds have it better, even before accounting for pack tactics. Against an AC 20 fighter, it would still take a very large number of them, but way, way fewer than converted AD&D1E kobolds. If a DM were to make all the same rulings as the original, the encounter would be deadlier, but D&D5E contradicts several of those rulings.

Philosophy

But actually, that's all besides the point.

Tucker's Kobolds relied on the philosophy of DM fiat -- near everything mentioned in the editorial was based on DM rulings rather than actual calls and that was the philosophy of the game. Today there's a lot more weight given to rules-as-written [citation needed], and D&D5E covers a lot more of this in the rules.

Let's review (all quotes taken from the PDF linked in the question).

The kobolds caught us about 60 feet into the dungeon and locked the door behind us and barred it.

Ok so far, though depending upon the group, it may have been the modus operandi to use iron stakes to keep doors from being closed behind them.

Then they set the corridor on fire, while we were still in it.

Unclear how the corridor was set on fire -- burning oil, maybe? It's my assumption that this is something along the lines of "pour burning oil into the entire corridor", or "pour oil into the entire corridor and then light it with a single flaming arrow." The burning oil of D&D5E is for a single target and requires two attacks to hit (one for the oil, one to light it), so that's obviously not it. DM fiat on how this works and what damage it does.

only to be ambushed by more kobolds firing light crossbows through murder holes in the walls and ceilings.

My opinion is that the DM at the time may have ruled that you simply could not fire back through an arrow slit or murder hole (there were no cover rules, so DM fiat); if it was allowed, it would probably be at -8 or more. In D&D5E, arrows slits are three quarters cover and so a +5 bonus to AC, which would still have a 10th level character hitting more than 50% of the time.

Kobolds with metal armor and shields flung Molotov cocktails at us

In D&D5E, molotov cocktails are probably close to alchemist's fire; being an improved weapon, the kobolds would probably be worse off using these than just shooting more crossbows. Especially if the characters were already on fire from the corridor being set on fire.

from the other sides of huge piles of flaming debris, which other kobolds pushed ahead of their formation using long metal poles like broomsticks

Seems obvious that the debris is to keep the PCs from reaching the kobolds. I doubt that the molotov cocktail throwing kobolds were given any penalties to attack because "they're area weapons" -- again, DM fiat. Getting over the obstacle would be ruled as difficult, but in D&D5E an 8 ft obstacle would be cleared by a fighter with 20 strength, and above that an athletics roll might be allowed to clear a taller one.

We abandoned most of our carried items and donkeys to speed our flight

DM fiat or Roger Moore's embellishment. Assuming you're not encumbered to begin with, abandoning carried items gives no speed bonus in any edition.

we were cut off by kobold snipers who could split-move and fire, ducking back behind stones and corners after launching steel-tipped bolts and arrows, javelins, hand axes, and more flaming oil bottles

DM fiat. Split-move and fire was not in the rules until the spring attack feat in D&D3E. I also highly doubt the players were ever allowed to make use of such a tactic even though the kobolds were. In D&D5E, split-move is standard, but this sort of behavior is specifically countered with the Ready action.

I recall we had a 12th-level magic-user with us, and we asked him to throw a spell or something. "Blast 'em!" we yelled as we ran. "Fireball 'em! Get those little @#+$%*&!!" "What, in these narrow corridors?" he yelled back. "You want I should burn us all up instead of them?"

Although a legitimate concern in AD&D1E (a constrained fireball would expand to fill its 33,000 cubic feet of volume), a D&D5E fireball does not expand to fill its entire volume -- it only hits things with 20' of its center, so would not have this problem. But do note that there is no DM fiat helping the players here -- no "cast it over the piles of flaming debris and then hide behind them", no "cast it through an arrow slit and then cover the slit with a shield", no "cast it around a corner and then run", etc. Had the kobolds had a wand of fireballs, I'm certain the DM would've allowed them to do something along those lines.

Lack Of Player Preparedness

This is what makes me doubt the essential nature of the story the most. The players know that the kobolds are there and what they are like ("The party leader went over the penciled map of the dungeon and tried to find ways to avoid the little critters, but it was not possible") but there are no actual preparations that the players take other than "The group resigned itself to making a run for it." That's not how players in my experience work, ever. There is (at least) a 10th level magic user, but there is no dig to get around them, no invisibility, 10' radius or protection from normal missiles to avoid attacks, no stinking cloud or sleep (each use of this 1st level spell would get an average of 10 of them) to incapacitate them, etc etc. And that's not even counting what a cleric, with their more defensive magic, could provide.

Given the dread shown by the party in the story (""We still have to go out the way we came in," he said as he gloomily prepared to divide up the treasure"), I would imagine a group would simply make an expedition with the express purpose of destroying the kobolds and then worry about the rest of the dungeon. Dig or passwall into their tunnels to bypass their murder corridors and get it over with once and for all.

tldr

Low level D&D5E monsters are more dangerous than low level AD&D1E monsters (and kobolds especially, with pack tactics). But the moral of the Tucker's Kobold story was always "don't let your monsters being boring slabs of meat, think outside the box" and "think outside the box" inevitably meant "make DM fiat calls about things." Of the points listed in the question, where D&D5E addresses them (cover, area of attack spells, etc) it is universally to make them more balanced, which works against the kobolds.

We like Tucker's Kobolds because they're the underdogs, and we root for them. We like hearing about the plucky underdog monsters who defeat the big bad adventurers due to their cunning and tactics, and that's what makes Tucker's Kobolds a great story. But the exact story itself only worked because the DM wanted it to, and it doesn't hold up in later editions because it turns out that most of the rules calls made weren't balanced (and so PCs couldn't be allowed to (ab)use them in turn).

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    \$\begingroup\$ AD&D 2nd was in the 1980s, players then were vastly different. Even the game was played vastly different. Nobody would have argued with the DM the way today. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jul 14, 2023 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 You expressed way better than I could what I feel about these kobolds, and both the play-by-play of the original article and the overall framing are excellent. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2023 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good calls on the compressible fireballs and the fighter attacks per level against foes of <1HD. However, re: "My opinion is that the DM at the time may have ruled that you simply could not fire back through an arrow slit or murder hole (there were no cover rules, so DM fiat); " The cover rules are on DMG64, with arrow slits explicitly being 90% cover and offering a +10 to AC. Advantage to 1e kobolds in this regard. The fact that such cover gives an AC modification to me implies that you may fire back. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ 5e: Oil does 5 dmg but requires one hit for the oil and a second to light and you can take this damage at most 1/turn. The rules for flaming oil in 1e are on DMG64. Lit oil does 2d6 on the first turn and 1d6 on the second, so an average of 10.5 to PCs that will have lower base hp. There is no limit on damage (multiple hits would each roll damage), close misses still do damage ('splashes', exceptionally likely if the PCs are crowded into a narrow hallway), and a single hit can ignite provided the container has been prepared beforehand. Oil was considerably more dangerous in 1e. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 14, 2023 at 20:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: "Assuming you're not encumbered to begin with, abandoning carried items gives no speed bonus in any edition." Both OD&D and 1e were more finally parsed than just encumbered / unencumbered; in fact, there were five speeds depending on the weight/bulk of items you carried (cf PH101-102). Dropping a sack or backpack could indeed move you to the next-lighter encumbrance class and increase your speed. What is strange in Moore's example is that they entered the dungeon already encumbered rather than going in light with the expectation of coming out weighed down with treasure. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 14, 2023 at 21:14
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Tucker's Kobolds are as scary as you want them to be

Basic Tucker's Kobolds

If you don't employ any more specialized tactics, the 12-man party can fairly easily deal with the listed items:

  • If the kobolds close doors, you can open them with a free object interaction, or one character can hold the door open for the rest of the party with their action.
  • Non-total cover only provides up to +5 AC which a high level party can deal with.
  • Limited terrain and total cover can be handled with the Ready action or the Dash action.
  • Target attacks can be mitigated by the party by employing similar tactics (i.e. the character being targeted can take the Dodge action or get behind total cover)

Let's run a basic simulation to demonstrate this encounter:

The Party

  • Our dozen 10th level characters is diminished to ten effectively, one is holding the doors open, and one (likely a wizard type if the kobolds are focusing their attacks) is taking the Dodge action and has donned one of their allies' shields.
  • Other party members may have to resort to hiding in cover later if they are reduced to low HP.
  • Our party is only using the Ready action or the Dash action to get attacks, so they don't have use of their reaction and only get one attack per turn (obviously certain tactics like grappling could mitigate this, but for simplicity let's use this metric)
  • I'm assuming 3 Champion Fighters (with +2 Dexterity), 3 Evocation Wizards (with +5 Intelligence), 3 Life Clerics (with +5 Charisma), and 3 Thief Rogues (with +5 Dexterity) for simplicity.
  • Their win condition is if every kobold is dead.

The Kobolds

  • Our 20 kobolds is diminished to 18 effectively, one is closing the door to prevent ranged attacks from coming in, and one is using the Ready action to close the door if it gets opened (forcing a party member to hold it open).
  • Our kobolds will be using crossbows, and will be targeting one of the wizards (though they have started Dodging and donned a shield despite no proficiency realizing this).
  • Our kobolds cannot sacrifice one of themselves to melee to get Pack Tactics until all of the party members have shot as it will die to the Readied actions.
  • Our kobolds goal is to fully kill one party member (as that is a more significant setback to them).

The Surprise

  • To start with, let's give the kobolds two full turns accounting for surprise and the party reacting to their strategy.
  • In those first two turns, the 18 kobolds make 36 crossbow attacks against one of the evocation wizards.
  • Assuming 15 AC in the first round (from a pre-cast mage armor), each attack deals an expected 2.93 damage totaling 52.74 damage
  • Assuming 20 AC in the second round (from a pre-cast mage armor and a shield spell), each attack deals an expected 1.55 damage totaling 27.9 damage
  • Before the second round, the first wizard will hide (being reduced to only ~12 HP), and the second wizard will be healed up (21 healing with two first level cure wounds) and don a shield (so as not to need the shield spell any more).

The Battle

  • The kobolds target now has taken 6.9 damage of their 64 HP and has 17 AC against future attacks.
  • For simplicity, let's assume each hit on a kobold from a part member will kill one.
  • The 2 fighters (one used to hold the doors open) hit with their Readied longbow attacks 45% of the time against 3/4 cover kobolds.
  • The 1 wizards (one is hiding, one is Dodging) hit with their Readied fire bolt spells 60% of the time against 3/4 cover kobolds.
  • The 3 clerics hit with their Readied sacred flame spells 75% of the time (they ignore cover).
  • The 3 rogues hit with their Readied shortbow attacks 84% of the time against 3/4 cover kobolds (advantage from a Cunning Action hide)

With these in mind, the party kills 6.27 kobolds per round. This means the remaining kobolds are as follows (remember that with the party's ready actions, the kobolds they hit die before they get their shots off):

Round 3: 12 Round 4: 6 Round 5: 0

  • The kobolds deal 12.6 damage with their 18 crossbow attacks against the Dodging shield-donned wizard.

In conclusion, the kobolds only required 3 1st level spell slots to deal with rather effortlessly. The kobolds only dealt 72.24 damage, the vast majority of which was from the surprise round (which 3 rogues with proper scouting likely would have prevented anyway).

Essentially, the Ready action deals with Tucker's Kobolds very well as the party does not need to close the distance to be effective. They simply can pick them off when the kobolds peak to attack.

Specialized Tucker's Kobolds

On the other extreme, we can design an encounter around 5th edition rules that can force the party to use higher level options. Let's talk about the weaknesses the kobolds have:

  • A +4 to hit bonus can't reliably damage a dodging character.
  • 12 AC is insufficient to make yourself hard to hit even with 3/4 cover.
  • 5 HP is insufficient to tank any attacks no matter how hard to hit you are.
  • 1d6+2 damage for each hit is insufficient to kill off high level characters.

We can bypass these with the following options respectively:

  • Use saving throws with reasonable DCs instead of attacks.
  • Completely stay behind total cover.
  • Can't be targeted behind total cover.
  • Deal more damage.

The option I will present (although many are available) is to use Suspended Cauldrons barricading trap doors. This forces the party to destroy the much more durable cauldrons before ascending into a room above that the kobolds are operating within.

The kobolds surprise the party like before, and then quickly climb rope ladders into a room above escaping through iron trap doors with suspended cauldrons dangling beneath. The chains suspending the cauldrons are then pulled taught leaving the trap door concealed.

The Surprise

  • To start with, let's give the kobolds two full turns accounting for surprise and the party reacting to their strategy.
  • In those first two turns, the 20 kobolds make 20 crossbow attacks against one of the evocation wizards, and cover the entire room in burning oil.
  • Assuming 15 AC in the first round (from a pre-cast mage armor), each attack deals an expected 2.93 damage totaling 52.74 damage.
  • Before the second round, the first wizard will hide (being reduced to only ~12 HP), but the rest of the party will take an average of 6.82 damage (ignoring the rogues, with their high Dexterity, saving throw proficiency, and Evasion they avoid most of the oil).

The Tactics

  • From then on, the kobolds are only able to use 4 of the buckets; 1 kobold opens the trapdoor and Readies an action to close it after the bucket is filled, 3 kobolds fill a bucket, 1 kobold tips the bucket after the trapdoor is closed.
  • With this system, the kobolds can never be attacked (they are either behind the trapdoor, or behind the flush cauldron).
  • Let's say 4 buckets covers 50% of the room. The non-Rogue party members are taking an average of 3.41 damage per turn meaning that even the durable Fighters are dying in 25 turns without healing.
  • Each time the party destroys a cauldron, that trapdoor is locked, so the party either needs to destroy all 32 cauldrons to prevent the oil from coming in, or get a Rogue to pick the lock on the ceiling.

The Battle

  • When attacking the cauldrons with an AC of 19 and 20 HP, the party can use their Extra Attack and similar features. Skipping the math for brevity, the fighters destroy ~1.5 cauldrons per turn with their longbows; the clerics destroy ~1 cauldron per turn with their shortbows; the rogues destroy ~1 cauldrons per turn with their shortbows; the 2 wizards destroy ~1.5 cauldrons per turn with their fire bolts.
  • The party, therefore, takes 7 rounds to kill all the cauldrons during which time the kobolds have dealt ~190.96 damage; quite a bit more than the previous tactics.
  • However, the more important difference is all of the kobolds are still alive meaning they can run to the next room while the party picks the lock safely and execute a similarly dastardly trap.

In conclusion, the party will either be forced to leverage higher level spells like dimension door or fly to get to the kobolds quickly and dispatch of them, or heal up and try to deal with the war of attrition that is fully concealed Tucker's Kobolds.

Basically, you can make the encounter as hard as you want based on the number of rooms the kobolds have to retreat to, and the lethality of the traps they employ (you could imaging the cauldrons, for example, being filled with deadlier acid, or oil of taggit which causes sleep).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Shouldn't each class only have 3 of each in order to have 12 PCs? Your logic seems to assume 16 PCs in the party past the title "The Party" despite initially saying 12. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2023 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheLittlePeace Whoops; I'll adjust the math \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2023 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheLittlePeace Math adjusted. The first example is still easy; while the second example suffers almost twice as much damage (wow!) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2023 at 17:49
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5e kobolds are not that much more scary

I think what you ask is: will an encounter with kobolds that use tactics such as ambush, cover, tunnels too small for medium characters to move into, traps, auxiliary weapons like oil, torches, cramped spaces and ganging up on stray individuals be more deadly in 5e than in 1e, given the same party levels and the same number of kobolds?

Pack tactics is dangerous, and a small group of kobolds with slings that get one of their number next to their target is effectively getting +4 or +5 to their to hit from advantage. So they are going to hit a lot more on attacks. But, to get advantage also requires them to be able to move in mobs, which is actually harder to pull off given the hit-and-run tactics in narrow tunnels. So Tucker's tactics to some extent counteracts the advantage.

Also, the whole point of these tactics was that the kobolds were not just poking characters with a spear. Many of the other effects, like traps, burning oil puddles and such do not require an attack roll to begin with.

Lastly, 5e overall is a more forgiving system than 1e, with more character powers and abilities, which compensates some of the enhanced lethality. For example, characters in 1e hit zero hp, they would drop and bleed out, while in 5e they have a chance for stabilization without help.

Some combat stats

Let's look at 10th level characters.

A typical 1e character on level 10 might have 9d10+3 = 53 hp as a fighter (extra hp from Con only if they were quite lucky in rolling their stats); a magic-user would have 10d4 = 25 hp. The fighter with platemail and shield might have AC 0 (equivalent to 5e AC 20), which the kobold would only hit with a natural 20, the wizard likely had something like AC 8 (equivalent to 5e AC 12) or so with some bracers of armor, unless they wanted to burn their precious first level slots on shield spells.

A 1e kobold dealt 1d6 with a spear, javelin or short sword, and hit the fighter on a 20, or the wizard on a 13. So the expected damage for an attack against the fighter would be about 0.17 points, and it would take about 300 attacks to down the fighter; expected damage would be 1.4 points against the wizard, or 18 attacks.

Compare this to 5e, where the fighter will reasonably have a Con bonus of +2, for 10 + 9 * 5 + 20 = 75 hp, plus second wind for another 15 hp for a total of 90 hp. The wizard will likely at least have a Con bonus of +1 for 6 + 9 * 4 + 10 = 50 hp. A 5e kobold deals d4+2 with +4 to hit, on average 4.5 raw damage. If we assume the fighter to have AC 20, and the wizard AC 15 (from mage armor and Dex), then the kobold has a chance of 43.75% to hit the fighter with advantage, for 1.97 expected damage, needing about 46 attacks. For the wizard, they have a chance of 75% to hit with advantage, for 3.375 expected damage, needing 14 attacks.

So, against high AC characters, the new kobolds are indeed more deadly in weapon combat if they can gang up, but against soft targets like wizards, the old school kobolds are not that much slower to get the kill.

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Kobolds don't matter. Burning Oil OP (Overpowered) in 1e.

Set anyone on fire and make some token effort to keep them from putting themselves out, and they die in 1e. Hit them a few times if they're a Fighting Man.

According to Kirt in a comment, emphasis mine:

5e: Oil does 5 dmg but requires one hit for the oil and a second to light and you can take this damage at most 1/turn. The rules for flaming oil in 1e are on DMG64. Lit oil does 2d6 on the first turn and 1d6 on the second, so an average of 10.5 to PCs that will have lower base hp. There is no limit on damage (multiple hits would each roll damage), close misses still do damage ('splashes', exceptionally likely if the PCs are crowded into a narrow hallway), and a single hit can ignite provided the container has been prepared beforehand. Oil was considerably more dangerous in 1e.Kirt Jul 14 at 20:32

And from Nobody the Hobgoblin's answer:

A typical 1e character on level 10 might have 9d10+3 = 53 hp as a fighter (extra hp from Con only if they were quite lucky in rolling their stats); a magic-user would have 10d4 = 25 hp.

Compare this to 5e, where the fighter will reasonably have a Con bonus of +2, for 10 + 9 * 5 + 20 = 75 hp, plus second wind for another 15 hp for a total of 90 hp. The wizard will likely at least have a Con bonus of +1 for 6 + 9 * 4 + 10 = 50 hp.

So, 5e characters have about twice as much durability than 1e characters, and their burning oil is weaker as well, so 5e is much more survivable.

Assuming the average of just one Burning Oil source of ~3 damage a turn, without anything else, for 1e, a magic-user would die in 9 turns, while a Fighting Man will take 18. But add even 1 more point of damage, and they both lose one turn of survival, with every 3 points of damage from other other sources, easy to do multiple times with a coordinated attack, the party's time limit keeps ticking down.

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It depends how you build and run the encounter.

There is no official publication of a Tucker’s Kobolds encounter in 5th Edition, and you haven’t described one in the question, so there is no encounter here for us to evaluate. You could certainly design an encounter using kobolds that would be challenging for a high level party, but it isn’t a sure thing. Without a concrete encounter design, there’s no way to answer this question concretely.

The point here is that if you run a deadly Tucker’s Kobolds encounter, the way you ran it is what made it deadly, not the rules of 5e.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Tucker's Kobolds" have not been published for any edition. They're just kobolds. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Jul 14, 2023 at 11:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Tucker's Kobolds is a particular use of by the books Kobolds. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jul 14, 2023 at 11:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkovisonStrike fixed, but your answer seems unqualified especially with you seeming to admit that you do not know what Tucker's Kobolds are, or how they handle. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jul 14, 2023 at 12:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish I am well aware of what Tucker’s Kobolds are, having used the concept numerous times. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14, 2023 at 12:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did not allege that you don't know them, but that the answer makes it appear that way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jul 15, 2023 at 21:06

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