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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    thisdude9001's Avatar

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    Default Kobolds run the Mafia

    So I'm running a campaign for my players in a large city, and under it kobolds run the mafia.
    One of the players is a ex-smuggler working with them but has put that life behind him, he still has a contact with a winged kobold.
    So I'm trying to come up with how they run it. The story how they ended up there is the city hired them to build sewers, but the kobolds never left, so now the undercity is full of hidden tunnels and large areas for black market trading.

    Some things I am trying to flush out:
    1. What do mafias even do in the first place?
    2. I like the idea of the leader owning a pet dragon(s) it can use to terrorize people (dragons are just magical beast with little intelligence.) What should his name be?
    3. Possible stories I could squeeze out of this. Got one brewing up in my head but not sure how it could really end up.

    Figured I should state that this is a fairly low-magic setting with some items of highly varying use and destructive power.
    My limited homebrew experience
    oh hey didn't see you there

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    Why Kobolds? I'd go for a Halfling thieves guild instead. I guess it depends on what you'd prefer.

    1. Protection racket. Doesn't seem like kobold territory to me, but Halflings wouldn't be much better at this. You need something big for this like an orc or an ogre.
    Drugs. Lots of them. Dealing, smuggling, drug labs. Etc.
    Extortion? The underground tunnels allow the kobolds to be everywhere so they can eavesdrop on nobles and merchants.
    Prostitution and human trafficking. I don't want to get into this too much.
    Kidnapping and ransoming.
    2. Instead of a dragon, use a Gray Render (or a Troll for a lower CR.). They are known to tear apart their enemies. It even has a random quirk chart in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. It's brilliant. It provides a great hook as the guard contacts the PCs about all those mangled (non-kobold) drugdealer corpses showing up. You could turn this into a turfwar between two gangs.
    3. I'd say a war between two gangs with the PCs in the middle is not a bad start. Maybe add some Romeo and Julliet stuff for fun.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    Quote Originally Posted by thisdude9001 View Post
    1. What do mafias even do in the first place?
    Organized crime usually fills demand for illegal goods and services. So your kobolds will be dealing in whatever is proscribed in you city. That can range from exotic (magical ?) animals to people, including drugs and alcohol. They will also own establishment where illegal activities can take part, such as gambling or prostitution, or simply speak-easy style bars where they can sell their illegal products.

    The mafia itself is a collection of gangs, ruled by a particular gang which is recognized as the most powerul (or respected, or some such value). All the undergangs are usually competing for territory or economic niche.

    These organizations are permitted to function by the goodwill they generate in badly policed areas, where they enforce their brand of social justice. That means these kobolds need values which they enforce via direct-retribution (or frontier) justice. They also bribe officials and blackmail local administrators (who probably use one of the criminal substance or service) to maintain their business.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    Quote Originally Posted by SquidFighter View Post
    Organized crime usually fills demand for illegal goods and services. So your kobolds will be dealing in whatever is proscribed in you city. That can range from exotic (magical ?) animals to people, including drugs and alcohol.
    I'm starting to imagine an organization that deals in rare material components*, questionable magic items and poisons from exotic animals/magical beasts.

    *Feathers of angels for a simulacrum or something like that. The kind of thing that could get you in trouble with higher powers.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Bohandas's Avatar

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    Quote Originally Posted by SquidFighter View Post
    Organized crime usually fills demand for illegal goods and services. So your kobolds will be dealing in whatever is proscribed in you city. That can range from exotic (magical ?) animals to people, including drugs and alcohol. They will also own establishment where illegal activities can take part, such as gambling or prostitution, or simply speak-easy style bars where they can sell their illegal products.
    Sometimes they also do extortion rackets

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    It actually sounds like you want a slightly powered up tribe of kobolds more than a typical mafia. A group that may operate a smuggling ring and/or black market. Probably some pretty crimes like burglary. A penchant for undermining (literally) their enemies in the world above. Possibly holding the city for ransom to some degree, for fear of collapsing it into the sewers.

    Actually, that could be a form of mafia. It's a stretch, but not too far. You'd have to work on organizing the tribe differently. A big boss, or council of bosses, with lieutenants underneath them. Strong ties of family holding things together helps, but isn't technically necessary and doesn't fit kobolds particularly well. Loyalty should probably be your focus. First, loyalty to your immediate boss and (less so) his other underlings. Second, loyalty to your boss's boss, or the organization as a whole. Rivalries between sub-gangs could be a fun angle to play with, but there should be an overarching sense of unity within the organization. Otherwise it degenerates into violent infighting between separate gangs.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Breccia's Avatar

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    Quote Originally Posted by thisdude9001 View Post
    Some things I am trying to flush out:
    1. What do mafias even do in the first place?
    2. I like the idea of the leader owning a pet dragon(s) it can use to terrorize people (dragons are just magical beast with little intelligence.) What should his name be?
    3. Possible stories I could squeeze out of this. Got one brewing up in my head but not sure how it could really end up.
    In my last campaign, it was halflings. Kobolds are a great choice, though. They're stealthy, often overlooked, and really clever.

    1) The point of organized crime is the organization itself. The kingpin can't take a cut of the profits from the people that don't work for him. So they don't just commit crimes, such as "smuggling in stuff people want but is restricted/taxed" and "moving stolen items to other towns so they can be sold without attracting attention" and "hurting or killing people for a modest fee", but also "and nobody else is allowed to do it but us". There's also the safety-in-numbers bit. Kill a random thief and you sleep well that night, but kill a connected thief and sleep for the rest of your life.

    2) I mean, it could be anything, but if you want to really play up the mafia angle for a laugh, you have some options based on the color.
    Blue - Azule Capone
    Red - Tony Poblano
    Black - Tommy DeVitriolic
    White - Sonny Coldeone
    Green - Rupert Thorns (I tried a version of "Machine Gun Kelly Green" but couldn't make it work)

    3) A term I see a lot with kobolds is "tunnel rats". Maybe the kobold mafia started with a network of smuggling passages, literally undercutting the competition? Or, if you mean quests or plot hooks, well, the mafia could try to sucker the players into a kind of truce by hiring them to complete quests of mutual interest. Organized crime is usually pretty evil, but evil is not monolithic. An ogre stopping passage on a specific trade road would stop both legal and illegal cargo. Or, they could just point out the competing bandit groups and say "Ask anyone, these dudes are murderers, your alignment will be fine".

    If you think about how an adventurer type would have worked in real-life mafia-style crime, i.e. a group of heavily-armed friends rolls into town and are basically above the law, the mafia wouldn't immediately make these people enemies. Distract, yes. Avoid, maybe. Befriend or bribe, possibly. But even the most serious of bootleggers wouldn't intentionally pick a fight with the equivalent of a 21st century SWAT team without reason. The rest depends on if you want the kobold mafia to be a one-shot cameo, long-running nemesis, shades-of-grey quasi-ally, or just another combat encounter. There's no wrong answer.

    Good luck, and remember, kobolds make fantastic sorcerers. Just throwin' that out there.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Tawmis's Avatar

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    Quote Originally Posted by thisdude9001 View Post
    Some things I am trying to flush out:
    1. What do mafias even do in the first place?
    2. I like the idea of the leader owning a pet dragon(s) it can use to terrorize people (dragons are just magical beast with little intelligence.) What should his name be?
    3. Possible stories I could squeeze out of this. Got one brewing up in my head but not sure how it could really end up.
    Figured I should state that this is a fairly low-magic setting with some items of highly varying use and destructive power.
    1. Among the other things already mentioned, the Mafia offers "protection" from their businesses being robbed or people being "roughed up." If you stick with the leader having a pet dragon (or even better, being a young dragon who is collecting gold to build up their horde), there could be an odd shift in power; where the Dragon regards the Kobolds higher than humans; and using human brigands to go out and rough people up in the town if they don't pay for protection. That money is then handed over to the Kobolds who take it to the dragon.

    2. See my idea of the leader actually being a dragon. Could have a cave network from a nearby cave that now runs into the lower sewer system of the nearby major city. (A complete accident that a common wall was knocked down and now being fully taken advantage of).
    Need a character background written up? I do it for free but I am now taking financial donations through paypal if you're so inclined! <3 Now with over 100 character backgrounds written!

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    The role of organised crime in history is really rather interesting, it all boils down to this however, they provide what the government can't or won't. But what people forget is that they can fullfill ANY government or market function. The Ancient Roman collegia for example often acted as a place to plebs to get some sort of legal dispute resolution.

    Believe it or not we can see the initial behaviour that leads to this in infants. If you leave a group of young toddlers where they think they are unsupervised and one of them does something objectionable (such as steal a toy) the rest will group up to force that one out (which they tend not to do if they think an adult is watching, perhaps because they don't want to step in when authority is present). They will use threats of force and even actual force, but the group will also expect all members to co-operate. Its a teeny-tiny-proto protection racket.

    The name protection racket is important because at least to begin with protection rackets are really about that, they tend to spring up in communities where law enforcement is either absent or hostile. Organised crime syndicates took over a lot of government functions in immediate post war Japan and parts of Europe too, such as dealing with theft, land disputes, providing for widows/orphans and running the economy (black markets). Ask the head of a powerful crime family what he does and he will honestly explain that he looks after people and keeps people safe, because he honestly feels he does and in many cases he's right. Or at least most people think he is, which is ultimately why getting rid of him is so hard. People don't generally refuse to snitch out of fear, but out of respect, people don't stay away from the cops and go to the Don out of fear of the Don, they do it because they know the Don can get it done, and the cops can't. Organised crime always views itself as a positive force in the world and when it has power it is usually because the average joe in the street agrees.

    Many know the Mafia became powerful because of bootlegging, but they also got heavily involved in prostitution (have an issue with a client, well you can't go to the police but for $15 a month Don Giovani will make sure anyone who roughs you up gets taught how to treat a lady) gambling and other services. They are often very good at reclaiming lost property and "dealing with" petty crime. They also tend to set their own rules, for example the US Mafia used to be VERY anti-drug and would keep the drug dealers off the streets, again far more effectively than police can.

    Hilariously at their height the american Mafia's big ticket items including laundering the money of other crime syndicates.
    GNU Terry Pratchett

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Kobolds run the Mafia

    It also depends how strong you want your mob to be. There is of course the protection rackets and the dealing in illegal substances and services that is already mentioned.

    But if you're getting into southern Italy levels of influence (Camorra, Cosa Nostra, 'Ndrangheta) they'll have infiltrated a lot of aspects of legal business and politics. One of the things is getting (local) government sponsored contracts for construction, garbage collection and other services and then overcharging the government/skimming these contracts with the knowing complicity of some of the government officials. They might infiltrate and even control trade unions (or guilds depending on your setting) to reinforce their political influence on the one hand and their capacity for protection rackets on the other hand. The infiltration of legal business is also important for money laundering purposes, so members of the mob might own restaurants, clubs and bars (or taverns and inns) as fronts.

    Of course how you get to that level of influence with a kobold dominated mob is a whole other set of problems and a lot will depend on the rest of your world building.

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