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Monday, 5 November 2018

Random World Part 8: Goblins, Gremlins, Dwarves and more!

When it come to the monster 'niche' of this still-unnamed world, it goes somewhat like this on a scale of pure combat monster to full-blown NPC race: Orcs, Trolls and Goblins. The category of 'goblins' is one which cast an even wider net in term of creature variations than even trolls. Like them, they are ancient beings steeped in ancient secrets, wild magic and an ancestry going back to trickster spirits made flesh.

"Did you say....GOBLINS?!"

Honest talk here: I've not developped goblins as much as I should but this lazyness does serve a purpose in that, if I want/need my various goblin types and tribes to be interesting, unique and most importantly weird I basically need to keep things vague as they are the most versatile of the major monster types fleshed out so far, down to having one of their own as a playable option: Dwarves. While I'm just as much prone to lore obssesion as anybody, I've become increasingly aware that 'lore' is useless if it is not practical to produce adventure material.

Goblin Physiology and Psychology

Need to find artist on this.

Where the Troll is ancient, mighty and filled with primal hunger and power (but also, at times, wisdom) the Goblin is it's cousin steeped in magic, mysticism, trickery and deceit. Both are tied to wild and dark places but goblins differ from trolls in both size and their greater ability to form societies.
  • Goblins, like Trolls, traces their ancestry to the forgotten origins of the world.
  • Goblins are small in size, ranging from the truly diminutive imp and pixie-like gremlins to the almost human-sized dwarves and hobgoblins. Their power is rarely, if ever physical. Size and might is not what they are known for compared to Trolls.
  • Like Trolls they have sharp senses and underground-living Goblinoids dislike bright lights.
  • They are much more likely to display openly magical abilities but these are powers of illusion, trickery, mind control and/or witchcraft.
  • Goblins aren't always evil, but they are rarely if ever forthright on any matter. Trickery, lies and deceit is their very blood. There is a certain alien-ness to them which contrast with the brutality and simplicity of their distant Troll cousins.
  • Some goblins organize in 'goblin courts', which are ruled by Goblin-Kings/Queens. Folklore has made out goblin-queens to be beautiful and fae-like beings but...well, even I doubt this is true. It is more likely that powerful goblins use their powers of illusion to appear taller and more beautiful.
Their societies vary between simple holes in the ground where they hide treasures to small, primitively organized goblin-towns. These places are rarely seen by humans as they are hidden in the deepest caves, the darkest forests or in the forgotten underground sewers of antediluvian human and pre-human cities. In these places, old goblin-witches brew potion recipes unknown to outsiders, cast mysterious and ill-understood spells and perhaps enact foul rituals whose purpose is unknown to all but goblins.

Known Goblin Sub-races

This is but a mere sample of known goblin sub-types. Do keep in mind quite a bit is derived purely from human classification of these creatures and does not always reflect any true category.
  • Gnomes: An alternate name given to forest-dwelling goblins.
  • Gremlins: These are the smallest of goblins and the least intelligent. They are twisted, weird little buggers who love to inflict malicious pranks. Their shapes are rather varied.
  • Hobgoblins: Magically-empowered servants and guardians to goblin and human witches and sorcerers.
  • Kobold: A type of mountain-dwelling goblinoid. Hairy, scabby and blue.

Goblins Adventures & Encounters

More than Trolls and Orcs, Goblins are a flexible lot as far as monster categories go for the unnamed Random World. They can be anywhere on the monster-to-people spectrum. However one thing to keep in mind is that goblin-related combat is very rarely going to descend into an all-out violent brawl unless they are either fighting well-armed hobgoblins or if the goblins panic and proceed to overwhelm a party with sheer numbers.
  1. The party has accidentally walked into a patch of wilderness which is claimed by a local primitive goblin clan. Should they camp in the area the goblins will attack at night with guerrilla warfare and/or steal their stuff.
  2. As above but the goblins create complex illusions to confuse the party, who seemingly wakes up in a different locale.
  3. A group of elite goblin-knights are out hunting on their frog mounts. They aren't picky for what they are hunting and if they encounter the party there is a chance they might decide to hunt them. As goblins aren't known for frontal assaults, they will retreat the moment they take any significant damage and proceed to harass the party over long distance via their almost tireless hopping mounts.
  4. The local lord has had his court magician summon and empower hobgoblins to restore order to his politically unstable land. While obedient to their current master, goblin nature is goblin nature and they tend to cause trouble on purpose when bored.
  5. Gremlins have cast confusion on the local priest repeatedly as a joke. Unfortunately the long-term effects of the spell have driven him to murderous, genocidal rage. Oops.
  6. The party need some magic items or a curse lifted: the strongest local spell caster is a goblin-witch who will ask for a really bizarre favor.
  7. House spirit-type goblins have invaded a village and are 'trying to help'. Apparently they have peculiar tastes when it come to redecoration and it is turning to arson and broken windows.
  8. The local goblin lord which to make an alliance with a nearby village of humans: both his court and some humans resist the idea on the basis that they find this distasteful.
  9. Hobgoblins serving a local witch or sorcerer have organized into an efficient, mafia-like society.
  10. A group of apprentice goblin-witches have been experiment 'for fun'. A side effect is that the region is now infested with monsters created from stolen poultry and cattle.


Dwarf by Matthew Melmeth
Of all the goblin races, Dwarves are the most akin to humans in appearance and mannerism, if only barely. Creatures of earth, hills and mountains they are as elusive as other goblins yet the least hostile and the most likely to trade with humans. Unlike other goblins, they are considered a playable race.
  • A mortal (albeit long-lived) goblin sub-type, even if they may not consider themselves to be goblins.
  • Look like short, hairy wizened men. They tend to have odd features such as bulbous noses, pointy ears crooked teeth, unibrow, long nails, a lot of wild hair and sometimes have unusual skin color which can be yellow, brown or grey among other colors. These vary between dwarven clans.
  • Insular beings who only interact with humans to trade. They are aloof and mistrust humans.
  • While they can be aloof, dwarves are still tricksters and their magic is one of illusions.
  • In addition, they are well known for forging magical weapons and armors. However, anyone trying to buy something from a dwarf should know better, as they are not above selling cursed junk to people they dislike.
  • That said, by goblin standards they are quite strong and tough. They are more than capable of handling themselves in a direct confrontation. In times of war they have been known to field actual armies.
As such, Dwarves can be described as the most 'normal' of the goblins and in, many ways, very much your typical fantasy dwarf: greedy mountain-dwellers, craftsmen and miners. The core difference, however, is that the fey and gnome-like nature of Dwarves is played up and they acquire a meaner streak as sullen and untrustworthy con-men and tricksters rather than honorable, alcoholic miniature vikings.

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