View Full Version : Goblinoids

2009-12-09, 01:10 AM
So, uh, what physical characteristics unite the Goblinoid races? How can I describe them to make them all seem related and connected and thematic?

Also, any flavour additions that people like for them?

2009-12-09, 01:15 AM
Physical characteristics? They're ugly enough that it doesn't matter if we kill them. That's about it.

2009-12-09, 01:21 AM
Physically? They're generally described as pug-faced humanoids with greenish or tan skin and hairy bodies. They have big ears, beady eyes, and sort of snout-like mouths. Physical descriptions vary wildly, though, and their appearance changes in almost every edition.

The whole point of goblinoids is that they're vastly different from each other, even those in the same family, hinting centuries of mixed breeding. They're aggressive and tribal but even the most unintelligent goblin is incredibly craft and, if they can stop killing each other for 5 minutes, are capable of great things.

As for flavor, I like using them as tinkerers instead of gnomes (I prefer the nature-loving, Amish style gnomes thank you). Goblins are the mad scientists of my world. Hobgoblins are cruel mercenaries that sell themselves cheap and are really effective. Bugbears are crafty fighters and make good assassins on the cheap.

2009-12-09, 02:17 AM
Physical characteristics? They're ugly enough that it doesn't matter if we kill them. That's about it.

Oh? If that's the case I know a few people that should go. :smallamused:

Zen Master
2009-12-09, 07:08 AM
I use two types of goblins - respectively, inside and outside of Eberron.

In Eberron, I use the standard and slightly boring monster manual ones. They are basically the counterparts of humans, dwarves and halflings (it's propably not readily apparent that dwarves = bugbears).

In this way, they resemble each other in the same way that the goodly races resemble each other - without being larger and smaller versions of one goblin race.

They do however have a common 'culture'. Again, in Eberron I use a cultural background similar to feudal japan - partly because Eberron seems to support that view, and partly because the hobgoblin mindsets seems to fit, but mainly because I think a layered caste society works for this sort of race and culture.

So ... I have the highly privileged warrior caste, and any number of powerless serfs - who may or may not be slaves of other races.

Now, outside Eberron, all goblins are of course born in the cauldron of the witch goblins. Which poses the - open and unanswered - question 'where do witch goblins come from.'

2009-12-09, 08:17 AM
In my homebrewed setting, goblins replace both gnomes and halflings, while hobgoblins are the stern warrior guys / super craftsmen / elite heavy infantry which are otherwise the dwarf niche.
Both comes in several flavours: There are island dwelling goblins with highly developed shipcrafting abilities who are the best sailors in the known world, and have established a trade network and are feared corsairs. There are also three groups of mainland goblins, one is nomadic and follows large herds of caribou and Woolly rhinoceroses, and are quite savage, another goblin culture has established a group of rivalling city states which are ruled by their wizards and alchemists, and who "rent" spellcasters to the magically mostly impotent humans, and the last one was once a small realm which was assimilated by humans and now they live in ghettos in human settlements or as "goblin gypsies".
Hobgoblins come in several tastes as well - one large empire which is basically a mixture of a feudal Japan caricature from a Western Perspective and the Roman republic, some mountain clans who are a mixture of Tolkienian dwarves and classical barbarians, a rather small but influential nation of "civilized" mountain hobgoblins who have established themself as a warrior caste gentry over a subjugated human realm, and several semi-nomadic mercenary tribes who live in human or goblin lands and who are mostly hired to defend these lands, and who have a almost completely martial culture.

In addition, these goblinoids are marsupials, have no concept of typical gender roles or even different names for males or females (which led to the mighty goblin king named Alice), and a biological compass similar to doves and sea turtles. There are no bugbears (I think the name "bugbears" is rather sillly) but Ogres who come from the same planet/ancestry and were subjugated and assimilated by both goblins and hobgoblins. They aren't any more evil (or good) than humans, but that is true for every single culture in any of my settings. I have too many problems with real life racism to be able to stand fantasy racism.

2009-12-09, 08:32 AM
the bugbear is a olde english goblin like creature ;)
and interestingly enough, the hobgoblin was often viewed as a NICER sort of goblin

2009-12-09, 08:42 AM
Also, any flavour additions that people like for them?

My Goblins tend to be hyperactive and are closer to what D&D traditionally call gnomes. (My gnomes tend to be cute furry little squirrel like things that live under trees, or in cities, foundations) They're inquisitive and like building stuff, they're also Lawful in my campaigns and very group oriented.

2009-12-09, 09:14 AM
They share similar skin colors, generally flat faces, and slightly canine/lupine ears. They're also much more hirsute that other humanoid races.

Bugbears have an exceptional sense of smell.

In the Eberron book The Doom of Kings, hobgoblins (and to a lesser extent, goblins) have prehensile and expressive ears, very similar to how dogs can pivot their ears around and how they express emotion. Bugbear ears are a bit too stiff for expression, but they can still move around.

They do however have a common 'culture'. Again, in Eberron I use a cultural background similar to feudal japan - partly because Eberron seems to support that view, and partly because the hobgoblin mindsets seems to fit, but mainly because I think a layered caste society works for this sort of race and culture.

Agreed, though I throw in a bit of Roman Empire as well, especially when referring to the Dhakaani empire.

In Eberron, the goblinoids refer to themselves as a whole as the "Dar" (The People). The goblins are the Golin'dar (The Quick People), the hobgoblins are the Ghaal'Dar (The Mighty People), and the bugbears are the Guul'Dar (The Strong People). When the humans met the goblins first, they assumed that all of them were similar and applied the corrupted "goblin" to all of them.

2009-12-09, 02:25 PM
In my campaign setting, goblins are an underground-dwelling race of miners, con artists and inventors. Hobgoblins, on the other hand, while bigger than their cousins are still smaller than humans and are relatively primitive hunter-gatherers living on grassy plains. Of course, this isn't a D&D setting. I've never GMed D&D, only played it, so I've never done anything to the goblinoids there. I love what Eberron does to them, though. Mostly because it's the only setting that treats them in a way other than "ugly, low-level XP fodder".

2009-12-09, 03:01 PM
My settings tend to have lots of races mixed up together in one society.
For example, in the first campaign I ran, an early-industrial type setting, Goblins and Hobgoblins made up a sizeable base of the lower class, working either in factories and mines or as criminals . Hobgoblin's tendency towards organization led to them having a big part in organized crime and labor unions.
Mind you, this campaign was mainly focused on one city, which had a sizeable district called Koboldtown, inhabited largely by monstrous humanoids (Mainly goblinoids), and basically ruled by various criminal organizations. So alot of "Criminals" would actually be doing things like patrolling the streets keeping the peace (The city guard never bothers to patrol Koboldtown, and Koboldtown dosn't particurally want the city guard to patrol it).

The way I see it, Goblins, no matter their profession tend to have the personality of a crafty thief. Physically they are weak and many other races hate them, so they've had to survive by their wits. If conflict is inevitable, Goblins always try to get any advantage they have. Goblins are also somewhat paranoid by nature, and don't feel confident about going into something unless it's got a very high chance of success and they have an exit strategy planned out. Goblin leaders tend to be the cleverest goblin in the group, the one who is best at coming up with plans.

Hobgoblins have the personality of somebody who, while no stupider than average, isn't used to taking initiative. Pictures somebody who is very capable, but is terrified of being blamed for doing the wrong thing, so if he does anything, he either wants somebody else to have told him to do it (So that person gets the blame), or he wants to do it with lots of people (So the blame gets spread out amongst the group). However, if they are sure that they are doing what they are supposed to they are incredibly confidant. Everything about their society is slightly militaristic in philosophy. You do what you're told to the best of your ability. If somebody wanted you to get creative, they would have gotten creative for you and told you what to do. This philosophy decreases as you get higher up in hobgoblin society. Because of their militaristic culture, leadership skills and charisma are generally secondary to intellect and competence. Your subordinates will still do what you say even if they don't really like you. The higher ups will promote you for success even if they think you're boring.

Bugbears are the bullies of the Goblinoids. I usually picture them as being Jocks. They may or may not be evil, but they're definitely constantly trying to impress one another, their social organization is generally unofficial, but it's usually clear who the leader is, less because everybody looks to him for guidance, but because everybody looks to him or her for approval. As such, Bugbear societies tend to be fairly small. If it get's bigger, it tends to fragment, lots of small groups with a group that everybody aspires to be like and wants to impress. Essentially small-scale bugbear society with groups representing individuals.As bubgear society grows these conglomerate groups split and serve a similar function.

A group may be 20 bugbears with a clear leader, this group is part of a collection of 7 such groups, one of which is clearly on top, that group is part of a nation with 4 such groups, one of which everybody wants to be like.

2009-12-09, 03:19 PM
One of my homebrew settings doesn't have goblins at all.

Another has two tribes. Sea Goblins are savage, feral islanders. Bring on the tattoos, crude weapons aplenty, and all that. Cave Goblins, on the other hand, are more or less similar to other settings' Dwarves: while small, physical training makes them rather stocky and sturdy, and they are expert craftsmen (engineers, smiths, architects, and alchemists). This setting has no Hobgoblins or Bugbears. (In fact, the only humanoids are Humans, Goblins, and Trolls.)

2009-12-09, 03:57 PM
In my setting (which draws a lot of inspiration from Glorantha) the goblinoids and similar races are all descended from one ur-race, the Trolls - in Germanic folklore, 'troll' covers all sorts of different beings, not just the big ugly guys, so I went with that line of reasoning. The gnomes of my world are also descended from this primal race.

They started off as a deep subterranean race, brutal and alien but not inherently evil, and were driven to the caves just beneath the surface by conflicts with the Mind flayers, Drow, and others that invaded the depths. They were rivals with the dwarves but not automatic enemies. Over time though, their civilization became corrupted by the worship of infernal deities, and their various offshoot races degenerated into their current forms, according to the dark powers that group worshipped.

The descendants of the old race include goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, bugbears, ogres (who interbred with giants), and trolls - the latter being the remnant of the oldest, most powerful nobles of the old race, and therefore mutated the most horribly.

Individuals or small groups of goblinoids may try and resist their infernal taint and become neutral or even good, but the vast majority are evil through and through.