General culture and physiology
Gobliniods are the descendants of humans and trolls. Like trolls gobliniods acquire traits from their diet; this normally occurs over several generations of eating an exclusive diet however. Without the influence of human genetics in their systems the fae ancestry begins to take over
Atavistic goblins are strongly effected by their diets as they grow into maturity, able to acquire physical and mental mutations; many beyond the range for even the most heavily adapted of normal goblins. Shaman are typically atavistic to one degree or another.
Gobliniods are not that much more fecund than humans it’s just that they reach a breading age earlier (11-13) and that their hunter gather lifestyle ensures that they have a higher infant survival rate. They normally give birth to a single live offspring at a time though twins are not uncommon. Large litters of five or more are unheard off outside of a dark generation and usually kill the mother.
Goblins commonly breed with humans, in such a hybridisation the fathers blood usually breeds true, especially in the case of male children. A stable goblin blood line requires a regular infusion of humanoid DNA; at minimum every fourth generation. Genetic isolation from other goblin clans makes matters worse and mandates human inclusion every other generation at the very least to maintain stability. Without this the rate of fertility slowly drops off; given long enough a tribe with can become almost sterile except to humans, it often precipitates a dark generation. It is for this reason that goblins are eager to take or trade for human slaves and mates.
A dark generation occurs when a tribe produces large litters of male offspring. This can affect one family, an entire tribe or an entire region. The sheer number of sons they produce causes a demand for slaves and females that far and away outstrips the local supply. A dark generation can cause civil strife, the tribe splintering or furious intertribal conflicts with their neighbours. The scale of slaving operations can strip an entire region of eligible maids;
Shaman often rely heavily on some of the more esoteric magic during a dark generation. They "rationalize" the supplies by transforming surplus male slaves into desirable maids or holding lotteries or games to decide which of the men should remain so and which should also undergo transmutation. Those shaman with the foresight to see it coming take steps to limit the damage by sterilizing or enslaving some of the males as well as ensuring the local humans produce a bumper crop of daughters.
Goblins believe in stories. They hold that goblins are exulted by learning the wisdom inherent in their legends and oral histories. That great honour can be found in perpetuating the old tales, in reliving them and laying down new tales for future generation. They believe that no goblin is dead that tales are still spoken of he, that he or she are reborn to relive their tales again and again where they are most needed. No goblin would ever write a tale down, for they believe that the written word imprisons the tale and harms the spirit of the told and the teller. As a result few goblins can read and fewer are willing to write
Goblins who live the tales merge with one or more of the slaugh, the host of living stories and vengeful ancestor spirits that progenitor the goblin race. The tales are alive to the goblins in a very real sense. They actually happen and are made to happen; as such they change with each telling. They cross pollinate, merge and diverge in a liquid flow of potential. They have momentum though; they want to be told; to be finished. If the plot is sundered the broken end of a tale will flail around wildly, seeking perhaps some hapless mortal to earth itself in.
Goblin shaman wield two great magics; the magic of the spirits and flesh crafting. They are also well versed in herb lore.
The primary role of a shaman is conversing with the “spirit world”; be it in the form of nature spirits, the departed, extra planar entities or even the fae. The shaman strike deals and make offering to placate, for divination, for good fortune or for personal power.
Flesh crafting revolves around the use of the mutagenic and adaptive properties of atavistic goblin blood. The shaman draws samples of his own blood and using rituals he heightens its potency, awakening its dormant power. Carefully mixing it with a variety of substances allows it to be used as a controlled (in theory) mutation inducing salve or grafting agent.
Flesh crafting is used both for practicality (particularly combat utility) as well as symbolic and ceremonial reasons. Slaves in particular are subject to the flesh crafters art; often to the point of becoming full blown man beasts. It is considered a sign of high status to own a heavily crafted slave and shaman will compete with each other to inflict evermore outlandish, artistic and original mutations.
Goblin ale is a mildly alcoholic drink they use to draw in and help entrap potential slaves. This drug is a euphoric and makes the subject suggestible; it is very addictive and will cause almost irresistible cravings after the first three doses. In this state the victims are easy marks and will agree willingly to almost any terms in exchange for another dose. Only goblins know the cure for this and they will only do so at a great price. It is not for nothing that mothers warn their daughters; "do not sup with goblin men; eat not their food nor drink their water."
Goblin tongue is a poly guttural language composed of verbal and nonverbal “particles”. These have a contextual meaning and are assembled together to form words. Most particles and most of the basic words are universal.
Their language relies heavily on allusion, simile and metaphor. The problem comes that most of these are specific to a given region, to a given tribe, to a given generation or even to a given family. These can be considered as accents and slangs, goblins have ease out the thickness of their accents to a more regional cant to be understood by company.
Many goblins can speak the local human language to one degree or another. Almost all headmen can speak with humans fluently; after all how can you trick humans into slavery if you can’t understand them? As goblins have long pointy tongues they do have a tendency to lisp their words somewhat.
These are the default of the gobliniod races. They stand erect between 4'6" and 5'2", they have long limbs and a hunched stance that makes them appear shorter than this. Goblins have disproportionately large features such as their dog like ears, hands with long clawed fingers, eyes noses and feet, they also have course dark hair and wide thin lipped mouths with sharp teeth.
Most of these tales are morality plays where take on the role of judges and agents of cruel ironic justice to the "morally inferior" races. Sometimes they act as advisors and teachers; the wise shaman guiding the “unenlightened” toward knowledge about some threat, quest, magic or some such.
Goblins live in large patriarchal tribes dominated by chieftains and shaman. A goblins status at birth is inherited from the social rank of their mothers. Leadership as well as status is about more than strength or cruelty; it is about one’s ability to contribute as well as one’s ability to convince, cajole, intimidate or persuade others to submit to one’s bidding. A chieftain is one who has either directly or through his lieutenants and the family elders convinced all of the males to submit to him.
A tribe is composed of usually up to a dozen or so extended family units, about two score of unmated or unproven males as well as an assortment of communal slaves and various hangers on. Each unit will have their own permanent dwelling and hunting grounds, these domiciles are often up to a day’s walk apart and almost always over a league separate.
A household is composes of a headman and up to five subordinate tribesmen. These may be sons, brothers, nephews, good friends and or lovers. Beyond the inner circle are their mates, relatives, slaves and children. It is rarely any more than two score (setting aside infants who are neither counted nor named until their third spring).
These families have a pretty strict hierarchy of strict and often corporal discipline. At the top you have the head man and his subordinate tribesmen, then you have invalid male relatives and the head wife or matron. Next are the mates of the families males. Sons and widowed relatives come next. Personal slaves (brides), unmated (uncollared) or adolescent female relatives and daughters are the next rung. Finally you have slaves and the daughters of slaves at the absolute bottom of the social heap.
Goblin women and their social status are defined by their relationships to their fathers, mates or brothers, they are -like children- essentially dependents of the male head of their household. The chief wife or matron is responsible for enforcing discipline and maintaining order amongst the household; a quiet word here and there helps but this is primarily about physical discipline, punishment and forcing feuding females to kiss and make up. Failing this the chief wife will recommend the sale of the problem family member.
As masters goblins are inclined to be dominant and sadistic as a rule but there also supposed to be compassionate and considerate. For a lot of them it’s just about keep up appearances.
In goblin society the term slave is not an insult. It implies less about servitude (although this is involved) and is more about status and obligation. For them everyone is a slave to something or someone; be it a superior, custom, tradition or society.
One of the peculiar things about goblin slave customs is that the victim or someone with power over the victim must agree to give up their freedom. This could be in the form of a promise, as a sale, gamble or bargain. There also exist customs to allow a goblin to claim a victim as slave by right of fiat.
Goblins often enslave each other. Men are expected to be ready, able and willing to contribute to the tribe and goblins who fail to prove themselves by a certain age or brake certain taboos are enslaved. Goblin women are also routinely enslaved, It is not unusual for girls to be sold to, exchanged with or wagered against another tribe or family as a way of strengthening links in the wider community. This is a very common fate for the daughters of human slaves.
Some pacts stipulate a limitation of terms. These state that the slave will be free after such and such a time, when a particular debt is paid or service rendered or when an event occurs. Goblins being goblins use careful wording to twist the meaning of these terms to suit themselves; as a result few slaves are ever simply released. It is not that uncommon for slaves to be freed by the intervention of an outside force
One would think that this human traffic was a one way street; in fact a fairly large number of captives have their freedoms -to one degree or another- bought by other humans. These people are used to hard work, they are inured to privation and have been instilled with unthinking and immediate obedience; as such they are in great demand by certain parties. Given that goblins value basic wears and grain above gold it is not surprising that there are so many takers looking for a good bargain. Goblins won’t sell humans to Alfar however; even they have their standards and something’s are just beyond the pale.
It is possible for a slave to become a free member of the tribe by a process of formal adoption, this requires the sponsorship of the master and the approval of a majority of the tribesmen; as such it is only open to goblin slaves and not humans or any other race.
Goblins have naturally grey skin but habitually paint their exposed skin in a variety of colors culled from their environment. They use scarification to denote status and are painted with colourful body paint in social and ceremonial settings, they use muted natural hues while hunting or fighting; slaves are burned with prominent brands to permanently stake ownership, children are marked with symbols to represent their parentage, adult females bear a mark to proudly display their mate and a chieftain or shaman will wear elaborate markings denoting their ties, status and accomplishments. Amongst these makings on adult males is always a spirit mark, getting your first independent spirit mark is a sign of coming into your manhood.
Goblins are great artists, carvers and musicians. Rather than the hyper realistic and finicky artwork of elves goblin are focuses on strong colours, broad bold strokes and symbolic abstractions. It tell you less about what a thing looks like and more about what it means; how it makes the artist feel and how he thinks it should make you feel. It is the importance of feeling, this sense of narrative and the search for meaning strongly permeates all of goblin culture.
The entire tribe will gather at least once a year at a designated "fairground", these fares are a place to trade, gossip, exchange news, renew old ties and arrange marriages. Fares are often meeting grounds between two or more tribes, sometimes with a few representing families sometimes with entire tribes from across the region in one place.
They are open to human visitors and tradesmen; it is against the rules to enslave, poison, bespell or drug any human; except on the last day of the fare. At the fare watered safe goblin ale is served and games of chance, skill and strength are played. Prize games require all of the participants to put some stake (typically a female, goods or a joint of meat) and the winner takes the lot.
On the last day full strength goblin ale is served even to humans and all the events and facilities are open to them. Amongst the games a prize hunt is held open to human free runners and competitors, the slave auctions are opened to human bidders and sellers. Come nightfall the shaman light the witch fires for the finally; a bone chilling magical display where they test each other’s strength and skill.
The good shepherd watches his flock by night. And so it is that goblins watch over their humans. They go to great lengths to drive off predators; both natural and otherwise. They help the lost and the sick, they leave food for the starving and they take in the desperate and dispossessed. They are also extremely proprietary about their villages; poaching is a serious matter and can lead to conflict or even war.
Humans always outnumber goblins; in a straight up fight they are also stronger and almost certainly more violent and yet as a community they tolerate the depredation of the children with remarkable aplomb. The domestication of a village is a gradual and painstaking process. They understand that too great a yield will damage the health of a village and the bond between goblin and human. Conversely too little and the village will become unused to the harvest, plus the fact that they often grow beyond the goblins ability to readily control and that is just as dangerous. Wild or feral villages are anyone game.
The medicine men are important figures in goblin society, they work very closely -sometimes intimately- with the village shaman and together their knowledge of herbs, medical techniques, healing and natural magic are an order of magnitude better than anything else that most commoners have access to. They make these abilities readily available to the humans; this is a good source of barter, it also builds a bond of trust and dependence. Most importantly it allows the goblins to assess and improve the health of their villages. The goblins use (or some would say abuse) this position of trust to ensure that the villages have more surviving daughters than sons; this surfeit of girls reduces the tension and resentment that the harvest can cause and grants the goblins a wider range of choice as well as more opportunities.
The humans are for their part forbidden from rescuing slaves, killing goblins or giving shelter to their enamies or escaped slaves. Goblins demand a blood price for offenses against them, either in terms of the lives of the offenders or the enslavement of one or more of the villagers of their choice. Conversly humans who turn escaped slaves over to them or inform them of threats to them are rewarded by the goblins; often money but sometimes the release or guaranties about the freedom of their own children.
Humans often describe goblins as maggots, this is both a slur and an affection; they eat away at societies dead flesh. They are quick to absorb unwanted children and orphans as well as expose and or destroy dangerous, negligent or just irresponsible individuals. "Be good, or the goblin men will take you" is a common refrain and more than a few elders have carried out the implied threat of this to dispose of wayward or inconvenient people.
Other goblin societies:
Also known as water goblins. They have barrel chests, webbed fingers and toes, slimy sometimes scaly skin, wide faces with long prehensile tongues and membranous eyes. Many have no teeth and speak with a heavy lisp.
They live in marshes, by lakes and water courses and in river deltas. They build villages on dry islands or raised platforms, their buildings are made of woven reeds and are very hard to see.
The get about their watery home using stilts and coracles. They are also very powerful swimmers. They live by fishing, hunting and trapping water fowl and the small animals of the marshes. Kappa have a rule that if a kappa saves you from drowning you and all you own are their property.
As they can range father and faster by water the kappa of a tribe all live together in the one village. The location of these will periodically be changed to proven an over burden on the natural wild life.
Water side villages and river traders live in fear of kappa, for it is said that they lure lone people and especially children to the water side and drown them. The truth of the matter is that they have been known to save drowning women and children; so they can enslave them and often after luring them but never the less they do save them. The bit about using misleading lights in swamps and fens to draw travelers to their death is true however.
Boggarts are wraith thin, pale and cold to the touch.Their eyes are black from edge to edge and whilst they have very good dark vision they struggle with light sensitivity.
Boggarts started the practice of ritual self-mutilation. They use hot knives to slit their ears and cut off their own noses. Other goblins find this behaviour odd to and limit these practices to scarification, branding and the occasional oversized bone piercing though hobgoblins (never ones for being out done) have been known to go just as far.
They claim abandoned and ruined buildings, catacombs and tombs. They love shiny objects and metal trinkets, these they collect, horde and trade. This love of objects lead them to launch night raids on villages and isolated homesteads where they steal coins, jewellery, cutlery, pots and pans as well the more usual assortment of food, livestock and children (and the occasional full or near full grown woman) asleep in their beds (though most are returned the following sunrise, note the emphasis on most).
Of all goblins Boggarts are the best armed and the best armoured. Status is linked to the amount of "ting" they possess and high status males practically clatter and jangle as they walk. This is alright as boggarts love noise, they think it drives bad spirits away.
Boggart shaman (or witch doctors as they are called) are very good with all kinds of spirits and undead.
Humans welcome the presence of boggarts in ruins; for a start they are a deterrent for anything worse taking up residence. They also help to keep anything deep below locked up tight. They have a sixth sense about things that are better left alone, as such they are usually better guardians of such things than any human would be.
Kobalds live in caves and mine workings; they have ruddy often brown skin that's leathery and calloused. Most have burn scaring to some degree or another and many are partially or totally blind. They have long thin noses and bat like ears.
Kobalds have unquestionably the most materially advanced societies of any goblins. They are the only goblins known to mine, to forge and work metal. It is said that they learned or stole the knowing from the dragons and that each forge was lit from the original drakes fire. They products include knives, axe, spear and arrow heads, needles, traps, cages, darts, chains, halters and branding irons, all the paraphernalia of day to day life
There are two distinct kinds of kobald tribes; the deep tribes and the smith clans. Deep tribes are big and rare; they may swell to thousands of kobalds and slaves. They dig down deep into the roots of the earth and carve complex labyrinths of caves, mine workings, grottoes and caverns. Their products are traded with the tribes of entire regions.
A smith clan is tiny, little more than a family unit. They live in isolated caves and work in close association with one or more tribe . They provide day to day services like sharpening or mending as well as custom peace work.
Of all goblins gnomes are the most cosmopolitan and well-travelled. Few humans ever leave their home towns or villages and goblins are seldom seen outside of their tribal ranges but gnomes are known to follow caravan routs of hundreds or thousands of miles. Nine out of ten goblins seen in cities are either gnomes or the slaves of gnomes.
Gnomes possess and jealously guard the secret of making portable extra dimensional spaces. From handy haversacks, Grendel sacks, portable holes and bags of holding. The lone peddler you espy could well be carrying his entire inventory of goods and slaves as well as his family in the purse on his hip. It is said that the gnomish homeland is the hidden city of Grollodar, an artificial plane built from a series of extra-dimensional spaces and linked to the material world by secret portals.
Gnomes are by and large Traders; they ride shaggy ponies and donkeys They often have brightly painted wagons or boats and tribes are entirely nomadic. Gnomes are also bankers, money lenders (who prefer to use “human collateral”). More well to do gnomes keep their captives in discrete and escape proof extra-dimensional cages.
Gnomes place little value on coin. They spend their money like it where water on good food, strong ale, flamboyant clothes, jewlry and women. Instead they value good quality goods, loyalty, honour, family, friendship and oaths; a gnome’s word is his bond.
Snake goblin live in the dry mountains, badlands and high deserts. They have flashes of soft scales on their arms and down their backs though they are still mammals. Many snake goblins are venomous and have slit pupils.
They always have water; always. They have the power to find water, call rain and even create magical springs. These springs involve living human sacrifices; hence the proverb “where blood is spilled water flows.” Desert tribes are very superstitious about killing snake goblins; that their water will dry up in sandstorms in punishment if they slay one.
They have been known cut off slaves legs at the knee and inject them with venom and blood; turning them into lamina manbeasts. Apparently they can’t run away if they can’t run
This breed of gobliniod stands between 5’-7’ tall with the females usually a few inches shorter than their males. Hobgoblins are a tough rangy people, well known for their mental endurance and physical stamina.
They are adolescent by about 11 and adult by about 15 years old however their mental development is usually only a year or two ahead of their human age mates. Hobgoblins are venerable by about 65.
Hobgoblins are required to “be raised on the milk of human kindness”; literally as infants they must drink human breast milk. It is generally a little more complicated than this alone otherwise every slave child would be a hobgoblin but essentially that is what it boils down to. For this reason they gratefully take on unmarried (or widowed) pregnant women as nursemaids; her milk is far more valuable to them than her chastity ever could be.
As gobliniods they are required to infuse humans into their blood lines every few generations. They employ a variety of strategies to meet this need; from trade and seizure though to extortion, adoption and strangest of all seduction. The absolute requirement for lactating human women for their children to be hobgoblins at all ensures that there are very few cases of atavistic hobgoblins.
In general are a more prideful, more martial, better developed and more aggressive people than their goblin kinsmen. Hobgoblins are more likely to resort to violence than trickery.
Like all gobliniods they follow the old tales, it’s just that hobgoblin in general have a different role in the tales. Goblins are the tricksters, the deceivers; they bring justice to balance by their wits and magic. Hobgoblins the warriors, avengers, hunters and protectors of yore; their justice is forcefully perused with strength, skill and determination. It is this different sense of self identity that sets them apart from goblins.
They run a much more egalitarian society than their smaller kinsmen. Men and women have almost exactly the same rights, duties and responsibilities as each other. Their ranks are also open to others outside of their tribe as well members of other species that win their respect.
The tribes are mostly nomadic, few ever settle down for more than a year or so. Always the horizon beckons; monsters to hunt, tyrants to topple, wrongs to be avenged and lands to conquer. The exception that if they can find something that will be theirs, that they will fight and possibly win to hold onto it; then they settle down.
This lust for adventure draws may young hobgoblins away from their tribes; they leave their families to carve a place for themselves amongst the tales. After many years or decades of questing most of those who survive settle down in other tribes or found their own new tribe.
Hobgoblins just don't fit in very well amongst their smaller kin. They are welcome guests; but few stay for long. In places where the hobgoblins rule the local goblin tribe fall under their protection, in exchange for this they are expected to provide tribute of slaves, produce, crafts, information as well as warriors when the call to arms is given.
Strange as it may seem a lot of humans don't equate hobgoblin with goblins. They are mercantile, mercenary, well-travelled and cosmopolitan. Some regard them as trouble makers, others as dashing adventurers; women swoon and men leer as these athletic warriors in their well-oiled finery go by.
Redcaps are what happen when a goblin tribe is cut off from breeding with humans and turns to human cannibalism.
Redcaps are hulking bruisers who stand between 6’ and 7’6” tall. They are violent, aggressive, confrontational and inhumanly patent. They are highly atavistic but because of their diets they are atavistically human. Their eyes are red from edge to edge, they are extremely resilient, can live for centuries and they have few daughters.
Redcaps are all about power; power of the body, power of magic, power of the mind. Those with power have the right to use abuse or compel those without. With this right however comes the responsibility to do so wisely.
They live in small marauding bands who wander the highways and byways under the leadership and domination of a single Alpha. Sometimes an extraordinary individual will be able to call together several to several dozen tribes to form a horde. These hordes rarely last more than a few months but those that manage to endure build or destroy great nations.
Redcaps view their role in the great tale as destroyers. From small bands of roving marauders to the iron hard backbones of reeving hordes; they are the barbarians hammering down the gates. Once the walls have fallen they have been known to drag whole populations away in chains for butcher, sacrifice or enslavement.
Redcaps have the strongest relationships to trolls of all the goblinoids. They worship them directly and openly, they pay tribute and sacrifices to them; some obey their commands. Many redcap tribes welcome young developing trolls and even trow amongst their numbers.
They get on reasonably well with their smallest kinsfolk. They avoid harrying villages and farmsteads under goblin protection, actively seek out and destroy settlements guilty of killing goblins and refusing to pay a blood price. Redcaps also trade plunder and captives with goblins for tools, weapons and goblin women.
There is a great deal of conflict between redcaps and hobgoblins but also a great deal of mutual respect. Redcaps respect hobgoblins as a tenacious and cunning enemy; hobgoblins respect their power and purity of purpose. Alliances between the two are surprisingly common but often short lived.