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    Default Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    I have a soft spot for Goblins. Maybe it's because they're underdogs, maybe it's because they make excellent Spider-Man villains, maybe it's because their women tend to be impishly hot (they look so cute...).

    When it comes to Goblins, what makes them Goblins, and what doesn't work?
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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Do: Give them the worst traits of children.

    Don't: make them actual 'people'.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Do: make them people.
    Do: separate them from tinker gnomes.

    Don't: make them Always Chaotic Evil.
    Don't: forget hobgoblin means friendly goblin.
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    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    DO: make it possible to differentiate groups of goblins or goblins within a group.

    DO: have them understandible reasons for their behaviors. Have them act in a manner consistent with those reasons and the information they have availible.

    DON'T: give them flavor text that clashes with their mechanical description, e.g. describe them as agressively stupid with no intelegece penalty.
    I consider myself an author first, a GM second and a player third.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Don't: make them mindless brutes.

    Do: make them clever, independent, and potentially relevant at all levels. I think Redcloak from OoTS is a great example.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by AceOfFools View Post
    DON'T: give them flavor text that clashes with their mechanical description, e.g. describe them as agressively stupid with no intelegece penalty.
    DON'T: assume that simply because they don't have low INT scores, they aren't aggressively stupid. DO: Remember capacity for idiocy increases with intelligence. It takes a lot of intelligence to go out like a Kerbal.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    I think I like goblins that are not necessarily dumber than most sentient races but have a somewhat alien mentality. How it is done could vary setting to setting, but maybe they see courage as foolishness and value cowardice as preservation. Or they don't understand the difference between fear and loyalty (hence why goblins often end up minions for orcs or other stronger beings). Perhaps theft is not understood because, if they can take something by force (attacking wagons, stealing from homes, etc), it's theirs, just like a fellow goblin might take something by beating another goblin up. Perhaps due to high reproduction rates, goblins don't see an individual life as important (although they do see their own life as important), so caring for others for non-selfish reasons is an odd thing to them; the tribe matters because the selfish goblin knows it is weak and needs a tribe to survive.
    Or, if you want to get dark, they don't see why eating human young is bad since goblins cannibalize when food is scarce. The humans who weren't eaten should just be glad they weren't eaten, not upset that a fellow member of their tribe died. A goblin can't really comprehend why a human would care, since that human wasn't hurt.
    NOTE: I'm not saying all the above is standard for all goblins, but just some ideas of alien mentality.

    The worse traits of children also sounds like a good method -- that's how even the elders can be, and it comes across as odd if you try diplomacy and gives a reason why goblins often wind up being uncivilized tribes. The 'bullies' are the ones who rule. BUT this does allow diplomacy if you can figure out how to talk to them and show proper respect.

    Also, short life span and quick reproduction rate, to help explain why they haven't been wiped out near civilization.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    DON'T: assume that simply because they don't have low INT scores, they aren't aggressively stupid.
    There's the Low Wis option.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    DO: tweak their style to fit your setting. They can be comedic relief, sociopathic comedic relief, or horrific faerie murder ninjas. It depends on what you need.

    DO: Play to their strengths, whatever they may be. Stand and fight is rarely in their favor, so adjust accordingly.

    DO: Play up the cunning. Stealth, ambushes, basic traps, dirty fighting. It can go horrifically, hilariously wrong, but they had a plan, dammit!

    DO: Let them get real jobs. A Goblin hireling can be an invaluable source of information in a dungeon, and an invaluable source of complications outside of the dungeon.

    DON'T: Make them Diet Orc. A distinct culture, a distinct way of doing things.

    DON'T: Forget the Hobgoblins (as applicable). What's the relationship here? Parent and Child, Human and Halfling, Citizen and Plebeian, Cannon and Fodder? Are they allies or enemies? Can you leverage one against the other?
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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    DO: Give them sense.

    DON'T: Give them common sense.

    DO: Give them intelligence.

    DON'T: Give them the ability to speak meaningful phrases in common.

    DO: Give them tools.

    DON'T: Give them masters.

    Your players will either love you or fear your goblins, or both. Probably both.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe the Rat View Post
    DO: tweak their style to fit your setting. They can be comedic relief, sociopathic comedic relief, or horrific faerie murder ninjas. It depends on what you need.
    DO: Stick with the style once you've decided it. Don't play them up as vicious little killers for the first half of your game, then abruptly switch them to comedic relief for the rest of it. If you're going to change the style, you need to do so smoothly, over time.

    DON'T: Think of them as just cannon fodder at the early levels. This is how many DM's use them (I, sadly, am guilty of this), but with the right descriptions and planning, you can turn them into a force to be reckoned with, one your players won't soon forget.

    DO: Remember that in several games, goblins are a playable race. If one of your players wants to play one, and the system allows it, you should let them. They came here to have fun. Just remember, goblin characters may have prejudice against them.
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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Don't: Make all goblins follow a certain 'style', like
    Quote Originally Posted by Joe the Rat View Post
    comedic relief, sociopathic comedic relief, or horrific faerie murder ninjas.
    Goblins, at least the ones the players interact with regularly, should be substantially different from one another.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    To Tiri: While I agree that there should be some variety at the same time there has to be some constraints for there to be consistency. Think about humans in the real world. They are very different sorts of humans especially if you jump across cultures. But if you found a town anywhere in the world that was half made of 'comic relief' types and the other half of violent ninjas... something would be off.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    To Tiri: While I agree that there should be some variety at the same time there has to be some constraints for there to be consistency. Think about humans in the real world. They are very different sorts of humans especially if you jump across cultures. But if you found a town anywhere in the world that was half made of 'comic relief' types and the other half of violent ninjas... something would be off.
    The solution to this problem doesn't have to be "make all goblins in group Y the same."

    You could give them a variety of outlooks, experience and aptitudes that closer aproximates a realistically varied culture.
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    Griffon

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by AceOfFools View Post
    The solution to this problem doesn't have to be "make all goblins in group Y the same."

    You could give them a variety of outlooks, experience and aptitudes that closer aproximates a realistically varied culture.
    Or you can accept that goblins are just monsters out to cause problems for real people, and focus your effort on making the actual people and cultures in your campaigns realistically varied.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    In a setting I ran where orcs and goblins cohabitated in the same civilization, but were distinct races, I had the orcs be Proud Warrior Race Guys (for the most part) who were nominally in charge. They ran the top level positions of their societies, their drives and desires shaped the overall course of policy, and their culture of warriorism was predominant and what most people saw, externally.

    Goblins were relegated to servant roles, acting as janitors, labor assistants, clerks, and advisors. They didn't defy their orcish masters, but they were often respected in their place...and the really ran society in the background. They chose which policies were ACTUALLY implemented and how. Their advice colored every leadership meeting. They kept the records, and determined what was provided to the Orc warleaders to operate from. While few goblins were in a position to give orders, many orcs wound up following goblin orders when delivered, supposedly, from an orc superior. They were just careful never to give orders that couldn't be construed as being correctly transmitted but incorrectly received. And if things went right, no orc is going to question it.


    What always gives me trouble is having orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls in the same setting. I have never been able to satisfactorily make them distinct, rather than just re-skinnings of the same general behavior patterns.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    Or you can accept that goblins are just monsters out to cause problems for real people, and focus your effort on making the actual people and cultures in your campaigns realistically varied.
    Or you can except that goblins are an intelligent and civilised species, if a bit primitive, and not worthy of genocide. Let me see what your statement says if I change two words.

    "Or you can accept that goblinsblacks are just monstersbarbarians out to cause problems for real people, and focus your effort on making the actual people and cultures in your campaigns realistically varied."

    To be fair though, my world has goblins as the labourers to the hobgoblin soldiers and the bugbear chieftains, usually. Many goblin nations actually kicked the bugbears out ages ago, to the point where their armies are hobgoblin soldiers supported by goblin skirmishers, and every other role has roughly as many of each subrace, just with hobbos as 'technicians' and hobbos as 'performers' (the only exception is 90% of mages are hobgoblin and 90% of priests are goblin).

    Oh, humans are also the descendants of goblins and the now extinct plains elves.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    Or you can accept that goblins are just monsters out to cause problems for real people, and focus your effort on making the actual people and cultures in your campaigns realistically varied.
    Ohboy. Here we go.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Or you can except that goblins are an intelligent and civilised species, if a bit primitive, and not worthy of genocide. Let me see what your statement says if I change two words.

    "Or you can accept that goblinsblacks are just monstersbarbarians out to cause problems for real people, and focus your effort on making the actual people and cultures in your campaigns realistically varied."

    To be fair though, my world has goblins as the labourers to the hobgoblin soldiers and the bugbear chieftains, usually. Many goblin nations actually kicked the bugbears out ages ago, to the point where their armies are hobgoblin soldiers supported by goblin skirmishers, and every other role has roughly as many of each subrace, just with hobbos as 'technicians' and hobbos as 'performers' (the only exception is 90% of mages are hobgoblin and 90% of priests are goblin).

    Oh, humans are also the descendants of goblins and the now extinct plains elves.
    And there it is. Let's not get the thread locked, please? Also, like your ideas.
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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Or you can except that goblins are an intelligent and civilised species, if a bit primitive, and not worthy of genocide. Let me see what your statement says if I change two words.

    "Or you can accept that goblinsblacks are just monstersbarbarians out to cause problems for real people, and focus your effort on making the actual people and cultures in your campaigns realistically varied."
    Changing words changes the statement from being mine to being yours. I do not believe that 'blacks' are a separate entity from 'human', though your statement and belief that it's a relevant word swap strongly implies that you do.

    I do not dehumanize humans, but I don't humanize nonhumans, either. Words have meaning.
    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    What always gives me trouble is having orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls in the same setting. I have never been able to satisfactorily make them distinct, rather than just re-skinnings of the same general behavior patterns.
    I find that ironic, given how different they are. Gnolls want to see the world burn, and cannot organize effectively beyond immediate families. Orcs want to conquer the world for the glory of their God. Hobgoblins are the worst interpretation of Hobbe's Social Contract.
    Last edited by Hawkstar; 2015-10-21 at 10:12 AM.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    Or you can accept that goblins are just monsters out to cause problems for real people, and focus your effort on making the actual people and cultures in your campaigns realistically varied.
    I don't think that's really relevant here. We were discussing how to portray goblins should we want to run a campaign where they are considered people. If you don't want to do so, fine, but that doesn't mean that your way of doing it is the only 'right' one. Remember, D&D is meant to be played for fun, and I know at least half of the people I regularly play with wouldn't enjoy having goblins not be people.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    I do not dehumanize humans, but I don't humanize nonhumans, either.
    Well, in a fantasy setting that includes multiple humanlike species, not considering these other species to be as roughly equal to humans would be as bad as dehumanizing any real-world group of people based on appearance or culture.
    Last edited by Tiri; 2015-10-21 at 10:23 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiri View Post
    I don't think that's really relevant here. We were discussing how to portray goblins should we want to run a campaign where they are considered people.
    Where is this said? It's tagged Gamer Humor, but seems open to all sorts of interpretations of goblins. You can make them people if you want to... or you can make them malevolent monsters, creatures of nightmare that kidnap and transform children into more of themselves, serving as a personification of the cruelty and pettiness of children in a form that can actually snatch and kill people, and in turn be killed (Without having to jump through a bunch of arbitrary immunities and be granted bizzare special attacks).

    Even if you take away the 'snatching children' aspect, they can still be swordable manifestations of the unknown darkness.

    I know I personally don't have fun playing in settings where nonevil people are supposed to kill 3-8 small groups of people per day.

    "Long ago, people used to venture into the darkness to fight the monsters. Then we turned on the lights, saw there was no darkness, and we were the monsters"(Paraphrased from somewhere else). And a new addendum: "So then we all got together, carved some dice, dimmed the lights again, and made up monsters for us all to have fun killing together! With no real people being hurt"
    Last edited by Hawkstar; 2015-10-21 at 10:26 AM.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    Where is this said? It's tagged Gamer Humor, but seems open to all sorts of interpretations of goblins. You can make them people if you want to... or you can make them malevolent monsters, creatures of nightmare that kidnap and transform children into more of themselves, serving as a personification of the cruelty and pettiness of children in a form that can actually snatch and kill people, and in turn be killed (Without having to jump through a bunch of arbitrary immunities and be granted bizzare special attacks).
    I meant that there was a discussion going on about the subject of goblins as people within the thread. Which you were not part of, seeing as you do not share that view.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    Changing words changes the statement from being mine to being yours. I do not believe that 'blacks' are a separate entity from 'human', though your statement and belief that it's a relevant word swap strongly implies that you do.
    First off, I love how you decided you had to edit my editing of your statement before you felt ready to reply to it.

    Second, I was trying to point out that what you said is scarily close to what people do say. Maybe I should have used 'muslim' instead of 'black', but I didn't want to type stuff that I've essentially literally heard.

    Third, please don't point fingers. Despite being Caucasian I'm friends with pretty much anybody I've met, including many Chinese people, several Muslims, and several black people, including a black Muslim. I was not trying to say you see blacks as nonhuman, simply that similar arguments get used a lot in real life.

    I do not dehumanize humans, but I don't humanize nonhumans, either. Words have meaning.
    What's the difference between a goblin and an elf. Oh, I forget, only attractive nonhumans are worthy of not suffering genocide.

    It is the superior view, I just know which nonhuman races are worthy of life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    I know I personally don't have fun playing in settings where nonevil people are supposed to kill 3-8 small groups of people per day.
    Well, as I said, if you run D&D just for the pleasure of killing, go ahead and don't make your sword-fodder race into people. I wouldn't enjoy killing 3-8 small groups of people per day either, but I would be fine with it as long as they had tried to commit some evil act like killing or rape or something like that. Which is the rationale for most goblin-killing done in D&D.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    First off, I love how you decided you had to edit my editing of your statement before you felt ready to reply to it.

    Second, I was trying to point out that what you said is scarily close to what people do say. Maybe I should have used 'muslim' instead of 'black', but I didn't want to type stuff that I've essentially literally heard.
    I don't think that's entirely fair, since he seems to aware that your point would be valid if he considered goblins to be more than vaguely human-shaped bags of meat and XP. However, judging from his posts so far, that doesn't seem to be the case. If he wants to play that way, he's perfectly entitled to.
    Last edited by Tiri; 2015-10-21 at 10:50 AM.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    The thing is, in my campaign worlds there are no irredeemable evil sapient creatures. That doesn't mean that my parties don't kill people. They kill their enemies because of their actions not because of their race. For example, the party might encounter a friendly village of kobolds that asks the party to kill an obviously evil human necromancer who has been wantonly slaughtering the locals. Or maybe the kobolds would ask the party to kill the evil elf bandits in the nearby woods. A human noble might also hire the adventurers to stop a band of rampaging orc barbarians.

    I don't know why this is so hard for most people. Alignment can be completely separated from race!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Masterkerfuffle View Post
    The thing is, in my campaign worlds there are no irredeemable evil sapient creatures. That doesn't mean that my parties don't kill people. They kill their enemies because of their actions not because of their race. For example, the party might encounter a friendly village of kobolds that asks the party to kill an obviously evil human necromancer who has been wantonly slaughtering the locals. Or maybe the kobolds would ask the party to kill the evil elf bandits in the nearby woods. A human noble might also hire the adventurers to stop a band of rampaging orc barbarians.

    I don't know why this is so hard for most people. Alignment can be completely separated from race!
    I don't think it's hard exactly. It's just that most find it easier not to. It's why real-world racism happened. Things are the same in the campaign I play in too, though, so it's not as rare as you think. We actually did encounter a friendly (after some diplomacy) kobold settlement, who had had one of their baby dragons kidnapped by some goblins (which was actually partly the party fighter's fault).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    First off, I love how you decided you had to edit my editing of your statement before you felt ready to reply to it.

    Second, I was trying to point out that what you said is scarily close to what people do say. Maybe I should have used 'muslim' instead of 'black', but I didn't want to type stuff that I've essentially literally heard.

    Third, please don't point fingers. Despite being Caucasian I'm friends with pretty much anybody I've met, including many Chinese people, several Muslims, and several black people, including a black Muslim. I was not trying to say you see blacks as nonhuman, simply that similar arguments get used a lot in real life.
    You started the 'bringing real world racism into the conversation" deal.

    What's the difference between a goblin and an elf. Oh, I forget, only attractive nonhumans are worthy of not suffering genocide.

    It is the superior view, I just know which nonhuman races are worthy of life.
    Elves are a manifestation of stewardship over the world. Goblins are a manifestation of childish cruelty and malevolence in cities, and the terror of the night in the wilderness. So, the difference is "Their natures", which is everything. Elves and Dwarves aren't 'people' either, though they tend to be more beneficial for the world than the corruption of goblins. However, there are times you really do need to genocide elves or dwarves or any other nonhuman for various reasons. Then again, as I implied over in the elf thread, Elves aren't above culling human populations, either. Not all nonhumans are the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by Masterkerfuffle View Post
    I don't know why this is so hard for most people. Alignment can be completely separated from race!
    Can be. Doesn't have to be. It's not about alignment, though, but about the natures of monsters. You can take away the alignment system entirely and still have Goblins be inherently vile and treacherous creatures(It actually even helps in differentiating them from Orcs, who are anthropomorphic conquest, and Gnolls, who are savagery and ruin). In my settings, Kobolds are inherently servants of dragons, and are only as evil as their draconic overlords, though they tend to have cultures that resemble "Lawful Evil" human cultures due to their slavish devotion to the dragon that serves as their master.
    Last edited by Hawkstar; 2015-10-21 at 11:22 AM.

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkstar View Post
    I do not dehumanize humans, but I don't humanize nonhumans, either. Words have meaning.
    Just because a creature isn't human does not mean they aren't people. They are still sentient, sapient beings. The reason we draw parallels with real-world races of humans is because we don't have sapient non-humans to use as a comparison, so we use the closest approximation that we do have.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extra Anchovies View Post
    A 20th-level fighter should be able to break rainbows in half with their bare hands and then dual-wield the parts of the rainbow.

    Dual-wield the rainbow. Taste the rainbow.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Banned
     
    Griffon

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    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Quote Originally Posted by Svata View Post
    Just because a creature isn't human does not mean they aren't people. They are still sentient, sapient beings. The reason we draw parallels with real-world races of humans is because we don't have sapient non-humans to use as a comparison, so we use the closest approximation that we do have.
    Just because a creature's human-shaped and smart enough to communicate doesn't mean they are people, either. Sometimes, you need an anthropomorphic personification of a concept more than you need another 'person'.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DoomHat's Avatar

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    Austin Tx

    Default Re: Goblins: Dos and Don'ts

    Hey everybody, devil's advocate here, how ya doin'? Here's my card.

    I suspect part of the appeal of goblins is precisely the fact that, while at least partially sapient, they aren't really "people". They are supernatural beings with motives and concerns alien to a realistic, biologically evolved entity. One really popular and fun interpretation of goblins being Magic the Gathering goblins, who are simultaneously comedic and lethally dangerous. They know they're cannon fodder, and exploit that to their advantage.

    I've wanted for a while to run a game in a setting where there are actually only a couple thousand goblins in existence. However, what no one knows is that every-time a goblin dies, it instantly "respawns" somewhere else in the world. Climbing out of a rotten stump, tumbling out of an unused kitchen cabinet, crawling out of swamp muck, and so on. As a result, everyone is under the impression that there is a nearly infinite swarms of goblins with a catastrophic breeding rate.

    The goblin's immortality and repeated exposure to horrible death makes them completely lunatic and always on the look out for some novelty to distract them. This total lack of self preservation and need to do mischief to stave off boredom is what makes them dangerous and inclined to inflict that danger on others.
    Last edited by DoomHat; 2015-10-21 at 12:12 PM.
    ...with a vengeance!

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