Saturday, December 29, 2012

Some notes on Goblins

I've been working diligently to get the disparate types of goblin-kin under one umbrella in the 10th Age. Bugbears, hobgoblins, and the little guys actually form a weak 3-part caste system in Arunia (and a much more cohesive one in the Moon Kingdoms) wherein the weakest link in the chain serves as a political class, the hobgoblins as "knights" generally seeing themselves as honor-bond to duty, and the boisterous (and unpredictable) bugbears as scouts and heavy elite troops.

They don't always work in common. Often times, bugbears encountering either of the other two groups will just kill and eat them. However, in the most successful goblin tribes (those that emulate the society of the vanished goblin empires of Tsaphon, Negev, and Ennegev) this triarchy holds strong and provides three legs to support the whole of the raiding culture.

Goblins of Arunia are "debased," that is, they have a lower stature and more bestial nature than their Moon Kingdom cousins. However, they are no less attracted to power, cunning, and backstabbing. Indeed, they are just as intelligent though their magical tradition has long since died out leaving them without the one thing they would really need as a people to re-establish a homeland: wizards.

For this reason and this reason alone, the goblin menace is less of a dire threat and more of a nuisance. After all, goblins have scattered to the four corners of Arunia where they have set up distinct colonies. Goblins are endemic, whether you are in a forest, below ground, or on a high plain. They can be found anywhere and everywhere, usually thriving in their brutality.

They value things that most other cultures would consider ugly. Stark, twisted, and even the gothically ornate are all types of things which appeal to goblins. Their weapons are sometimes fashioned to look  like grotesque reflections of real things in the world: dragons, birds, lions, etc.

If all of the mudmen (the creatures created by the spirits descended from the Gigantine God Ulagos the Potter) have one critical flaw, the flaw of the goblins is hubris. Whereas orcs cannot empathize, goblins simply cannot see the value in races other than their own. They believe almost inherently in their own greatness and the greatness of both their race and their person.

While the goblin-kin races may be encountered separately (tribes of hobgoblins or bugbears) or in groups without their other kin (as leaders of orcs, led by ogres, or some such) their society is at its most complex when the three strata live and work together and fall into their more-or-less "natural" social castes.


  1. Goblinoids are my favorite D&D humanoids, hands down. Here's my shorthand for the differences between them: goblins are Picts, hobgoblins are Romans, and bugbears are Vikings.

    1. I love unique takes on monstrous culture. It's one of the things that keeps me coming back to worldbuilding over and over again.