Saturday, December 14, 2019

A Plague of Goblins!

Look at that glorious little goblin. A piece from the AD&D Monster Manual.

Goblins are  my favorite old fashion D&D critter. Over the years I've adapted the way I think about them. No longer are they just low-level fodder to be slept and slaughtered. They've become an important part of my campaign and one of the more interesting races in my campaign. The title of this post comes from what what I call a big bunch of goblins. You've heard of a murder of crows. Meet the Plague of Goblins. 

Goblins are a race with hundreds of tribes, with hundreds of factions within those tribes, with even more ideas on how things should be. Goblins look to improve their situation, however their innate impulsiveness, often sacrifices a better future for a better right now. 

Goblins are the great race of adaptation. They are survivors. They are the weakest, major race when it comes to military prowess and physical strength. They often have to move from predators and adapt to their new environment. This sometimes means they need to live in harsh conditions to avoid frequent conflicts. Or it means when the new heavy that comes in the territory, whether its a human community, dragon, ogre, or a charismatic preacher looking to convert their ways. Goblins learn quickly what others want and make sure they get it.

In the later example about the charismatic preacher, goblins don't worship a goblin god. Their religious tenents are formed to whom ever they attach themselves to. However, when they try to simulate religious rites and ceremonies it is never quite right. It comes off as comical. Some see it as mockery. Without religious guidance from another race or person, they are content without spiritual guidance. 

Forming Communities
Goblins are quick to find a spot where they fit in. They may not be treated well. They may be treated no better than second class citizens, but when they find a niche within the community they are dedicated to it. For example, in the great city-state they built their community near the trash heap outside the walls. The goblins hunt and kill the rats (giant, large, and small) and other critters that infest such places and make sure it doesn't become a problem. In some of the smaller communities they are excellent scavengers. If you need something they find it or something close to it. 

War Goblins
There is a faction of goblins dedicated to the art of war. These goblins are always led by a dominant person or creature that is not of goblin heritage. The tactics used are modeled after the attacking style of who they have dedicated their lives to. Examples would be, goblins who are led by a highly intelligent worg might use deceptive tactics. Speed. While a group that follows a dragon may use formations in the shape of a dragon and use the wings to encircle an enemy and a retinue of skilled archers as the breath weapon. Their tactics are creative and effective to a point. Because of their fragile nature, goblins still rely on massive numbers to win.

Magic Goblins?
There are no traditional spellcasters that are goblin. However, some goblins are born with gifts. Some goblins are born finders. As in the afore mentioned scavengers. They just know where to look. Their memory has an limited eidetic quality where they remember where they've seen things. Some goblins have the instinctual knowledge of plants. The ones that heal. The ones that poison. The ones that are edible. While they may not know how to bring out the properties of a plant, alchemists and herbalists often employ a goblin to help gather ingredients. 

In recent sessions of my campaign it's interesting to listen to the players calculate whether a goblin is friendly or hostile. Of course they default to kill them all and if one manages to survive, then ask if they were friendly. 

Rage Goblins
This is what I think of, when I think of old school goblins. Little rage machines. Like a little dog who attacks a moose because the dog thinks it can take it down or scare it away. Goblin Rage is actually a disease, for lack of a better word. No one is sure what it is or how it's spread. When a Goblin contracts the Rage, their eyes turn red, froth at the mouth, and attacks anyone it sees. Other goblins are terrified of the Rage. There are times when it becomes contagious and an entire community tears itself apart. Other times it remains only with a single goblin. There is no identifying trait that allows one to predict if a goblin is infected.

I use goblins in many ways in my campaign. This provides opportunities to get them involved beyond a gang waiting in a numbered room or a number on a random encounter table. In almost every instance, the party has adopted a goblin. They come to see it as an ally or friend, or at the very least, a resource. My current group encountered hundreds of war goblins. Instead of attempting a frontal assault, the party used a different tactic, to hire them. Terms were discussed and agreed upon. 

We'll have to see how this turns out.

Thanks for reading!

Note: Tried to use the caption option on the pictures, but nothing showed. So I am crediting the artist below with links to their stores on Drivethru RPG (except DAT). 

Artists in Order
David A. Trampier


  1. Thanks for sharing, this was a very interesting look at an oft-ignored creature in D&D style games.

    1. Thanks John! They are my go to creatures.

    2. Yeah, I'm hoping to start an OSE game/world construction based loosely on Roman Britain (although it'll be a fantasy world) and the conflict between Romans and Celts, I'd love to use goblins based more on the old faerie origins in that.

    3. Yeah that sounds like an interesting time/setting to get the players into trouble. Not that they need any help.

  2. Enjoyable post, good Sir Gothridge (and hello to Lady Whisk)
    Nice to see you posting at this blog again...

  3. This is a great article, I love your ideas.

  4. This has got to be the best thing I've ever seen written covering Goblins. I'd love to read a monster manual written by you!

    1. Thanks! I do have my own version of a monster manual for some of the monsters.