DESIGNER’S DIARY 5: GOBLINS OF CONFLICT
Goblins, like orcs, are a race that exists within popular culture. They appear in numerous franchises, including Warcraft and Warhammer, in various depictions. In fact, it is possible to encounter goblins in different folk tales and mythologies, even more so than orcs.
Didn’t Shakespeare use goblins in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
When looking at goblins, it is impossible not to think: Could something truly original be designed?
Similar to orcs, our primary goal was to stay within the basic D&D goblin theme while stretching its boundaries. First, we focused on their way of life. We decided to examine the reasons why goblins are such chaotic, seemingly cowardly, and greedy creatures. This required us to explain their living conditions.
Goblin lives are usually formed by the accumulation of small gains they can scrape from others due to their small size and weak nature. Both their position in the world and their interactions with other races revolve around this framework. Therefore, goblins are more flexible and opportunistic in their lifestyles and beliefs compared to other races.
Another issue stemming from the brevity and danger of goblin life is disorder. Being a race that constantly risks losing what they have (including their lives), it is natural for them to focus solely on their daily interests and instant gratification. We discovered that this situation is also connected to one of the most well-known traits of goblins: their cowardice. A culture that pursues small gains and leads a day-to-day life of running away will see each new day as another opportunity. Consequently, they may not perceive misery, defeat, or running away as a loss. Therefore, dedicating oneself to something may be considered a greater risk than fleeing.
The life of goblins revolves around what we call “caste” subrace options. In tribes isolated from civilization and other races, goblins engaged in the same profession gather together. The entire tribe may be engaged in animal husbandry, agriculture, or the exploration of ancient ruins. Individuals who deviate from these tribes form the known castes by mingling in areas closer to civilization. Although they generally have a culture characterized by cowardice, they feel a natural attraction towards tribes in places where there is more warfare, looting, movement, and, in short, greater resources. This leads to the general goblin culture forming in these regions close to civilization.
The belief system of goblins would be the area that best symbolizes their lives and culture. In a separate blog post, we will delve into the details, but in summary, they have a belief system that consists of completely random beliefs and makes little sense to almost anyone other than goblins. The same deity can be a god of poison in one region, a god of birth and reproduction in another, and a god of agriculture in yet another. The same aspect of a deity may even be assigned different names in different places. In addition to gods, all superstitions that they believe can help them, and habits like worshiping magical/non-magical powerful beings find a place in their belief system.
When preparing the Goblin subraces, it was a priority for all of them to be agile, nimble, and more resilient than they appeared. In this preparation, we added a small movement ability that would enhance the mobility of all Goblin types. This was necessary for them to take tactical positions in battle and to be able to distance themselves from danger. Throughout the history of Dungeons and Dragons, it has been crucial for this race, famous for its cowardice, to have the ability to escape. Apart from that, we wanted them to be more durable than they seemed, but this durability should not necessarily be physical. Therefore, for each Goblin subrace, we developed a special additional resilience system based on a different ability score. Naturally, all abilities are not used equally in saving throws, and some have a much broader range of use. However, we balanced the subraces that excel in less commonly used abilities with other features.
As for the subraces, the Wily Goblins emerged as the default subrace. In addition to being the most populous, they would be more agile and even more mobile. They were designed to align with the classic Goblin Rogue theme. The Wily Goblins have variations of the basic skills you know about Goblins, but they are more diversified. While not as populous as the Wily Goblins, the Snakefoot Goblins were designed based on the meticulous and sharp-minded Goblin stereotype. They were particularly focused on living in cities and developing different skills.
The Muzzler Goblins, on the other hand, were designed to be a type that coexists with various wild animals, as seen in many places. Although their Charisma scores were higher, they would primarily use them to communicate with beasts and similar creatures. These unconventional communication skills made them a diverse and successful community overall. Beefy Goblins, is actually a rather intermediate type. Unlike all other Goblin types, they are not small but medium-sized. Physically (compared to Goblins), they are larger and stronger. Therefore, they have an interest in playing with weapons. They also know how to bully smaller communities. However, it should be noted that they are not Hobgoblins or Bugbears. They have distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other medium-sized races.
The last two Goblin types are even more exotic. Jackass Goblins was a Goblin type that had been in our minds for a long time. They are anomalies among their counterparts, who are generally known for their cowardice. However, it would not be correct to use the term “brave” for Jackass Goblins. They do not show the courage to face danger, even though they recognize and understand it. It can be said that they do not quite comprehend the danger. Yet, they are surprisingly durable and skilled at survival, which would surprise all communities. Otherwise, with their mindset, they would have long since perished, wouldn’t they? Jackass Goblins would be an ideal option for an entertaining nuisance.
The final subrace could have been a kind of psychic goblins, which have been the subject of debates about their existence in certain realms in official sources and within the game. However, this theme has been used in multiple places. While contemplating this, we realized that perhaps some Goblins could possess special mental abilities. However, both Goblins’ lack of understanding of these abilities and other races’ failure to thoroughly study Goblins could have led to misinterpretations of these features. Therefore, we made some changes to the conventional psychic Goblin theme in D&D and named this community Eerie Goblins. Their existing psychic abilities would not be related to influencing the mind. Since nearly every community with powers that affect the mind tends to use them to exert control over others, Eerie Goblins were different.
Subscribe to our newsletter!