Monster Monday-Goblins

It’s a third Monday again, time for a humanoids as monsters post.  Goblins are more sinister than other members of the “Dark Pack.”  While Orcs and Lizardfolk may sometimes eat other humanoids out of desperation, Goblins attack Dwarf and Gnome territories to prey on them more than to capture their mines. Goblins in desperate straits will eat other Goblins in much the same way Orcs and Lizardfolk eat Humans or Halflings.Goblins

Goblins are eccentric, loud, and animated when they are not creeping down dark tunnels. They live and hunt together primarily for survival, but are not generally well organized. Only very rarely do goblin leaders manage to gather much more than a small pack.  Most goblin groups live in small, natural caves.  Sometimes larger groups of goblins will be found in captured dwarf or gnome holds.  Large groups of goblins, when they can be gathered, will sometimes dig their own caverns.  When goblins do unify, their instinctive understanding of magic is bolstered by training, study, and exchange.

Goblins are hard to work with. Their fractured nature often means that buying off one pack of goblins does nothing to prevent a neighboring pack not a mile away from attacking. Similar problems occur when nations try to establish relations with goblin societies. One of the few things that can abruptly unify goblins is a perception that another race or nation is tampering in their affairs. More brutal races sometimes cow goblin packs into doing their bidding through a show of force, but if the goblins think they can win they will always fight against outside influence.

Goblins are taller than halflings in general and just a little shorter than gnomes. With big ears they have gnome-like echo-location.  Their massive eyes also grant infrared vision. They have long, slender fingers (+4 Dexterity) and are very cunning (+4 Intelligence). Despite their wild nature, they have a good understanding of their surroundings and good intuition (+2 Wisdom). Goblins are not physically imposing (-2 Strength), but they are anarchists in personality to an individual (-2 Charisma).  Like Gnomes, Dwarves, and Halflings, Goblins have a racial speed of 18.  Goblin males and females are fairly similar, but differ anatomically much like humans do.  Their women are sometimes considered more level-headed and the largest goblin organizations are more often headed by women than men.


Goblins are primitive and few of them have much personal ambition beyond survival, their next meal and a place to catch a few hours of sleep.  They do, however, have a great deal of potential, like other humanoids.  Those that grasp this potential aim primarily to improve themselves, but sometimes also do something about tomorrow.

Fighter-Goblins are quick to embrace the basics of armed self defense, even if they aren’t very good at it.  True goblin fighters are uncommon, but goblin packs will frequently use them and goblin soldiers as the bulk of their hunting parties, patrols, and guards.

Magic-user-Goblins have excellent minds that are well suited to magic.  It is not uncommon for goblins to develop magical talent with no training or guidance whatsoever. Powerful goblin magic-users are frequently pack leaders, but sometimes also act as lone wolves.  Often their magic is primitive and they use it as another tool for hunting.

Thief-Goblins are not as stealthy as Halflings perhaps, but their comfort in the dark and their nimble hands make them well suited for the thieving tradition.  Goblins frequently take to stealing as an expeditious means of ensuring their next meal.  These goblins take a risk.  If caught, they may end up eaten themselves by desperate companions or they may be used as scouts and snare setters in the pack’s tactics.

Bard-Goblins sometimes take interest in music and the sway it can hold over people. Often the mysticality of magic is central to their worship and their bards sometimes become religious leaders. Goblin societies without a deity still love the sound of their own harsh, shrill music.

Battle Mage-Goblins who grow beyond basic needs tend to throw their talent behind battle. Since most of their talent is in their propensity for magic, it is natural for the to become masters of combative magic. Powerful battle mage goblins are frequently the leaders of goblin groups of all sizes.

Necromancer-Necromancy is a fairly natural branch of the arcane for goblins to stumble into. This sinister use of magical energy really resonates with the more malicious goblins. Goblin necromancers tend to be lonely creatures or withdrawn members of the pack. Sometimes, if there is not a musical worship structure in place, goblin necromancers will fill the religious vacuum.

Rogue-Goblins that do not master magic or combat, but that put great effort into advancing themselves, become paragons of stealth and ranged battle.  Goblin rogues often lead scouting parties and raiding groups and are a valuable asset in many goblin societies.

Goblins are wild and a great danger to anyone who underestimates their strength and numbers. They generally live short lives, but their most dedicated members make good use of the time and make themselves powerful. Knowing their own mortality, goblins often act with greater urgency than longer lived races expect.

Goblins are good casters and stealth characters.  Would you play one for these or another reason?  How would you plan to interact with them?  What if the local dwarf hold told you goblins were making off with their miners and guards?  How would you react as a player? How would you use them as a Master Weaver? Let us know in the comments below!

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9 Responses to Monster Monday-Goblins

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  8. I think it is a very big mistake to try to categorize all goblins as one thing. I think they have considerably more diversity than a lot of other humanoids, about as much so as Elves.
    Sure, the goblins that live down underground in cave networks constantly battling with dwarfs and gnomes might be cannibalistic and tend towards dark sorcerery, skulking around in the darkness and never wanting to be seen out in the daylight…
    But how little of that applies to the ones who live in the deep forest, ride around on the back of wolves, ambush travelers to steal their stuff then feed them to big vicious animals, and have strange nature-controlling shaman.
    And how little of what defines those ones defines the ones that live out in the open, usually get enslaved by others and when they don’t they breed out of control in every nook and cranny they can find a place to set up a temporary warden. Those ones that are likely to beat you up and rob you as they are to try to offer you mercenary/hireling services, sell you something that may or may not be cursed or generally try to con you.

    It seems to me that there are at least 3 distinctly different sorts of goblins that regularly show up in fantasy, although most games don’t take the step to clearly define these as subraces. I think only WarHammer actually defined them as such. Instead goblins tend to presented generally adhering to one of these three stereotypes while really not explaining the contradictions that occur between these different traditions.

    What you have here well defines the first time– the Cavern Goblins or Night Goblins, the ones least likely to function well as PCs, but it doesn’t really recognize the later two stereotypes.

    • jameseck says:

      I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s a universal truth.

      I have given my goblins physical characteristics adapted to living in caves, making that their preferred environment, but I envisioned them sometimes living on the surface, just the same.

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