My goblins are dirty,
My goblins are goons,
My goblins are many
Their smell makes you swoon
My goblins are daft,
My goblins are dank.
My goblins eat boogers
And pull some mad pranks
I never have humanoids in my fantasy RPGs. Humans run the gamut of all possible morality and roles, and deliberate homicide feels quite different to… hetericide? If you want murder and betrayal and evil, don’t be shy; kill, backstab, and hurt fellow men.
Goblins, tho. Goblins are different.
Goblins are dirty feral kids. Goblins are grotesque, both in a literal sense of cave-dwelling troglodytes, and in a more meaningful sense of odd, off, weird, and a chonk more than “a bit wonky”. Petty, greedy, prone to deformity, displaying undecipherable gender dymorphism and not caring about it, goblins have the class-less, level-less, hyper-violent society you’d expect after an unsupervised mid-morning primary school recess lasting three weeks. For goblins, Lord of the Flies is a dreamworld utopia with a bad ending. Or rather: it would, if they could be bothered to read.
Goblins form gaggles, and are as prone to violence as amoral unsocialized primary school kids with wonky sharp teeth. Goblins wander both the wild and tunnels looking for cake and a better weapon than the chair leg they are currently wielding two-handed. Goblins are all different, mismatched in attire and shape and eye-colour, all squeaky voices and craven laughs, enjoying both frantically petting rabbits and playing football using a small tied-up goblin in lieu of a ball, often at the same time.
Goblins encounters should always include some occasion for shenanigans, some mutated goblin, and some weird set up: this can be either straight slice-of-life in a grotesque location or a ridiculous event but completely out of place. Goblins don’t have an odd thing or two to spice them up: instead they fell in the weirdo-saucepan as kids, and when trying to get out they fell in again, and then the pot tipped and flipped over the goblins trapping them underneath. When playing the inevitable melee, each attack should be different: a goblin swings at you with a pillowcase filled with rocks, another jumps and bites your calf, another climbs over you to stab the back of your neck like you were a Colossus, yet another singes you with his laser eyes.
Oh, yeah, mutations. I hate mutations, but goblins just wallow in teratogenic gunk all day. And this, in fact, is where it all started, ten years ago: one of my first and still favourite pieces of tabletop development was a d30 tables of mutations for the first Secret Santicore, which you’ll find here accompanied by more, probably stupider, tables. Jez was so impressed by the wart goblin he immediately drew it in its all lumpy grossness. At any rate, when encountering a gaggle include a handful of mutated goblins, and maybe give them an extra level or two and good kit so they can survive enough to do their crazy stupid shenanigans for longer.
One last thing: goblins are always, always hilarious. Even in death, play it for laughs. No tragedy! Goblins are slapstick, goblins are farce, goblins are low comedy, goblins are snark. Leave no room for anything sad: all goblins want to die like they lived, cackling gingerly. A word of warning: don’t attempt to play them seriously, or they might become regular children.
d30 Mutations and Other Goblin Weirdness
- Very furry. Better defence and protected from cold.
- Horribly fat, the goblin is fed by its tribe to be slain and eaten during periods when food is scarce. Double hits, can’t run.
- The goblin has a skin membrane between arms and legs, allowing her to glide. It makes impossible to wear armour tho.
- Can make any noise through vocalization. Will make any noise through vocalisation. Repeatedly.
- Horribly strong. Ridiculously buff. His biceps have biceps. Deals at least double damage in melee and throws objects at three times the normal distance. The goblin body can’t quite cope with so much awesome, tho, taking damage when such huge strength is abused.
- Pea green, photosynthetic goblin can survive on water and sunlight. Shame that goblins hate sunlight.
- Uncannily warty, if still and crouched is easily mistaken for a pile of rotting garbage.
- Very sticky and strong. Grapples like an ogre and can easily climb walls and steal garbage.
- Big-jaw, sharp-teethed, ever-hungry. Bite deals 2d6 damage.
- Mostly glabrous, pink and swollen, the goblin looks exactly like a perfectly healthy human blond kid.
- Really big, strong and burly. In combat, treat as ogre, except for morale purposes.
- Immortal and unable to reproduce. This goblin might have died hundred of times, often in embarrassing ways, but might be very far from realizing it. Regenerates 1hit/turn.
- Flexible bones. Can squeeze through a hole the size of a tennis ball and takes no damage from falls and blunt trauma. Wobbles.
- Feels no pain. Doesn’t understand it either. When it should be collapsing or dying, instead every round try to Save to stave off the condition for another day.
- 1d6 arms. 1d6 legs, 1d6 heads, eyes, ears, noses. Still a single goblin brain to run all of them, sadly.
- Can shadow-step once a day, and reappear within a shadow in a range of one mile. However this happens only when frightened, and can’t be activated deliberately.
- The goblin has a big, swollen skull, looks a bit stupid and can’t talk. Unbeknown to any the goblin is able to plant ideas and beliefs in other goblin minds (three times a day, save to resist).
- Smells like freshly baked bread instead of reeking like a normal goblin. Tastes like freshly baked bread too. Until the day this goblin is eaten they will benefit from advantage in reaction rolls.
- This comically hairy goblin with a roguish smile is, in fact, a were-worg.
- Very sexy. For Anything. Of any gender and sexual preference. Gan get laid with not much effort. Probably due to goblin pheromones or something.
- Three eyes. Can see radioactivity, magic, and other normally invisible emissions and auras, and also particularly elusive phenomena like the flight of invisible herons, and other people’s problems. For some reason other goblins find this mutation particularly funny.
- Freakingly long and slender hands. Imagine a human child with a 5 feet long hand.
- No head. A mouth is where the neck should be. Has 10 little eyes on fingertips.
- Metal bones. Double HPs, +6 AC, fists like hammers, sinks like a stone, if held up by a rope points north.
- Can breath in a lot, distend, and become a goblin balloon. If warmed up with a fire or by sunlight will rise to the sky. Often chased downhill for sport.
- Silicon compatible body chemistry. Can survive on water, rocks and soil. Resistant to electricity, additional damage from fire. Shiny as hell.
- Self-fecundating. Had 5d30 identical but sterile daughters, in addition to 2d30 offsprings due to more traditional mating practices, if you are willing to entertain the idea of “goblin traditional mating practices”. Ugh.
- Really, really, really loud voice. Can be heard from far, far away. Can’t speak at less than “full blast” volume tho, and also does not understand the concept of inside voice. Only coping strategy: breaking into song.
- This goblin does not need a potty, but oozes an oily substance (about a pint a day if properly fed), that can be collected and used for lubricant, burning oil, and even food. If one can get over the complex bouquet of lemon flower, camphor, goblin armpit, and waste engine oil.
- This goblin is, in fact, a changeling left there by a very, very intoxicated faerie queen on a three-years-long bender. Nobody ever realized this.
Unexpected Goblin Location
- a butcher, with odd cuts of strange meat hanging from hooks, and entrails from any and all D&D monsters scattered all around.
- a salon, with plush, really dirty furniture and cheap hooch aplenty
- a device room, containing an engine or a pump or a printing press or something similar, in overlapping states of disrepair but still operated by the goblin crew.
- A goblin creche, with 6d20 extra goblins.
- The “Graffiti & Chill room”, where goblins hang out to watch graffiti and then… chill.
- the Goblin Great Poo Room.
- the goblin mechanical workshop, where nothing works reliably. Yes, even things that elsewhere work fine, magic wobbles into catastrophe, and even artefacts and holy relics can literally fall apart.
- a pottery workshop and kiln, where goblins make really wonky pottery, glaze it with the most eager colours and patterns a kindergarden could collectively imagine, and fill them with whatever they find.
Utterly Inexplicable Goblin Situation
- Goblins petting white rabbits, nervously stopping and putting the rabbits down as soon as the PCs notice them. If inquired, they will vigorously deny petting rabbits.
- goblins strutting on giant wargeese (stats as ogres)
- goblins wearing shiny armours and being honourable knights and failing in the most goblin way.
- A lonely goblin mounting guard, accompanied by their bear plushie Patchington roleplaying to be World Emperor
- Goblins are playing football. Er, footgoblin: the ball is a live, shrieking tiny goblin, tied and bound in a lumpy, angry, bitey ball.
- goblins are carrying a mutant goblin on a palanquin and nobody knows where they are going.
- goblin diplomats, throwing a barrage of carefully weaponized insults to a delegation of another faction. (See the Monster Train later)
- Goblins are tunnelling and expanding the dungeon or doing construction work in ways so risky the mind boggles
- The Great Goblin Medical Experiment, attempt 472
- the Goblin Game, where all participants slap each other and swap possessions following incredibly complex rules (can’t counter a double slap on saturday while stealing a broken tool, unless straddling rules are in effect). Obviously it’s completely and utterly inappropriate for the PCs to not join in.
Insane Secret Goblin Warfare Techniques
- Goblin Pot Airmail: trebuchet shooting goblins in clay pots. The pots smash at landing dealing 1d6 damage, but goblins always survive landing unscathed.
- Goblin Monster Train: a goblin diplomat chased by a random mob of hostiles it harassed, trying to run toward the enemy to unleash the mob on them
- Operation FIREWOLF: goblins riding wolves, close in melee with the enemy, as they are about to die immolate with firebombs.
- Slime Squad: goblins with buckets of oozes and slimes go close to the enemy, throw them the buckets and run away.
- GIANT GOBLIN ROBOT: treat as a mountain giant, but every round of operation there’s a 10% chance of shutting down for 1d2 rounds, and a 20% chance of catching fire.
- Goblin Morale: this group is positively the most cowardly goblin group ever, and will always fail morale rolls, and has learnt to embrace their propensity for self-preservation into their tactics. They start pelting the opposition with arrows and stones until melee starts, when they will route and flee. They will rally a few minutes later, return shooting at the enemy, again and again and again, in an neverending cycle.