Saturday, 1 May 2021

Balazar Getts

“Beware the fury of a patient man.”
― John Dryden

Balazar Getts
Balazar enlisted in the infantry, just like his father Ezekiel, and father's father, Aelfric, etc. He expected to remain there. He did not. The infantry was less about finding glory than marching hither and thither, and standing footsore for hours on end, guarding gates and doors and passages that nary a soul ever showed the least interest in. It was different in da's and grandda's times, when the Lortmils were tamed, and the Hateful Wars waged. Balazar's stint was little more than prolonged drudgery.

Trade caravans were more to his liking. He woke each day in a new town up and down the Low Road, haggling here, rubbernecking there.

Others might think such a life would be dull, plying the same subterranean rivers and lakes, and carting where the waterways did not course, but those who thought that were wrong. There were dangers, to be sure: rapids, nuisance goblins and the like here and there; and on occasion, frightful beasts that lurked in the shadows of the less trafficked routes. But he was blessed with friends along the length of the Road, in each of the Ulek states, in the Gran March, in Bissel and Keoland, even in Celene. He thought he would ply that Road till his dying days.

Until his father's unit was dispatched to help the humans in some border skirmish. They were late returning from patrol, so another unit was dispatched to find them, Aelfric among them. They found Ezekiel and his unit butchered to the last man. Horribly butchered.

... a hideous figurine
They found two curiosities on Ezekiel's body, the last seven pages had been ripped from his diary, those days just before he and his unit departed for the border, and even more curious still, a hideous figurine clutched in Ezekiel's fist.

Aelfric summoned Balazar. And handed him those curiosities. And commanded him to find out what happened, and why Ezekiel and his unit had ventured so far from where they had been posted. "I'm too old for this sort of thing," Aelfric said. "This is a task for the young. This is duty of a son."

He pressed the figurine into Balazar's palm, and closed Balazar's fist around it. "Find out who killed my son, and why." A tear rolled down the old man's cheek, soon lost in his silvered beard. "And then kill the fuckers responsible."

Balazar unfurled his fist, and gazed upon that hideous figurine. Its eyes seemed to glow.

That night Balazar began to have nightmares.

“Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural.”
― William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

They are fun to imagine, fun to write. Aren't they?
Yes they are. They are the stuff that dreams are made of.

My rules?
Relatively short. A few names, a few moments that will define his origins. And how he came to shrug off a normal, meaningful, and likely fulfilling life, to take up a dangerous road, one fraught with peril, and horrors beyond reckoning.
There needs to be a driving force that the DM can use to lure the character into even further danger. Call it a quest, a vengeance, whatever.
Most importantly, there needs to be a mystery, one that can be woven into the campaign, and separates him from sociopathic reavers.

One must always give credit where credit is due. This piece is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable. 

The Art:

The selected art is the sole property of the artists.
All source material presented within this history is owned and copyrighted by WotC.
The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC.
This document is fan content and presented solely for the personal use of those individuals who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1981
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000

Wednesday, 28 April 2021


I remember
The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.

Vista upon vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista--hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.

It was a gloomy land that seemed to hold
All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,
With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,
And the dark woodlands brooding over all,
Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.

It was so long ago and far away
I have forgotten the very name men called me.
The axe and flint-tipped spear are like a dream,
And hunts and wars are like shadows. I recall
Only the stillness of that sombre land;
The clouds that piled forever on the hills,
The dimness of the everlasting woods.
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night. 

Oh, soul of mine, born out of shadowed hills,
To clouds and winds and ghosts that shun the sun,
How many deaths shall serve to break at last
This heritage which wraps me in the grey
Apparel of ghosts?  I search my heart and find
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

By Robert E. Howard, published 1965

Art by Frank Franzetta.

Saturday, 24 April 2021



“The yells and yammering, croaking, gibbering and jabbering, howls and growls and curses, shrieking and shrinking that followed were beyond description. Several hundred wildcats and wolves being roasted slowly alive together would not have compared with it.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again 

How ter fight Goblins? Hah, hah! You take yer blade to the little blighters, that’s wot! Wot else?
—Hronk, the Half-orc [Dragon#275]


Are you bored with goblins?
I can imagine why: They are a psychopathic nuisance bent on self-destructive frontal assaults, as though storming the trenches of the Somme. They obviously have a blatant disregard for the lives of their comrades, their children, and their selves. I can see why they are boring.
But they are not, are they? They are cunning little beasties, all too aware of their relative frailty, when compared with their brethren, the hobgoblins and bugbears. They would be cautious. They would lure you into traps, kill zones and crossfires.
You too should be cautious, should you meet them.
What are they, exactly? Fey? Trolls? Or something a little more Tolkienesque? 

What is a Goblin?
A Goblin (alt. spellings: gobbelin, gobblin, goblyn, gobling, gobelin) is a mischievous, and usually very unpleasant, vengeful, and greedy creature whose primary purpose is to cause trouble to humankind; this is the most common type according to European folklore. There is a smaller population of Goblins, however, that possess a kinder, or more neutral temperament. Regardless of the type, though, all Goblins are rumored to hold various kinds of special abilities, often magical in nature. Some Goblins possess more fairy-like powers, similar to those of a witch or warlock; other types of Goblin have more demonic abilities, only using their magic to do harm.
Many people associate the Goblin with trolls, as they have an undesirable appearance and aren’t the most benevolent creatures. However, unlike trolls who are said to reside under bridges and in forests, the Goblin typically makes a home for itself in the mountains, just waiting for an opportunity (usually deep into the night) to snatch highly valued items such as gold and jewelry.

What Does a Goblin Look Like?
The Stereotypical Goblin
The appearance of a Goblin varies quite dramatically depending on its country of origin, although most types of Goblin are known for having quite unruly hair and green-colored skin. What many people don’t know is that there are actually 10 different types of Goblin; these types are often referred to as “sub-races” and each sub-race will typically have a distinct appearance and set of abilities. When most people think of a Goblin, what they’re imagining is usually the type known as a Trow or a Kobold
. Trows have the ability to morph into human-like form; however, they are usually small in stature with an “ugly” appearance. Kobolds are more the stereotypical Goblin, with an appearance similar to the house-elf known as “Dobby” in the Harry Potter series.
Some of the more malevolent types tend to be known as hobgoblins. Hobgoblins are known for their dark, shaggy hair and are most closely related to the mythical creatures known as brownies; they don’t mean to cause harm and are widely known for their practical jokes. Hobgoblins also tend to have better relationships with humans. The “Knocker” is quite similar to the hobgoblin in both temperament and appearance; it makes its home in a mine and often befriends human mine workers so long as they stay on its good side. The Phooka is also similar to the hobgoblin in attitude, yet takes the form of a dark black horse. Another black, yet very small, sub-race of goblin is the Bogey; the Bogey is extremely difficult to kill due to its size.
The friendliest Goblin is known as the Hogboon; some say that it doesn’t even look (or act) like a Goblin at all! The Tengu is another sub-race which sometimes mimics the appearance of a dog-like Chinese demon, but more often takes the form of a bird. Tengus are respected by Buddhists as guardian spirits despite their demonic nature. The Kallikantzaro derives from Greek mythology and possesses a very long and lean appearance. Lastly, we have the Kol’ksu: a type of Goblin different from most others as it resides in the sea and resembles a mermaid. Unlike a mermaid, however, Kol’ksus are very dangerous and unkind.

The Origin of Goblins
Goblins originated in the 14th century and are most prevalent in northwestern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and the United States. The name “Goblin” is said to derive from the Old French spelling “gobelin”. However, it is also rumored to have German, Greek, and Latin roots with an overall negative connotation (“gobelinus” was the name of a devil or demon haunting the country of Normandy). Goblins were first popularized in tales from the Middle Ages.

Related Creatures
Many mythical creatures resemble the appearance and nature of a Goblin. Just some of these creatures are elves, fairies, gremlins, ogres, trolls, and gnomes. Gnomes are similar to Goblins in a variety of ways, most noticeably in their appearance: small and stout, with pointy ears, and often a long matted beard. Many people know gnomes as the little ceramic statues that sit quietly in their garden – that is, until they mysteriously disappear. Gnomes, like Goblins, are known to be fond of playing tricks, and actually are rumored to reside in dwellings underground, similar to many types of Goblins.
Fairies are similar to Goblins, primarily with respect to their magical and mythical nature; fairies have special abilities, as do Goblins. Many people know Gremlins as the naughty, mischievous little creatures from the classic 1980s film written by Chris Columbus. Gremlins have a tendency to cause harm just for fun, specifically through dismantling machinery. Goblins are similar to Gremlins in that they’re also known for destroying things due to the pure fun of it. Elves, like Goblins, are often practical jokers and possess a similar appearance, most notably on account of their pointy ears. Ogres and trolls have many similarities to one another, but also have many of the same attributes as a Goblin: all are hideous, unkind, and like to cause trouble.

Mythology tells us that the terms goblin and kobold were largely interchangeable. So were a lot of other key and mythic “monsters,” for that matter. That would explain the reference to their possible kinship in the 1e Monster Manual.
It is possible that goblins are distantly related to kobolds. [MM1e]

Goblin 1e
Both are evil, although kobolds are a little brighter.
Intelligence: Average (low)
ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil

Goblins do not live as long as kobolds, however. Kobolds have the potential to live about 150 years. Goblins, on the other hand…not so much.
Goblins reach the age of 50 years or so. [MM1e]

But goblins are a little tougher than kobolds; and they are far more prevalent. Sometimes they are even hiding underfoot…literally!
Goblins breed quickly and can live most anywhere, from caves to ruins to a city’s sewers. [MM4e]
They use no form of sanitation, and their lairs have a foul stench. Goblins seem to be somewhat resistant to the diseases that breed in such filth. [MM2e]
Both are creatures of the underdark, though.
[Goblins] enjoy dwelling in dismal surroundings, although they tend to inhabit coves and similar underground places in preference to any habitation above ground. They too hate full daylight and attack at a -1 when in sunlight. Goblins have normal infravision (60' range). [MM1e]
Kobolds are more particular, even if they too prefer it dark.
Kobolds are usually found in dank, dark places such as dismal overgrown forests or subterranean settings. [MM1e]
Mind you, kobolds have large broods, too. They lay large clutches of eggs: 30-300 eggs. [MM1e]
Goblins do not lay eggs, so far as we know. None have ever been found in their lairs, anyway. 

The kinship was short-lived, even if it was only mere conjecture. Since then, kobolds have become increasingly draconic, and the goblins…goblinoid.
Goblin 2e
Goblins have flat faces, broad noses, pointed ears, and small, sharp fangs. Their foreheads slope back, and their eyes are usually dull and glazed. They always walk upright, but their arms hang down almost to their knees. Their skin colors range from yellow through any shade of orange to a deep red. Usually a single tribe has members all of about the same color skin. […]
Their eyes are reddish to lemon yellow. They dress in dark leather gear, and their garments tend towards dull, soiled-looking colors (brown drab, dirty gray, stained maroon). [MM1e]
Its eyes have the same color variance; its hair is always dark. Big, pointed ears stick out from the sides of the head, and prominent sharp teeth sometimes jut from the mouth. Males have coarse body hair and might grow facial hair. [MM4e]

So, what exactly is a goblin?
Goblinoids. Goblins belong to a family of creatures called goblinoids. Their larger cousins, hobgoblins and bugbears, like to bully goblins into submission. Goblins are lazy and undisciplined, making them poor servants, laborers, and guards. [MM5e]
IN COMMON PARLANCE, “GOBLIN” refers to a specific sort of small, ill-tempered humanoid, but the word also refers to related beings of various sizes, such as bugbears and hobgoblins. [MM4e]
Hobgoblins are more civilized, if we can say such a thing. They are martial, that’s for certain. Bugbears are more feral. Goblins, as we know them, occupy the space between.
GOBLINS ARE WICKED, TREACHEROUS CREATURES that love plunder and cruelty. They’re not very big or strong, but they’re dangerous when they gang up. [MM4e]

Goblin 3e
Goblins are small, black-hearted, selfish humanoids that lair in caves, abandoned mines, despoiled dungeons, and other dismal settings. Individually weak, goblins gather in large—sometimes overwhelming—numbers. They crave power and regularly abuse whatever authority they obtain.
Goblins are small humanoids that may consider little more than a nuisance. However, if they are unchecked, their great numbers, rapid reproduction, and evil dispositions enable them to overrun and despoil civilized areas. [MM3e]
These small, evil humanoids would be merely pests, if not for their great numbers. [MM2e] 

Except for that first mention in the AD&D Monster Manual, any possible kinship between kobolds and goblins has ever been raised again. But they are similar, in many regards. They are both small, both weak by comparison to other monsters; and undeniably evil. And both are tribal.
Goblins have a tribal society, the strongest ruling the rest, allowing fealty to the goblin king. [MM1e]
Goblins form tribes, each ruled by a chieftain. The chieftain is usually the strongest member of the tribe, though some chieftains rely on guile more than martial strength. [MM4e]
A goblin boss might command a single lair, while a goblin king or queen (who is nothing more than a glorified goblin boss) rules hundreds of goblins, spread out among multiple lairs to ensure the tribe's survival. Goblin bosses are easily ousted, and many goblin tribes are taken over by hobgoblin warlords or bugbear chiefs. [MM5e]
They are quick to rally when they have a tough leader to bully them into order, but they don’t follow blindly. When serious danger arises, goblins prefer to slink away through one of the warren’s numerous exits and plan a counterattack. [Into the Unknown 4e]

A goblin tribe has an exact pecking order; each member knows who is above him and who is below him. They fight amongst themselves constantly to move up this social ladder. [MM2e]
Top to bottom, the rungs of the ladder are as such:
Goblin 4e
The closest thing a goblin tribe has to nobility is the caste of lashers-families of goblins trained in the ways of battle, and also possessed of key skills such as strategy, trap-building, beast taming, mining, smelting, forging, and religion. [Volo5e]
Lashers can be Blackblades, and Hexers. [MM4e] (Pure supposition.)
Hunters. The families of goblins that are skilled in the use of weapons but not privy to any other special knowledge have the second highest status in the tribe. Hunters are often the best wolf riders and know the most about the territory farthest from the tribe's lair. [Volo5e]
Hunters can be Cutters, Warriors, Sharpshooters, and Skullcleavers. [MM4e] (Pure supposition.)
Gatherers. Families in the second lowest caste are responsible for getting food from the surrounding area, taking what's naturally available or stealing whatever they can. [Volo5e]
Pariahs. Some goblin families are the lowest of the low, composed of the most dimwitted, least educated, and weakest goblins. They get the worst jobs: mucking out animal pens, cleaning up after other goblins, and doing any hard labor such as digging mines. If the goblin tribe has slaves to do some of this work, the pariah families enjoy the opportunity to supervise and dominate such creatures, which have no status at all. [Volo5e] 

Goblin 5e
One would think that goblins and kobolds would be on friendly terms, but they are not. They hate one another, and war endlessly, each eager to not be the lowest of the low. Of course, the kobolds already know that they are not; the blood of dragons course through their veins, after all. Goblins know better; they know the kobolds are just toadies, and would have been driven to extinction long ago, if it were not for their overseers.
Perhaps kobolds are so cruel because they are easy prey for larger humanoids and hungry monsters. They have many enemies, and even the dwarves have had to admit that the numerous kobold-goblin wars have kept the number of goblins down to a safe level. [MM2e]
[Kobolds] can usually (75%) speak goblin and orcish. [MM1e] 

Does anyone like goblins? No. But other evil races find them useful, on occasion.
If you want soldiers or thugs, hire hobgoblins. If you want someone clubbed to death in their sleep, hire bugbears. If you want mean little fools, hire goblins.
—Stalmin Klim, Slave Lord [MM5e] 

Hobgoblins feel superior to goblins or orcs and may act as leaders for them. In such cases, the “lesser races” are used as battle fodder. [MM2e]
[Hobgoblins] will bully nearby orcs or goblins given the opportunity, and hobgoblin leaders are sometimes used in bodies of goblins or orcish troops to keep them in order and drive them into battle. [MM1e]
Being bullied by bigger, stronger creatures has taught goblins to exploit what few advantages they have:  sheer numbers and malicious ingenuity. The concept of a fair fight is meaningless in their society. They favor ambushes, overwhelming odds, dirty tricks, and any other advantage they can devise.
Goblins have a poor grasp of strategy, and are cowardly by nature, tending to flee the field if a battle turns against them. With proper supervision, though, they can implement reasonably complex plans, and in such circumstances their numbers can be a deadly advantage. [MM3e]
Cunning in battle and cruel in victory, goblins are fawning and servile in defeat, just as in their own society lower castes must scrape before those of greater status and as goblin tribes bow before other goblinoids. [Volo5e]

This subjection is why goblins speak what languages they do.
The languages spoken by goblins are: their own, lawful evil, kobold, orcish, and hobgoblin. [MM1e]
I would guess that hobgoblin and goblin would be virtually identical.
Goblin speech is harsh, and pitched higher than that of humans. In addition to their own language, some goblins can speak in the kobold, orc, and hobgoblin tongues. [MM2e]

And that subjection is why other humanoids speak goblin.
Most hobgoblins speak goblin, orcish, and the rudimentary tongue of carnivorous apes in addition to their racial and alignment languages. [MM1e]
The majority of orcs speak goblin, hobgoblin, and ogre in addition to the languages of orcs and lawful evil. [MM1e]
If goblins are near, for example, and the orcs are strong enough, they will happily bully them. [MM1e]
It is with these two that goblins are most commonly found under the heel of.

Of course, where there are goblins, there will likely be bugbears, too.
Bugbear 4e
Bugbears are giant, hairy cousins of goblins who frequent the same areas as their smaller relatives.
Bugbears live in loose bands, and are typically found in the same areas as are goblins. [MM1e]
There is a 20% chance that 2-12 bugbears will be in a goblin lair. [MM1e]
This is not to say that this arrangement is always in the goblins’ favour.
They are sometimes found commanding goblins and hobgoblins, whom they bully mercilessly. [MM3e]
The species survives primarily by hunting. They have no compunction about eating anything they can kill, including humans, goblins, and any monsters smaller than themselves. They are also fond of wine and strong ale, often drinking to excess. [MM2e]
Goblins are always on their toes when bugbears are present, for the weak or stupid quickly end up in the stewpot. [MM2e]

One would think that with such treatment, they’d keep their distance from all other humanoids. But it’s a dangerous world, so they make do, and make deals on occasion.
The ogre has grown wealthy by serving as a mercenary — generally on the side of the goblins (and their occasional allies, the hobgoblins), although he has been bought off by the orcs and gnolls from time to time. He will rush to aid the goblins when they toss him the sack of coins [….] [B2]

Ettins collect treasure only because it can buy them the services of goblins or orcs. [MM2e]
Ettins do not have a true language of their own. Instead, they speak a mish-mash of orc, goblin, giant dialects, and the alignment tongue of chaotic evil creatures. [MM2e] 

[Gnolls] dislike goblins, kobolds, giants, humans, demihumans and any type of manual labor. [MM2e] 

In fact, most races hate them. And because all races hate them, they hate all other races, in kind. And treat them hellishly when given the opportunity; to pay them back for millennia of grievances.
An Uneasy Place in a Dangerous World...
Goblins occupy an uneasy place in a dangerous world, and they react by lashing out at any creatures they believe they can bully.
Goblins know they are a weak, unsophisticated race that can be easily dominated by bigger, smarter, more organized, more ferocious, or more magical creatures. Their god was conquered by Maglubiyet, after all, and now when the Mighty One calls for it, even their souls are forfeit. It is this realization that drives them to dominate other creatures whenever they can—for goblins, life is short. [Volo5e]
All goblins are slave takers and fond of torture. [MM1e]
They often take slaves for both food and labor. The tribe will have slaves of several races numbering 10-40% of the size of the tribe. Slaves are always kept shackled, and are staked to a common chain when sleeping.
Enslaved creatures receive the worst treatment the goblins can dish out while still getting decent performance out of the slaves. But humanoids and monsters that are especially capable or that provide unusual services find themselves treated like favored (though occasionally abused) pets. [Volo5e]
It’s no wonder most races hate goblins.
And why goblins are rarely, if ever, welcome in any community.

Most goblins live in the wild places of the world, often underground, but they stay close enough to other humanoid settlements to prey on trade caravans and unwary travelers. [MM4e]
Humans would consider the caves and underground dwellings of goblins to be dank and dismal. Those few tribes that live above ground are found in ruins, and are only active at night or on very dark, cloudy days. [MM2e]
Such places might have presented a certain security, and opportunity, so they crept there; it is more likely that they evolved there, and that they only ventured out on the surface at all because competition was fiercer below the surface, and the prey weaker above it.
Goblins are found in any climate, at any altitude, in any environment, and at any distance from the settlements of other races. Their ability to adapt and thrive is second only to that of humans, and goblin wanderlust—combined with their speedy life cycle—encourages rapid expansion into new realms. They are tenacious, finding a way to sneak into any place they can exploit, from dungeon caves to sewers beneath the streets of a human city. [MM4e]
They survive by raiding and robbery, taking every usable item they can carry from their victims. [MM4e]
Most of their goods are stolen, although they do manufacture their own garments and leather goods. [MM2e]

Cozy Quarters
Regardless of where goblins dwell, they prefer cozy underground quarters. Only the smartest are any good at creating new homes, so most goblin tribes are more like squatters, taking advantage of an empty lair or even bullying out an original resident. The goblins quickly turn their usurped warren into a cluttered, stinking, crowded mess, filled to the brim with stolen trinkets from the surrounding countryside.
[Into the Unknown 4e]
The concept of privacy is largely foreign to goblins. [MM2e]
They live a communal life, sharing large common areas for eating and sleeping. Only leaders have separate living spaces. All their possessions are carried with them. Property of the tribe is kept with the chief and sub-chiefs. [MM2e]
Some rooms might have a single purpose—such as larders, armories, or meeting places—but to an outsider a goblin warren is an undifferentiated mass of junk and chattering, filthy bodies.
Signs that a goblin settlement is nearby are obvious. Trails of litter or graffiti surround the warren, and goblins’ typically poor treatment of their environment makes their territory easy to identify. However, finding the entrance to the warren is another matter. Goblins post guards at all times, and they use small entrances that bigger creatures have trouble squeezing through. [Into the Unknown 4e] 

The Goblin Lair
Why goblins choose to live in filth, is a wonder. So too why they are so wasteful.
They do not need to eat much, but will kill just for the pleasure of it. They eat any creature from rats and snakes to humans. In lean times they will eat carrion. Goblins usually spoil their habitat, driving game from it and depleting the area of all resources. [MM2e]
Once a tribe has despoiled a locale, it simply packs up and moves on to the next convenient area. [MM3e]
I expect this is because goblins had been pushed out of the best of any possible habitats. Food was scarce, even hand to mouth. Resources would have been scarcer still. Especially if they were forced to move often as stronger species preyed upon them. And as such they created nothing themselves, stealing what came available. They would never have learned to fabricate what they needed, beyond the simplest of basic needs and stone tools. It would have come as quite a boon when they discovered that humans had what they needed, aplenty, even if they had no clue how to care for these things, or maintain them. Thus, their weapons would never be the best, or in the best repair.
Goblins are as prolific as humankind, but as a people, they’re less creative and more prone to warlike behavior. [MM4e]
Goblins are typically armed with:
short sword and military pick      10%
short sword and sling                  10%
short sword and spear                 10%
sling                                           10%
morning star                               20%
military pick                               10%
spear                                          30%

Used, abused, bullied, hated; it comes as no surprise that they keep the entrance to their lairs hidden, and access difficult to those species that would enslave, or worse, exterminate, them.
Goblins post guards at all times, and they use small entrances that bigger creatures have trouble squeezing through. [Into the Unknown 4e]
But, where kobolds excel at excavating, goblins are less adept (less so than hobgoblins, for some reason), although they are just as capable as kobolds when it comes to protecting their lairs.
Goblins are fair miners, and they are able to note new or unusual construction 25% of the time. [MM1e]
They are decent miners, able to note new or unusual construction in an underground area 25% of the time, and any habitat will soon be expanded by a maze-like network of tunnels. [MM2e] 

The bigger folk do get in, though, despite these precautions. It’s for this very reason that they set traps.
Humanoids have been building traps since the earliest times, developing techniques to take down big game for food and clothing. According to loremasters, goblin tribes were the first to perfect this kind of hunting. They were able to obtain and store more food than their competition, allowing them to survive harsh winters and increase their numbers. Many years later, other races came to appreciate the ingenuity of their counterparts—mainly through direct interaction with goblin traps. [Into the Unknown (4e) – 18]

The Ambush
It goes without saying that they use their size to their advantage.
Where goblins do excel, and what enables them to hold their own in a hostile world, is teamwork. Individually weak, the goblin war band can be effective and deadly when its members work together. They also are very good at using their home terrain to their advantage, where darkness and cramped quarters prevent larger and stronger foes from using their size and weaponry to best advantage. Goblins often employ traps to even the odds. [Reverse Dungeon]
Goblins festoon their lairs with alarms designed to signal the arrival of intruders. Those lairs are a so riddled with narrow tunnels and bolt-holes that human-sized creatures can't navigate, but which goblins can crawl through with ease, allowing them to flee or to circle around and surprise their enemies. [MM5e]
A goblin lair is stinking and soiled, though easily defensible and often riddled with simple traps designed to snare or kill intruders. [MM4e]

What sort of traps do they employ?
Pit Trap Setting sharpened stakes in the bottom increases the damage […] per stake […], but it would take a great many stakes to cover the floor of even a smallish pit and be difficult to set them upright in the stone (the best solution is to wedge the stakes in a wooden framework and lower it into the bottom of the pit). Having someone hide in the bottom of a pit to spring out and bash the momentarily stunned person who falls in is a sound plan. [Reverse Dungeon]
Snare Trap These are simple to make and would be valuable in throwing an NPC off balance and possibly out of the fight for a few [seconds]. [Reverse Dungeon]
Poison is a great equalizer, and smearing some on the tips of their stone spears will no doubt occur to some enterprising would-be elite goblin. [Reverse Dungeon]
Oil Trap Few sights warm a goblin’s heart like seeing someone who’s trying to kill him run screaming down a tunnel blazing like a candle. [Reverse Dungeon]
Light Douser Perhaps the most effective traps the goblins can devise are those that snuff out whatever light source(s) the intruders are using. […] Not only does it give them a “home team” advantage given their familiarity with the lair, but it eliminates any penalty from fighting in bright lights, imposing a penalty on their enemies instead. [Reverse Dungeon]
Fish Sauce [Goblins] accidentally produced a noxious gunk composed of rotting fish juices that stinks to high heaven even by goblin standards. This “fish sauce” smells so bad that any human or demihuman drenched in it [is sickened] rendered helpless […], choking and retching through sheer nausea. [Reverse Dungeon]

Goblins also raise wolves and worgs for the same reason they set traps.
A goblin lair will be protected by from 5-30 huge wolves not less than 60% of the time. [MM1e]

Worgs 3e
Wolf, Dire: This variety of wolf is simply a huge speciman typical of the Pleistocene Epoch. They conform to the characteristics of normal wolves. (Worg.): Evil natured, neo-dire wolves are known as worgs. These creatures have a language and are often found in co-operation with goblins in order to gain prey or to simply enjoy killing. They are as large as ponies and can be ridden. They otherwise conform to the characteristics of wolves. [MM1e]

Worgs are dire wolf offshoots that have attained some intelligence and an evil disposition. They sometimes associate with other evil beings, particularly goblins, whom they serve as mounts and guardians. [MM3e] 

Goblins have an affinity for rats and wolves, raising them to serve as companions and mounts, respectively. Like rats, goblins shun sunlight and sleep underground during the day. Like wolves, they are pack hunters, made bolder by their numbers. When they hunt from the backs of wolves, goblins use hit-and-run attacks. [MM5e] 

Goblins are also known for keeping the company of a variety of beasts with which they have a natural affinity. Bigger creatures, such as wolves or carrion crawlers, join goblin raiding parties. Rats, bats, and snakes serve as spies or distractions. Regardless of the beast’s use, it’s treated like a beloved pet, not just a tool. Goblins bond with their creatures, and if one dies, its master is distraught. A goblin might care more about the well-being of its pet than it does about that of other goblins. [Into the Unknown – 36] 

Aside from rats and bats, and wolves and worgs, goblins have few allies. None, actually. Not even their “kin.” The lowest of the goblinoids, they are wary of them, because they know that unless they meet them with overwhelming superiority of numbers, they will invariably fall under their suzerainty.
Orcs? Orcs have only enslaved them. And killed them. They’ve even bred with them, but orcs will breed with anything, won’t they?
As orcs will breed with anything, there are any number of unsavory mongrels with orcish blood, particularly orc-goblins, orc-hobgoblins, and orc-human. [MM1e]
Gnolls are little better. It is for this reason they hate them, too.
They always have a number of captives for food or slave labor (1 per 10 gnolls is minimum). [MM1e] 

But they have a special revulsion for those bearded, burrowing nuisances: Dwarves and gnomes.
Goblins hate most other humanoids, gnomes and dwarves in particular, and work to exterminate them whenever possible. [MM2e]
They hate gnomes and dwarves and will attack them in preference to any other creature.  [MM1e] 

Goblins regard humans and demi-humans as their worst enemies — dwarves and gnomes particularly so, because they tend to inhabit the same regions as goblins do — and are sometimes angered that the other humanoid races, who might better be aiding or abetting the goblins’ cause by battling humans and demi-humans, are instead so occupied with inter-tribal squabbling and power struggles. [Dragon#63] 

For as long as the two ancient races have existed, dwarves and goblins have fought. They share an affinity for underground living, but dwarves live for honor and craft, while goblins and their kin practice brutality and spread strife. Through the many wars that the two races have waged against one another, their stone citadels and underground strongholds have given the stout and honorable dwarves a tremendous advantage. Although the goblinoids easily outnumber the dwarves, their swarming hordes cannot overcome strong stone walls and carefully trapped corridors. [Races of Stone 3e] 

That vehemence is reciprocated.
Due to their great hatred of goblins, orcs, and hobgoblins, all dwarves gain a bonus of + 1 on their dice rolls to hit these opponents. [MM1e]
Due to their great hatred of koboIds and goblins, all gnomes gain a bonus of + 1 on their dice rolls to hit these opponents. [MM1e]

So long have the demihumans fought, that they can speak with one another, of a sort. One must interrogate one’s enemies, and it behooves one to speak of at least martial matters with these beasts.
Dwarves speak their own tongue and those of gnomes, goblins, kobolds, and orcs. [MM1e]
Besides their alignment and racial tongues, gnomes speak kobold, goblin, halflingish, dwarvish, and can speak with burrowing mammals as well. [MM1e]
Elves are able to speak the tongue of goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls, in addition to common, alignment, elvish, halflingish, and gnomish. [MM1e]
Halflings speak their own language, their alignment tongue, and the common speech. In addition they speak the language of gnomes, goblins, and orcs. [MM1e]

That’s a lot of hate. You’d think it would tire a goblin out. Not so. If anything, they are persistent, tenacious little blighters, never willing to let the lest slight slide.
One must go back to the beginning to understand why. In the beginning, there was Maglubiyet.
Not so, but Maglubiyet made it so.
Goblins once had many gods, but the only one who survived Maglubiyet's ascendancy is cruel Khurgorbaeyag, known as the Overseer. [Volo5e]
That ascendancy was mentioned before, as was the demise of the kobold’s pantheon. Who it this Maglubiyet, anyway?
Maglubiyet is truly the Conquering God.
In bygone times the goblinoids were distinct from one another, with separate faiths and different customs. Then Maglubiyet came and conquered all who stood before him, mortals and deities alike. Gods and heroes who wouldn't bend to his will were broken and discarded. He put his foot on the neck of mighty Khurgorbaeyag [goblin], bound the will of intractable Hruggek [bugbear], and forced sadistic Nomog-Geaya [hob-goblin] to fall in line. What the goblins, the bugbears, and the hobgoblins were before their gods bowed to Maglubiyet no longer matters. Now they are, first of all, followers of Maglubiyet. [Volo5e]
Both goblins and hobgoblins worship Maglubiyet [now], the Mighty One, Lord of the Depths and Darkness. Maglubiyet appears as a huge black goblin-type with red flames for eyes, sharp fangs and clawed hands. Maglubiyet is a war god and a great general. [Deities_1e]
It is by his bidding that they hate as they do. And it is for his pleasure that they make war against one and all.
Goblins believe that when they die in battle, their spirits join the ranks of Maglubiyet's army on the plane of Acheron. This is a "privilege" that most goblins dread, fearing the Mighty One's eternal tyranny even more than death. [MM5e]
Maglubiyet will have none of that. The goblins are his, after all; and he demands obedience. And everlasting servitude.
He stiffens the spines of cowardly goblins. He rouses bugbears from their lazy slumber. He sets the thunderous step of hobgoblin legions. Maglubiyet takes three races and turns them into one people. [Volo5e]
Needless to say, Maglubiyet is less loved than feared.

Other deities hate him. And Maglubiyet hates them, too. But he holds a special hatred for Grummsh.
He commands mighty armies of goblin spirits in Hell, where they eternally war against Gruumsh's orcish spirit army. (Goblin and hobgoblin shamans claim that Maglubiyet always wins these battles, but there is no permanent death in Hell, so the destroyed orcish spirits always re-form.) [Deities_1e]
Of course, orcs tell the same tale, just differently.
The orcs say that Gruumsh commands a mighty army of spirit-orcs in Hell, and these war continuously with a similar army of spirit-goblins controlled by Maglubiyet. The orcs always defeat the goblins, but the goblin spirits always re-form to start the battle again. [Deities_1e] 

Goblins and hobgoblins both have other evil deities as well, but Maglubiyet rules them all with an iron hand. The Mighty One requires sacrifices of creatures with souls, and these ceremonies usually take place on nights of a new moon. It is possible for goblin and hobgoblin shamans to rise as high as 7th level clerics. [Deities_1e]

One must ask the question: Why do we need kobolds and goblins? They are both small, evil, vicious, low-HD monsters. Because kobolds are high-level, low-HD monsters, and goblins are low-level, low-HD monsters. How can I say that? Both are most certainly enslaved by other low-level monsters, but kobolds seek out and congregate under the protection of dragons and yuan-ti and nagas, whereas goblins would prefer to keep to themselves. Except when they are raiding and pillaging and making war, that is.
Goblins live in fairly close proximity with humans, for the most part, so, it’s most likely that humans who will be preyed upon. This is not to say that they will not prey upon dwarves and gnomes and elves; it’s just that those three are tougher nuts to crack. As are hobgoblins and orcs and gnolls.

Venturing Out
So, why goblins?
Because goblins will most certainly be one the first of the evil races the PCs will encounter. And all too soon orcs and ogres, hobgoblins and bugbears, and ogres and trolls, too. If they are pass these tests. It’s unlikely that burgeoning adventurers are going to venture out against dragons any time soon, so it’s unlikely that they are going to stumble upon kobolds. But they well surely encounter goblins, in the hills, in caverns and in caves; and along the trail, where they’ve upturned a peddler’s cart and turned it into a fortress from which they are extorting a toll from all passersby.  They are about as strong as humans, about as smart as humans, and likely far more numerous than humans; and when they venture out into the all-too bright world, it is because they want their food, their carts, their weapons, and yes, their children—for food.

May be innocent, may be sweet... ain't half as nice as rotting meat.
Legend, written by William Hjortsberg, 1985



One must always give credit where credit is due. This piece is made possible primarily by the imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable. 

The Art:
Goblin, by D.A. Trampier, from Monster Manual, 1e, 1977
Goblin, from Monsterous Manual, 2e, pg. 163, 1993
Goblin, by Anthony Waters (?), from Monster Manual, 3e, pg. 108, 2000
Goblins, by Steve Prescott, from Monster Manual, 4e, 2008
Goblin, from Monster Manual, 5e, pg. 166, 2014
Bugbears, from Monster Manual, 4e, pg. 135, 2008
Goblin and Hook Horror, from Into the Unknown, pg. 35, 2012
The Goblin Lair, by Dennis Cramer, from Reverse Dungeon, 2000
Goblin, from Into the Unknown, pg. 38, 2012
Worgs, by Richard Sardinha, from Monster Manual, 3e, 2000
Maglubiyet, by Jeff Dee, from Deities and Demigods, 1e, 1980
Gruumsh, by Jeff Dee, from Deities and Demigods, 1e, 1980

The selected art is the sole property of the artist.
All source material presented within this post is owned and copyrighted by WotC and Paizo.
The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC and Paizo.
This document is fan content and presented solely for the personal use of those individuals who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2009 Monster Manual, 1e, 1978, 1979
2013 Deities and Demigods 1e, 1980
2102 Monsterous Compenduium, Volume 1, 2e, 1989
2140 Monsterous Manual, 2e, 1993
11392 Reverse Dungeon, 2000
11552 Monster Manual, 3e, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Deities and Demigods 3e, 2002
Monster Manual, 4e, 2008
Into the Unknown, 4e, 2012
Monster Manual, 5e, 2014
Volo’s Guide to Monsters, 2016
Dragon Magazine 275, 342

Friday, 16 April 2021

The Rovers of the Barrens Primer

“human prosperity never abides long in the same place”
― Herodotus, The Histories 

“The Holy Land is everywhere”
― Black Elk

The Plains of Plenty
The Barrens are an old land, and the Rovers have roamed their plains and hills for as long as anyone can remember.
When did they arrive? Shortly after the Flan had left their suppression in the west. When exactly? None can say. The Rovers claim that they have always dwelt there, from the time when the First World was destroyed by fire, since the people crawled through a long, dark cave into daylight, and were met by a great herd led by a white horse, and that the People and the Horse walked as one until they came upon a plain of plenty, where the herd might graze and the people might hunt and never know hunger and where they would be forever free, until the Second World was destroyed by ice.

In truth, the Rovers are Flan who escaped Suel suppression; and while some settled and became the Tenha and the Coltens, the Rovers continued to roam the Barrens, migrating with herds of the great herds of bison and elk north of the Nyr Dyv, from as far east as White Fang Bay to the shores of Quag Lake. The Rovers kept to their old ways and rejected writing, farming, and town-building. For this reason, they were called barbarians.
Theirs is a barren and harsh land, windswept and without shelter, and blanketed in such bitter cold snows in the winter, that the Aerdy came, they deemed it too worthless to conquer.

The Rovers of the Barrens
The Rovers had always traded with their settled kin, but took to raiding those that came after, taking what was theirs by right of strength. Their horse, and their fleet-footed Wardogs (masters of close-fighting techniques whose weapons are the hatchet and knife, their agility and outrageous bravado are renowned throughout the Flanaess, giving rise to the expression "wild as a Wardog") were the terror of all the “settled.” The only “serious” threat to their claim that the entirety of the lands north of the Great Lake belonged to them were the Uirtag, the dwellers of the Burneal Forest, but those stone-age Flan tribes never left the confines of the pines, and the Rovers hardly never ventured within.
Keraptis came and claimed their lands, first in the east, and then north of the Mountain that Smokes, but he never once travelled their plains, and before long he disappeared. It wasn’t until the Relentless Horde swept into the north that the Rovers’ claim was ever contested. Half their ancestral lands were taken from them; and try as they might, the Nomads would never be uprooted. An uneasy peace ruled the northern steppes, until Iuz rose from whence he came.
Iuz very nearly destroyed the proud peoples of the north. But they survived by abandoning their beloved grasslands for the Fellreev and the Forlorn Forests, where they live with the sylvan elves. A few ride with the kentauros, the centaurs of the Barrens, and a few with the Wolf Nomads, but most cling to existence, hunted by the Fists of Stonehold, and the goblinoid hordes of Iuz.
Until Tang arrived, and reminded them of their proud heritage, that once the settled quaked with fear when they hear the thunder of their hooves. 

An Ancient, Nomadic People
The ancient, nomadic Flan wore simple clothing of animal skins: belts, breechcloths, capes, robes, and footwear (boots and hard-soled slippers). Body painting and tattoos were common methods of personal decoration, and these traditions are still practiced by the Rovers of the Barrens (who prefer yellows and reds).
Doubtless the oldest language still spoken to any considerable extent, Flan is used by the Tenha in a corrupt form, and Rovers of the Barrens have a strange version of it. [LGG]

Inspiration for play in the Barrens may be found in American Western genera films and novels if the DM wishes the Rovers to resemble North American indigenous culture, notably Last of the Mohicans, and A Man Called Horse, as well as Dances with Wolves. In literature, inspiration may be found in the “First North Americans” series by Michael Gear (People of the Wolf, etc), and Eye of Cat by Roager Zalazny.
It the DM wishes the Rovers to resemble Eastern European cultures, such as the Hun, inspiration may be found in Aetius: Attila's Nemesis by Ian Hughes, and “Attila,” a 2001 television series.
Inspiration may also be found in the history of Poland, most specifically concerning the Partisans of the Second World War: “Fire Without Smoke: Memoirs of a Polish Partisan,” by Florian Mayevski, and “Definace,” by Nechama Tec. 

Country Specific Resources:
There are none specific to the Rovers of the Barrens, but most pertinent information can be found in:
The Greyhawk Folio, The Greyhawk setting boxed set, Greyhawk Adventures (concerning Tang), Greyhawk Wars, From the Ashes Boxed Set, Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, Dragon magazine #52,55,57,63,205,253

Adventures in the Country Include:
Ghost Dance
Ghost Dance, 
Dungeon #32, Rovers of the Barrens
A HorrorResurgent, by William Dvorak, Rovers of the Barrens.
The fight for survival against Iuz and his Boneheart.
This dry grassland is dotted by Iuzian fortifications such as Grassfort and Fort Shennek manned by Iuzian forces.
Raiding Iuzian forts and supply trains.
Raiders and slavers from, and border skirmishes with, Iuz, the Bandit Kingdoms, and Stonefist.
Infiltrating the Gibbering Gate to free prisoners from imprisonment. The Gibbering Gate, a prison / insane asylum run by Jumper, one of Iuz’s Greater Boneheart, is found in the Barrens. Information about the Gibbering Gate can be found in WGR5 Iuz the Evil.
Hunting down the mythical White Auroch.
Forest adventures in the Forlorn and Fellreev Forests.
The Forlorn forest found just to the east of the Barren Wastes, is full of hideous monsters and possibly ancient secrets.
To the southeast of the Barrens is the Bluff Hills, home of the Shadow Caverns and a number of ruins of Ur-Flan cities.

Adventures in Nearby areas include:
The Kentauros
S4 White Plume Mountain, Bandit Kingdoms
Return to White Plume Mountain
WG8, Fate of Istus, #1 Bandit Kingdoms, #2 Nyrond, #5 Pale
WGS1 Five Shall Be One, Bandit Kingdoms
WGS2 Howl From the North
WGR5 Iuz the Evil
The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga
Fright at Tristor, Theocracy of the Pale
Forge of Fury, Bone March
A Slight Diversion, OJ#9,  Redspan, Bandit Kingdoms
Out of the Ashes, Dungeon #17, Bandit Kingdoms
The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb, Dungeon #37, Bone March
Ex Keraptis Cum Amore, Dungeon #77, Burning Cliffs
Deep Freeze, Dungeon #83, Theocracy of the Pale
Armistice, Dungeon #84, Griff Mountains
The Sharm’s Dark Song, Dungeon #87
Glacier Seas, Dungeon #87
Beyond the Light of Reason, Dungeon #96, Tenh
Raiders of the Black Ice, Dungeon #115, Blackmoor
Ill Made Graves, Dungeon #133, Jotsplat & the Icy Sea
King of the Rift, Dungeon, #133, Bandit Kingdoms
Into the Wormcrawl Fissure, Dungeon, #134, Bandit Kingdoms
C13 From His Cold, Dead Hands, by Carlos Lising, casl Entertainment, 2019, Jotsplat & the Icy Sea
C14 The Sanguine Labrinth, by Carlos Lising, casl Entertainment, 2019, Burning Cliffs
FB1 While on the Road to Cavrik's Cove, casl Entertainment, 2021, Ratik
Although later retconned into the Yeomanry, B1 Into the Unknown (in the monochrome edition) was originally suggested as located in The Duchy of Tenh. That would make north Tenh an ideal location for B1 Keep on the Borderlands, as well.
Arctic adventures in Blackmoor, the Cold Marshes, the Taival Tundra; (and the outer doors of and ancient dwarven clanhold)
Sea adventures upon the Icy Seas, White Fang Bay, and Big Seal Bay.
Forest adventures in the Burneal Forest, Bears, winter wolves and sable firs.
Mountain adventures (and possibly Underdark adventures) in the Griff mountains (alternate placement of G1-3). Dragons. Remorhaz. Yeti.
Taking the fight to Iuz.
Ruins of the Ur-Flan from the time of Keraptis.
Adventurers travelling into the Northern Wates can visit the mysterious Burning Cliffs and the Rover villages along the coast.

While few ruins exist in the Barrens for dungeon crawls, and there are no cities for urban adventures, the primary source of adventures stems from the conflict between Iuz and the Rovers, and to a lesser extent, raiders from the Hold of Stonefist.

Rovers of the Barrens:

“The canter is a cure for every evil.” ― Benjamin Disraeli

chaotic neutral, neutral; Flan, Baklunish, Oeridian, Common, Suloise.
DRG#52 - 20

His Mighty Lordship, the Ataman of the Standards, Kishwa Dogteeth; Chief of the Wardogs
Population: 65,000?
Demi-humans: Few
Humanoids: Numerous
Resources: furs, gold
WOGA – 33 

Proper Name: Arapahi [translated: People of the Plentiful Huntinglands]
Ruler: His Mighty Lordship, Ataman of the Standards, Durishi Great Hound, Chief of the Wardogs
Capital: None
Major Towns: None, only temporary camps of up to 5,000 people
Provinces: None (the Rovers are properly not a nation but a collection of closely related nomadic tribes who currently hold little defensible land)
Resources: Furs and hides, horn, gold nuggets, horses
Population: 35,000—Human 37% (Fb), Orc 20%, Goblin 18%, Hobgoblin 10%, Halfling 7%, Gnome 5%, Half-orc 3%
Languages: Flan (several dialects), Common, Orc, Goblin, Halfling, Gnome
Alignments: CN, CE, N
Religions: Obad-Hai, Beory, Pelor, other Flan gods, Telchur (from long-ago Oeridian contact)
LGG – 94

One must always give credit where credit is due. This Primer is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.

This primer has been expanded from the original postcard found in Canonfire’s “Touring the Flanaess” index, written by William “Giantstomp” Dvorak, and some passages from that scholarly work reside with this piece.

The Art:
Ghost Dance, by Scott Burdick, Dungeon magazine cover #32, 1991

2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1981
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2023 Greyhawk Adventures, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
Anna B. Meyer’s Greyhawk Map