“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
ter fight Goblins? Hah, hah! You take yer blade to the little blighters, that’s
wot! Wot else?
the Half-orc [Dragon#275]
bored with goblins?
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.
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
should be cautious, should you meet them.
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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]
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:
Lashers. 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.
Lashers can be Blackblades, and Hexers. [MM4e] (Pure
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]
can be Cutters, Warriors, Sharpshooters, and Skullcleavers. [MM4e] (Pure
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
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.
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
Klim, Slave Lord
Hobgoblins feel superior to goblins or orcs and may
act as leaders for them. In such cases, the “lesser races” are used as battle
[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
This subjection is why goblins speak what languages they
The languages spoken by goblins are: their own, lawful
evil, kobold, orcish, and hobgoblin. [MM1e]
I would guess that hobgoblin and goblin would be
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]
with these two that goblins are most commonly found under the heel of.
Of course, where there are goblins, there will likely be
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
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
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.
Goblins occupy an uneasy place in a dangerous world,
and they react by lashing out at any creatures they believe they can bully.
|An Uneasy Place in a Dangerous World...|
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
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)
It’s no wonder most races hate goblins.
And why goblins are rarely, if ever, welcome in any
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
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]
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
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
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%
morning star 20%
military pick 10%
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
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]
It goes without saying that they use their size to their
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.
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
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
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]
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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]
How do goblins fit into Greyhawk? Badly, I would say. Then again, they are rarely welcome, anywhere, are they?
Goblins, or jebli, are insidious nighttime raiders
averaging 4 feet in height. More powerful creatures usually dominate them,
though all goblins swear fealty to the name of the local goblin king. The names
of their best-known tribes include Night Terror, Death Feast, Black Agony,
Poison Wound, Bitter Ruin, and Dire Oath. Goblins are scattered across the
Flanaess in hundreds of places. [LGG – 11]
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
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.
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
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
World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
Monster Manual, 1e, 1978, 1979
Deities and Demigods 1e, 1980
Monstrous Compendium, Volume 1, 2e, 1989
2140 Monstrous Manual, 2e, 1993
11392 Reverse Dungeon, 2000
Monster Manual, 3e, 2000
Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
and Demigods 3e, 2002
Manual, 4e, 2008
the Unknown, 4e, 2012
Manual, 5e, 2014
Guide to Monsters, 2016
Dragon Magazine 275, 342