Friday, July 20, 2012

On the Goblins of the Shieldlands

Goblins, in their standard incarnation, are somewhat...  done unto death.  Especially after Pathfinder's comic-relief take on them, I just can't deal with the "little green buggers with pointy ears" goblins anymore.  Plus, they don't fit well into ACKS' beastman model.  Nominally, ACKS' goblins are an unholy crossbreed of dwarves and gnolls, which somehow works out to the standard description.  I found that...  a little weird, and so in keeping with the reboot of orcs as strict pig-men, I decided to turn goblins into proper beastmen as well.

So I needed a mammal that was small, repellent, cave dwelling, rapid-breeding, individually weak but dangerous in numbers...  rats seemed the natural choice.  So, 4' tall humanoids with patchy fur, rat-like heads, and hairless tails.  They chatter in their warrens in the badlands and sewers of the Shieldlands, worshiping their foul deity, Khebek-Te, the Rat With A Thousand Young, an ancient and otherwise forgotten Zaharan goddess of both pestilence and fertility.  They are matriarchal in accordance with this veneration of fertility, and raid the lands of men in search of shiny objects with which to adorn their nests, as well as for sacrifices to feed their children in unspeakable rites to their goddess.  In character they are covetous and craven, but they have a low cunning and their retreats are often into ambushes or back towards reinforcements.  In the days of the Zaharan empire, they served as rear-line and garrison troops, logistical support, cavalry scouts (it is unclear why worgs tolerate goblin riders; perhaps they think of them as a convenient food source), and sappers for the orcish and hobgoblin legions, but also held their own as cavers, fighting the dwarves in the tunnels of the mountainhomes.  So much dwarven blood did they spill in those ancient days that the civilization of the marble dwarves of the western mountains was greatly diminished, and began a long, slow slide into decrepitude, which continues to this day.

This does, of course, beg the question of "Well, if goblins are rat-men, what are hobgoblins?  Capybara-men?"  Not so!  But that's a post for another day...


  1. If you fancy a bit of a different take on goblins, totally unsuited to your game, this is just for fun, then check out GURPS goblins. I have a blast with this whenever I get a bit down. Character creation alone is worth the cost.

  2. But they could have been... dare I say it... MOLE MEN

  3. Instead of worgs being wolfish-you could go with the Pathfinder take where their goblins ride huge hairless rats. That could explain the connection between them. Depending on their origin story you get two breeds-intelligent & anthropomorphized and strong, large but still rat like.

    1. I considered taking that approach, but wanted to distance myself from PF's goblins as much as possible. I do kind of like the idea that worgs cooperate with goblins on a "Hey, if you get killed, we're totally going to eat your corpse" basis... Or it was forced upon them by their Zaharan masters, and now has become tradition. I might have to steal Warhammer Fantasy's Skaven rat ogres, though...