CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sing The Goblin Song

A Look At Golarion's Goblins

Illustration by Luis Perez
Golarion’s goblins. Some people love them and some people hate them, but Paizo has decided to make them pretty much the flagship monster of their campaign setting. The little buggers have gotten their own series of short adventures and were the stars of Paizo’s first book of their first AP, Rise of the Runelords. Today I'm gonna look at goblins in the setting and ways to use them as NPCs or even PCs.

First I want to talk about the reasons, or really reason, a lot of folks don’t like Paizo’s goblins. These little creatures can come off as nothing but comedic foils. For me this isn’t a bad thing necessarily but I understand why some people might not like it. I don’t think goblins have to be slapstick, although it can be a fun to play them that way. Check out Critical Role’s goblin one shot for an example of a fun and comedic session.

So what makes goblins think and act the way they do? Some people see the impulsiveness as insanity, but is that really what it is. These tiny and vicious creatures, live short and brutal lives. Most goblins don’t live to old age, dying in battle in their 20s so for them it’s do now or never do it at all. They aren’t acting crazy just to act crazy, they see a world where they’re going to die quickly and most other creatures are bigger than them. So they need to take what they want now or they’ll never get it, and they need to show they can be as strong as the larger races.

I think one mistake is people play them more like chaotic evil creatures when they’re most commonly neutral evil. But this idea that goblins are insane isn’t the only misconception people have about the creatures. Many people play goblins off as being stupid. Goblins aren’t dumb, at least no dumber than your average human. While they take a negative to charisma and strength they have about an average intelligence. Goblins can be quite thoughtful and should be played as very cunning. What they are however is uncivilized.

When we look into goblin culture we notice a few things. The first is they are tribal. This puts them on a level with the Shoanti and the Mwangi. Like either of these human groups they’ve learned to live off what the land gives them. They use many natural ingredients in the alchemical endeavors they are so well known for and they have learned to befriend assorted animals in their tribes. Wolves (odd because they hate dogs), the rat-like goblin dogs, and vultures are all common companions for goblins.

One aspect that makes people think goblins are stupid is the fact they don’t read. Goblins believe that writing steals the words from one’s head. I thought this was a very interesting aspect of goblin culture, it reminded me of the real world idea of some tribal cultures that taking a picture steals your soul. Even more interesting was the fact that goblin wizards are not unknown. But if they don’t keep a written spellbook how do they jot down their spells. Since goblins aren’t prohibited from taking any class, coming up with how they do certain things without reading or writing takes a bit of creative muscle that I think is fun.

Another interesting turn on what at first appears to just be a throwaway trait to make goblins seem silly is their aversion to reading and writing. This isn’t about goblins being dumb. I think many people make this assumption so it seems wonky to them. Goblins actually have a very good – to them – reason to abhor the written word. The four goblin forebears –  the barghest hero-gods – were bound by Asmodues in hell through his cunning use of contracts. For this reason goblins fear writing because they believe they too can somehow be bound to someone or something with it.

So maybe just maybe this is enough to convinced you that goblins aren’t just slapstick comedy fodder, unless of course you want them to be. But how do we go about using gobbos in our game. Luckily for us the critters are spread far and wide across Golarion. You can find them as far north as Irresen and the Land of the Linnorm Kings, to the Mwangi Expanse south across the Inner Sea in Garund. They swarm in the forests of the River Kingdoms to the west and of course many tribes dwell within the frontier land of Varisia in the east. Goblins exist everywhere and are excellent adversaries for fresh faced adventures to more seasoned warriors, if you add a few class levels.

Like any creature all goblins aren’t evil, although most are. I’ve written a few randomly generated characters including a goblin from the Ironbound Archipelago and one of the subraces, a monkey goblin from Mediogalti Island.  Since most goblins are vicious cutthroats it may be hard to work a good goblin into a campaign but it’s not impossible if it fits your GMs narrative and you work with him/her. I’m a fan of oddball and monstrous races as I’ve mentioned so I would gladly work with a player that wants to try a goodly goblin.

Although goblins can be of any class some classes just work best for them. Some work for flavor reasons. Goblins have two alchemist archetypes and their well-known love of fire almost makes being a bomber a no-brainer. They also have a barbarian archetype that fits their savage nature, even if their negative to strength means they may not excel as a melee damage dealer. Goblins are also known for their songs –which almost always rhyme – so the bard is a flavorful class choice for them as well.

Bonuses to ride and stealth as well as their large racial bonus to dexterity mean that rangers and rogues are good mechanical choices. They still fit with the flavor of being a goblin but if you’re looking to also maximize a goblin’s strengths either of these classes will do quite well. A mounted archer cavalier is also a good choice when playing the numbers game. But no matter your criteria for choosing a class there is a lot of fun to be had with a goblin character.

If you already liked goblins I hope that some of the tidbits of goblin lore have helped you bring some life to current or future goblin characters. If goblins weren’t your cup of tea, maybe I’ve given you some food for thought and you’ll take a second look at them. Me I’m going to go make my next goblin character and see how that goes.

Do you use goblins extensively in your games? How have you presented them to your players? If you’ve played a goblin before tell us about that? As always the comments is your place to go nuts and tell us about your experiences.

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The opening illustration was created by a fine artist Luis Perez. You can find him on TwitterTumblr, and on Instagram at luisperezart.

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