Here’s post in the 30 Day D&D Challenge!
20. What is your Favorite Humanoid Monster?
Honorable mention go to bugbears and gnolls, but my favorite is the goblin.
Goblins have the value of being classic monsters that offer a lot of flexibility in their presentation. Tolkien portrayed goblins and orcs as the same creatures, cruel and militant foot soldiers that attacked in hordes at the command of a dark lord. In Warhammer goblins are smaller versions of orcs, still militant but with a goofyness about them. In many faerie tales goblins are mischievous and magical, sometimes cruel and sometimes not. To Jim Henson they were faerie creatures of all different shapes and forms, very much like the traditional faerie tales. It’s notable that David Bowie’s Jarreth, with his tall stature and magical powers, is as much a goblin as the smallest Muppet monster around him.
Yet whichever version of goblin you use it will be recognizable to your players.
For my own campaign I have picked a presentation that embraces part of all these ideas. My goblins are faerie creatures and distant cousins to the elves, a fact neither species likes to bring attention to. Goblins alone and in small groups are chaotic in aspect but not automatically evil. They can be negotiated with, they may be helpful, even nice. It’s uncommon, but goblins can be found living in the cities of other races. Goblins have magicians though shaman are extremely rare. There are no specific goblin gods.
It’s when goblins gather in large groups that things can go downhill. When a strong personality arises, goblins will be drawn towards him or her. This personality may be a goblin or a powerful or clever outsider. When this happens more and more goblins will be drawn to the leader’s banner and their darker natures begin to take hold.
Here’s to the goblin, versatile creatures who’ve been making trouble for PCs for decades.