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The Little Guys
By James Wyatt

W ell, I suspected last week's column would be controversial. I'm glad—lots of interesting conversation came out of it. But this week I'm going to move on to what I hope is safer ground.

We had a conversation last week about goblins and kobolds. They seem so similar in many ways—they're 3-foot-tall humanoids with a miniscule number of hit points, sneaky and cowardly, and so on. The key question from a DM's perspective is this: If I'm designing a dungeon and I know I want that kind of low-level opponent in there, what helps me decide whether to use goblins or kobolds?

Basic Elements

We started off listing some characteristics that distinguish goblins from kobolds.

  • Goblins ambush; kobolds lay traps. (That's a pretty subtle distinction.)
  • Goblins pal around with wolves; kobolds live with rats and drop you into pits with scorpions or centipedes. (Plus they might live near a dragon.)
  • Goblins live in abandoned dungeons or natural caves. Kobolds carve out their own warrens, even if they're living in a dragon's lair. They might even tunnel down under human towns and raid the cellars.

That last point got us thinking about kobolds almost like vermin. What if an innkeeper in town calls up some adventurers and asks them to go down into his cellar and kill not rats, but kobolds? I'm not sure how I feel about the phrase, "I've got a case of kobolds," but thinking about them as cockroaches that scurry into hiding when you turn on the light is sort of intriguing.

I realized that I am more likely to use goblins in an outdoor ambush, and kobolds in a dungeon. That suggests, too, that goblins might look for dungeon or cave lairs that have lots of side tunnels where they can set up ambushes, particularly near the entrance. They might even do some burrowing themselves to create those side tunnels, though they're not the miners that kobolds are.

Comic Relief

Both goblins and kobolds have elements of comedy pretty much inherent to them. It's hard to take too seriously a monster that is so weak, even when they're mobbing you in a dark dungeon. But we talked about how they're different in that respect.

Goblins are sort of darkly amusing. They're used to being bullied around by hobgoblins and bugbears whenever the bigger goblinoids are around. So when these larger creatures are not around, the goblins take on the role of bully themselves. But that means they have to find someone weaker than they are to bully. This leads to an almost Three Stooges-like relationship in any group of goblins as each one tries to prove itself the strongest of a weak group.

That attitude can take a grimmer turn, too. Although hobgoblins might lay siege to a human town or city, goblins will raid an outlying farm. Then they take the unlucky farmer, tie him to a stake out in the field, dress him up like a hobgoblin, and throw apples at him.

Kobolds are deathly serious themselves, but still sort of comic because of their weakness. If they're like cockroaches that hate being seen, maybe some kobolds in any attacking group make it a priority to extinguish the party's light. So you might see a couple of kobolds working together to haul a bucket of water that's almost as big as they are, while the others are mobbing the party. Or, if your sense of humor runs darker, maybe a kobold sets itself on fire while trying to smother a torch.

Maybe it's twisted, but I particularly like the idea that I can use kobolds in such numbers that it doesn't matter if a couple kill themselves or each other in a fight against the adventurers. They're so weak that a few more or less aren't going to tip the balance of the encounter.

Goblins and Wolves

Goblins ride wolves. But if goblins are such pathetic creatures, it seems like their mounts are more fearsome than they are. But maybe they're not—maybe they're domesticated wolves (really dogs) that are just as much bullied and mistreated as the goblins themselves are. Skinny, mangy, and whining, just like the goblins.

Hobgoblins, however, are great beast tamers. Sometimes hobgoblins get a competent team of wolf-riders together and mounted on proper wolves, forming a scarier cavalry unit.

Maglubiyet

Maglubiyet is traditionally the god of goblins and hobgoblins, though each race also has its own patron god (Khurgorbaeyag for goblins, Nomog-Geaya for hobgoblins). Hruggek is the god of the bugbears. We envision Maglubiyet as the father of the other three—and Nomog-Geaya as the upstanding eldest son, Hruggek as the one who left home at sixteen and went his own way, and Khurgorbaeyag as the one who can't do anything right. Of course, these deities aren't worshiped in every setting, but their mythology helps explain the relationship among the three races.

All three races believe that after death, they join Maglubiyet in Acheron to fight in a great army, sort of like an evil Valhalla. Hobgoblins relish this prospect, because they believe it's an opportunity to prove themselves and earn more glory. Bugbears accept it—it's more of the same for them, too. Goblins dread it, though—it means they'll continue to be pushed around by the hobgoblins, serving as little more than slaves, catapult fodder, or maybe even catapult missiles. That's part of the reason goblins are cowardly—they don't want to die and spend the rest of eternity under the hobgoblins' collective thumb.

Hruggek, by the way, we imagine as being sort of like Achilles in this eternal warfare. He's a mighty hero with no respect for authority. He's going to go out and settle his personal grudges and fight his own battles. But he gets the job done, so Maglubiyet doesn't rein him in.

Kurtulmak

Kurtulmak is the traditional kobold deity. He's hateful and cruel, and is said to have taught the kobolds the arts of mining and trapbuilding. To his perpetual annoyance, the tale most often told about him is the story of how the gnome god Garl Glittergold tricked him. Garl Glittergold allowed himself to be captured and brought to Kurtulmak's great dismal cavern, where he entertained the kobold god with a lively story of some other god's misfortunes. Too late, Kurtulmak realized that Garl had slipped his bonds, and the gnome god produced his magic warhammer and smashed the columns supporting the cavern ceiling before vanishing.

The gnomes tell this story as one of many funny myths about their trickster god. The kobolds tell it (painting Kurtulmak in a much better light, of course) with two purposes: to fuel their bitter hatred of gnomes, and to encourage delving into the earth, for they believe that one day they will uncover Kurtulmak's buried cavern, which they view as some sort of kobold paradise.

Maybe. I just made that last part up. But I think it puts a more interesting spin on kobolds as miners and tunnelers.

What Do You Think?

So, does this help you in your adventure design?

Previous Poll Results

Are orcs evil by nature or nurture?
It’s what they are. 434 16%
They’re just raised that way. 537 19%
It depends on the campaign. 1798 63%
Total 2769 100%

Are dragons evolved reptiles?
Yes, they evolved just like all other life in the D&D world. 165 6%
No, they were created in Io’s image as unique creatures with both reptilian and mammalian characteristics. 1062 38%
Yes, but Io guided their evolution so that they grew into his image. 267 10%
It depends on the campaign. 1274 46%
Total 2768 100%

Does every creature in the D&D multiverse need to have a biological origin and a place in the world’s ecology?
Of course, the fantasy world needs to make sense—magic doesn’t explain everything. 280 10%
No, I want monsters with magical or mythic origins that exist completely outside the world’s ecology. 1404 51%
It’s OK for extraplanar creatures to have that mythological feel, but things in the world should be of the world. 1043 38%
Total 2727 100%

How many humanoid races—including the savage races—does D&D need?
Fewer than 10 (which means eliminating one or more of dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings, half-orcs, humans, orcs, goblinoids, kobolds, and gnolls) 337 12%
The 11 you just listed. 303 11%
You forgot a couple—maybe 15 or so. 675 24%
More than that, maybe two dozen. 375 12%
All the races you can invent. 1061 38%
Total 2733 100%

Do you use all these humanoid races in your world, or do you select from them?
They’re all assumed to exist, and player characters will probably meet all of them. 509 18%
They’re all assumed to exist, but some of them live in far-off lands the player characters might never visit. 1605 58%
I use only a subset of them in any campaign I run. 653 24%
Total 2767 100%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
Comments
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I don't see why the entirety of these races needs to be summed up in one simple thing. Not every member of monster race X needs to be a complete duplicate carbon copy of one another, all with precisely the same attitudes, all with precisely the same psychology, all with precisely the same motivations and abilities and actions.... that is utterly terrible world building design.

Goblins are an extremely numerous race, perhaps more numerous than humans. And they ought to be every bit as diverse as Elves or Dwarfs.

Yes, there are plenty of goblins who are enslaved by the hobgoblins. And as weak, beaten down, subservient... maybe those ones are kind of comedic. Maybe it wouldn't even be so bad to feel sympathy towards those ones. After all, the real threat to you is their masters.

But then you climb down into the underdark or campaign world equivalent, or those goblins who climb up from it during dark moonless nights to raid and ravage towns. These ones woul... (see all)
  
Posted By: Hebitsuikaza (10/22/2013 1:49:53 PM)
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Zak S pretty much nailed it for me right out of the box. Goblins are just bad ideas incarnate. Hobgoblins trap, conquer, and train worgs for war. A rather brilliant goblin realized that if he murdered all his friends, one by one, he could feed them to a local worg and gradually earn the worg's trust. Worg goes along with it, cause really, serve the killer hob who wants to send you into battle, or carry around a goblin who's gonna find you some between meal snacks?
  
Posted By: PoniesNSunshine (10/22/2013 3:10:08 AM)
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If Goblins are bad ideas incarnate, then Kobolds are sneakiness and traps incarnate. A single kobold scout? You never saw them. In fact, most people never see them, since they die to their traps first.
  
Posted By: PoniesNSunshine (10/22/2013 3:14:07 AM)
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Kobolds in my game are rarely actively malicious, simply annoying, unless under the influence of a dragon or similar creature. They defend themselves if they have to, but will not actively harm others otherwise.
Yet if they are being commanded by an evil dragon, they will do whatever it takes to please it, including killing, pillaging and maiming others.
  
Posted By: SirTrotsalot (10/19/2013 2:17:55 PM)
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Small creatures can be very frightening in the proper setting.
  
Posted By: Pyrate_Jib (10/18/2013 11:03:43 AM)
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Kobolds and goblins shouldn't be made into comedic relief. They are serious threats to heroes.
In my games, goblins are vicious and cowardly creatures who attack when your back is turned. As for the worg/goblin relationship, the worgs are training their riders to be assasins (tracking, stealth, spotting weakness, ect,). The worgs choose those goblins because they saw the potential in them.
Kobolds in my game have a different mythology. They used to be primal spirits of caves and caverns, when Tiamet convinced them they would be better equiped for the job if they became dragons, and offered to help. Garl Glitergold collapsed the cavern the ritual was taking place in, trapping the kobolds in their weak current forms. They have no afterlife, instead reincarnating when they die. They believe if they have enough dragon-like qualities when they die, they will come back as dragons.
  
Posted By: joenert (10/18/2013 5:14:01 AM)
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Kobolds should worship Tiamat.
  
Posted By: Eric888 (10/18/2013 12:40:41 AM)
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Goblins : http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?437-Fear-of-the-Dark-The-Mythopoetry-of-Goblins

Kobolds : http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?591-Risky-Rich-The-Mythopoetry-of-Kobolds

Are those two things really so similar to you guys?
  
Posted By: Daedaluswing (10/17/2013 3:24:21 PM)
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My main objection as usual is that the survey can't keep two questions from being asked at the same time. For example, "no, there's nothing funny about that/goblins shouldn't have a humorous element" vs. "yes that helps me understand goblins better". There's really no option for "I like the psychology (what? science in D&D?) of the bullying idea. I like comical goblins. I don't see bullying and comedy going hand-in-hand (because it's just not that funny)."

Similarly, nothing for "I like the traditional Kurtulmak/Garl tale. This doesn't seem _exactly_ like it (loses most of the humor of both the as-told-by-Kurtulmak AND as-told-by-Garl versions). And also the Kurtulmak is already a cave. In Hell. And it's not a paradise."

I do like the goblinoid pantheon though.
  
Posted By: longwinded (10/17/2013 11:28:28 AM)
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Seriously guys...if you give me monsters that feel like jokes, you're just wasting my and my players time. We play this game to feel like heroes.

You guys provide the horror, we'll provide the jokes.
  
Posted By: Salamandyr2000 (10/17/2013 11:16:25 AM)
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Personally I don't see the problem to have a single little evil race like goblin with comical side; and my players love this side.
Also, they may start cowardly and comic but, like in the 1st OAV of Record of Lodoss War, under the influence of a spell they becomes aggressive and bloodthirsty.
If you want horror, you ever have a lot of options.
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Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (10/17/2013 2:38:26 PM)
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Guys...have you ever seen a chimpanzee? They're small right, littler than humans, kind of cute? Have you ever seen one move a 500 lb log by dragging it? That's because, despite their size, they're massively stronger than humans.

That's goblins; they're not big, and if you hit them, they go down easy (they don't mass much, about the same as 13 year old), but pound for pound, they're tougher than a normal human. There's a reason why humans need adventurers to fight them. They're tougher than humans. They're monsters.

Remember that scene in Jurassic Park II with the little dinosaurs? Yeah, one on one they aren't scary, but when they mob you, they cover you up and rip you apart. That's kobolds. Yes, they're weak, but you don't fight one of them. They crawl out of the wall like aliens and rip you apart. They crawl into your house at night and eat your children. They're monsters.

Oh, and wargs and goblins? Horses are "tougher" than hum... (see all)
  
Posted By: Salamandyr2000 (10/17/2013 10:57:33 AM)
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Guys. Seriously. Do not turn a major monster race into comic relief. That's a decision for the individual DM to make, not for WotC to impose.

My take on goblins is that they're spiteful little bastards with an evil sense of humor. They're bullies, but not to one another--rather, they gang up to bully other creatures, using superior numbers and ingenious cruelty to cow foes who could easily squash an individual goblin. Their habit of riding wolves reflects this. The wolf is big and strong enough that it could rip its rider to shreds, but it's learned that such behavior results in swift, vicious punishment. Goblins love to stir up mischief and spread chaos.

Hobgoblins are goblins writ large, only better organized and with more focused goals. It's that focus, not physical size, that enables hobgoblins to dominate their smaller kin. The hobgoblins know what they want (conquest, usually) and keep their eyes on the ball, whereas goblins are easily distracted by the oppo... (see all)
  
Posted By: Dausuul (10/17/2013 10:24:16 AM)
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Goblins should ride Worgs. And to be honest I don't think they should be comical. I think goblins are intelligent enough to make deals with the worgs and they are nomadic and only settle down when they feel they can prosper. Most of the time, my group treats them as small orcs.
  
Posted By: ZaranBlack (10/17/2013 8:41:57 AM)
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I was trying to reply to more comments, but the system isn't stable, so I'll just grab bag my thoughts here.

I like goblins riding worgs...because then it means, to me, that the worgs are in charge, and the goblins are like, pet artillery turrets for them.

I like goblins with bombs and dramatic fumbles and wild magic.

There was a kobold supplement that said if you were a good kobold, you were reincarnated as a dire weasel; if you were a bad kobold you were reincarnated as a giant scorpion. I liked that little ecosystem, and a mythology that wasn't fueled by the planes and pantheism, for a change.
  
Posted By: mordicai (10/17/2013 8:16:15 AM)
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I really like 3e's dragon-y kobolds, and always thought they should worship Tiamat. Kurtumalak should be like, "the egg that hatched wrong" or something.
  
Posted By: mordicai (10/17/2013 8:12:53 AM)
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I use the 3rd edition, dragon genesis for kobolds. This adds a whole mythology unique to them. And yes, there is some humor in such a weak creature claiming heritage from one of the mightiest creatures in DnD. But it is not the Three Stooges kind of humor, but a bleak, dark, twist of fate type of humor.



Goblins
As for goblinoids, I use my own mythology. Goblins are the basic species, however, they have, as you indicated, a psychology that makes the strongest (physical, mental, cruelist) the leader. This gives the weaker members a sense of security (even if they are oppressed). However, this is a force in their own evolution. As the tribe grows stronger and stronger, they eventually reach a tipping point and Hobgoblins will be born. These hobgoblins are stronger and more intelligent than their goblin progenitors. They will dominate the lesser goblins. Eventually, they grow tired of their weaker, stupider progenitors and will seek other goblinoids of equal st... (see all)
  
Posted By: Rlyehable (10/16/2013 11:12:10 PM)
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I like to use goblins a the core race and hobgoblins and bugbears as now-extant mutants (or even...genetic engineering?), strains of mutation that were super successful, while the progenitor species remained around. Things like blues are mutants that haven't quite broken out, that remain untested.
  
Posted By: mordicai (10/17/2013 8:10:52 AM)
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For my money, I use both little guys as foreshadowing of much larger threats, playing up the dragon connection of kobolds. On their own, they're scattered nuisances that are unlikely to attempt attacking any force of larger creatures, so when raids or incursions do happen, the question is not only "How do we get rid of them?" but also "What is driving them?"

In the case of goblins, the answer is usually hobgoblins martialing and sending out grunts for supplies. I never create a den of goblins without at least one hobgoblin ruling them.

Kobolds do have the digging jones that makes ideas like accidentally tunneling into the undercity of a civilized area a possibility (even a deliberate one). But scrambling through kobold warrens (if the PCs even fit in the Small sized tunnels) should always hold the risk of blundering into a sleeping dragon or large drake (why wouldn't kobolds gather around the next best thing to a true dragon?) Kobold warrens sh... (see all)
  
Posted By: redkat85 (10/16/2013 9:11:34 PM)
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I'm in the camp that wants goblins riding worgs. I think it's a match made in Heaven (or Archeron, if you prefer).

I think worgs are intelligent, dramatically more so than regular wolves, but they're not any smarter than their goblin allies. I imagine a kind of relationship based on mutual practicality, where goblins relish the power and ferocity of going into battle on a worg (a boost somebody that's been bullied all their lives is going to love) and the worgs benefit from the technology only humanoids can wield (tools, weapons, fire, opposable thumbs, etc.) It's the power of the worgs that keeps the goblins from betraying them and the sheer numbers and of the goblins that keeps the worgs from betraying back. The physical limitations of one are made up for by the traits of the other.
  
Posted By: Aavarius (10/16/2013 8:12:12 PM)
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I never understood the concept of an "evil" deity who is just flat out cruel, destructive, and openly malevolent.Religion is mostly to provide comfort and give inspiration, so why would any intelligent being willingly worship a god that urged them to do things that would be very likely to get them killed, and/or which are completely antithetical to an ordered society (I'm thinking of Lolth here).

With Kobolds and Goblins it makes a little sense, since religion is also about explaining the way the world works, so if you're constantly getting dumped on by other monsters and slaughtered by green-horn adventurers as a mere warm-up exercise, it's not a real stretch to imagine your god is kind of a dick. But again, wouldn't you worship a god that promised to stop all that suffering, instead of an "echoing laugh and lightning flash" bad guy?

That's why in my campaigns I always fade to gray the deities to make them more believable. Lolth, for instance... (see all)
  
Posted By: Chameleon-X (10/16/2013 6:34:44 PM)
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" why would any intelligent being willingly worship a god that urged them to do things that would be very likely to get them killed, and/or which are completely antithetical to an ordered society"

I don't know why anyone would worship Ares or Ishtar, but they both fit the bill you've got going there.
  
Posted By: wetsail (10/16/2013 7:49:19 PM)
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I sometimes try to base my evil deities of the most vengeful and sort of "fire-God" part of the old testament. Fire and brimstone,firstborn of Egypt. There's definitely a play to be made out of some of that mythology if you don't factor in the whole afterlife/paradise/loving father part of the imagery. Like with the tower of Babel or the infamous Sodom-event, there's that powerful being that is displeased with its creation and sees the need foe extreme correction, or the Lord who steps up for his prophet, sending the angel of Death to the doorstep not only of his flock's enemies, but to anyone who does not correctly mark themselves as a follower. There's the Faustian deal of Egypt, or the wrath of a capricious power as in Babel or Sodom. The idea isn't that goblins just worship an evil diety, they're half-bullied, half-protected/protective about their god/s. Kind of an advanced Stockolm syndrome.

I hope I'm not offending anyone, let's be really clear: this is takin... (see all)
  
Posted By: Lyktefisk (10/17/2013 2:37:25 AM)
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>I never understood the concept of an "evil" deity who is just flat out cruel, destructive, and openly malevolent.Religion is mostly to provide comfort and give inspiration
That's not really the "point" of religion, though. Modern religions tend to be based in very re-assuring beliefs, but in the ancient world that was kind of rare and weird. Most religions didn't try to comfort, just explain why the universe seems determined to turn most of us into compost while a few people got all the breaks. A lot of those deities played favorites, were actively opposed by other equally powerful deities (who hated the other's favorites by extension), and were prone to acts of flattery, bribery, and groveling.

Evil deities "exist" for the same reason evil people do: they make their choices for their own advantage or driven by their own dark goals and don't care much about who they hurt in the process. You may worship them because 1) you want to be one... (see all)
  
Posted By: longwinded (10/18/2013 2:53:39 PM)
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Comedy is certainly welcome in any of my games. I love it. That said, the three races that I see as stereotyped into the comedic role are kobolds, goblins, and gnomes. It is the stereotype that annoys me, and frustratingly so. I have occasionally played a gnome and the other players automatically assume I will be bouncing around being the comedic relief. This is unfortunate.

It is my hope that these races will not be presented in the books as defaulting to the most bumbling and hilarious of the races. I think any of the races and monsters should be considered to be funny. It seems pretty easy to make a troll or hill giant a fairly comical character. What bard doesn't know how to tell a joke? Even dragons can be funny, especially if you have a darker sense of humor or enjoy irony. I am an equal opportunity humorist.

By not defaulting to comedic relief, you don't shoehorn the race into a specific role. Goblins can be a terrifying threat, and so can kobolds.
... (see all)
  
Posted By: earthwizard (10/16/2013 6:15:39 PM)
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I wouldn't try to change goblins' archetype to work against peoples' use of goblins as humorous anymore than change what a dwarf is to try to disconnect their popular association with drinking and Scottish accents. Some stereotyping is useful for defining the races and monsters when they are introduced in the PHB/MM, but to prevent pigeonholing their roles, portraying them too similarly all the time is indeed problematic. Not all dwarves need be named after mine props and smithing implements, afterall; not all goblins have to prove ineffectual.
  
Posted By: Dreamstryder (10/18/2013 8:08:58 AM)
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I like the comical portray of goblins in Magic, but also that's more on them in DnD.
Yes, they are pathetic thiefs, cowardly riders and disorganized warriors who where bullied and bullying themselves, with their strength, malevolence and threat rely only on numbers.
But why worgs?
Why strong predators serve as mounts to pathetic goblins?
Well, in my world worgs are the only friends goblins have outside themselves.
No one know why but, from the ancient times, the bravest of the goblins are accepted by the worgs as their cavaliers, so goblins fight constantly against their innate cowardice not only to gain a strong mount, but also a good friend.
Easily the goblin worgriders become a well-respected elite among a tribe and have an ancient rivalry against the halfling outriders.
Hobgoblins use large-sized wo... (see all)
  
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (10/16/2013 6:07:37 PM)
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Re: Goblins and wolves: The option I would have voted for is that goblins should be a little tougher, and wolves a little weaker, so they're on par with each other. A pack of wolves and a half-dozen goblins should both be reasonable encounters for a level 1 party, so adding a couple of wolf mounts to the one, or goblin handlers to the other, seems about right for level 2.
  
Posted By: MindWandererB (10/16/2013 6:06:48 PM)
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like cats humans dont own cats, nor do golbins own wolves, the wolfs on to a more or less good thing a lair, protection, goblin food on hand if the goblins dont feed it,
  
Posted By: Malarky (10/16/2013 5:38:33 PM)
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With Goblins, while they can be cowardly, they can also be completely bloodthirsty and attack with suicidal abandon, if riled up by a shaman or chieftain. I also like to pair up their comedic elements with this bloodthirsty attitude, sort of like the movie Gremlins.

With Kobolds I feel like I do them more seriously and a little differently than I've seen others. Kobolds are weak, frail creatures, but they're highly communal, industrious, and just as intelligent as Humans. So yeah, knowing they are weak and frail you get Tucker-style Kobolds who use traps, misdirection and terrain to compensate for that.

But if Kobolds are such numerous, industrious miners, they should have something else too. Kobolds should have a lot of money, especially those mines that happen to strike something valuable like gold or mithril. Therefore, Kobolds can also afford to hire more powerful monsters as mercenaries to stand between them and their enemies. Watch the reaction on the PC's f... (see all)
  
Posted By: CaptainPicard (10/16/2013 5:22:36 PM)
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as soon as a kolbolds stike gold something big will move in like the wild west the kobolds will be used
  
Posted By: Malarky (10/16/2013 5:46:37 PM)
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As a side note: both Kobolds and Goblins should be playable races. If not in core, then at least in a monster-race-specific supplement.
  
Posted By: wetsail (10/16/2013 5:00:30 PM)
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I very, very often use kobolds for comedy, though I take a different approach than you do.

Being from deep underground, kobolds just don't understand how surface creatures and cultures work. Kobolds really don't have much of a frame of reference for or interest in these things, aside from what they manage to pilfer from peoples' basements. Kobolds also recognize that they are physically weak, and will often take steps seen as irrational or downright crazy by the other races to attempt to gain power.

As an example, I once had a farmer in a D^D 4e game with a case of kobolds. They burrowed up through his cellar, and began stealing his cows in the dead of night. The adventurers, as adventurers are wont to do, went down into the kobold warrens and sliced and diced their way to the kobold chief's lair, haunted all the while by the echoing moos of the lost cattle, resounding throughout the caverns, making their source indiscernible.

The adventurers burst in... (see all)
  
Posted By: wetsail (10/16/2013 4:52:44 PM)
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briilient
  
Posted By: Malarky (10/16/2013 5:48:47 PM)
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My kobolds are Tucker's Kobolds, and woe to the party that meets them unprepared.
  
Posted By: RadioKen (10/16/2013 3:36:44 PM)
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You forgot what is maybe the biggest distinction: kobolds are ruled by sorcerers, goblins are not.
  
Posted By: EmmeDiEmme (10/16/2013 3:00:43 PM)
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I really like Goblins as they are portrayed in Magic: The Gathering, fond of crude explosives, fire, and often completely manic in combat unless organized by a stronger power. There is lots of room for comedy here, but also great danger. I could also see them making limited use of necromancy to recoup from their suicidal attacks. I'd like to see them have a number of mounts depending on where they live, I don't think worgs or direwolves are anywhere near to what they should be riding but medium-sized spiders, domesticated wolves (something like a husky/mastiff mix), or even dire rats all sound appropriate.

Kobolds I see as, ultimately not a threat in open combat, but self-aware of their own short-comings (perhaps even to a pathological level) enough to always fight on their own terms. Their halls are just big enough for them to slip along, they are rife with many and cruelly designed traps, which operate on not only a physical, but also a psychological level, and they would... (see all)
  
Posted By: OskarOisinson (10/16/2013 2:14:36 PM)
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I really feel that the mechanics in the playtest don't support what is a very nice description of the distinction between goblins and kobolds in this article. I like the idea that kobolds do not want to be seen, and it is consistent with their trap-making that they would scuttle out of sight, hoping to be pursued right into one of their traps. however, they have no mechanic that supports this. Instead it is the goblin that can attempt to hide at the end of a move (sneaky). This does not seem in keeping with the image of the goblins who attack viciously with the help of wolves/wolf-dogs. Their bushwacker and stealthy abilities are fine as it allows them to use ambush tactics the way they are described as doing in the article. however, once they attack, I don't see them or their wolves trying to hide again. Instead they would benefit much more from the kobold's pack tactics, allowing them +1 for each friendly creature that is within 5 feet of their target as their wolves could count in t... (see all)
  
Posted By: splotch (10/16/2013 1:55:18 PM)
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You know, what'd really work for this flavor of kobold is something like their 4e racial power, Shifty. Basically, just give 'em something that let's them get out of combat and flee really easily. Maybe they can take their full move when they use the disengage action instead of half? Or maybe something similar to the Rogue's cunning action, like the Kobold can disengage and hide or disengage and hustle in the same round?
  
Posted By: Matt_Sheridan (10/16/2013 2:39:26 PM)
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According to the polls so far, about 50% of the players refuse to use to the 'official' gods.

This percentage is high enough to remove prescriptive descriptions about the setting, cosmology, or mythology, from the Bestiary.

Setting, cosmology, and mythology belong in the Setting Guide books. The Bestiary or Players Handbook does better to avoid setting, cosmology, and world.

Players at the table need to decide which Setting they want to use.

Not the Bestiary.
  
Posted By: Haldrik (10/16/2013 1:11:20 PM)
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Goblins are definitely Fey and use magic.
  
Posted By: Haldrik (10/16/2013 12:50:58 PM)
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Yeah, I like that; ties elves and goblins together in an interesting way.
  
Posted By: mordicai (10/17/2013 8:11:43 AM)
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Maybe I've played too much Warhammer, but I've always viewed goblins as having more affinity for spiders than wolves. I see goblins basically worshipping anything tougher than themselves. So a clan of goblins might live alongside a nest of giant spiders in their caves... to the goblins the spiders are objects of worship and it's a dubious honor to be devoured by them. The spiders just view the goblins as a food source of course, but the goblins breed fast enough that they don't really suffer for being used this way. This idea could be used with wolves, but wolves aren't icky. I like the idea of goblins living in proximity to icky things like spiders, or giant insects.
  
Posted By: pauldanielj2 (10/16/2013 11:37:46 AM)
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I've adopted the 'goblin dog' concept to provide goblins with mounts. They're not wolves or dogs... They're giant rodents with longer legs. I never liked the idea that wolves were 'evil' and served the goblins. I used the concept of Warg - sort of a larger hyena for a time, but then when I became aware of Goblin Dogs - I sent the hyena/wargs over to the Gnolls, and let the Goblins have their giant riding-rodents.

While you can have fun with both goblins and kobolds neither race is really a joke. They are both dangerous enemies in their own rights. I almost always use Kobolds in conjunction with some sort of evil dragon, even if the dragon is allied with some other evil NPC. Goblins can either be part of a Goblinoid army, or function alone. Goblins - chaotic evil, Kobolds lawful evil or even lawful neutral.
  
Posted By: Kazadvorn (10/16/2013 11:34:35 AM)
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So how tough are you folks imagining "normal, tough wolves" are? 'Cause I don't really find wolves that scary. The biggest wolf on Earth ain't as dangerous as an intelligent humanoid with a weapon, even if that humanoid is the size of a child.
  
Posted By: Matt_Sheridan (10/16/2013 10:53:34 AM)
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In my campaign the Dragonborn are the elite and nobility on a certain Empire, while Kobolds are their cowardly slaves (PC race). Goblins exist as feral bands of hilariously vicious warriors.
  
Posted By: Marathir (10/16/2013 8:08:14 AM)
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I've always pictured Kobolds as having a sick sense of humor that they work into their traps. You step on a pressure plate and hear ticking...then it stops. Looks like everything's fine, guess the trap didn't go off. Then the floor gives way. There's holes in the walls for a poison-dart trap, so while you're carefully avoiding those...the floor gives way. There's a lever marked "emergency trap deactivation" (in Common, which should be a giveaway), and when you throw it it sets you on fire...

Also, Kobolds might be a puny threat for first-level adventurers but they're never on the level of vermin to an ordinary person. The innkeeper doesn't sigh and say "we've got Kobolds." He says "we've got--" and the heroes find his corpse the next day.
  
Posted By: LawfulNifty (10/16/2013 6:49:21 AM)
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I'm happy you didn't discount the possibility of comedic goblins and kobolds; from Jim Henson's Labyrinth and Froud's illustrations to some of Tolkien's descriptions in the Hobbit, goblins have traditionally had that comedic side. Perhaps too many restrict themselves to serious and threatening designs for monsters, trying to make goblins muscled or dryads monstrous, for example, and miss key identifying qualities of the monster.

And I don't think comedy rules out threat, either: if my DnD goblins had half the bizarre equipment, magical trickery, and haphazard war machines they do in Labyrinth, that could make for a fairly memorable adventure. If all monsters have the same "dire" personality, they wouldn't be memorable, would they?
  
Posted By: Dreamstryder (10/16/2013 5:47:17 AM)
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Kobolds should be Scientologists. They can rid themselves of their "minion mind" by purging engrams from their souls. Only when they become Enlightened, having climbed the Ventilation Shaft of Total Clarity, can they take their place as the Makers of Reality that they originally were (aka dragons).
Please, don't interpret this as poking fun at Scientologists (or kobolds). The two honestly seem like a good fit for each other. Kobolds may be small, paranoid, and cowardly, but they also think very highly of themselves. They may just be willing to believe that they created the universe back when they used to be non-corporeal dragons. They may also be willing to believe that an evil gnome named Garl Glittergold dropped millions of their kind (including brave revolutionary Kurtulmak) into a volcano from his spelljamming space-ship powered by giant space hamsters running on giant wheels.
  
Posted By: nedhr (10/16/2013 3:13:59 AM)
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Ha.
  
Posted By: Timmee (10/16/2013 8:54:45 AM)
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I can definitely see kobolds tunneling into cellars and stealing goods, but that's not a trivial ''I've got a case of the kobolds'' thats a case of an intelligent and well coordinated group stealing the food supply of an entire town putting the lives of every man, woman and child at risk. It's not a bland or humurous ''I've got kobolds'' it's fearful and bitter ''kobolds have stolen our food and next springs seed grain, we're all going to die unless you get it back''. Granted if a group wants to use them humorously they can. But I find going through poorly lit, heavily trapped, tightly crapped tunnels that could collapse, be filled with smoke, fire, noxious fumes, poison caltrops, spike pits, venoumous animals, murder holes, and a group of killer engineers adjusting for all your precautions on the fly as more nightmare fuel and comedy gold.
  
Posted By: TCCoffey (10/16/2013 2:05:56 AM)
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correction: nightmare fuel THAN comedy gold
  
Posted By: TCCoffey (10/16/2013 2:16:50 AM)
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It can be both.
  
Posted By: LawfulNifty (10/16/2013 6:50:34 AM)
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I think that's an important point: in RPGs, there's really no contradiction between deadly threats and outright comedy. Players will often be laughing while their characters are terrified.

I feel that there's no need to design for humor. Humor happens naturally—inevitably—whenever friends get together and hang out. You generally can't remove humor from a game if you try.
  
Posted By: Matt_Sheridan (10/16/2013 10:44:49 AM)
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Personally, I tend not to see Kobolds as particularly bright. They make use of traps, but I wouldn't expect them to be elaborate or technical, just numerous and deadly (a pit trap full of spikes, that have been poisoned, and the pit is full of centipedes!). An innkeeper seeing them as vermin fits, even if they are more dangerous than rats. They need to be taken care of because eventually a swarm of them might bust out of the cellar and kill everybody - but small groups of Kobolds really do stick to scavenging and theft, as even a simple innkeeper might kill one or two with a cudgel.
  
Posted By: To11 (10/16/2013 11:36:04 AM)
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I much prefer the sinister goblin. Little, evil, plotting fey-like beasties that steal a farmers' newborn in the night and eat it. And then make a coin purse out of its face and scalp.
True, they are small. A solid blow from a dwarves' axe or a knights' long sword kills one. But they are wicked, cruel, and greedy to the core. Never turn your back on one. They are often led by highly intelligent witches and warlocks, who have spells that can really mess up an over-confident party of PCs.

Kobolds I see as intelligent, curious, industrious engineers. Who might not be as good at it as they think they are. They also often have a cruel streakl, but but not to the extent of goblins. They love complexity to a fault. Elaborate traps and dragon worship fuel them. They could be reasoned with, but not necessarily trusted. A lone kobold might help the party...Only to deliver it into some insidious iron trap of spring-loaded blades and saws.
  
Posted By: seti (10/16/2013 1:59:44 AM)
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PS: I don't connect goblins and hobgoblins in my game, like core DnD does. To me, hobgoblins are more like evil klingons. They don't have goblin slaves. They have their own Bane-worshiping empires based on military conquest and might. They're like the USA, if the USA had absolutely NO liberals; just war mongering racist industrialists. Bugbears are tribal brigands, and also not connected to hobgoblins or goblins. Maybe they share a common ancestor; but that was millions of years ago.
  
Posted By: seti (10/16/2013 2:19:14 AM)
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Why are we re-treading ground that has already been covered every edition, including within 5E's own previous articles? Wasn't this already discussed and voted on? Or did you just not agree and are hoping to get a different result this time around?

Kobolds and Goblins may seem similar, but only in a Mechanical consideration of the Game System. Considering the Setting however, they have different motivations, cultures and behaviors. They are often Rivals for space and resources, and probably hate each other almost as much as they hate the Tall Races. Goblins have a primitive Cunning combined and are Capricious as well as Malicious. Kobolds don't have the same lust for cruelty most Goblins do.

Neither replaces the other within the Game Setting, both being different representations of entropic forces working against Civilization.

I realized while reading through the results of the polls shown, that I really don't agree with a majority of other Play... (see all)
  
Posted By: LupusRegalis (10/16/2013 1:12:45 AM)
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I would prefer goblins and kobolds not to be joke creatures. You might refer to disorganized groups like that, but include some tribes that have their stuff together, and deciding to hit back using every dirty trick they can think up. Level the playing field every way they can by relying on things that don't require size.

Dangerous goblins I see relying on others for fighting for them. They might use their goblinoid animal taming skills to find small but nasty creatures they can turn into killing machines. Mess with a bunch of goblins, and they get back at you by sneaking a bunch of wolverines in your sleeping bag. They might develop some negotiating skills and bring in some ogre mercenaries, having a plan B in case they betray them (say, sneak an inert poison into their food, and then use the catalyst on a disloyal mercenary). Goblins surround themselves with every sort of nasty creature they can get their hands on and place them in their way. Goblins spellcasters would pr... (see all)
  
Posted By: the_Horc (10/16/2013 12:54:41 AM)
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