Goblins

17 October, 2008 at 5:59 pm (Burning Wheel, dungeon crawling, game element) (, , , , )

A take on goblins as actual monsters, not a race of ugly and evil and small people. Inspired by a blog post by Jeff Rients and some reviews of Changeling: the Lost.

I will further write mechanical implementations or sketches thereof to some goblin spells, especially for my dungeoncrawling game. Also, I hereby release the rules of the dungeoncrawling game (particularly their presentation) into public domain.

Born of fear and mud

Should it be so that some dark corner, or alley, or woods, or perhaps even cave is feared and dark rumours abound, there will, sooner or later, be a goblin there. Maybe goblins are born of these rumours, or maybe the rumours of the goblins.

Once born, goblins will do as their nature makes them to: Cruel tricks and stealing people, particularly children, is their calling and source of mirth. Should a number of goblins live together for a while, a shaman will emerge and a pit of mud will be constructed, if suitable one does not exist yet.

Captured children are thrown into the pit, only to emerge as ugly goblins, much like those who created them. Captured adults are cast in and emerge as ogres, deformed monsters and mockeries of their former selves, small-minded, aggressive and brutish.

Goblin magic

Goblins are demonic, or feyish, in nature, and some have sorcerous abilities. Not all do, and they are not equally adept at their use. Shamans are naturally the undisputed masters of these arts.

Boo!

Goblins are born of fear and can use it against their foes. A goblin can, in lieu of surprise attack, (attempt to) scare its foes. Everyone surprised by the goblin must resist it; those that fail are affected as though affected by normal fear effects. If any opponent succeeds, the goblin is also affected by a fear effect as though victim to its own power.

Boo! does not work in proper daylight or lighting of equivalent quality. Other goblins can hear one yelling Boo! over great distances, and they are curious creatures…

Mechanics

For my dungeoncrawly game: Roll magic versus magic, each target resist individually, effect as though the fear spell. Typically a number of goblins equal to magic result of the one invoking Boo! come to investigate at their leisure.

Burning Wheel: Will versus will, with steel test being the fear effect.

D&D 3rd: Will save DC 10 + 1/2 HD + charisma modifier of the goblin saying Boo!, failure means being frightened for d6 rounds. Shaken if you want the goblins to not be infuriating opponents. Either way, if anyone succeeds, the goblin is frightened. Spell-like ability, takes a standard action.

Goblin doors

Goblins can open doors from and to dark places, partially disregarding the distance between such places. They are so small that adults must grouch or even crawl to enter one and look like poorly made. There is typically a short winding tunnel after such a door, containing at least one corner such that it is impossible to see the entry and exit points of the tunnel at the same time. At the end of the tunnel there is another similar door, which opens somewhere else. Typical goblin door disappears once closed or left unattended and further it is impossible to turn around after losing sight of the entry door (going back is the same thing as going forward).

When opening a door one must imagine the location where the other side is supposed to be (and tell it to the GM, if appropriate). Most of the time the door opens to the desired location or at least to that direction; sometimes the unexpected happens, for which is the following random chart. Roll a suitable die.

  1. Oops: The other side of the door is the spawning place of the goblin this sorcery was used or taught by.
  2. Long ways to go: Traversing the tunnel takes d6 hours.
  3. Goblins: d4 goblins are lurking within the tunnel, just in case you would happen to wander through.
  4. Horror: An undead, demon, spirit, or some shadowy beast is lurking within the tunnel, preying upon unwary passengers.
  5. Shadows: Travellers are cursed to see everything as though it was night at all times. No light is bright enough, no colours distinct.
  6. Shadowy sight: Travellers can henceforth see in dim light as well as cats.
  7. Reduction: Travellers are gradually turned to size of the goblinkin.
  8. Permanency: The doors and the tunnel is permanent.
  9. U-turn: The exit point of the door is the same as the entry point.
  10. Scared: When leaving the tunnel the one who opened the door casts Boo! on the others who are treated as surprised.
  11. Infused: When leaving the tunnel one character with little magical or mental ability acquires some and can henceforth open a goblin door at will.
  12. Roll twice, apply both results if possible, else use the nastier one.

Mechanics

Dungeoncrawling game: After having entered the tunnel and moved so that returning is no longer a possibility, roll magic; on roll of anything but 1, the maximum distance the tunnel can cover is 20 metres multiplied by magic roll; on roll of 1, game master rolls a d12 and consults the chart. (Reduction is likely to reduce might of the character to around half; infusion gives +1 magic and goblin door at will to one character with lowest magic attribute.)

Burning Wheel: Roll will, count successes, no successes is botch, otherwise distance covered is in the ballpark of 20 metres per success. Becoming smaller reduces power by 1 and gives power cap of 6. Being infused gives a character with lowest will some custom trait that goblins have and access to goblin door. Else treat goblin door as a natural magic skill related to will.

D&D 3rd: Wisdom check DC 5 to avoid mishap, 1 is always a mishap, otherwise distance traveled equals 10 metres * check result. Shadows and shadowy sight mean dim light and low-light vision, respectively. Reduction as though being reduced to small size. Neutralise with any spell that can remove curses. Infusion gives/increases inherent bonus to charisma by 1 and gives goblin doors at will. To determine who it affects, take the highest mental score of the characters and then take the lowest of these. That’s the character you are looking for. Spell-like ability, but full-round action to open the door.

Goblin trader

Goblins are vile monsters, but also willing to help humans and others, for a price. Here’s a list of services they might grant and of prices they might ask. They are not very reliable trading partners, either, and will weasel out of an agreement if able to. Goblin traders are typically shamans out of favour within a nearby settlement.

  • Equipment the goblin happens to have, typically of poor quality – As much coins as they think you have; you would not be dealing with them if you had good choices, so better milk the situation for all it is worth.
  • Training against opponents the goblins are threatened by (say, kobolds) – Beard of a dwarf or delicious, fresh ears of an elf, or something similar.
  • Boo! at will – One live adult, subdued.
  • Goblin door at will – One live child, subdued.

Goblin magic is, I feel, suited for old school play. I doubt it would work very well with encounter-based D&D play, for example, being utterly broken and too unpredictable.

I’d love to add stats for older editions of D&D, but I don’t have the rules for any.

Licensing

Everything not keyed to rules of BW or D&D is released into public domain. The intro text is not, though.

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WoAdWriMo

6 July, 2008 at 9:49 am (game design) (, , , )

(It stands for Worldwide adventure writing month.) I’ll be trying to write something of an adventure. It might not work really well. The writing will be happening in this blog, starting now.

Assumptions

This adventure assumes a fantasy setting where humans live among other humans and where what is nonhuman is actually different from humans. The two central monsters of the adventure, goblins and ogres, are demons from spirit realms. If your game has them in another role, rename the creatures inhabiting this adventure. It is further assumed that player characters, if any, are not powerful enough to slay (large groups of) goblins and ogres with impunity.

There is some advice towards particular ways of approaching the adventure, but at its heart it is a dynamic situation, not a rigidly railroaded series of encounters. This all assuming I can actually write the damn thing.

The core idea

There’s a human town, not a particularly large one, somewhat separated from civilisation.

There’s a series of caves inhabited by goblins and ogres, divided by internal strife.

These two communities are not very compatible.

Goblins and ogres

Goblins are small, clawed and twisted creatures. They are the personification of children fearing the unknown and other people. They sneak around during nights and steal human children, taking them to their underground lairs and with vile magic transforming them into more goblins.

Ogres are how goblins see adults: Big, clumsy, inattentive, protective to the point of being misguided. To humans they are malformed, with various and evidently random parts of their body being out of proportion with the rest of it. They are strong, clumsy and dense. Ogres are created when goblins get their hands on an adult and apply the goblin-making sorcery on them. They see all goblins and all children as their little ones, whom they will protect to the best of their ability from any and all possible or imagined sources of risk. They do not have particularly good imagination.

Humans

A town populated with people who have nowhere else to go, with the likes of beggars, killers, thieves, thugs and few idealistic ones here and there. Some merchants looking for sources of easy income. A noble or three ruling the place mostly as a punishment.

Conflicts

The obvious one is that goblins want to steal human children. Humans do not want their children to be stolen, generally speaking. From human perspective only poor children have thus far disappeared, which means that the nobles and rich merchants are not terribly worried. A slaver or two would even object to anyone investigating the disappearance of poor people.

The goblins are essentially cruel and clever children. They want to have all the toys and friends and pets for themselves. The goblin shamans who transform children into goblins have many friends and hold power, but there’s more than one of them. Only one is necessary for the community to function. There may be other goblins with power, too.

Why do goblins live in caves?

The rituals require specific circumstances which can’t happen in sunlight. A slimy pool and cave fungi, say.

The origin of the caverns is as of yet undetermined. The human town is likely to be a mining town, which would provide a nice explanation for abandoned mines nearby.

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