Posted by : David Guyll October 17, 2013

When and how do you use kobolds and goblins?

For the most part I agree with the article when it comes to the bulleted basic elements, though I would expand the list to include a draconic heritage and sorcerer elements for kobolds, and goblins lairing in the wilderness (not necessarily just in caves or ruins). If a setting associates goblins with fey (or just makes them fey), then I would also make them adept at illusion or "shadow" magic to further differentiate them from kobolds.


"I've got a case of kobolds."
I really do not like the idea of an innkeeper comparing kobolds to rats. If kobolds manage to tunnel into a cellar and start raiding your food stores that is nothing to shrug at, while waiting for two copper-piece adventurers to show up and tackle. After all rats are not going to prepare traps and ambushes for anyone that comes after them, nor will they sneak into your home at night and eat your face off.

Most of the time.
I am also not too keen on the comic relief angle; if anything having goblins be the violent product of excessive abuse seems more tragic than anything else.

While I do not deliberately play them up as comedic, natural 1's happen and I do not mind having them trip up, hit someone else, or cause something to explode. However I extend that possibility to every monster, as well as across the screen. It just depends on what you were trying to do and what is going on. Making this a trope for either just unnecessarily downplays the threat they pose.

The example of goblins trussing up a farmer and pelting him with apples is both confusing and pretty tame, especially for a monster that is also evil. It almost sounds like something George Lucas would do if he were to rewrite an adventure module, right up there with naming the bad guy Count Grimevildark and having the skeletons say ow as the characters bash them to pieces.

No, the goblins do not dress up a farmer like a hobgoblin and bully him; they use him for target practice, carve patterns into his flesh, or subject him to a variety of other goblin "games" before he eventually dies. When his body is discovered the characters are more likely to see a grim reminder of the destruction they can inflict, than they are to shake their fist at the sky and proclaim, "Oooh, those blasted goblins are at it again!"

I am fine with goblins riding wolves. It gives them something else to team up with and add variety to encounters, though I think it would also be cool for them to also ride Medium-sized spiders, bats, rats, and similar creatures.

Or rat creatures.
Kobolds should also have mounts, like dire weasels, giant lizards, or felldrakes. What about kobolds on a rage drake howdah?

The classic/traditional goblin and kobold gods are alright. Nothing to write home about, but I think there is the start of something interesting. James mentions that not every setting will feature them, and I think that rather than try to cram in some cliff notes in the monster entries it would be better to relegate them to specific settings where they can be properly fleshed out.

Ultimately a lot of the defining features are fine, but both creatures need more depth beyond being evil for evil's sake (without a compelling reason), living underground, and just existing to be killed. I do not think that goblins should exist to be bullied, and neither deserves to be the assumed butt of jokes.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I have never used goblins on my campaings, but i have used kobolds, they aren´t the smartest of all races, but have some sort of naive positivism and loyal (as i exploited more toward being the lesser minions of a dragonborn army), instead of being vermin on a cellar

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  2. Outside of Eberron, where they have an actual culture, I have not really used goblins in anything but published adventures. If I do I would give them a kind of mob ability (probably group them into a swarm) just to hit home how dangerous they can be when they decide to just overwhelm you.

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