I love low-level play and one of my favourite low-level monsters are goblins. They are just so great! However, goblins often get short-shrift in the design department (beyond a stat block and some generic treasure).
That’s a shame as their appearance and accoutrements can help to highlight their unique culture and tribal habits. Such details inject more flavour and verisimilitude into an otherwise standard combat encounter. That can’t be bad.
Use the tables below, to add some depth and flavour to the goblins encountered by the PCs.
A standard goblin appears thusly:
This small three-foot high, scrawny humanoid has a wide, ungainly head, red eyes and ludicrously over-sized pointed ears.
To this basic description, apply one of the entries below:
- One of the goblin’s ears has been chewed off; only a bloody stump remains.
- Clad in a mish-mash of gaudily-coloured clothes, this goblin looks like a court jester or motley fool.
- This goblin wears a bone necklace threaded with many finger—or perhaps toe—bones. They clack as the creature moves about.
- Wearing leather armour, this goblin is festooned with belts and buckles. Many small pouches—all tightly cinched shut—hang from the belts.
- Clad in a black robe, hacked off to fit and cinched at the waist with an over-sized belt, this goblin has the air of the macabre about it. The cloak has a cowl in which holes have been cut for the creature’s oversized ears.
- Rotting teeth fill this pathetically thin goblin’s mouth.
- A veritable stench surrounds this goblin; oozing lesions cover its face.
- Half of this goblin’s hair has been burnt away; streaks of puckered scars cover its face.
- This goblin wears a red patch over its left eye. Investigation reveals the eyepatch was coloured with blood; the eye beneath has been gouged out.
- Naked save for a filthy loincloth, crude tattoos cover this goblin’s scrawny body. The tattoos feature a series of basic designs—an elf’s severed head, a big axe and so on.
In battle, some goblins fight differently to their brethren:
- This goblin hurls rocks at archer-types and obvious spellcasters. Every time she hits, she screeches “Boom!” in Goblin.
- An utter coward, this goblin screams and runs away as soon as anyone tries to attack him.
- Terrified of injury, this goblin fights defensively. It retreats, if injured.
- Drunk, this goblin is practically fearless. It charges into combat screaming in a high-pitched voice.
- This goblin suffers from delusions of grandeur. At the start of combat, it hangs back and shouts commands to its comrades (which they ignore).
- This goblin is convinced of its battle prowess. Before battle, it challenges the toughest-looking enemy to single combat. Honourable—for a goblin— it doesn’t cheat (that much) and fights to the death.
- Obsessed with fire, this goblin loves to fight with blazing weapons. If given the chance, it coats its weapons in oil before setting them aflame and charging. Scorch marks cover the goblin’s hands and forearms.
- Charging into battle, the goblin drops its weapon and tries to tackle its opponent to the ground. If successful, it whips out a dagger and starts stabbing.
- More cunning than its fellows, this goblin tries to sneak round the back to engage weaker targets.
- Obsessed with shiny treasure, this goblin stops fighting to loot downed opponents.
Sometimes, goblins carry small trinkets or treasures. Roll on the table below, if you determine the creature has a small item of personal treasure:
- This goblin carries a small pouch crammed full of smoked meat. Beyond all expectations, the meat is smoked correctly, tasty and safe.
- A leather necklace hangs around the goblin’s neck. From it hangs an iron holy symbol of a well-known good-aligned god. A small black stone—an onyx—set in the symbol is worth 5 gp.
- This goblin hides its greatest treasure in its left boot—a tarnished gold piece stolen long ago from the chieftain. Only exhaustive searching reveals this hidden treasure.
- Three vials of oil, already set with small, makeshift wick of ripped cloth fill this goblin’s pouch.
- The goblin’s belt has an ornate, but tarnished, iron belt buckle depicting a dragon’s maw. It is worth 1 gp.
- An impressive collection of smooth, shiny pebbles fill this heavy pouch. The pebbles are worthless, but hidden among them is a small chunk of quartz worth 4 gp.
- Carried in its pack, this goblin owns a short, 20-foot long strip of dirty silk rope. Although dirty, the rope is in good condition.
- This goblin has a wolf-skin hat. Sized for a small creature, it is warm but filthy. If cleaned, it is worth 5 sp.
- The goblin’s pouch holds a battered small iron box containing a small quantity of pungent, but soiled snuff.
- Jet black fur edges this goblin’s dirty scarlet cloak. The cloak once belonged to a goblin hero. It is a status symbol among the goblins. If given the chance a goblin tries to buy—or steal—the cloak.
- 10 Goblins with Personality by Alex Riggs
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