Which Monster Manual?

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Yesterday's Monster topic and Seth's comment about the 2nd Edition Monster Manual really got me thinking about the differences between the various editions Monster Manuals.  From edition to edition the books vary a great deal while containing most of the same core group of monsters.  So my question to you, noble reader, is which Monster Manual do you like best and why?

There are plenty to choose from, here are pictures of your options to jog your memory a bit.  Noted that I've included Pathfinder as many (including myself) see it as D&D 3.75, and I included two covers of the AD&D 1st edition MM because one is near and dear to my heart and the other is the one that most people owned.  

George R. R. Martin Finishes A Dance With Dragons

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Writing is not easy, especially when you have millions of fans clamoring impatiently for your next book.  There has been a lot of pressure on George R. R. Martin to finish his series, A Song of Ice and Fire.  Many have feared that he will, "Pull a Robert Jordan" and leave the series unfinished, but Martin has constantly expressed his commitment to finishing the series.   

Today he took a big step toward doing just that by finishing his fifth installment, A Dance With Dragons.  There has been quite a long wait for this book, but I think the wait will be worth it when we finally get our hands on it.  

A Dance With Dragons is set to be released July 12th of this year. 

EVERY Monster from the Monster Manual?!

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I was an RPG forum the other day and I came across a guy talking about how it was "unfair" that his DM didn't include every monster in the Monster Manual.  My head very nearly exploded.  His argument essentially boiled down to the fact that the Monster Manual is a Core Book and everything in the Core books must be included.

The ridiculousness of this is just staggering so really take a minute to let that one soak in.

Thankfully the fact that this particular player was taking this bullshit complaint to a message board meant that the DM did the right thing and rejected the players assertion that all monsters should be included.  I'm going to go a step further and say that all monsters should NOT be included.  

Depending on edition you are talking about hundreds of monsters, some as ridiculous as this guy.

That is a Giff.  Yes, it is a Hippo-Man with a gun.  

But aside from the really stupid monsters one can find in the core Monster book (to say nothing of the plethora that can be found in the books beyond) you have to deal with over-saturation, unnecessary additions, overlaps, and monsters that are just flat out of place in your campaign world.  

Gamemaster often spend countless hours meticulously crafting a world from their imagination.  They consider a whole host of factors often spanning thousands of years of history.  Those who go to that level of effort do themselves a disservice by forcing every single monster in the core books just to appease a player.  I'm certainly not saying that you couldn't craft a world that fit all of these monsters, but given creatures like the Giff and the Shedu (seen to the right) that is a tall order.

Monsters are an important part of the world that you as a Gamemaster build and run.  Don't just throw one in on a whim and don't try to fit too many varieties in.  Doing so can be counter effective in your quest to create a rich fantasy setting. 

Mobility and Plate Armor

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There are a lot of misconceptions about Plate Armor that exist among the modern population, Gamers included.  Many believe that a Knight when knocked over was rendered all but helpless, unable to stand back up because his movement was so restricted by by his armor.  That just isn't true.  Was their movement and vision impaired because of their armor and helm?  Of course.  But if it restricted it to that degree a Knight would have had a different set of Plate commissioned.  Remember Armor smiths made the armor to fit the man.  It was precision work. Many pieces on the armor were articulated so that the Knight could stay mobile even when fully armored.  A Knight needed to move and be mobile on the battlefield, and that mobility could mean the difference between life and death. 

Here is a video demonstrating what I'm talking about.  Mike Loades is a noted military historian and in this video he demonstrates how quickly a Knight can be knocked from his horse, stand back up, and be ready to fight all while wearing Plate Armor.

Dungeons & Dragons Prefumes

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What does a Lawful Good Elven Cleric smell like?  Now you can find out with the RPG series by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.  It isn't just a perfume in a normal sense.  Rather than just getting a bottle of a single sent, you built your sent just like you built an RPG character. 

In most pen and paper fantasy RPGs, three of the primary attributes that you must choose for your character are race, class, and alignment. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s RPG scent series was designed to emulate the character creation process, and are meant to be layered in order to create a character concept. In short: you layer your class, race, and the two fragrances that compose your alignment to construct your character scent. RPGs in all their myriad forms – CRPGs, MMOs, and old school pen and paper – have brought me immeasurable joy. This is my homage. This series is dedicated to my first DMs – my parents – for laughing off the nutter-perpetuated AD&D Satan Scare of the 80's. Thanks for taking the time to play with your little girl. I miss you, and I love you.
Elf, Dwarf and Orc are among the "Race" components, but there are also an assortment of options for alignment and class.  A plethora of different scents can be made from all of these components, just like a plethora of characters types can be made. Each different component has a brief description of what it has to offer.  Building a scent seems a lot like gourmet cooking in a lot of ways.  Each component bottle is 5ml and costs $17.50.

This is strange, but I'm sure it can also be a lot of fun to the right person.  Though somewhat pricey it could be a great gift for the geek girl in your life. 

Monday Map: A Free Island Map For You

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For this week's free map I thought I'd throw some islands at you.  As with all of our Monday Maps, this map is totally free for your use, and has been left completely without labels.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do for this week's map, but then I remembered that some time ago someone had asked if we would ever do an island map, and so here we are. 

This map takes a break from the normal muted color schemes I typically use.  Though the map has a lot of browns and golds the saturation on them is very high.  It has a somewhat pirate-y feel to it, given the parchment look, but looks a great deal different than the Goonies map I did for Fal-Con last October.  Overall I like colors and the map, hopefully you do too.  

Feel free to leave ideas for upcoming maps, you may find we pick it up and run with it in the coming weeks. 

Gen Con 2011 Event List Is Out

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Last night Gen Con released the Event list for 2011.  You can download it in the obnoxious .csv file and open in Excel, scrolling through 8171 rows trying to find what you are looking for, but my suggestion is just to use this much better website for browsing events. 

I've got to say I'm a little disappointed with the event list.  There are a couple of games I really wanted to play at the convention that just aren't available.  Aces & Eights is probably the biggest of these.  Last year there was only one game and this year none... Very disappointing.  I really wanted to play Pendragon as well, but that is also totally unavailable.  Hackmaster Basic is finally getting some love this year, so that is good, but there are no Song of Ice and Fire RPG games.  It's good to see more 1st and 2nd editon D&D games being played this year.  The two 1st edition games we played last year were a blast.  We will definitely be signing up for more of those.

The Food of Westeros

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This is one of the coolest things I've seen in a while.  Some fans started a site called The Inn at the Crossroads and have taken to recreating the dishes of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. For each dish they give the passage that discusses it in the book, a picture of the finished product, their thoughts on the dish, and the recipe. 

Check out some of their dishes below and for the to see everything they've made to date, and what they'll awesome dishes they'll make in the future, drop by their site

Armor of Britain

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I came across this on Youtube today.  It is a great look at Armor and its advancement in the middle ages.  It deal primarily with Mail and Plate Armor and goes as far as demonstrating how each stands up to the various types of weapons available to warriors of the time.  

There are more parts so if you are enjoying this look for the others on YouTube.

Friday Videos: Cthulhu meets Abba

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What happens when you cross the Lord of R'lyeh with a Swedish pop group from the 70s?


If you don't believe me then you should check out this video tribute to Cthulhu. The song is a musical parody of the Abba song Fernando.

Thanks go out to Akratic Wizardry for spreading the word about this!

Fun With Hexes

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Normally we only do maps on Mondays, but today I was messing around with a map of mine and ended up with something I thought was worth sharing.  I started by just messing around with the colors of the map, adding a lot of saturation to the land mass, taking some away from the water, removing a lot of the land elements like castles, mountains, hills etc, and finally adding hexes.  Hexes are great for tracking overland movement so I think I may get some very practical use out of this map.  When I was done I actually added a second layer of hexes over it to group the smaller hexes together.  This second layer of hexes should help when calculating long distances and determining large scale effects like weather and trade.

For those who haven't seen it here is the normal version of the map.

Plate Armor

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Want to see what masterwork Plate Armor looks like?  Check out this suite of Plate from 1520 made for King Henry the VIII.  It is exceptional and has no visible gaps in the plate.  The articulation is kind of staggering.  Even more staggering is the fact that he never used it!  Henry meant to wear it at a tournament in France at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, but the rules for foot combat were changed so the armor was left unused. 

It isn't a total waste, as it shows up what master armor smiths were capable of at that period. 

Alternate Ability Score Generation 2

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I talked previously about coming across an ability score generation table based on percentages rather than a 3d6 or 4d6 roll.  One of the principal things about this method that intrigues me is the great degree of flexibility it offers.  I made an initial attempt at what at graphing the altered probabilities of the various stats which looked like this:

What I really wanted to do from there was create graphs for each individual ethnic group Caliburn game to see what that might look like.  I used a bar graph this time since the line graph was getting a little hard to read.  Here is a look at that attempt...

A lot more tweaking is going to be required before finalizing these, but I think they are a step in the right direction.  I think I want to go even further in making each group's stat probabilities unique, reflecting the different circumstances in climate, technology, and genetics that each group sees. I also need to complete a graph for the fifth ethnic group, the Prydainians who I left out.  Oops!

Game of Thrones Gets Second Season!

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One Episode = One more season.

That's the kind of response HBO got with their new show, Game of Thrones.  It pulled in 4.2 million viewers and received rave reviews from critics and viewers alike. 

No word yet on the number of episodes for season 2.  Given that A Clash of Kings is longer than A Game of Thrones we could be looking at an episode or two more than the ten we got for season 1. 

For those of you who haven't seen Game of Thrones, take my advice and go watch it.  It lives up to the hype, it lives up to the source material, and is absolutely worth your time. 

2011 Custom Map Giveaway: The Winning Map

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We recently finished the 2011 Custom Map Giveaway map won by  Greg Christopher over at Errant RPG.  I was going to post the map here, but given that he posted it and has some details on the product that it will be featured in, I thought it would be a much better idea just to send you there to see it

The working concept for the map was a valley similar to Yosemite valley, but on a larger scale.  The western half has been settled, but the eastern half is largely untamed.  Greg was a lot of fun to work with and has cemented our resolve to do more giveaways in the future.  So if you need a map stay tuned, because in addition to our Free Monday Maps, we will be giving away other custom made maps in the future!

Monday Maps: Back with a Vengance!

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Free map Mondays are back!  Once again for your gaming pleasure we present you with this map, 100% free for your use.  Labels have been left off so that you can fill everything in with your own cool names.

This map features a large continent and five nations.  It marks their various city locations as well as their capitals.  It is done in a slightly aged style with muted colors.


Game of Thrones Premieres Tonight!

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Finally, after a very very long wait HBO is finally ready to premiere its new (soon to smash hit) series, Game of Thrones.  Reviews from critics have been pouring in over the last couple of weeks and they are overwhelmingly positive.  I have never been this excited for a television show, or so sure that one would be a huge success.  We've seen the trailers, we've seen the sneak preview, now we finally get to see the show. 


Monday Maps are Returning!

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I've gotten a couple of emails asking whether we will get back to our Free Map Mondays.   The simple answer is, "Yes."  We stopped for a while because any and all cartography time went to working on a map for our Custom Map Giveaway winner, Greg Christopher.  With that map recently completed we can go back to providing you with a free quality labeless map for use in your games each week.

Stay Tuned! 

Friday Videos: True Dungeon 2011 Trailer

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 Gen Con is fast approaching and everyone is excited to see what the people of True Dungeon have cooked up this year.  As always they are giving everyone a sneak peak at the upcoming dungeon in the form of a three and half minute trailer to help get people exited.

Take a Free Ride on the Iron Throne

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HBO's marketing for Game of Thrones has really kicked into high gear.  They have gone far beyond the convention approach of just television commercials, expanding into some unorthodox, though very cool, methods.

Below is a look at the Game of Thrones "Ice Wall" in LA.  It is massive digital screen that plays a promo that is very hard to miss.  It is big.  It is loud.  It is cool.

On the other coast in NY city you can get take a ride on the Iron Throne.  As pictured below they are giving free rides on these puppies just as long as you can find one.  

Don't worry, they have an entire fleet of these things!

I'm really blown away at HBO's commitment to this show.  They have pulled out all the stops to bring in fans who have never read the books and get them excited.  If, God forbid, the show fails, it won't have been for lack of marketing. 

The Banning of Dungeons & Dragons

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I really thought we were far past this crap, but apparently I was wrong.  Taylor High School in Taylor, Texas has a Dungeons & Dragons Club that is now in danger of being abolished because of the School Board feels that the game, "Promites Death and Violence."

Sigh...It's like a time warp back to the 80s.  Fortunately, some more sensible people are stepping forward and attempting to get the school board to see reason.  So it looks at though there is some hope that things will have a happy ending, but it really makes you shake your head.

Thanks go out to WJ Walton of the Escapist for spreading the news about this issue.  He also made a great video (seen below) to present some of the reasons that RPGs are not only fun, but help to better people in several important way. 

Mortal Kombat Legacy Web Series Begins

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Last June a trailer came out of nowhere for something called, "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth."  At first no one knew what the heck it was about and speculation ran rampant that it was the trailer for a new movie, a new game, or even a television series.  As it turned out none of those were true.  The truth was that it was a pitch to Warner Brothers to make a new MK movie made by would be director of the movie, Kevin Tancharoen.  Ironically it was Tanchareon himself accidently leaked the video, which was never meant to be seen by the public, on YouTube where it blew up, reaching fans around the globe and impressing people over at Warner Bros. 

While he didn't get to make his movie the studio did authorize Tanchareon to make a nine episode web series based on his ideas called Mortal Kombat: Legacy.  Yesterday the series released of its first episode.  Long time fans of Mortal Kombat may notice a good deal of changes, but the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.  Have a look and decide for yourself!

Camelot: A Quality Show That Utterly Fails

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I love the Arthurian legend.  Reading books about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is what sparked my love of books and the immortal film Excalibur was my favorite film as a child.   So I was excited recently when I got a chance to watch the first three episodes that have aired for Starz's new show, Camelot.

I am happy to report that Camelot is a very well produced show, an interesting take on the Arthurian Legend, and has some great acting.  I am less happy to report that the shows utterly fails because of terrible casting.  I don't mean in terrible casting in general.  Nope, I have someone specific in mind when I say it, and his name is Jamie Campbell Bower.  Unfortunately, Jamie Campbell Bower plays King Arthur, who is kind of a central character, and he is killing the show.  Not all miscasts will ruin an entire project, but this one is.  Bower is just aweful as Arthur, it really is that simple.

The other actors do a great job, especially  Joseph Fiennes who plays Merlin.  The show's take on the classic character is one of the things that kept me watching despite their horrid portrayal of Arthur.  Rather than a wise, old, benevolent Wizard Merlin is more of a seemingly immortal, manipulative, arrogant, and rude politician.  Merlin manipulates Arthur, who is little more than his stooge, into following his plan for the realm.

In the end Camelot is a quality show and one you should check out, but only if you can get past the awful portray of Arthur (certainly no easy task).  The show skirts the line between the historical, where the country's Roman past is of consistent importance, and the the fantastical, where magic (albeit subtle) plays a role in the shaping of the plot.  It makes for an interesting mix. 

Alternate Ability Score Generation

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There are a lot of ways to figure out a characters ability scores.  If you are old school then you probably use the first method, rolling 3d6 (Probably in order, though some generous DMs allow for arranging to taste).  If you are more new school you probably roll 4d6 and arrange them however you want.  A third method that has become popular in the last few years is point-buy, where you get a pool and invest the points from your pool into your various stats. 

Personally I've used the first two methods and always found them to work well.  I don't, and I don't think I ever will, play with point-buy.  It just lends itself too much to cookie cutter characters.  Characters with the same class have more or less the same array of stats to accommodate a certain "build" instead of being unique. 

Another options that I recently read about on Grognardia that I was unaware of is a percentage based chart like the one used in FGU's Space Opera.  Rather than rolling the traditional d6s, player break out their percentile dice and roll on a chart that favors higher numbers.  Additionally players have a number of points they can allocate toward certain stats based on their class.  It's a very interesting approach. 

A percentage based chart really gives you an exceptional amount of flexibility.  I think that is what intrigues me most about it.   Using multiple small dice you are going to see a traditional bell curve but with this the probability curve can be whatever you want it to do.  What's more each individual statistic can have its own unique curve. 

That was what I set out to do when I made a preliminary version that I might consider using in a future campaign.  I wanted certain statistics, Constitution especially, to have a higher basement.  The idea is that with rampant disease, starvation, and other hardships anyone with less than an 8 con died off.  Other statistics, like Intelligence also see an increased minimum because those who would only be a burden to their families are often cast out and allowed to perish.  Infantcide is an accepted practice and if a father finds the baby deformed, inferior, weak, or if he suspects that he may not be the father, it is a generally accepted practice that the child would be abandon in the wood and left to die of exposure.  All of this horror and death adds up to higher minimum statistics for starting characters. 

Here is my first attempt:

It obviously needs work, and I'm not sure that I'd like to keep all of them as near normal bell shaped curves.  Again, it's the flexibility that I find intriguing about this method.  One could have a separate chart like this for each race, eliminating the need for bonuses and penalties for each race since it would be built right in.  Though I wouldn't play with the first attempt I think it warrants further attempts.  With a tweak here and a tweak there I think this method could work out really well. 

Friday Videos: Dungeon Master Gurls Music Video

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For this week's Friday Videos I was going to post something Gen Con related as it has been on my mind, but someone sent me this.  I... Well, I don't know exactly what to say about this.  It's...uh... Something.  That is for sure.  Yep, it is definitely something.  Just what that something is... well, that's open to debate. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dungeons & Dragons

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We don't link a long of things from the Wizards of the Coast website these days, but this will be our second this week.  Chris Perkins, one of the developers of 4th edition writes a column over at the WotC website called The Dungeon Master Experience.  In the most recent of that series Perkins talks about great villain combinations using Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and specifically the combination of Spike and Drucilla.  He asserts that, "two villains are better than one."  While I don't nessesarily agree the article is an interesting read for DMs, particularly those who enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

At the bottom of the article there is  a poll at the end for you to vote on your favorite villainous duo.  Your options are:

Auric Goldfinger and Oddjob (Goldfinger)
Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud (Fargo)
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker (Bonnie and Clyde)
Dr. Drakken and Shego (Kim Possible)
Faith and Mayor Richard Wilkins III (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Gaius Baltar and Caprica Six (Battlestar Galactica)
Gul Dukat and Weyoun (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Hans Gruber and Karl (Die Hard)
Kang and Kodos (The Simpsons)
Lursa and Betor (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Mr. Burns and Smithers (The Simpsons)
Saruman and Grima Wyrmtongue (The Lord of the Rings)
Shere Khan and Kaa (Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book)
Spike and Drusilla (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
The Joker and Harley Quinn (Batman: The Animated Series)
Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)

Reimagining the Goblin

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Let's face it, other than the Kobold the Goblin is the low man on the totem pole.  You need a humanoid for your low level party to kick around?  Goblins fit your need perfectly.  They aren't all that dangerous, none of their abilities will frighten even a first level party.  So unless you've plan on throwing a small army of Goblins at the party, don't expect them to put up much of a fight. 

To my mind this is really kind of sad.  Goblins are a central monster in a lot of folklore, and though interpretations vary widely in those tales Goblins are usually portrayed as both scary and possessing supernatural powers.  The Goblin in D&D and other fantasy RPGs get's neither of those characteristics.  In fact they are more akin to cattle being brought to slaughter than their supernatural predecessors.  As I said, this is a damn shame.  I think it is time we got back to basics and made the Goblin a monster again and not some weakling to be kicked around with ease.

Scared?  I thought not.
Things didn't start off well for the Goblin.  In White Box D&D they warranted little more description than that they were little monsters.   Monsters evokes feelings of fear, but by describing them as little it takes away a portion of that fear and makes them seem less formidable (though obviously the fact that something is small doesn't mean it isn't dangerous).  

Later works including the Orcs of Thar and the AD&D Complete Book of Humanoids gave the option to have the Goblin as a playable race.  This kind of familiarity makes it even less likely that an adventuring party would view a small group of Goblins as a real threat, and increases the likelihood that Goblins would be looked at as just another race of people, much the way they are presented in World of Warcraft.   This isn't what we are trying to accomplish here.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  We want to make the Goblins monstrous, to dehumanize them to a point where one wouldn't stop to chat with a Goblin, they would either run like hell or try to kill it before it killed them.

We get no help in our quest from second edition.  Hell they also present an option to play a Goblin as a PC in the Player's Option: Skills & Powers book.  Third edition humanizes Goblins even more and makes them an even less formidable threat to a party, and 4e goes even further.

So it seems we will get no help from D&D on this.  It looks like we are on our own.  In my mind that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I think monsters are one of the things that GMs are least likely to put some of themselves into.  They buy the Monster Manual and pick monster out of the book and plop them right into their games as is.  Despite coming up with their own campaign setting, their own adventures, and their own NPCs, GMs will just use generic monsters time after time.  I think this is a habit we as Gamemasters need to break.  We put too much of ourselves games to shortchange them by using the same old creatures time after time.

Silly tinkerer Goblins?  No thanks.
Just to give an example of the same old monsters getting stale let me tell you a story about my own gaming group.  For years and years we played only 3rd edition D&D, whoever ran the game used only monsters from the Monster Manual (Usually just the first one and not the four ridiculous ones that came after) and eventually everyone became very familiar with all of the "usual suspects" like Goblins.  One of our members, Bear, seemed to know the MM backward and forward and would point certainly facts about the monsters that would drive other members of the group (especially The Professor) out of their minds.  He wasn't doing it on purpose; for him it was just a reflex action.  He had been fighting the same monsters so long that he knew them inside out.

When we switched the new edition of Hackmaster it was like hitting the reset button.  Goblin stats were different and no one was all that familiar with them, but they still seemed to be Goblins in most of the same respects.  They were still the same cowardly miniature creatures that we had seen in D&D, though the insane damage dice in conjunction with the exploding dice (called penetration dice) that Hackmaster uses meant that they were far more dangerous.  That's half way there, but the Goblins still acted much as regular humans do, not in a kind of monstrous way divorced from human understanding.  So even Hackmaster isn't going to get us where we need to be, it's time to branch out on our own and create a whole new breed of Goblin.

The 1st Ed. Goblin
Let's recap our goals for this little project:

  1. Unfamiliar - Familiarity doesn't only breed contempt, it breeds comfort and that leads to a lack of fear which is something we would like the party to feel.  Goblins are monsters and monsters should be scary.
  2. Dehumanized - Goblins that act like humans basically are human and their differences are more or less cosmetic.  I have no interest in rehashing the moral dilemmas that come with basically seeking genocide against a race because their skin is different.  Those kinds of ideas have been done to death, see  Paladin and the Orc babies for details.  These Goblins should be treated as less than human because they are less than human, no moral dilemmas about it. 
  3. Dangerous - I'm aiming to make a Goblin the equal of a Dragon, but I want them to pose a danger to the party.  As these Goblins are being made with Hackmaster in mind, this shouldn't be too difficult.  The penetration dice make you wince when you get hit with even the lowly dagger (2d4p damage).
  4. Supernatural - These are monsters after all, so I want their origins to be supernatural.  Again, I'm looking for them to be outside of the natural world and apart from humanity.  
  5. Powers - In Folklore Goblins have powers.  In D&D the Goblin's most effective power and running  away screaming (sometimes called the French power).  Ironically, even at this Goblins are hopeless as their short legs usually mean they get caught and butchered anyway.   So the aim here is to give them some powers beyond the mortal man that make them more dangerous, versatile, and unpredictable than the run of the mill RPG Goblin.  
  6. Balanced -While balance isn't our primary objective (See Game Balance & the Conformist Utopia) it is something to be considered.  We want our party to be challenged by Goblins not wiped off the face of the earth.  They should be dangerous, but not too dangerous.

A little more mean looking, but still not quite it
With our objectives clear we are ready to proceed with our Re-imagining of the Goblin.  First we should considered the Goblins origins.  The major religion of the campaign I want to use this Goblin in his a strong religious element to it that is a fusion of several real world religions including Judeo-Christian elements such as demonology.  I think setting the Goblins roots somewhere in that Demonology could be the beginnings of a great Goblin.

How about this?  ...The very first Goblins were unbaptized children of early man who were led into temptation by Demons.  They were lured away from their families to caverns which led deep under the earth.  Once there the Demons tore out their unprotected souls and gave their bodies over to lesser demonic entities for possession.  The Goblins then were left on their own to multiply by abducting other children in the dead of night and carrying them off to lairs beneath the earth where they practice their dark ritual and create more of their kin. 

I like it.  It really fits the campaign setting, piggybacks off of real world folklore, and fulfills goal #2 to dehumanize the Goblins.  Now they aren't human or any other race of being they are the bodies of children that have been taken over by Demons.

Though their bodies were originally human they are now warped and deformed past recognition.  Their skin has become a sickly gray/green color, their eyes a solid dark gray near black.  They have razor shape teeth much like the way Demons are depicted in Renaissance art and they have elongated claw like hands with razor sharp talons on the end.  These natural weapons help to make the Goblins dangerous and thus fulfill #3.  The fact that they don't use forged weapons also helps with #2 as people would wonder where they got weapons if all Goblins were seen to carry them around.  Bite and Claw attacks will work well and I think damage somewhere between a dagger (2d4p) and a short sword (2d6p) will work perfectly.

We have already made the Goblins Supernatural (#4) by making their origins tied with Demons.  We can go further, and fulfill #5 (Powers) by giving the Goblins some supernatural abilities.  First to make them creepier I think I'll give them the ability to sound like the innocent children they were made from.  So an unsuspecting party might hear children crying or calling our for help only to find they they have been set up by Goblins.  Secondly, since I don't think that leaving dead Goblin bodies lying around is conducive to goal #1 (Unfamiliar) we will have their bodies melt into a viscus liquid after they die.  The liquid will seep back into the ground returning from whence the Goblin came.  Traces of the liquid might be left on the weapons used to slay the Goblins and I think the liquid should be slightly corrosive which could lead to weapon damage.  Goblin Ichor will be a potentially powerful component for spells and potions, making saving some before it seeps into the ground a valuable, if perhaps hazardous, venture. Finally, as these Goblins are creatures of darkness they would never willingly enter light of any kind.  A party holding a light source is sure to hold Goblins at bay (#6  - Balance) but Goblins have the ability to dampen and even completely suppress smaller lights.  For example, a party carrying a torch encounters three Goblins.  Kept at bay, the Goblins remain on the outer fringes of the torch light but slowly the torch light dims until it is the light of a candle.  After a few moments four more Goblins join the original three and the torch goes out completely.  Now the party is in trouble.  Alternately if a Mage is in the group and is using his magic to create light he may find the power of his spell fading as the group encounters Goblins.  The more join the fray the more difficult it is for him to keep his spell shedding light (In game terms he needs to keep pumping spell points into the light spell to keep it active).  Clerics might have to win constant turn checks to their any magical light they are producing shedding light.  The party might just find itself in a precarious position, fighting in the darkness against creatures born of darkness, all because of a simple supernatural ability. 

Scared now?  You better be!
Already we have worked on the six goals stated above and have a cool, unique Goblin who poses a significant threat to the party and who has a cool origin story steeped in campaign lore.  The Goblin is a classic and iconic creature, but it can be versatile as well.  There is nothing wrong with the standard Goblin if that is what you like and fits in your game, but if it doesn't it only takes a little work and consideration of the six above points for you to have a custom Goblin with an air of mystery and danger to challenge your players and shatter their expectations when they come across one.