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Goblins

Although their reputation has been marred by their exiled, mostly savage cousins who live on the surface of the Material Plane, true Goblins are cultured, civilised folk, who are perhaps the most reasonable of the sapient species that inhabit the Underdark. If approached by Goblins in the deep places of the world, you should count yourself lucky, as they are more likely to want to trade with you that kill you, especially if you do not show them aggression to begin with.
Extract from Ingrid Aevardottir's Corpus Animalium.   Unlike their exiled kin, Dratokarttin Goblins who live on the surface of the Material Plane, Goblins, also known as ‘True Goblins’ are a species resident in the Underdark who have created a complex civilised society within which they thrive. Although they rarely set foot out into the sunlight, unless they really have to, they are well known producers of fine glass artefacts that are bought and sold throughout the Underdark and also on the surface above.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Goblins are bipedal, humanoid creatures that stand on average between 3ft/c.0.9m-4ft/c.1.2m in height. They tend to be quite lean, almost spindly in build, though this should not be taken as a sign that they are intrinsically weak creatures, as they are just as strong as say Halflings who are their equivalents in size. Their build means that when Goblins put on weight, it tends to be concentrated around their stomachs, rather than filling out their arms and legs as well. A Goblin’s head is typically viewed by other species as looking slightly too large for their bodies, a look which is emphasised by Goblins’ long, pointy noses, their large, pointed ears and large oval eyes. A Goblin’s skin tone is usually in the area of mid-dark green, their eyes will tend to have yellow or brown pupils and their hair is typically brown or black.

Growth Rate & Stages

Anatomically, Goblins will have reached their adult size by the time that they are 12 years of age, however, they will not be treated in Goblin society as adults until they are 30 years old. Before this age all major decisions to do with their lives must have the consent of an adult family member. Most Goblins live on average to around 120 years of age, and they are considered to be old once they reach their 80th year.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Goblins live in oligarchic societies where communities are governed by councils, whose members will have to have been voted onto the council by the other council members. Any individual can be nominated to stand for their local council when a space becomes available, but it will tend to be Goblins who have truly proved themselves as valuable and respected members of their community that will tend to be voted on. Most council positions in Goblin communities are held for a period of 10 years, after which an individual must step down. On the whole the oligarchic councils in Goblin society will be the size of around 1% of the community they serve, or 0.5% in larger communities.   In the domestic sphere, Goblin households are very much based around a strong family unit, that tends to lean more towards the patriarchal side, though this is not always the case. Members of Goblin families will tend to live in close proximity to one another, and it is common for Goblins to live in large dwellings, where multiple generations share a large communal space, but each individual family will have their own apartments within the structure. Traditionally when Goblins marry, the wife will move into the familial dwelling of the husband, where they will be provided with their own rooms.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Though they are resident on the Material Plane, Goblins are natives of the Underdark, where they thrive and have been able to create impressive and ordered societies and settlements. It is rare to find true Goblins on the surface of Ulskandar’s Material Plane, but when they are encountered on the surface they will normally be part of underground or criminal organisations. This is not because they are inherently evil creatures, far from it, but because they are so often confused and associated with Dratokarttin Goblins, which means the amount of opportunities available to them are limited, and the pool of people willing to associate with them is primarily made up of those with a more criminal or unscrupulous bent.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Like all creatures whose primary home is the Underdark, Goblins have excellent dark-vision, and can make their way round the tunnels and caverns far below the surface of the Material Plane with ease. They also have exceptional hearing, thanks to their large ears, which can be moved semi-independently of one-another, and whose musculature allows them to be turned and rotated to a certain extent to help them isolate sounds. There is a slightly higher percentage of Goblins that are sensitive to Magic, when compared to most other sapient species, though this is nowhere near the levels of magical sensitivity exhibited in say Elves and Dragonborn.   However, Goblins are overly, and some would argue cripplingly sensitive to sunlight. As Goblins originated in the Underdark, they are much less tolerant of sunlight than species such as Deep Dwarves and Shadow Elves who migrated down from the surface, and who find being in sunlight uncomfortable, but bearable. Goblins, on the other hand must be incredibly well prepared to undertake any journey up to the surface, covering their skin, which is highly susceptible to sun burns along with their eyes, which are easily being dazzled to the point of blindness. It is this heightened susceptibility to light that is thought to have made Dratokarttin Goblins into the ferocious and capricious creatures that they are, as all Goblins believe that too much exposure to sunlight drives them mad.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Traditionally, Goblins have two names, a family name and a given name. When introduced, a Goblin will always say their family name first, followed by their given name, and this is the way that one should address a Goblin if you wish to be polite. When travelling outside of their home communities, Goblins will also give their place of origin when introducing themselves, or being introduced.

Average Technological Level

Goblins are highly adaptable to new forms of technology, and are not only willing to adopt new ideas and items, but are also well versed in the manufacturing and creation of their own inventions. In the Underdark, Goblins are viewed as being just as technologically capable as Gnomes in the creation of intricate objects and complex pieces of technology and they are particularly adept at creating objects out of glass and precious metals. Goblin hourglasses, for instance, are judged to be some of the finest and most accurate on the Material Plane, and they are also highly regarded as crafters of technically challenging and delicate glass based objects, including compasses and alchemical equipment. Most academics, scholars and places of learning will have regular dealings with Goblins, from whom they source much of their glass-based equipment.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

There are a number of customs and traditions that are common amongst all of the Goblin communities in the Underdark, including:   Glass artisans- Goblins have a natural affinity for the creation of objects out of glass, which are often fashioned with the use of precious metals as well. Most Goblin families will have at least one member that is involved in a glassworks, and the production of glass objects is considered to be a key part of their species tradition. Glass objects are viewed with high regard in Goblin society and even function as a currency of sorts, with Glass objects often being exchanged as either gifts or trade items.   Guest drink- Linked to the importance of glass and glass objects in Goblin society is the custom of offering the Guest Drink. Whenever someone who is not part of the family is admitted into a Goblin household as a peaceful guest, they will be offered a glass of Hitsak (a medium strength spirit distilled from fungi that is cultivated in the Underdark), which custom dictates that they must consume before taking a seat, as a sign that their hosts are willing to offer their hospitality to the guest, and that the guest is willing to receive it. Each Goblin household will have a variety of different pieces of glassware that will be offered to guests depending upon their station, or perceived station within the household. For example, simple glasses will suffice for low status guests, whereas the highest status guests, or guests who the family wish to specially honour will be given the most elaborate piece of glassware available, that is normally reserved for only the most important of guests. The ritual of the Guest Drink is also used by Goblin households as a tool to snub those that they do not like, and a frequent grievance that is heard in Goblin communities is that an individual was ‘glassed below their station’, meaning they felt they were not given a glass that was good enough to accurately reflect their station.   Culture of the Patron- Goblins are particularly fond of entering into relationships where a more influential individual or family will take another under its wing to protect them and help promote them within society in exchange for favours and services that link to the skills of the lesser party involved. This means that there is a complex arrangement of patronage relationships across Goblin society, and Goblins or their families that have a patron themselves may well be the patron of another individual or family that is viewed to have a lesser social standing than themselves. Very often the head of these patronage relationships will be individuals who either sit on the oligarchic councils of Goblin communities, or who have sat on them.   Extreme sun protection- Goblins hate sunlight, it burns them very easily, makes them effectively blind for several hours if viewed without eye protection, and they believe it makes them mad, something they have observed with their Dratokarttin Goblins kin. Goblins will attempt to avoid travelling to the surface wherever possible, but if it is absolutely necessary they will wear a set of clothes designed to minimise the amount of exposure they suffer. This clothing will normally be black, and includes scarves, to protect the neck and ears, long coats to protect the body, large hats with enormous brims to protect their heads and carefully crafted goggles to protect their eyes from the light, which have very finely ground lenses of obsidian, to filter the sunlight to an acceptable level. If a Goblin has to travel on the surface of the Material Plane they will always attempt to move at night when the lighting is much more bearable, but they will always have their protective clothing with them in case they are caught out in the open when the sun rises.   Exile to the surface for serious crimes- The intense dislike of sunlight that all Goblins have is played upon as the ultimate punishment for serious crimes in Goblin society. Those who commit crimes such as treason to their communities, murder etc., are cast out of their communities, escorted to the surface world and ejected from the Underdark. Often Goblin communities will tell one another when they have exiled someone to the surface, so that the individual concerned cannot seek refuge with other Goblins. Instead they face a difficult choice of trying to survive on their own in the Underdark, or trying to find refuge somewhere on the surface, neither of which are appealing.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

When it comes to their relations with other species, Goblins are rather unfairly tainted by the reputation on the surface world of their related and exiled kin, Dratokarttin Goblins, who other sapient species on the surface of the Material Plane are much more likely to have encountered. As Dratokarttin Goblins are heavily associated with savagery, raiding activity, criminality and general crudeness, a Goblin is quite likely to be shunned and treated with suspicion when they enter the settlements on the surface, or when they encounter species from the surface world, as almost all of them will assume that the individual concerned is a Dratokarttin Goblin, rather than a true Goblin. Even if a Goblin is not mistaken for one of their surface kin, they are likely to be viewed with suspicion anyway, as the attire that they don (see above) when venturing up to the surface world to protect themselves from the sun does rather make them stick out, and can itself make them the objects of caution or ridicule.   With regard to their Goblinoid brethren on the surface of Ulskandar’s Material Plane, Dratokarttin Goblins and Hobgoblins, Goblins will generally expect to be treated with, at best disdain, and at worst immediate and ferocious violence. Whilst Goblins themselves view both species as inferior to themselves, Hobgoblins for willingly abandoning their ancestral homes and Dratokarttin Goblins for being forcibly exiled, they do fear them, the former for their ruthlessness and the latter for their unbridled savagery. Both of these related species deeply hate Goblins, who they view as being haughty, narrow minded and complacent, though they will tend to react to a Goblin when encountered in different ways. A Hobgoblin that encounters a Goblin will most probably ignore them, or throw some insults their way, whereas a Dratokarttin Goblins will most likely attempt to set upon a Goblin as soon as they have spotted them, such is their hatred of Goblins for having exiled and abandoned them to the surface world. Goblins tend not to have anything to do with Bugbears, who are much more intrinsically evil than their cousins.   When it comes to the species that reside in the Goblins’ native home and natural habitat, the Underdark, Goblins are much more highly regarded, and are recognised as being a truly civilised species. Whilst Goblins expect to be treated with the same disdain that Shadow Elves show for all other species, they are at least respected, whilst Goblin and Deep Dwarf communities can exist near to one another in reasonable harmony, with all three species being regular trading partners.

Lifespan
c.120 years.
Average Height
On average between 3ft/c.0.9m-4ft/c.1.2m.
Related Ethnicities

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Cover image: by Chris Pyrah

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