Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Welcome to Goblin Town!

As I was writing earlier, I dig on the goblins of folklore; i.e. the dark faeries of the Unseelie court.

At least, that’s MY take on goblins: evil faeries. Nothing says faeries all have to be miniature “hot mamas” and no one says goblins have to be ugly…at least not on the outside.

Which is, of course, why I included certain monsters of a goblin nature in my B/X Companion. I’m still working on my introductory Companion adventure module, in which goblins feature prominently. Still working but O So Slooooowly. Hopefully, this whole goblin kick I’m on will help inspire me to get done before Christmas.

[actually, it looks like I’m going to be getting some extended “time off” in the near future due to state budget cuts. Guess I’ll be writing next week!]

Meantime, I’ve still got B/X gaming to do, and a goblin-themed campaign setting ain’t the worst idea I’ve had (to give you an example of “worse,” I have been thumbing through Rifts: Warlords of Russia the last few days…). Is “going goblin” a better setting idea than Dark Sun? Um, well…at least it has better justification for the inclusion of elves and dwarves. Here’s the basic gist:

The Goblin Wars have ended.

In the end, the only thing that turned the tide was the joining of human-kind with the good faeries with whom they struggled. Not that the humans had much choice: the goblin hordes were as likely to burn and raid the humans’ farms and storehouses as those faeries that opposed their excesses.

Now the tide of Chaos has withdrawn to secure its holdings. Sylvan forests once filled with light and laughter loom dark and foreboding on the edge of villages. Dwarven strongholds have been ransacked, and are used to launch attacks against the mountain passes they previously guarded. The few human kingdoms that stand are armed bastions, islands of civilization and order separated by dangerous roads. And even within these sanctuaries there is strife, for the humans who have lost so much are quick to vent their frustration on the refugee faerie-folk now living within their walls.

Player Characters have the following choice of character class:

Fighter: A human fighting man or woman.
- No changes from standard B/X/C rules.

Cleric: A Christian holy man and servant of Our Savior Lord Jesus Christ.
- All experience costs to advance are doubled (3000xp for level 2, 6000xp for level 3, etc.).
- No restrictions on useable weapons.
- Clerics speak High Gothic (similar to Latin), in addition to Common (human).
- Inspire awe/reverence in other humans (+1 Reaction bonus)
- Alignment must be Lawful or Neutral; reverse spells are NEVER standard.

Magic-User: A human who has been taught magic by the faeries.
- Magic-users must learn new spells from Elves unless they wish to pursue spell research.
- No restriction on useable weapons.
- May face prejudice/awe from other humans (-1 Reaction penalty).

Thief: A human miscreant of ill repute.
- No thief “guilds,” though a master thief that builds a hideout still attracts apprentices.
- Can use Hear Noise skill to fight in darkness or against invisible creatures.

Elves: Good faeries of the forest.
- No “infravision,” faeries can see in the dark as in sunlight.
- Receive a +2 saving throw bonus versus charms and glamour.
- Receive an automatic save versus illusions like phantasmal force.
- Speak Common (human), High Faerie, Low Faerie, and Dark Faerie languages.
- May face fear/prejudice/awe from humans (-1 Reaction penalty).

Dwarves: Good faeries of the mountains.
- No “infravision,” faeries can see in the dark as in sunlight.
- Can craft magic items at 9th level as an elf or magic-user.
- Speak Common (human), Low Faerie, and Dark Faerie languages.
- May face fear/prejudice/awe from humans (-2 reaction penalty).

Brownies: Small, friendly faeries used to living near humans.
- Uses the same tables/abilities as Halfling.
- Faeries can see in the dark as in sunlight.
- Speak Common (human) and Low Faerie.
- May face fear/prejudice from clerics ONLY (-1 reaction penalty).

The following Character Creation notes apply:

- Characters are created using standard B/X/C rules.
- Languages other than Common (human) include High Gothic, the three Faerie languages, Draconic (dragon). Monsters and animals do not generally have languages that can be learned by Player Characters, though intelligent creatures may speak one of the languages available to PCs. All goblin-types speak Dark Faerie. There is no “alignment language.”
- The following equipment is restricted:
  • Plate Mail is NOT available.
  • Only Elves may craft/purchase Long Bows.
  • No one uses “slings.”
- Non-human player characters are encouraged to be of Lawful or Neutral alignment. Humans may be aligned with any side.

The following Monster notes apply:

- Undead are MUCH less common in the campaign setting (no “dark clerics”); many are only created as the result of a curse. Faerie (PC or goblin) may NEVER become undead.
- Sentient humanoid monsters are generally Dark Faerie, or “goblins.” The following are typical types:
  • Hobgoblins: the smallest goblins. Stat-wise, they are treated as kobolds in all respects.
  • Goblins: standard goblins.
  • Trolls: larger, sneakier goblins. Stat-wise, they are treated as bugbears. Turn to stone in direct sunlight (saving throw applies every round) and tend to hide under bridges and in caves except at night.
  • Giants: rare, humongous faerie. Stats depend on size, but are generally able to regenerate any injury and often have magical powers.
  • Goblin Lords: as written up in B/X Companion, though more common.
- All goblin-folk speak Dark Faerie and can see as easily in darkness as a human does in full sunlight. They cannot be transformed into undead, and are immune to lycanthropy.
- No faerie (Dark or otherwise) may trespass on sanctified (Holy) ground…like a church or Christian burial ground.
- Other mythical creatures and natural animals found in the B/X/C books are represented with standard regularity. Oozes, slimes, and “space critters” (like displacer beasts) are extremely rare if present at all.
- All monsters award twice their usual XP value if defeated.

The following Treasure notes apply:

- Coins weigh half of what they weigh in B/X (20 coins = 1 pound). When measuring encumbrance for other equipment, 1cn should continue to be read as “one-tenth of a pound.”
- Treasure found provides its actual GP value in XP, not its sale value (which may be more or less).
- Magic items found never provide XP, even if sold.
- Only “faerie armor” (magical armor crafted by faeries) has less encumbrance than standard armor.
- Only “faerie weapons” have intelligence (and few of them).
- Only a dwarf may craft weapons or armor of greater than +3 enchantment.
- Clerics may not manufacture potions or scrolls (there are no “clerical spell scrolls”).

All right, folks…what do you think? Is it “fantasy” enough for ya’?
; )


  1. Long-time reader, first-time commenter.

    Just had to say: this is awesome. I love the classic folklore feel to this. I'd buy a sourcebook for this setting in a heartbeat. I don't even play B/X!

  2. My only concern is with the specific identification with Jesus as opposed to a simulacrum montheistic religion. You risk offending someone or creating issues over theological differences that some would consider minor but are of great import to others.

    For instance, I've never understood the depth of the rift between Catholic and Protestant post-reformation. But millions of people have died because of it, or rather killed because of it.

    I don't know your players, but you might want to create some insulation by making it the church of The One or some such. You are already calling Latin High Gothic for example.

  3. I'm curious why you decided to double cleric experience point awards. Care to shed any light?

  4. I like this a lot. I toyed with more folkloric nonhumans and making clerics have the ability to "turn" fairy folk myself, although my current game did not pick up any of those ideas. It is hard to decide how much to change the "standard" D&D demihumans to fit folklore. Are all your elves the tall Sidhe type or are some winged pixies? etc.

    You project sounds really cool.

    Some ideas are here:

    Anyway I don't think you really need to skirt around religion. There are literally hundreds of RPG supplements out there with elements of real-world religions (dozens of GURPS source books for starts!).

  5. I'm not offended by Jesus being included, but I am also curious about the doubling of advancement costs, especially if undead are much less common.

    Otherwise, I think this stuff rocks! Keep it coming!

  6. Too bad I am two states away. This is my kind of campaign.

    Oh and though I primarily play Lab Lord not B/X (I never owned the books) you inclusion of fae is why I am going to have the companion as soon as finances allow.

    I love me some some fae.

  7. I have been reading for a bit BUT needed to write a note of encouragement after reading this, it really sounds like fun! I was really digging the whole Dark Faerie thing, nice job!!

  8. All very interesting. Didn't realize you hated slings so much!

    The only thing for me personally is the religious part. It's just not something I want to think or talk about at the gaming table. If it were some thinly veiled stand-in, like St. Dicknose the Tumescent, I'd be fine. I just don't want to have to talk about Jesus in my gaming life.

  9. @ Everyone:

    RE Christian clerics: why not?

    [just by the way, I still see this as a "faux Christian religion" similar to the Christianity found in Steven King's Gunslinger series. It is NOT the medieval Catholic church, but kind of a re-imagining...what if historical figures like Joan of Arc or Cardinal Richilieu could cast spells? And were besieged by goblins?]

    By the way, this is not a "Christian versus Pagan" thing...clerics don't "turn" faeries (like it or not, they're still all Gods creatures). Our Savior LJC is just the only game in town. If there WERE Moors, they'd also have clerics with the same stipulations...however, the One God would probably refrain from aiding either side if they were in conflict with each other.

    RE Doubling XP for clerics: the ability to cast spells and wear armor/wield all weapons makes them a similar animal to the Elf class. However, even with doubling, clerics XP cost is STILL cheaper than elves (the latter get better attack matrices and powerful magic-user spells, after all). If you need more justification I can provide it (both "in-game" and "out").

    The "fewer undead" thing just means it's not as imperative for clerics to level up so damn fast (energy drain is rarer).
    ; )

  10. @ Iron Goat: Sorry...cross-post.

    The name of Jesus is, of course, negotiable. We could just refer to him as "the Hanged God," if you like, though there might be some confusion with Odin.
    ; )

  11. In a non-dungeon-based campaign, clerics step up to being one of the most (if not the most) potent classes in the game. The moment they leave an environment where they need to stock Cure Light Wounds a pile of times every day, they are very versatile (and in B/X, they already have the versatility advantage that they can't prep cure spells in level 2 & 3 slots so they HAVE to load up with other spells).

    Honestly, the one thing I would change is in this version I would give them the Labyrinth Lord spell advancement instead of the B/X advancement (LL starts with spells at level 1, B/X starts granting spells at level 2) to help provide a balance to the XP cost increase.

    I would also include firearms.

    Because goblins with blunderbusses and christian clerics with crosses and handgonnes sounds awesome.

  12. In my nascent campaign, I've grown quite fond of having a single religion rather than a collection of competing pantheons or individual gods.

    However, I also like the idea of competing groups of clerics running around thumping heads and casting spells, so instead of tying them and their magic to the One Church, I've invested their magic in the oaths of fraternal orders, which in terms of role-playing and spells operate the same way as traditional D&D clerics. This allows various orders to align themselves to anything from the church itself to abstract causes, leaving religion to the NPCs and getting it out of the players' hair.

    Since all I'm changing is an arrow or two on the magic-source flowchart, I don't have to change a single rule mechanic when it comes to the cleric characters.

    Also, the idea of oaths and fraternal orders allows me to insert AD&D-style magic-using sub-classes (rangers, bards, paladins, etc.) into the campaign in a way that makes far more sense to me.

  13. I'd have no problem playing a Christian priest in a game like Deadlands, but it feels really awkward here. Points for pushing comfort boundaries though.

    Since you nerfed clerics so hard, are there healing alternatives in this setting?

  14. Come on, healing is overrated; real men just take it in the gut.

    Really though. I'm just worried that playing a cleric at first level might be a bit, you know, boring. Why not give them double damage (or roll two dice and take the highest) when charging from horseback with a lance or something?

  15. Have you seen my goblin market or eerie dungeon posts? You might be able to mine 'em for ideas. Unlike you, I went with the idea of clerics being able to turn fae (but perhaps not changeling PCs.) I was thinking of some of the folk tales of people driving away goblins or elves by making the sign of the cross.

  16. A. Love it. When do we play?

    B. I did something very similar in my Onderland Campaign, but you have gone further (and better).

    C. I do think Clerics ought to be able to turn Fae. If faeries can't enter holy ground, then they should be exorcisable.

    D. It would also be cool to have some folk-lore faerie weaknesses. Like maybe they must Save vs. Fear at the sound of bells or they have to abide by all contracts or whatever.

    E. I can't figure why anyone would have trouble with the Christian religion in the game, but apparently some people do. That's weird to me (and I'm Jewish so theoretically I ought to have beef with the medieval Church)

    But I could see going one of two ways from there: if you are using Christianity, then maybe also use the actual Earth. That is, set the game in some real location. There's quiet little corners of Europe that could happily hold such a game.

    If you are using a parallel fantasy-world (like medieval Europe but not), then I could see more reason to use a paralell religion (like Christianity but not). Guy Gavriel Kay has done some nice ones in his books.

  17. Lovin' it, JB.

    I used Christian clerics when I ran Death Frost Doom... they were more Catholic, though, and talked of The Almighty and The Lord. Still, we found it very appropriate when he would turn undead using a crucifix.

    I've been rolling something around in my head lately with fae, witches, goblins, and sort of a faux-Celtic/British feel to it.

  18. I agree with just about everything @Matthew Slepin said.

    RE: faerie weaknesses, isn't there something in the folklore about them not being able to touch iron?

  19. Just one little question:

    You say: "No faerie (Dark or otherwise) may trespass on sanctified (Holy) ground…like a church or Christian burial ground."

    Does that "trespass" mean invitation required?

  20. @ Everyone: The "non-trespass" thing is more of mutual suspect, superstition, or fear. I still imagine them able to shoot arrows onto Church property, or hurling a ball of flaming pitch into the Church itself. However, it's more of a "won't" thing than a "can't."

    Would faerie folk ever convert to Christianity? And even if they would, could they? My feeling is "yes and no." This particular "denomination" or "fantasy sect" may be closer to an Old World Catholicism...and the fae are much more liberal minded. Again, I'm going back to MZB in my head and how she squishes the Celtic and Christian together in "The Mists of Avalon." However, a "Christian" goblin or troll should be able to walk on church ground just fine, I guess.

    Turning undead has to do with the UN-NATURALNESS of the creatures...they are outside God's realm (being effectively ageless or bound souls). Faeries and goblins are still "natural" THIS particular campaign anyway. I understand the Early Church chalked the whole faerie thing (and a lot of of other pagan thought and worship) right in the pot with "Satanism." That's not this game.

  21. Are you thinking pseudo-historical with real world geography? Like Ars Magica.

  22. @ Fumers: MUCH less than "Mythic Europe;" less even than the Warhammer world. Somewhere between the latter and Middle Earth...
    ; )