Year of the Shadows
AT A GLANCE: The Goblin Races are common in Faerun and control numerous kingdoms in the more desolate and dangerous parts of the continent. The greatest Goblin citadels of the Desertmouth Mountains have are governed by a King and Royal Court in a rough approximation of Cormyr—there are even rumors of Goblin cavaliers serving at their king’s court! Similarly, those Goblins living beyond the range of the Lords of Waterdeep tend to have lords who rule from disguise in the manner of the Lords of Waterdeep.
In Faerun the goblin race includes several subspecies from the three or four foot tall common goblin, to the six foot hobgoblin to the larger still bugbear. Few people in “civilized” realms bother to discriminate between the types of goblin, although they typically consider that the larger goblins are more organized while the smaller goblins are often considered to be mere rabble.
Regardless of size all the races of goblin-kind are considered one species and interbreed frequently. All goblins have squat, bandy-legged builds, flat faces, pointed ears and wide mouths filed with sharp teeth. Their skin color ranges from grayish-green to dull brown and the eyes of some tend to glow with a reddish light when they are excited. Goblins tend to live four to five decades at most, reach maturity in little over a decade, and breed prolifically. All goblins theoretically speak a common language, although significant variations exist from clan to clan and even between estranged family members for slang terms are common and change frequently amongst the goblins.
ELMONSTER’S NOTES: The Goblin Races have existed in the Realms as long as the elves, for elvish histories have mention of the various creatures as brutish invaders harassing the borders of their realms. Like the elves, goblins have no true homeland any longer and are widely scattered across Faerun, both in their own tribes and nations as well as among humans (although tensions always run high in these mixed-race regions).
The Goblin Races were involved in race-killing wars with dwarves over their mountain peaks, and with later with men over the lowlands. They may have once dwelt in the lands now covered by Anauroch. In the days of the Early Kingdoms, after the dwindling of the dwarves, a great Goblin Nation arose but was shattered at the week-long Battle of the Bones.
Generally under-organized and under-equipped, the Goblin Races would have been wiped out several times over were it not for a rapid breeding cycle and a high self-preservation instinct. Goblins are commonly derided as cowardly for their tendency to mob opponents, frequent refusal to fight honorably, and routine abandonment of battles once they are perceived as lost; their opponents ignore the brutal pragmatism of the race, and under-estimate a goblin’s ability to endure extraordinary suffering if victory is in sight.
Goblins tend to have a technological level a little behind that of the closest human tribe, from whom most knowledge will have been stolen—goblins are not known for idle thought or for speculation and rarely develop technologies themselves. Goblins are however swift to see the benefits of new methods, and adopt them far more readily than many of the human tribes; the goblins may not be particularly creative, but they are more than pragmatic enough to change their habits and culture as required to make themselves stronger or wealthier.
Most humans see goblins as backward, almost feral people prone to thievery and cannibalism; although the latter is true of many (why waste good meat?), those who assume the former rarely prosper in their dealings with the goblins.