Monday, 24 March 2014

Paying the Index Card Tax...

Much of my current sandbox game is run using index cards. Now, I need a better system of sorting and organising these cards - at the moment the principle, as with most of my campaign notes, is that they get shoved in the folder at the end of a session. Organisation aside, being able to flick through a stack of cards with concise and game-relevant details allows me to have the NPCs, locations, and encounters allows me to keep the engine of the sandbox to hand.  

The colours, they mean nothing. NOTHING!

But, I figure it is time to start paying my taxes. One of the things that I've been doing is creating 'interesting' encounters to flesh out the perfectly ordinary Wandering Monster tables. And if I'm paying my tax, I have to do something a little more organised, a little less piecemeal. So a 1d12 table of GOBLIN encounters, fleshed out as index cards ready for use at the table, ready for use in Basic D&D/Labyrinth Lord games...

Goblins?! Boring! Yeah, well, I like goblins. Goblins are a big part of Basic Level D&D. And interesting doesn't have to mean weird, or gonzo. And (hey, I'm getting defensive here!) I know that these are nothing that you couldn't do yourself. But then, that's part of the point. Here's my contribution to the collective body of things that we *could* all do ourselves, based on how I run things at my table.

After I've posted up the goblins, I'll probably do some low-level undead.

All of these fit on two sides of a 6"x4" index card when printed in Times New Roman at 12pt Calibri at 11pt. 

[EDIT: Oh, and while I know you can't remember NPCs from one session to the next, but if you are playing in my game (yes, YOU!), there are spoilers ahead.]

GOBLIN ENCOUNTERS 1-6 (of 12, 7-12 tomorrow)

FOUR scrawny GOBLINS (Polg, Hruk, Jargo, Bukk) are hunting. Armed with long spears and slings, they have bagged several birds, and are now on the trail of a dangerous BOAR. They call the Boar Old Tusk-Gore, and by all accounts it is a large, dangerous alpha male.

GOBLINS (4) = AC: 6, HD: 1-1, HP: 3, MV: 30’ per round, ATT: 1 spear or sling, DAM: 1d6 or 1d4, SV: NM, MR: 7, AL: C. XP: 5

No modifiers to the reaction check. If the party receives a favourable reaction, the goblins may invite the party to share lunch with them, even inviting them to help with the hunt. A hostile reaction will likely not see the goblins attack directly, but the party will be tracked for some time (check for Hear Noise) as the goblins evaluate the prospect of taking bigger game: the party!
The goblins are wearing simple silver jewellery worth 15GP in total.

Old Tusk-Gore is a hulking boar, bigger than a wolfhound and covered with scars. As the boar charges through the undergrowth he will seem much bigger to startled low-level PCs. Remember to check Goblin Morale as the beast’s grunts and snorts towards them, a squealing roar heralding its charge, with snot and drool dribbling from its scarred mouth!

WILD BOAR (Old Tusk-Gore) = AC: 7, HD: 3, HP: 21, MV: 30’ per round, ATT: 1 tusk, DAM: 2d4, SV: F2, MR: 9, AL: N. XP: 35

A -3 modifier to the reaction check – Old Tusk-Gore is very aggressive. A favourable reaction will see the beast retreat, almost as if the party were not there. A hostile reaction will see the boar charge at the lead or largest PC.

A SINGLE GOBLIN dances and sings and waves his gri-gri around as the party approach. High on mushroom tea, DUNJA DEM is on a spirit journey and is only half in this world. He wears layers of animal pelts, giving him the appearance of a quite horrible toy bear.

DUNJA DEM (SHAMAN 2): AC: 6, HD2*, HP: 10, MV: 30‘per round, ATT: 1 silver sickle, DAM: 1d4, SV: C2, MR: 7, AL: C. XP: 35

Dunja Dem knows Protection (from Evil/Good), which he casts waving his gri-gri and singing a guttural ‘nursery rhyme’ about bugbears eating children.

No modifiers to the reaction check – Dunja Dem is unpredictable. If the party receives a favourable reaction he is liable to give them plenty of information about the area, and gossip as to the politics of the local tribes, which he intersperses with empty aphorisms. He will offer to brew up some mushroom tea. PCs drinking the tea must Save vs Poison if they wish to resist the effects, which involve a hallucinatory(?) visitation by whatever beings would reinforce the already existing motivating ideas and principles of the PC. If the party receives a hostile reaction, Dunja Dem will attempt to curse the PCs (though he has no real magic in this regard). His promises of doom, however, should unnerve, even though they are hopelessly general; he will promise that they will die when they pass between the stone teeth, that when they will lose all that they love under the green roof, that the blue salt desert will devour them, skin, blood, bones, and all, etc. The next time the PCs travel through the mountains, into a dense forest, or across the open sea they should shiver at the memory of Dunja Dem’s curse/s. Dunja Dem may attack the PCs – he is high and a little unhinged after all. 

Dunja Dem’s only treasure is a simple silver sickle (used for cutting herbs and fungi for his ‘potions’), worth 30GP.

FIVE pathetic GOBLINS (Tunk, Regba, Weel, Nesh, Sokka), wrapped in bandages, trudge wearily. Four carry sacks while the goblin taking the turn to lead the procession scourges itself. They stink, and green pus stains their dressings. They are suffering from the Weeping Buboes*. They are travelling to a stone circle nearby, where they plan to burn offerings to Bargrivyek. The sacks contain small animals (chickens, a kid, two puppies, rats), except for one that contains a naked, bruised, concussed, and bound and gagged HALFLING (Bundy Strawhair). Returned to his village, the party will be rewarded with the family heirloom; an elven Dagger +1.

GOBLINS (5) = AC: 7, HD: 1-1, HP: 2, MV: 20’ per round, ATT: 1 dagger (-2 to hit), DAM: 1d4, SV: NM, MR: 6, AL: C. XP: 5

If the party receives a favourable reaction, the goblins will beg for a little food. The goblins will tell the party where they are going, and will welcome an escort to the stone circle. Travelling with the goblins will expose the party to the Weeping Buboes. Avoiding close contact grants a +3 to the Saving Throw (being spattered in infected goblin blood will result in a -1 penalty). If the party receives a hostile reaction, the goblins will offer the party 25GP to escort them to the stone circle. They will wheedle and beg, and make extravagant promises. Once at the stone circle, they will attempt to add the party to the burnt offerings.

*The Weeping Buboes: SAVE VS POISON. On a failure, after two days swellings develop in the groin, the neck, and the armpit (-1 to hit, -2 penalty to CHR modifier). After two more days, these begin to ooze a green liquid that smells unpleasant, reminiscent of strong cheese (-2 to hit, -2 to CHR modifier, penalties to other rolls). The character will die as their lungs fill with ooze in 2d4 days after that. A Cure Disease spell is the only sure cure, though a sage or other knowledgeable person might know of a remedy, the ingredients of which are expensive or dangerous to recover.    

EIGHT GOBLINS (Gurgan, Hukk, Lendol, Skan, Iggmal, Posk, Bosk, Jrunt) are armed and armoured and looking for plunder. Dressed in leather armour, decorated by copper coins sewn in rows, they each carry a spear, a short sword, and a shield. These are more dangerous than the average goblin (see AC and Morale). Gurgan is the leader of the war band, and is one of the champions of a local goblin ‘king’. He can be easily angered.

GOBLINS (7) = AC: 5, HD: 1-1, HP: 5, MV: 30’ per round, ATT: 1 spear or short sword, DAM: 1d6, SV: NM, MR: 8, AL: C. XP: 5

GURGAN = AC: 5, HD: 2, HP: 9, MV: 30’ per round, ATT: 1 spear or short sword, DAM: 1d6, SV: NM, MR: 8, AL: C. XP: 20

If the party receives a favourable reaction, the warband are returning from successfully desecrating a temple. Gurgan has no wish to risk his plunder by taking on a party of adventurers. He will offer to trade with party, and is particularly keen to acquire a good steel longsword, and other weapons and armour of human (or better) craftsmanship. The war band have a chest containing 200GP, two tapestries that could be sold for up to 100GP each, and an altar piece made from silver and semi-precious stones worth 100GP. The tapestries and altar piece will be difficult to sell except through a fence, but could be returned to a temple.

If the party receives a hostile reaction, the pickings have been lean – though they have still to probe the defences of the temple. Gurgan is minded to kill the PCs and strip their corpses of loot. In this case, the only treasure is a golden torc worth 25GP worn by Gurgan. If he is surrenders, he will attempt to preserve his own life by claiming, truthfully, that his king will ransom him (for 100GP).

The party encounter FIVE savage GOBLINS (Esh, Kift, Grutt, Wast, Puv), naked but for daubs and red-brown across their bodies and a few scraps of poorly tanned leather. The daubs are, of course, dried blood, and the leather is flayed human skin. Their teeth are filed to points. They are members of a flesh-eating cult, treated with fearful reverence by the local tribes. They carry no treasure except an ornate brass key for a private box in the city bank.

GOBLINS (5) = AC: 6, HD: 1-1, HP: 5, MV: 30’ per round, ATT: 1 flint dagger or thrown stone, DAM: 1d3, SV: NM, MR: 7, AL: C. XP: 5

The goblins know that they are little match for a well-armed party. They are not concerned with self-preservation but with feeding the evil deep under the roots of an enormous tree. They worship a shrine that whispers promises of power in exchange for brains. Five marble skulls sit on the altar with empty brainpans. If a brain is placed in each of these, the ‘worshipper’ is granted a +2 to all to hit rolls and saving throws for a week (with other bonuses as appropriate), while the shrine consumes the brains. There is 50GP in loose coinage scattered about the remnants of the eaten. The entrance to the shrine is trapped with a staked 7" deep pit. The disguise (branches and leaf litter) is obvious if approached carefully (at exploration speed) but not if moving quickly (SAVE VS DRAGON BREATH to avoid falling and taking 1d8 damage).   

There is a -4 modifier to the reaction check – these are beings of rare malevolence. If the party receives a favourable reaction, it is because the goblins have even worse enemies. Two bugbears are searching the area, looking to seize the shrine. The goblins will wheedle with the party, trying to persuade the party that the bugbears are carrying great treasure.  If the party receives a hostile reaction, the goblins will encourage the party to pursue them back to the shrine, to lure the party into their trap and onto into the twisting, narrow tunnels that lead to the shrine.

The party encounters SIX GOBLINS (Lom, Bont, Grund, Gedd, Ploo, Henk), their eyes piteous, an air of total defeat about them. They are bound by chains that link them, neck and wrists, to the goblin behind and in front. A pair of mules brings up the rear, laden with travelling gear (tents, food, wine, etc.). They are being led by THREE large, ruddy-faced, pot-bellied MEN (Vint, Pascal, Antrem) – slavers. They are armed with nets, whips, and swords, and wear leather armour.

MEN (3) = AC: 6, HD: 1 HP: 6, MV: 30’ per round, ATT: 1 Sword, DAM: 1d8, SV: T1, MR: 8, AL: C. XP: 10

The slavers carry little treasure (just 30GP between them), though they have plenty of useful (but worn and poor quality) equipment. The goblins are their main treasure – but even these sell for little more than 10 GP each. The goblins are wretched, and will do little to win their freedom. If they can be armed and given some inspiration, they will fight as normal goblins.

If the party receive a favourable reaction they may be invited to share a meal. The slavers are looking for more merchandise – they have chains for up to 30 goblins – and will quiz the party about local humanoid tribes. If the party appears to find the business distasteful, the slavers will try to recruit the party to their goblin hunting by telling them a tall tale(?) of missing children – a brother and sister – they are been tracking, kidnapped by goblins. If the party appear interested in slaving, the slavers will suggest that they could introduce the party to their patron, a rich merchant in the city always on the look-out for enterprising men. If the party receives a hostile reaction, the slavers will see the party as either 1) rival slavers, out to steal their ‘goods’, and will not entertain any dialogue, or 2) valuable merchandise, if only an iron collar could be slipped around their necks. 


  1. Love those goblin encounters. I treat goblins in much the same way in my campaign--they're not monsters, per se, just second-class citizens trying to make their way in the world. Consider these swiped, and I'm looking forward to the next installment!

    1. I do sometimes worry, though, that all my humanoids are much of a muchness.

      I don't worry too much about it, mind. But it would be nice if I could settle on something distinctively 'gobliny' as opposed to 'orcy' or 'koboldy'.

    2. What I've basically settled on is: goblins as an underclass/outcast society (and taking the Birthright approach of simply making hobgobins "big" goblins and bugbears "really big" goblins, rather than dividing them up into three different societies) that can actually manage some level of interaction/transaction with human society when they're not otherwise raiding or up to no good; orcs as savage, wizard-spawned beastmen; and kobolds in their latter-day, 3e-inspired form of degenerate dragonkin.

      Ergo, of the three types, PCs are most likely to encounter goblinoids unless dealing with evil wizards and their orc minions (or feral orc tribes out in the wastelands), or unless tangling with a dragon cult, in which kobolds will almost certainly be involved, or else traversing some particularly dank and forgotten ruins, where kobolds are likely to turn up like cockroaches.

  2. I've always enjoyed settings in which the evil humanoids are capable of some degree of interaction with human societies. I think it comes too much Fighting Fantasy, especially Port Blacksand. I've posted (somewhere) making the case that the presence of purses of small change - presumed to be legal tender in human settlements - on creatures such a goblins, as suggested by D&D treasure tables and stated in the published modules, implies that goblins are regularly interacting with at least some humans.

    I'd add in the fact that according to the D&D reaction table many people encountering goblins will be getting a 'friendly' reaction to make it a watertight case!

  3. Ah, there we go:

    More or less as above, but I forgot about what reaction rolls might imply about a D&D world, but did throw in suggestion that the fact that demi-humans know a wide range of humanoid languages suggests that they are engaged in more interaction than they admit to - it is difficult to learn a language if you're not speaking to someone who can speak it, and it isn't worth the bother if you aren't actually going to use it.

    1. Absolutely agree on the languages thing--it always struck me as odd that, say, gnomes or elves would be able to automatically speak the language of their hated enemies. That'd be like saying every American in 1963 spoke Russian. No, obviously there's some non-hostile interactions going on as well.

      Nicely observed on the belt-pouch money thing, too.