Goblins pointing and laughing drawn by Symatt

Explaining the Game of Goblins!

Goblins pointing and laughing drawn by SymattThe other night we sitting around discussing what we needed to complete in order to get the game into the hands of play testers. As we discussed finalising the combat chapter and the “Doin’ Stuff” chapter we realised that there may be something that is more important than those. We asked ourselves “how would you convey to other groups how to play the game?”. Goblins! is not your average run of the mill roleplaying game. It is more heavily focused on roleplaying rather than action. There is no real incentive to roll a strong character. The life span of the Goblin is likely to be very short. The story is not likely to follow any recognisable preconceived plot of any kind.

To be fair, we hope we have designed a system which can support many different styles of play, and the method that we prefer is only one of them. Having said that, there are certain characteristics that we hope will become central to the game and consistent across all gaming groups. In attempting to answer this question I have addressed a few issues that tend to annoy and irritate some gamers (mostly GMs).

Permission is Granted to be Ridiculously Silly

This is not a serious game. Really. You know those nights where everyone seems to have a problem staying on target? Where every little thing the GM says is taken out of context? Where the ability to make a funny joke is more important to the players than actually following a plot? This a game where all of those things are encouraged and celebrated. Make jokes, ignore the plot, get side tracked, roleplay the most ridiculous conversations. It is why we created this game.

Permission is Granted to be Absurd

Goblins misunderstand a lot of the world around them. There is a very good chance that they are barely aware of their own existence. Be prepared to misinterpret words, phrases, sayings and metaphors. All of this adds to the humour of the game and fun to be had.

Permission is Granted to Not Follow Any Recognisable Plot

While is it possible to play Goblins! in a sensible and relatively normal fashion, more fun can be had by interacting with the other players in the guise of Goblins. It gives you a chance to not stress about plot points, quests or reaching a satisfying conclusion. Instead, the game works best when the absurd interactions of the players are given prominence over all other things. This is not to say that the GM can sit back and relax. It is up to them to create a situation in which these opportunities for roleplaying can take place, and if the players are not gelling on a particular night, it may be necessary to run a more traditional session. At the end of the day, however, it is important to not be too precious about plot, and instead try to foster great roleplaying interactions between players. After all, these are the things that will be remembered the most.

Permission is Granted to be Rude

Your Goblin has been raised in the most vile and low way. They do not understand morals, manners or which knife is used with which course during dinner. They will likely be mightily impressed with the distance a champion urinator can achieve. They’ll likely also be proud of the family history of Great Incontinence. A Goblin’s life is very short and they will use any little advantage they have to prolong it just a little bit. Peeing on an enemy, or vomiting in the face of something trying to eat you is just another survival mechanism. Embrace it! You will likely need it.

Permission is Granted to Ignore the GM Entirely

Goblins are random creatures. Small shiny stones, pretty and tasty butterflies, other Goblins with spoons all serve to distract a Goblin entirely. If players are roleplaying their Goblins correctly, the story as presented will only serve as a launching pad. What follows will probably have not a lot to do with the situation presented to the group. The GM will need to be prepared to be misinterpreted, misconstrued and ignored entirely. As long as the party is having fun and the Goblins are up to mischief, all is as it should be.

For example:

GM: You see a fork in the tunnel ahead
(obsessed with details):
Oh! How many tines does it have?
(obsessed with shiny things):
Is it shiny? Can I pick it up and hide it before the others see it?
(obsessed with Religion):
I declare the fork, and all who touch it, to be sinners! Do not touch the fork!
(obsessed with Communism):
Redistribute the wealth! Give it to me! Give it to me!
GM: No, not that kind of fork, a division in the tunnel leading left or right.
Glare: To the left! We must travel to the left! I dare any of you to go down the right!
Hop: No, I’m fairly certain the left hand path is a sin…
Glare: How dare you! Religion is the Opposite of the Massive!
Hop: I think being the Opposite of the Massive is a sin. It shows that you are not grateful for the bounty you have been given…
Gnashknob: While they are arguing, I will sneak up and try to steal the fork. I am certain it could be shiny if it’s just polished up a bit…

Clearly the GM needs patience, and a willingness to be dragged on for the ride…

Accept that your Goblin is Temporary

It is a sad reality that your little Goblin is not likely long for this world. They are small, weak and imminently squishable. The world both inside and outside of the Warren is filled with endless threats to a Goblin. Indeed, the Goblins own sense of curiosity and avarice are probably its own worst enemies. While you may love and cherish your little Goblin, you will need to accept that they will not last long. They were never meant to. After all, the Universe abhors them, and with good reason.

Putting it All Together

So what does all this mean? Consider the following: in one of our 3 hour play testing sessions, our GM presented us with four ‘situations’, namely, getting selected for Orc Chess, encountering a wolf outside the Warren, zombie Goblins, and a team of female adventurers. Other than playing the NPCs in the fights, and determining the results of actions, the GM merely curated the story as it was told by the players. This is how it turned out…

We avoided getting selected for the game of orc chess by peeing on the the orcs. This convinced them that we were too sticky to be thrown accurately. We killed the goblin guard at the entrance to the lair (one of our party was obsessed with random acts of violence) and then declared the spoon that killed the guard to be a Holy Relic. After that, we then promptly lost the spoon in the belly of a Wolf. We chased and killed the wolf, but as night fell, one of our party developed an anaphylactic response to darkness (he was scared of the dark that much).

On our attempt to get back to the Warren, our party was attacked by a group of zombie Goblins. After accidentally throwing one into a tree and having branches fall down, one of our party discovered Gravity. The rest of the group declared Gravity to be a threat to the Holy Spoon and proceeded to attack it. As we were defeating Gravity, a group of adventurers approached us (speaking Google Translate French). It turned out that the wolf had been the pet of one of the adventurers and they proceeded to cry and wail over the body. We tried to drag it off after asking the lady if she was going to eat it. We were kind enough to even offer to share some. One adventurer appeared to be interested in our reverence of The Spoon, so we attacked them, only stopping when they revealed that they had lots of spoons, and were willing to give us the big ones.

Then we went back to the Warren to spread the Good News of the Spoon.